The next morning, one seat at the Slytherin table was conspicuously empty. Around her in the Great Hall her fellow Gryffindors were talking animatedly about their plans for Christmas Break, now just a few weeks away, but Lily paid them no heed. Her eyes were tired with the relics of her fitful sleep as she looked to the far side of the Hall, where the group of Slytherins whom Severus kept as friends somberly broke their fasts. As she watched, Lucius Malfoy and Narcissa Black whispered a few words to each other, casting haughty glances towards the Gryffindor table, and at James Potter in particular.
Lily was torn. On the one hand she was full to the brim with Gryffindor pride; let anyone say differently, I dare you! But Severus Snape had been her childhood friend and confidante, and their long friendship had been only mildly strained by their separation into different houses in their first year at Hogwarts. Her green eyes flashed determination, and she resolved that she would go and visit her Slytherin friend in the Hospital Wing immediately she was finished her classes for the day. He would be grateful for her company, and Madam Pomfrey, she was sure, would turn a blind eye if she stayed a little longer than was ordinarily allowed.
Wearily, Lily went to her first class of the morning. Down in the dungeons, Professor Slughorn seemed to be in a state of agitation; no wonder, considering he was the Head of Slytherin and one of his students had been horribly… what? she wondered.
Professor Slughorn called the class to order: “Today we shall begin our work on the Wolfsbane Potion. This is a difficult potion to concoct, but I have no doubt that some of you,” here he glanced affectionately at Lily, with Severus one of his star pupils, “will have it mastered in time for your NEWTs next year. The receipt is on the blackboard; are there any questions before we begin?”
Lily was surprised when Remus Lupin raised his hand. Despite the company he was in the habit of keeping, Remus was usually a good student who came to class well-prepared, and the concoction, while difficult, was not so much so that Remus should have encountered any problems. She was even more surprised, however, by Professor Slughorn’s acerbic reaction:
“Ah, yes, Lupin, you may be excused,” the professor said angrily, pointing towards the door at the back of the room. “Report to Professor McGonnagall immediately; I’ll not be responsible for having you roam all over the grounds unsupervised.”
With Remus gone, the class was now short by two students, with Severus’ seat also being empty on the Slytherin side. Sirius Black began moving his potion ingredients to Remus’ table next to James, when he was stopped by Professor Slughorn:
“I don’t think the two of you will be working together today,” The coldness in his voice surpassed even that which regularly permeated the dungeon air. “Sirius, take a place next to your cousin, Narcissa, for today. James, you’ll sit at the front with Lily.”
James brightened at this news, while dark scowls beset the faces of Sirius and Lily. Lily said nothing while her usual partner packed up her things and moved to the back of the room, silently cursing the professor for taking a bad situation and somehow managing to make it worse. She tried to ignore James as he set up his equipment, but then she realized that this might be her opportunity to get some answers.
Turning to James, she flashed him a brilliant smile.