Thanks for the reviews! This chapter is an intro to year five so it isn't exactly action packed, but there will be more happening in the next chapter. The main point of this chapter is to explain why there's been less and less war news over the last two years, mostly because I wanted to focus the first few years on Severus and Lily without making Voldemort's plans too clear because, like I said before, I don't want Severus to be too aware of what he's getting into.
A lot of you were surprised that I did the Severus and Lily kiss, so I thought I would explain further. In the Mudblood scene, Severus says "filthy little Mudbloods like her" and Lily calls him "Snivellus." In my version, Severus and Lily may argue, but regardless of how angry they can be at each other, I can't imagine them addressing each other as such. I needed something drastic to change their relationship, something that would give another reason for behaving so strongly against each other. I also wanted to make it more painful for Severus by showing that there was a possibility he could have had the woman he loved, if he had done things differently. I'm not promising a relationship, but I needed something that was just enough to throw them off.
TPK- Thanks for the review! Don't worry, I wasn't really serious about Mary dyeing her hair, but I'm planning to go back and edit this fanfic when I'm finished, and when I do, I'll most likely change her hair color and make someone else be the girl with blond hair in Snape's memory. Like I said, it is a minor detail that will most likely keep annoying me until I do change it, but it's not enough to make me want to reupload and edit each chapter right now. I'm pretty sure your email remains private. I, too, am paranoid about giving out my personal information online so I made a separate email. I haven't received any spam
Klixxx- Thanks for the review! I know I need to write Hero, but I really need to finish planning out that and Abomination so it doesn't become too repetitive, and I just haven't gotten around to doing so. I will update it eventually, probably soon because I'll need a break from the Severus and Lily tension. Sorry for the unhelpful response, but I'll do my best to update as soon as I can!
Chapter Seventy-Four- Helga's Hill
Platform nine and three quarters had changed.
There were still the frazzled mothers and their wide-eyed children, the smallest ones wistfully watching as their older siblings climbed aboard the smoking, scarlet steamer. There were still the cries of friends rushing out to embrace each other, as if they hadn't seen one another for years rather than one measly summer, muffled by the indignant hoots of owls being set down too hurriedly in their cages. And of course, there was still him, alone at the back of the platform, silently taking in the scene.
On the surface, it was all the same, but Severus had never been one to merely accept what was on the surface. He had always been an observer of the world rather than actually part of it. He didn't belong there, not with all those loving families, and he knew it just as well as he had the first time he had stepped onto the cracked concrete of the platform.
But Severus preferred to be alone. That way he could stand back and freely examine the scene before him. After years of practice, he had a developed a talent for delving deeper to pinpoint the details in a way not many could. Dabbling with spell creation and potion refinement had only increased his appreciation for subtlety. Which was precisely why Severus saw what everyone else was blind to. He saw the way those frazzled mothers fiercely clung to their offspring's hands, much like a tigress protecting her young, instead of allowing them roam about the platform and play. He heard the note of relief in the voices of friends calling out to friends, not missing how it lined their still shell-shocked faces. Nor did he miss how their quick hugs of excitement had transformed into ones of comfort and mutual fear. Even the owls had fewer to protest because students no longer abandoned their belongings with ease. There was something about fear that made you clutch tightly to what little you had.
Yes, Severus decided with determined set of his jaw, the platform had changed with the rest of the wizarding world.
It was their fault, really. Had they truly believed that Voldemort was gone? That the war was some story that had once lined the pages of everything from the Daily Prophet to the Quidditch Report? Severus had heard the excuses they made, growing in numbers and foolishness each month that Voldemort didn't appear. Their earlier fears had crumbled far too quickly in favor of the desperately wanted relief. They had overreacted, they had claimed. Voldemort had had his brief moment in the spotlight, but now it was over. He wasn't about to take over the wizarding world. Perhaps he was a murderer, but he was also a madman with delusions of grandeur. No wizard had that much power. Not even Dumbledore.
