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Chapter 24 : Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace
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Credit: Superlative chapter image by impossible girl @TDA!
“Lily, Vivian, wait. I want to talk about question ten.”
“We promised not to!” protested Vivian.
“That we did,” Lily nodded.
“I know but –”
“I’m sure whatever it is, it can wait till the summer,” Vivian dismissed with a frivolous wave.
They stopped by the door as their fellow fifth years streamed out like a river of uniformed bodies. Most looked on the merry side after Professor Flitwick’s little tumble but there were still some who looked worried to the brink of tears. The Ravenclaws were rightly smug. The Hufflepuffs were assured they had done the exam to the best of their abilities. The Gryffindors were utterly convinced they had conquered the exams. Only the Slytherins scoffed and sneered, full of snarky comments that none of what they wrote in the exam mattered anyway against the greatness of the Dark Arts. Such talk mostly originated from Mulciber and Avery though. The others merely parroted their parents’ fanatic views.
“Is it really important though?” Lily asked with concern.
Dollie pushed back her hair and shook her head. “No, yeah, Vivian’s right.”
“Tell me something I don’t know,” said Vivian primly.
“I almost confessed to Remus,” Dollie blurted out after making sure no one was within earshot.
Vivian dropped her satchel. “Don’t play with me, Kent.”
Lily caught on quicker. “‘Almost’ being the operative word.”
“You know the saying, ‘Almost is never enough’,” said Dollie.
“It can’t be all bad. Go on then, I’m dying of suspense,” said Lily.
“I was going to tell him but I wanted to be sure, before I made a fool of myself. So I asked him if he liked me,” said Dollie, not quite willing to continue. “Suffice to say, I took a leap of faith and fell flat on my face.”
“I’m so sorry, Doll. I really was rooting for you two,” Lily said as she hugged the blonde.
“Is it too late to switch teams? I hate to be on the losing side of things,” said Vivian.
“I suppose I don’t have much right to be upset. Karma just came swinging back at me is all,” said Dollie, burying her face in her hands. “I don’t even know why I did it at all. Maybe I thought… if I could be fearless for once in my life, it would be for that. For him.”
“Look at it this way. At least you know where you and Lupin stand,” said Vivian.
“For once, Viv, your tough love is making me feel better. Now I can move on.” Dollie smiled bravely even if her heart was still aching from the rejection.
“On that train of thought, maybe you should head back to the dormitory. Really, Doll, you’re looking like the wrong end of a Centaur,” said Vivian.
Although Vivian meant well, she couldn’t help phrasing her words in the most insulting, offensive way possible. But Dollie still adored her for it. They had made a pact not to discuss OWLs just before or immediately after the exams took place. As Lily had sang in a girlish lilt, que sera sera, whatever will be, will be. Once they set their quills down, they would not give the exams a second thought until they received their results during the summer.
“But it’s such a beautiful day,” Dollie half-heartedly protested, already longing for her warm soft bed.
Vivian snorted. “Like you care.”
A motley crew of their female classmates were waiting at the bottom of the staircase in the Great Hall, having all agreed to relieve exam tension by cooling off at the bank of the lake.
“Not joining us, Kent?” one of them called out.
“Maybe next time,” replied Dollie.
“She needs some beauty sleep,” Lily elaborated.
“I’ll say,” added Vivian.
“Go on then, Costa. Skedaddle,” said Dollie.
Vivian stuck out her tongue playfully and skipped away down one step at a time. She welcomed any opportunity to either ogle or be ogled by boys. In that sense, Vivian and Dollie were in the same boat when it came to being resented by their peers.
Mean as it may sound, Dollie wasn’t too disappointed about missing out. If it wasn’t Vivian or Lily, Dollie preferred her own company to that of her fellow classmates. They were acquaintances at best but their friendships became slightly strained after she got together with Sirius and started her studying sessions with Remus. She was accused of being greedy and it was hard for her to disagree.
Regardless, she forced a smile and waved them off. With an over the shoulder glance, Lily excused herself and ran back up the top of the stairs to where Dollie was still standing. Without warning, Lily hugged her.
“What was that for?” asked Dollie.
“Get some rest and no nightmares, yeah? It’s too bright out for those,” said Lily.
Dollie blanched. “How do you know about that?”
“Viv may sleep like a log but I can hear you, you know. Shuffling around in the dark when you can’t sleep.”
