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Chapter 5 : Chapter 5 - Unexpected Visitors
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James had returned from his sudden and puzzling departure sometime after dinner in the evening, but as soon as he had arrived looking beyond drained, horrendously disheveled, and more than a little roughed up, Lily hadn’t been able to stop herself from feeling bad for him. Even with how she herself had been more than a little worried and irritated over whatever he might have been doing, she hadn’t been able to stop herself from wincing when he had come face-to-face with his irate and panicky twin sister who had been waiting to ambush him mere moments after he had left in the first place. As time had passed with no hide nor hair of him, Alisha had started to look chalk-white and had become rather shaky and weak. In fact, there had even been a time when she had become damn near hysterical. The poor girl had been fretting with worry the entire time he had been gone. Alisha’s behavior also suggested to Lily that there was definitely something more to James’ sudden departure than Professor McGonagall’s meeting excuse, and it was bound to be dangerous.
However, even while Alisha had been in that state, she must’ve been able to infer or get something out of the odd…umm…conversation…she had had with him the moment he had come through the portrait hole. Lily had their conversation embedded within her memory, but she still had no idea what they had even talked about, and after the past week or so, it was clear that the Marauders were equally clueless.
As soon as James came through the portrait hole, looking weary and drained, Alisha had gotten up in his face looking so incredibly pissed off that Lily was worried about her unleashing uncontrolled magic. She pointed at him fuming, “You…reckless…utterly careless—“
He held up a hand to her apologetically, “Allie, I—“
She scowled. “Save it. Mum—“
He gave her a look. “They—”
She threw her hands in the air, completely frustrated. “Of course! Did—“
“No, but there were a few—“
Her face completely drained of color, and she sounded horrified, “No, but—“
She interrupted him angrily, “No, you don’t know about—“
His face hardened. “I do so—“
That’s when she shoved him. “So why—“
He just sighed, barely moving at her attempt to push him around. “You know why—“
She threw on of her hands to the side, her eyes flashing at him, “No. That’s not—“
“So? I can—“
“No. That’s why we—“
“Later. I promise.”
“I swear. Please just—“
She seemed to have given up at this point. “Are you—“
His eyes softened as he answered her immediately, “Yes, you know that they—“
“Yeah, but still—“
At those words, Alisha looked back up at him. Somehow, she was completely devoid of any more anger, even if her worry was still very present. “I know. Just—”
He mussed up her hair while flashing her a forced grin that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Always.”
Lily couldn’t fathom what they had been discussing, but the effect the confrontation had had on both Alisha and James had been…interesting. James was still as silent as ever, but in her opinion, even more so. Lily had not believed it to be possible, considering the loudmouth he had been over the years, but she had seen even Sirius, of all people, yelling at him about his hiding whatever was going on. However, James hadn’t even looked fazed. He had just said that there were some things that Sirius didn’t need to know at the moment. Alisha, on the other hand, had gone from exuberant and happy to worried and quiet. She wouldn’t fess up anything to Lily or Maria either. It looked as if they were all being left in the dark at James’ behest.
As the week passed, things seemed to have calmed down some between them all, but what was going on in the wizarding world had taken a dark turn. There had been a few different attacks on muggles near Little Whinging, which was where Lily’s family lived. She was beginning to get frightened for her Mum and Dad, so much so in fact that she had sent them a letter suggesting that it might be best if they could get away for awhile. However, her parents hadn’t taken her seriously. As ‘neat’ as it was for them to have a witch in the family, they thought it was silly or something she would grow out of. She was constantly being lectured about attending a muggle university when she was finished at Hogwarts. Petunia was already moved out and married, not that her sister cared about her or her wizardly pursuits at all either. Lily had sent her a letter via owl also with specific instructions to make sure she received it in a muggle fashion and to wait for a possible reply to be left out on the back stoop, but her sister hadn’t responded. So much for caring for your family…
She sighed as she leaned further into the armchair she was currently resting in. Her book was obviously no longer holding her attention. She started tuning in to her surroundings instead, mainly to observe the others still hanging around in the common room. There were just a few fifth and sixth years scattered in the corners as well as most of their group here near the fire. Maria had already gone upstairs, thoroughly worn out from the week. Remus was patiently trying to help Peter understand the latest Charms assignment while Sirius and James were playing Wizard’s Chess. From the looks of things, James was once again losing spectacularly. She was sure he would probably be good at the game if he didn’t focus on something else every few minutes. It was like he was constantly watching his back or paying more attention to everything going on around him. When she realized she had been watching James way longer than necessary for what seemed to be the millionth time, she quickly tore her eyes away. She then realized that she hadn’t seen Alisha anywhere. She turned her head more quickly throughout the room and finally saw that Alisha was sleeping soundly in the armchair next to her. That made her smile some. The poor girl hadn’t been sleeping all that well lately. She would toss and turn all night and still somehow get up early. Maybe the dark circles under her eyes wouldn’t be so prominent anymore.