The recruiters had dwindled down until they had vanished altogether in the early summer. It should have made witches and wizards everywhere uneasy, but instead, they had rejoiced, believing that it was confirmation for whatever power Voldemort had held, it was gone. The streets of Diagon Alley and such that had bustled until fear had skulked in, leaving only a cold shell behind, thrived once more. Even the mentions of 'You-Know-Who' in the papers had diminished until they were all but replaced by filler that consisted of exploding pumpkins and book signings at Flourish & Blotts.
Only one scar from Voldemort's emergence into the wizarding world refused to heal, and that was the thickening tension between pure bloods and Muggle-borns. Among the certain elite, there had always been a flickering dislike bred by pride. Voldemort had ignited that flickering flame and transformed it into an inferno. The most affected pure bloods made no secret of their disgust, and in return, the Muggle-borns made no effort to conceal theirs.
Other than the more than occasional clash between the two groups, the wizarding world had slowly started to return to what it once was. Hardly anyone had paid attention to the rapid increase in Muggle murders or the fact that the dementors were still gone. It was far better, far easier to believe that everything was a coincidence. Murder was an unpleasant matter, but crime was unavoidable, especially in the Muggle world. Even so, it was a definite improvement over the other possibility. The possibility that had become a reality.
Voldemort was a real threat.
He had remained absent for the last two years, ever since the death of Reginald Doyle, fueling the fire that wizards like Brandon Davies had foolishly started. If Voldemort was a real threat, he would have taken over the Ministry by now. They would all be dead. They didn't realize that there were other methods, and that they were playing right into his hands. It was their lack of appreciation for subtlety that had lulled them all into a false sense of security. And that was precisely what Voldemort had wanted.
Severus had been at the Malfoy wedding when he had heard the news. It had been an absurdly grand affair, everything dripping in silver and white with the occasional splash of emerald, from the enchanted doves to the jeweled goblets to the one of a kind Malfoy necklace that hung around Narcissa's white throat. He could still see the beatific smile on her face, and as Lucius bent down to tenderly kiss his bride, Severus clearly remembered wondering if that ever would be Lily and him someday.
It had happened after the ceremony. Severus's mind was still on Lily, as it had been for his entire time with the Blacks. Regulus had been jabbering on about a cherub stealing his cake when Severus's attention had suddenly shifted to the recently married Bellatrix and Rodolphus. They were a drastic contrast to the bride and groom, with Bellatrix moodily sipping her champagne, feigning deafness to Rodolphus's pitiful attempts at a conversation, at least until she grew bored of that and ended the matter entirely by emptying her goblet onto Rodolphus's lap. Even when she had stalked out, Rodolphus had gazed after her with a look that could only be described as pure adoration.
Just as Severus was swearing, once again, that that would never be him, it had happened.
Rabastan had burst in with news that Voldemort had returned, the grand finale to a dazzling display at Helga's Hill, a newer area that was known for its high population of Muggle-born couples, higher than any other village in England. Or at least it had been before a blazing firestorm of Fiendfyre had swept through, roaring and merciless. Homes had burst into flames within minutes, most of the Muggle-borns dying with them. The ones that had managed to flee were confronted by an overwhelming flood of Death Eaters, dementors, and giants. No one had even known for certain that the giants had allied themselves with Voldemort until after.
Severus had read at least five different versions of the event. All reported Voldemort had appeared in the midst of smoke and flames and ongoing destruction, his face said to be a terrifying mask of the utmost indifference as Muggle-borns screamed all around him. Even the flames of the cursed fire had seemed to bow before him as the night grew quieter. A symbol that had been dubbed the Dark Mark by the papers had lit the starless sky, a spectacular and formidable sign that the dark wizard had returned and was greater than ever.
Only a handful had survived that night. All that remained of Helga's Hill was now ashes.
If he was being entirely honest with himself, Severus had been unsettled by the news. He may have relished hexes and curses more than the average Hogwarts student, but that was nothing. It was to defend himself and doing only what had done to him. He had suffered. Why shouldn't they suffer? Why shouldn't he be able to show them what the world truly was like? Severus wanted them to feel the pain he had felt, to swallow the bitter taste of humiliation that never seemed to leave his tongue.
