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Apex (Predator)

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Sometimes Lily Evans stares up at the ceiling of her dorm not feeling like much of a Gryffindor.

She never tells anyone of these feelings of course, not even her friends; the teen gets up to pace the room, abandoning an open potions’ text and a half-written essay on her bed.

Why just this past afternoon she’d cancelled another after-hours’ meeting with Severus in charmed-note form, citing some Prefect business she couldn’t afford to miss, because what is she supposed to say really? ‘Hey Sev, your arsehole friends think people like me don’t belong among other magicals and worse, can you not kiss up to them so convincingly, pretty please? They want me dead on principle and you don’t really seem all too worried about it and that scares me? Oh by the by, I’ve been sitting on a bunch of worrying rumors involving you?’

Lily should probably say that, she really should, but she doesn’t and she hasn’t; and Severus either hasn’t noticed or has and doesn’t care, and Lily wants to avoid thinking too hard about which of those options hurt the most.

‘I can’t tell fact from rumor about you anymore, could you please help me parse the things I don’t know about you?’

 

 

All of a sudden, her room and its cheerfully-decorated walls feel all too small.

Marie, Marley and Mary weren’t in for the night yet; and it's somewhat fortuitous that Lily hadn’t even gotten ready for bed either, still clad in her day clothes as she gets back into her shoes and pockets her wand before slipping out for a walk that's she knows will surely to break curfew; afterwards passing through a largely empty Gryffindor Common Room and then into an equally-deserted hallway.

'I'm a Prefect,' Lily reminds herself, 'I have an excuse, and everyone hates late patrol.'

A few lost points is always better than stewing in her thoughts all night, sleepless and unable to move without rudely waking her housemates. The Gryffindor girl resists the urge to physically cringe at the thought of having to explain herself, with not-quite-lies of course, to her dormmates of that hypothetical future, while resisting the urge to word-vomit her feelings all over them.

Nobody likes an overly-needy friend, Lily knows.

So she walks and walks and walks, passing hall after hall after hall with their magical sconces lighting the way, and Lily is going to fucking scream if she doesn’t find a window soon.

The redhead walks with a purpose, chest ever-tightening and shoulders heavy as hands press hard into her robe pockets, before finally turning a corner into a long hallway made up of a wall of unused classrooms–Hogwarts has a lot of those–and another that was nothing but massive bay windows, just as a familiar head of dark hair and secondhand robes turn the farthest corner.

Severus.

A strange mixture of relief, apprehension and guilt bubbles in Lily’s throat before she notices a strange glinting on the floor near an alcove opposite to the windows; she approaches it quickly before realizing what it is.

It’s a knife, but not just any knife.

Neatly folded into its shiny but nicked handle, glinting softly in the light of a quickly-setting sun, it wasn’t a secondhand knife for potions’ ingredient prep, no, but a switchblade the girl remembers well and fondly; stolen from an older boy back in Cokeworth. The day had been cloudy, Lily had eaten a sausage for breakfast, Sev had been wearing a grey shirt; not the one with bloodstains on the front but the one with inky oil stains on the sleeves.

‘He must’ve dropped it.’

Images of her friend’s bruised face, her scuffed shoes and their shared conspiratory grins flit through her mind’s eye, the nostalgic ring of victorious laughter while huddled in an old library avoiding reprisal from the former owners’ lackies. The knife had been like a trophy, Lily’s lighter too, and Severus had kept it with him from then on.

“It’s something we won together, o’ course ‘m gonna keep it.”

Lily’s mouth twists pensively, and her heart races, and thinks that she could still catch up with Severus if she ran. They still haven’t talked about it, and she’d be a liar if she said she hadn’t missed him and doing things together, but his friends were swotty, arsehole, Death Eater-wannabes to be polite.

That wasn’t polite, but Lily doesn’t care.

But best friends are supposed to talk to each other, tell and keep each other’s secrets, not avoid each other and hope the problem goes away. The knife disappears into her skirt pocket, and Lily jogs to catch up.

This was going to be the end of their friendship, huh? Years and years of little magicks and whispered secrets; surprise family dinner buffers and covering each other’s’ arses; magic projects over the weekends and afterhours; it was all going to end tonight, wasn’t it? Not with a bang, but a whimper?

