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There is a War

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There is a war between the rich and poor,
A war between the man and the woman.
There is a war between the ones who say there is a war
And the ones who say there isn't.

Why don't you come on back to the war? That's right, get in it.
Why don't you come on back to the war? It's just beginning.

"You coming up, mate?"

"Hmmm?" James Potter dragged his eyes reluctantly away from the redhead across the common room to focus on his best friend.

"I'm heading up to bed," said Sirius Black, jerking his thumb towards the stairs where Remus Lupin stood, waiting. "I'm all in."

James glanced from Sirius, already half-turned toward the young werewolf, to Remus, unfathomable brown eyes fixed on Sirius. He shook his head. "I'll be up in a bit," he said. "I'll -- ah -- just wait for Pete."

Sirius looked quizzically at James. "Pete went up ages ago, mate."

But James's eyes were already back on Lily Evans, red head bent over her copy of Advanced Potion-Making, lost in her studies. Sirius sighed and turned away. He and Remus disappeared up the stairs to their dormitory. After a moment, all that could be heard in the Gryffindor common room was the crackling of the fire in the hearth and the turning of pages as Lily read.

James rose and crossed the room to fetch another piece of wood for the fire, not so much because it needed it, as because he would have to walk right past Lily to do so. He placed the log on the fire, trying to cause as much crackle and rustle as he could without being too obvious. At last the redhead looked up.

"Has everyone gone to bed?" she asked in dismay. "What time is it?"

"Not too late," he assured her. "Quidditch tomorrow, remember? People want to be up early."

"Oh." Then, "Who's playing?"

He laughed. "We are. Against Hufflepuff."

She blushed. "I guess I forgot."

James sighed theatrically. "It's no wonder my not-inconsiderable charms have no effect on you. How ironic that the one thing about which you are woefully ignorant is the one thing at which I excel! You wound me, Evans."

Now she was laughing, too. "James Potter, you are the most arrogant person I have ever met." But she rose and came to join him on the sofa.

"Such flattery! I am deeply moved." He grasped her hand and knelt before her with flourish. "Marry me, Evans. Make me the happiest man in the world."

"Serve you right if I said 'yes'." She looked mildly amused.

"Sometimes I wonder," she continued as he dusted off his knees and resumed his seat beside her, "whether you have a sincere bone in your body."

He raised his eyebrows in mock surprise. "What makes you think I'm being insincere?"

"Well," she replied, choosing her words carefully. "It seems to me that you could have almost any girl in the school. The only reason I can see for you to pursue one of the few who's not interested is to feed your considerable ego. Everything is a game or a challenge or a joke to you."

"And how do you know I'm not madly in love with you?" he inquired.

She snorted. "In love? You? Never!"

"Do you really believe that, Lily?" he asked softly.

The use of her first name made her pause. Her face was very close to his. He could almost fall into her wide, green eyes. Gathering up his courage, he took her hand again, pressing it between both of his.

"I know I arse around a lot, Lily," he said, all hint of teasing gone from his voice. "Maybe you're right; maybe I could have any other girl at this school. All I know is, I don't want them. The things I say about you -- I mean them. Every one." He brought her hand to his mouth and gently kissed her fingers.

"Wha -- what are you doing?" She sounded slightly breathless.

"Your scorn hurts me, Lily," he continued. "I always think that, if I can just make you laugh, maybe you'll give me a chance. But it doesn't ever seem to work. What do I have to do to earn a chance with you?"

"James, I -- I don't know what to say." She moistened her lips nervously with a delicate flick of her tongue that made his heart skip a beat.

"Say you'll give me a chance," he said earnestly. "Say we can go out sometime, just the two of us, and see how things go. We'll be leaving Hogwarts soon, and I can't bear the thought of never seeing you again."

"I think maybe I'd miss you, too," she said softly. "I -- I suppose we could go out sometime. I think I'd like that." She gave him a tentative smile.

Feeling as though his heart would burst, he leaned forward and kissed her very gently. Her mouth moved against his, but she did not pull away.

