Lily Evans’ mouth fell open when she saw his wand. Hadn’t they
agreed on a strict no-wands policy? He had given his word, albeit unwillingly
and with a cheeky grin and a “Come now, Evans, you know you can trust me,” but
it had been his word nevertheless.
And yet, she should’ve known better. This was what she got for trusting the
word of a Marauder.
James Potter, with his head cocked and grin smug, had his wand trained on Rudolphus Lestrange, acting for all the world like a knight in shining armor. “Last chance now, Lestrange.”
Rudolphus sneered, his lip curling disdainfully. “You wouldn’t dare, Potter.”
Those were apparently the wrong words to say.
James’ hand moved in a quick flick. “ExpelliarmusI”
And that was the last Rudolphus ever saw of his wand. The Great Hall watched, enraptured, as James caught the wand in midair. He held both ends of the wood and struck it against his thigh, snapping it in half in one swift move.
Despite the din in the Great Hall, the crack was loud enough for all to hear. James tossed the now-useless weapon at Rudolphus’ feet and held out both his hands, palms up, and said, “Oops.”
Rudolphus let out a distinctly animalistic snarl.
Lily could feel a migraine starting and pressed her fingers to her temples. How had things gotten so out of hand?
The night had started out wonderfully. The Heads had organized a grand party in the Great Hall, designed to celebrate the end of another year before students went home for the winter holidays. The food was abundant, the drinks were flowing, and the fun and games had only just begun. And James had single-handedly ruined everything… all for the sake of pride.
This party hadn’t come easily. The prefects had worked long and
hard to persuade their respective Head of Houses to let the festivities happen.
After weeks of badgering, pleading, convincing, and even bribery on James’
part, the professors had reluctantly agreed. There was only one condition: no
And Lily, as foolish as she was, had actually believed the students would pull through. And yet here he was, James Potter, Gryffindor prefect, breaking the one—and only—rule of the night himself. His friends were nowhere in sight, though Lily assumed they were off in their own paradise, guzzling butterbeer and playing Exploding Snap. They probably hadn’t even noticed James had disappeared.
And now Rudolphus looked like he was about to physically throw himself at James. “How dare you, Potter? You had no right—”
“On the contrary, I had every right,” he responded. “You chose your words unwisely, Lestrange, and now you’re facing the consequences.”
Rudolphus’ eyes narrowed on Lily, and she stiffened. If she were to be truly fair, she admitted that James hadn’t been the one to start the fight. It had been her hour to patrol the perimeter of the Great Hall, and she had caught Rudolphus flicking his wand at a group of jumpy Hufflepuff First Years and had told him off. And that had, of course, led to the unfortunate name-calling.
It should’ve enraged her, and it did, but the one leaping up in
full-born fury was James.
And yet despite all this, the more logical side of Lily was against any form of rule-breaking, especially if it was one that would get them all in serious trouble.
“You’re so self-righteous, Potter,” Rudolphus snapped. “Do you enjoy playing the white knight? Is that it? Or is your Mudblood girlfriend too pathetic to defend herself?”
“James, no!” Lily grabbed his arm and pulled him back roughly. “Don’t listen to him.”
“Did you hear him, Lily?” he spat. His hazel eyes were wide and furious. “Did you hear the bastard?”
She gritted her teeth against the strain of keeping him restrained. “Of course I heard him, but you don’t see me lunging at him.” She panted and shoved James back further. “You’re being irrational!”
James diverted his attention to her for a moment, but that was all the time Rudolphus needed. He swung his fist, catching James in the jaw, sending both him and Lily stumbling back from the blow. She gasped and barely caught her footing, but even as she looked up, Rudolphus was there again, sinking another right-hook into James’ face.
And that was when James finally exploded. “I’ve had it with you, Lestrange! Lily, let go of me!”
Nothing could’ve prepared Rudolphus for what happened next. James pulled free and his next spell sent Rudolphus sailing through the air. He slammed against the wall with a resounding crunch and stilled.
Lily’s mouth opened. “James! What the hell was that?”
He shrugged. “The bastard had it coming.”
“You attacked another student!”
“He attacked me first. Besides, he deserved it.”
Lily was still struggling to find the appropriate words to express her ire, but movement to the left caught her eye. The Slytherins had all banded together where Rudolphus lay unconscious, and if the expressions on their faces were anything to go by, they were mutinous. By attacking one of theirs, James had offended them all.
“That was a bad move, Potter,” Amyctus Carrow said. His wand-arm was resting idly by his side, but Lily noticed the slight shift in his footing as he spoke. He was bracing to attack.
James had evidently caught on as well. “Careful now, Carrow. Don’t do anything you’ll regret.”
James spun to the right, letting the spell whiz past him and into the nearby table, sending wood splinters flying. “Reducto!” he cried.
Amyctus snarled when the spell grazed his arm, and his momentary pause gave James the opening he needed. “And… Scourgify!”
The spell sent Amyctus to the ground, choking on the frothing bubbles in his mouth. A handful of students who had previously been victimized by Slytherins burst into laughter at the sight, but Lily was not amused. She glared at James, but his attention was on Amyctus’ writhing figure on the ground.
