I swallowed, unsure whether my vision was but a mere trick of the night. Snape and Adelaide! "What are you doing here?" I demanded, striding towards him purposefully.
"I could ask the same of you," he sneered, eyes narrowing to slits in his pale countenance, "I'm sure someone would be interested in why our precious Head girl is wandering out of her dormitory after curfew."
"Stop it," another voice cut in before I could reply; Adelaide turned to me. "You won't tell, Lily, will you?"
"This concerns Voldemort," my voice went shrill, "The bloodthirsty savage who goes about killing people! I have to tell!"
"Lily, please," I saw something in her eyes that was far stronger than any emotion I'd ever experienced before, "You don't understand."
"What is he even doing here?" I pushed further into the ice, "How long have you known each other?"
"Ever since the last day of school," she sighed, "But Lily, you have to listen – Severus is my friend, and… anyway, don't get him expelled!"
Snape only just seemed to realize how much I'd really heard. Taking advantage of my shock at her words, he got up, aiming his wand at me.
Suddenly I was blessed with sharp reflexes. In my fright I dodged, anger suddenly devouring me like a hungry beast. "How dare you!" I narrowed my eyes. His face screwed up slightly in concentration. For a while I thought I was safe – his wand was on the floor, forgotten. I seemed to have forgotten about wandless magic.
My whole body went temporarily numb when I was flung across the room, crashing into a wall with an open window just above where I'd landed. Adelaide gasped. Any higher and I'd have gone flying out into open air, where I would meet my death a hundred feet later.
"Severus, stop!" Adelaide screamed at him, cheeks darkening. "Lily-Lily, how are you?"
No one heeded her words.
Struggling to stand up, I remembered something I'd seen The Marauders do lots of times before they mastered the wandless version of it – something which I thought might come in useful if I happened to be engaged in a duel like this.
Once again I slammed into the wall. "Just as shameless as your precious Potter is, eh?" Snape sneered. "Listen, mudblood, you will not remember any of this after you leave this room!"
He stepped closer and I realized what he meant. He was going to erase my memory. Make me forget everything that had happened. I couldn't imagine it. A rape of the mind. A wand raised above me, blurred, colours swimming before my eyes. Adelaide floating towards us, face marred with terror. Snape's crooked mocking sneer.
Then everything snapped back into precision.
"Blithering idiot!" I yelled at him.
I flashed to the side. He was shocked into trying to utter the charm as fast as he could, but it bounced off the wall harmlessly, at the very spot I had been in less than a second ago. I started for the door. He growled, spinning around, raising his wand again, but I kicked him as hard as I could and he fell, groaning, sprawling onto the carpeted floor.
Adelaide called out, slightly hysterical, "Lily!"
"Mudblood," I heard a faint, venomous croak as I slipped out. I didn't know if anyone bothered to pursue me, but I ran, large sprints across the marbled floor, and finally slackened my pace to a final rest. My mind only started to register my badly bruised back. I winced. Without knowing it, I'd come to Dumbledore's office.
I stared at the gray stone Gargoyle. It was cold to the touch, a dull iced statue in the midst of all the marble. What was I supposed to do? I thought, inhaling, exhaling, seeing the smoky vapor puff of my breath disintegrate and melt away slowly. Tell him that Snape was a deatheater to be? He wouldn't believe me.
Was he even awake?
I released the breath I didn't know I'd been holding, letting out a soft utter of "Mars Bar". Stone on stone grinded out a barely audible creaking, meshing, parting to unmask a short flight of steps which I descended with much reluctance, breathing heavily from the sprint.
"Ah! Miss Evans, I see. What brings you here at this late – or rather, early – hour?"
My whole body jolted at the sudden interruption in the black stillness. I caught a glint of glass spectacles, and suddenly the lights came on, and I saw a bleary but sharp eyed Headmaster robed in dark blue and standing at a flight of two steps that led to a polished redwood door.
"P-professor Dumbledore! I'm so sorry to wake you up, I just thought to see if you happened to be here, and…" My ramble came to an abrupt halt as I stopped to take a breath.