“I’ve tried asking Pomfrey for ‘the Draught of the Living Dead’,” Dollie feebly joked. “Maybe you can make me a batch, eh?”
“Oh, Doll. Your fears aren’t so scary once you face them.”
It was so easy for the ever plucky Lily to say that. Dollie couldn’t think of one thing Lily was afraid of. Even when the Slytherins with the more extreme prejudices like Mulciber and Avery threatened her with harm, she always defended herself. Lily never needed anyone to rescue her, even if her unwanted prince charming was waiting in the wings for his chance.
But Lily couldn’t have known that, after many fretful nights waking up in a sweating, Dollie had finally faced the monster that stalked her dreams. Remus and his cards had helped her in more ways than one. By sheer dumb luck, she was confronted again during the Defence Against the Dark Arts written exam. Question ten. It took everything she had to scribble down the answer because of course she knew the answer. She stared into its face every night when she closed her eyes.
Werewolves in Hogwarts! The very thought of it was absurd. But whatever had left its mark on her had been real, she couldn’t deny that.
Convincing herself it was merely delirium, Dollie turned heel to head back to the dormitory when she saw her. Sue, the bane of her existence. Universally reviled by the other fifth-year girls, Sue took to surrounding herself with the younger witches who were desperate and hungry enough to climb the social ladder. Mary-Beth was her sole real friend and it was only because the girl was as dim and dull as an old brass doorknob. Today, however, she was on her own.
Sue’s face darkened at the sight of Dollie but smiled nevertheless.
“Dawlie darling, alone? Abandoned perhaps is more likely.”
“I believe you have something that belongs to me.”
“Do I?” Sue twirled her highlighted brown hair around her finger.
“I did what you demanded. Now it’s time to hold up your end of the bargain.”
Sue stopped twirling her hair and instead began tapping her glossy lips with her maroon stuck-on nails. “See, that’s not quite true.”
“I broke up with him didn’t I? I humiliated him in front of the entire school,” Dollie snarled angrily like a cornered cub. The memory left a bad taste in her mouth.
“Yes, I’ll admit, you fulfilled part one quite adequately,” said Sue. “I was very entertained. It was quite riveting watching it play out like the farce it was.”
“You really need to pay more attention when others speak, dearest. After you dumped him, he’s supposed to be mine,” Sue explained patiently.
“What do you expect me to do, imperious him?”
“If that’s what it takes.”
Dollie balled up her hands into fists, willing herself not to punch Sue in the face right then and there. Her pulse was racing through her veins while the hollow in her chest throbbed. Whether it was fear or fury or perhaps a combination of the two was hard to say.
“That’s crazy, you’re crazy.”
“I’d be very careful if I were you, stomping on thin ice as you are now.” Sue suddenly advanced on Dollie and grabbed her hands. “Relax those mitts, darling. You might do something you regret.”
“Too late.” Dollie wrenched herself from Sue’s grasp. “And don’t touch me! I never should have listened to you! I should have known better.”
“And continue to live a lie? Truth only hurts the guilty. I did you a favour, honey. That’s the problem, no one’s grateful when you try to help them improve their lot in life,” said Sue sanctimoniously.
“I thought as much. I’m not the only one you’re blackmailing, am I?” said Dollie.
Sue snorted. “Baby, I’ve been playing everyone like toys since first-year. How else could I have gotten where I am today? It’s all about being in the right place at the right time. People are so careless with their indiscretions. But you,” Sue pinched Dollie’s nose, “you little button-nose bint, you’ve proven to be my most satisfying conquest to date. Well, until I own Sirius that is.”
“You – you monster!”
The hall echoed with Sue’s clanging laugh as Dollie pulled out her wand. Sue didn’t even try to retrieve her own.
“Don’t be foolish, Doll-brain. Magically attacking a prefect in the school hallway? You could get a generous supply of detentions with that. With a little more embellishment, perhaps I could even suggest suspension.” Sue glared back, her eyes lit up with hellfire. “Nobody’s here to save you now.”
Sue was right about the offence but wrong about the intent. While Dollie was more than tempted to blast Sue, she had more important matters on her mind. Actually, there was only the one. Her mind raced with possible spells, trying to decide which was the most appropriate. Could she conjure a strong enough summoning charm? She had never magically summoned more than one thing at a time. Then again, there was a first time for everything.
