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‘You look after them,’ Mrs Lupin told her son. She brushed his sandy hair out of his face and then gave him a smile and gathered him into a hug. ‘Oh, Remus! I can’t believe it’s your last year!’
The three boys watched Lily’s retreating back until she was gone from the Great Hall. Sirius and Remus turned to James, sympathy written on their faces. James didn’t say anything. Not a word. He didn’t need to.
‘I hate patrols,’ Lily muttered as she and James walked through the dark, abandoned, second floor corridor at four in the morning. She pulled her cloak tighter around her shoulders to smother a shiver.
‘What exactly have you done, Wormy?’ Black growled when they were out in the halls.
‘What do you mean “days”?’ Lily demanded, horrified.
‘Prongs?’ Remus asked from his four-poster bed. James knew it looked like he was alone, though Lily and Sirius were only a step behind him, under the cloak. ‘Where’s Paddy?’
‘Merlin!’ Lily muttered sleepily. ‘What time is it?’ When she sat up, Remus realised she was still wearing her slightly crumpled school uniform.
Lily was still marvelling that Potter had managed to transfigure her rumpled school uniform into a pair of faded jeans and a long-sleeved shirt when a voice interrupted her thoughts.
‘Dissendium,’ Potter whispered.
‘No! Not them. Take me! Take me! NO!’ Potter began to thrash around from his bed on the floor, pushing his blanket away. Worried, Lily sat up as much as she was able while being stuck to a sleeping Black and tried to shift so she could get closer to him.
Lily and Sirius were alone in the boys’ dormitory. Lily was doing homework and Sirius was sitting on his bed, drumming his feet on the floor.
‘Sirius! What’s happening?! Why are you acting-’ Lily didn’t have a word to describe how he was acting, ‘-like this?’ she finished lamely.
For a few stunned seconds, all Lily could think was that Severus Snape, her ex-best friend, had been right. ‘You’re a Werewolf.’ She was pleased at how rational her voice sounded. ‘You’re not joking? You’re serious?’
Sirius dragged an exhausted Lily through the door of the Transfiguration classroom. McGonagall gave the sleepy Head Girl a pitying look that she was too tired to acknowledge with words. She smiled wearily at her House Head as she flopped into the seat on Sirius’ left.
‘We’re free!’ Sirius shouted. Madam Pomfrey shushed him and snapped a reprimand about having other patients in the Hospital Wing. Sirius ignored her, picked Lily up and swung her around in a circle, whooping. Lily wiggled the fingers on her left hand, pleased to feel them moving again.
‘So what exactly is going on with you and Lils?’ Marlene asked.
'Padfoot!' James called sleepily. 'Is that you?'
Chortling at Malfoy, James stepped forward.
‘Never again,’ James said with a shudder.
The boy slipped into the abandoned classroom that had been their meeting place as of late; they changed location regularly. He faced the taller, masked boy who was sitting lazily behind the teacher’s desk. ‘Are you alone?’ the masked boy asked.
‘Ugh! Charms was a disaster!’ Peter groaned as they headed off down the busy corridor. Remus smiled sympathetically. Peter hadn’t been able to cast his Disillusionment charm properly and had somehow managed to transfigure himself into a chameleon. They hadn’t known until then that Professor Flitwick was Scoliodentosaurophobic. The little Charms Professor had spent the lesson on his desk, even after James had transfigured Peter back into human form.
‘Where were you?’ James made a shushing gesture. ‘Keep your hair on,’ Sirius whispered back, ‘Minnie’s not even looking.’ He glanced up, just to check, but James didn’t notice. He had a look of utmost concentration on his face. Sirius knew that look. It was the one he had worn many a night trying to figure out why Lily hated him and also the look that had resulted in them becoming Animagi. ‘What’s happening?’
‘So...’ James said casually strolling in. He was still dressed in his Quidditch uniform, looking every bit the star player he was. Even his messy hair looked cool for Merlin’s sake!
‘James!’ Lily called.
‘You’re late, Wormtail.’
Sirius was the first thing Remus was conscious of when he woke up.
‘Please?’ James said pleasantly.
‘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.
‘I still can’t believe you made me tell him I was pregnant,’ Lily grumbled.
‘Come in,’ Dumbledore called, placing a letter from Lorcan MacLaird back into its envelope. He looked up with a smile. ‘James, dear boy, how can I help you?’
‘Oh, when I get my hands on him again he’s going to-’
‘Who-who are you?’ the boy croaked, shying away from the light that filtered into his room.
‘Professor,’ Sirius said. ‘That’s not James.’ James was staring at “James” who was now watching Sirius as if he was insane. Sirius honestly didn’t care what the Death Eater thought of him. James was back. Or, at least he thought he was. It was sort of hard to tell, since he didn’t remember anything. And he didn’t know that he didn’t remember anything. But Sirius thought it was James, and that had to count for something.
‘Sirius,’ James whispered. ‘I think I know why my favourite colour is green.’ He smiled over at the stunning red-head who had just walked in with Pete, the boy from before. Her emerald eyes flicked between the boy called James next to Dumbledore and him. James ran a hand through his hair, nervous under her scrutiny.
