WARNING: the following chapter will have overlapping POVs starting at Remus I and continuing until the beginning of Lily II, and contains extremely disturbing and emotionally-distressing content, which will remain undisclosed until the relevant POV. All readers are advised to proceed with caution.
Chapter 13: Red
Monday, 14 February 1977
Today was supposed to be the most romantic day of the year, but to Regulus, it was Monday. And Monday meant he had History of Magic and Potions before lunchtime. Thanks to Rosier, he'd managed to get out of chaperoning the Valentine's Day trip to Hogsmeade, with the older boy suggesting that he ought to start fulfilling more of his Prefect duties; Slughorn bought it. Although it was only a Monday, today proved to be a good opportunity for him to go to Filch's office and procure Snape's birthday. It surprised him that neither Lucius nor Rosier knew already, but perhaps it simply hadn't been relevant. Regardless, this was the only time that Regulus knew Filch would be away to buy flowers and swoon Madam Pince; all he had to do was let the Squib know his reason for being in the office, and he was sure it would be acceptable.
Regulus was already up, unable to sleep due to his excitement. He'd never broken into an office before, but was it truly breaking in if he was a Prefect? He would almost be expected to check in and review the disciplinary files of each and every student at Hogwarts. The best part of all this was that he didn't need to check Lockhart's file; the Ravenclaw boy had announced it in the Great Hall on the 26th of January, more than once at each meal. Knowing that Lockhart was an Aquarius, Regulus hoped that Snape was a Capricorn; if he was, it would be easier for him to narrow it down and definitely determine who the Half-Blood Prince was; while he was certain now that it was Snape, it needed absolute confirmation.
"You're up early."
Regulus turned to see Rosier coming out of the boys' dorm. "Good morning, Evan. Yes, I thought I should get an early start before I went to check on Snape."
"What are your plans for the day?" Rosier asked.
"I thought I'd review the disciplinary files for this year," Regulus replied. "I confess I've been rather lax regarding that."
"I see." Rosier gave Regulus a nod before saying, "You'll be the only Slytherin Prefect in the castle, then. Everyone else is going to Hogsmeade."
"Is it that important?" Regulus asked. From what he knew, only two Prefects from each House were required to chaperone their respective housemates.
"Some of us have dates," Rosier grinned.
"Including yourself?" Regulus smiled back.
"Wilkes," Rosier replied. "We'll be taking a walk in the woods."
"With the snow, it should be quite marvelous."
"Quite." Rosier sat down and mused, "I believe all the boys, fifth-year and up, will be going. Excluding yourself and Snape, of course. Are you sure you wouldn't want to attend?"
"You suggested I stay at the castle," Regulus said. "It would be good to keep an eye out for mischief."
"... good. You passed the test." Rosier gave another grin as a few more footsteps came out from the boys' dorm. He turned his head as Mulciber and Avery walked in. "Good morning."
"Morning," Avery said nervously. His breathing was shallow, and his body tense.
"Is something the matter?" Regulus asked.
"Valentine's Day nerves," Mulciber joked, nudging Avery. "Don't worry. I've got the perfect pastime."
"I'm not sure if…." Avery's voice trailed off.
"Cold feet?" Mulciber asked, his voice dangerously low.
Avery shook his head. "No, I'm in."
"In?" Regulus was curious.
"I just wanted to show the boys a few tricks, as Avery and I are of age. Avery's agreed to assist me." Mulciber put a hand in his pocket, looking as though he had forgotten something. "One moment." He turned and left, coming back soon after. "Forgot my wand."
Regulus looked at the clock. "I should be off."
"Snape?" Mulciber couldn't have sounded more disgusted.
"Naturally," Regulus replied, turning and leaving.
Regulus soon arrived at Snape's door; the walk was so second-nature, it was barely noticeable. Before he could knock, the door swung open, revealing the lone Slytherin boy. His eyes had small red veins that were visible, and his skin was pale; he looked as though he hadn't even changed for bed. Regulus glanced at his neck, and he'd taken to this habit soon after returning to the castle.
"I won't bite," Snape sneered.
"... is everything well?" Regulus asked.
"Fine," Snape said briefly. "I'll come down to breakfast." He walked out, shutting the door behind him, and the two walked silently down to the Great Hall.
Snape looked unwell, but not from a sickness. It was the same bad mood Regulus had seen him in when Evans had cast him aside, but there was something else. Snape looked like he was suppressing the urge to do something violent, and it was in Regulus's best interest not to give him reason to. There were a few topics he'd considered bringing up, such as last night's Slughorn dinner party, but he remembered why that would be a horrible idea.
Last night, Slughorn had asked everyone about their plans for Valentine's Day. When he asked Evans, she revealed, albeit reluctantly, that she had accepted Potter's invitation. Like the Christmas party on the train, Snape had to excuse himself, and it had taken some time for him to return. No one asked what had caused it, but Regulus was certain that everyone knew how much Snape hated Potter. Personally, Regulus also hated the Gryffindor boy, but it wasn't comparable to the animosity Snape had, not even by a longshot. Unlike others at Hogwarts, Snape was perhaps the only student who directly opposed Potter, and it was this publicity that resulted in his humiliation whenever Potter and Sirius ganged up on him. While Snape would insist that Potter was his enemy, his rival, Regulus wasn't ignorant enough not to see it as it was. Bullying.
Regulus didn't really oppose bullying too much; it was the natural way of the world, with the strong supplanting the weak. In terms of blood status, purebloods were rightfully above half-bloods and m… Muggle-borns, and there was nothing to say about those lesser than them. But there was something to be said about two purebloods (and Pettigrew) ambushing a half-blood; it showed a lack of shame in their tactics, as well as how close they came to failing due to how quickly Snape could draw his wand. To fight someone three-to-one wasn't something to be proud of, and any respectable Slytherin would measure out the appropriate method of engagement.
If there was a single opponent, it must be one-on-one; anything else was cowardly. If it was a proper duel, obviously both sides would have a second. If there was more than one enemy, then anything was fair game. While he could imagine a group of Slytherins ganging up on a lone Gryffindor, it wasn't something to take pride in. And as the heir of the oldest Slytherin family, Regulus had no intention of breaking proper etiquette.
As Regulus and Snape sat down and ate, Regulus caught a quick glimpse across the Great Hall at Evans and Potter. They seemed to be talking about something, along with Sirius and McKinnon. Lupin and Pettigrew were listening in, but they didn't say too much. And for some reason, MacDonald was completely silent, coldly eating her food without so much as looking at anyone else at the table. While this was an interesting development, it was of no importance.
All that mattered was finding Snape's file.
Today was the day. Mary had saved up enough of her allowance for her late birthday gift for Severus, although she was a bit embarrassed that it happened to be on Valentine's Day. Of course, he knew it wasn't meant as a romantic gesture when she told him the day before, but the timing made it look rather awkward. She decided to give it to him tomorrow, when both of them were in better moods after hearing that Lily had agreed to go on a date with Potter.
Mary had never been as furious with both Lily and Severus as she was right now, so much so that she found herself dazed and incapable of expressing it. Lily knew exactly what dating Potter would mean for her friendship with Severus, and Severus knew that hiding away in his room while Lily and Potter snogged wouldn't solve anything. And if they didn't know, they were both bloody stupid. She knew Lily wouldn't back out of the date, so the only thing she could do was convince Severus to at least leave his room, if not the castle.
As Mary ate and thought hard about this, she noticed a feather fall from the ceiling, followed by several more. She looked up and found that there were several owls flying over the Ravenclaw table and dropping letters into the hands of Lockhart, who began happily opening them and reading them aloud to his housemates. She rolled her eyes until she heard an even greater fluttering, and she looked up again. Before she could register what was happening, a sea of owls flooded the ceiling above, swarming and screeching as feathers and pellets began falling from on high. There was a great panic in the Great Hall as students began rushing out, and Mary followed with Brandy safely in her arms.
Mary stopped right outside the Great Hall to look back inside and see how many people were still in, and sure enough, all that remained was Lockhart, hopping on top of the table and spinning in place, his arms spread wide as he was showered with letters from his 'adoring fans', seemingly dancing to music only he could hear.
"Sit!" Moody's presence was slightly jarring, but it made sense. Scrimgeour had been assigned to Hogwarts to assist in investigating the attacks last term, and both Moody and Shacklebolt were his trainees. The part that almost didn't make sense was why two Auror trainees were teaching Defense class today… although based on the post's history, what followed started to make more sense.
"It seems that Professor Hubbard has been a bit naughty this year," Moody explained. "And so, within our authority, we have been tasked with finishing up Defense classes for this year. Now, today, we will be studying the Unforgivable Curses, and we will have a bit of a… practical portion."
As everyone in class except Severus began to mutter and whisper among themselves, Shacklebolt clarified, "What Assistant Professor Moody means to say is that we will be reviewing the Unforgivables, and then we will simulate two of the three through potions prepared in advance. Now, to begin, who can list one of the curses?"
Potter raised his hand and said, "The Imperius Curse, sir, named due to its ability to manipulate those under its effects."
"You will speak when called on, Potter," Moody growled. "But you're correct. I don't have the power to award points, and I don't care to. Who's next?"
Lupin raised his ahn silently.
"Mr. Lupin?" Shacklebolt said.
"The Cruciatus Curse," Lupin answered. "The Torture Curse. Those under its effects feel an intense pain throughout their body, and it is said that few things, magical or mundane, can match its pain."
