Chapter 20: Despair
The next morning was a Sunday so no one was up and about in the Slytherin Common Room. I woke early and walked down the dormitory stairs to meet the Slytherin Quidditch Team before they went out to practise – they were determined to defend their title next year and they thought: why not start training now?
‘Snape!’ I spun around at the sound of my name and saw Layla Perkins coming down from the girls’ dormitories. She fastened the silver belt around her emerald quidditch robes expertly as she took the stairs two at a time until she came to halt in front of me, her dark hair still swishing behind her. ‘Are they gone yet?’
But she answered her own question. She raced over to the rest of the team who were about to make their way out of the Common Room. ‘I’m so sorry, Flint!’ she panted in response to Johnny’s condescending stare. ‘I slept through my alarm!’
Flint didn’t answer, just beckoned for everyone to move out into the corridor.
A sudden thought occurred to me. ‘Hey!’ I felt myself go red as Flint slowly twisted to face me. When I didn’t say anything he made a face as if to say get on with it! ‘I wondered if maybe… I could… could bring a friend and come… come and watch you train today?’
He raised his eyebrows at me before turning to the rest of the team who stared back at him. Oh good god say something, please! Layla spoke up. ‘Why not, Flint? It wouldn’t do any harm!’
Flint spoke for the first time. ‘He’s a first year and he’ll bring his muggleborn friend,’ Flint growled.
‘Oh, come on!’ Layla whined. ‘Why do you have to be so obsessed with people’s blood status? I would have thought that you would be more worried she’s a Gryffindor –’
‘She’s a Gryffindor? No! Definitely not! She could spy and – and…’ Flint cast around for more things to say.
‘She’s a first year!’ Henry Jocker groaned.
Flint looked at the ground all around him as if searching for some other excuse until he finally raised his eyes to meet mine. He narrowed his eyes as if determining whether I was trustworthy enough and finally he nodded… once. Just once. One tiny little nod. I grinned at him. He didn’t smile back.
I ran past the team as they headed into the grounds and headed for the Gryffindor Common Room. I stopped outside and remembered that I couldn’t go in because I didn’t know the password.
‘Oh,’ I muttered.
Just as I had decided to go down to the pitch by myself, Kelly Clarkson, Lily’s little friend walked out.
‘Kelly!’ I exclaimed. The poor thing had been looking the other way back into the Common Room and got quite a scare. She jumped a foot in the air and spun to face me.
‘Oh! Snape! It’s just you! You scared me!’
‘Hi Kelly! You have no idea how happy I am to see you!’
She stared at me with narrow eyes like she was trying to work out a difficult puzzle. ‘Why?’ She asked slowly.
‘Could you go in and get Lily for me?’
‘Oh! Sure!’ Realisation broke across her face and she smiled before turning back towards the portrait hole.
‘Who are we getting Lily for?’ Lily stepped out of the portrait hole before Kelly had entered. When I looked shocked, she explained. ‘I overheard.’
‘Do you want to come watch the Slytherin Quidditch Team train with me this morning?’ I squinted, waiting for her to explode – but she didn’t.
‘Slytherin?’ Her face was unsure.
I paused and looked around. Kelly had disappeared. Yes. That’s an excellent question. Why Slytherin? How could I be so stupid? ‘I’m sorry I should have thought be for asking you… I –’
‘No I want to come!’
‘You do?’ I asked feeling dazed.
She nodded. ‘I’m just interested “Why Slytherin?”’ I stared at her. She stared back. She snorted slightly as she burst out laughing. ‘You don’t have to look so scared! Let’s just go!’
She linked her arm in mine and we set off through the castle and out into the grounds. The sun was out, and blue skies, rid of cloud, wove around the trees of the Forbidden Forest.
We reached the Quidditch Pitch and found ourselves a seat near the front of the stands. Flint, who had just walked out onto the pitch with his team, glanced our way and grimaced (his attempt at a smile in an awkward situation).
They kicked off from the found and soared into the air. I sighed as a warm, spring breeze ruffled my hair. Lily sighed as well.
‘Lily, how are you enjoying Gryffindor? I haven’t actually asked you that yet.’