 

 

Lily can’t believe she’d already forgotten how unfairly quick Severus’ lanky beanpole legs made him. She always would just barely manage to catch sight of him too far ahead, and the growing lump in her throat always stole her words away before she could call out. And soon she’s outside, having followed her friend down some stairs and only caught up enough to see him disappear into the root-snarled base of the Whomping Willow.

This couldn’t be end of them. It can’t. It shouldn’t be.

Lily stops, apprehensive to approach the temperamental tree and then there’s a bit of shame, is it always going to be like this? Always stopping and never as brave as she’d like? The grass swishes quietly beneath her sneakers, switchblade burning a hole in her pocket, as a girl of sixteen approaches the open entrance her still-friend had disappeared into as the magic willow’s branches sway almost-serenely in the air around her.

The teen remembers hopped tracks and gates, running afoul of miscreants and grownups both, and shared meals and library books. Sev taught her how to throw a punch, she taught him how to play cards like Daddy taught her, even if her friend wasn’t all that good. Lily and Sev have history, that has to mean something in the end, doesn’t it?

A thrum of ugly, something, threatens to breach the surface-

Lily shoes slip on loose dirt and ungracefully down into the mouth of the tunnel.

“Shit!” She lets out a hissed curse, nonmagical, and then cringes reflexively as if her mum was about to materialize from over her shoulder to rebuke her for the slip.

 

 

Now a little anxious, Lily immediately decides to ruminate later and looks around more; the tunnel entrance is small and its darkness thick and earthy, and Lily hates it immediately even as her lit wand only wards off a tiny portion of said darkness. But the girl plods forward, ignoring the constriction of her throat and chest yet somehow feeling braver than she’d been a few seconds ago.

‘You’ve got this, Lily,’ she tells herself.

So the girl plunges into the dark, barely noticing the last of the sunlight completely disappear from behind the foreboding line of the Forbidden Forest; she has a knife to return.

 


 

Severus is going to die.

Oh, and Remus bloody Lupin is a fucking werewolf, but that’s beside the point. Severus’d taken Black’s bait like the bloody moron that brutish buffoon thought he was, hook, line, and sinker; and here he is, staring into the jaws of death of a pissed werewolf.

The Slytherin boy tries to turn as the teen-turned-beast growls with a jerking forward lunge, which causes Severus to trip backwards flat onto his arse. Then in a single bound the Slytherin student is between the front paws of a monster and somewhere in the milliseconds between those two things his wand had slipped from his fingers.

“FUCK!”

Snarling, open jaws, full of sharp teeth and angry spittle-

“Bombarda!”

 

BANG-BANG-POP!

 

A ringing explosion and the beast’s jaws snap shut a split second before crashing into the floor next to Severus’ head, howling with pain. Severus’ ears are ringing and his body feels sluggish and shaky, but he manages to roll to look at the source voice coming from the tunnel exit.

Lily.

“Come on, arsehole!” Severus feels his sense of relief turn to horror as his timely savior screams with almost suicidal confidence at his attacker and darts over from the side of the tunnel exit, daring the beast to come after her instead her stupid, stupid friend, “over here! Stupefy!”

 

FLASH!

 

Red light of a stunning spell splatters uselessly against the wire-haired hide, as the monster’s howl of pain quickly morphed into a snarl of rage as it abandons the prone Severus to give chase.

 

FLSHZT!

 

Another spell scatters, before Lily tries to dodge far too late, her back knocking against the reinforced shack wall with nowhere to go.

Then Lily’s snapped up, massive jaws closing over the entire juncture of her shoulder and her neck with a rustling snap. The Shrieking Shack’s dimly lit, but Severus smells the iron before he hears her scream as the creature lifts his friend off her feet, with a sharp jerk to one side, not unlike how dogs would start to shake small animals they catch.

She’s going to die-!

Severus can’t breath and Lily was going to die as his hands scramble for his fucking wand, but then her free arm slaps upward, a silvery-something flashes in the dim light right at the werewolf’s face.

“ARIEEEEOO-!”

A pained shriek, Lily’s falling to the ground as Severus raises his wand-

“Incarcerous!”

