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Tenderfoot

Little to Little - Chapter 1 (extract)


BOOM

Lily gave a startled screech as she fell off her very comfortable seat, only to land on the not-so-very comfortable wooden floor, her book and book bag astray as well, lying in her lap and next to her head. She spent a few seconds just lying there and blinked a couple of times, not quite sure what just happened and wondering just a teeny weeny bit why she was staring at the ceiling all of a sudden.

She rolled over to a somewhat sitting position and quickly glanced down at the book in her lap to check for damages, but except for a little dust and one folded page, it looked the same as it had before the explosion. At least that’s what she guessed it was. Add multiple students, several of whom had enormous attitude problems, non-confiscated wands and free reign, and the result would be quite obvious, really.

When she looked up from the book, she found that the handful of other students in the unused classroom were also removing themselves from the floor and looking at each other in bewilderment. A Ravenclaw girl cursed rather un-attractively as she frantically tried to Evanesco the ink splattered all over her notes. The boy behind her muttered to himself about the most cruel things he would do to those responsible for this if he wasn’t in Hufflepuff. His fellow housemate shot him an aghast look, but Lily didn’t even spare him a glance as she plodded her way on unsteady legs to the window at the other side of the classroom.

The first thing Lily noticed as she looked out, was window glass showering down into the courtyard and loud shrieks emitting from it as many students had been taking an outdoor break.

The second thing she noticed, was that several students were currently sprawled across the lawn outside. They picked themselves up off the ground and sent pointed glares at the castle as they dusted themselves off, and some even took to shaking their fists skyward.

The third thing the Gryffindor noticed, when she finally did turn to ask her Slytherin friend how he faired, was that he wasn’t there at all. She frowned. That wasn’t exactly what she had hoped to see. Far from it, actually.

It occurred to her that through her thick study haze she might have vaguely registered the sound of talking, of sweet and hushed words, in a light, clear voice that she now understood was Severus’. Though she had not really understood he was talking to her, and not at all caught the meaning of his words, it now seemed very likely that he had told her he was about to leave.

But if Severus had left before the most-likely-student-induced explosion and was not out in the courtyard…

Her gaze veered to the upper parts of the castle and to a now glass-free window, out of which copious amounts of billowing tempest grey smoke now emitted.

They wouldn’t…

Her fear was confirmed when the sound of running feet came closer and a ruffled Ravenclaw boy skidded to a halt in the doorway. “Action on third floor, mates! Hex fight between some fifth-years!”

Blood drained from Lily’s face. Severus…

She made a mad dash for the door, and on her way knocked over the still cussing Hufflepuff boy. He was sent crashing to the floor with a rather girly shriek, but not before bumping into his housemate, who had just finished picking up all her notes, and collecting her on the way. She in turn staggered a step or two before she took a tumble into the Ravenclaw girl’s back, and notes and quills and ink went everywhere.

Lily heard the mighty roar of annoyance as if from afar, but she didn’t bother to shout an apology as she sprinted out of the classroom and ran straight into a group of excited second-years. Though they had seen their fair share of mock hex fights out in the hallways in the one year they had been at Hogwarts, and partaken in quite a lot of them surely, they had never witnessed such fights escalate to outright duels, and certainly never between the older students, and such an event was bound to cause elation among the younger students, much to Lily’s disgust.

“The Marauders have cornered Snape again. They’re doing him in good.”

“No way! He’s giving as well as he gets!”

“I wonder what they will vomit this time? Last time it was slugs.”

The boys graduated from toilet humour to hex humour around their second year, and then some two years later they upped it to naughty bit humour. But these students, still at the tender age of twelve, were adamant supporters of the former mentioned hex humour. And being boys, that also included action, blood and gore.

Being a prefect, Lily would usually have scolded them for saying such nonsense before running off to find the duelling students and take points, but seeing as Severus was most likely at the very receiving end of said duel, she only flashed them a thunderous glare as she rushed down the hallway and towards the stairs.

