That night found me in the Room of Requirement searching through countless books. Well, to be honest, I was mostly thinking about the situation with James and using the research as a distraction. He was definitely a detriment to figuring this whole mess out because my mind kept focusing on him rather than the books in front of me.
I tried to think of a way to continue my friendship with James while staying on Marlene’s good side. Her best subject had always been Charms. I’d seen her cast many hexes when she was prompted into a fit of rage. She could be downright scary.
Unfortunately for me, I could see no other way around the problem. The only two solutions that I could come up with was that James and I would have to continue our friendship in secret or I would have to make him hate me. I didn’t think he would fancy the former too much and it would just get too complicated. That meant that I would have to make him hate me and want to stay away if I didn’t want to incur Marlene’s wrath.
I left the Room of Requirement around midnight. I didn’t think anything was going to be accomplished with the mood I was in and I didn’t feel like spending another night on the moldy sofa. Confident that no one was awake, I strode towards the Hufflepuff common room. Big mistake on my part, really, because I somehow forgot about the prefects.
Just as I was rounding the corner to the kitchens, I bumped straight into Remus. “Lily? What are you doing out past curfew?”
“Sorry, Remus. I…I fell asleep in the stacks in library. I must have slipped past Madame Pince’s notice,” I lied as smoothly as I could.
He met my overly innocent expression with narrowed eyes. “Uh-huh. Is, er, is there anyone with you?” Remus looked over my shoulder.
“No, why would anyone be with me?”
“It’s just my mates and I were thinking—” He cut himself off and I narrowed my eyes at him. “Never mind. Why don’t you get to bed? And take care to not fall asleep in the library again. I don’t want to have to give you a detention.” He smiled to turn the threat into a joke of sorts.
“Sure, Remus, thanks. And sorry.”
I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. To say that I slept like the dead would be putting it lightly. I hadn’t actually been devoting enough time to my slumber as of late. When I awoke, my stomach was aflutter with anxiety and sadness. Today, my new friendship with James was going to end.
The whole day, instead of just getting it over with, I played the coward. I took all precautions to avoid James and somehow managed to accomplish that feat. Or so I thought. After supper, I was one of the last people to leave so I could ensure a James-free walk to the Hufflepuff dorms. I was halfway there when I felt a hand encircle my upper arm. I whirled around, ready to hex whoever it was until I saw that it was James. He’d jumped back from me and his eyebrows were raised in amused surprise. “Are you going to use that on me, Evans?”
“No, of course not. You just scared me.” I tried to conjure up all of the old resentment and anger I used to feel for him. It was harder than I’d anticipated to seem stony and uninterested when he was mere inches away. My insides were in turmoil and it made me feel shaky all over. “Did you want something?”
He cocked his head to the side at my attitude. “Are you alright?”
“Then why won’t you look at me?” I met his gaze sarcastically and he frowned at me. “Did I say or do something to offend you? Why are avoiding me?”
I sighed wearily. “I’m not avoiding you, Potter.” Calling him by his surname made things easier. I was able to inject just the right amount of annoyance into my voice. Just like old times. “What do you want?”
“I wanted to know when you were heading to the Room tonight.”
“I don’t think that I’m doing that anymore.”
James narrowed his eyes at me. “What do you mean?”
“I’ve decided that I can just deal with it. I’m starting to think that there’s no way to change things back, so I’m not going to look through any more books.” This, of course, was all a lie. I needed to push James away and I couldn’t have him helping me anymore. It was too hard to be around him and not want him more and more. Oh, and the whole Marlene issue was a problem too.
“You’re giving up,” he asked incredulously.
“In a way, yes.”
“I don’t understand. I thought this was important to you.” He searched my face. “I don’t believe you.”
I had to get him to hate me; to want to stay as far away from me as possible. An idea struck me then. I didn’t like that I had to resort to these kinds of lies, but it would definitely make him hate me. “Fine. I'll tell you, Potter. I tried letting you down without really hurting you, but since you want to know the truth, here it is. I-I lied to you. All I said to you about this alternate universe stuff was made up.”
His face screwed up in confusion. “What? Why?”
What would make him believe this lie? I thought fast. “I can’t stand Gabby. Never could. When she started dating you, I couldn't let the opportunity slip away. What better way to make her go mad than to just swoop in and steal you right from under her nose? In other words, I used you.”
“That makes no sense. Why are you saying this?”
I swallowed. “Because I basically won. She sent Marlene after me today, you know. I would have gone further with it and would have even made you leave her, but you're a nice guy, Potter. I'm not that coldhearted. I don’t want to mess with your head any more than I already have.”