‘It’s great! But it would be so much better if you were in it.’ She touched my leg with one finger and moved it away as she said, ‘Ooh look, Sev! They’re starting!’
Oblivious to the ‘moment’ I had felt went she touched my leg, she started to jokingly commentate the game.
When we stopped laughing she asked, ‘How are you enjoying Slytherin?’
‘Uh… it’s alright… I wish we were in the same House though.’
She wrinkled her nose. ‘Not Slytherin!’
‘It’s actually not that bad,’ I told her as I leaned forward against the railing and looked out over the stands.
‘It can’t be if you’re in it!’ Lily whispered.
‘Thanks’ I smiled and then I turned to her. ‘Let’s go get a better view!’
‘A better view?’
‘How can you have a better view than the front of the stands?’
I grabbed her hand and pulled her out of her seat and set off running out of the stands until we ended up back in the grounds.
‘We can’t even see what’s going on from here!’ Lily complained.
‘We’re not there yet!’ I explained joyfully.
I continued to pull her along until, finally, we reached a gap in the stands where we could watch from ground level.
‘Oh! I see now!’
It was a spectacular view. The colours blurred together until they created a painting above us; the silver and green was scraped and swirled over a blue canvas.
Lily sighed in a fanciful way. I turned towards her. ‘Worth the move?’
‘Definitely!’ She giggled, staring longingly at the colours above us.
‘Do you wish you were up there?
Lily sighed again. ‘No. But it would be spectacular to ride a broom!’
‘It would be.’
‘Wait… have you never ridden a broom?’
‘Neither have you!’ I grinned.
‘It’s different for someone who grew up in the wizarding world to have never ridden a broom before!’
‘Usually they give us flying lessons at the start of the year… I hadn’t really thought about it but… I wonder why we haven’t had any this year?’
‘You’re sure it’s for first years?’
‘Then…’ Lily hesitated. ‘It must be to do with You Know Who!’
‘Why not?’ Lily looked hurt.
‘I don’t know,’ I smiled.
She started to giggle and I laughed along with her.
As we watched and continued to joke around, Henry Goyle stopped in mid-air ready to hit a bludger. We stopped chuckling and watched as his ham-sized arm, bearing a club, swung towards the flying metal ball. Lily grabbed my arm as the bludger made a clunking sound against the bat and it was sent off in the opposite direction towards the other Slytherin beater, Senogerus Crabbe. Her warm hand against my cool arm sent a shiver through me that Lily registered but took as a sign of fear.
‘They make a loud sound don’t they?’ she asked, sympathetically.
‘No, no, not really.’ I tried to deny it but Lily just looked at me with wide, understanding brown eyes. Wait… BROWN eyes? They were emerald at the start of the year!
‘Don’t worry! They scared me too!’
For an instant I thought she was talking about her eyes but soon realised she was talking about the noise the bat made against the bludger. Something really strange was going on here.
I stared at Lily watching the game for a moment longer before I heard a whistling sound near my ear. I jumped aside just in time as a bludger flew past me and hit Lily square in the face. She flew backwards and slammed into a nearby tree. She slid down and slumped on the ground unconscious.
I felt terror seize my body and hold it in place; anguish tore through my heart and despair boiled up into my chest. A cry erupted from my lungs. It ripped through the stadium and echoed off the stands around me. It was the kind of cry you hear when a soul is being ripped from someone’s throat by an icy claw. It was the cry you hear when someone’s body is being crushed into the Earth’s core. It was the kind of blood curdling scream you hear when a heart is broken.
I ran as fast I could to Lily’s side and felt myself pale as I saw what state her once beautiful face was in. There was blood everywhere. Her skull was visible through the parted skin and her jaw was displaced. Her eyes were still wide open in the shocked expression she wore when it hit her.
‘No, no! Oh my god! Lily! Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!’ I screamed at her, shaking her shoulders, desperate to find any sign of life in her eyes but they remained blank. ‘Someone HELP!’ I screamed at the quidditch players still in mid-air on the pitch. ‘Someone please HELP me!’
