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Chapter NineteenMercy

James sat next to Sirius, measuring out the ingredients for the Amortentia potion Slughorn had assigned them. Valentine’s day, as well as Hogsmede weekend, were tomorrow, and Slughorn, always a festive person, could not resist the opportunity to send his students wild with passion, though he warned that not a single drop was to leave the classroom.

“Four Ashwinder eggs, Sirius,” James instructed, indicating towards the softly bubbling cauldron. Sirius did not move.

He sat with his hands in his lap, staring blankly at his set of scales and clearly not hearing James’ order.

“Sirius?” James repeated. “You’ve got to put the eggs in, mate; they have to be frozen when they’re added in.” Still Sirius didn’t respond at all.

James sighed and slapped his friend across the back of his head forcefully.

“What the bloody—“ Sirius exclaimed, rubbing his head.

“Stop thinking about Corinne, would you?” James commanded.

“I was not just thinking about Corinne!”

“Padfoot. You broke up with her, and it’s been weeks since then. For Merlin’s sakes, have an ego!”

“But did—“

“Yes, yes, you’ve apologized sufficiently for acting like a total prick to everyone and trying to ruin my relationship, for the millionth time. All right? Ashwinder eggs!”

“Sorry.”

Lily and Peter were working in the row in front of them; or rather, Lily was perfectly executing the potion while Peter weighed and reweighed extra ingredients in an attempt to look busy. When Slughorn stopped at their table, he giggled with glee and clapped his hands like a little girl about to eat an ice cream.

“My, my,” he gushed, “Just about done, are we? Top-notch teamwork, I’ll say. I don’t remember the last time I saw such a perfectly crafted Amortentia by a student! Class, would you look at the way Miss Evans and Mister Pettigrew’s potion steams in such perfect spirals? No doubt many of you can feel it’s effects, hm?” Slughorn giggled again, reiterated his praise, and moved onto a Slytherin table on the other side of the room.

Lily turned around in her chair and eyed James. His eyes were half-closed, and he smiled as the scent of the potion reached him. Then, as if coming to some kind of realization, his lids lifted and his grin grew mischievous, focusing onto Lily.

She blushed slightly. “You smell it, do you?” James nodded. “And?”

“Cinnamon,” he slurred, “and…coconut, I think.” He inhaled deeply through his nose. “It’s what you smell like.”

Lily’s blush intensified, and she quickly turned back around to hide it before anyone could notice. But it was too late, because she could already hear Sirius’ snickering growing louder behind her. Then there was a heavy thwack of skin against robes, and the snickering turned into a painful groan.

Which was followed by an all-too-familiar clearing of the throat and reproachful voice, saying, “Mister Potter, Mister Black, ten points from Gryffindor for an atrocious lack of maturity.”

“Are you being serious?” Sirius cried out in protest.

“Mister Black, if you’d calm down.” Slughorn commanded.

“No! That’s total bollocks! You’re only nicking our points because your house isn’t good enough at quidditch to get any! What kind of corrupt system is this you’re running?” Sirius retorted, standing up and sparking some angry murmurs from the other side of the room.

“Pardon me, Mister—“

“Honestly! Since when has a little tap on the arm constituted ten points? You’re completely—“

“Black! Potter!” Slughorn snarled. “We’ll discuss this in my office this evening.”

“What the bloody hell did I do?” James joined in.

“Don’t tempt me,” Slughorn warned, wagging a sausage-like finger in their direction.

“Please, sir,” Lily interrupted, calmly raising her hand.

“Yes, Miss Evans.”

“It doesn’t seem just to penalize them so harshly for such a small outburst; I daresay you must’ve been overcome with emotion like themselves when you were as young and testosterone-driven as they?”

“Well, that may have been, but—“

“But they just channel their feelings differently, Professor. I don’t believe it should be a means for punishment, in any case.”

“That does not—“

“Sir, would you punish me for such behavior?” Lily asked, maintaining her sweetness and composure.

“Why would I—“

“Exactly. But unless you’d like to discuss this further with the Headmaster, Head Boy, and myself, do you agree there’s not a problem?”

“Yes, yes, fine,” Slughorn conceded with a small chuckle. “You’re a manipulative little thing, Miss Evans. I do hope you use it only for good.”

“When it’s most convenient, Professor,” she replied forthrightly, eliciting another chortle from her teacher.

Upon leaving the class, Lily felt an arm slip around her waist, and looked back to see James smiling brightly at her.