"Correct," Shacklebolt said with a white smile. "And the third?"
For some reason, no one was willing to raise their hands, and Severus was in no mood.
"Snape!" Moody called out, the fucker.
Severus took a slow breath in and out to calm himself as he said blankly, "The Killing Curse."
There was a long silence before Moody asked, "And what does it do?"
"If I have to explain to everyone what the Killing Curse does, then our education system is in desperate need of reform."
Moody didn't seem to be impressed with his answer. "If I could take points, I would." He walked over to the table at the front of the room before turning around and saying, "Like all magic, the Unforgivable Curses rely on one key element. Does anyone know what that is?" Once more, no one answered, and once again, Moody called out, "Snape!"
"... intent." Severus said reluctantly. The more he heard Moody talk, the more he wished he hadn't come to class. He'd rather waste time doing his Apparition courses, which he'd unfortunately had to underperform in to not draw attention.
"Intent!" Moody nodded. "If I tried casting the Killing Curse at Snape without lethal intent, the most I would do is send him flying against the wall. Maybe hitting his head might kill him, but the curse itself would only serve to throw him back. This principle applies to the Imperius and Cruciatus Curses as well; a weak Imperius will do practically nothing, and a weak Cruciatus wouldn't cause so much as an itch."
The next hour was spent on reviewing several cases in which the Unforgivables were used in both magical and Muggle crimes, as well as natural defenses against the Imperius and Cruciatus: Occlumency. As Severus already knew everything Moody was talking about, even before he had his mind invaded by Professor Snape, he started thinking about what had happened since returning to Hogwarts.
In the weeks leading up to Lily's birthday, she had barely spoken to him at all… although that was normal these days. Most of it had to do with planning the Valentine's Day dinner party, which Severus had helped with. Despite the lack of communication between the two of them, they had been surprisingly, and disturbingly, cordial with one another; he didn't know whether he ought to think this meant they connected on a deeper level than words, or if they were better off not speaking with one another. And after her birthday had passed, two weeks after, Severus learned at the table that she had accepted Potter's invitation to Hogsmeade… as a date. And from MacDonald, he found out she'd accepted the invitation on his birthday.
Lily had accepted Potter's invitation on Severus's birthday, after what they had discussed over the holiday, after their conversation on the train… and she'd said nothing.
After their shared lecture, Moody took two bottles off the desk and showed them to the class. "Assistant Professor Shacklebolt will be holding the potion whose effects simulate the Imperius Curse. I will hold the other. Everyone will form a line in front of us so that we can give each of you a drop of our respective potions; one drop from the first potion will last about five minutes. Get in line, now!"
Everyone but Severus rushed to form a line, and Severus found himself at the back. Potter was the first in line, and Severus heard Shacklebolt say, "Once you take the drop, you'll have to resist doing whatever your classmates tell you to do. Do you understand?"
"Of course," Potter said with a shit-eating voice. "Bring it on, King!"
Shacklebolt undid the cork, took out a dropper, and placed a single drop on Potter's tongue. "Five minutes, starting now."
Potter turned around in somewhat of a daze.
"What do we ask?" Lupin asked.
"I've got one." Black grinned and said to Potter, "Jump on the desk like a cat."
Almost immediately, Potter leapt onto the desk on all fours and began crawling in a feline fashion, causing Black to laugh out loud.
"That's a bit much," Lupin murmured.
"It's Potter's job to resist!" Moody said. "If he can't do that, he stands no chance!"
"How about…?" Lupin hesitated. "Act like a chicken!"
Potter began clucking and strutting about, and Severus would have laughed if not for the knowledge that, after class, Lily would be on a date with him. He watched as Potter went through his five minutes, followed by Black, who failed to resist being told to do cartwheels throughout the classroom. McKinnon was made to sing and dance to some Led Zeppelin song, and Lily was made to sing and dance to 'Dancing Queen'.
The red began to bubble up as Severus watched Lily performing for Potter's amusement. He'd bought that album as a coming-of-age gift, aside from the pocket watch he'd given her while planning the dinner party. But now, it was for everyone else to see and laugh at, and his barriers were starting to crack. He opened the red flask a bit to let the pressure dissipate, and the bubbling liquid began to subside, drop by drop.
After Lupin was done singing 'God Save the Queen', it was Severus's turn. He took a drop of the potion, but he didn't feel any different. He was too bloody pissed to care about this lesson, even though he would have relished it in the past.
"Jump around like a frog!" McKinnon said.
It took too much self-control not to throttle the girl where she stood, and Severus focused on remaining calm.
"... nothing," Lupin said.
"Let me try something more appealing," Black said with that fucking grin. "Snape… give Lily a hug."
McKinnon choked back a laugh, while Lily slapped Black's arm.
Severus started thinking about one of Professor Snape's memories, of a broken Sirius Black trapped in his mother's house due to being a fugitive. This thought made him feel significantly better.
"... Severus, are you alright?" Lily asked.
"Fine," Severus replied blankly, a drop of red slipping into his voice.
"How about this?" Potter held out his hand and said, "Shake."
Severus clenched his fists, feeling his knuckles pop one by one as he fought the urge to draw his wand.
"Say 'I'm a vampire'," Potter said.
"James!" Lily exclaimed.
"Too far?" Potter asked, feigning shame; Severus had to admit he was rather good at it.
After a few more attempts, the potion wore off, and Severus felt no different than before. Moody walked over and said, "Now then, time for the second bit. This'll be unpleasant, so I have an antidote prepared for anyone who can't take the pain."
Another line was formed, this time with Lily and Potter at the front. Severus knew it was just a potion and that all it caused was pain, but he was still worried about Lily's ability to handle it. Instead of waiting one by one, everyone was given a single drop at once. It seemed as though they would be graded based on how long they could endure the effects, as Shacklebolt had taken out his pocket watch to time them.
As soon as the drop touched Severus's tongue, he felt an overwhelming pain flood through his body, much worse than when he felt the attacks on Creevey and Cresswell. It was a bone-deep pain, as though his nerves were twisting around each other and trying to crush themselves in pulsing waves. He, along with Lily, Lupin, and McKinnon, fell to the floor in pain, while Potter and Black had braced themselves on the table.
Lily and McKinnon were respectively the first to bow out after one minute and thirty seconds had passed, and they seemed to lose their pain immediately once the antidote touched their lips. Lupin had gotten to his feet and was unsurprisingly starting to cry like a weakling, while Potter and Black were groaning and moaning. Severus almost smiled at their pain, if not for his own, which he could only manage by rhythmically breathing in and out.
At the two minute mark, Potter gave up and took a long swig of the antidote, much to Moody's displeasure. "You've taken enough for two!" Moody growled angrily at Potter.
Severus didn't pay attention to whatever argument they were having, because he was more focused on Black and Lupin. Despite how everyone had started, he was surprised to see that Black was starting to break faster than Lupin, his eyes darting to the antidote every few seconds with a dismayed look in his eye. Whenever he looked as though he would reach for it, he clenched his fist and forced it to his side. Lupin, on the other hand, had been reduced to a whimpering heap on the floor.
After three minutes had passed, Black was the next one to take the antidote, but he only took a single portion. Severus and Lupin were the final two, with the former sitting on the floor and the latter curled into a ball. Everyone, including Lily, was cheering for Lupin, telling him nonsense like 'You can do it', 'Hang in there, Moony', and 'You're over halfway done'; it made sense that this would be the case, as playing the victim made Lupin more receptive to pity and words of encouragement. The level of disgust Severus felt when looking at him caused the red to rise up again, and he felt the pain from the potion diminish.
Finally, after four minutes had passed, Lupin gave in and took the antidote, drinking the remainder of what was left.
"Bad luck, Snape," Moody said. "We're out of antidote, because someone can't control himself!" If he was glaring at Potter, Severus didn't care.
"We'll just say I passed with flying colors, then," Snape ground out.
Shacklebolt stopped his watch and put it back in his pocket. "I have the final grades for each of you regarding the Cruciatus portion. Evans and McKinnon, you both lasted one minute and thirty-five seconds. I'm afraid that's D-level. Potter, you barely managed to reach a P-level. Black and Lupin, you both earned an A and E, respectively, so you both pass. As for Snape, I'm giving him an O as he can no longer opt out of the five-minute time limit."
"That concludes this week's lesson," Moody finished. "Off with you now. Snape, a word before you go."
Everyone packed their belongings and left, and Severus approached Moody with great difficulty. "Yes?"
"You're one tough bastard," Moody acknowledged. "You must be one hell of an Occlumens."
"I had a bad week," Severus replied. "Let's just say it's made me less responsive."
"You're pissed off, then?" Moody asked. "Good. Stubbornness is a powerful defense against both curses. I think the only man I've met that might match it is Longbottom."
"I don't know," Shacklebolt said. "We might have to time Frank again. From what I remember, his record is 5:13; since Snape lost the option to take the antidote, he'd have to redo it."
"I'm perfectly fine with a single attempt," Severus said. He didn't want to waste time on this nonsense. "If I'm free to go, I have to study for Alchemy."
"You're dismissed," Shacklebolt said, nodding.
Severus packed his things and left the classroom, only for him to almost run into MacDonald and Brandy. The cruppy nipped at Severus's robes but missed, and MacDonald scolded the creature before looking up at Severus and asking, "How did class go?"