After a moment, she broke the kiss and gave him a stern look. "But you have to promise me one thing, James Potter."

"You have only to ask." He felt lightheaded.

"You have to promise me that you'll leave Severus alone. He's been through enough."

James made a face. "Do I have to? Really?"

"Yes, you do," she said firmly. "And you have to promise that you'll make your friends leave him alone as well."

He sighed. "That's a tall order, Evans."

"Oh, I'm 'Evans' again, am I?" She raised her eyebrows. "Does that means the deal's off?"

"No, no!" he said quickly. "I -- I'll get the guys to lay off him. There's only a few months left here, anyway, and then we'll probably never see him again, right?"

"I'd appreciate it, James," she said sincerely. "He's really not so bad. Some of the time."

She rose from the sofa. "I'm going to do a quick sweep of the main corridors before bed. You'd better go get some sleep. Quidditch tomorrow, and all."

She turned to the portrait hole and left. James remained on the sofa, staring into the fire and grinning. He had finally kissed Lily Evans! He had had his eye on her since third year -- at first, he had to admit, because it drove Severus Snape mad -- but before tonight, she had never voluntarily touched him.

Life was definitely beginning to look brighter, despite the horrors of the war that raged outside the school's walls. Soon enough, they would be out there, in the thick of it, but maybe if life after school still contained Lily, it would not be so bad.

And they had a date! Next weekend, conveniently enough, was a Hogsmeade weekend, and Valentines Day to boot. Sirius and the others might be disappointed, but he spent almost all his time with them. How often did he get to have Lily all to himself? Besides, Sirius and Remus would probably be off doing their own thing. And Peter -- Peter would understand.

He thought he would wait up until Lily returned, and ask her if next Saturday sounded good to her. Twenty minutes later, he was still waiting. Ten minutes after that, he went looking for her.

Lily wandered the darkened corridors of Hogwarts, checking to make sure no students were out of bed, and nothing was amiss, but her mind was elsewhere.

James had pleasantly surprised her tonight with his moment of sincerity. She had to admit that he was easy on the eyes, not to mention clever, and even thoughtful when he wanted to be. And that kiss -- She felt a delicious shiver start at her lips and end at her toes at the memory of it, a warm glow settling somewhere in between. She would definitely not mind doing that again.

She turned a corner just in time to see a silent shadow slip out of the entrance to the Slytherin common room. The figure froze at the sight of her lit wand. She groaned inwardly. Rabastan Lestrange, the most unpleasant Slytherin in her year, which was saying something. Well, she would just have to be businesslike, and not let him get to her.

"It's after hours, Lestrange," she said, approaching him. "Go back to bed, and maybe I'll forget I saw you."

An ugly sneer curled the boy's mouth. "Well, if it isn't Dumbledore's pet mudblood," he said. "Tell me, does 'Head Girl' mean you give great head?"

She ignored him. "Back to your dormitory now, Lestrange, or it's twenty points from Slytherin."

Rabastan tilted his head and gazed at her, calculating. "What does a dirty mudblood have to do to get the power to take house points from a pure-blood? Did you blow Dumbledore to get the job?"

"That's twenty points gone," she said evenly. "Go, before I make it fifty."

She did not even see him draw his wand. "Stupefy!" he hissed, and shoved her against the stone wall. Her wand dropped with a clatter from her unresponsive fingers as he pressed her to the stone.

"Stupid mudblood," he spat at her. "You think house points matter? You think you're safe here with Dumbledore watching over you? In a few months you'll be out there, and then you'll just be another corpse. But there's no reason why we can't have a little fun first, you and I."

She could not move to defend herself, or even close her eyes, as his hand slid up her thigh, under her skirt.

"Why, what's this, mudblood?" he grinned. "No pants? Who knew swotty Lily Evans was such a dirty little whore? And so wet," he murmured, a hand sliding between her thighs to feel the effect James's kiss had had on her. "Slut wants it pretty bad, I guess."