But that didn't mean he wanted them dead.
It was every wizard for himself, Severus had reminded himself. He could achieve greatness or be dragged down with them, and in the end, it was for the greater good. The wizarding place was filled with arrogance and stupidity. Every day, wizards like James Potter strutted around, blind and unappreciative of what the world could really be. Voldemort would change that. Out of the ashes, he would carve a new world, a better world of pure blood values. Helga's Hill was a necessary sacrifice for that world to exist.
Sometimes Severus wondered if he truly believed that.
And with that final thought, he suddenly realized that he was staring at Lily.
He hadn't even been looking. His eyes had sought her through the sea of black robes as if by instinctual habit. He hadn't seen her since the terrible day at the clearing. Selfishly, he had hoped that once news of Helga's Hill had struck, she would immediately write to him. He had volunteered to play the utterly pointless game of Quidditch with Regulus on more than one occasion, just so he would be outside to catch the first glimpse of Lily's owl.
Her letter had never come.
She hadn't noticed him; her back was to him. Severus almost hadn't recognized her at first. Her dark red hair had been long, falling nearly to her waist, ever since the day he had first caught sight of her, but now it was cut to her shoulders. Even so, it had to be her. He had memorized that precise shade of red, and he would have been easily able to tell it apart out of a thousand other shades. No one had hair like Lily.
She was talking to Alice Clarke. Jealousy bubbled inside Severus as he continued to stare at her, longing and dislike mingling on his sallow features. Lily turned her head just enough so he could catch a fleeting glimpse of her face. Already, he missed her long hair, but he couldn't deny that the new cut suited her. With the shortened sleek strands highlighting the fact that she had lost the childhood chubbiness in her cheeks, she looked decidedly more mature.
And alarmingly more intimidating.
The train whistled. Hurriedly, Severus swung around before Lily could see him. He had lingered on the platform for Lily, unable to wait to see if their friendship stood a chance, but looking at the more grown up Lily, he couldn't help but think that she had already moved on.
Lily had seen Severus.
And Severus had seen her. And walked away.
Of course, she hadn't done much better, Lily reflected as she fell into a stop before the prefect carriage. Still, she was unable to swallow her disappointment, along with a new emotion. Anger. Perhaps she was a terrible kisser, but that didn't mean Severus had the right to ignore her. They had been best friends for six years, for Merlin's sake. Surely he owed her a hello or wave, or in a much more Severus manner, a curt nod.
Or perhaps it wasn't because of the kiss, a terrible voice taunted her from the back of her mind. Perhaps it was because they were at Hogwarts again. Voldemort's recent appearance would no doubt renew the Slytherin enmity of Gryffindors and Muggle-borns, and she knew Severus well enough to know that he wouldn't cut off ties with them. Not when they held the keys to what he believed to be his only future.
Lily suddenly felt sick to her stomach and fiercely shook her head to herself. Severus wouldn't do that. She knew Severus and she knew that he wasn't one of them. So what if they had an awkward moment in the clearing? That didn't erase their history. To him, she was a best friend, not a Mudblood. Lily knew that in her heart. They only had to survive this rough path.
Automatically, Lily stiffened, her stomach lurching all over again. The voice may have been different, but from the way it pronounced her name, she knew it could only be one wizard. There was no one else who could manage to sound as proud as a Quidditch World Cup winner, and at the same time, as impish as a little boy plotting to steal an extra dessert. There was no one else who could make her skin prickle with the mere enunciation of her surname. Feeling as if she was about to face her execution, Lily slowly turned around in the narrow corridor of the Hogwarts Express. "Potter."
She had grown a bit over the summer, but he had sprouted up. His face looked older, his voice more mature, but his hazel eyes remained the same, as mischievous as the day he had gleefully christened her 'Firehead'.
"You look-" Potter began, swallowing nervously, but Lily didn't notice. Her eyes had latched onto a glimmer in his hand, and just like that, all her senses were immediately lost. All she could hear was the blood pounding in her ears as the horrifying realization played over and over again in her mind.