"As good as I expected," Severus answered. "How long have you been standing there?"
"Fifteen minutes?" MacDonald asked. "I wanted to ask-"
"I'm not going to Hogsmeade," Severus said. "Alchemy."
"You don't have Alchemy until after the trip is finished," MacDonald countered.
Severus was both impressed and annoyed that the girl remembered his schedule. Truthfully, he was still a bit sore from the potion, not to mention on-edge about Lily's date. And he had been meaning to dedicate lunchtime to calisthenics and flying in the Room of Requirement. "I still have to study for it."
"Tell me you'll at least leave your room," MacDonald pleaded.
"My alchemy book is in my room, so I don't really need to go anywhere else."
"I'll have it delivered."
"Severus Snape," MacDonald said in frustration, "you are not locking yourself in your room just because it's Valentine's Day!"
Severus was stunned by her accusation. "You think I'm scared of leaving my room just because of the holiday?"
"I know it's about Lily's date." MacDonald didn't look or sound like she was backing down.
"Then you know-"
"Yes!" MacDonald exclaimed. "I get it. I know you hate Potter, and I don't blame you. But you can't let it get to you."
"You're starting to sound like Lily." Severus sensed he'd said something wrong, because MacDonald's expression changed from frustration to shock.
"... I wouldn't date my best friend's bully," MacDonald said quietly. "Ever."
Severus found himself unable to respond. What MacDonald said was something that had bothered Severus ever since Lily started defending Potter, before their friendship declined. In fact, it had been the starting point of that decline, and a major reason why he'd started spending more time with Mulciber and Avery. If Lily wasn't willing to take his side, then he had to find other people to support him.
"I'm going to Hogsmeade," MacDonald continued. "And then I'll come right back so we can play Gobstones."
Severus almost objected, but he stopped. He wasn't going to push MacDonald away just because he wanted to practice his flying. "Courtyard?"
"Obviously," MacDonald said in a manner nearly-identical to his own. She smiled and said, "Have fun with studying." With that, she turned and left.
Severus stood for a moment before making his way to his room. Arriving, he set his belongings down before heading to the Room of Requirement. He had to take his mind off of Lily being with Potter; if he charged in to stop whatever they were about to do (which he hoped wasn't what Professor Snape had witnessed), Lily would think poorly of him. And it wasn't worth the risk. He was in a lose-lose situation, and the only viable choice he could make was to stay away.
Remus was the first off the wagon as he helped organize the students on their Valentine's Day trip. Under normal circumstances, he didn't like doing double the work expected of him, but today was a special day for everyone, especially James and Sirius. Today marked the first date, and first double date, that James and Sirius had been on, and the same went for Marlene and Lily. James and Sirius had each had a go at him for not inviting Peter, just as they had a few nights ago, but Remus honestly didn't mind not going on a date. He wasn't someone who could casually date someone else; there had to be some certainty in the relationship for him to invest in it. Unfortunately, he hadn't met anyone like that, no one he was comfortable being around at least.
Remus was broken out of his thoughts of love and romance as Mary stepped off the wagon with Brandy on a red leash. He walked up and asked, "What are your plans?" He knelt down to scratch Brandy behind the ear.
"I'm buying Severus his gift," Mary said blankly. "There's a special glass quill that holds ink better than feathers."
"I'll see you later, then," Remus said, smiling as the girl and cruppy walked off. He was starting to worry about Mary, just about as much as he did regarding Marlene. Mary hadn't said a word during breakfast, nor had she spoken to any of them up until just now. He didn't know exactly what was wrong, but he'd heard from Marlene and Sirius that it involved Lily and Snape; if he was a betting man, he would guess that it had to do with James.
As Mary left, Marlene and Sirius walked up, their arms linked. James and Lily were close behind, although they were slightly farther apart. James asked Sirius, "Shall I go and check on our reservation?"
"By all means, good sir," Sirius replied in an intentionally snobbish manner. As James led Lily to Madam Puddifoot's Tea Shop, Sirius said to Remus, "We'll keep you in our hearts, Moony."
"How touching," Remus said sarcastically. "Have a good lunch."
"Should we bring you some leftovers?"
"I'll eat at the Three Broomsticks." The two couples went into the tea shop, and Remus returned his attention to the visiting students. Due to the limited space in Madam Puddifoot's, most couples would be eating at the Three Broomsticks, which was rather convenient for him.
Arriving, Remus found himself a seat at the bar, and the barmaid asked, "What'll you be having?"
"Do you have anything with beef?" Remus asked.
"Roast beef sandwich with chips."
"I'll have that with a butterbeer, then. But I'll start with a glass of water." Remus received his glass and began sipping it. A light meal was a good way to prepare for a trip to Honeydukes, where he was sure there would be a special sale.
After receiving his sandwich and butterbeer, Remus took a few bites every now and then, keeping his eye on the students at the tables. A few came and left every now and then, but there were a few that caught his attention. The seventh-year Slytherin boys sat at one of the tables near the entrance, and near them were all their House's fifth- and sixth-year boys excluding Snape and Regulus; Wilkes and Alecto Carrow were also there. After some time had passed, Mulciber got up and left, leaving behind money for his food and drink as he knocked into a Ravenclaw boy that Remus recognized as Crouch. Crouch stumbled one way out the door, and Mulciber the other.
Remus took a sip of butterbeer and was happy to find it had been warmed for the cold weather. He heard the distant barking of a dog, along with a girl yelling for it to come back. Remus grinned, realizing it was probably Mary having lost control of Brandy. The cruppy had become something of a mascot for Gryffindor, albeit unspoken. Many of the students joked about how it seemed to hate Snape, and most saw it as proof that animals could sense evil. Thinking about it, that might have been another reason for Mary's foul mood, despite the love and attention Brandy was getting.
During this train of thought, the Slytherins near the entrance all stood and left, leaving behind money to pay for their lunch. It sounded as though they were going to Honeydukes based on how much they were talking about chocolate. He'd probably have to stay away from there for the time being to avoid them; being alone with a crowd of Slytherins was tantamount to suicide.
"Anything else?" the barmaid asked.
"Another butterbeer, if you would," Remus said. "Or actually, do you have hot chocolate?"
"You want both?"
"... come to think of it, that would be lovely."
Remus smiled as he received both drinks ten minutes later. Before he could take a sip, he spotted Marlene walking through the door and approach the bar.
"Give." Marlene took the butterbeer without hesitation and began gulping it down, not stopping until its contents had been drained. She let out a sigh as she sat down at the bar.
"How was your date?" Remus asked.
"I need to ask you something," Marlene said, "and it needs to stay between us."
"On my wand," Remus said.
"Do you think Sirius and I are a good match?"
Remus hadn't expected that question to come out of Marlene McKinnon's mouth. "Has something happened?"
"Marley!" Sirius strode in and sat down beside her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. "Sorry, I had to wish James good luck."
"Good luck?" Remus asked.
"Between us gents… and one lady," Sirius corrected quietly, "I have it on good authority that our dear Prongs is about to go through a rite of passage." He grinned. "He's gonna go for a kiss."
"A kiss?!" Remus hissed quietly. "On the first date?"
"Why not? Marley and I did." Sirius planted a kiss on Marlene's cheek.
Marlene turned to Sirius and asked, "What if Lily doesn't kiss him back?"
"Nonsense! How would any girl resist James Potter?" Sirius reached for the hot chocolate but drew his hand back. "Ah… Madam Rosmerta, could I get a butterbeer?"
"As long as you don't spill it like last time," the barmaid called back.
"Accident," Sirius replied. He turned back to Remus and Marlene. "Anyway, I figure they'll be snogging in empty corridors before the year ends."
Remus took a sip of his drink. "Perhaps."
"I thought you were going to Honeydukes?" Marlene asked.
"I'm waiting until the Slytherins clear out of there," Remus said. "I think it was all the boys from fifth-year and up, not accounting for Snape and Regulus."
"What are you talking about?" Sirius asked, looking confused. "They're not at Honeydukes."
"Oh, they left?"
"No, they never went there."
"But I heard them talking about getting chocolate," Remus explained. "If they're not buying chocolate, then where-?"
Before Remus could finish his sentence, there was a distant scream.
Severus had finished his calisthenics, wandwork and running, and was in the process of mentally preparing himself for flight. He remembered what Professor Snape had told him about drawing from the root of all levitation spells, as well as the nature of the motion of flight. Before, he had believed that flight had to do with pushing off the ground, and he hadn't realized until then how Muggle-sounding that perspective sounded. Instead of pushing off the ground, he had to pull himself into the air. This was a misunderstanding that had cost him his dignity in Flying class during first year, which not only cemented Potter as the superior on the broom, but also served as a reminder that Lily was capable of laughing at his failures.
Severus relaxed his body as he laid down, and he began controlling his breathing and clearing his mind of… no, if he thought about clearing his mind, the clutter would distract him. He had to think about the sensation of levitation, focusing on the pull of invisible strands. He could feel them on the back of his head and in his back, shoulders, hips, and glutes, as well as the very tips of his extremities. It started to make sense now, given how, when in flight, Professor Snape never seemed to drag any part of himself along; if anything was left untethered, it could cause drag.
Severus took a deep breath, inhaling to ready the pull. As he exhaled, he envisioned the strings pulling upward, along with the sensation of his body leaving the floor. He opened his eyes and turned his head, realizing that he was, indeed, off of the ground now, but only levitating.