I kept my face stony (and a bit snotty). James' face slowly dissipated from disbelief to hurt breifly before he replaced it with anger. His jaw clenched and his hands balled up into fists. “That was…I can’t—I…I don’t even think that I have the words for…bloody hell! Do you even know how that makes me feel? I feel like an absolute prat, that’s what. You must have had a real laugh at me when I started to believe you.” James got up really close to my face and snarled, “Don’t ever talk to me again or I swear I’ll—I’ll…” He growled then turned from me and stormed off in the opposite direction.
I breathed in deeply and slowly let it out in a shaky breath. I closed my eyes as my indifferent mask slid from my face and willed the tears to recede. I couldn’t believe that I had done it. That was possibly the hardest thing I ever had to do. Hopefully he would stay angry at me until I figured this whole mess out. Then, after everything went back to normal, I vowed to make things right between us. If anything good came from this experience it was the fact that I finally got to see who James really was. I wasn’t willing to give up on whatever had developed between us no matter what I had to go through. After a few more minutes of collecting myself in the dark corridor, I made my way to the Room of Requirement. Alone.
I rubbed my tired eyes and reread the same passage for the fifth time. I was so tired that comprehension of words had become impossible. It was well into the earliest hours of the morning, and I was sitting on the moldy couch again. I turned my burning, heavy eyes to the books that I hadn’t gone through yet. Before starting my research that night, I’d looked for any books that could be applied to my situation in any way. There were three stacks of them that all came up to my hip each. I’d only gotten through about half of the first stack that night to no avail.
I was starting to think that I was right when I’d told James that I had made this entire thing up. Perhaps I was really going mad and it only felt real. I mean, wasn’t that the rule? Crazy people didn’t think that they were crazy. I could have made up an entire past that had never happened except for in my head. Merlin, maybe I should give up. This whole situation was pointless. At least I’d had some fun when James was helping me. Scratch that; I'd been having a lot of fun with James.
But I did the right thing. He didn’t have to waste time dealing with my problems. James was not only the Head Boy, but he was also the captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, not to mention the amount of schoolwork he must have had by that point. When had he had time to focus on his studies since he started helping me? I most certainly did not have any time to do anything academic recently (besides show up Gabby in Potions, but that was easy because it was my best subject). No, I'd definitely done the right thing.
I lay back on the gross and extremely smelly couch intending to rest my eyes for a bit. I only realized that I’d fallen asleep when I awoke with a start. I wasn’t sure how long I’d been asleep or what had awoken me so suddenly. I sat up and rubbed my eyes awake. Then I froze when I heard it: the door quietly clicked closed.
I looked around for my wand as soundlessly as I could. Then I spotted the end of it sticking out from under the couch. After arming myself, I hid behind a massive wardrobe. My heart was beating loudly and my hands shook. I wasn’t sure how accurate my aim would be unless I calmed myself down.
“Where is she,” a familiar voice whispered. “She wasn’t on the Map. Unless she snuck off to Hogsmede, this is the only place she’d be.”
“She probably heard you crash into here and hid, you flat-footed dolt. Can’t you ever be quiet,” asked another familiar voice in quiet annoyance. This was followed by what sounded like a smack on the head and a muted Ow.
“Padfoot, kindly do not slap Wormtail,” a third voice admonished. “It’s not his fault he’s so clumsy.”
I shook my head. I should have guessed that the only people that would be sneaking about the castle this late were the Marauders. I severely hoped that James was not with them. To be sure, I peeked out from around my hiding spot and let out a relieved sigh when I just saw Remus, Sirius and Peter. They were carefully looking behind things for me.
Still holding my wand high, I stepped from my hiding spot. James must have told them what I’d said and they were bound to be angry with me. “What do you lot want?”
They turned to me, startled. Then, Sirius said with an eye roll, “Told you she heard you, Wormtail. Now, love, why don’t you lower that wand of yours so we can have a chat?”
I hesitated. It wasn’t as if they’d ever been known to hex non-Slytherins unawares. The look on Sirius’s face however, made me reluctant to test this theory. He had an undercurrent of anger that was masked by his usual smirking amusement. “Fine,” I said. I lowered my wand but kept it tightly gripped in my hand. “What do you want to talk about?”
“You know what.” Sirius dropped the pretense of amusement. “Why did you do it?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
This was clearly the wrong thing to say. Sirius narrowed his eyes and looked even angrier; Remus and Peter looked on in distaste. “Rubbish. Don’t play games with me, you chit. You know exactly what I’m talking about.” When I stayed silent, he continued to talk. “Fine, allow me to elaborate, then. Do you happen to recall telling my best mate some sort of bullshite story and making him feel like a complete idiot?” I tried to get a word in edgewise, but he wasn’t finished berating me yet. “Who does that? Do you even realize how messed up what you did was? I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so upset.”
