An Act of Courage
"Queen to B7," Lisa said after a long, contemplating silence, and the small white chess piece moved across the board. "Let's see you get out of this one," she added towards Remus cockily.
He smiled at her over the board. "Bishop to B7."
Lisa watched in horror as the one piece she had failed to notice moved from its spot on E4 and destroyed her Queen.
"Nooo! Are you kidding me!? I was so close!" she wailed in despair, as he shook with laughter. That was the fourth game in a row she was about to lose to him that evening alone! "I hate you," she grumbled, looking over what few pieces she still had.
"Would you like me to let you win next time then?" he offered jokingly.
"Don't you dare! When I crush you, I want to feel the satisfaction when you break down into tears."
"... You get too invested in games."
"I do not get too invested! I just want to prove I'm better than you in something!"
"There's a sign of a healthy relationship," Sirius threw in from the side. "Though I have to say, Fawley, you're the only person on the planet that can make chess entertaining. Your face when you lose is priceless."
"Sod off," she mumbled, thinking over her options. She was left with only a measly Knight, one Bishop and a Castle. Remus had half his pieces! How do you win against such odds?
"Maybe she'd do better if you weren't dogging her," James sniggered behind Transfiguration Today.
"Or if you'd just stop dispensing useless advice," Lisa added grumpily. "Which, for the record, would almost always cost me the game if I were dumb enough to take it."
"Like it'd make a difference," Sirius scoffed. "You're playing against Moony. You can't win."
"Shut up," Lisa growled.
"Hey, you just have to know how to pick your opponents. Why don't you try Wormy, he looks more your speed," Sirius teased, making Peter look up from finishing the essay he left for the last minute (again).
"Did someone call?"
"Just because you're pants at chess, Sirius, it doesn't mean others don't stand a chance," Lisa puffed indignantly. "Knight to H7."
The Knight trotted over the smooth surface and kicked the black Castle occupying the spot. Remus raised an eyebrow.
"You're getting desperate, Fawley," Sirius said.
"Padfoot, will you let us play in peace? Queen to H7."
Lisa breathed out sharply. "Bishop to G4."
Sirius and Remus both stared in astonishment, as the white Bishop crossed the board and knocked the crown out of the black King's head.
"Merlin's pants. I did it. I DID IT!" she shouted at the top of her lungs and the entire common room turned to stare at their corner. "I did it! I did it! I won! I beat you in something for once!" she exclaimed happily.
Remus only smiled at her. "Congratulations."
"Geez, Moony, even when you lose you're boring," Sirius said, while Lisa was jumping around with joy. "Where are the waterworks I was promised?"
But Remus was too busy looking at Lisa to register his words. It was worth losing the chess game, just to see her face light up like that.
"Oi! Remus! I'm talking to you!" Sirius yelled in his ear, waving a hand over his eyes.
Remus turned his head to his friend and blinked politely at him a couple of times. "I'm sorry, what were you saying?"
"You're hopeless." Sirius sighed and reclined back in his chair, when a loud thumping sound echoed through the common room.
Everyone went quiet and looked around curiously. Confused looks were exchanged at every table, when it happened again. And again, and again. Someone was knocking on the portrait.
David O'Flaherty, the Gryffindor Keeper, was standing close to the entrance and cautiously approached, as The Marauders exchanged worried glances and stood up. O'Flaherty pushed the back of the portrait and a girl's high-pitched scream filled the room.
Everyone turned to stare at her, as Lisa threw her friends a confused look and rushed to the hole. When she reached it, she gasped in shock and elbowed her way through the small crowd to reach Nataly Prior, bruised and bleeding, with strips of hair falling out of her messy ponytail.
"Nataly! Are you alright? Who did this to you?" she asked, falling to her knees next to the distressed girl.
The Slytherin's eyes were wild, as she seized her by the shirt and whispered in her ear, "They have Dorcas! You have to go alone to the Forest, where you beat them last, or they'll KILL HER!"
Lisa stared at her in horror.
'Go!' Nataly mouthed, her eyes welling up with tears.
A spark of fear ran through Lisa, bringing her back to her senses. She stood up hastily and rushed down the staircase, almost tripping over herself. No, no, no, no, no, this wasn't happening! How was it even possible!? Dorcas was like a hurricane with a wand, did they truly take her out in a fight? That wasn't important! She couldn't lose anyone else. Not like that.