He merely smiled. "Fret not, Miss Evans. Sit down," he gestured indifferently at nothingness, and suddenly a chair appeared, resting there innocently as though it'd been there all its life.
When I was seated, he sat down himself, humming and slowly pouring two cups of coffee. ("Sugar?" "No, but I would like some milk in it…" "Very well, Miss Evans.")
I sipped a bit, not caring for it much except to warm my hands. I noticed that the Headmaster did the same. "Professor," I began uncertainly, but he held up a wrinkled hand.
"Tell me everything in ten words or less," he nodded, "Attention spans waver in the wee hours."
"Snape," I said after some contemplation, "Potential deatheater. I found out. Almost erased my memory."
Blue eyes flashed. "Explain the part about 'potential deatheater', in the same way," he requested.
I paused for a while. "He wants to become one. I overheard him talking."
"Do you have any idea why he wants to become one?" The blue fire had dulled to a smoldering dot in his eyes, mirroring his deceptive calm.
"I'm not sure, except that he hates muggles and muggleborns…"
"You are very sure about this?"
"Very." I nodded affirmatively, fighting the urge to fall asleep.
He stood up. "I think that is all I need to know, Miss Evans." He spoke decisively. "I trust your revisions for the NEWTS are alright?"
My mind seemed to sway with the abruptness and strangeness of the whole encounter. I nodded. My tongue could have flopped down lifelessly on the bottom of my mouth, unable to move and rendering me unable to talk.
"Then good night, Miss Evans. I trust you will not tell anyone of what you have seen tonight."
I took that as my cue to leave.
"Lily? Where'd you go?"
I paused at the fireplace momentarily, taking in the sight of a considerably sleepy James, wanting to run right up and hug him. The bizarreness of the night's events flashed over like an old film in my mind, only without sound… "To see Adelaide," I told him truthfully at last, "I wanted to talk to her."
"You could've talked to me," he came over, glancing at me at first but deciding he couldn't look away and holding my gaze possessively. "You aren't telling me something."
I smiled unconvincingly, curling my toes tightly in my shoes. "It's nothing. I'll go to sleep now, or I'll be tired for tomorrow's lessons." For a while I was tempted to tell him everything, but Dumbledore had sworn me to secrecy, and he'd positively flip if I told him that his arch enemy was a potential deatheater.
He tilted his head a little. "You look…disheveled. Tired. I still think you're not telling me something."
In normal circumstances I would have yelled my head off at him for not trusting me. This wasn't a 'normal circumstance'. It was a circumstance where he was right and I was the one being dishonest. There was a tingle of squeamishness sliding up my spine.
"James, I really don't have time for this," I said, pleading. "All I want to do is sleep."
"No secrets, Lily." He took a step closer, gaze intent.
I could almost see the air between us sizzle with tense sparks, the type you saw when you felt dizzy and closed your eyes, sighting weird coloured lines and squiggles materializing in the expected darkness. For a while I was angry with him for not trusting me, even if I was in the wrong. Then I realized that, seeing someone enter the room tired, sweaty and disheveled at two in the morning was a good cause for suspicion.
"James." I tried the stern approach but it was futile.
"God, Lily." I wasn't sure what he meant by that. And then he stepped closer and hugged me. I winced with a slight exclamation.
He withdrew. "What's wrong?"
"My back-" I halted my explanation, realizing I'd said too much. My back ached from the duel just now.
"Let me see," he insisted.
"James!" I protested, but he would have none of it.
He rolled his eyes, lighting two lamps with his wand, guiding me to the couch, making me sit down. "I don't know why you're doing this, but I'm sleeping now," I persisted, getting up, making a short-lived half-dash to my room.
"Oh, no, Lily, don't even think about it." He informed me, pulling me back forcibly. I flinched at the pain, turning my face away so he wouldn't see, trying to think of an excuse. I fell down the stairs, these bruises were old, I had another fall from a broomstick-
My dressing gown was lifted from the back, and there was no place for embarrassment. "Bloody hell, what the heck happened to you?" he was agitated, fingers flitting from bruise to bruise.
Automatically I said, "I had another fall from a broomstick."
Oh, no, no, no, shit. What had I said?