Good. Now, fly laps around the room.
How do I do that?
How did you get into the air?
I pulled myself up.
That is all you need to know.
Pulling…. Severus understood now. He wasn't to propel himself to his destination; he had to pull himself to his desired destination. He turned so that his stomach faced the floor, and he stretched his hands out in the direction of his destination. He'd seen a similar pose in a Muggle comic book, but the man's clothes were too colorful for his taste, too… Gryffindor. Feeling the strings in his fingers, he began to pull gently, and as he did, he saw the floor below him slide. He looked back up, having the string in the back of his head support his neck, and saw that he was moving forward.
Severus pulled up, and the floor moved farther away. He looked forward and increased the pull, and he began moving faster than before. He was coming up on the first turn, and he changed the direction of the pull, wobbling and slowing down a bit as he did so. Turns would be hard at first.
Use your robes to steer.
You will have to learn to feel the strings at the edges of the fabric. Once you learn how to pull them properly, they should allow you to turn and glide more efficiently.
Severus halted in mid-air to refocus himself. He had to somehow extend his senses beyond his skin and into the fabric of his clothes…. Hair wasn't too dissimilar to thread, so if he could perhaps focus on his arm-hairs as a starting point, eventually working his way through his sleeves and into his robes, then it should be possible. Severus focused on the sensation of the small hairs on his arms brushing against the inside of his sleeves, tuning everything else out except aside from the strings already in place. With that, he felt new strings form from his forearms, attaching themselves to his sleeves and working their way through to the robes; he trusted his instinct as he wove into the threads.
The sensation was foreign to Severus, as though it was a sense of touch that one wouldn't feel as skin. Instead it felt like a deeper sense of touch, like the deepest part of a muscle's sinews flexing and stretching as it adjusted to whatever was being exerted on it. After focusing for enough time, Severus finally reached his robes, and the sensation began to spread slowly but surely. It felt like flexible, immaterial bones were growing through the fabric, only stopping once each appendage reached the hem; at that point, he started feeling for and attaching a thread to each tip. He wasn't sure if this was what wings felt like, nor did he plan on experimenting with any human transfiguration to find out, but the end result was manageable.
Severus slowly and carefully began to pull and relax the threads in his robes, feeling the fabric expand, stretch out, and contract. Something snapped into place, and Severus lost his focus for a moment. In less than a second, he fell through the air and hit the stone floor with a thud; fortunately, he had turned his face just in time to avoid breaking his nose.
I think I managed it.
You did. Don't push yourself back up. Pull.
Severus refocused once more, regaining the once-foreign sensation in his body, and he lifted himself to his feet, as though something was pulling him back up. In the time that he'd spent under Professor Snape's wing, he had gained near-perfect recall of reading materials and a more advanced understanding of proper combat, but learning to fly had to be his greatest achievement bar none. He had yet to test his top speed, but he ought to focus on-
Suddenly, Severus heard a sharp whistling sound, causing him to wince and cover his ears. No matter how hard he pressed in, the sound only grew louder, sometimes stopping for a moment before starting again. He felt something large grab him by the back of his neck and hold him up roughly, as though the skin wanted to come off his bones. His hands quickly stretched out their fingers.
Something was wrong.
Severus grabbed his wand and went for the door before he felt an invisible force stop him in his tracks, or make his movements sluggish as he fought through it for a few seconds, stumbling to the floor as it suddenly vanished. Almost as quickly, a foul, stinging sensation filled his mouth, and he gagged as he tasted what he thought was… soap….
It was that day all over again, but why was it happening now? And if that was the case, then it meant that the next thing to come was the Dangling Jinx.
Severus braced for it, but nothing of the sort happened. Instead, he felt his legs start moving on their own, as thought he had no control.
"What's happening?!" Severus asked aloud.
This is nothing like we've felt before.
Have you no control?
"If I did, I wouldn't be walking like-" Severus suddenly bolted, running at full speed until he crashed into the wall. He cried out in pain as he felt his nose crack, and he fell to the floor, gripping his face as he tried to get back to his feet. He soon curled in on himself, completely out of his control, as his ankle tried to make its way to his mouth.
Occlude! Push out whatever's doing this!
"Help me do that then!" Severus barked back. He felt something invisible bite into his tendon, with enough force that he thought it might snap. He grit his teeth as the pain shot up his leg and throughout his body, as though he was being hit by the Cruciatus.
Severus felt the blood drain from his body. This was another premonition… or it was already happening to someone. But the only people he could think of that would be tied to this were Lily and Mary-
"No," Severus hissed out. The red began to rise and spill over, out from beneath the oppressive stop of the cork. Severus felt heat building through his body as he forced himself up, gripping his wand hard, and he stumbled to the door.
Leaving the Room of Requirement, Severus ignored the pain he was in and sprinted to the staircase, passing through the corridors until he finally arrived. He needed to figure out where it was coming from, and he needed to be ready to fight. This wasn't the basilisk; the sensation was too different. He thought about the seventh floor, and the sixth, and the fifth, until he ran out of floors to focus on. There was a threat, but it wasn't in the castle-
Severus wasn't going to waste time on the fucking staircase! He found the nearest window and swiped his wand through the air, and the glass turned to sand, letting a cold gust flood the corridor. He wrapped his scarf around his neck and let the tethers take hold before leaping out, pulling himself forward as his robe spread out like great black wings. He focused the pull on Hogsmeade and felt the air and snow cut into his skin as he soared off. But the threat wasn't coming from Hogsmeade. It was close, perhaps in the woods, but not the village itself.
Severus began scanning the ground, focusing on the woods for a possible vantage point. He kept a good distance from Hogsmeade itself, instead circling around until-
And then he saw them in the clearing.
The red flask shattered, and Severus snapped.
WARNING: the following contains mild sexual assault.
Today was going to be a difficult day. Mary wasn't talking to anyone, no matter how much Lily poked or prodded, and no one else dared get involved. She thought that going on a double date with Marlene and Sirius would help her be more comfortable with James, which was one of the reasons she agreed to Tom's suggestion. Tom had also put forward that, even if Lily had decided not to date James, that she ought to go on the date, wait until it was over, and let James know that their relationship wouldn't progress any farther.
If not for the Christmas holiday, where Lily had finally realized how invested Severus was in their relationship, there was a good chance she might have been less reluctant to accept James's invitation. At one point in time, she might not have felt guilty for it, but she quickly found out what that felt like when Slughorn put her on the spot last night and persuaded her to admit her plans for Valentine's Day. She had only glanced at Severus for a moment, but it was enough; without a word or any sort of expression, he had stood up and left the room, not returning until after pudding had been finished. He had then assisted in cleaning the party up, wordlessly and expressionlessly, and left, despite Lily trying to catch up to talk to him….
Lily soon found herself getting off the wagon and walking with James to where Marlene and Sirius were, and James asked them, "Shall I go and check on our reservation?"
"By all means, good sir," Sirius replied in an intentionally snobbish manner.
Lily followed James to Madam Pudifoot's Tea Shop and said, "One moment." He quickly stuck his head in just as Madam Puddifoot was passing by, and he came back out and said, "Our table's ready."
"Good timing," Sirius said as he and Marlene approached. "Do we have the window seat?"
"Naturally," James replied. The four of them stepped inside, and James led them to their table. "I was thinking we could have something light and then go for a walk?"
"Tea and finger sandwiches?" Lily asked.
"That sounds perfect," Sirius said.
The four of them sat down just as Madam Puddifoot passed by, and they ordered their tea and sandwiches.
"Now then," James said, turning to Lily, "How has your year been so far?"
"Well…." Lily didn't want to bring Severus up, even though a majority of the year had involved trying to work toward reconciliation of some kind. Her best approach would be to talk about general things. "Classes have been quite interesting for me."
"We share every class except for Ancient Runes," James said. "Remus told me about it, but what about you?"
"I'm enjoying it," Lily answered, somewhat surprised. James had talked to her during class before, but only when it was relevant to the class. This was the first time he'd shown any active interest in what she studied. "Although, I prefer studying Latin and Greek over Germanic."
"Why's that?" James asked.
"Germanic sounds ugly," Lily said. "Very guttural. Latin and Greek are more musical."
"They're overrated," Sirius said.
"That's just because of your family's choices for names," Marlene said.
"Exactly," Sirius said. "Overrated."
"Look, mate," James objected, "If they didn't have their naming conventions, you'd have a different name. And I wouldn't be able to take you siriusly."
Sirius barked out a laugh, which caused the other patrons to turn their heads. He quickly covered his mouth before saying, "Point taken."
Lily swore she saw Marlene roll her eyes.
"Anyway," James said, regaining control of the conversation, "Studying Latin and Greek? Is that related to runes?"
"It's a linguistic class," Lily explained. "We're studying the languages in which certain incantations were developed, as well as the connection between magic and symbolism. Severus says-" Lily stopped herself, cursing at her slip-up.
"What does he say?" Surprisingly enough, it was Marlene that asked.
"... he says the same thing applies to Arithmancy. While language is tied to spellcasting, arithmancy is tied to cause and effect."
"I see." James's voice was quieter, and Lily felt uncomfortable for some reason. However, he returned to his normal self and said, "Well, that makes sense. Father's quite good at arithmancy as well; I suppose it's how he managed to develop Sleekeazy's."