“Lily, have I ever mentioned you’re my hero?” he asked.

“No,” she teased, “but it’s about time.”

As they walked onwards with Sirius, Peter, and Remus towards Gryffindor tower to relax before quidditch practice started, Lily noticed some passing students stare. They’d look her up and down dubiously until they passed, at which point they’d turn to each other and whisper, just loud enough so that Lily could catch the words ‘fling’, ‘Head’s loos’, and once, even ‘six different boys in one night’.

Whatever these rumors said, they didn’t bother Lily all that much, because she knew there was no factual basis. What did bother her, however, was the fact that a month after the news of her relationship got out, it hadn’t died down.

“What do you suppose these girls find so interesting?” Lily wondered aloud.

“Truthfully,” Sirius provided, “they’re jealous of you. No offense to Remus, but James was the most eligible bachelor of all one hundred and forty boys in the school, until you came along and snagged him.”

“What about me?” Peter challenged.

“What? Aren’t you still with, er, Bernini?” Sirius asked.

Berdina,” Peter corrected. “And no, I had to end that ages ago. Where have you been?”

“Wallowing in his own self-pity for breaking up with Corinne,” Remus suggested, receiving a somewhat violent shove from Sirius in reply.

“Moony, stop,” James teased. “That’s a very sensitive subject for Sirius here; he only just stopped crying himself to sleep!”

“Oh, I really don’t think we want to get onto the topic of sleep…” Sirius forewarned.

“Padfoot, don’t you dare—“ Remus cautioned.

“Our mate Prongsie here has been having some interesting dreams lately,” Sirius informed Lily. “Or should I say nightmares?” James face reddened, and Peter snickered.

“Don’t be so cruel!” Remus butted in.

“What?” Lily inquired, looking from Sirius to James. “What’s he dreaming about?”

“We’re not sure exactly what—“ Peter said.

“But a few nights ago he drove the whole dormitory up the wall yelling ‘Minerva! Oh, Minerva, my sweet! Come back to me!’” Sirius finished, leaving even Remus in fits.

Lily playfully hit James on the arm. “How could you even think of cheating on me in your sleep? I’ll never be able to trust you again!”

“Great, thanks for that, Padfoot.” James replied sardonically.

“Anytime.”


It was five in the evening, and light snow was falling discontinuously over the quidditch pitch. Lily had already finished her homework for the rest of the weekend, and since Alice was clearly busy with Frank in the corner of the common room, she decided to go watch the Gryffindor quidditch practice, as Remus and Peter were.

She put on her scarf and made her way down seven flights of stairs until she reached the grounds. Currently, no snow was falling, and it was pleasantly crisp in the quiet courtyards, the soft wind and crunch of her shoes on the thin layer of white echoing in her ears. Up in the distance she could see the quidditch pitch, with the hoops contrasting against the sky and the tiny figures moving about between them. They looked like birds, gracefully swooping up and down, side to side, just barely dodging each other.

Suddenly, Lily collided with a force that was barreling around the corner like a racehorse speeds through a turn. She reeled backwards, barely able to keep her balance, before the figure came into focus. It was a big, tall, wide thing with a mop of bowl-cut blonde hair, sneering bitterly in her face.

“Miss Evans,” it said.

“Mister Rosier,” Lily replied disdainfully.

“Fancy seeing you here.”

“I could say the same.”

Lily, not at all interested in a confrontation with a suspected Death Eater, tried to walk on past him with a polite smile. But she was hindered by his great, thick hand pushing back on her chest, rendering her getaway extremely difficult.

“Listen, mudblood,” Rosier said, glaring at her with beady black eyes, his hand snaking upwards to her neck, “I don’t know where you get off with trying to send me to Azkaban, but did you really think you could just get away with it like that?”

“I only turned in the wand, I didn’t know it was—“ Lily stammered.

“I don’t give a rat’s ass what you didn’t know, all right? Any dirty-blooded fool who’s willing to throw my Lord to the dementors doesn’t deserve mercy,” Rosier hissed, his sharp fingernails now digging red grooves into her neck.

Taking caution to keep her hand concealed, Lily felt for her wand in her pocket. Slowly she removed it, keeping her eyes on his to distract him from her movements. The tip of the wand was nearly exposed and in position to disarm, when Rosier glanced downwards.

Expelliarmus!” he cried, sending Lily’s wand shooting from her grip to rest some fifteen feet behind her. A sudden adrenaline rush pulsed through her, and she grabbed hold of Rosier’s hand, prying it from her neck, before diving towards her wand, her only hope. But Rosier was too quick.