Conjured ropes appear to bind legs and body as it writhes, bays and snarls as Severus rushes past, struggling to haul his friend up to her feet before shakily half-dragging her past the wild-eyed creature of death and teeth snapping at his conjured ropes; the seconds it takes to get back to the tunnel that would lead out back to the Whomping Willow feel like an eternity.

Not three steps down the tunnel before Lily’s weight is violently ripped away from Severus, she screams as the werewolf does shake her like a ragdoll this time, and then suddenly she’s airborne and bouncing off a wall and onto the floor with an echoing thud.

On the opposite side of the shack, away from Severus and the Whomping Willow exit.

 

Dammit.

 

Sick amber orbs regard him aggressively, he could either run or go for Lily again but-

“BUARRR!”

A fucking deer bursts through the door, moonlight bright and illuminating the shack behind it, full body tackling the werewolf with a fierce, mooing bellow. The werewolf barks and snorts, snapping at the deft animal, distracted once again.

The stag fends the monster off, bone-like rack of pointed tines drawing occasional blood and more ear-rattling bellows-

But Severus doesn’t bother wasting time wondering what they hell was going, he grabs his friend and hauls her onto his back entirely, and is halfway up the tunnel before even realizing that he was crying.

He nearly trips again, and dearly hates his awful ill-fitting shoes as Lily groans out wet sort of hiccough.

“Lily!” He half-whispers, half-sobs, they’re at the exit now, his shoulder and back are wet but he can see the moonlight outside, “stay awake, okay?! Just, stay awake, please.”

“S’ a first,” a gurgling sort of laugh and her words slurring together, “hahh, y’ har’ly ev’ say puh-leassssee Sefff…”

What the fuck are you doing here? The boy forgets to scream as he makes the mistake of looking over at the redhead he’s half-carrying on his shoulder, catching sight of the ragged tears in her flesh, her throat is distressingly open and awfully bright even in the poor lighting.

They’re outside now and then it’s a mad dash to the Hospital Wing, Severus is muttering furiously, but about he can’t actually say for sure. Every step feels like a bloody mile, and the ugly mantra of, ‘I should’ve just gone to bed, I should’ve just gone bed,’ repeats itself stupid in his head right next to, ‘they tried to kill us, they tried to kill us.’

Passing another shut, unused classroom, “Lily, talk to me! Pleasepleasepl-!”

It’s dumb, the sixteen-year-old boy thinks, that he needs to hear his friend let him know she’s still alive while she was fucking dying, after being mangled by a werewolf-!

Shite.

“’L’ft ‘r kn’ffffe,” are the next words, his friend’s good arm patting strangely at his chest, Severus is only two hallways away now, he thinks as she adds, “’s’rry.”

“What!?” Severus can’t help but sob stupidly, hating every dumb and hiccupping breath of his own that escapes him. There’s an awful warm feeling over his nape as Lily’s head and neck lolls uselessly at the juncture of one of his shoulders.

Lily doesn’t respond again.

The last long hallway is a blur, and Severus fights the mounting hysterical thought that he’s carting a corpse instead of his dying friend until the entrance of the Hospital Wing finally greets him. Then his next memory is the image of an awake Madame Pomfrey, now a blur of activity as the mediwitch finally levitates his best friend off his back and onto a bed as Severus blurts out something along the lines of:

“Lily! Werewolf mauled her-! Lupin-! Shit!” All the while, Severus gasps for breath after his mad sprint.

Lily lets out a whimper and Severus is so awash with relief that he steps back, and-

 

!!

 

The lanky boy catches himself on the edge of a cot as he looks down, staring down at the bright and viscous puddle he’d slipped on and then feels terribly ill. But he manages to spit out some offer of assistance to Madame Pomfrey the boy barely remembers hearing himself speak.

“Dittany sprigs and Blood Replenishing potions, from the cabinet, now!” The Healer’s command comes as ruined bits of his friends uniform is vanished away while Severus averts his gaze.

Then with a jerky nod he runs over to the large cabinet, barely remembers to clean the blood off his hands before handling the potions, and returns with the aforementioned items to hand them over to the mediwitch with a numb sort of finishing grace.

The boy makes the mistake of looking over his friend, her wounds looking even worse in the brightness of the Hospital Wing.

His vision blurs.