Lily’s head once again turned when she heard Sirius’ smug voice. James’ attention was now completely on the chessboard as he scowled. “Fuck.”
Lily bit her lip when she heard James swear. She normally scolded him whenever he did that, but her words usually went in one ear and out the other so she had given up a few days ago. Plus, his annoyance and frustration was amusing…and oddly endearing. After a quick perusal of the board, he sighed and just moved his King to the only space that would lead him out of harm’s way. He knew it was over. Sure enough, Sirius’ voice was now delighted as he moved his Queen directly in front of James’ King. “Checkmate! Take that, Prongs!”
Lily winced when she saw Sirius’ Queen slice James’ King in half. Wizard’s Chess was rather brutal. James just shook his head, standing up to stretch some. “It doesn’t matter. I’m still faster than you are, Padfoot.”
Lily found herself trying to evaluate the smirk on James’ face when she saw the extremely disgruntled expression cross Sirius’ features. It seemed as if he was talking about something more than merely being faster than someone. She had to be missing something. When James began to look around the room, Lily instantly ducked back into her book, pretending that she had been reading it the entire time. She could practically feel the heat of his gaze as he looked in her general direction. Her heart also began beating faster than before. Why did he affect her so? At his weary sigh, she immediately looked back up, even though her head was screaming at her not to. She bit her lip again when she noticed the softened expression on his face as he surveyed his sleeping sister. He rolled his eyes playfully before heading over near Alisha’s armchair. “Unbelievable. I tell her to go upstairs and sleep, but she doesn’t. I knew she would fall asleep down here. Looks like I’m sleeping on a conjured cot tonight…again.”
Maybe that’s why Alisha was always gone in the morning. She was sleeping up in the boys’ dormitory, likely to ease her worry for her brother by having him where she could see him. All of the Marauders snickered as James leaned down and scooped his sister up into his arms. However, Lily was completely blown away by how sweet he was being, and she instantly felt her breath catch. She had no idea how she had missed what a gentleman he was. She found herself watching him out of the corner of her eye, her heart still fluttering wildly. Sirius’ suggestive voice broke her out of her reverie, “Well, you can always just put her into my bed, Jamesie.”
She began giggling when she saw the irritated yet mischievous glint in James’ hazel eyes as he walked past her. She saw his right hand lying on his sister’s back move just so and a few bright fireworks shot off aiming straight for Sirius. Sirius yelped and began running around the common room, dodging and ducking with a scared look on his face. “Damnit, Prongs! You know I was just joking!”
Lily couldn’t seem to stop the wide smile from crossing her face when she noticed that James was grinning as he walked up the stairwell. He hadn’t smiled like that in so long. “Then you should watch your mouth when you talk about my sister, Padfoot.”
Sirius was still running around the common room even after James disappeared, much to everyone’s delight. There were giggles erupting all over the place. When one of the fireworks stung Sirius on the arm, he started begging Remus for help, “Owww!!!! Mooooooooooooooony!!!!!!! Help me!!!”
Lily was laughing softly to herself, especially when she realized that Sirius had left his wand lying near the chessboard and the fireworks were chasing him all over the common room so he had no way of getting to it. Remus was laughing outright, but he eventually sobered up enough to eliminate the fireworks for Sirius. Sirius dropped haphazardly onto the sofa, slightly out of breath. He grumbled, “That was not fair. I’m going to get him back for that.”
Remus just shot him a mischievous smile. “You know how he is about Al, and yet, you said it anyway.”
Sirius was still grumbling as James made his way back downstairs. Lily felt her face heat up when his eyes seemed to catch hers suddenly. He flashed her that half-grin of his before he turned to face the remaining Marauders. “Learned your lesson, Sirius?”
Sirius just threw him the bird, which made him chuckle. He smacked Sirius upside the head before continuing, “Good, and now that I no longer have to worry about Al’s virtue, you guys have to bugger off since Lily and I have to go patrol.”