"Monty always struck me as the mathematical sort," Sirius commented.
"Plenty of potioneers study arithmancy to help them with calculations," Lily continued. "Although, I'm not sure if Damocles Belby did or not. He never mentioned it."
"There's a good man!" James said with a smile. "You obviously read about what he was doing with that Wolfsbane potion, right?"
"I know," Lily answered. Of the four sitting at the table, Lily knew three of them had heard about Severus's involvement with the process, and how Belby seemed to have not taken much stock in his suggestions.
"Marvelous, really," James said. "You know, Father is funding the trials for it. This last week, I heard that they've finally settled on the proper dosage, and they might consider working with St. Mungo's to rehabilitate people suffering with lycanthropy."
"Do you think they would come forward?" Lily asked.
"Werewolves. What if they're too afraid?"
"Nonsense," James said. "Something like this would be their salvation."
"What about Fenrir Greyback?" Marlene asked. "What about werewolves like him?"
"They'll see the light," James replied dismissively. "Maybe not Greyback himself, but the other ones would. If they don't, then… well, they'd be dangerous, wouldn't they?"
"But what if one of Greyback's wanted to use it?" Marlene asked. "What if he or she wanted to have more control during an attack?"
"Don't be ridiculous," James said. "If they want to hurt people, they wouldn't take the potion. Losing control means they don't have to think about what they're doing."
Marlene turned to Sirius as though she expected him to say something, but Sirius shrugged.
"I don't think it's something to dismiss," Lily said. "It's possible, but perhaps not probable."
"Well," James said, as though he was starting to consider it, "I didn't say it was impossible. But you're right."
At that point, Madam Puddifoot came in with a tea tray, as well as a selection of finger sandwiches; while some were cucumber, Sirius had also ordered marmite, and James had ordered a few with sliced radishes.
"Shall I pour?" James asked.
"I can get mine," Marlene said.
"I insist," James said. "Two sugars, no milk, yes?"
"... right." Marlene sounded resigned as James poured her tea and put two lumps of sugar in. "Lily?"
"... milk and two sugars," Lily said as James didn't wait to pour her tea, as well as add the milk and two sugars.
James poured his own tea, milk with no sugar, before handing Sirius the teapot. Lily could see the surprise on Marlene's face at the action, and she herself was confused by her reaction. It was as though she had expected James to pour for Sirius as well, but that clearly wasn't the case.
"Sandwiches?" James asked, setting two cucumber sandwiches on Marlene's plate as well as Lily's.
"I can get my own," Lily said. "Cucumber and radish."
"Already done," James said, gesturing to the plate.
Lily looked down and saw that one was cucumber and the other was radish, and she realized that he'd known what to give her beforehand. She didn't know whether to be unsettled or impressed. "Thank you," Lily said.
"Of course." James gave her a warm smile as he helped himself to a radish sandwich.
Lunch was relatively short and light. James and Sirius had started talking about the upcoming Quidditch match between Ravenclaw and Slytherin in the coming weekend. They were all going to root for Ravenclaw, and Sirius had the idea of making a banner with an eagle flying across it. It would require some charmwork, but James was sure Lily and Marlene would be able to pull it off.
"I don't know how to feel about being volunteered for that sort of project," Lily said.
"Come on, now," James replied. "It's all about House spirit, even if it isn't our House."
"I wouldn't mind if I volunteered myself."
"Did I say something wrong?" James asked. "I thought you'd want to help out?"
"... I didn't say I don't want to," Lily said, but the longer this conversation went on, the less willing she was starting to feel. But he was right; he hadn't really said anything wrong, and it would be good to help Ravenclaw's House spirit. "I'd just rather volunteer myself."
"So, you'll do it?" Lily knew it was a question, but it didn't sound like one.
"Yes," Lily said.
"Excellent!" James's face lit up. "Well, we're just about finished here. Why don't I go pay?"
"I'll walk the ladies out," Sirius said. He stood, and Lily and Marlene followed.
Lily was reminded of how cold it was as soon as she stepped outside, and she waited close to the door for James. As she did, she saw Marlene and Sirius whispering to each other; Sirius looked confused at first, but then he smirked and gestured for Marlene to leave. Marlene called over to Lily, "I'm heading to the Three Broomsticks for a bit."
"Alright," Lily said, slightly unnerved that Marlene was leaving the double date.
"I'll catch up with her," Sirius said as Marlene left. "I was thinking you and James might prefer to go for a walk alone."
"Right, I'm ready." James came out of the tea shop. "Where's Marley?"
"Three Broomsticks," Sirius said. "Anyway, I was going to go with her."
"No walk?" James asked.
"I thought it might be better if you two got to know each other a bit better." Sirius backed away a bit in the direction Marlene went. "How about we meet up by the wagons?"
"Alright." As Sirius left, James turned to Lily and asked, "So… how about the Shrieking Shack?"
Lily followed James, or rather, James led Lily along by some sort of invisible, intangible, voluntary tether. Lunch hadn't been too bad, but that was mainly due to James and Sirius talking more among themselves. She didn't like how little control she had over the date; for all intents and purposes, she was at James's mercy.
Finally, they arrived in a clearing overlooking the Shack, which was snow-capped and silent, unlike how it had been about a week ago. James let out a sigh, his breath forming a white cloud before them, before saying, "As haunted as it is, it looks rather nice this time of year."
"Yeah," Lily said.
"Have I done something wrong?"
Lily turned and looked, seeing that James was looking directly into her eyes. "What?"
"You don't seem like you're enjoying yourself."
"... well," Lily said, feeling the heat rise to her cheeks at James's stare, "it doesn't feel like I've had much control over anything."
"I'm the one who did the planning," James said. "You don't have to worry about anything."
"And what about volunteering me for your Ravenclaw banner?" Lily asked.
"It's for a good cause," James said. "Besides, you said you wanted to do it."
Lily's face felt red-hot. "But that's-"
"Fine," James said. "Lily, would you like to help us with the banner?"
Lily kept eye contact with James, trying to see if there was something behind it. But she could tell that he was genuinely asking. "... I'd be happy to," Lily finally said.
James smiled. He turned back to the Shack and said, "I need to confess something."
"What is it?" Lily asked.
"The banner's an excuse. I was hoping to spend that time getting to know you better."
"Isn't that what this date is for?"
"Well," James said, "this is the first part." He sounded slightly nervous.
"Well," Lily said. "How about we get to know each other?"
James turned to Lily, and Lily realized how close he was to her, how he stood a full head taller, how he turned his head down to talk to her. He stood close enough that she could feel his body heat, and there was something… magnetizing about him.
"Would you believe me if I said this was my first date?" James asked.
Lily's eyebrows shot up. "Really?"
"Truth be told, I've never been confident enough to ask anyone out." James's face was red. "Except when it comes to you."
Something in Lily fluttered, for some silly reason, and her cheeks began to burn. "That's a bit heavy on the first date, James."
Lily covered her mouth to hide a smirk at James's confusion.
"Are you laughing, by chance?" James asked, a hint of amusement in his voice.
"No," Lily said, keeping her hand up.
"... is that so?" As fast as anything, James's hands shot forward and grabbed Lily's hand and wrist, and Lily squeaked as she leapt back. She tried pulling away, but James's hands were strong from Quidditch, and she found that he'd managed to pull her hand away. "I knew it!" James said with a grin.
Lily smiled with James, not bothering to hide that she'd been laughing, but soon realized how close his face was now. He seemed to notice as well, as the amusement in his face morphed into one of uncertainty and apprehension. His eyes looked from her eyes to the rest of her face, as though worried about where they looked. His lips seemed to part, unsure whether to remain open or shut. She'd never seen him look so… vulnerable.
"Um…." James loosened his grip, but didn't lower his hands. "So…."
"What?" Lily's eyes had locked onto James's lips now.
She was answered by his lips on hers.
Lily was too shocked to pull back or push him away, as the sudden contact sent a jolt of electricity through her body. Her heart was a drum in her chest, and she felt her excitement from their 'altercation' move through her lungs as she breathed through her nose and leaned into it. She felt James wrap his arms around her, pulling her in as the kiss intensified, his tongue slipping through her lips-
Lily pulled back and managed to break free. "James!" she exclaimed, her breathing heavy.
"You're moving too fast!"
"I thought we were having a moment!" James objected.
"N- it's the first date!" Lily touched her lips realizing what she'd just done. "I-"
"Tell me this isn't about Snape," James said. He was starting to sound worried.
"What?!" Lily wasn't sure how to respond.
"I may have changed, but that doesn't mean he's fond of me," James went on. "Is this about him?"
Before Lily could respond, she heard someone scream a single word.
WARNING: the following POV has extremely disturbing and emotionally-distressing content, such as sexual coercion and assault, animal abuse, and graphic depictions of violence. All readers are advised to proceed with caution.
Mary stepped off the wagon with Brandy, the cruppy wearing the red leash Mum had bought for her. She was relieved that she wouldn't be sitting with Lily and Marlene anymore today, and she planned to be back at the castle as soon as possible.
"What are your plans?" Remus asked as he bent down to pet Brandy.
"I'm buying Severus his gift," Mary said blankly. "There's a special glass quill that holds ink better than feathers." She'd seen it before the holiday, a glass spiral that ended in a point and held ink in each groove. It was one of the most beautiful things she'd ever seen, and it was something she knew Severus would use. She hoped Brandy would approve of it, also.