Accio wand!” Lily’s wand escaped her, whizzing back to Rosier like a paperclip drawn to a magnet.

Her heart was beating in her hands, her ears, her eyes; the panic was suffocating her. It was fight or flight, and her defenses were obliterated, which left Lily with one choice: Run.

She took off at a sprint to rival that of a lion, the wind whistling loudly past her, drowning out any other noise. But she could still hear his voice crying out, the words bitter and clear as day.

Crucio!

A long millisecond passed, and Lily wondered fleetingly, anxiously, if the curse had missed her. Please, she thought, just a few inches off is all I need…

And then the knives came. They ripped through her flesh and sawed mercilessly through her muscles. They scraped along her bones, making her fall writhing to the ground, crying out louder than she’d ever known how. It consumed her so completely that the only thing she could think or see was the excruciating white pain, ringing in her ears and enveloping her whole body in a blanket of fire hotter than the surface of the sun.

The torture came to a sudden stop, and the pain subsided until it was only a throbbing ache all over. Her vision was hazy, but she saw a dark figure walk in front of her, and heard her wand being dropped in the snow. Then she heard the figure’s quick, heavy footsteps grow softer, and everything fell away into a quiet, tired, spinning black.

When Lily awoke, the sky was purple-gray, and the snow was gently falling once more. With great effort she hoisted herself up onto her knees, then her feet, feeling the soreness wash over her when she finally stood up straight.

Slowly, painfully, Lily walked. Out from the dark, lonely cold and into the deep, warm castle, the Great Hall buzzing with the sounds of hungry students filling up for tomorrow’s visit to Hogsmede. She climbed the stairs, all seven of them, holding onto the banisters as if they were friends. Her legs resented every step, but she continued on, until at last she reached the gargoyle statue. She gave the password and followed the spiral staircase up to the Headmaster’s office where a kind, wrinkly old man was currently sitting and reading.

“Lily! What brings you here? My apologies for not coming to dinner, I had a guest from the ministry…is everything all right?” Dumbledore said, looking up from his gargantuan book.

“Sir, I’ve come to report a student for use of an Unforgiveable.” Lily informed him in a professional manner.

Dumbledore put his book on the desk and hiked his glasses up on his nose, eyes wide. “Are you sure? Do you have any other information?”

“Well, yes,” Lily began. “It was Evan Rosier, and the Cruciatus Curse—“

“And the recipient?”

“I was, sir. I ran into him in the courtyards near the quidditch pitch, and he was upset that—“

“Merlin! Are you all right, Lily?” Dumbledore asked sincerely.

“I’m fine, just a bit tired and that. As I was saying, he started to get very angry about my, er, turning him in back in November, and when I tried to get away he disarmed me, summoned my wand, and then cast the spell.”

“Well, as I’m sure you’re aware, the consequences for use of the Unforgiveable Curses are horrific, so I hope you’re certain about this. In any case, I’ll have Mister Rosier brought up right now to discuss it. If you’d give me a moment, please.” Dumbledore stood up and walked off into a separate room, returning a minute or so later and informing Lily that Evan should be coming up shortly.

In the meantime, hospitable person that Dumbledore was, he conjured up a meal of roast steak and potatoes with a glass of pumpkin juice for Lily. She eagerly scarfed the food down, barely taking time to breathe between bites, and finished the juice all before Rosier arrived.

“Mister Rosier, please sit down,” Dumbledore invited when Evan finally showed up.

He moved the second seat available as far away from Lily as possible and sat down, folding his hands attentively.

“Miss Evans here says that you cast the Cruciatus Curse on her this afternoon, is that correct?” Dumbledore asked.

“What? The Cruciatus? Why would I ever do something like that?” Rosier replied, casting a sideways glance at Lily. “I don’t know what Evans here is thinking—I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s just making the whole thing up!”

“Well, I do trust Lily, Mister Rosier. But that’s not what matters here, it’s the proof.”

“The proof?” Evan said, holding out his wand. “Go ahead sir, check my wand. I swear I haven’t used it for anything since classes this afternoon…Transfiguration, I think it was.”

Dumbledore accepted Rosier’s wand and took out his own. “Priori Incantato,” he murmured, causing the other wand to emit a ghost-like representation of a tree branch turning into a squirrel.

“That’s what we learned today, sir,” Rosier informed him, an innocent grin on his face.