I turned back to Lily. ‘Lily! Wake up! Wake UP! You’re fine! It’s just a scratch!’ She didn’t stir. ‘LILY! I’m begging you! Wake up! Wake up!’ I screeched. Agony spread through me like a fire and I leant over and hugged Lily around the waist sobbing. ‘No! Wake up! Lily! Wake up!’
A hand clamped onto my shoulder and hurled me off her. Flint bent over her as I kneeled, my face in my hands next to her. ‘She can’t be gone! She can’t be!’
Flint bent down and listened for a sign of a heartbeat. He sat back on his ankles looking up at the rest of the quidditch team. They looked at him questioningly. He shook his head slowly and turned to me. The blood drained from my face and into my stomach at the look on Flint’s face. The corners of his eyes were pricked with tears and his mouth was turned down in an agonized expression. He shook his head again slowly.
‘No! No!’ I screeched at them. My voice was starting to go but I was numb. I no longer felt anything but rage and the agony in my chest. I threw up all over the ground. I leapt to my feet and flung myself around to face the beaters. ‘Which one of you did it? Which one of you killed her?’ I bellowed.
They shook their heads quickly. I lunged at them, my hands fastening around someone’s neck. I soon found myself on top of that person, writhing around trying to maintain my grip, trying to avenge my one and only true friend. I no longer had control of my limbs and they worked without me, throwing punches every which way to prevent being pulled off the struggling body. I kicked and yelled but it was six on one. I was over powered and held to the ground. I saw someone fly off on a broom towards the castle, presumably to get help, but I knew, deep inside my heart, that it was too late, she was gone.
They held me there, sobbing and spluttering and yelling, until Layla returned with Madam Kendle, Professor McGonagall and Professor Dumbledore. They gasped when they saw Lily and Madam Kendle immediately knelt beside her, conjuring a stretcher from thin air and levitating Lily’s body onto the stretcher. I tried to get up but they had my arms pinned to the ground. ‘No! Let go of me! Let me go!’ I shrieked but they held me fast.
The teachers hurried up to the castle and disappeared behind the trees.
Their grips loosened and I shook myself free, jumping to my feet and running as fast as I could towards the castle. The grounds sloped upwards, my lungs screamed and my exhausted muscles begged for me to stop but I kept on running; I was driven on by thought of Lily’s lifeless body lying on a hospital wing bed. It can’t be true! It can’t be! But I knew it was.
Up through the castle I ran, never stopping to take a break. What had been a harmless trip to watch a training session had transformed into a life-threatening situation in the space of a few minutes. Despair coursed through me and I sobbed as I reached the hospital wing doors and raced inside just as Dumbledore was about to close them. He didn’t even attempt to stop me, but instead, closed them behind me.
I raced to Lily’s side grabbing her hand that had been so warm just minutes ago and was now as cold as ice. I let out a desperate moan as I knelt by her side, gazing at her once sweet and compassionate face. Her eyes stared blankly at the sterile white ceiling, unseeing.
Madam Kendle was running her wand over Lily’s head, muttering as she did so. Blood disappeared, her jaw reset itself and bandages trailed from the end of the wand around Lily’s head. Part of me wondered why they bothered if she was already gone but the other part of me was glad to see her looking like herself again.
‘Is she –’ I choked.
I wondered if she guessed wrongly what question I was going to ask because I still didn’t know if I still had my best friend. My question was answered as Madam Kendle continued.
‘She’s still alive. But only just.’
‘Oh thank heavens!’ Professor McGonagall gasped. ‘Can you save her?’
Hope flickered in my chest as relief flushed my face. She’s still alive! I held her hand tighter until Madam Kendle had finished bandaging her.
‘She has suffered a serious amount of brain damage having hurt her head already this year. She must remain here.’
‘You will be able to cure her won’t you?’ I asked, tears stinging my eyes.
‘I’ll be able to, certainly but it will take a long time.’
‘How long?’ I asked quickly, desperate for more information.
‘I don’t know exactly…’
I stared at Lily, as worried as ever before. What if she never recovers?