Lisa ran all the way to the Forbidden Forest and stopped to catch her breath. How was she even supposed to find the clearing again?! Looking around frantically, she noticed green flames floating through the air. Someone had made a trail for her to follow. Lisa had an ominous feeling that she wouldn't make it out of there. She threw a look back to the castle, back to safety and warmth and Remus. Then she turned forward again, to the dark and dangerous woods. Dorcas was there. Dorcas, probably tied up, maybe tortured or beaten. Lisa took a deep breath and steeled herself. There was no choice to be made.
Trudging through the trees, she no longer felt the need to hurry, even as fear gnawed at her insides like a sharp-toothed monster, because she knew only pain awaited her at the end of the trail. But Dorcas was there. The thought of her best friend pulled her forward almost by magic, and for a second she wondered if love really was such a helpful thing to feel.
Following the green flames, Lisa soon came upon the clearing. The sheer number of Death Eaters almost knocked the wind out of her. She knew they were recruiting, but...
Her eyes fell on Dorcas, tied with magical ropes and with four wands pointed at her throat, but otherwise unharmed. Lisa breathed a sigh of relief.
"I'm here. Let her go," she said, barely hiding the shaking in her voice.
"We will," Rosier's deep voice thundered from Dorcas' right. "But first... turn in your wand and give yourself up."
Dorcas' eyes were wide and full of anger when she turned to glare at him, but they must've used a tongue-tying spell on her, because she said nothing. Then she turned to Lisa and her gaze was pleading, begging. Lisa felt like crying, but she had to be strong. Nodding shortly, she held out her wand for one of them to take.
"I told you you couldn't go around doing whatever you wanted," Snape snarled when he approached and snatched it.
With a wave of Rosier's wand, snake-like ropes erupted from the tip and coiled around her. Then Avery approached from the side and put something like an old brown bag over her head, obscuring her vision.
"You have what you want! Let her go!" Lisa demanded, an unpleasant feeling she'd been duped spreading over her like a cold shower.
"We're not done with her yet," Rosier said, taking a step forward. "Crucio!"
The familiar feeling of being burned and stabbed by a million knives at the same time hit Lisa so hard, she felt like her body would explode. She bit on the inside of her cheek, hell-bent on not giving them the satisfaction of hearing her screams... She resisted as best she could, while her body was convulsing in agony, eventually bending a knee and sinking to the ground. Suddenly the pain stopped. Someone placed a hand on top of her head.
"Why isn't this working?" Rosier growled.
"Because she's resisting. She's not asking for help," Snape's voice explained. Asking for help? "Let me do it," he added and the pain hit again, only ten times worse.
Holding out against such unimaginable suffering was impossible, and a long shriek escaped her throat before she could even think of resisting. They wanted her to ask for help, but who could she even turn to? No, she wouldn't do as they wanted! Whatever they were trying do to couldn't be good, and no matter what happened, she probably wouldn't make it through the night anyway.
"This is pointless, Snape," Rosier interrupted, and after a bit more pain, the torture stopped. "You said there needed to be an act of bravery. Why isn't it appearing?"
"Because she's not asking for it!" Snape snarled. "The magic in it is such that it would come only when someone worthy has need of it. She has to need it!"
"Then how to we make her need it?" Mulciber drawled.
"I'll show you how!" Snape snapped and his wand whizzed through the air.
With a flutter of her heart, Lisa heard Dorcas start swearing and shouting threats at the Death Eaters, until her chilling scream cut through the air. Lisa's blood froze in her veins and she desperately struggled against the ropes. It no longer mattered what the damned Death Eaters wanted, if there was anyone, anything that could help her...
Suddenly, it felt as if one of them hit her right on the top of the head and she fell to the ground, almost passing out. Her head hurt like it had been split in two, sounds mixed together into an incoherent mess, muffled by the awful ringing in her ears...
The bag was still over her eyes, but she thought she saw light flash under the edge and heard screams, more than there should be. The restraints around her loosened then disappeared, and someone knelt down next to her.
"Lisa! Hey, talk to me! Are you alright?"
Lisa recognized Dorcas' panicked voice and forced herself to sit up. The bag fell from her head and she saw the clearing was full of dueling students, curses flying everywhere. She saw Frank, sending jets of light fiercely side by side with Alice, who guarded his back. She saw Nataly and Benjy Fenwick, Dirk Cresswell, Emma Vance, Marlene, Lily and everyone else in the Defenders, fighting the scattered Death Eaters. James was engaged in an intense struggle with Snape, Peter was just taking down Avery, and Sirius punched Mulciber in the face, before stunning Wilkes. Rosier saw the two wandless girls in the grass and sent a curse their way, but a shield charm suddenly appeared in front of them and Remus bore down on him from the side, eyes burning with anger Lisa had never even thought him capable of before.