After some hefty visualisation, Dollie waved her wand in a downward semi-circle with all the conviction she had in her body.
“Accio my notebook gifted by Remus!”
While ridiculously detailed, it was the best Dollie could come up with. Remus had always advised to keep her incantations simple to make the spell more impactful. Both Dollie and Sue looked around, waiting for something to happen. Sue was the first to make a crack, wagging her finger.
“Another day, another failure. Did you really think it’d be that easy? I made hundreds of copies, enough reading material for every student and every faculty member in the castle. Who knows, I might even send one to a publishing house and you’ll see your little piece of fiction spread through the Wizarding World like the virus it is. So you see, I’m always one step ahead of –”
The rustling of parchment had started early into Sue’s tirade but neither girls paid much attention. It was only when Dollie tuned Sue out that she could make out the sound. And when she heard it, she kept her eyes peeled for what she hoped was coming. Sure enough, a cloud of what looked to be a thousand books was careening towards them. Dollie pointed her wand up and slashed it towards Sue.
It was unnecessarily cruel but at the same time especially fitting given the recipient. But Dollie would be lying if she said she didn’t derive great, somewhat twisted pleasure watching the books rain on Sue like brimstone. It was divine judgement and poetic justice all rolled into one.
Now, what lay before her was a literal mountain of books under which a witch of the worst kind was buried. The fun part was over because Dollie had no way of knowing which of the thousand copies was hers. She picked up one, two, three, four, five, ten notebooks but couldn’t detect any visible differences between them. Then it occurred to her. Surely Sue would keep her trump card over Dollie as close to her chest as possible and never let it out of her sight.
With great reluctance, Dollie began digging through the mound until she reached the heart and found the heartless Sue who was barely conscious. Sue squinted and mumbled incoherently but Dolllie ignored her and went through her pockets. As unpleasant as it was to feel up Sue, Dollie was rewarded in the end when she found her notebook sewn into Sue’s robes in a hidden pocket.
For added measure, Dollie leaned in close to Sue’s ear so that the girl couldn’t mistake what Dollie was about to say to her.
“Everything about you is artificial. Fake smile, fake face, fake body, fake personality, fake heart. I could never punish Sirius by surrendering him to you. He deserves better. I may be a paper doll but you’re plastic through and through.”
Sue made a grab at her and caught hold of Dollie’s silver-chained bracelet before Dollie wrenched it away. Clutching the notebook to her chest, she stepped back and let the book copies slide over Sue like a mudslide.
“What is the meaning of this, Kent!” Professor Flitwick hobbled out into the hall, aghast. “Explain yourself.”
“I could,” said Dollie sheepishly. “But I don’t think you’d believe me.”
“Love triangles, duels, secrets, lies and an extortion plot.” Professor McGonagall removed her hat and began rubbing her temples. “Sounds like an ill-advised Fifi LaFolle romance-thriller novel.”
“It may sound hard to believe but –”
“Miss Milton was threatening to expose your secrets unless you did what she wanted.”
“What that thing is and what she threatened to expose, you won’t tell me.”
Dollie looked down. She was sitting in Professor McGonagall’s office but under very different circumstances from the last time she was there. The oak chair was a lot less comfortable than she remembered. There were no tea and pamphlets in sight.
“I can’t,” mumbled Dollie.
“Well, we don’t take threats lightly. But I can’t ignore the fact that you assaulted a prefect.”
“Not directly, Professor,” Dollie pointed out.
“Don’t, Kent. You know better,” Professor McGonagall said sternly, making Dollie internally shrivel.
“I understand Professor Flitwick is cleaning up the mess you left in the hallway and that you won’t give your permission to use the contents of the copies as evidence. I also received a status report from Miss Pomfrey that Milton is complaining of seeing things and hearing voices and insinuating that she has acquired brain damage from your actions.” Dollie snorted in disbelief while Professor McGonagall tried not to let her own wry smile show through. “However, you’ll be please to know that in Miss Pomfrey’s professional opinion, the only damage to Milton is a bump on the head and a bruised ego. Regardless, there will be an inquest and both of you will appear before me for further disciplinary action. If what you’re saying is indeed true, I suggest you start gathering witnesses to corroborate your blackmail claim.”