He enjoyed this, she realized with a sudden cold wave of clarity. This wasn’t just a gallant knight in shining armor act on his part. He believed in blood equality, but the other part of him—the bigger part—thrived from the joy of humiliating others.
James must’ve felt her eyes on him because he looked up and
grinned, his eyes bright behind his glasses. “So Lily, what do you think? Too
bad this isn’t Snivellus, huh? It’d
be loads more fun otherwise.”
She couldn’t, for the life of her, find the words she wanted to say at that moment. She was so furious that she swore she was frothing at the mouth. And what was worse? No one was stepping up to stop it, even though all the prefects were watching the scene with rapt attention. It was then that Lily got the memo. No one would step out to stop James Potter, even if they knew he was in the wrong. No one would dare.
Well, if they wouldn’t then she would. Lily pointed her wand at Amyctus, who was still on the floor, now wheezing from the lack of air. “Finite Incantatem.”
James blinked. “What—”
“Don’t talk to me, Potter.”
He stared at her. “Are you… are you angry?”
“What do you think?” she snapped, and then slapped his shoulder with her open palm. “For Merlin’s sake, Potter! Are you ever going to grow up? You can’t just attack another student and expect to get away with it.”
Now he looked nonplussed, but there was a small furrow in his brows that suggested his growing ire. “I don’t understand. I was doing it for you.”
“You were doing it for yourself! You and your—”
Lily blanched, her words freezing in her throat. The past four and a half years had cemented that voice in her mind, and there was no mistaking the fury in those clipped words. If one could strangle a word, McGonagall had just done it with James’ name.
She strode up to them, her green robes billowing out behind her. Lily did a double take when she saw Dorcas Meadowes following in their professor heels, and she widened her eyes in silent inquiry at her friend. Dorcas merely shrugged.
“Was this your doing, Mr. Potter?” McGonagall demanded. “Using magic? Brawling in the Great Hall?”
Lily had expected James to deny it vehemently, but much to her surprise, his jaw tightened. “Yes.”
The rest of the Marauders arrived en masse. Sirius Black and Remus Lupin squeezed through the crowd till they were standing on either side of James. Peter Pettigrew wormed his way out last and took his position next to Remus so that the four were almost in a straight line.
McGonagall’s lips were compressed into a thin tight line. “Come with me, both of you.”
Lily blew out a breath and let the door to McGonagall’s office swing shut behind her. It was officially an hour and fifteen minutes after they had been dragged to her office, and Lily was relatively certain her ears were about to fall off from the reprimanding.
There weren’t many students in the corridor, given that the party
was still in session, but Lily spotted four figures a little further down the
hallway, deep in conversation. Not feeling particularly up to a confrontation,
Lily hurried along in hopes that she could speed by without being noticed.
Lady Luck was not on her side that night.
Their chatter subsided into an unnerving silence the moment she passed. She unconsciously slowed her steps, but it was Sirius’ obnoxious words that brought her passing to a halt.
“Hey look mates, it’s the swot,” he called.
“Oh come now, Padfoot. It’s just Evans,” Peter tittered, though it was clear from the spark in his eyes that this was all just part of a drawn-out play. And she was the puppet.
Sirius’ smile was derisive. “Like I said. The swot.”
Lily turned on them, and her hands balled into fists. She understood, and even appreciated to a certain degree, the anger James’ friends felt on his behalf. But the way they were acting was downright insulting and humiliatingly immature. And at the same time, a small part of her felt it was greatly unjustified. Despite what James honestly believed, she hadn’t been the one to call McGonagall on him.
Her eyes narrowed. “Yes, Black?”
“Feeling good about yourself, I gather?”
“As good as I can possibly feel considering whom I’m speaking to.”
He threw his head back and laughed. “Come now, mates, you see this? Oh hear the bitch roar.”
Lily thought she saw red. She could face down the Marauders… she had done it so many times, in fact. But to have Sirius talk to her as if she were nothing but the vermin under his feet was a whole different story. The Marauders prided themselves on being progressive, but the way they were acting now was no better than those purebloods who considered themselves superior to Mudbloods.
She sucked in a deep breath and forced herself to ignore Sirius’ taunt. She would not stoop to his level of immaturity. Instead, she turned to James, who had remained silent thus far.
“Are you going to let Black do the talking for you?” she asked.
James shrugged. “If you haven’t noticed, he likes talking. Why not?”
“Look, I understand why you’re upset about the situation. But if you have something to say to me, you should say it to my face.”
His smile was razor sharp. “I have nothing to say to you, Evans. Frankly, I wouldn’t dare, seeing as you’d go running to McGonagall with every single move I make and every damn word I say. I should be flattered, really, that you have this particular obsession with me, but it’s highly cumbersome and very… how do I say it?” He paused as his eyes slowly roamed her body. “Ah yes. Unattractive.”