She ran into Mary on her way up and seized her arm in a vice-like grip. “What is going on?” she demanded. “Is it the Marauders again? Where is Severus?”

Mary just blinked in speechless astonishment, and she looked at Lily with a look of wary doubt, as if she wasn’t sure if she should answer or not. Her gaze pointedly fluttered aside. Lily growled and grabbed her by the shoulders, none-too-gently, and began to shake her. “Answer me!” she snapped, and shook Mary so hard the other girl’s jaw dropped open in shock. “Where is Severus!”

Whatever reply Mary might have thought to voice was interrupted by a loud crack and a series of yelps. She winced and glanced towards the stairs, then tore her gaze back to Lily and her expression softened to one of deploring sympathy. She needn’t say anything. Lily understood.

She visibly turned at least one shade paler as she whirled round and rushed up the many stairs to the floor where the duel was taking place. She could tell just by the intensity of the crackles and fizzles and shrieks the distance between herself and what would undoubtedly become a scene of crime. By outsiders such a feat might be considered remarkable. Then again, not really. Most of the students from fourth year and up were able to point out where in the school a hex was taking place; the telltale signs were many. Living with the Marauders for at least three years worked wonders for one’s sense of direction.

She knew she was on the right floor when she had to duck a fizzling jet of light. An audible crack sounded behind her, as well as muffled shrieks of protest. She cast a glance over her shoulder as she skipped the last two steps and found three students lying in a heap at the bottom of the steps. The stone wall above them and across from the stairs bore clear marks of impact; great cracks shot out through the stones, snaking around and encircling a not-so-tiny-in-fact hole like the silk threads in a spider’s web.

What little colour was left in her face drained away. Sweet Merlin…!

She rounded a corner and immediately spotted a group of third-year girls making a straight line for the stairs as they screamed bloody murder. And running in the opposite direction were the boys in their year, their voices tinged with excitement as they hurried to have a look at the duel before a teacher could end it.

She heard the hexes from long down the corridor and instantly knew this could not end well. A particularly nasty sounding hex made her flinch, but it was the pained cry that followed an instant later that had her pick up her pace and elbow students out of the way. She cared not for their protests or exclamations and bothered not to apologize to those who dropped their books and wands and other school supplies as she violently pushed them aside. She was vaguely aware of Mary shouting for her to slow down, but not even that she would listen to. For now all that mattered was to get to Severus and the Marauders before either of them was badly hurt.

She felt her blood boil under the surface, felt it rush to her face, felt it thunder in her ears and block out any other sound. Only Severus’ occasional cry could get past the wall of raging blood, the rage, her pace.

There had been many a fight over the last few years, many of them ending with the two of them up in the Gryffindor tower, either in the common room with the older Gryffindors trying to cheer a downcast Severus up, as the fifth-, sixth- and seventh-years of that time had not thought the Slytherins to be spiteful wannabe-Death-Eaters and took great care in doting on the outcast Severus like a baby brother, while the Marauders served detention, or in Lily’s dorm with Lily treating his wounds. He would always sit by the window, silent and thoughtful, while she took her time to gently wash his cuts and hug away his flinches and whisper soothing words and charms she knew did little to help, but he was grateful for nonetheless.

This had gone too far. She had been aware of the taunting for a long time, knew it had been going on non-stop ever since that first train ride back in their first year. She had let Severus fight his own battle, both because that was what he wanted and they both knew it would only grow worse if she ever stepped in between them. Only once had she done that, back in their first year and in Transfiguration class.

James Potter had threatened to turn Severus into a boggart, which Sirius Black had then commented on, claiming it would make no difference seeing as he already managed to scare people away just by showing his ‘ugly mug and snoot’. This statement had drawn snickers from more than half the class and turned to loud laughter and pointing and sing-song chanting when Severus looked away in defeat. Lily had hexed them then, or rather their wands, and turned them into lollies, to which James and Sirius loudly protested and the class laughingly cheered.