His grin widened at the terror in her eyes. A tear slid down her cheek. He licked it away and shoved a finger roughly inside her.

His eyes lit with delight. "So tight! Are you a virgin, Evans?" he leered, prodding her viscously. "Aren't you just a lucky little mudblood whore, getting your first fuck off a pure-blood man?"

He ignored the tears now flowing freely from her eyes, pausing in his explorations only long enough to see to the flies of his trousers.

"The war is coming to you now, slut. And it's just beginning." She could hardly hear him over the screaming inside her head.

He pried her paralysed thighs apart, and she felt the tip of his swollen cock pressing against her. He teased her with it, the manic grin never wavering in front of her face. She wished the hex had numbed her body, but she could feel everything. Now she felt the head of his cock sliding inside her as he muttered, "So fucking tight!"

He paused, looking at her. "I think I want to hear you scream when I pop your cherry, whore," he said conversationally.

James paced the darkened corridors of the school, his anxiety growing with each passing second. He had just reached the stairs leading down into the dungeons when a piercing scream rent the air. Not daring to think what might have happened, he ran, pounding down the age-darkened stones of the school. Throwing himself around a corner, he stopped short, stunned by the scene that met his eyes.

Lily crouched, huddled and sobbing, against the wall, her face pressed to her drawn-up knees. Rabastan Lestrange hung by his ankles in midair, cursing fluently, his robes falling around his face, his exposed cock glistening and throbbing obscenely. And standing with his wand trained on Lestrange and a look of deepest loathing on his face was Severus Snape.

James fell to his knees and crawled over to Lily, putting a hand on her arm. She shrank away from him.

"Don't --!" Her voice was muffled in the folds of her robes.

"Lily --" he said despairingly. "It's me. It's James. Did he -- are you all right?"

Lily shook her head, but it was Snape who answered. "Of course she's not all right, you fucking prig. She's just been raped."

He felt as if someone had punched him in the stomach. "Lily," he said hopelessly, brushing her hair away from her face. "Lily, look at me."

She raised her head then. He had never seen such a look as he saw in her eyes at that moment. They seemed to be screaming, though her mouth was clamped shut tight. It was a look that would haunt his nightmares to the end of his days.

He tried to make his voice as comforting as possible. "It's all right now. You're safe. He can't hurt you anymore."

"I want to go home," she whispered. "Please, take me home." Tears spilled over her lashes and flowed unchecked into the neck of her robes.

"Of course I will," he said soothingly.

He took her by the hands and helped her to her feet. She sagged against him, and he put his arms around her, supporting her weight. As they turned to go, she hesitated, then turned back to Snape. His wand was still pointing at Lestrange, but his eyes were on the two of them.

She laid a hand on his arm. "Thank you, Severus," she whispered.

James felt intensely uncomfortable. "Thanks," he said grudgingly.

"You get her out of here," Snape replied stiffly, barely opening his lips. "I'll take care of this." He jerked his head toward the suspended Lestrange.

They made their way slowly back to Gryffindor tower, stopping off at the girls' toilets on the third floor. James held Lily's hair while she vomited, rubbing her neck and making senseless soothing sounds.

He asked her if she wanted to go see Madam Pomfrey, but she shook her head. "I just want to go home," she repeated. Her voice sounded flat and dead.

He helped her back through the portrait hole and led her to the sofa where only an hour before, they had talked and laughed and kissed. She stared into the fire, not seeing it. Her hands lay curled and limp in his.

"Please look at me, Lily," he begged.

She turned haunted green eyes toward him, but said nothing.

"Are you hurt?" he asked. "Lily, I need to know. Do you need -- help?"

She lowered her eyes, staring into her lap. "No. I don't think so," she said softly. "He didn't -- finish." She shuddered.

"Oh, God, Lily!" He felt a sob rise in his throat and he squeezed her hands more tightly in his own. "Don't -- you don't have to talk about it. Just tell me, what can I do?" he begged. "Anything. You want him dead? Just say the word."

