Back on the Hogwarts Express
"Write often!" Lisa said, hugging her father goodbye on platform 9 ¾.
"Every week," he assured her.
"And send me a BIG present!" Julie insisted.
"Your birthday isn't for a couple of months!" Lisa protested, wrapping an arm around her sister.
"I want something from Hogwarts, to go with my letter!" the little girl insisted.
"Then I'll send you the chains Filch uses to hang students from the ceiling," Lisa said menacingly. Julie's face went white.
"Don't worry, most times he only makes you scrub trophies and potion-covered desks," Remus said and laughed, having hugged his own parents. "I'll send you a big package of sweets from the Hogwarts kitchens, how's that?"
Julie screamed happily and hugged him.
"You're the best, Remus! I'm going to marry you when I grow up!" she said near his navel, making all the adults laugh.
"Come on, lover boy," Lisa snickered, pealing him away from her sister. "The wedding plans can start once we're on the train."
Their parents helped them with the luggage, and they waved from the windows.
"Should we... find a compartment?" Remus suggested, as the train started moving.
She nodded, but before they could take another step, a hurricane of black, silky hair obstructed her vision and she was caught in a strong hug.
"Lisa! All I've barely heard from you the last couple of weeks! I thought the Death Eaters might've gotten you," Dorcas said happily. "Come on, I've already gotten a compartment with..." She glanced at Remus. "Erm, unless you'd prefer...?"
"I have to find the Marauders anyway," Remus said quickly. "See you around, Lisa."
She watched him walk away, and for some reason it felt as if the entire day got a little bit darker. It was like the very thought of Hogwarts build up his walls again. Walls she thought had finally come down. Lisa sighed heavily and followed Dorcas to their compartment. Inside she found Lily, Marlene and Mary, sitting with Dahlia Fleur-Peri, a girl she knew from the Slug Club, and Nataly Prior, one of the few Slytherins in the Defenders.
"Lisa!" Marlene exclaimed, sounding a bit relieved.
"Hey," Lisa said, a bit confused. "You did this on purpose, didn't you?" she whispered in Dorcas' ear when they sat down. The Slytherin shook with muffled laughter.
"I just thought it'd be good for your Gryffindor friends to meet some of mine," she whispered back innocently. Lisa rolled her eyes.
"So, Lily," Dahlia started, "I saw you at the Christmas Party with James Potter. Is it true you're dating?"
Lily's face was as red as her hair.
"No!" she retorted immediately. "We were only together, because he wouldn't leave me alone, until I said yes."
"If you say so," Dahlia consented. "I personally find him too arrogant for boyfriend material. He and his awful friends are always bullying someone."
"You don't know anything about James Potter, Dahlia. You've never even spoken to him," said Nataly.
"Oh, please. And you have?"
"No," she lied smoothly. "But you can't just declare him hopeless like that."
Dahlia shrugged. "I wasn't saying he was hopeless. I expressed some personal preference, that's all. Bigoted fools deserve love too."
"James is not bigoted!" Lily snapped.
Dahlia lifted her hands defensively, looking bored. "Whatever you say, love."
Lily frowned and sulked in the corner for an hour, but the rest of the girls seemed to get along fine, for the most part. That is, until Dahlia mentioned Snape.
"I simply cannot believe you just left him by the wayside like that," Dahlia was saying. "I mean, he wasted a lot of energy justifying hanging out with you to his friends. He only slipped."
"Only slipped?" Lily hissed. "He called me a mudblood!"
"Oh, you must be used to it by now, love. And I really don't understand why you lot get so offended by it. It's just another word for Muggle-born."
"Seriously Dahlia, just rub some more salt into the wound, why don't you," Dorcas groaned.
"What? I'm not a blood purist! I'm just saying! It's just a word like any other, so why do they get so defensive about it?" Dahlia puffed indignantly.
Marlene reached for her wand, but Nataly beat her to it.
"You're in the company of two muggle-borns. Do them the curtsy of not calling them trash while you travel with them," the Slytherin said menacingly. "You don't have to understand to keep your mouth shut."
"I wasn't calling them trash!" Dahlia insisted. "I just don't see how the word is insulting!"