"I mean," I choked out, in the face of his unwavering quizzical face, "I fell down the stairs."
"Lily, I want the truth," he responded firmly, letting my dressing gown fall back into place.
I mumbled a quick "Snape" and he exploded.
"Snivellus did this to you? Damn that slimy git, Sirius and I almost pitied him for being orphaned and then-"
"He didn't bully me, not exactly," I cut in, "We…dueled. In a way."
"You went out in the middle of the night to duel with the idiot?"
We were caught in one of those awkward situations – defiantly staring at each other till neither of us was sure what exactly we were defiant about; till someone broke the silence.
"Look," I closed my eyes, wanting to get it all over with, not heeding promises made to Headmasters or late night duels, stuck in a dimension where I was past caring. The words rambled out before I slipped out of that dimension. "Snape's going to be a deatheater."
And the rest of the words slid out of me before I could help myself.
When I was finished he was all clammed up, seething with righteous anger. "You should've told me." Gritted teeth. Temper syndromes. When had I learnt to recognize the signs of his anger?
"Professor Dumbledore made me promise not to," I countered, angry too for some reason, but at him.
"Promise me you won't tell anyone else." My voice rang out into silence and ignorance.
He was leaning into the couch, not listening.
"Fine, be that way," I snapped at him, standing up, ignoring the shot of pain rankling throughout my back. He didn't answer or do anything as I slammed the door against the frame.
I lay wide-eyed and awake in bed that Saturday morning, tossing and tangling in the covers. The shower pattered in thundering squelches, a small distraction. I shifted, tiny spots of pain fizzing all over my back. The thundering stopped, movements in the bathroom, shutting of a door. I lingered in the bed for a while, heaved myself over the side, grabbed my clothes and all and headed out the door for the bathroom.
It was our usual morning routine. We never talked until after both of us were done getting ready. But I figured that we wouldn't talk even after I was done with the shower and everything.
I took care in drying my back. The bruises had ripened to a harsh red and hurt. I dressed, the heaviness of déjà vu closing in on me.
Thirty minutes before breakfast even started. Suddenly I realized that my waking times had even been tuned according to the time James began his shower.
James stepped out of his room, frowning, looking at me.
"I turst you had a good sleep," I said coldly.
He smirked. "Very."
And then all forced courtesy fell away. "Fine," my shoulders felt tight as my suddenly parched throat choked up the words, "If that's how you want it to be, egocentric prick, go on."
"You seem to have forgotten that you're the selfish one for thinking you could keep such important news from me."
Hell, fury galore, enter red-headed temper. "News? Or gossip, perhaps, to taunt Snape with? Well, you think I wasn't tempted to? Well, I was, and it's not my fault I didn't want to break my promise to Dumbledore! This-" I threw up my hands in exasperation, "Is a small, trivial, petty matter! Potter, grow up!"
"Small? Trivial? Petty? What the hell? Evans, stop digressing! You were selfish and you know it! You knew how much I hated Snivellus, and you didn't even tell me that he hurt you and-"
Turmoil was boiling in me – indignation, fury, hurt. I clenched the fury that threatened to override my body, blinked back the hurt that attempted to invade my eyes, swallowed down the indignation that nearly spewed out of my mouth. But the lava would not calm and I lashed out, slapping him across the cheek.
"I," I cut in, gritting my teeth, "Am not a helpless damsel who needs an egocentric James Potter to stand up for her when she gets into a duel with someone! The last thing I need is a protective bodyguard! And, if you knew that Snape was a deatheater, you'd blow up – like what you're doing now! You'd hunt him down and hex him and bash him up and his hatred for you will only intensify! When he becomes a deatheater, I bet the first one on his list will be you! You, you, you, Potter!"
The last sentence was screamed. An imaginary echo ceded to a deathly heavy silence.
I was breathing heavily. James was standing there, having been silent throughout the whole rant, still cupping his stinging cheek, stoic and stubborn looking and obviously not in agreement with me. Suddenly I wanted to slap him more, slap after stinging slap after stinging slap after stinging slap. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Pound reason into him, tear and break him apart till he found sense somewhere within him, make him understand.