Dumbledore nodded and asked for Lily’s wand. She handed it over, and he performed the same spell on hers. But this time, the image that came up was a picture of a circle of red, jagged light with white sparks. Dumbledore looked up and glanced at both students.

“That shows the Cruciatus Curse,” he informed them. “But it’s curious as to why it would turn up on Lily’s wand.”

“It’s curious?” Rosier challenged. “It’s so incredibly obvious! Lily doesn’t like me, so she decided to cast the Cruciatus on something and make it look like I’d done it! Personally, I think it’s rather low of her.”

“He might’ve used my wand!” Lily theorized. “He took it from me, and I bet he used mine instead of his own to hide the evidence!”

“That might be true—“ Dumbledore began.

“Sir, she’s trying to frame me! Can’t you trust that I’ve done nothing? This is unfair!” Rosier spoke out, slamming a fist on the desk for emphasis.

“Sadly, Mister Rosier, Miss Evans is Head Girl, which does make me trust her a great deal in matters of justice, and you, on the other hand, have been repeatedly accused of assault, and just recently were let back in the school, on a probation system. I do not doubt that Miss Evans was victim to the Cruciatus Curse, though at the end of the day it’s the Wizengamot’s decision. But it’s enough for me to know that you have become a threat to the safety of the students at Hogwarts, and I am almost certain that expulsion is the right solution.”

“That’s a load of rubbish! She framed me, sir! A few minor accusations and then yet another false one shouldn’t add up to kicking me out of Hogwarts!” Rosier cried.

“Please, Mister Rosier. If you would calm down, I’m going to bring in the head of your house, and we can all discuss this. Just one moment.”

Dumbledore once again disappeared, most likely finding a portrait that could convey the message to Slughorn and bring him up to his office. It wouldn’t take long, but Lily felt every second spent alone with Evan Rosier was ten times as long, and overflowing with tension. She looked around the room, trying to soothe her mind by observing the many precious little toys in the glass display cases that covered the walls. But she could hear his heavy, angry breathing, as if he might explode at any given moment; and knowing that, she could not be calm.

The headmaster returned, his lips in a straight, expressionless line, and informed the two students that Slughorn was on his way up. In the interim, he talked with Rosier about the possible dire consequences he might face when the ministry got involved.

Slughorn entered the office with his face flushed red from climbing the stairs. He looked disapprovingly at Rosier, and greeted Lily with a wan smile. It took only a few short words between Dumbledore and Slughorn before they finalized their decision to expel Rosier. At first it seemed as if the boy was dealing with the news well, but then, just as Lily feared, he exploded.

He stood up, fingering one of the bejeweled glass paperweights on Dumbledore’s desk, and then, his face contorted with fury, threw it forcefully to the floor, reducing it to sharp, shining little shards. “THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT, EVANS! You bastard mudbloods are useless, the lot of you! I only wish I’d—“ Rosier stopped himself abruptly, no doubt realizing his testimony at the ministry would go down the drain if he said another word.

“If you’d please leave, Mister Rosier. You’ll need to pack up your belongings, and Professor Slughorn will be down at the Slytherin common room shortly to further discuss the meaning of your expulsion, and to help you off to Hogsmede Station,” Dumbledore calmly requested. Rosier left in a huff, making a rude hand gesture just before disappearing down the staircase. “And Lily, I hate to be the horseradish-flavored Bertie Bott’s bean to top off a rather unfortunate Friday the thirteenth, but I’m going to have to take your wand as evidence for Evan’s trial. I hope this doesn’t put too much of a damper on your Hogsmede trip, but surely your friends will be helpful, won’t they?”

“I’m sure they will be, thank you,” Lily replied.

“Don’t you worry about her, Albus,” Slughorn interrupted, sniggering. “She’s got quite the group of boy toys tagging along with her lately! Why, just today she persuaded me to not give a few of her beaus, Misters Potter and Black, a detention!”

“Erm, that’s not really true,” Lily defended, turning slightly red.

Dumbledore chuckled. “Well, true or not, I’d advise you to be careful with those boys. Especially Mister Potter. He may be handsome, but he’s trouble if I’ve ever seen it.” Dumbledore gave her a knowing wink.

“Yes, sir, thank you.” Lily replied, the blush creeping through her cheeks. She quickly turned around, gave her thanks once more, and disappeared down the stairs.

Lily was exhausted by the end of her walk back to Gryffindor tower. It wasn’t far to go, but she still felt a dull but strong ache all over her body, which made walking one thousand feet feel like finishing a marathon.