"I'll see you later, then," Remus said as Mary walked off with Brandy leading the way.
Mary passed by the Three Broomsticks and the street leading to Madam Puddifoot's as she hurried along, Brandy all but pulling her. Arriving at the front of the shop, Mary saw there were quite a few people inside already, and she hoped it wouldn't take too long. She picked Brandy up, pulling her robes around the cruppy, and the two of them waited.
One by one, the customers in the shop left, until Mary could speak to the man at the counter. "Hello," Mary greeted.
"Oh, now what'll Miss be looking for?" the man asked.
"I was wondering if you had that glass quill? The one that spirals around."
"Ah!" The man looked moved to one of the shelves where a few boxes were, and he displayed three of them. "Here, Miss, we have three distinctly-shaped quills, each with their own unique aesthetics." He pulled the first one out and said, "Note that this one here is economic… ergonomic in the hand, and that the tip of the quill leans itself more agreeably to the parchment." He set it down and pulled out the second one. "And here, Miss, we have a multi-colored pen; each groove you see contains a distinct color, ranging from the colors of the rainbow to black, white, and grey. However, it needs to be dipped in the color that is needed." Setting it down, he opened the third box, pulling out a rather plain one. "And this, Miss, is the classical Crystalline K-Will, for a well-rounded and reliable writing experience."
Mary looked them over one by one. She tried channeling her inner 'Professor Severus' voice to see what he would approve of.
The ergonomic quill is, indeed, suitable for writing. However… it must be held in a very precise manner to operate properly, and any… misalignment… may result in… unideal results.
The multi-colored quill, while versatile, is only really suited for times when more than one color is needed. And as I am not a professor… I find it unnecessary.
The so-called 'Crystalline K-Will'… this looks rather practical. Simple in its design, allowing for use regardless of orientation, and providing consistent results. Yes, this one is sufficient.
Mary set Brandy down and pulled out her money purse as she said to the man, "I'll take the classical."
"A very good choice," the man said. "One galleon, five sickles, then."
Mary pulled out her money, but found that she was short three sickles. "Oh, I-"
"I can pay the difference," said a boy's voice.
Mary hadn't even noticed that someone else had come in, and she turned to find Crouch, a fourth-year Ravenclaw, approaching. "Oh, that's-"
"Don't worry," Crouch said. He seemed hesitant, but he pulled out a handful of sickles from his own pouch. "Something as expensive as this must be important."
"Oh…. Thank you." Mary took the sickles and handed them to the man, and the man set the quill back in the box and gave it to her.
"Have a good day, Miss," the man said, bowing his head slightly.
"You're MacDonald, right?" Crouch asked as he opened the door.
"Yeah," Mary said, "And you're- BRANDY!"
Brandy suddenly sprinted out the door, barking like mad at something Mary couldn't see or hear.
"H-hold this!" Mary said, shoving the box into Crouch's hands and running out after the cruppy.
Mary had never been a fast runner, but the fear of losing sight of Brandy gave her the energy she needed to run like hell. Brandy was surprisingly fast for a puppy her size, and even with the danger of the red leash dragging behind her, she didn't snag on anyone or anything. But soon, she disappeared into the forest.
"Brandy! Come back!"
Mary hurried into the forest, almost crashing into a tree as she stumbled down an incline with loose snow, but she caught herself and kept running. She heard a buzzing sound in her ears, probably from how much blood was pumping into her head, as she ran into a clearing and called out again. "BRANDY!"
Mary froze in place as Mulciber stepped into view, one large hand holding what looked like a whistle, and the other firmly holding a wriggling, yelping Brandy by her skinfolds. Something came over her, and she drew her wand to try to do something, anything-
"Expelliarmus!" Mary lost hold of her wand, and it flew into the hand of Wilkes. The older girl pocketed it as she said, "You were right about the whistle."
Mulciber grinned. "Of course. Now then, boys, it's time for our special class today!"
Mary turned in place, her heart racing and her breath growing tighter as she realized she was surrounded by other Slytherins. All of them looked to be close to Severus's age.
"Let us focus on the basics, shall we?" Rosier stepped out from behind a tree. "We have a tight schedule."
Without thinking, Mary found a gap in the circle around her and made a run for it, but Wilkes yelled out "Impedimenta!" and Mary felt her movements slow to a crawl before she regained her speed, but she stumbled forward and fell on her face.
"I said the basics," Rosier said.
"She tried to run," Wilkes said casually. "Besides, I have a bone to pick with Gryffindor on behalf of Snape."
"That half-breed?" one of the Carrows asked. "Didn't think you cared."
"It's the principle of it," Wilkes said. "I saw everything Potter and Black did, every single jinx and hex they cast. Only fair."
"Very well," Rosier said. "As long as it doesn't interfere."
Mary felt two of the boys drag her to her feet and have her face Mulciber and Wilkes. Mulciber had lifted Brandy up to his face and said, "I never took you for a dog person."
"Leave her alone!" Mary screamed.
"Scourgify!" Wilkes cried out.
Mary's screams were cut short by the stinging, antiseptic bubbles forming at the back of her throat. She cried out, choking and spitting the foam out of her mouth, but she felt it going up her nose. She accidentally breathed some of it in, and she began to dry heave until something came up. Mary vomited on the ground in front of her, letting out a whimper as her breathing started to hurt and her face started to freeze.
"Funny," Wilkes said. "Snape never did that."
"Are you quite finished?" Rosier asked.
Mulciber looked around at the other boys. "Someone check to make sure the Muffliato Charm's still up."
"We're good!" One of the boys called out.
"Good." Mulciber grinned as he announced, "Now then. Today's lesson revolves around the three Unforgivables and one's ability to withstand them. You all know how unpleasant they can be, and how each person has a breaking point. But today, we will be testing MacDonald's breaking point."
Mary couldn't feel the winter air anymore; her blood was colder.
"However," Mulciber said, "we will be taking an unorthodox approach. MacDonald is a Gryffindor, and as we all know, Gryffindors never, ever break when under duress." The last part was said sarcastically, causing the boys to laugh. "So instead… we'll need a proxy." He shook Brandy in the air roughly before letting go, the cruppy falling to the ground with a yelp.
"STOP!" Mary cried out.
"Of course," Mulciber said, taking hold of Brandy's skin once more. "But only if you take off your knickers for us."
Mary let out a shuddered breath, and she heard a few of the Slytherin boys let out whistles. She looked down at Brandy, and her breathing kept catching as she tried to speak. "D-dont-"
"No?" Mulciber let go of Brandy and asked, "What is the first Unforgivable Curse, gents?"
"The Imperius Curse!" one boy cried out.
"My favorite!" Mulciber said. He pointed his wand at Brandy and called out, "Imperio!"
Brandy suddenly stood at attention, lacking any semblance of who she was, and suddenly bolted forward toward the nearest tree. Mary screamed as Brandy crashed head-first into it, and she heard a pained yelp which was followed by a heart-wrenching whining sound. Brandy whimpered as her legs led her a few steps away from the tree, but she was swaying unnaturally.
"MULCIBER, STOP!" Mary screamed. She tried breaking out of the boys' hold on her, but she wasn't strong enough.
"She doesn't seem to get it yet, does she?" Mulciber asked the boys. "Let's try something different."
Suddenly, Brandy curled in on herself and began biting her hindleg, her tiny jaw coming down as hard as possible until Mary heard a squealing yelp.
"She has nothing to do with this!" Mary cried out. She was fighting back sobs as the small, whimpering cruppy staggered to its feet, one leg completely limp.
"No," Wilkes replied coolly, "she doesn't. Marcus, I think you may need to move on to the next lesson."
"I agree." Mulciber pointed to another boy. "What is the second Unforgivable?"
"The Cruciatus," the boy answered.
"Excellent!" Mulciber said. He twisted his wand, causing Brandy to go slack, as he called out, "Crucio!"
A horrible wailing sound filled the air, and Mary didn't know if it was coming from her own mouth or from Brandy's. The cruppy seized on the ground, trying desperately to crawl or run away as her body contorted unnaturally. The snow beneath her hindleg had red flecks in it.
"Stop!" Mary screamed. "I'll do it! I'll do it, just stop!"
"Lovely." Mulciber flicked his wand, and Brandy stopped moving. There was a low whine that came out of the cruppy's mouth with each breath. "Get on with it, then."
Mary felt the boys let go of her arms, and she almost ran to Brandy. But she knew that if she did, Mulciber would continue with the 'lessons'. She tried to control her breathing, but a sob came out as she drew her hands under her skirt and grabbed hold of the waistband of her knickers. Her entire body shook as she reluctantly pulled them down, lifting one foot at a time to remove them completely. One of the boys next to her snatched them out of her hand.
Mulciber's eyes were fixed on Mary, his mouth in a slightly-parted smile. "That was a good first step," he said, his voice strange. "Lift your skirt."
Mary sobbed as she reached for the hem of her skirt, gripping it with both hands. As much as she wanted to protect Brandy, her arms refused to obey her.
"No?" Mulcibier asked. "No matter. Levicorpus!"
Mary felt something pull at her ankles from the side, and she was hanging upside down before he could even register it. In the sudden movement, she had lost hold of the hem, and she felt the skirt fall down to the base of her neck. She realized in horror what they could all see as her skin started to sting from the cold, and the boys around started hooting and hollering.