That was the sight that met professor McGonagall when she had entered the classroom a second later and found her two worst and two most prominent students in uproar; a lolly-waving James gesturing vehemently at an equally furious Lily, a loud-mouthed Sirius butting into the heated and animated discussion whilst trying to get to a crying Severus hiding behind Lily, and an entire class looking and cheering them on. Only when Lily, in full-blown protective mode, gave Sirius a none-too-light shove and James made a grab for the now exposed Severus, did McGonagall forcibly and magically break them apart and demand to know what was going on.

Lily had told on the Gryffindor boys then and reached for Severus to once again stand before him as Sirius made a menacing move for the other boy, before continuing with her explanation, far from backed up by the boys’ frequent protests and even more frequent interruptions, which McGonagall had pretty quickly Silencioed them for. Lily knew not why then, if it was because she was the one to speak up or if it was Severus’ earnest tears and stifled sobs, but McGonagall had taken no more than one look at the young Slytherin before sweeping the two Gryffindor boys off to the Headmaster.

Lily later learned from the professor, who had a most mischievous twinkle in her eyes when she told her so, that she earned her house 5 points for successfully transfiguring the wands and Severus, perhaps out of pity, had been given 10 points for something McGonagall had deemed of high importance.

James and Sirius were dealt detention and had to spend the next three Fridays with the professor writing essays on bullying. She even took 20 points. That had perhaps been the hardest blow for the boys, if it was not Lily’s meddling, and it was not a blow taken lightly, for they took their revenge in Potions Class only two days later.

Severus had left his desk to get the needed ingredients for a relatively easy potion while Lily heated the fire to a maximum, and on his way back he had been silently hexed by Sirius, causing him to stumble and crash into the cauldron he shared with Lily. He had tried to catch himself as he fell, but , as the faithful student he was, he also tried to save the ingredients, resulting in that he was too late to grab the desk or Lily’s outstretched hand, and instead crashed to the ground hands first.

Severus’ agonized screams had reached her before the smell of burnt flesh did, and only when a very distraught professor Slughorn pulled a screaming and sobbing Severus away from the fire, did Lily understand what had happened. She barely held back her own tears as class was hastily dismissed and sent to the library, she yelled at a blanched Sirius when he rather desperately attempted to high-five a suddenly pale looking James and she followed when Severus was rushed to the infirmary, where he quite sullenly had asked her to refrain from any future help. Begrudgingly she had accepted, if not for the kittenish look in his eyes when he turned to her, then when she guiltily glanced down at his bandaged hands.

It was not her wish to see him hurt, especially not because of her, so she stepped back and watched from the sidelines, with everyone else, as the taunting grew worse and the hexes darker and more dangerous.

She had let Severus handle the taunting on his own then, for that was all it had been; cruel, childish taunting. Or so she had thought, as had most. But the Marauders’ actions had long outgrown the term of taunting. As no one had seen fit to stop it, the pranks had escalated to bullying. Pure, raw, unadulterated bullying. And Lily would not watch for a second longer.

Taunting she might have agreed to let him fight on his own, but bullying? Not a chance. What kind of a friend would she be then? Not one she would want, that was for sure. And she doubted Severus would want such a friend either. In fact, such a friend deserved not to be called a friend at all, and seeing as Lily very much preferred to view herself as Severus’ friend, she would put an end to this bullying once and for all.

A spell that was sent ricocheting off the wall and whizzed past her, only to miss her by a tiny inch, only helped to further prove her point as well as fuel her anger.

When she finally reached the scene, Lily wasn’t at all surprised at the amount of students gathered; the horrid, reverberating sound waves of an explosion somewhere in the castle had travelled throughout the entire school, after all, and reactions such as these were bound to happen eventually. She only wished it didn’t have to include her best friend. Severus was in enough trouble as it was, with all the sneak attacks and mock fights he had to endure each and every day. He didn’t need an undeserved detention or an unfair loss of house points on top of that.

