‘Lily?’ Remus said softly, sitting down beside her. She nodded, too busy staring at the wall to pay him much heed. He shared a look with Sirius. ‘Why weren’t you at dinner?’ Remus asked, putting off his real question.
He shot Sirius a look, which he missed; the shaggy haired boy was deeply interested in a painting on the other side of the room. Sirius had insisted Remus would be the best one to breach this topic with her.
In prior conversations, she had already conceded James was acting strangely, but suggesting that James was not in fact James, was another complete matter.
‘Not hungry,’ she mumbled, staring at her hands. All reasons for starting this conversation flew out of his head at the sight of her. In the seven years Remus had known her, he had never seen her looking so... lost.
‘Are you feeling all right?’ She nodded. He wasn't convinced, but he knew how annoying it was to have people doubt him and knew she'd probably feel the same. ‘I- could I ask you something?’ He expected a witty remark, but none came. Her eyes swivelled to meet his and she nodded again, a little more hesitantly this time. ‘Do you think it’s possible that James-’
‘It a prat?’ Lily suggested in a voice that lacked her usual affection. ‘Yes, I think it's highly possible.’
‘What happened?’ Remus asked, a little perturbed by her poisonous expression. Lily pursed her lips, refusing to say anything else. ‘Lily?’
She folded her arms over her chest. ‘Has James ever been romantically interested in Katelyn?’
‘No,’ Remus said with certainty.
‘Well,’ Lily said in a strained tone, ‘I think he’s changed his mind.’
‘Why?’ Remus asked carefully. ‘Did he say something?’
‘No,’ Lily said in that same detached voice. She pressed her lips together, but Remus could see the corners of her mouth trembling and her eyes were bright with tears.
Remus glanced over her shoulder and caught Sirius’ eye. ‘Help me!’ he mouthed. Remus was terrible with crying people, particularly women. Anger he could deal with; all he had to do was shout back. But tears...? He patted her arm awkwardly.
Sirius flopped down on the other side of Lily, pulling her into a brotherly hug. She didn’t actually cry because when she pulled away, Sirius’ shirt was free of tears, but her breathing was far too slow and measured for her to be as calm as she appeared. ‘Sorry,’ she mumbled, looking embarrassed.
‘No problem,’ Sirius said with an easy smile. ‘Do you want to explain what’s wrong?’
‘Not really,' Lily said with a tremulous smile. Sirius rolled his eyes, obviously waiting for a better answer. 'James and Katelyn... ummm.... well, when I came downstairs this morning, I found them snogging on the Common Room couch,’ Lily said in a shaky voice.
‘Ah,’ Remus said, trying to think of something comforting to say. ‘Right.’
Sirius leapt to his feet. ‘I am going to kill that bastard!’ he bellowed, whipping out his wand.
‘Padfoot, sit down,’ Remus said tiredly.
‘Can I help?’ Lily asked half-heartedly as Sirius threw himself down next to Remus, grumbling. ‘He was my boyfriend; it only seems fair.’
‘Was?’ Remus asked.
‘Did you expect me to forgive him so easily?’ Lily scoffed. ‘I broke up with him on the spot.’
‘How did he take it?’ Sirius said, looking like he couldn't decide whether he wanted to hear the answer or not.
‘He told me we could talk later because he was busy. He rolled back on top of Katelyn and picked up where they had left off,’ Lily said, disgusted.
‘I told you,’ Sirius said, turning to Remus with a grim smile. ‘It’s not him.’
Remus nodded wearily. Above all else, this confirmed it; the real James Potter would never cheat on Lily, and would probably implode if she ever broke up with him.
‘Agreed.’ Lily’s eyes flicked between them. Remus sighed. ‘Lily, James isn’t James.’
‘What?’ she asked, confused. Then her eyes brightened. She wasn’t the smartest witch in the year for nothing. ‘Like-like Polyjuice Potion?’
Sirius shrugged. ‘I’d say so. That or they have a flair for glamour charms, which I have doubts about – it’s too perfect. Maybe they’re a Metamorhmagus, like my cousin.’
‘They’re rare though,’ Remus said, frowning. ‘It could be the Imperius Curse, but I pity the git who puts that on Prongs. He's too stubborn. He'd fight... I’d say Polyjuice Potion.’
Lily was silent for a moment and then nodded. ‘It certainly fits,’ she said bleakly. ‘He has seemed like a stranger this past week and a half.’ Her nose wrinkled. ‘So I’ve been kissing...’ She shuddered, her face paling. ‘Who is it?’