Dorcas sighed. "Put the wand away, Nataly. There's no point. And Dahlia... would it kill you to stop running your mouth?"
Just then, the compartment door slid open and a young friendly witch popped in.
"Anything from the trolley, girls?"
"Yes!" Lisa exclaimed immediately, itching to get away from the tense atmosphere.
She quickly slipped in the corridor to look at the sweets for sale, and just as she was paying for her licorice wands and a few chocolate frogs, she noticed Remus' back, making a turn for the loo at the end of the carriage, and her heart ached longingly. Then the bat-like silhouette of Snape, already in his school robes, followed him in a suspiciously brisk pace. Lisa's eyes narrowed.
"I'll be right back," she said to her friends and carefully approached the corner.
"I already told you, I'm not interested," she heard Remus say coldly.
"It's not up to me," Snape snarled. "I was told to convince you, so that's what I'm doing. You know your refusal will have consequences. Outside of Hogwarts."
Remus was quiet, but Lisa had a pretty good idea what he was thinking. She remembered his family's small cottage and his smiling mother, so fragilely muggle, and his father, often busy at the ministry... A flame burned in her gut, and her hand slipped down to grip the wand in her pocket. There was a flash of light and Snape hung upside down. A disarming spell followed, and Remus stared at her in stunned silence.
"I thought I warned you, Snivellus," Lisa said acidly.
"Let him go!" came a voice behind her. She turned around to see Lily, hands full of cauldron cakes and eyes sparkling dangerously.
"Lily," Lisa's voice was carefully measured, "I know you've been struggling with this, but it's time to face the facts. He's a slimy little berk, and he doesn't deserve your friendship."
Snape's head snapped in Lily's direction. He started to say her name, which immediately fueled Lisa's anger and she hit him with a Tongue–Tying Charm. Another flash and he was down on the ground, Lily's wand was out, and the pastries were rolling on the floor.
"You're going to duel me for him?" Lisa shouted, enraged. "Fine! I suppose I'll have to hex some sense into you!"
"Lisa!" Remus stepped forward, getting a hold of her wrist. "Don't."
"No! I'm tired of this!" She pulled her hand away roughly. "She needs to see him for what he is!"
Snape scrambled to his feet and made a grab for his wand, but Remus instinctively hit him with a Full-Body Bind.
"Stay out of this, Remus!" Lily hissed.
"Yes, do that!" Lisa seconded. "Snape is a git, Lily! He's a nasty slime ball, who's way too into the Dark Arts! Don't bother to deny it! And you know he's just as obsessed with blood purity as the rest of them!"
"That's not true!"
"Yes, it is! James Potter may see humiliating someone as funny, but Snape... he sees torture as a laugh! Whatever it was you had, however bad you feel for him, you know... you know that as long as he keeps doing this... you'll never truly be able to trust him."
The anger in Lily's eyed softened a bit. She shot a glance at Snape and his black, begging eyes.
"Think about it, Lily," Lisa continued, more calmly. "Once we graduate, where will you be? And where will he?" Lily's hand shook; her eyes were welling up with tears. "I know it's hard to truly let go. But you're not stupid. You can see where this will end."
The redhead's hand dropped to her side. She turned around and walked away with one last lingering look at her former friend. Snape stared after her longingly, and then threw Lisa the most venomous, hate-filled glare she had ever received.
Lily wasn't at breakfast the next morning. When they came back from the train, she had hidden herself behind the curtains of her bed and hadn't come out since. Lisa barely waited for the food to appear, when she leaned over and told Marlene she'd go and check on her. She felt guilty for making Lily suffer, but the girl was refusing to deal with reality. Hurrying to the seventh floor, she found her in the dorm, crying. Sitting down on the bed, Lisa stroke her back comfortingly.
"I'm sorry," she said. "But it had to be done."
"He doesn't have to be like that," Lily said into her pillow. "Maybe if I talk to him, I can-"
"Lil. He's a monster."
"He's just confused! Why do you hate him so much?"
"Because he threatened Remus!" Lisa snapped, regretting it immediately. Lily sat up, staring at her, tears still spilling from her eyes.
Lisa sighed and told her about that November day in the Library.