She shook her head, tears suddenly spilling over her eyelashes. "No, James -- I don't even want to think about him. Just -- just stay with me a while, please?"

The sorrow in those green eyes made James feel as though his heart was breaking. He put his arms around the weeping girl and held her close. He could not tell if she was shaking or if he was. He murmured and soothed and shushed, but he felt desolate inside. He would have stopped his own heart to save her a moment's pain -- to take away the terrible events of that night.

He fished out a crumpled handkerchief and dabbed gently at her tear-streaked face. "I'll make it all better, Lily. I promise I will," he babbled. "I'll make the hurt go away."

She looked up at him with a sad smile. "It's sweet of you to say that, James. You've been so k-kind."

He shook his head. "It's not kindness. I love you, Lily."

Her eyes widened slightly. "Oh."

Suddenly her mouth was on his again, desperate. He could taste the salt of the tears on her lips as he surreptitiously drew his wand. Obliviate, he said silently, and broke the kiss.

He watched sadly as Lily's eyes lost focus for a moment, then she gave him a stern look and said, "But you have to promise me one thing, James Potter."

"Eh?" he said in confusion.

"You have to promise me that you'll leave Severus alone. He's been through enough." Then she noticed the look on his face. "What's wrong, James? Do I kiss that badly?" Her laugh was light and musical and seemed part of another lifetime to him.

"No, no --" he said, thinking quickly. "It's just -- er -- I just realised how late it is. We should be in bed. That is -- I mean -- I should go to bed, and so should you." He blushed.

She laughed again. "Right. Quidditch tomorrow. I'll try not to forget again." She looked at his watch. "Goodness! It is late. Where did the time go? I was going to do another sweep of the school before bed, but --" She yawned.

"I'm sure the school will keep for one night," he said uncomfortably.

She nodded. "You're probably right." She stood up, then turned back to him. "So. Hogsmeade next weekend? You and me? That is, if you're civil to Severus."

He tried to smile. "It's a deal," he assured her.

As she disappeared up the stairs to the girls' dormitory, James stayed where he was, staring into the fire. He did not think he could sleep if he tried, and he knew his performance in tomorrow's match was going to suffer, but all of that felt very remote from him now.

His mind kept going over the events of the night, the sick feeling twisting in his guts. He wished he could Obliviate himself so he would not have to see again and again that look in Lily's eyes, and Rabastan Lestrange's erection, glistening with her stolen innocence. He swallowed and shook his head, trying to dispel the image. And Snape had saved her. Snape, and not himself. He thought perhaps that galled him most of all.

The next morning, Sirius found James still sitting in the common room, staring into the depths of the long-dead fire.

"Christ, mate! You look awful!" he said, peering closely at his friend. "Have you been here all night?"

James nodded tiredly.

"Are you all right?" Sirius asked. "How did it go with Evans?"

James jerked at the sound of her name. "What? Oh. It -- er -- it went okay, I guess." He rallied himself gamely. If Lily would never know what had happened last night, then, best friend or not, Sirius could never know either. "We've -- ah -- got a date for next weekend."

Sirius's face split into a grin. "Brilliant!" he declared. "Just wait'll I tell Moony!" He paused. "Are you sure you're all right, mate?"

He shook his head. "I'm fine. Just tired."

"Well, you'd better go get ready for the match," said Sirius dubiously.

James nodded tiredly, but as Sirius turned to go, he stopped him. "Oh, Padfoot, you know that -- er -- thing we've been planning?"

The common room was beginning to fill up with yawning students heading down to breakfast, and James knew better than to let the Marauders' plans find their way to the ears of the uninitiated.

"Which thing? Oh, the one for Snivellus?" he said, grinning wickedly.

"Yeah," said James. "Only I was thinking. What if we did it to Rabastan Lestrange instead?"

Sirius shrugged. "If you like. It was your idea, after all. I'm going down to breakfast."

James rose and followed him, ducking out of the common room before Lily could spot him.