That last statement made me look away in shame. I was suddenly tired of this whole situation. I was tired of being so lonely. I was just tired. “I lied.”
“I think that was already established, Evans, but thank—”
“No,” I interrupted him with ferocity, “earlier tonight. What I told him earlier tonight about my…situation.” I wasn’t sure how much they knew, so I kept it vague. No need to add onto the reasons they didn't believe me. “I lied to him when I told him that I made the whole story up.”
All three of them looked at me in varying degrees of distrust. Sirius had a severe expression while Remus seemed more convincible. Peter looked between his two friends as if he couldn’t decide whose expression to adopt and ended up with one in the middle. Remus finally spoke after a short, uncomfortable silence. “Why?”
I sighed gustily. “It was Marlene. She threatened me after Potions. She was angry about how familiar I seemed with James.” I thought about that for a second then turned on Sirius. “Which is actually part of your fault, by the way. Thank you for that. I thought she was going to pummel me. I decided to push James away so I wouldn’t find myself on the wrong side of her wand.”
“I think you accomplished that,” Sirius remarked dryly. He looked heavenward and let out an angry breath. “Bloody Gabby. She ruins everything.”
Remus was still watching me closely. “What exactly did you lie to James about—or, rather, not lie about? He didn’t tell us the whole situation.”
I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to tell them. They might not even believe me and think that I was lying to them too. Or crazy. Then I thought, Why the hell not tell them everything? It wasn’t as if I had anything to lose. It might even make me feel less tired. “Gabby did something. I don’t know what exactly but she switched everything. I’m supposed to be her and she’s supposed to be me.” The Marauders just blinked at me. “Like, she stole my life. I’m supposed to be the Gryffindor and Head Girl and top of our class, not her. She did some kind of spell or something and stole everything from me, even my friends. I’ve been researching and looking for any answers.” I plopped down on the moldy couch again and cradled my tired head in my hands. “That’s why James found me after curfew by the library last week. I told him everything on a longshot and he’s been helping me research ever since.”
“Did you tell him about Gabby,” Remus asked.
I looked at him incredulously. “Of course, but she has James so blind that he thinks she has no flaws. To him, she can do no wrong.”
Sirius shook his head. “She’s sickening. I can’t stand that…that…”
Peter patted Sirius on the back. “I know, mate. I know.”
“So,” I began tentatively. “Does this mean that you believe me?”
Sirius narrowed his eyes in thought. “It’s a possibility.”
“What were your theories,” Remus asked. My heart sped up with hope.
“Parallel universe? I don’t know. I’ve been searching for days, but there’s nothing.”
Remus rubbed his chin in thought. “Then it must be something else.”
“Like what,” I asked in an annoyed voice. The frustration was building up in my chest and made me want to scream.
Remus shrugged. “A memory charm, pehaps?”
A memory charm. I hadn’t even considered that a possibility because the amount of power that entailed would had to have been on epic levels. I voiced my doubt. “On the whole school though?” If it were true, Gabby must have some major power to be able to cast it on all of Hogwarts; even the professors had been affected. “You know, at this point, I'm willing to look into anything. She is brilliant at Charms.” I looked up in wonder as the pieces all clicked. “If you're right, Remus, you are a genius.”
Remus looked flattered. “Just trying to help.”
He took a look at the books stacked up, and picked one out. When he opened it, I asked, “What are you doing?”
“What does it look like? I’m researching. There might be other forms of magic that Gabby used, and you have quite a number of books to look through.”
Sirius shrugged and picked one up. Peter scrambled after him. A wave of affection overcame me for the three Marauders. I didn’t, however, want them to feel like they were obligated to help me now. “You—you don’t have to do that. I can handle this on my own.”
Sirius looked at me pityingly. “Give it up, Evans. We’re helping you now whether you like it or not. Plus, there’s the added bonus of getting rid of Gabby.”
I smiled beatifically at the three of them and felt more awake than I’d felt moments before. Things might have actually started to go my way now.
Author’s Note: Okay, like I said in my last chapter’s update, I’m really, really sorry for taking so long. I was going through some personal stuff and just recently started writing again. Things are heating up and more drama is on the way. I hope that you enjoyed this chapter! What do you think of the fight between James and Lily? What about Remus’s idea about how Lily was switched with Gabby? Tell me what you think in the comments, please!
*Update: I randomly started looking over this story again, and decided to change some things in this chapter. I think it makes way more sense now, and I hope you like it. I'm thinking of editing the whole story now and continuing with new chapters until I finally finish. I hope you all enjoy what I'm about to do with it!