Lily’s eyes widened. How in the world did that much time go by already? She couldn’t believe she had let herself get that distracted. She was usually the one to remind him that they needed to go patrol. She somehow managed to squeak out, “It’s that late already? I can’t believe I…”
She let herself trail off as she started throwing all of her things together quickly. She could feel his intense stare on her as she started waving her wand around in order to send all of her things magically upstairs. As soon as she had finished and had waved goodbye to the remaining Marauders, she began heading for the portrait hole with James not far behind her. She took a deep breath. Lately, these walks had felt…awkward. James used to be such a chatterbox, slightly cocky and so carefree, but now, he was just the strong, silent type. There was a part of her that wanted him to act how he used to once more, even if she would just smack him or get annoyed with him about it. She had also kind of liked that he was so interested in her life and whatever she had had to say. She wasn’t outgoing enough to start a conversation herself so she was just going to have to deal. At her sigh, she noticed him glance over at her with a smile, and her temper flared. She snapped at him, “Just what are you smiling about?”
He just chuckled and replied teasingly, “I can’t smile now, Lily?”
She rolled her eyes at him, considering it was obvious to him that she wasn’t really all that upset. How he had suddenly managed to be able to tell the difference after all this time was beyond her. She quickly averted her gaze away from him though so that she was able to watch where she was going. She couldn’t look at him for too long because he would look at her so intensely that it would make her heart flutter and her potential for running into a wall would go up exponentially. She instead did what she did best— she changed the subject. “So where did we have to go tonight anyway?”
He was the one to sigh this time, only she sensed there was definitely something more behind it. “The first four floors. The professors were going to get the rest.”
She nodded decisively and suggested, “Well, since we were told to not split up anymore, you just want to start at the Entrance Hall and make our way back up?”
He nodded and took the lead, considering he knew all of the secret passageways and how to get to places within the castle far more quickly than she did. He eventually stopped at a tapestry and held it open for her while gesturing politely. Lily stepped behind it tentatively, lighting her wand as she waited for James to come inside. Within minutes, she found herself walking in the hallway that was a few seconds from the Entrance Hall. She bit back her surprise and stated interestedly, “Wow, that was much faster.”
James chuckled. “I know, but you can’t use it all that often. If anyone sees you using it, it would be warded closed faster than we could blink. Best not use it for meal times or study halls.”
She nodded, smiling slightly. “Right.”
The two of them made their way all around the first floor and the second, and surprisingly, James tried to converse with her more than usual. She couldn’t believe how happy this simple gesture made her. They talked about their Transfiguration project, all of their friends, other classes, and her family, whom she reluctantly mentioned was not all that believing of the magical world and the problems going on within it. At the same time though, she noticed that James looked sort of sad or disappointed the entire time they talked. She didn’t really have time to contemplate the reason for his dejected mood because after a crash was heard just around the corner before them, James grabbed her around the waist, threw his hand over her mouth, and hauled the both of them into the nearest broom closet. Lily immediately struggled against his strong hold in shock that he was manhandling her so, but her struggles stopped abruptly when she heard his panicked whisper near her ear, “Shhh, Lily, that was dark magic.”
He loosened his hold on her as soon as she had stopped struggling. He quickly silenced the area they were in and left the door open a crack so he could just barely see the hallway from over her shoulder as she remained standing directly in front of him. Lily, however, was wondering how in the world he had known that the magic that had been used to cause the crash had been dark magic. She was just about to ask him and give him a piece of her mind for dragging her in here so cavalierly and manhandling her, but that was when she heard the quiet footsteps headed their way. Her heart rate began to skyrocket when she counted twelve witches or wizards in dark black cloaks walking past where they were hiding. The group was whispering, arguing slightly, and all she could make out was something about ambush and children. Her eyes widened considerably as she realized that these people were here to cause chaos in the dormitories after hours.
A soon as the group had made it past them, James turned her around to face him and spoke gravely, “I have to contact Professor Dumbledore about this.”
Lily shook her head and stomped her foot as she glared at him and tried not to think about the fact that they were mere inches from one another in the tight space. “You are not going to leave me here by myself, James Potter.”
James rolled his eyes at her stubborn display, and Lily was surprised to hear amusement in his voice when he spoke next, “Lily, I wasn’t going to leave you alone. I would never do that. Watch.”
He leaned around her with his wand at the crack in the door, and Lily’s eyes bulged when she realized he was going to cast magic when the group they were supposed to be hiding from was walking down the hallway the opposite way. They would find them instantly. She was going to stop him, but all of her thoughts ceased when she felt his hand run through her hair gently as if to calm her. Her distraction allowed him to be able to say in a firm voice, “Expecto patronum.”