Her mood lifted tenfold when she saw James lounging in the common room with his friends, smiling up at her as she entered. Slowly she made her way over to the couch, every step still exhausting, and collapsed against James. His warmth was soothing, as was the way he kissed her forehead and put a protective arm around her.

“Where’ve you been all this time?” he asked. “I was starting to think someone kidnapped you in the library or something.”

“It’s a very long story,” Lily replied, and proceeded to recount the whole thing. The boys were all appalled by Rosier’s actions, but none more than James, who was absolutely distraught, and blamed himself for being at quidditch and not being around to kick Rosier’s ass into the next week. Their feelings of anger were for the most part alleviated, however, when Lily added that Rosier was expelled and facing a possible sentence of life in Azkaban. Lily told them about her wand being held as evidence, but decided against telling them what Slughorn and Dumbledore were rambling on about before she left, for fear they might try to play it up somehow.

Not too long after she had finished telling her story, Lily dozed off, her head resting in the crook of James’ neck. A tiny bit of drool escaped from her mouth, which oddly enticed him, because it was so unladylike, yet so adorable. He turned his head to see her better, but in doing so shifted her weight, throwing her off-balance and causing her to wake up.

“Lily,” James said softly, “you should go up to bed; you’re exhausted.”

“Ungh, no. I don’t want to walk all the way up there.” Lily replied sleepily.

“Well, I can’t carry you up there, it turns into a slide. And believe me, I’ve tried it.”

“You can carry me up to your room, can’t you?” she teased, smiling coyly.

“Technically, yes, but are you sure you want to do that?” James faltered.

“Well, why not?”

That was reason enough for James. He stood up, and Lily pushed herself from the couch up onto his back, her hands around his neck and her legs around his waist, piggy-back style. He climbed up the spiraling stairs, taking care to bend down slightly so Lily wouldn’t hit her head on the next circle of steps above. When they reached the seventh years’ room, James gently let Lily down onto the bed, where she immediately lay down on top of the comforter and closed her eyes.

“Lily?” James asked, “are you sure you want to go to sleep like that?”

“Like what?” she mumbled, half-opening her eyes.

“In your school robes, on top of the sheets?”

“Hmmf,” Lily said, lifting herself up off the bed. “Then get me some clothes.”

James obliged, producing from his trunk a blue Puddlemere United shirt and a pair of plaid pajama bottoms that were probably eight sizes too big, and throwing the clothes at her. “The bathroom’s just there,” he offered, pointing towards a door. But Lily already had her back turned to him and was pulling her sweater over her head.

“No one’s here, right?” she asked.

James throat tightened, and he could barely choke out the words, “Er, no.” In his decency he took his eyes off Lily and turned around, but through the mirror opposite him, he could see her back exposed. To keep himself sane, he removed himself from the room, pretending to look for his toothbrush.

“Holy—Prongs, Merlin! There’s a woman in our room!” James heard Sirius call.

Crap, he thought. Quickly he poked his head through the bathroom door, fearing the worst, but saw that Lily was fully clothed, albeit drowning in the plaid pants, with her school robes folded neatly in a pile. His fears diminishing, he walked back into the room. Sirius, Peter, and Remus were all now present and giving James a variety of looks, from shock to approval to uncertainty.

“Are you seriously—“ Sirius began, eyes wide.

“No!” Lily replied, already comfortably situated under the covers.

“She speaks the truth,” James confirmed. Now dressed in pajamas, he smiled at his friends and crossed to the bed, pulling the hangings tight and crawling in.

“Wouldn’t be so sure about that,” Peter’s muffled voice said on the other side of the curtains.

“Have you sound-proofed it yet, Prongs?” Sirius could be heard teasing. Then Remus’ voice shushed them and all was quiet.

All Lily’s pain slipped away from her in the comfort of the bed and the warmth of James’ body next to hers, holding her heavy and peaceful and safe. Her mind fell into a soft, pleasant haze of thoughts; of sandy beaches, and treacle fudge, and James’ laugh, until it all melted into one and she fell blithely, blissfully asleep. 

~
A/N: Well...that was an epic chapter, to say the least. More than twice my average length...that's like two chapters in one! What a special surprise for you all! :-) I usually can't write a chapter in a week, let alone two, but I had an unusual amount of free time and inspiration, so I cranked this monster out. 

I love to hear your opinions, so please, don't be shy! :-)

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