‘Stop fuckin’ scrikin’ already,’ the lanky boy harangues himself, ‘Lily’s dying, and you’re dead useless to ‘er like this!’

“Out of the way!” Madame Pomfrey shoos him away commandingly, before focusing back on her patient, wand flying through motions unfamiliar to Severus.

Severus complies with her orders, and some, seconds? Minutes? He can’t tell anymore really, Severus’ focus comes back as he’s sitting on an empty cot with his bloodied uniform staining the sheets, he’d been looking down at his hands, one with its white-knuckled grip on his wand, the other open and clammy with bright, little red flakes peeling off at the wrist.

The urge to vomit’s there, but nothing comes of it as Severus starts to tremble.

 

 

He cries, quietly.

 


 

Prance back, sidestep, charge forward-

“AIEEP!”

-Ignore guilt over Moony’s pained yip–which is a lot easier as Prongs–and repeat. Moony would thank James for it later, maybe.

Toss antlers to parry, regain footing and leap right to avoid his friend’s wild haymaker of a clawswipe, back up towards the open door of the shack-

 

Scff-scff-scff!

 

At the sound of a single pair of retreating footsteps, Moony’s head turns away-

‘Nononononofuck-!’

“BUARR!” Prongs bellows a challenge, charging and manages against all odds to body check Moony into a wall before retreating. Before James even realizes, he’s outside and on his lips were the last syllables of a spell he doesn’t remember starting to cast.

“-oportus!”

 

BANGBANGBANGBANG-!

 

“ROOOO!”

The sounds of Moony hurling his massive lupine body at the shack’s door and wall rattle and enraged yowls pierce the night, and though according to Moony it was spelled unbreakable and warded by Headmaster Albus Dumbledore himself-

 

BANGTHUMP!

 

James jolts backwards anyways, breathing hard and sweating, mahogany wand clutched tight. Despite the thumping beat of mortal peril and mounting sense of cold unease, he laments that Moony would be friendless tonight, and will wake up tomorrow to the news James knew his friend feared most.

The teen frowns.

More bangs, more thumps, more inhuman growls and a heartbreakingly growing amount of pitiable whines, but the structure of the Shrieking Shack holds. A sigh of relief escapes James, he was alone out here, and while he loves his friend, he knows from many a close call earlier this year that everything could turn from bad to worse in a heartbeat.

James had left Sirius and Peter behind almost immediately upon Sirius’ bragadocious claim less than a half hour from moonrise, that he’d offhandedly told Snivellus about ‘something’ going down at Shrieking Shack every full moon. James remembers sprinting off into the woods, forgetting the Whomping Willow tunnel entirely, and vowing to hex Sirius’ stupid arse when he got back for doing something so utterly stupid.

No time for this, need to go, now.

Feet and hands to cloven hooves, hair and skin to supple pelt, cervine grace replaces teenage awkwardness once again and Prongs is away.

Hooves almost glide over the grass, through the fields and trees, Prongs has to take the long way back since the tunnel’s unavailable.

Then the sixteen-year-old boy-turned-stag remembers the high screams and the prone form of one Lily Evans, he’d barely caught a glimpse of her before having to focus on tangling with Moony. She’d been in a bad way, her leg, bloody mangled with a grim peeking of bone showing up in the dim light, and her equally stained uniform all torn.

Evans just laid there, utterly still and with Moony still snarling.

What happened back there? Prongs recollects that Snape had been on the other side, nearest to the tunnel entrance, with Moony between the Slytherin and Evans. James hadn’t seen them leave, but he thinks Snape took her with him before fleeing.

'He'd better have,' James thought trails off darkly, looking back up at the rattling shack door again.

Merlin’s balls, everything is fucked tonight.

The moon is higher in the night sky as grass and dirt beneath Prongs’ hooves turn to stonework, he doesn’t shift back, opting to gallop madly through the halls to where he knew the Hospital Wing is located.

‘Pleasebealrightpleasebealrightpleasebe-!’

He finds himself praying a little, in a strangely distant way, to the vague and formless magical deities he remembers his father mentioning his great-grandparents following, though the teenager couldn’t quite place who or what those deities did apart from their roots in magical myth.

Hooves skid as he veers around another deserted corner.

‘Please don’t let me have to tell Moony’s he’s killed someone-!’