She blinked when nothing came out of his wand, but after a few seconds, she saw a bright flash of light at the end of the hallway and something gallop around the corner. Lily couldn’t believe he could cast a delayed corporeal patronus when his general Charms work had always been mediocre. He then turned back to her and spoke quickly and slightly authoritative like he had done this before, “Now, we have to follow them so my patronus will lead the professors back to the Death Eaters and not just back to us. I have my invisibility cloak with me, but you are going to have to stand incredibly close to me underneath it as we go so I need to know you won’t yell at me about it. We have bigger problems to deal with.”
Lily’s mind was reeling. Patronus? Death Eaters? Was that who the group of dark wizards and witches were? And how did he even know that? And an invisibility cloak? Those actually exist? Wait, close to him? At that moment, she finally realized she had basically been in his arms since he had pulled the both of them in here, and she felt fine…better than fine really. She immediately blushed and was extremely relieved that the broom closet was dark. She took a deep breath and forced herself to remain calm even though her insides were practically screaming from everything James was able to cause her to feel by merely touching her. It was a task, but she managed not to stutter all over him, “I’ll be fine. Let’s go.”
He seemed to evaluate her expression as best he could in the dark, but he must’ve seen her agreement because he quickly pulled out this cloak of his and threw it over the both of them. He pulled her back against his chest once more, and Lily was surprised that the first thing she really thought about was the fact that he was more solid than a wall rather than about what they were about to go do. She shook her head so she wouldn’t focus on her butterflies any longer. She couldn’t be distracted right now so she forced all of her attention on the matter before them. She quickly silenced the area under the cloak along with their footsteps. They made their way carefully out into the hallway, and once there was a bit more light, she could see why the two of them had to walk so close. The cloak was large, sure, but James was just over six feet tall and the cloak was barely brushing the ground as a result, leaving hardly any room for another person to join him and hide successfully. After a quick perusal of their location, she asked him hesitantly, “Do you think they’re headed for the Ravenclaw dormitory?”
He sighed, and she was glad that she was not facing him when she felt her face flush at feeling his warm breath near her neck. His voice was directly above her ear as he stated, “Maybe, but most of these people are former Slytherins so my guess would be Gryffindor Tower. If they take the staircase at the end of the hallway after next, they would be there in five to ten minutes. It’s the longer route, but it’s also the route that hardly anyone would care to check.”
Lily shivered from the thought of her friends being the targets. She felt James lean even closer to her as he whispered more softly in her ear, “Don’t worry, Lils. They aren’t going to make it that far.”
Lily blinked at how his mere reassurance made her feel better, but shook her head decisively as she forced herself to regain her focus…umm…again. “No, they won’t. Let’s see if we can get closer to hear what they are arguing about.”
The two of them hurried as best they could under the cloak to catch up to the group so they could hear their muffled whispers, and her heart began to pound even more heavily when she realized that the group was indeed almost right in front of the staircase James had mentioned previously, obviously waiting for something. However, before they reached the group, Lily felt James pull her tightly towards him and up against the wall to their right. Lily’s breathing stopped entirely as she watched another hooded person walk past them exactly where they had previously been standing. She hadn’t even heard the person approach. The two of them hurried after the newcomer and listened attentively. One of the other hooded persons muttered to whomever it was, “So?”
The newcomer shrugged. “No one down that way. Is the pathway to the upstairs clear?”
Another nodded, but another interrupted, practically moaning in desperation, “Who cares! And why can’t we kill all of the filthy mudbloods?”
The one in the front scowled. He was clearly in charge. He hissed out, “Because the Dark Lord gave us orders. Now, let’s…”
He trailed off as a bright light started approaching from the top of the stairwell. As the light got larger and finally spanned the entire hallway at the top of the stairs, Lily was instantly in awe of the large creature now standing elegantly before them. The large stag stood proudly, looking indignant as it snorted down at the group. Its head turned to face where James and Lily were standing for a brief moment before dissipating and leaving everyone back in the moderate darkness of the hallways. However, as Lily’s eyes once again adjusted to the lack of light, she noticed all of the professors were now standing aggressively at the top of the stairs with Professor Dumbledore directly in the middle. That was when things started looking dangerous.
The Death Eaters quickly started throwing spells around, which led the professors to instantly retaliate. James pulled her along with him out of the way and down the hallway a bit, but she stopped him when she noticed three of the hooded group members running off down the same hallway, only the other way. They quickly moved to follow them, and as soon as they were away from the remaining attackers, James pulled off the invisibility cloak and began running much faster after them. Lily sped up herself and as she rounded the corner she had seen James turn at, she saw that he hadn’t hesitated to send off spell after spell silently at the persons they were chasing. At realizing they were being chased, the three turned and began defending themselves.