‘No idea,’ Sirius said darkly. ‘Probably a Death Eater.’ The Map had disappeared after Sirius and Peter had been attacked in the dungeons, so they had no way of checking “James’” real identity.
'A-a Death Eater?’ Lily repeated, wide-eyed. ‘I mean obviously it can’t be a student... but a Death Eater... How would they even get in?’
Remus hung his head. Next to him, Sirius did the same. ‘Actually, Lils, it’s not so much them getting in as James getting out.’
Lily’s eyes narrowed. ‘You were in Hogsmeade weren’t you?’
‘Wormtail had a great prank planned,’ Sirius said defensively. ‘It didn’t end up so well though... Do you remember when you were with Alice and Marlene and we were off to see Dumbledore?’ Lily nodded slowly. ‘Well...er...’
Remus filled Lily in on everything that had happened on the afternoon of the full-moon, how they had been chased by Death Eaters, how James’ leg had been broken, how he had Banished Remus through the gates. Sirius then explained his encounter with Malfoy and what had happened after they left Lily in the corridor and came upstairs.
‘So where’s James?’ Lily asked once they were done.
‘No idea,’ Sirius said miserably. ‘Did the Death Eaters say anything while they were taking him, Moony?’
‘I was in the middle of a transformation,’ Remus said, shaking his head. ‘If they did, I don’t remember any of it.’
‘Have you told Dumbledore all of this?’
‘No,’ Sirius said heavily.
‘Just because you don’t want to get in trouble?’ Lily said as if she didn’t believe what she was saying.
‘It’s not that!’ Sirius retorted, having missed the disbelieving undercurrent in her voice. ‘Do you honestly think I care more about a few house points than my best friend’s life?!’
‘No,’ Lily said meekly.
‘I’d tell Dumbledore in a heartbeat if I thought it would help,’ Sirius sighed. ‘But at this point, I don’t think it would; while we’re fairly sure it’s not Prongs, but we haven’t got anything concrete that would make an outsider believe it.’ Remus could read the wistful expression on his face; he wanted the Map, because the Map never lied.
‘You’re right,’ Lily said, stunned. She leaned back against the couch. ‘So what do we do?’
‘Veritaserum?’ Remus suggested. Lily and Sirius stared at him. ‘What? We all know Slughorn keeps a great vat of it down in the dungeons. All we’d have to do is slip some in his evening pumpkin juice.’
‘And then what?’ Sirius said doubtfully. ‘Even if he did tell us everything, we’d be targets as soon as the potion wore off. He’d want us dead so we couldn’t tell anyone anything.’
‘And that wouldn’t help James,’ Lily said softly. ‘If we’re the only ones who know and then the Death Eater...’ She shivered. ‘I think it’ll be better if the Death Eater doesn’t know that we know. We need to keep an eye on things. That way we can go to Dumbledore as soon as we have evidence. Maybe we can figure out what “James” wants...’ She bit her lip, looking thoughtful and then glanced at Remus and then at Sirius. ‘I’ve given the two of you an excuse to get close to him again, after our break-up this morning...’
‘We play the role of indignant friends and we’re back in the loop,’ Sirius surmised. ‘It could work.’
Remus nodded. ‘It certainly could. We need an excuse to keep you close though, Lily... An outsider that might see things we miss.’
‘How though? I made it fairly clear I didn’t want much to do with him after this morning.’
‘You could pretend to date one of us?’ Sirius said with a smirk. Remus chuckled.
‘No, thank you,’ Lily said, laughing.
‘I’ve still got to give you Patronus lessons,’ Remus suggested.
‘That’s no reason to have her around us though,’ Sirius said, dismissing the idea. ‘We need her closer than that.’
‘Yes, that’s right,’ a loud whisper said from the corner. Lily and the two Marauders glanced over curiously at two fifth year girls who were whispering over their homework by the fire. ‘She told him she was pregnant and as soon as he heard, he broke up with her and went out with Katelyn! Can you believe it?’
‘I thought he really liked her,’ the other said with an upset expression. ‘I thought James had more class than that...Poor Lily.’
‘I know,’ the first girl said. Suddenly, she giggled. ‘But it’s Lily. She’s the last person you’d expect to-’ she giggled again, ‘-well, to do anything that could end with pregnancy...’ Her friend giggled too.