“I didn’t mean to cause any trouble, Professor. Really. All I wanted was what was mine back. I do apologise that it escalated the way it did.”
Professor McGonagall opened her mouth but before she could get anymore words out, a frantic series of knocks on her door. She beckoned whoever it was to come in. Professor Slughorn entered, a pained look on his walrus-like face.
“Minerva, we need to speak immediately.”
“I’m with a student, Horace.”
Professor Slughorn’s gaze swept over Dollie, registering recognition but not much else. Because Lily had told her, Dollie knew exactly what Professor Slughorn thought of her. When she first came to Hogwarts, he had made it a point to be friendly and even issued an invitation to one of his ‘prestigious’ Slug Club meetings. However, it quickly became apparent that she had little residual talent from her high-flying sister and Hogwarts Governor father. He once explained to Lily that he didn’t believe in potential and that he wasn’t a patient enough man to wait around for talent to reveal itself.
“We had another incident with Potter and Snape,” said Professor Slughorn.
“Good Lord, those two bring out the worst in each other. I’ll be with you in a moment, Horace.”
“Very good.” He closed the door behind him.
“Barring any further altercations, I will see you and Milton after OWLs before you all leave for summer holidays. Take the time you have to strengthen your defence,” said Professor McGonagall.
Dollie nodded and was dismissed. She almost knocked into Professor Slughorn’s portly frame as she exited Professor McGonagall’s office. He grumbled, smoothed his robes, readjusted the gold buttons on his strained waistcoat and checked the condition of his large moustache. Blocked by his girth was an intensely sullen bloodshot-eyed Snape whose sallow complexion was for once ruddy and Potter ruffling his own hair while his mouth was twisted into a malevolent sneer.
Snape resolutely ignored her even though yesterday after Herbology, Dollie and Vivian had with great reluctance graciously allowed him to join them on the Hogwarts lawn. He had sat under the beech tree while the girls lied down on the grass. Lily had playfully admonished him to put away his book and socialise. He failed miserably to say the least. He was appalled when Vivian wondered aloud which male had the best rear in Hogwarts and unimpressed by Dollie’s efforts of self-improvement, although he admitted that her potion-making while well-executed was merely due to years of tedious practice under her apothecary-owning father rather than any semblance of remarkable skill.
It was only Dollie and Vivian’s combined mutual love for Lily that kept them from hexing him into oblivion. Lily would once or twice reproach him when his comments were too biting but more often than not, she made excuses for him and said Dollie and Vivian should put more effort into making him feel welcomed.
In one last ditch effort, Dollie tried to engage him in what his passions in life were. Shockingly, Snape came to life as he gushed about the Dark Arts and how they were an underappreciated branch of magic all wizards can learn much from. Lily silenced him before he could go into more gruesome detail.
Looking at him now, Dollie no longer saw an overlooked, unpleasant boy who looked down on everyone else to mask his own insecurity. The way Snape was shooting daggers at James, the detestation that oozed out his every pore, there was no youthful innocence. This was no ordinary rivalry. In fact, Dollie got the impression that if he could get away with it, Snape would sadistically torture James until he could break him, until he was driven to the point of insanity and rendered a shell of his former self.
At least she got an acknowledging wink from James. Professor Slughorn ushered the two boys into Professor McGonagall’s office, being sure to keep them separate and far from the other. He must have also confiscated their wands too.
“Just a little hiccup, nothing to ruffle your feathers,” said James in response to her questioning look.
“If you say so,” said Dollie sceptically.
“We’ll talk tonight, yeah?”
“Wait, what?” Bewildered, Dollie would receive no further explanation as the door closed in her face.
“That vile, loathsome, evil, slimy little bat!”
More graphic expletives that would embarrass a pirate erupted from Vivian. While a flair for the dramatic was part of the parcel that was the barely wrapped Vivian, at this point in time she was unstoppable. In light of Dollie’s absence, Vivian had for her benefit recounted the harrowing incident on the grounds between Snape and Potter. Dollie made all the appropriate interjections, a gasp of horror here, a disbelieving query there. But all the while, she was watching Lily who was more stone-faced than she had ever seen her.
“Just say the word, Lily, and I’ll make sure he never sires a child as long as he miserably lives.” Vivian had never been Snape’s biggest advocate, which was why Dollie thought she was enjoying what just transpired a bit too much.