James is finally here, there’s a resistance as the young stag barrels through the Hospital Wing doorway, barely able to come back to himself and shift back into human form before Madame Pomfrey turns to barely acknowledge the sudden ruckus before turning back to her patient.

Then James spies Evans on the infirmary bed, still in a bad way, but not awful. And twinning thoughts rear their heads, one, Evans is going to live.

“Thank Merli-”

 

CRACK!

 

James’ nose crunches sickeningly and he registers an inhuman sound of inordinate rage as he’s tackled bodily to the floor, and knuckles rain down on his face before he even registers that his attacker is even a person.

 

!!

 

James, briefly, sees stars.

It’s Snape, James realizes by the third punch at one and a half seconds of the beatdown in while trying to raise his arms or wand, only to realize that Snape’s sitting on both of them, pinning the otherwise stronger boy to the ground as the lanky kid’s punches keep on landing.

James has never seen the kind of hate that Snape’s face bore this close before. Eyes bloodshot, teeth bared, nape and shoulders soaked in the blood of someone far prettier than him and then there’s the air that’s practically crackling around them. Snape is screaming something now, snarling words down at his victim, but James can’t make them out as his vision starts to fog at the edges.

(“Lily’s gonna t’ die because of you, y’ hangin’ fuck!”)

The Hospital Floor wing is surprisingly clean, James notes dazedly.

 

 

Eventually the blows stop, and James is helped to his feet.

A cursory glance passes over the magically-frozen form of one Snivellus as he now floats next to the bespectacled teen, and the form Headmaster Dumbledore looking the Gryffindor boy over as the old wizard's grim expression starkly contrasts his cheerily-animated robes. That expression gives way to open concern, as James cringes at the bright lights and the taste of his own blood pouring down his face, and then, the second thought finally makes landfall in the teen’s concussion-addled brain.

‘Evans is going to live, fuck.’

 


 

Minerva had put off her scheduled night patrol again, opting to grade some essays that had managed to pile up over the term without her really noticing instead; so she with quill in hand she sits down at the desk in her personal quarters, ready to get to work and-

 

FWSH!

 

Then the fireplace flashes green and her head immediately swivels up to look-

“Minerva,” it was Albus, the long-bearded man’s tone grave, “there’s been an accident and your presence is required in the Hospital Wing; haste would be prudent, but be discreet.”

Then without further explanation the Headmaster’s visage fades into the fire, leaving Minerva to hurriedly throw on a robe and shoes, and then with a flick of her wand, magicks her hair into a rough bun though looser than her usual style. Dashing out her quarters’ doors, the professor’s mind races with all possibilities, from a spell misfire, to the brewing conflicts outside finally smashing their way into Hogwarts, nothing good would come of this night and of that Minerva is certain.

Minerva dearly wishes Albus had been more specific as she trots more briskly toward the Hospital Wing.

Passing through the corridors and taking every shortcut she’d learned over the course of her tenure at the school, Minerva finally emerges through the infirmary doors, as quietly as she could before shutting the doors behind her.

The Hospital Wing is nearly empty, well-lit but not blindingly so and the ceilings high as they ever were, making Minerva feel quite small.

There is a student in the middle of the center aisle of the Hospital Wing, right in front of the doors and spelled frozen in a Full-Body Bind and also somewhat floating in place. It’s the fifth-year Slytherin, Severus Snape, with whom Minerva was well-acquainted via his long-standing and increasingly-vicious feud with James Potter and friends.

‘Oh what have you gotten into now,’ she wonders as looks him over, whose face is frozen in a visage of tears and a snarl, his ill-fitting shoes and too-short trousers are smeared with wet dirt and grass stains. The teen’s back and shoulders are covered in blood, just barely starting to dry, some of it crusting around his neck and along one side of his jaw.

Some of the boy’s knuckles are split, but otherwise, he doesn’t have any noticeable wounds. He was left kneeling, arms askew in the telltale position of a winding up a wild haymaker at whatever had been below him.

Minerva reflexively levitates the frozen form of the Slytherin into the nearest hospital bed before deftly banishing the blood from his face and clothes with another flick of her wand. She doesn’t unbind him yet, she needs to figure what fool thing has happened now, first.

‘Albus, what the blue hell.’