"You didn't see him, Lily," she said darkly. "When Snape... that day, when he threatened him, you didn't see the twinkle in his eye, the twisted pleasure he was getting out of it." The sheets crumpled in her fist. Just the memory of it was enough to make her sick. "I don't know what happened to me. I'd never seen Remus like that before... so white faced, so... scared. It... it broke something inside of me. Now every time I see Snape, all I want to do is strangle him. I just... can't forgive him for that. He hides that side of himself from you, but that's who he really is. A Death Eater."
The two of them were silent for a long while.
"I know you're right," Lily admitted quietly. "I've always known, deep down. But he was my best friend for ten years. I couldn't just..."
"I know. But he's not worth your tears, and he's certainly not worth missing out on bacon." Lisa put her hand on the redhead's shoulder encouragingly.
Lily sighed and tried to smile. "Then I guess I better go and stuff my face," she quipped weakly. "Coming?"
"Not right now," Lisa said. Thinking about Snape killed whatever appetite she had, and the thought of being in the same hall with him made her want to puke. "I think I'll just stay in, take a nap before the first class."
"Okay. I'll see you later," Lily said wiping her tears and walking out with her head held high.
Lisa woke up to the feeling of being burned alive.
Every last fiber of her being was on fire, every bone, every muscle was crying out in agony. If she could stop screaming for a second, she would ask what was going on, but the pain wouldn't let her think clearly. Soon she didn't even care; all she wanted was for it to stop, for someone to find her, to free her. But the fire didn't let up, the suffering intensified and she was faintly aware she was twisting and turning on the floor of her dorm room. Someone was torturing her, she registered, but it no longer mattered. She prayed for her attacker to kill her already, to end her torment. She would have given anything, anything just to die right there...
Suddenly, the pain stopped. Her body stilled, sore and helpless on the floor. She heard faint voices, but she felt so very tired...
Lisa awoke again some time later, tears wetting her pillowcase. She sat up and lifted a surprised hand to wipe them.
"Lisa?" Alice's gentle voice called beside her. She turned to see her and Lily, looking at her with concern, sitting fully clothed on Lily's bed, which was next to hers.
"What happened?" Lisa asked hoarsely and placed a hand over her throat. It was sore and it hurt when she swallowed.
Alice and Lily exchanged glances.
"Does anything hurt?" Lily asked. Lisa shook her head. She was just tired, but as long as she didn't move or speak, she felt fine.
"Marlene is doing some damage control downstairs," Alice said quietly. "Frank and some others were worried about you. The whole house is... everyone is getting restless..." she trailed off, sharing another glance with Lily.
"Why?" Lisa managed to say.
"You... were tortured. Right here," Lily explained as gently as she could. "Someone... someone put the Imperius curse on... on Mary."
Lisa's face was screwed up in a frown. It didn't take a genius to guess who that 'someone' was, or why they cursed her. "Where is she?"
"With Professor McGonagall," Lily answered quickly. "The teachers are trying to figure this out, but..."
The three girls exchanged grim looks. They all knew tracing an Imperius Curse was impossible. At that moment Marlene walked in, sighing deeply.
"Lisa!" she exclaimed with relief, seeing her awake. "Are you okay?"
Lisa nodded and tried to get up, but groaned as her muscles burned painfully. Alice and Lily jumped from the bed and helped her stand up.
"My limbs are just a bit stiff," she croaked and tried to give them a reassuring smile.
"I guess I should go and tell them. Some people can be so impatient," Marlene rolled her eyes playfully. "Are you sure you don't need anything?" she added in a softer voice.
"Something for the throat would be nice," Lisa said weakly.
"I'll brew you something right up," Lily volunteered, letting go of her carefully and digging through her things for the potion supplies.
"Thanks. Marlene, I know it's a bit much, but can you... tell Dorcas? I think she'd want to know," Lisa asked. Marlene hesitated for just a second, but nodded with a faint smile and exited.
"You should be resting!" Lily insisted stubbornly the next morning.