Lily felt her nails bite into the palms of her hands as she struggled to keep her voice steady. “So you’re mad. Fine, I get that, but I refuse to be your punching bag. I’m sorry about what happened with your badge, but—”
“You’re sorry?” he
asked, cutting her off. “How can you possibly be sorry when the fault lies with
Her eyes widened
incredulously. “My fault? It wasn’t myfault you decided to use
magic. It wasn’t my fault you chose to participate in a brawl. And it wasn’t my bloody fault that you had your
prefect badge removed.”
“I was defending you!” he shouted, and this time, Lily could visibly see the pent-up rage in his eyes. “Lestrange is a bloody bastard and he got what he deserved. I find it comical that you’re standing here lecturing me on my behavior when he was the one who called you that bloody word!”
“He didn’t break the rules!” she cried defensively. “And don’t feed me that rubbish about how it was all for me. You did it for yourself!”
Next to them, Sirius rolled his eyes and muttered, “There she goes again,” but she was too incensed to pay real attention to him. Her chest was heaving from her anger and she could feel a subtle burning in her eyes.
“You know what your problem is?” James finally asked. He leaned forward so that their faces were scant inches away from each other. His eyes were so dark that they appeared almost black in the dimness of the hallway. “You can’t step out of your little bubble, your world governed by rules, laws, regulations! Everything has to go a certain way. Everyone has to follow the guidelines that you set for them.”
Lily tilted her chin up. “I see nothing wrong with following the rules.”
“Well that just makes you ungrateful and narrow-minded then.”
“Ungrateful?” she spat, shocking even herself with how shrill her voice was. “I did not ask for you to play bloody knight in shining armor. And I certainly didn’t need to go running to McGonagall to prove your incompetence!”
James lifted a hand so abruptly that she thought he was going to slap her, but he reached out and grabbed the back of her neck, pulling her closer. Their lips were nearly touching when he spoke, but even the quietness of his tone didn’t hide the crack in his voice.
“Sometimes, Evans, I really want to hit you,” he whispered, and Lily took in a breath when she saw the feral gleam in his eyes. “If there was anything to be said about either of us, at least I am man enough to stick up for myself and the things I care about.”
Lily’s mind was frozen in shock as she registered his words. How dare he insinuate that she was a coward? He had no right to…
“Get away from her, Potter!”
And then hands were prying his arm away from her, and Lily suddenly felt herself surrounded by warmth. Marlene McKinnon was standing next to her, an arm around her shoulders protectively, but Dorcas was the one who had spoken.
“Oh. It’s you,” James said flatly.
“If I ever see you lay a hand on her again, I will personally guarantee you will no longer have functional limbs,” she threatened. “Are we clear?”
His eyes narrowed at the threat, and he slowly straightened from where he was leaning against the wall. It was a battle of sheer willpower, and if this were anyone else, Lily would’ve been worried. But Dorcas Meadowes was known for her aloofness and her sharp tongue, and if anyone were a match for the Marauders, she would’ve been it.
Finally, James broke eye contact and cocked his head slightly in Sirius’ direction. “Hey Padfoot, did you say something?”
Sirius’ eyes widened and he shifted his shoulders in an overly dramatic shrug. “Not me. It was probably just the wind.”
“It actually sounded like mad barking to me,” Peter commented.
“Ah, so it is!” Sirius cried, and then nodded in Dorcas’ direction. “Keep this one on a leash, Evans. You never know when…”
“And I think I’ve heard enough useless drivel for the night,” Dorcas cut in and turned away, dismissing Sirius with a quick flick of her fingers. “Good riddance. I could swear I was growing dumber by the minute, listening to that. You ready to go, Lily?”
Next to her, Marlene barely stifled a giggle behind her fingers, but that was enough to improve Lily’s mood. She nodded and gave Dorcas a small, grateful smile, to which the girl returned with a grin and a shrug and proceeded down the hall.
Lily heard Sirius shout expletives from behind them, but either he didn’t deem it worthy to go after them or he was prevented from doing so, but they safely turned the corner and then were out of sight. Since none of them were in the mood to return to the Great Hall, they headed back to Gryffindor Tower instead and situated themselves in the empty common room, whereupon Lily gave Dorcas and Marlene a run-through of what had happened in McGonagall’s office.
“That’s rubbish,” Dorcas finally said, after Lily mentioned that James had accused her of tattling to McGonagall. “McGonagall was already coming in to check on the students when the fight went down. I just led her to the source, although honestly, Potter was making such a huge spectacle that you would’ve had to be blind to not see it.”
Lily shrugged, feeling immeasurably tired now. “It’s fine, really. No loss on my part. It won’t change the outcome anyway.”
Marlene was resting her head on a cushion, but she frowned. “So his prefect badge was really taken away? Who’s McGonagall’s next choice?”
“Probably Lupin. Aside from being a Marauder, he has a pretty clean slate.”
“Understandable,” Dorcas said, and then she reached forward and rested a hand on Lily’s knee. “Are you going to be okay?”
She sighed and offered a small smile. “I’ll be fine. The year is half over and I think I’ll get along with Lupin fairly well. As long as I don’t have to work with Potter again, I’ll be grateful.”