"I'm afraid," Mulciber said, "that your little hesitation warrants the lesson to continue."
"NO!" Mary screamed.
"Don't worry," Mulciber said, grinning. "This next one is rather painless. Does anyone know the final Unforgivable?"
"The Killing Curse," one of the Carrows called out.
"Correct." Mulciber stood over the shaking, whining Brandy, his wand pointed directly at her. There was a wild, sadistic smile on his face as he asked, "And what is the incantation?"
There was silence. Not one of the boys opened their mouths to say it aloud, nor did Wilkes or the Carrow sister.
"No one?" Mulciber looked around. "Very well. Avada-!"
A voice erupted from the sky, and a blinding white light shot down and flashed about the snow. Mary was blinded for a moment as she heard a blood-curdling scream fill the air. A black shadow flew over the clearing, and many of the boys there started shouting different spells Mary had never heard, seemingly trying to hit whatever was above them. Mulciber was lying on the ground, screaming from the pit of his stomach as he grasped his limp, severely shredded wand arm.
And then Mary looked up.
Severus was flying overhead, his black robes forming wings around him as he twisted and turned in the air, his wand flickering faster than Mary could comprehend. He moved as though he knew exactly where each spell was going to fly, and he began gliding closer to the ground, slithering around the clearing's treeline as he sent different colors at Mulciber's gang.
Mary saw this was her chance, and she bolted toward Brandy's trembling, howling form. She gingerly scooped her up as she heard someone cry out, "Avada Kedavra!"
A green light flashed through the air, straight at Severus, and Mary froze in place as her heart stopped. Before the light could reach him, the snow before him shot up and formed a wall of ice, shattering on impact. Before any of the pieces hit the ground, they suddenly sped at the Slytherins, causing some of the boys to scream and clutch themselves.
Mary turned to flee, but someone caught her ankle and made their way up Mary's leg, pinning her and causing her to fall forward. She tucked in on herself and landed on her side, stopping her from falling on Brandy, but she heard the cruppy let out a scream from the impact. Mary looked down to find Mulciber grabbing her with his good, functioning hand, and she could see just how much damage had been done to the other. It looked as though a blade had cut clean through the muscle but completely ignored the bone, and it resulted in his arm looking like the meat was slowly sliding down, unable to fight against gravity.
Mary gave Mulciber a kick, which caught his nose. He let out an enraged cry, letting go for a moment, and Mary tried to scramble to her feet. The snow beneath her caused her to slip again, and she was once more flat on the ground. Before she could try to run, something wrapped itself around her and Brandy and began pulling them away from the middle of the fight. She looked and saw the red-and-green scarf that Severus had been wearing acting on its own, weaving itself through the Slytherin boys before suddenly halting as one of them grabbed Mary. The scarf released its hold and coiled around the boy, transforming into a gigantic black snake and biting him. The boy screamed, and a few of his friends tried to help, only to be set upon once more.
Mary tried to stand, but there was a sharp pain in her ankle that caused her to fall to her knees. A tree in front of her was struck by a stray hex, and the wood shattered. Mary brought her cloak over her and Brandy, but she felt some of the splinters go straight into her arm. She drew away from it, inadvertently causing one of the Slytherin boys to run and trip over her. As he fell, Mary tucked Brandy into her and started crawling toward a wand lying on the ground, its owner having been disarmed by Severus. As she grabbed it, she turned to see what was going on, and she froze completely at the sight.
Severus was on the ground, his robe having been torn by a stray hex or curse, and he was defending against Rosier, Mulciber, Wilkes, and the Carrow twins. His wand was raised above his head, and his free hand was extended toward his opponents, his fingers flicking in a variety of ways to deflect their incoming spells. A green light shit toward him, and Mary let out a scream. But the snow before Severus shot up and formed another ice wall, shattering once more, its pieces transfiguring into black crows which began swarming around the Carrow twins.
The younger Slytherin boys present joined in, led by Avery, seemingly forgetting about Mary, and they started surrounding Severus. Severus's wand flickered through the air, and he had started turning in place to match and counter the incoming attacks. He almost looked like he was dancing as he blocked and weaved through the multi-colored lights, sending some back.
Until the first spell hit him.
Severus let out a grunt as his wand flew from his hand and into Rosier's, and the other Slytherins pointed their wands and shot ropes at Severus, wrapping themselves around his arms, legs, waist and neck. They started tightening around his throat and extremities as he fought and struggled, but the bindings seemed to only tighten.
Mary couldn't stand by and watch. She didn't know how she could help; she didn't know too many spells that could be useful in this situation, except for one. But even if she used it, she'd only be able to affect one person. But it was better than nothing.
Mary's charm struck Rosier center of mass, and the older boy staggered as his wand flew out of his hand. He snarled and pulled it back into his grasp through an invisible force, and he turned to Mary. "You little—!"
A sudden force knocked everyone to the ground, and even Mary, who was prone to begin with, felt herself slide back a bit. Severus fell to the ground, landing on his feet as he threw himself at Rosier, hammering his fist into the boy's face and pushing it deeper into the snow. He rose, wand in hand, as the other Slytherins recovered, but most of them started backing away at what they saw.
Severus had blood pouring from his nose, and it had started to coat his bared teeth in a sickly red. One of his eyes was bloodshot, while the other had completely turned blood-red, the black of his eye barely noticeable from a distance. There were streaks of white in his hair, just above the ears, and the fact that Mary could see it from this distance told her too much about Severus's condition.
Before anyone could react, Severus began throwing jinxes, hexes, and curses left, right, and center, and the younger Slytherins had started to fully retreat.
"To the spot!" Avery called out. He ran and stopped just along the tree line, and Mary had to guess that it had something to do with Apparition. She's heard that Hogwarts prevented Apparition from being possible, at least without Dumbledore's permission, and even Hogsmeade had alarms set up to alert everyone what was happening.
The younger Slytherins frantically ran to Avery and linked arms with him, leaving. Rosier, Wilkes, and the Carrows. Mulciber had disappeared.
"Go!" Rosier called to Avery. "Get them out of here, now!"
Avery had an odd look on his face, but soon enough, there was a loud crack in the air—
Mary let out a gasp and almost vomited as a few of the boys with Avery, as well as Avery himself, left a few arms and legs behind. Marlene had told her it was called 'splinching' and that it happened when someone had Apparated incorrectly. A spray of red painted the snow where they had Disapparated from, which caused the Carrows to shriek out.
Mary felt someone grab her by the hair and pull her up to her feet forcefully, quickly letting go before an arm wrapped around her neck. The act caused Mary to drop Brandy, the cruppy landing with a wail and trying to crawl away, but the figure's foot stamped on her leash.
"Snape!" Mulciber called out as he tightened his hold. "I'd surrender, if I were—"
Mulciber was halted as Rosier, Wilkes, and the Carrows were thrown back, and Severus flew toward Mulciber with hissing fury. Mulciber slackened his hold on Mary, allowing Mary to duck down and move toward Brandy as Severus's pale, black form crashed into Mulciber. She watched as Rosier, Wilkes, and the Carrows ran to the reddened spot and Disapparated, leaving Mulciber to fend off Severus.
Mulciber struck Severus in the eye with his wand, causing the latter to fall back, and the older Slytherin ran to the spot, staggering and collapsing as he too Disapparated, leaving behind his ruined arm and one of his legs.
Mary scooped Brandy into her arms and limped to Severus, who had risen and waved his wand around, checking for something in the trees.
"Sev, they're gone!" Mary pleaded. "We need to go back and get help!"
Severus didn't respond, and he seemed to completely ignore her.
"Brandy needs help!" Mary pleaded.
No response came from Severus.
Severus turned, seemingly snapped out of his trance, and Mary nearly let out a sob as she saw his face. His right eye was ruined, Mulciber's wand having gone into it, and his jaw was shaking, his lips trembling. His brow was knit into a look of desperation, and his breathing was hitched. "Are you hurt?" he asked.
"My leg," Mary choked out. "Your eye—"
"MARY!" Mary turned as Lily and Potter came rushing into the clearing. "What happened— Sev!" Lily drew her wand and aimed it at the sky, calling out, "Periculum!" Red sparks shot up out of the wand and exploded in the air, as loud and bright as a firework.
As the lights began to settle, Mary realized how exhausted she was, and everything that had come to pass started to hit her at once. She let out a small sob and found that she couldn't stop, and she would have collapsed if Marley hadn't suddenly arrived and caught her.
"We'll take you back to the castle," Marley said shakily. "Sirius can take Brandy for you, if you want."
Mary struggled to nod, and she felt large hands gently take a whining Brandy from her.
"What happened?" Potter asked.
"We can find out once we're with Madam Pomfrey," Remus said. "Come on."
As the group began to walk away from the clearing, Lily called out, "Sev, this way!"
Mary turned her head and realized that Severus had veered off-course and was walking in a slightly different direction.
"Come on." Lily went to Severus and took him by the arm, and Mary heard her let out a gasp. "What happened to your eyes?"
Severus was silent for a moment, and it stopped everyone in their tracks. He seemed to realize that they were waiting for him to answer, and what he said made Mary break.
"I can't see."