Potter was a prefect. She already shared a common room and a schedule with him, leaving only a few, annoyance-free hours to herself, but Lily could see those precious hours quickly slipping away before her very eyes. Instead of meeting Severus at the library, she would be patrolling the corridors with Potter. Whenever she made a mistake, there would be Potter right there, chuckling in his obnoxious way. Lily could already hear his laughter, and faintly, she heard herself choke out, "You're a prefect?"
Potter looked distinctly uncomfortable. "Well-"
Potter was an authority figure. He would be able to boss around the rest of school, subtracting points whenever the desire struck him. Wasn't it enough that he already did the former without a badge? He had nearly every first, second, third, and fourth year hanging onto his every word, not to mention some of the older students. This was the boy who jinxed whoever whenever he wished. The boy who enjoyed transfiguring Slytherins' quills into frogs during what he considered to be a dull Potions lesson. The boy who nearly blew up the Forbidden Forest during an impromptu fireworks celebration for Sirius Black's birthday. Who in their right mind would give James Potter a prefect badge?
"How did you become a prefect?" Lily made no effort to disguise her horror. "Not that I know why I became a prefect. I know I'm not prefect material, but at least I don't hex people whenever I feel like it."
She could feel herself pale at her own words, not even realizing how rude they were. Oh, Godric. He was going to create an army of demonic first years to terrorize the school, wasn't he? Lily could already see the tiny Gryffindors lined up, marching down the halls with Potter leading the way, hexing anyone who didn't support Puddlemere United.
"You hex me whenever you feel like it," Potter pointed out in a much more subdued tone.
Still reeling from unpleasant images of tiny, messy-haired first years wearing James Potter badges, Lily blinked, too distracted to notice the change in his voice. When it became clear she was supposed to answer, Lily blinked again, shifting uncomfortably at the strangely intense way his eyes were fixed on her. "You're different."
She hadn't meant anything by it, but Potter seemed thoroughly pleased by the prospect. His chin lifted a notch. "I am?"
Lily didn't know where his glee was coming from, nor did she like it, but she didn't know how else to respond. She couldn't quite take back what she said, not when it had slipped out so carelessly. "Yes."
"I'll take that as a compliment," Potter was restored to usual self, hair rumpling and all, even if his voice did sound oddly deeper.
"You take everything as a compliment," Lily muttered, but she was relieved to see the more familiar Potter. She knew how to act around him and his boastfulness. The quieter version unnerved her more than she would have liked to admit.
"That's because it usually is with me," Potter's smugness was already grating on her nerves.
Lily was already turning away, her voice several degrees cooler. "I think I've heard enough."
Not in the mood to banter with Potter, Lily faced him once again with a pointed expression on her face, one that she had picked up from Severus, that suggested it would be in his best interest to hurry.
"I think you're prefect material," Potter mumbled in a manner that was as unPotter-like as could be.
There it was again. The Potter that Lily didn't quite know how to talk to. She stared at him with a look of confusion, not really understanding where it was coming from. After all, Potter was usually too busy complimenting himself to offer reassuring comments to anyone else. It had to be a trick. A way to lower her defenses so he could find some way to embarrass her. Lily folded her arms across her chest. "Thank you?"
Potter cleared his throat. Was it her imagination or did she detect a hint of color in his cheeks? Impossible. "It's just that I'm usually right about these things. In fact," he seemed to brighten, returning to the Potter she loved to hate. "I'm always right about these things."'
That was enough for Lily. If Potter thought that she would put up with his egotistic monologues for an extra hour or two each day, he was barking mad. Deciding right there and then to make it clear, Lily drew herself up to her full height, which pitifully, didn't come up above his shoulders. But what she lacked in height, she made up for acid in her suddenly sharp voice. "Unlike you, I'm going to go to the prefect section, where I'm supposed to be."
Her hand was already on the nearest door. She quickly ducked into the compartment before he could respond, willing him not to follow, not that she really expected him to. Potter dodged responsibility like a cat evaded water.