"This might be a bit inappropriate, but... power's kinda hot," Dorcas murmured in her ear, eyeing Sirius as he took down two at once by ramming them with a levitated third. Lisa's eyes fluttered to Remus, and watching him whip his wand through the air, she couldn't help but agree.
"We should try to get to our wands," Lisa replied, trying to scramble to her feet, but Dorcas pulled her back down.
"They have our wands. You can't just run into the middle of the fight like that!"
"So we just watch!?" Lisa snapped. Her hand brushed something cold and hard.
She looked down and saw a silver handle with a big red ruby sticking out of the bag on the ground. Both girls stared in amazement, as Lisa pulled out a long silver sword. What the Death Eaters put over her head wasn't a bag. It was the Sorting Hat.
The Death Eaters might have had the advantage in numbers, but unfortunately, many were threatened into joining or were flat out horrible duelists and cowards, so the Defenders managed to scatter them. When it was all done many were nursing injuries, but Alice was already going around and healing whomever she could. Lisa was still clutching the silver blade in her hand when Remus knelt down next to her and embraced her tightly.
"What were you thinking?" he whispered in what she thought was supposed to be a scolding, but it sounded suspiciously like relief.
"Here. I summoned them from Snape when James was dueling him," Emma Vance said, handing Dorcas and Lisa their wands.
"What the bloody hell is wrong with you!?" Sirius roared, as a small crowd gathered around them. "You couldn't have waited three seconds to coordinate with us?! Who just runs into an obvious trap like that?"
"Sirius," Remus said quietly.
"If you had told us what was going on, instead of running off like that—"
"Sirius! That's enough," Remus cut him off sharply. Sirius shut his mouth, but he wasn't happy about it.
"He's right," Lisa said quietly, looking at the ground. "I wasn't thinking. I was afraid and I jumped without looking. I'm so sorry..."
"Lisa!" James' voice interjected, as he was rushing towards her, carrying Lily in his arms. "We have an emergency here!"
"It's just a sprain, James!" Lily rolled her eyes. "And I can take care of it by myself, thank you very much!"
He more or less completely ignored her and placed her on the grass gently.
"Sorry James, I can only heal open wounds. I have no idea what to do with sprains," Lisa said apologetically, as James' face stretched into pure horror, prompting an eye roll from Sirius.
"I'll handle it," Remus chimed in calmly and pointed his wand at Lily's leg. "Ferula!"
Lily's injury was immediately wrapped up in a splint.
"Thanks a million, Moony!" James exclaimed gratefully, helping her up.
"Since when can you do that?" Lisa asked in a pleasant surprise, getting up as well.
"Since you said we'll need more than stunning spells to survive the war," he said with a slight smile.
"What is that?" Emma asked loudly, pointing to the sword in Lisa's hand.
"This is what they were after... I think," Lisa said, holding it up.
In the light of the many wands, she could finally inspect it more closely. She moved it gently to have a good look from all sides. There was an engraving beneath the hilt: Godric Gryffindor.
"Is that... the Sword of Gryffindor?" Frank said in awe, reaching out to touch the cold blade.
"They kept rambling on about there needing to be an act of courage to obtain it," Dorcas said. "That's why they asked you to turn yourself over. According to the legend, only a true Gryffindor can pull it out of the hat."
"But why did they want it?" Lily mused. "What use is a sword to a bunch of students? Seems like too much of a hassle just so they could sell it."
"Not that it would matter," Remus joined in. "As soon as another Gryffindor needs it, it will return to the hat. I think it was more likely they were ordered to find it. For Voldemort."
Some people on the clearing shuddered at the mention of the name.
"Alright then. What use would Voldemort have for a sword?" Sirius asked.
"Maybe... because it's magical?" Peter suggested.
Remus took the sword carefully and examined it closely. "Hmm... the only guess I can venture is because it was goblin-made. From what I've read about it, it absorbs that, which makes it stronger and is more or less indestructible. I seriously doubt Voldemort wants to wield it in battle, but perhaps he does want to make use of its magic somehow."
"All I know is that if he wants it, it can't be for anything good," James concluded. "What do we do with it?"
"It belongs to Lisa now." Remus shrugged, returning it to her. "She has to decide."
"What? What am I supposed to do with a sword?!" Lisa exclaimed.
"You can chop wood with it for all I care," Sirius said and shrugged indifferently. "As long as I can get back to the dorm and take a shower. Someone hit a Death Eater with a sodding Slug-Vomiting Charm and that tosser spilled five of them on me before I could stun him!"
There were approving murmurs all around and everyone headed back to the castle.