Lily was shaking as she paced back and forth outside the Hospital Wing. No one had been allowed to visit either Mary or Severus since they had come back, accompanied by Kingsley and Moody. Even their superior, Scrimgeour, was present, and as far as she knew based on what she thought she could overhear, Mary was telling them what had happened, and who was involved. The older Slytherin boys had tortured Brandy, and had made Mary strip off her knickers, which were still missing along with her wand. Lily would have been absolutely furious if not for the utter devastation she could see on Mary's face, and the sad, pained whines of the cruppy lying beside her in her own bed.
Lily had no idea how Severus was doing; his bed was farther away, and the curtain had been drawn as Dumbledore and the Aurors spoke with him and Madam Pomfrey. All she had seen of him before the curtain had been drawn was when Madam Pomfrey had placed a blindfold over him. From what she had overheard from Mary's conversation, Severus had literally flown in and fought off all of her attackers single-handedly, and he had somehow won. Lily knew she needed to see him, to make sure he was alright, but Madam Pomfrey had refused any visitors.
James and Remus had been there to comfort her as she alternated between pacing and leaning against the stone wall. Marley was a shaking mess, and had curled herself into Sirius's arms as she muttered something incoherent. Today wasn't supposed to go this way, and the shock Lily was feeling almost made her lose the strength in her legs.
Finally, Madam Pomfrey walked out to them and said, "Miss MacDonald is ready to see visitors."
Marley was the first to rush in, and Sirius and Remus followed close behind. James followed Lily in as well, and they all gathered around Mary's and Brandy's beds as Madam Pomfrey explained their conditions.
"Miss MacDonald has had a sprained ankle, and she'll need to avoid staircases for a week. I've removed the splinters from her arm, and there is no lasting damage.
"Brandy is another matter. I'm afraid that the pain she's gone through will force me to keep her in the Hospital Wing until I have properly treated her nerves, and her tendon will require her to remain her for two weeks. She also has skull fractures, which will be healed within a month, at most; I will have to keep her sedated until then."
"What about Severus?" Lily asked.
Madam Pomfrey's face turned dark. "Mr. Snape's condition is worse, I'm afraid. The less severe injuries are broken finger bones, a broken nose, and some bruising across his body. However, his eyes…." Madam Pomfrey had to draw in a breath. "The blood vessels in both eyes have ruptured from the inside completely, and while it is treatable, it is very likely that there will be permanent damage to his sight. His left eye has a chance of making a full recovery, but not his right one. According to Miss MacDonald, Mr. Mulciber jabbed Mr. Snape with his wand. I'm afraid this is beyond my expertise, and a Healer from St. Mungo's will have to treat him once he's been given his salve and potion."
Lily covered her mouth to stop from saying something she might regret. Taking a shallow breath, she asked, "Can we see him?"
"Once Dumbledore permits it," Madam Pomfrey answered. "If you'll excuse me."
As Madam Pomfrey left, Mary said weakly, "I didn't… I should have kept hold of Brandy's leash…."
"It sounded like this was planned," Sirius said softly. "You couldn't have known."
Just then, the curtain for Severus's bed was opened, and Severus was standing, being guided by Dumbledore into following the Aurors. The blindfold was still over Severus's eyes, but it had turned red.
"If there is anything to wish to say to Mr. Snape," Moody said, "Say it now."
"What's going on?" Lily asked, her heart racing.
"Ministry business," Scrimgeour answered. "Is there anything you need to say?"
Lily went to Severus and touched his arm. "Everything will be fine, right?"
Severus nodded silently.
"Say something," Lily urged. She couldn't stand his silence on good days, but this was far from a good day. For a moment before the Aurors found them, she could have sworn that his hair had streaks of white just above the ears, but she had found that it must've been a trick of the light. But in that time, she had never seen anyone look so… exhausted.
Severus's mouth moved as though he was going to speak, but all that came out was a shaky breath. He raised his hand and returned Lily's touch before nodding to the Aurors.
As Severus was led away, Lily couldn't help but sit on the side of Mary's bed. She thought about what she could have done if she hadn't been on a date with James. She could have walked with Mary, or she could have spent the day with Severus in the Library, if Madam Prince allowed it. Or she could have been on patrol with Remus and noticed what the Slytherins were doing. Or—
"It's not your fault." James had sat beside her. "No one could have known."
"I—" Lily couldn't bring herself to talk, and she felt James put an arm around her, squeezing her shoulder as he did.
"Let's go back to the common room," Remus suggested.
"I'm staying with Mary," Marlene said.
"Should I bring dinner?" Sirius asked.
"If you would," Marlene replied uneasily.
Lily followed the three boys back to the common room, and Remus and Sirius went straight upstairs.
"I need to lay down," Lily said tiredly.
"Take care, Lily." James went up and followed the others as Lily went to her room.
As soon as the door shut behind her, a dry sob belted out of Lily's mouth. She clamped a handover it as she sat down at her desk and stared a hole into the black book sitting before her. Without thinking, she opened it.
Lily, what's the matter?
You're not writing. Can I come out?
"What happened?" Tom's voice was soft. He knelt down beside Lily and looked her in the eye. "Is it Severus?"
Lily nodded. "Mulciber and the other Slytherins attacked Mary, and Sev…." She took a breath, and tears came with the exhale. "Sev's hurt, and he might go blind, and the Aurors took him away, and… if they took him away, what if he gets punished?"
"They can't!" Tom's expression grew hideously dark, and Lily swore she red flash behind his eyes. "They can't put him in Azkaban!"
Lily had never seen Tom this angry before. "What do we do?"
Tom seemed to settle and collect himself. "Can you gather support? If you can get enough people to vouch for him, then he stands a chance."
"But… do you think he could be sent away?"
"That depends," Tom said. His voice had gone dark, and his question set Lily's nerves on end. "Were any of Mary's attackers underage?"
Severus couldn't feel anything. He knew he was sitting in Dumbledore's office, and he knew he had three Aurors — technically one Auror and two trainees — eyeing him as they discussed legal ramifications, even with his eyes ruined and a blindfold covering them. Scrimgeour was the main speaker, but Shacklebolt and Moody managed to get a word in. Slughorn and McGonagall were both present as well, but neither one of them had said a word yet.
"There is the matter of the nature of the attack," Scrimgeour was saying. "While it is true that Mr. Snape was acting in defense of Miss MacDonald, the Ministry won't discount the fact that among the wounded attackers were underage wizards. The law clearly states that any physical or magical altercation in which an adult witch or wizard causes harm to an underage witch or wizard — regardless of the circumstances — must be subject to a hearing."
"I'm quite sure of that," Dumbledore said. "What I don't understand is why the Ministry feels the need for him to go before the Wizengamot."
"This is an unprecedented case," Scrimgeour explained. "Miss MacDonald's attackers, while clearly in the wrong, are missing; we've only just cleaned up the site and catalogued the remains. And do remember that Mr. Snape has made a bit of a name for himself ever since the summer, and this doesn't include the rumors circulating around him."
"And what rumors would that be?" McGonagall asked.
"Firstly, that he may be responsible for the petrification of Messrs. Creevey and Cresswell." Scrimgeour paused for anyone to interject, but there was silence. "The second, and more substantial rumor, is that Mr. Snape is an unregistered vampire."
Severus would have let out a frustrated sigh or cursed McKinnon under his breath if not for the numbness surrounding him.
"Those are rather serious accusations!" Slughorn exclaimed. "Now see here, Mr. Scrimgeour, I don't believe for one second that Snape is responsible for what happened to Creevey or Cresswell!"
"But do you deny the second accusation?" Moody asked gruffly.
"Easy," Scrimgeour said calmly. He then said, "The upcoming hearing will determine what will come of Mr. Snape."
Severus would have been surprised that Dumbledore hadn't yet mentioned that they were Death Eaters — or at least affiliated — but he didn't care. And if he did, he knew that they were Unmarked, and that their parents had fairly high social and political status within the Ministry, leaving Abraxas Malfoy aside.
"What does this mean for Mr. Snape?" Dumbledore asked gravely.
"He will have to be detained until his appointed hearing," Scrimgeour explained. "But that might take some time; we still need to speak with any witnesses and associates. I imagine it could take anywhere between three weeks to three months."
"And where exactly would you be retaining him?" Dumbledore asked pointedly.
Scrimgeour didn't answer, and the silence that followed told Severus everything he needed to know before McGonagall objected.
"You can't detain the boy in Azkaban!"
"The boy in question is of age," Scrimgeour replied, although he didn't sound pleased. "He will be permitted to receive letters from his fam… from his friends and loved ones, but I'm afraid that's the only luxury we can afford him."
Severus could only feel the breath entering and leaving his lungs as the weight of the situation crashed down on him.
"Severus Snape," Scrimgeour said, his voice directed at him, "by the authority of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, I hereby place you under arrest for the assault of multiple minors, and you are additionally being held under suspicion of being responsible for the petrifications of Adrian Creevey and Dirk Cresswell, as well as being an unregistered vampire. You will be detained in Azkaban Prison until your hearing, which shall be scheduled at a later time. Do you have anything to say in response?"
Severus took a breath in, a breath out, and shook his head.
Crouch, Bartemius Jr.
-Date of Birth: 1962
-Hogwarts Years: 1973 - 1980
Well, here marks the end of the second part of Act II. There were good times, there were bad times, and this leaves the final part of Act II to be written. For those of you who've kept reading this far, I'd like to thank you for your attention and interest in this work.
The final part will probably be finished in three months, best-case scenario, although this isn't a guarantee. Regardless, I'll see you all in the final part of Act II.