The compartment didn't look any different from the others, only roomier. From the near empty space, it was clear that Potter wasn't the only prefect shirking his duties. Only two other prefects remained. Brandon Davies and...
Lily found herself gaping at the other occupant. "Remus? You're a prefect?"
Lupin looked immensely grateful for the interruption, but even so, a dull flush colored his cheeks. He looked down, averting his eyes from hers. "It surprised me too."
"Oh, not that," Lily said hurriedly, hardly daring to believe her good fortune. She had a sudden urge to dance around the compartment in glee. There would be no Quidditch lectures during patrols. There would be no army of corrupted first years wreaking havoc all over the castle. There would still be freedom from James Potter. She was saved. "I'm glad that you are. You have no idea how glad. I was only surprised because I thought Potter was the other Gryffindor prefect. I just saw him with a badge. I can't believe he let me think he was..."
"Oh," Lupin gave a tired smile that made Lily wonder if he had managed to sleep at all during the summer. With his underfed frame and worn robes, he reminded Lily a bit of Severus, having a certain quality that made her want to throw her arms around him as if he were an abandoned puppy. "He nicked it from me the second he saw it. I think he and Sirius are using it to scare first years."
Lily stared at him in dismay, wondering why he wasn't more alarmed. While she was privately glad that Potter and Black were back to being best friends; it was too unnatural having them not be, the image of the troublesome duo lording prefect powers over everyone was far more terrifying that any fears that had entered her mind when she thought it was only Potter to worry about. Lupin saw her expression and hastily continued.
"'Scare' is a harsh word. I meant it's a joke. A game, actually. The first years love it..." Lupin's voice trailed off.
Lily exhaled, forcing a tense smile as she slid into the seat across from him, though it was one of the last things she felt like doing. Not that she blamed Lupin. She knew better than anyone how difficult it was to stand up to a best friend, and Potter and Black had a particular talent of twisting words and swaying minds, especially when they worked together. Either way, Lupin was right. The first years would love it. The younger wizards looked up to Potter and Black with a mixture of terror and adoration, and being unfortunately too familiar with the latter, Lily knew by the time she hunted them down, they would have moved onto a new scheme.
"If we were at Hogwarts, I would dock points," Brandon said briskly. "People like Potter and Black are the reason why we need prefects in the first place."
"With prefects like you," Lupin broke in calmly. "James and Sirius won't need to worry."
The affront was surprising, the defensiveness was not. From what Lily had seen, the Marauders were fiercely protective of one another. Even Pettigrew seemed to grow a few inches taller whenever a fellow Marauder was insulted, and Marlene had once told Lily that she had witnessed Pettigrew attempting to jinx Mulciber for a snide remark about Black.
Mulciber had jinxed him first, but not again, not after the other three Marauders had struck back.
It was this loyalty that touched Lily, who was eyeing Brandon with ice in her eyes. She had subscribed to the Daily Prophet over the summer and knew all about Helga's Hill, a long letter from Alice only confirming what she had read. It was skeptics like him that had mocked the people's fear, convincing them to put it aside. If they had been on guard, perhaps more would have survived.
"You're a prefect," Brandon was sputtering at Lupin. "I know they're your mates, but you're supposed to be above their idiocy. You out of all people should know what they're capable of."
"Really," Lily cut in coldly, his words from their previous journey on the Hogwarts Express still burning in her mind. "I would have thought that it's all rubbish. Rumors and gossip."
Brandon's face paled.
"The fact is," Lily leaned forward, feeling oddly powerful. "That Potter and Black have done nothing you can prove."
Brandon wisely did not respond. Lupin was watching them with a strange expression, but said nothing.
The trip was an awkward one. Lily and Lupin had both taken stabs at conversing with one another, but it was difficult to continue any conversation with Brandon glaring at both of them, clearly intent on killing anything that resembled a tolerable train ride. It was only after the Head Girl stepped in, informing them of their responsibilities after distributing copies of The Prefect's Handbook that he seemed to perk up, leafing through the pages to chime in his own advice. When Lupin finally announced that he would start patrols and that it would be pleasant to have company, Lily had heartily volunteered, a second too hastily.