James suddenly had about four spells coming at him, and he had yet to throw a shield. Why hadn’t he thrown a shield? Lily immediately jabbed her wand out while shouting clearly, “Salvus Eris!”
A bright glow surrounded James as the four spells converged on him. James started at the shield’s presence, but all four spells hit him and absorbed into the shield before it faded. He looked back at her surprised, but Lily’s attention was torn when she herself became under fire. Her shout and shielding of another person had caused the three attackers to notice her. One of them began attacking her in earnest while the remaining two concentrated on James. She was able to hold her own, but when one of his dark spells flew past her, mere inches from her ear, her temper flared and she finally cast furiously, “Expello Maxime!”
A powerful spell erupted from her wand and flew with extra speed toward her attacker. He flew hard into the wall behind him before falling unconscious onto the hallway. That spell was her specialty, something she often used when she had had a stressful day or needed to work off her temper. The spare room in the castle she often went to was usually nothing more than rubble before she forced herself to fix the place back up when she was finished. The sound of her name broke her out of her brief reminiscence.
She quickly turned when she heard the pained yet affectionate way James had just whispered her name. However, instead of meeting his gaze or sending off a spell of any kind, she found herself unconsciously frozen in shock as she noticed a bright green spell heading straight for her. That was the Killing Curse, and yet, she couldn’t seem to realize that it was truly approaching her.
Lily found herself blinking and coming to when she was pulled roughly into a hard body, one that was beginning to feel familiar, oddly enough. She also jumped a mile when she watched the green spell shoot past where she had previously been standing and into the wall causing it to blast apart. She heard James curse sharply behind her, and she quickly realized why when she found herself watching his wand gracing the air before her eyes. He had saved her at his own expense, seeing as he was now left wandless. There were now three dark spells flying at them both, and her wand was conveniently pointing at the floor as James’ arms were locked around her. She felt James take a deep breath into her hair and felt his body behind her get hot. As the three spells came closer, Lily was shocked to see them bounce off a translucent shield and rebound triple speed back at the two attackers. Their eyes grew wide and horrified as the spells connected with them instead. Lily merely stared at the sight before her in shock. How in the world did that just happen?
Her question was answered as James whirled her around, his hands in her hair and his hazel eyes intense with worry as he looked her over. “Are you ok? Lily, answer me. Are you ok?”
She somehow found her voice as she continued to mull over how James had just done that. He must’ve cast wandless magic, but what she had just seen was far more powerful wandless magic than she had ever read about. Normally, most wandless magic that was documented or heard of was just being able to start a fire, move things around, or make something small transfigured— simple spells. A shield of that caliber, a reflective one at that, would be immensely difficult without a wand. Not to mention, he had just pulled her out of the way of a Killing Curse. She was lucky to still be standing there at all. “I’m fine…thank you, James.”
As she spoke, he seemed to look relieved, but then he abruptly widened his eyes and stepped back away from her. He broke eye contact and ran a hand through his hair. Lily just became confused. Why was he suddenly acting all weird? And since when was he nervous around her again? He turned away from her, looking down at their attackers while wandlessly summoning his fallen wand at the same time. His voice sounded off when he spoke next, almost detached and methodical, “You’re welcome. Now, they can’t know what I can do so…Obliviate.”
Lily watched him repeat the spell on the other attacker who had also seen his wandless spell before she was able to regain speech with him after observing his confusing behavior, “Umm, why…”
He sighed as he met her eyes, and as she trailed off, he reluctantly offered, “The ability to do wandless magic like that is not…” He seemed to struggle to find the right word, “…common.”
Lily found herself trying to evaluate his expression as they stared into each other’s eyes. His stare was so captivating. It was almost as if he was trying to tell her something, but she just couldn’t hear him. There were suddenly three pops in the air, breaking their odd connection, and Lily jumped when she noticed the attackers who had been incapacitated just behind James had suddenly disappeared. Her mouth dropped open in surprise. No one could apparate within Hogwarts! Plus, they were unconscious so how could they have possibly disappeared? “What just happened? Where did they go?”
James had turned at the noises as well, but he became incredibly pissed off instead of confused. He punched the concrete wall behind him as he growled out, “Damnit! We had them!”
Lily’s eyes widened when she even noticed some sparks fly out of James’ wand. She tried to repeat her question, but that was when Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall decided to come around the corner. James turned to them immediately, his hazel eyes fierce. “Who did it? Did one of them get away?”
