Chapter Three

Lily took her time getting ready. She lingered at the sink, pretending that she'd gotten a bit of Toothflossing Mint stuck between her molars, so that Mary would go down to the Great Hall without her.

If I could just stay up here all day, Lily thought. Actually, if I could just stay up here until it's time to go to Hogsmeade Station tomorrow morning. Or maybe if I could just Apparate directly into my mum and dad's sitting room. Wouldn't that give old Tuney such a fright?

Instantly she felt terrible for wanting to be so mean to her sister. Hadn't she scolded Severus for years now about doing the same thing?

Thinking of him made her head pound. She didn't want to see him, but of course, he'd be everywhere. He'd be down in the Great Hall. He'd be in Potions - he'd be right beside her!

Worst of all, though, he'd be at home.

Brilliant -- kick him when he's down, hissed the voice in the back of her head. Was this Good Lily or Bad Lily talking? She couldn't be sure.

Lily knew that finding out he wasn't the only non-Muggle in the village of Millers Green had been the greatest moment of Severus's life, before they came to Hogwarts at least. She'd seen firsthand how cruel the Muggle children had been to him, calling him Oil Slick, telling him to stop trying to wash his hair in the chip pan. Terrible children, they were.

But now, after she saw that Severus could be just as cruel, she started to wonder. Now that he was away from home, why did he still insist on not washing his hair? It was almost like he wanted people to be cruel to him, people like James Potter and Sirius Black. But why? Hadn't he seen that it was possible to be liked, as well?

Of course he had. Her mum and dad had brought him round for dinner, at the weekends and at Christmas...he'd even stayed with them once for a week after Lily had found him wandering around the playground after dark with black eye. What a way to repay them, calling their daughter that horrible name! Mum and Dad loved Severus like he was one of their own--

Lily turned crimson, and had to look away from her own reflection.

That was just it -- Mum and Dad seemed to love Severus a little more than they loved their own children.

This was no surprise to Petunia, of course. Oh, Tuney was all over that one.

"Mum! Can't he just eat upstairs?"

"Of course not, Petunia darling. Have some compassion."

"But what about me? Why can't you have some compassion for me? I can't even invite my own boyfriend round for dinner--"

"Petunia, we've told you again and again your boyfriends are perfectly welcome here."

But Petunia had just stamped her foot and howled, "Not with Lily's pet rat eating at the table with us!"

It was horrible to think about, that even despite Petunia's unforgivable treatment of him, Severus was a hundred times better off at the Evans house than at his own.

And now, he wouldn't have anywhere to go.

Lily left the girls' loo and headed downstairs to breakfast.

What could he possibly have done last night, anyway? Was James Potter just making that part up? Lily knew he wouldn't do anything to risk getting expelled. He'd probably turned the rubbish bins green, or made the taps in the boys' loo start dripping blood (again).

She was halfway down the stairs when Mary rushed up to meet her, her cheeks red. "Lil," she said, her voice low and grave. "Maybe you ought to skip breakfast after all."

"But we've got Potions this morning. It'll be ages till lunch - I've got to have a piece of toast at least..." Something to suck up all that firewhisky, she thought desperately, and tried to edge around Mary.

But Mary was much bigger than Lily, and resolute. "I'll go get you a piece of toast," she said. "Wait here."

Lily plopped down on the stairs with a sigh, and started mentally repeating to herself the instructions for that tricky Temperamental Tisane, which had been her only stumbling block during third year.

She was up to "counterclockwise stir, then tell the potion it's looking nice today" when she heard whispering.

"That's her, that's the one--"

She whipped around to see the Fat Lady and her friend Violet peering at her from the painting of Kneazles Playing Wizard-Poker.

Clearly embarrassed, the Fat Lady sniffed and dabbed at her face with a handkerchief. "I was just telling my friend Violet that you, Miss Evans, are the reason why the Great Hall has been roped off."

Lily blanched. "What? What do you mean?"

The Fat Lady and Violet exchanged worried looks. "She doesn't know, then, dear," hissed Violet to her friend.

The Fat Lady looked scandalized. "Well, I am not one to gossip, so you'd better have a look for yourself, Miss Evans."

Lily stood up and raced down the stairs, pushing over a group of first year Hufflepuffs in the process.

There was a huge commotion at the entrance to the Great Hall. Professor Flitwick stood on a chair, pointing his wand and directing students into the courtyard, where an outdoor breakfast buffet had been set up. Professor McGonagall was hanging magical caution tape over the door, while dozens of students were trying to get a look inside

"Excuse me, please, Professor," Lily called, pushing her way to the front of the crowd. Her heart was racing. Surely Severus couldn't have killed someone in there... In spite of herself, she glanced round for James Potter--

No, she thought quickly. James Potter was the one who told you about all this.

Professor McGonagall spotted her and gripped her arm. "Miss Evans," she said gravely. "I need to speak with you at once."

Terrified, Lily allowed herself to be led around to the teachers' entrance to the Great Hall. Professor McGonagall stopped right outside the door.

"Miss Evans, we're all aware of the unfortunate incident that occurred between you and Mr. Snape yesterday." She sighed. "Even when you've been teaching for as long as I have been, it's difficult to know what to do with a student like Mr. Snape."

Lily held her breath.

"Even though I do not agree with him, Professor Dumbledore would like me to show you what Mr. Snape has done to the Great Hall, because he believes you will be able to recommend the best course of action."

"Me?"

Professor McGonagall pursed her lips, regarding Lily with a look of pity. Lily could tell that her disagreement with Dumbledore on this issue had been deep. "You are a prefect, Miss Evans, and -- I shouldn't be telling you this, certainly -- a strong candidate for Head Girl." Lily's heart fluttered. "And you are the person who knows Mr. Snape the best. Although--" she paused, and gave Lily a stern look. "I would like you to know that you are not personally responsible for Mr. Snape."

At this, something happened in the back of Lily's mind. She couldn't put her finger on exactly what, but something changed.

"I'll do whatever Professor Dumbledore wants me to," she said.

McGonagall sighed. "Very well." She twitched her wand, and the door to the Great Hall swung open.

Nothing Lily had imagined prepared her for what she saw. Nothing.