The remainder of the journey was surprisingly enjoyable. Whether it was still the shock of Helga's Hill or a coincidence, Lily didn't know, but the train was strangely quiet. If Potter, Black, and Pettigrew were brewing mischief, they were doing so in a safely concealed place. Instead of confiscating Fanged Frisbees or lecturing first years as Lily had imagined, she and Lupin simply talked.
He was surprisingly easy to talk to, with a subtle sense of humor that she hadn't noticed before. Lily learned that he was a half-blood; his mother was a Muggle-born and his father was a pure blood. He was an only child that had always longed for a brother. From the way he spoke, Lily had a feeling that he had a lonely childhood, and it was obvious from the way his eyes twinkled when he mentioned the Marauders that they had become the brothers he had always wanted. When he spoke of them, they didn't seem like the obnoxious, larger than life prats without a care in the world. They seemed like they were actually people, people that she could grow to like.
Until she remembered they were the Marauders.
"James isn't as bad as you think he is," Lupin was saying when he saw the frown return to Lily's face.
"Did he tell you to say that?" Lily caught the undeniable look of guilt as it crossed over his features. "He did, didn't he?"
"Well, yes," Lupin faltered at the knowing flash in her green eyes. "But that's not why I'm saying it. James... Sirius and Peter too... I can't imagine better friends. I know you think James is conceited git, and he can be, but that's not all he is."
And that was when Lily changed the subject, even though it looked as if Lupin wanted to say something else. They didn't mention Potter or the other Marauders again, and instead, they entered the safer topics of lessons until it was the final few minutes of the trip.
"Hopefully, we don't have to do rounds with him," Lupin muttered as they hurriedly left a scowling Brandon behind in the prefect carriage, trunks in hand.
It would have been as painful as patrolling the halls with Potter, and if she was being entirely honest with herself, most likely worse. Lily wrinkled her nose at the thought and set her trunk down. "Should we meet outside the portrait of the Fat Lady after curfew then?"
Lupin nodded, giving her a quick smile as he darted down the corridor, no doubt to rescue his badge from the clutches of Potter and Black. Lily felt a flicker of worry as she remembered his tired eyes and hollow cheeks, hoping that the prefect duties wouldn't be too much for him. As he disappeared into a crowd of Hufflepuffs, she gathered her belongings and continued on.
She didn't see Severus again until the Sorting. One moment she had been half-listening to Marlene recounting her holiday in whispered breaths as Pamela Shunpike was Sorted, the next, her eyes had somehow drifted over to the Slytherin table and were locking with his.
Their eye contact lasted a fraction of a second. Severus quickly ducked his head down as if nothing had happened, and Lily didn't know if she wanted to hex him to pieces or cry. All her previous worries were resurfacing, and Lily was beginning to suspect that their rough patch was really a rift that was splitting wider and wider with every hour that passed.
The feast was one of the quieter ones, making the clatter of silverware seem more boisterous then ever. It was the first years who did most of the talking. The older students retreated into their cliques as they had when the war was first announced, exchanging frantic whispers between bites. Even Marlene was considerably quiet. Now that it was obvious that she was one of the only ones who was eager to retell the events of her holiday, she, at least, had the grace to fall silent, a faint blush tinting her cheeks as she finished her steak.
A delicate clinking sound caused a sudden hush to fall over the Great Hall. Instinctively, all eyes turned toward the headmaster. For the first time since the feast had begun, Lily looked at Dumbledore. He appeared nearly as tired as Lupin did. His clear blue eyes, normally merry and so full of life, held an unmistakable sadness.
"Most of you have heard about the events that took place on Helga's Hill," Dumbledore's eyes flashed, and for a moment, the sorrow had been replaced by anger.
There was an uncomfortable stillness in the Hall. Helga's Hill was the hippogriff in the room. No one wanted to think about those Muggle-borns. No one wanted to think about Voldemort and his return, and that his return was not a return at all, for he had never truly been gone. He had been watching their every move, just waiting for them to find peace once more, before he shattered it forever.