Several students, boys and girls alike and raging from curious first-years to annoyed seventh-years, had formed a semicircle in the middle of the hallway. Lily ran up to the shortest one, cursed inwardly when she found him to be an inch or so taller than herself, and stood up on her tiptoes. She craned her neck in an attempt to peek over the many heads, but couldn’t see anything besides the light of different spell being fired off with scarce intervals. Not feeling very inclined to resort to hopping up and down just to see what was going on, Lily gave an exasperated growl and began to politely excuse herself, when a resounding crack came from the other side of the semicircle, instantly followed by a three hollers and a unisoned “Ooh…”.

Lily instinctively froze. And abruptly grabbed a hold of the back of the robes of the boy in front of her and pulled. “OUT OF MY WAY!” she bellowed and began to make her desperate way through the crowd. Most of the students had sense enough to move out of the way, lest they should feel inclined to face the wrath of a girl scorn. Others were helped on their way by a pair of sharp elbows or very pointed shoes. She violently shoved a few fourth-years aside…

… and there he was. Right where she had thought and feared and known him to be.

Severus had been backed into the wall with three of the Marauders surrounding him. James, Sirius and Peter were all pointing their wands at him and rapid-firing off spells Lily wasn’t too sure of where they had learned. Remus was currently standing among the onlookers, shifting and fidgeting with a very uncomfortable look on his face.

Though Severus was known as a boy who never had his feelings written upon his face, he now clearly showed he was not at all amused by the three-on-one scenario and that all the curses directed at him was seriously annoying him. He neatly sidestepped a rather dark curse and spun around and made a twirling motion with his wand. “Tarantallegra!”

Peter, wide-eyed and gaping, tried to sidestep the curse, but to no avail. His legs started to work on their own accord and students quickly stepped back to let him dance past them and out of the way, his shrieks fading as he disappeared down the hall.

Lily hid a snort behind her hand; though it was not a curse she approved of, however harmless, she had to admit that a clumsy, dancing Peter was a sight to behold.

FIZZLE-BANG-CRACKLE

The roof falling down on them, however, was not.

“Jaaaaaaaamessss! You were supposed to freeze it, not blast it!” Sirius ducked and jumped aside to avoid being crushed by the loose rocks falling from the ceiling that James had just hexed after aiming badly at the floor.

“Well, excuse me! You try controlling your wand movements when your hand’s covered in boils!” He held up the scorched hand for emphasis, then he too had to duck as Severus directed another hex at him.

The spell hit the wall behind him and James straightened, literally beaming as he grinned smugly. “You missed-“ – “Densauego!” ZAP – And James beamed no longer, much to Severus’ delight, and much to the Marauders’ irritation.

Sirius sent another hex flying, but Severus put up his shield charm in time and caused the spell to rebound off it, hitting Sirius square in the face and leaving him with an abnormally large nose. The wide-eyed look of indignation needed no words.

James snarled as he levelled his wand at the Slytherin and did his best to speak around the tusk-like teeth that had made themselves at home in his mouth. “Expelliarmus!”

Severus abruptly froze and opened his eyes wide. His lips parted, though whether for a counter curse, a protest or just a cry, Lily would never now. The spell hit him with such a physical force that he was sent flying and crashed into the wall behind him. His head collected with the stone with an audible crack and his face crumbled into a pained expression, but he didn’t drop his wand and he didn’t scream. He simply couldn’t; it was as if the impact of the spell had simply pushed all the air out of his lungs to make room for the ribs that was now crushing in on him.

He collapsed to the ground with a barely suppressed groan, and that was when Lily suddenly felt the weight of her wand in her hand.

James and Sirius took one menacing step forward. And jumped at least three steps back as a curse slammed into the ground before them. Their heads swivelled around as one to glare in the direction this sudden spell had come from, only for their jaws to literally drop to the ground as they openly gaped in astonishment at one ticked off Lily Evans.