The woman takes the scene in further, Poppy’s further down the long room and the Healer’s wand alight with its owner chanting furiously over a bloodied patient. The identity of the patient is obscured by a haphazardly moved separator curtain, but the professor’s gaze catches a glimpse of the Gryffindor colors on the student’s half-shredded school robe that lay discarded on the floor.

An awful sinking feeling takes hold of the woman, and doesn’t let go as she presses on.

She’s about as recomposed as she’s going to get by the time she stops at the beds halfway from where Poppy was tending to her injured student. Before Minerva were the only other people in the room, thankfully, with Albus is sitting on a cot across from a distraught James Potter who’s holding a cloth over what only could’ve been a spectacular bloody nose.

“Albus, what happened?!”

“Minerva,” Albus’ expression doesn’t brighten, and his tone sounding almost as old as the great wizard looked, “it seems that young Miss Evans and Mister Snape ran afoul of something dangerous tonight, which very nearly proved deadly.”

Minerva’s heart sinks further, gaze flickering back toward Poppy and the now-identified Lily Evans.

“-And Mister Potter has shown incredible ingenuity and bravery in their rescue,” Albus was still talking and Minerva realizes she’d missed something, “but not everyone has come out of that shack unscathed, unfortunately.”

Minerva starts, oh, oh no, Lily Evans is-?

“She knows about-?” James Potter interrupts, looking to Albus with both confusion and surprise.

“Yes,” Minerva interrupts the boy, her tone clipped yet gentle, “I know about Mister Lupin, Mister Potter, but I do believe this begs the question on how long you’ve known.”

James looks sheepish, hands going into his pockets as he mutters, “’round the end of first year.”

“Ah,” Albus comments, lightness entering his tone, “the bonds of friendship are a wondrous thing aren’t they?”

Minerva doesn’t dignify the subject derail with an answer, and instead cuts to the chase, “and what of Mister Snape?” And what does a student being kept a Full-Body Bind on the infirmary floor have to do with all this? Goes unvoiced, but Minerva knows Albus can practically hear it before the witch probes further, “what part does he have to play in this tragedy?”

And that’s what this is, a tense moment after a tragedy, a girl’s life, one of Minerva’s charges, changed irreversibly and probably for the worse.

“Ah, he was understandably distressed,” Albus responds seriously, “things were rather hectic, so I had to deescalate the situation, and Mister Potter has been informing me of this evening’s events since.”

An arched brow from Minerva.

“Mister Snape mistook his savior for an aggressor,” Albus explains unhelpfully.

“Yes Professor,” James says, looking a bit annoyed before wincing and shifting to worried, “I saved them both from M-being attacked.”

“And how,” Minerva questions one of her favorite students, “did two uninformed students, one not even in the same House, end up stumbling upon a hidden location in the middle of the woods?”

James looks at the Headmaster nervously, but is given a supportive nod to continue and begins.

“Well, Snape has always been an eavesdropper you know-”

 

 

The tale is kept short but is harrowing none the less, with James surmising that he, Sirius and Peter must have accidentally vaguely referenced their friend’s condition and a way to find Remus’ transformation spot in the woods; with an unknowing Severus Snape was listening in on them and just curious enough to pursue the thread. What followed can only be described as a tragedy of mutual teenage foolhardiness and pigheaded buffoonery, leaving James to run directly to the Shack himself to fend off an uncontrollable Remus Lupin so that the Slytherin could drag a mangled Lily Evans to safety through the Whomping Willow tunnel.

Which is supposed to be a secret.

“-And how did you accomplish that?” Minerva stops the boy, “fighting off a spell-resistant Dark creature is no small matter.”

“I,” he flounders for a moment then squares his shoulders and hazel eyes meet Minerva’s blue, “I became an Animagi to help out Remus, just last term; my form’s a stag.”

The Transfiguration professor gives pause.

And Minerva is torn, between her pride for one of her best students and urge to reprimand his courageous but reckless behavior; and she notes that out the corner of her eye, Poppy finally steps away from the prone form of Lily Evans with a few silent waves of her wand to clean up her work area before leaving a diagnostic spell running next the girl’s bed.

It’s a terrible thing to be both relieved and sad at someone’s survival, and all Minerva feels right now is guilt. She couldn’t have known this would happen, but there are so many ways this, Lupin’s transformation accommodations, could have been done better.