Dumbledore sighed, and his blue eyes looked grave. “One of them must’ve slipped through or they must’ve had someone waiting further away. Are you ok? Ms. Evans?”
James nodded stiffly, still looking irritated. “We’re fine.”
McGonagall turned to Lily with a worried look, likely evaluating the confused expression she was surely still wearing. “You’re sure you’re ok, Lily?”
Lily nodded, looking briefly over at James as she continued to ponder over everything. “I’m fine.”
Professor Dumbledore’s face remained grim, but he moved on to more important topics, seeing as the two of them were indeed fine. “I’m afraid the entire castle has been locked down. The other professors have begun a thorough sweep of the castle, and while I’m sure you both could help, it would be better if the both of you returned to Gryffindor Tower. Please keep as much to yourselves as possible. I will address the issue during breakfast. I would like to speak with the two of you about the events that took place here tomorrow too, perhaps just before lunch?”
Lily noticed James’ eyes darken when Dumbledore mentioned them both leaving for Gryffindor Tower and leaving things to them, but he didn’t protest and nodded at his question. He also conjured a glass vial and touched his wand to his head gently. A swirly white, string-like mist was pulled out and placed into the vial before he handed it over to Dumbledore. Lily was immensely confused as to why James would just offer the memory of what happened to Dumbledore, but she bottled up her questions and resolved to herself that she would bombard James as they made their way back to the Tower. He had a lot of explaining to do.
Dumbledore nodded in thanks, and James just shrugged before offering with the tiniest hint of smiles, “You’ll be interested in Lily, Professor. I told you how she is when she’s angry.”
Lily turned on him, her face exasperated as she tried to wrap her head around everything that had just happened and what was really going on around her. Must the two of them speak in code? And why in the world was James speaking so cryptically, let alone about her specifically? He had been speaking like that so often lately that it was beginning to get on her last nerve. She jabbed her wand into his chest sharply, her eyes flashing, “What are you talking about?”
Dumbledore chuckled, breaking her concentration. “I’m sure he means well, Lily. Let him off easy. He will likely be kind enough to elaborate—in some regards—as you make your way back to the Tower.”
And with one last knowing look at James, he and McGonagall made their way further down the hallway, the both of them now speaking in hushed tones. Lily was still glaring at James, only now she found herself starting that incessant tapping she had seen Alisha do whenever she was riled. James just chuckled and pulled her along back to the stairwell they had run from before. “Come on, Lily.”
She pulled her arm out of his hold and crossed her arms in front of her as she walked with him. He didn’t say anything else, much to her dismay and impatience. She let him be for another moment or two as he picked up his forgotten invisibility cloak along the way, but that was just about all she could handle. The silence stretched on for only a short while longer before she suddenly started interrogating him, “You’re not going to say anything? How in the world did you do all that? How did you even know who those people were? Or why that crash was dark magic? And why are you so chummy with Dumbledore? How do you know the memory spell? Why did you even give him the memory anyway? And where in the world did you find a cloak like that at all? Wait, how did—“
James was trying incredibly hard not to laugh at her as he covered her mouth with one of his hands, essentially stopping her mid-question. She narrowed her green eyes at him, something that must’ve been too familiar for him as he couldn’t seem to stop himself from laughing any longer after that. She just shrugged away from him furiously as she marched further away from him and started up the stairwell on her own. If he was going to be like that, she was just going to wait to speak with Dumbledore. He was so impossibly infuriating.
“Wait, Lily! Please! I didn’t mean it. I promise! I just didn’t expect the onslaught, I swear! I mean, I really think th—”
She stopped and whirled around viciously, intending to give him a piece of her mind, only to have all of her words die in her throat as she found herself nose-to-nose with James who had been standing directly behind her on a lower stair. Her green eyes widened at their impossibly close proximity, and she even felt herself stop breathing momentarily as she stared into James’ hazel eyes, now inches from her own. He had stopped talking immediately, and his surprised expression told her that he hadn’t meant for this to happen. However, there was something about him that made it very hard to look away. As her heart rate began to take off violently and when she began to feel the oncoming blush to her cheeks, she quickly took a step up on the stairwell to calm herself down. There was a brief flash of emotion behind James’ eyes as she stepped away before it was gone entirely, his emotionless facade now back in place. He broke eye contact before continuing softly, “What I meant to say was that…I’ll answer some of your questions.”
Lily nodded before turning slightly to start heading more slowly up the stairwell. Her mind was all over the place so the last thing she wanted to do was trip up the stairs. She somehow managed to say quietly, “Ok…right.”