There was a light tap on the door to their dormitory. Mary McDonald aka Mini-Lily poked her head in.
“Lily, hi, so sorry to bother you but… I think you need to come downstairs,” said Mary.
“Don’t interrupt. Can’t you see the adults are talking? Go play by yourself,” said Vivian.
“Shut up, Vivian. I’m sorry, Mary, whatever it is, another day perhaps?” said Lily.
“It’s Snape,” Mary blurted out. “He’s outside the common room.”
“Tell him to shove off. Better yet, allow me,” said Vivian as she bent down to pick her dressing gown off the floor, flashing everyone her bulbous bum and making Mary blush.
“It’s very kind of you to let me know but I honestly couldn’t care less. Tell him to go back to his evil comrade-in-arms and leave me alone,” said Lily.
“I tried. Oh, not quite like that but he won’t listen. He only wants to speak to you and will sleep at the entrance until you see him. He’s blocking the way you see and –”
Putting on her dressing gown and tying it tightly around her waist, Lily followed Mary downstairs. Vivian made to follow her but Dollie grabbed her arm in time and shook her head. Vivian may protest to offer only moral support but in the nuclear mood she was in, Snape would be incinerated under Vivian’s wrath.
“It’s Lily’s battle, let her fight it. If she wanted reinforcement, she would have asked,” Dollie pointed out.
“You weren’t there. You didn’t see… She defended him and he spat in her face. He said it so spitefully too, like a viper spitting out venom,” said Vivian, crossing her arms.
“It sounds like Potter was no angel himself,” said Dollie.
“He was only teasing. Snape could have easily retaliated,” Vivian replied flippantly as she tossed her hair.
“From the sound of it, Snape was minding his own business when Potter blindsided him. Like a lion pouncing on an unsuspecting hyena.”
“Why are you defending him?”
“I’m not! Sometimes people do and say stupid things when they’re backed into a corner.”
Vivian shook her head. “He called her a mudblood, Doll. It’s unforgivable.”
Abby-Emma was in another Quidditch meeting, discussing strategy for next season while Sue had taken to sleeping with Mary-Beth in the Slytherin girls’ dormitory. Dollie wouldn’t have dared speak so baldly otherwise. She knew she was supposed to be irate on Lily’s behalf and appalled at Snape’s actions. She may not have been there while the incident had played out but she was a witness to the aftermath. The image wouldn’t leave her. A preening Potter amused at himself, proud that he had traumatised a helpless, inferior Snape. There had been no remorse on Potter’s part.
“Maybe we should check on Lily, see if –”
“Call off the search party,” Lily interrupted Dollie as she returned to the dormitory.
“How did it go? Please tell me you gave him a good walloping,” Vivian pried.
Lily’s eyes blazed with green flames but her face sunk in sadness. As was her nightly ritual, she flipped her head down and tied her hair into a bun. She then rubbed lotion into her face and hands. Lily took great care of her hands, she always complained they smelled wretched from the potion ingredients she constantly handled. Only one step was skipped. She didn’t take out her favourite book from the drawer and read a few verses. She took off her nightgown and got into bed. But just as Dollie and Vivian were about to give up on ever getting a response, a muffle came from under the covers.
“Only three things matter: How much you loved, how gently you lived and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”
Her auburn bun popped up to snuff out her candle. Vivian looked at Dollie incredulously and mouthed ‘She loved him?!” Dollie shrugged. Stranger things have happened. A loud knock startled them both but didn’t stir Lily. Dollie had her hand on the door handle when something brushed against her bare feet. Slid under the door was a piece of parchment with only nine letters on it.
‘OUTSIDE – J.P.’
The cheek! There could only be one thing he wanted, to capitalise on Lily’s vulnerability and manipulate his way into her heart. All with Dollie’s help. Well, sod that! She already helped him once, she didn’t owe him anything else. The ink stained her hand as she crumbled up the parchment into a little ball. For added measure, she turned the large key and it locked the door with a satisfyingly loud click.
“What was that?” asked Vivian.
“Nothing, just rubbish.”
A/N: For obvious reasons *cough*copyright*cough*, I couldn't exactly depict the Snape, James and Lily scene. I hope this was somewhat adequate. It seemed fitting for Dollie and Sue to have their own little scuffle that parallels the famous scene.
Please do let me know what you think in a review. I'd love to hear from you.
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