Lily scowled. Remus glanced at Sirius, an idea forming in his head. Sirius stared back, mischief dancing in his eyes. ‘Lils...’ he began with a grin. ‘Maybe you are pregnant.’
‘I am not!’ Lily hissed. She blushed. ‘James and I haven’t-’ She huffed loudly, tossing her hair over her shoulder. ‘I assure you I’m not.’
‘That’s not what I meant,’ Sirius said patiently. Remus stifled a laugh, realising where Sirius was going with his crazy plan. ‘Listen...’
* * *
‘James, I need to talk to you. Alone,’ Lily added with a dark look at Katelyn.
‘Want him back do you?’ Sirius said coolly.
“James” stared down at her with a slight frown but allowed her to lead him into a corner of the Common Room. ‘Do you want me back?’ he asked with a smirk that sent shivers down her spine.
‘No,’ she said gently. ‘But I was wondering if we could go back to being friends?’
‘Why?’ he demanded. ‘I think you made yourself perfectly clear yesterday about not wanting anything to do with me ever again.’
‘I’ve changed my mind,’ Lily whispered. ‘James, I’m pregnant.’
His eyes widened and he let out a noisy breath. His eyes slipped down to her stomach. ‘You don’t look it,’ he said nervously.
‘Of course not,’ she snapped. ‘I’m only two months along.’
‘Two months? So when, in the holidays?’
‘You don’t remember?’ she said coldly, trying to look offended instead of embarrassed. He shook his head. ‘On the train,’ she mumbled.
His eyebrows disappeared into his hair and a sleazy grin spread across his face. ‘And it’s mine?’
‘I have no doubt,’ Lily said. She shot Sirius a dark look for making her do this. Remus gave her a subtle thumbs up. Her eyes flicked back to the boy in front of her. He still looked puzzled.
‘So what do you want?’ “James” asked. ‘Money, or something?’
‘No,’ Lily sniffed, her face burning with humiliation. ‘I just thought you should know.’
‘And, umm... well, I’m keeping it.’
‘Oh,’ he said again.
Trying to smother the desire to slap him she said, ‘I want us to be friends. I want my baby to be on good terms with his or her father.’
‘Sure,’ he said with an indifferent shrug.
‘Can this stay between us?’ she said. ‘I don’t want anyone to know until I’ve figured some things out.’
He nodded and strutted back over to where Katelyn and the rest of the Marauders were waiting. ‘What did she want?’ Katelyn said shrilly.
‘To be friends,’ she heard him reply. Lily sighed in relief and headed for her dormitory stairs. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Remus give her a covert nod.
* * *
‘I thought you told me they only started dating a month ago?’ Rookwood snarled. ‘And that they loathed each other before that?’
‘Then why the hell is the mudblood two months pregnant?!’ he bellowed.
‘Lily?’ Peter asked, too dumbfounded to stutter. ‘She’s pregnant? But-’
‘Who’s pregnant?’ Sirius asked, waltzing into the dormitory. Peter squeaked, hoping fervently Sirius hadn’t heard the rest of the conversation. If anyone was going to figure out their little plan, it would be Sirius. Sometimes, he was far too nosy for his own good.
‘Lily,’ Rookwood said, annoyed.
Sirius’ eyes widened. ‘Really? When did that happen?’
‘On the train, apparently,’ Rookwood said.
Sirius grinned and clapped hands with Rookwood. ‘Nice work, Prongs!’ he said, laughing. His face fell slightly. ‘Why didn’t you tell us sooner?’
‘I-er... Lily made me promise not to.’ It sounded like a question, but it was believable. Peter nodded slightly.
All traces of annoyance disappeared and Sirius grinned again. ‘The things we do to keep women happy, huh, Prongs?’ Rookwood nodded, smiling slightly. ‘Speaking of happy women...’ Sirius rummaged through his trunk for a clean shirt and threw it on. He checked his reflection in the mirror on the wall. ‘Don’t wait up,’ he said cheerfully, winking at them. The door clicked shut behind them.
‘Well, Sirius is back to normal,’ Peter muttered. For a while, he had worried that Rookwood hadn’t fooled Sirius or Remus, but after Lily broke up with “James”, the two of them had snapped out of it. They’d come back, all qualms forgotten and been indignant on “James’” behalf.
Peter thought they might actually get away with it now; if nothing else, they had a chance, a real chance.