“What are you doing!” she screeched. Sirius visibly recoiled and James opened his mouth to tell her to leave, but quickly zipped it shut once she slashed her wand at him in warning. “Leave him alone!” she spat. With a look of determination on her face, she stepped forward and crossed the floor in long strides to stand in front of Severus, who was attempting to pull himself up from the floor, grasping at the wall for support. Her expression softened once she turned to him and Lily held her hand out for him to take. Severus barely gazed at her as he gratefully took it and allowed her to help him up.

It was when he ducked his head to fight off a wave of nauseated dizziness, that Lily caught sight of the blood seeping through his hair on the right side of his head. Lily’s glare turned slightly murderous. And she turned back to the two Marauders to level it at them. “How,” she breathed, her voice low and cold, “dare you!”

She didn’t wait for neither an answer nor a pitiful excuse as Severus gave a wheezy cough and she immediately turned to him to help.

James slipped his eyes towards Lily with a look of envious annoyance, but quickly replaced it with a cold expression as he levelled his wand at the Slytherin and stepped forward. “Genu-SSSS!”

He was interrupted as Remus shot forward with an alarmed cry, took a hold of the back of his robes and pulled. James staggered backwards as he was sent off balance for a moment and fired the spell off towards the ceiling instead. It bounced up and down the corridor and several students leapt aside and screeched as the strange light came closer.

Sirius snarled in anger and stepped into James’ path to point his own wand at the pair as he yelled. “Transvortum!”

And at that precise movement, it was as if everything slowed down and all the students gathered around could do nothing but watch as what would become momentous events unfolded. Every sound slowed down, stretched and sounded three times louder, yet with an echoing tinge to it as if from afar or underwater. Sirius’ wand crackled to life and light erupted from it, creating small echoing waves of sound and light as it shot directly towards Severus, who was gently but firmly holding Lily’s wrists and trying to reassure her he was fine as well as attempting to coax her away from the fight.

Lily opened her mouth to disagree, but it froze in a muted scream as she caught sight of the curse headed for Severus. The only warning he got was a slight widening of her eyes as she glanced over his shoulder, but he instinctively knew what was the cause of it, and both moved as one to try and shield the other with their own body.

For several unreal seconds the light edged towards them. In those seconds neither could do nothing but watch as the light steadily crept closer, as green and obsidian eyes rounded in terror. At the last possible moment, just before the spell hit its intended target, James’ mispronounced curse rebounded off the wall and shot towards the pair as well.

James’ eyes widened as he too late realized the course of his spell and who it was headed against.

Sirius very nearly dropped his wand as he caught sight of the other curse and realized with dawning horror that this time, the outcome of his rash actions might just not be acceptable.

Remus reached out his free hand with an alarmed cry, as if the hand was trying to break free from the concept of time, and snatch the spells out of the air.

Severus pinned the curses with his eyes, knowing all too well he could not even hope to evade them, and distangled Lily from his robe enough for him to try and pull her into the shelter of his embrace.

In that last, long second, consumed and frozen by fear as she was, only one thing came to Lily’s mind. She threw her arms up, trying to shield the two of them as best she could, and closed her eyes, hard.

Then both hexes mixed with a strange, humming sound and hit the pair as one.

The highpitched shriek that wrenched itself from Lily’s throat echoed in their ears. The strangled gasp torn from Severus sent shivers down their spines. But the sound of an intangible, malicious spell connecting with the solid bodies of two children, would forever leave an imprint on their minds.

The first of the curse struck and undulated and covered them like the waves of the sea, and somewhere in the distanced background vital parts shifted and burst, broke into splinters and fragments and shattered and changed as something that never should have come in contact with a living soul, impacted with the very cores of what made Lily and Severus.

Then sound and movement once again returned to normal. The rest of the curse wreathed them quickly and was absorbed in the fraction of a second as gravity and reality returned.

Lily clutched her chest and screeched in pain as she fell to her knees and retched. Severus’ mangled version of a scream erupted from his dry and exhausted throat as his wand dropped to the ground with a clatter and he followed an instant later. The scream was sent ricocheting off the walls throughout the entire school, echoing fainter and fainter until the last desperate remnants of it faded completely away.