But he just said, in a sneer, "Don't talk about things you don't understand."
And then he had the gall to return to his room, slamming the door forcefully. The entire doorframe rattled and my heart beat on like a saluting gun.
Life stumbled on. A day or two passed, and surprisingly, Dumbledore had taken no action against Snape – none that I knew of, anyway. It was a cold evening of cardigans and warm roast beef when I met said Slytherin drifting along the corridor like a frost breeze, wand tip glancing out of his pocket.
"Got your tattoo yet, Snivellus?" I regarded him acerbically as we brushed by each other. It was meant to be a second's taunt, nothing more, but no.
"In fact," he replied calmly, "Dumbledore encourages it. If all goes well, I'll be initiated a week after graduation."
"Well said. Your sarcasm would make Salazar wither." My voice rose; my ears strained greedily for his next words.
"I speak the truth, mudblood. Dumbledore is always available in his office if you need some affirmation."
That sufficed to halt me in my step. I could have frozen there, along with the salt winter air, before I spun around. He was still there, blank-faced and hand straying tentatively to his wand. "Tell me," my voice cracked a little, "Are you absolutely sure?"
I didn't realize I was walking towards him until I found our bodies uncomfortably close. Hastily I took a few steps back till our eyes were level. His lips tilted into a crooked smile. Tick, tock, tick, tock, his breath seemed to say. Tick, tock.
I pursed my lips in denial. "I've never seen a better liar, Snivellus."
My legs whisked me away of their own accord, and I barely heard his reply.
"Here," his voice rang through the corridor, "Shall I prove it to you?"
I continued walking, and so did his voice, sliding smoothly across the turbulent waves erupting across the horizon of my mind. "Veritaserum. I'm sure you've heard of it."
I swallowed, stopping. I had not walked that far after all. I could still make out a crystal vial in his hand, stoppered with cork, beauty in the hands of an artful snake.
"Head Girl, surely you can't resist the chance to prove what you fear?"
Seconds dripped by and turned into roaring waterfalls. The vial spun into sharp vision, glinting genuinely in the ebbing light trickling through stained glass windows.
"Swallow it," I said finally, audible enough for him to hear.
"As you wish."
Without warning, footsteps tarried into earshot. The clearly marked sounds froze Snape in place, but he shoved the vial back into his wand pocket just in time for four figures to spill out from beyond the corner. I barely contained the utterance of James' name before Sirius' voice snapped into the silence. "Dueling, are we?"
There was a split second of bewilderment before I registered his words, realizing what it must look like. Snape still had his hand in the pocket containing his wand and so did I, I realized. Enough to give the impression that we were reaching for our wands and ready to duel. Releasing my grip in unwonted panic, I tried to explain.
But James already had his fist in Snape's face. "Don't ever," he yelled, "Ever lay a single finger on her, slimy git!"
Something snapped in me. I wasn't sure what it was, just that it was unbridled, fierce, and angry.
In a second I was screaming. "Stop, you pompous idiot! You haven't let me explain!"
To my utter surprise, he did stop. James stared at me like a defiant child. But he was not a defiant child – he was James Potter and I loved him and I would not let him make a fool of himself. In that instant I marched up to him and hissed, "Follow me."
I grabbed his arm, and the silence lost its formality. He complied, walking with me, and I let go of his hand. Behind us the Marauders must have been watching.
We reached the dormitory in wordless company. When we stopped at the portrait, James grabbed my arm, but it was not an unfriendly gesture.
"Look," he started awkwardly.
"I'm sorry," we both said simultaneously.
He smiled. The night was beautiful. I wound my arms around his neck and kissed him.
So... what happened was that I caught an awful dose of writer's block.
And I realized how unneccessarily emo this story is. Despairing, I inwardly wailed that I could not possibly go on writing such crap. So I stopped updating.
If you're reading this, thank you, I haven't lost you. lesigh.
Most of this chapter was written before I stopped writing; I was too busy wallowing in my misery to upload this. The ending, however, I just wrote today. And I've made plenty of edits.
But my determination is renewed and though I fear I shan't achieve major success with this story, I shall complete it.