She could hear him slowly start to follow behind her, and as they reached the top, he was walking next to her again. Lily could feel only a faint flush to her cheeks so she kept her head down as they walked— well, more like looking in any direction but at James. She really didn’t want to have to ask him anything further in case something weird, like what had just transpired, happened again. They had gone from fairly comfortable around one another back to awkward in a matter of seconds, and she would prefer if she didn’t ruin their…was it peacefulness? Their somewhat friendship? Or was it really nothing more than an unspoken truce? She felt so confused already, and one more encounter like the one they just had would probably give her a tremendous headache. As a matter of fact, she was sure that what had already occurred would do that much already. She was already strictly analyzing whatever had happened back there as well as what had happened between them while they had been on their patrol, but she couldn’t really come up with a proper explanation just yet.
James kept quiet for a short while before he finally sighed into the silence and offered resignedly, “I suppose it goes without saying that whatever I tell you now and whatever Albus speaks with us about tomorrow or thereafter regarding the situation is supposed to be kept under strict secrecy, but I have to say it regardless.” When Lily didn’t reply in the negative, but merely inclined her head to indicate she was listening, he continued, “I knew they were Death Eaters because I’ve seen them before, and I knew that the crash had been dark magic because my parents are Aurors and they taught Alisha and I how to cast certain protective charms a long time ago, one of which went off like a sensor tonight. Albus is an old family friend so, of course, we are friendly— he watched me grow up after all. I gave him the memory because he would have wanted to see it tomorrow anyway. As for my invisibility cloak, it’s a family heirloom. You see, my family has…connections…to all who make them because it is my ancestor’s magical invention. It is tradition that all Potters have one.” He paused briefly once more before adding as an afterthought, “And my wandless magic is…something that needs to be kept very, very quiet.”
He stopped speaking after that, but Lily was still curious. There had to be more than just all of that. Sure, he answered the questions she had asked, but Alisha would have already known most of that, and after he had come back from leaving so abruptly from Transfiguration just over a week ago now, Alisha seemed to be a whole different person upon whatever realization she had gotten from that departure. She was now quiet, withdrawn, and…always anxious. He still wasn’t telling her something, something that would make her scared— the something which had made Alisha scared. Were things really as bad as what the Daily Prophet was saying? And what was more horrible to think about, were things actually worse than the public knew? His parents were Aurors so James and Alisha definitely heard more than most about the real trouble going on out there. Lily almost didn’t want to know now that she thought about it some more, but at the same time, she did. This was one mystery she would solve, even if the explanation wasn’t going to be a good one. Wasn’t it better to know in advance than be surprised? She replied back pointedly, “That’s not everything.”
James gave her a sideways glance, almost as if to appraise her. That half-grin she had grown to like even crossed his features briefly. “I know you are observant and like to know everything, but there are some things I am not at liberty to disclose.” He must’ve noticed her growing scowl because he quickly added almost pleadingly, “Not that I don’t want to, Lily. I think you should be…ahh…informed…for lots of reasons. However, I really just…can’t.”
Lily frowned, but accepted that. James couldn’t lie to save his life, especially to her. She had caught him doing tons of things over the years, and despite Sirius telling her thousands of tall tales while standing right next to him, the moment she looked James in the eye, he would randomly just blurt out the truth. That thought made her pause and cringe inwardly, considering most of the time she still had never believed him anyway. She had always thought he had given her an alternate tall tale, had been lying to get out of trouble, or had been trying to gain her good graces so she would go out with him. She had only realized she had this effect on him after she had started spending time with Alisha and the Marauders. She sighed. “Well, then hopefully Professor Dumbledore will be more accommodating tomorrow.”
James shrugged, but gave her an encouraging smile. “You never know. He is unpredictable.”
They remained quiet after that, considering the air between them still felt slightly awkward. Lily really couldn’t fathom why. So they almost ran into each other. Big deal. However, every time she thought about their…moment…all she could think was she didn’t understand why the incident had made her body react so…oddly. Even James was acting differently again. Still silent as ever, of course, but he was also suddenly…distant. She didn’t like it.
As they approached the Gryffindor portrait, Lily was shocked to see the Fat Lady standing behind two tall armed guards. The three of them in one portrait looked more than a little uncomfortable. Her brow furrowed. How in the world were they going to get inside? “Umm…”
James chuckled at her confusion before he held out his wand and waved it around intricately. Lily watched in fascination as a dark green aura came up out of his other hand before pushing out towards the door. However, she jumped a bit when she noticed a lighter green aura following behind it. That one had come from her own hand. As soon as the two auras touched the door, both of their full names were whispered out into the hallway and the two guards stepped out of the portrait. The portrait even opened without the password. As James gestured for her to go first with that trademark little smirk of his, she pointed at him with a playful glare. “You will explain that to me later, Potter.”