“You and I will discuss the circumstances and legalities of your new and unreported abilities at a later date,” Minerva says firmly, “I’ll free Mister Snape now, if that’s alright with you Albus?”

The Headmaster gestures an affirmative.

A silent Finite Incantatum is cast-

The counterspell hits and then Severus Snape shrieks as if his strangely slightly more composed outward demeanor over the past year had never been. But the sound of impotent fury quickly dies as he collapses, likely due to the odd position he’d been frozen in, with an almost pained grunt as the bed creaks under the sudden new weight. But then the lanky boy is up and bodily hurling himself out of bed just so he can bound to close the distance between him and the conversing group; and less than two seconds later finds the long-haired boy standing near Minerva, with bloodied fists clenched at his sides as he rediscovers his words, “Professors! Potter and Black! They-!”

“-Eir intervention likely saved both your and Miss Evans’ lives,” Albus finishes smoothly, “without which, neither of you would have made it to Madame Pomfrey’s care at all.”

If Severus Snape looked wan before, he looks even more so as his expression cycles through a tumult of emotions before settling on stricken, but remains quietly unmollified.

There is an almost palpable fear and fury in his eyes.

“Mister Snape,” Minerva heads the beginnings of a heavy silence off hastily and gestures towards the boy in general, with his bloody knuckles, face blotching with bruises and now-torn secondhand clothes, “why don’t you let Poppy see to you and Mister Potter’s injuries? We can sort the rest of this out later.”

The Slytherin’s dark eyes flicker over to James Potter with a barely-contained resentment and suspicion as he steps back, never turning even as Poppy ushers both boys away; which leaves Minerva to confer with Albus alone. Though one look at Albus’ face has Minerva of the suspicion that she isn’t going to like what comes next.

 

 

Her hunch is correct by the way, and Minerva doesn’t like that either. The only thing left to do was to wait for Lily Evans to wake, and to deliver the news.  How do you tell someone that their life was about to get much harder and more painful than it already was? This was Minerva’s job, and her heart feels all the heavier for it.

“You told me that it was handled,” Minerva tries not to hiss, keeping her voice low, “and that it was safe.”

“I set up the wards and protections myself,” Albus waves both hands in front of him, but has the decency to look contrite, “but didn’t account for curious friends or wanderers, or the breach of secrecy that would accompany them.”

“Fat lot of good it does now,” Minerva grouses, finding it rather difficult not to blame her friend overmuch, or herself, “her life may not be over, but she’ll feel like it has.”

-And might wish that is was, goes unspoken between the two friends.

Minerva had never really thought about werewolves overmuch before 1971, when a quietly lonely Remus Lupin had been Sorted into her House, even during her admittedly short experience in law enforcement at the Ministry. People could awful about the most huddy of things, and it really shouldn’t surprise her anymore even though it still somehow manages.

The Ministry’s werewolf support services are a joke, and the less said about how little the werewolf registry actually did to protect anyone, the better.

“You’ll do your best,” Albus pats her shoulder reassuringly, “as you always do.”

“Lupin’s going to be devastated as well,” Minerva is trying hard not to sniff, or feel so incredibly old, “my best isn’t what I worry about and you know that, Albus-”

 

!!

 

“I’m keeping Miss Evans and Mister Snape overnight for observation, probably longer for Miss Evans,” Poppy somehow manages to approach unnoticed, startling the professor but not the Headmaster, “Mister Potter should be well enough to send back to the dorms.”

Then Poppy walks briskly away, towards the infirmary’s potions’ cabinet.

Albus raises a finger, “we know what to do now.”

 “What’s one more tae hide,” Minerva responds stiffly, feeling tired more than anything, “I can squeeze in reinforcing the building myself, and speak to Messrs. Sirius and Peter, no later than Thursday.”

“I’ll take care of the extra potions’ for the Hospital Wing,” Albus hums.

Minerva shoots another cursory glance back at the students, only to notice that the Snape boy had been placed, or perhaps placed himself, in the hospital cot between Lily and James almost like a buffer, with his gaze alternating between glaring at his rival-turned-savior, and looking back at the separator that still obscures the boy’s, friend? From sight.