"I ask you to remember Helga's Hill and to honor the memory of those who have suffered," Dumbledore continued after a careful pause. "Honor their memory by knowing that there is an evil in this world that we must fight. Honor those who died before Helga's Hill. The six families that suffered just as the many that did five days ago."
Lily stole a look at Severus. There was in a vehement look in his eyes as he stared down Albus Dumbledore that reminded her of whenever he spoke of Tobias. He had schooled his pale face into the picture of brittle guardedness, but Lily knew that expression well enough to know that he was seconds away from snapping.
Lily didn't want to see him like that. She looked away.
"I ask you to learn from this. Voldemort will not allow himself to be forgotten, not as long as he is alive."
There was a sound in the Great Hall as if the Houses of Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff had all gasped at once. Even the Slytherins couldn't mask their surprise. Dumbledore plowed on as if he didn't notice. His voice was hushed but clear, and with his every syllable, there was a growing power that seeped in, an unspoken command for attention that transfixed each and every one of them.
"Others have paid the price for our ability to forget so easily. Don't push away his memory as if he never existed. When you do, you push away the memories of those he has led to tragedy. Remember what Voldemort has done, and remember that he will do it again, unless we all stand together."
There was not a single whisper in the Hall. It was deathly silent. Heads were hung low in respect, eyes facing down in shame. Lily shivered.
"Remember we must fight, and most of all, remember Helga's Hill."
The somber mood that had trailed in with each and every one of them was heavier than ever. Surprisingly, there was no Marauder prank, nothing to ease the tension. The light didn't return to Dumbledore's eyes as he went through the usual procedure of outlining the rules. Even when Lily stood up reluctantly to lead the first years to the common room, she could feel her stomach knot all over again, feeling as if her every step was weighed down.
But she couldn't think about that now. Whether she wanted to be or not, she was a prefect now. Forcing herself to clear her mind of Voldemort and Severus, Lily made a rather pathetic attempt to seize the first years' attention, throwing her arm to her side in a laughable half-wave. "First years. Over here."
Of course, Potter had been the only one to hear. He gave her a pitying look, and instead of hearing the chuckles she braced herself to hear, he only gave an earsplitting whistle that made her hands fly to shelter her ears. "Oi! First years!"
He had succeed in not only getting the Gryffindor first years' attention, but everyone else's. Even Dumbledore was looking over at them with a look of curiosity and possible amusement. Lily could feel the warmth of a flush reaching her face, but predictably, Potter didn't seem to notice, let alone care.
"Follow Evans," Potter gestured carelessly at Lily and then at Lupin. "And Moony."
Lily didn't know whether to thank him or give him an exasperated remark. A thank you would have been more fitting, but far too awkward. Instead, she settled on silence, stoutly ignoring him as she and Lupin gathered the first years. A timid giggle startled her, immediately sending a wave of self-consciousness to fall over her, but as the giggles grew and the pointing began, Lily realized that Potter hadn't done anything.
At least not to her. The Marauders had struck after all. The Slytherins were plainly struggling to stand, but none could do so, due to what appeared to be a powerful Sticking Charm on their robes. The giggles were drowned out by enraged shouts and swearing. Mulciber's face was flushed an angry red, and as he pulled at his robes, there was a distinct tearing sound that made Lily cup a hand over her mouth before her own laughter could spill out.
For the first time since entering the Great Hall, it felt like Hogwarts again.
But then she saw Severus again, and her lightened mood promptly evaporated. After multiple occasions of being a victim to Potter's Sticking Charm, he had easily been able to free himself. His attention, however, was not on his fellow Slytherins, nor was he fuming over Potter as he normally would have done. He was looking at her, and when he saw her looking back, his eyes didn't dart away as she had expected. Instead, he held onto her gaze almost desperately as if he couldn't bear not to. The intensity unsettled her, and this time, it was Lily who broke their eye contact, quickly returning to ushering the first years away from the livid Slytherins.
Severus was no longer ignoring her. Lily felt that it should have made her happy, but all it did was make the unwanted weight return to her shoulders, heavier than it had been before.