Dumbledore’s wizened hand brushed James’ neck. ‘I was afraid of this,’ he said, as his long fingers searched for a pulse. His face relaxed considerably upon finding one. The boy really did look pale.
‘I’m here to see James Potter,’ Sirius said, giving the blonde witch at the desk his most charming smile.
James woke up, staring blearily around. His head was throbbing and he was exhausted, as if he hadn't slept at all. Remus was dozing in a chair on his left, and Padfoot had nuzzled under James’ arm and was breathing loudly, taking up most of the pillow. James laughed quietly and shoved the dog off the bed. There was a yelp, and a moment later, Sirius sat up, looking disgruntled. ‘That was rude,’ he said.
‘Are you sure you’re all right to walk?’ Remus asked worriedly. ‘I’m sure we’d be allowed to Floo right into the castle-’
Sirius blinked himself awake. It was still dark outside, but the sky was beginning to lighten. ‘Lumos Minimus,’ he muttered, lighting his wand just enough to read the clock by his bed. It read six-forty-two. ‘Nox.’
‘I can’t believe Slughorn!’ Sirius muttered furiously, crossing out a mistake in his essay. ‘He gives us no homework, no assignments, and then suddenly he realises we’ve only got two weeks until Christmas holidays and he gives us this Merlin-cursed essay! One night is not long enough to write three rolls of parchment on everything we’ve learnt this year! I mean, it’s been three months and he expects us to remember that all in a night?!’
‘He’s waking up,’ Lily whispered, smiling down at James.
‘James. Hey, Potter.’ James swallowed the rest of his Nutritional Supplement Potion with a grimace and turned around.
‘Dark Lord,’ Peter breathed. The wall rumbled quietly and slid across.
‘Everyone staying?’ Gurdan asked. ‘Good. Line up.’ Chairs scraped on the ground as the class got to their feet and lined up in the middle of the room. Gurdan waved his wand and sent the desks and chairs into the back corner of the room. ‘Right, you can put your wands away. You will not be using them in this lesson.’ Some of the Slytherins grumbled but no one challenged the instructions. ‘We’ll be starting with the Imperius Curse,’ Gurdan said. ‘I want you to fight it. I want you to try to ignore my voice in your head, and answer your voice. You first, Miss Black?’
‘Merry Christmas!’ Sirius bellowed.
‘Are you ready?’ Lily asked, scuffing her boots on the snowy Hogsmeade road. James thought she looked nervous.
‘James?’ Mr Evans called, ‘I’m making a sandwich for lunch. Would you like one?’
When Lily and Sirius reached Lily’s room, James was sitting on the bed, hands balled at his side. He was staring fixedly at the wall, something Sirius knew was a very, very bad sign. ‘I’m so sorry, Lily,’ James said in a forced-calm voice. Sirius watched warily. James had stages of an emotional breakdown. First, his jaw trembled and he sought a quiet place where he inevitably built up his anger, second, he apologised and blamed himself. Third, he got angry and if no one found a way to vent that anger, he’d shout until he’d let it out.
James blinked himself awake, hearing footsteps in the hallway. A glance at Lily’s alarm clock told him it was eight-oh-seven. Yawning, he sat up, kissed Lily on the cheek and made his way over to the desk, where his rucksack was. He grabbed his Invisiblity Cloak, threw it over his shoulders and slipped out of the room.
‘Good luck,’ Sirius muttered as he, James, Lily, Remus and Peter stopped outside Professor McGonagall’s office.
‘Potter!’ a girl’s voice screeched. James looked up worried as Marlene stalked over, dressed in her Quidditch robes. ‘What in Merlin’s name are you doing?! I told you at breakfast I wanted the you and the Chasers at training an hour early! The rest of the team has already headed down!’
Remus shuffled through the familiar doors which were guarded by a pair of hard-faced Aurors. ‘Moony!’ James called, waving him over. James was sitting on the bottom of the steps inside Potter Manor. Remus wasn’t entirely sure what they were doing in there - Benjy hadn’t been very talkative as he ushered Remus inside, probably due to his broken collarbone – but he guessed it was the safest place in the area and big enough to hold everyone.
Lily hovered at the edge of the Death Eaters’ camp under a strong Disillusionment Charm; Sirius had managed to find her wand within a minute of them escaping. His wand had not been with hers, and he’d refused to leave until he found it, so Lily had given him the Cloak and her wand and was waiting anxiously for him to come back; they had agreed it was too dangerous for them both to go looking, in case they got separated.
Lily snatched the Cloak and the fallen trowel-Portkey off the ground and helped Remus tow Sirius away. They’d gone about twenty paces when they hit a slight resistance in the air; the wards. Hope fluttering in her stomach, Lily pushed through. Remus reversed his Disillusionment Charm, becoming visible again, and swapped his wand for a cracked flowerpot, still somehow managing to keep his hold on Sirius.
‘B-b-but they were t-there!’ Dorcas stammered, staring into the Cellar.
‘All right, take care, Padfoot,’ James said, setting his mirror down on the table. Lily came to stand beside him and play with his messy hair.
She had absolutely no intention of moving until-
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