The others already left for class, assuming Lisa would stay in bed, but Lily knew better. Lisa threw her schoolbag over her shoulder and bit down a moan. Being an athlete, she knew this pain well. While the curse hadn't inflicted any actual physical harm to her, the rapid contraction of nearly all of her muscles left her so sore, even the simplest move would threaten to bring tears to her eyes. But she refused to let them know that.
"I have to do this, Lily! Stop mollycoddling me!" she said irritably, opening the door to the empty common room.
"No one would blame you if you took a day off, it happened just yesterday!" Lily followed, but both of them stopped, as someone moved at the foot of the staircase and Remus Lupin stood up to look at them.
"Lisa," he said breathlessly. "I just... Marlene said you were doing fine, but I wanted to... are you okay?"
"Why does everyone keep asking me that?" Lisa grumbled and started down the stairs. "I got tortured. It's over. I'm fine."
"You know it's not a simple as that!" Lily snapped. "You're still in pain, and you're barely walking. Just stay in and rest!"
Remus' eyes widened in surprise and he shot Lisa a quick accusatory glance.
"I won't let them have the satisfaction!" Lisa wheeled to face her friend. "I won't let them think they've broken me!"
The room fell silent.
"No one will think that..." Lily tried to say gently.
"They didn't!" Lisa screamed, burying her head in her hands. "They didn't break me!"
But she knew that was a lie. She never did ask how long she was crying in agony on the floor, but the moment she'd wished for death, she knew they had won.
Tears streaked down her cheeks, as her body shook with violent sobs. A pair of warm arms wrapped around her, and she wanted to push them away, to tell them she didn't need, didn't want protection. That she wasn't scared. But she knew it would be just another lie. So she continued to sob softy into the black robes.
"Take care of her?" Lily whispered softly and Remus nodded. The redhead squeezed Lisa's shoulder lightly and left.
Remus led her slowly to the couch and helped her sit down. She curled like a cat next to him, face still buried in his robes. He stroke her arm soothingly, not saying anything. Eventually her sobs died down.
"I wanted to die," she said. "If I could speak, I would have begged her to kill me." She felt so bare saying those words, so incredibly vulnerable. His embrace tightened around her, but again, he said nothing. She didn't feel like he needed to.
"Why is it you always seem to get yourself in harm's way?" he asked softly after a while.
"Because I can't keep my mouth shut," she replied. "And because Snape hates me."
"He wouldn't hate you if you stopped hexing him," Remus pointed out.
"I wouldn't hex him, if he stopped harassing you!"
"I don't want you making enemies for my sake. I can take care of myself."
"... I know that," she said, barely above a whisper. "I just... can't help it."
They were quiet again for a bit.
Remus sighed, running a hand through his hair. "You'll be the death of me, you know that?"
"You think Snape might try something on you?"
"No, but worrying what he'll try on you next will get me into an early grave!"
"So don't worry."
"Now I can't help that."
Her heart fluttered a bit at his words.
"I suppose we're stuck then," she said. "But I'll try not to land myself in the Hospital Wing in the future. You know, in the interest of keeping you out of the grave."
He chuckled lightly. "Now that you mention it..." Remus reached down into his school bag, and pulled out a tangerine. "I... actually have something for you."
Lisa stared at it curiously, as he made it hover in front of them with a wave of his wand. It came to life and tried to sing 'The Entertainer', another Billy Joel song. Unfortunately, the effect was somewhat ruined, as the fruit often mixed up, or flat out forgot the words. Lisa chuckled in Remus' chest.
"Sorry," he said, after the performance was done. "The charm was a bit more difficult than I thought it'd be..."
"This song isn't from your mum's album. I thought you hated Billy Joel."
"I never said that."
"You described listening to his music as 'a horror'!"
"But I never said I hated it."
"Hate was implied."
"But you like him."
She looked up at him. He was smiling warmly at her and she felt a familiar tugging in her stomach, a feeling that had been near constant for weeks... They were so close, she could count the specs of yellow in his green eyes, and the sudden impulse to lean in and kiss him was almost overwhelming, but perhaps sensing her idea, he turned away. 'Oh well' she thought. Right now, she felt perfectly content to simply be this close to him, and didn't much fancy the idea of possibly ruining it.
Closing her eyes, she snuggled more comfortably in his arms and whispered, "Thank you."