Her words only made his grin grow wider. As soon as they made their way into the common room, they were assaulted by a rather disheveled Alisha. She looked as if she was going to shout for days, but instead of even one loud yell, she randomly just fell back onto the sofa in what seemed to be relief. Sirius’ face was full of amusement while he fanned Alisha slightly. Her unamused glare in Sirius’ direction for his teasing indicated that she must’ve been acting more than a little frazzled for a while now. If James could tell when Alisha was feeling badly, then she was sure it worked the other way too.
Lily’s attention was soon drawn to more than just Sirius and Alisha on the couch, and she immediately froze when she noticed that Alisha and the Marauders were not the only faces waiting for them in the common room. She now realized why Alisha hadn’t let her wild concerns fly out loud. There were way too many people around. Apparently, most of Gryffindor Tower were wide awake, likely knew about the locked portrait, and had all waited for James and her explanation. Lily could feel her face starting to get a little warm. She didn’t mind talking in front of a group of people usually, but only when it had been planned in advance or when people weren’t focused so carefully on her. She hated attention like this. She knew she would probably only manage to stutter like an idiot at them all so she was never more thankful for the moment James stepped in front of her hiding her from view. His voice was authoritative, “Everything will be explained at breakfast. Now, everyone better get upstairs because if Lily and I have to notify McGonagall about you all still being out of bed RIGHT NOW…” He hissed through his teeth in warning, clearly implying that Professor McGonagall was on a rampage before adding unnecessarily, “Let me tell you, it would be a HUGE mistake.”
Most of the students began to look scared at the thought of a murderous McGonagall and started heading upstairs immediately. Some were slower, likely not buying James’ little implication, but even they were not going to go up against James or the rest of the Marauders. Peter looked over at James desperately when there were only a couple of stragglers still making their way upstairs. “You’re sure everything’s fine? I mean…”
James nodded, but it was when Lily nodded as well that Peter began to look relieved. Alisha stood up when they were the only ones left in the common room. She looked concerned and a little frightened. Her anxiousness was ever present in her hazel eyes as she glanced over the two of them repeatedly. “Are you both alright?”
James sighed, and Lily knew he really didn’t want to discuss anything more, particularly in front of the guys who were still left in the dark, so she answered his sister instead, “We’re both fine, but we all do have to get upstairs. Professor Dumbledore will address everything in the morning.”
Remus shot her and James curious stares as he evaluated them both, but he didn’t say anything. Instead, he grabbed Peter as well as a protesting and pouting Sirius and started to pull them up the boys’ stairwell. James nodded at her words and gave Alisha one of his full grins to show her that he was fine. “Allie, I’m fine. I promise. We’ll talk tomorrow.” He then glanced back at Lily, but she couldn’t understand his expression. How could he go from completely normal to distant in just one look? She couldn’t even be sure. Was it really a distant look? Or was it something else? He was so hard to read sometimes. “Lily.”
Lily nodded back at him, hoping that the confusion she was currently feeling hadn’t reached her eyes. “James.”
Alisha was looking at the both of them interestedly, but then fixed her penetrating stare on Lily when her brother disappeared upstairs. Lily didn’t like the look on her friend’s face. “What?”
She just shrugged innocently, her hazel eyes looking back at her amused. “What what?”
Lily rolled her eyes. The girl could be so annoying sometimes. She couldn’t help the tiny smile that crossed her face as she realized that it clearly ran in the family. She just shook her head at Alisha and started up the girls’ stairwell.
She knew from the quiet giggling behind her that Alisha was up to something still, especially when she heard the smug declaration, “That must’ve been some patrol.”
Lily sighed. Alisha really was the female version of James. She never left her alone either. However, the patrol had been rather eventful. The Death Eaters and then the whole fight had been extremely unexpected. The danger that the Death Eaters' appearance within the school suggested made her shiver just then. Perhaps that was all this was. “You have no idea.”
Alisha just shrugged and looked over at her with a knowing smirk. As she surpassed Lily on the stairs, she could have sworn that she heard Alisha mumble to herself, “I bet I do.”
Lily paused mid-stride, her nose crinkled in thought. She had missed something— something big. What was Alisha even talking about? She figured whatever it was, she should be afraid. That girl was something else.
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