That same thin teen glances over to the adults, causing Minerva to look back to nod at Poppy instead of meet the gaze. The Head of Gryffindor knows that she would’ve had to deal with more incidences between James and friends versus the irascible Severus Snape if the Slytherin and Lily spent more time together in public.

‘Odd,’ Minerva observes, ‘I hadn’t thought that friendship survived beyond first year.’

Maybe that was the whole point.

Normally, between the woman’s teaching, grading, career counsels, patrols, Order business, keeping up with the goings on outside of Hogwarts, and both her House Head and Deputorial Headmistress duties, the professor couldn’t exactly keep up with all the details of the ever-shifting roil of teenage hormones that was her students’ personal lives, much less those not of Gryffindor.  Of course, Minerva always does her best to stay on top of things, but she wasn’t arrogant enough to assume she knew everything that went on in her school’s halls, try as she might.

But Lily Evans is one of the three Prefects elected from her year, a trait which she ironically shares with Remus Lupin; and while not a spectacular Transfiguration student like James or Sirius, works hard to do well in Minerva’s class. Minerva didn’t need to hover to know good things about the Prefect either, regularly tutoring her peers and juniors, taking the later Prefect corridor patrols that her fellow Prefects were less-enthused about, and not to mention the regular glowing reviews regarding her class performance from Filius.

The sixteen-year-old muggleborn fifth-year was growing in notoriety among her classmates, with all the perks and pitfalls that came with it, Horace had even snapped her up for his club membership and she regularly took points off of some of her more dangerously-connected classmates. The idea that Lily Evans' connection to the explosive Slytherin may have survived up until now? Uncommon and a bit worrying considering the current political climate.

“-Friendship is a wonderful thing,” she only catches the tail-end of what Albus is saying, “they’re often startlingly fragile, tragically.”

“We’ll have to inform the family as well,” the witch’s lips purse bitterly, “you have plans for that as well?”

“Of course,” Albus nods while standing, “I shall take care of it personally.”

Minerva sees Poppy leading a sheepish James Potter back to his Head of House, the boy now looking much cleaner and his nose unbroken. And still abed in the cot, Snape stares at Potter’s back, his face like a skelped erse.

“It’s awful when previous encounters prevent one from acknowledging a good act,” Albus intones, “even when done unto them, one can only hope that minds will clear as time dulls the experience in the memory.”

Minerva doesn’t answer, and signals a pensive James Potter to follow her.

 

Tnk-tnk-tnk-tnk.

 

The sixteen-year old is silent the entire way over, with only the soft echo of the boy’s shoes and Minerva’s boots for company as the lanterns brighten the way they always do during the night before curfew passed.

“Will Remus,” James’ face is marred with a soft frown, just as they stand in front of the Fat Lady’s Portrait, “will he be alright?”

“The Headmaster and I are taking care of it, Mister Potter,” Minerva says, manages to keep her voice low and unwavering, “and I trust Madame Pomfrey to care for them both.”

Before long the professor leads James Potter back to Gryffindor Tower before even curfew starts, bidding the child goodnight, and then finds herself back at her personal desk. Minerva McGonagall squashes down the urge to transform into a cat to sleep by the fireplace as she instead tries to quill in the newest spate of appointments into her stuffed schedule.

 

 

The endeavor takes twenty-two minutes of shuffling and at the end of it, she finally notices the innocent pile of fifth-year Transfiguration essays still where she’d left them. Briefly, the Transfiguration professor considers going out to the shack itself, just to check that it was still standing strong as James Potter had specified to her and Albus earlier and maybe even to shore up its defenses herself too.

 

...

 

But it was already dark out, and facing even an adolescent werewolf in the woods by oneself was just asking for trouble, not that Minerva wasn’t mostly sure that such a thing wasn’t beyond her martial capacity, but it was still risky. Poppy's hands are full, and Albus is off doing what he said he'd be doing and probably unavailable by now, though it stands to assume that Albus couldn’t gone to check on Mister Lupin by himself without telling Minerva, and that it is probably too late to catch up. The best thing Minerva could do now was wait, unfortunately.

Minerva rubs at her eyes.

Knowing that sleep wouldn’t come easy and tempering her urge to go out and do something rash, she picks up and essay and at last, begins to grade.