‘She’ll be okay, Severus,’ Dumbledore assured me, surveying me over the top of his half-moon spectacles. ‘She’s in good hands. It’s time for you to return to your house common room. The staff have reported what has happened to your fellow students but do not feel obliged to answer any questions about the event that you don’t feel comfortable answering. Don’t let them bother you. Class will return to normal tomorrow morning.’
With heart shattering effort I turned my back to Lily and started to walk to the door, every part of me wanting to turn back and run to her side but Albus Dumbledore was the Headmaster and his orders must be followed.
A sudden thought occurred to me. I stopped and turned around. ‘Professor?’
‘Before –’My voice cracked so I swallowed and paused. ‘Before Lily was – hit… Uh… Her eyes were brown instead of green.’
‘Brown.’ I sniffed and wiped my nose. ‘I just thought you’d be interested.’
‘I’ll look into it. Thank you Severus.’ Dumbedore’s brow was creased in concern as he turned back to Lily whose eyes were still dark brown.
I turned once again and walked out of the hospital wing. I took one last glance over my shoulder but Lily was hidden from view by the professors milling around her bedside, busying themselves with different tasks about her body. Through a gap I saw her foot twitch slightly and I turned my head away quickly and bit my fist to stop from crying out. A pain had seared my chest and ran through to my head. I leaned against the doors to the hospital wing to close them. My head throbbed with my heart and my legs were becoming weak.
From inside I heard the professors talking. ‘Albus, what about her schooling? Will she need to repeat her first year? She has spent so long in the hospital wing this year.’
‘I don’t know, Minerva. I don’t know.’
My hand clamped to my chest and breathing heavily, I shook my head. This couldn’t be happening. My vision went blank. The rest of the world was spinning and tilting but the only things that stayed the same and never wavered were the doors, cold and hard against my back, and the pains in my chest.
My vision returned as I heard voices coming from down the grand, marble staircase. I was lying on the floor of the corridor outside the hospital wing. I looked around and then scrambled to my feet.
Outside the windows, darkness pressed in ominously. Night time. The voices were coming from the Great Hall. Everyone must be at dinner.
I ran down the staircase and into the Great Hall. The sound of clinking cups and chinking cutlery against plates ceased as I entered. Every face turned to me and the whispering started. Eyes followed me as I made my way, numbly, to the Slytherin table.
Not even bothering to find my friends I sat at the end of the table and looked around at the food. Anything I could have wanted was there but I wasn’t hungry. I wanted to throw up and fall asleep and cry all at once. Some seventh year boys were next to me and I listened in on their conversation, glad for the escape from my life and into theirs.
‘I’m serious just ask her out, man,’ the blonde one told the darker haired boy.
‘I can’t! Every time I get close to her she just pushes me away!’
I rolled my eyes and turned back to the feast in front of me. No. Still not hungry.
‘Oh hi, Snape.’ The blonde boy noticed me for the first time.
‘How do you know my name?’ I asked without looking up. I wasn’t interested in talking.
‘You’ve had a rough year! Everyone in Slytherin knows your name!’ Joel, the dark haired boy exclaimed.
I nodded once to show my acknowledgement.
‘Are you going to eat, man?’ The blonde boy asked.
‘You’ve got to eat something!’ Joel exlcmaimed.
‘No I really don’t.’ I said in a monotone.
‘You’ll starve!’ The blonde said incredulously.
They shook their heads in wonderment.
‘My name’s Fabian Goff by the way. And this is Joel Haeden.’
I nodded again.
‘You’re quiet. So how’s your little friend feeling?’ Fabian asked in an upbeat tone.
I clenched my jaw but didn’t answer.
‘I’m sure she’s going to be fine,’ Joel said encouragingly.
I fixed him with my most threatening stare. ‘I’m going to bed!” I said forcefully, feeling sick of human contact.
‘You really should eat something!’ One of them called as I stormed out of the Great Hall. The yell drew attention to me once again but I didn’t look back. I just kept on walking as fast as I could until I reached the dormitory. I jumped onto my bed and lay face down.
Why Lily? Why? What did she ever do wrong? I sobbed and yelled into my pillow until my throat was raw. It’s not fair! I yelled in my head. Please help her recover! Please! I’ll do anything! I cried loudly. Plea-ea-ea-ease! I sobbed.