Chapter 1 : Lost in Thought Without a Map
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James didn't realize until he had walked halfway to the fourth floor. Sirius still had the Marauder's Map. He was now faced with two options: walk back and surrender to his inevitable need for sleep or continue in his recent insomnia and walk aimlessly about the castle. Either way there was a possibility he would get caught, so he decided he might as well risk it.
Lost in thought, James strolled down the corridors, going nowhere in particular. At night, he felt more restless and useless than ever. There was a war raging on just outside the safety of the castle walls. Death and fear of what might happen tomorrow had become a part of the daily routine. All he wanted to do was fight You-Know-Who, to stop him. Instead, he was holed up in school passing the time with meaningless classes and stupid pranks. He knew he was still underage, only in his Sixth year, but that never stopped him from wishing he could do something, something more.
The sound of Filch whistling not too far away jolted James from his thoughts. He didn't know what floor he was on. Pivoting in place, he tried to pinpoint his location but all the statues and tapestries blurred together.
"Shit," James muttered.
Lily was amazed to realize she could recognize his voice from just one syllable, but every nerve in her body knew it was James. Her heartbeat raced against her better judgment as she unconsciously made to move from her spot behind the tapestry.
Halfway out of her sitting position, she hesitated. She didn't owe James Potter any favors; Filch could catch him and throw him in detention for a month for all she cared. Three months, even. The severity of the punishment hardly mattered. She was not going to help him. Resolved in her decision, she sat back down, folded her legs, and returned to her journal.
Filch's steps continued to echo loudly as he stomped through the corridors looking for students to punish. His dutiful cat Mrs. Norris' light pattering of footsteps followed his ungraceful ones. Lily's eyes skimmed across a few spare sentences, but she wasn't paying attention to the words anymore. All she could hear were the nearing footsteps and the faint sound of James' obscenities.
Filch was close. In another twenty seconds, he would turn the corner and spot him. James was closer. As James passed the tapestry Lily instinctively reached out and grabbed his arm to pull him inside the hidden room.
James raised a muffled yell, but fortunately the thickness of the tapestry drowned most of it out and as soon as Lily could see his face she shut him up with a hand over his mouth. Lily's wand had fallen out of her hand in the momentary scuffle and the dim glow of her Lighting Charm illuminated their faces. James eyes widened in surprise. Lily's face was stoic as she held a finger to her lips and listened. Judging by the lack of footsteps and the sound of a door opening down the hall, Filch seemed to have stopped to examine a broom cupboard.
Lily slowly removed her hand from James' mouth and casually motioned for him to sit down. James remained standing, but raised an eyebrow in response. Lily sighed and rolled her eyes.
"What are you doing out so late?" Lily accused in a low voice.
"I could ask you the same question," James countered.
Lily sighed and ran a hand through her hair. "I-I don't know. Sometimes I just like to come here and write at night," she said, gesturing to the discarded journal between them, "It's quieter when everyone else is asleep. It makes it easier to think. About the war and everything else."
James was quiet for a moment, but then he nodded. "I guess we have that in common," he remarked with a small smile.
Before Lily could respond, their conversation was interrupted by the familiar sound of Mrs. Norris' meows and Filch's heavy breathing. "Should we check behind that tapestry, Missus Norris?" he asked. Mrs. Norris meowed in response and he walked closer to their hiding place. He sounded like he was just a few feet away.
Lily soundlessly picked up her wand and whispered, "Nox," as she backed into the farthest corner of the small space. James followed her while hurriedly fumbling for something in his pocket. Assuming he was taking out his wand to hex Filch, she reached out a hand to stop him from getting them in any more trouble. Instead, he pulled out a shimmery cloth and quickly threw it over their crouched bodies.
"We'll get you this time, you little miscreants," Filch muttered threateningly as he pulled the tapestry aside with a wild flourish.
Lily flinched in expectation of being caught, but Filch stared right past them. "Nobody here," he grumbled with disappointment. Lily stared at the disgruntled caretaker with wide-eyed disbelief.
He was standing less than a foot away; all he had to do was reach out an arm and they would be caught. Had James placed a Confunding Charm on him without her noticing? That might at least begin to explain why he wasn't surprised to see a blanket-covered lump the size of two teenagers directly in front of him. She glanced at James, but his wand was still in his back pocket, apparently unmoved. Shooting a confused expression at the boy in question, she noticed he wasn't even paying attention to her. Instead, he was glaring determinedly at Filch's cat.
Mrs. Norris turned away from James' glare and meowed loudly in the direction of her owner, nudging him toward the back wall of the small room.
"Nothing there, Missus Norris," Filch responded. "We need to move on. There're bound to be some troublemakers in these halls," he exclaimed with a strange eagerness. Filch replaced the tapestry curtain and continued walking down the corridor. Mrs. Norris turned to hiss in James' direction, but followed her owner nonetheless.
As soon as they heard Filch reach the other end of the hall and get on a moving staircase, James whipped the cloth off and sighed with relief. "Damn, I really thought Mrs. Norris was going to do us in," he whispered, chuckling lightly. Lily stared at him incredulously.
"What just happ—?" Lily stopped short. The shimmery cloth no longer covered his hand; it had completely disappeared. The place where his hand had been was cut off from the rest of his body, the empty space now occupied by the wall behind it. "That's an Invisibility Cloak!" she exclaimed, almost forgetting the late hour and recent events. She lowered her voice, "It is, isn't it?"
James smiled broadly with a look of mischievous pride. "Family heirloom," he replied, holding it out for her to observe. Eager to examine it, she practically snatched it out of his hands. He pretended to look scandalized by her rough handling of the cloak, but she recognized the signature Potter smirk behind his seemingly appalled expression.
"Well, this explains a lot," she remarked, as she carefully ran her fingers across the silky fabric.
He ran a hand through his hair in a misguided attempt to look innocent. "It certainly does have its benefits," he responded vaguely. Lily laughed and shook her head in mock disapproval while continuing to play with the cloak.
He watched her disappear, in part and in whole, several more times before asking the question that had been on his mind. "So, why did you help me? You could have easily let Filch catch me, but you didn't. Why not?"
Lily stared blankly at the cloak as a blush threatened to sneak up her cheeks. She rather wished the cloak were still covering her face. Why did she help him? She was still trying to figure that out. It was almost instinctual; she felt like she needed to help him, or something.
It was hard to explain, so instead she shrugged and came up with the only plausible answer. "You and your mates lost thirty points for Gryffindor last week. Each. I just really want us to win the House Cup."
James frowned at her response. "Well, regardless of the reason, thanks," he replied, easily slipping on a friendly smile.
"You too," she responded awkwardly, gesturing to the cloak she was holding. "We wouldn't have survived without this," she admitted, as she gingerly handed the cloak back, which he then unceremoniously shoved into his pocket.
They stood there for a few tense moments of silence, before James broke it. "I guess I'll head back to Gryffindor Tower now, how about you?" he asked.
She hesitated before answering, but then she remembered her long forgotten journal. "Actually, I think I'll finish writing, but thanks," she replied sincerely, "for everything."
"Yeah, of course," he said, smiling with a hand in his already messy hair. "But are you sure? I've got the Invisibility Cloak. How are you going to get back without Filch catching you?"
Lily smiled mischievously. "Oh, don't worry about me. I usually just pretend I'm one of the prefects on patrol." James laughed appreciatively.
"Hmm," he pondered with a half-serious smirk, "maybe you're deserving of the Invisibility Cloak after all."
She smiled before returning to her journal. "Yeah, maybe I am."
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