Chapter Three

All throughout their patrol, it was all James could do to keep his attention (and eyes) on the task at hand. He was still going over the час before patrol in his head, trying to make sense of it. Lily Evans, always the stoic one, afraid? It was hard to get his head around. Lily had always been the one to keep her head in the most panic-worthy of situations – like the time she found out that Remus is a werewolf.

It had been a particularly difficult full moon, the last one of their sixth год at Hogwarts. Wolf-Remus had been еще vicious than usual and both James and Sirius were sporting various wounds in different stages of blood clotting. They were trying – in vain – to restrain him before he did any еще damage to himself, the Shrieking Shack или them, when finally dawn began to break and Remus began the difficult transformation back to his human self. James and Sirius settled down to watch, slightly wary. Sometimes, the aggression didn't quite fade away with the breaking of a new day, and even in his human form Remus would struggle against them, biting and scratching even in his weakened state. So far, tonight had had all the signs of one of those times.
Fifteen минуты later, Remus lay in a trembling heap on the ground, human again but not really looking it. или Актёрское искусство it – sure enough, as soon as James and Sirius, also in their human forms, got close enough, he began to snarl in a threatening manner.
“Relax, mate, it's just us. Moony? It's just us. Prongs and Padfoot.”
Snarl.
“Come on, mate we gotta go. Gotta get Ты up to the hospital wing.” Sirius jumped in. They were sort of circling around Remus, trying to get closer without making him threatened enough to attack – it had been known to happen. James signalled to Sirius, and wordlessly counted to three; on the third they pounced, restraining Remus as best they could, and still he struggled. James raised his eyebrows at Sirius, and he nodded: tonight was an extreme case. Sirius dug out his wand and whispered, “
Stupefy!
James hated having to Stun Remus, but some nights it was a necessity. There was no way they were going to get him up to the hospital wing with him struggling like that... but Madam Pomfrey was probably going to kill them.
They made their slow way to the base of the Whomping Willow, and James reached out his had to press the tiny knob that froze the branches. Usually that was Peter's job, Peter in his tiny крыса form... but Peter wasn't around, they hadn't seen him for days. James hoped he hadn't gotten himself into trouble, but he had еще important issues at hand. This was always the hardest part, getting an often unconscious Remus through the hole at the base of the дерево and into Hogwarts grounds. This time, however, something was different...
Lily Evans was standing Далее to the entrance of the tunnel, waiting with a stretcher and two bottles of water.
“I thought Ты might need these,” she сказал(-а) simply when she saw James' dumbfounded expression. “Come on, let's get Remus up to the hospital wing, Ты can stutter out your Вопросы later.” She handed the water to the boys and helped them out of the hole before turning to Remus and heaving him out with surprising strength. “Guys, honestly. What's up? Do I look funny? Is something wrong?”
Silence.
“All right, then, why don't Ты help me with this battered werewolf? He needs medical attention, Ты know. As do you,” she added, eyeing the boys' cuts and bruises disapprovingly, and turning her attention back to Remus, now lying on the ground. The boys watched with open amazement as she sighed and levitated him onto the stretcher – apparently her strength wasn't limitless. With a last look over her shoulder, she started to guide the stretcher up to the castle, trusting the boys to follow her.
Finally, James' brain began to work again. “Hey! Evans! Evans, wait up!”
Exasperated sigh. “What now, Potter?”
“You can't just go barging into the замок like that. People will see –“
“Honestly, Potter, here I thought Ты were smart. It's the crack of dawn, for Merlin's sake! And anyway, I cloaked us. Ты two are the only people who can see me или this stretcher.”
“Huh. Guess you're еще than just a pretty face, Evans, yeah?”
Sirius walked up behind me. “Prongs, mate, if Ты haven't figured that out yet... you're screwed.” Evans just looked amused.
“Guys? The hospital wing?”
“Oh, right. Lead the way, fair lady!” James сказал(-а) with a mock bow, earning him another, equally exasperated sigh.


He smiled as he remembered the day.
“Knut for your thoughts?” Lily asked.
“Huh? Oh, I was just remembering the time Ты found out about Moony's... condition.”
“Oh, Ты mean the time Ты guys were so dumbstruck someone had figured out your great secret that I had to drag poor Remus up to the hospital wing all by myself?”
“Yeah, that would be the one.”
“But did Ты honestly think no one would ever figure it out?”
“Um... yes?”
Lily laughed. “Well, you're lucky not everybody is as smart as me, then.”
“That we are. But hey. Ты never did tell us – what tipped Ты off?”
“You mean apart from the fact that a) there's only so many times Ты can visit your sick insert relative here at full moon, b) few normal humans are afraid of full moons and c) Ты call him Moony?”
“... right. So Ты just, what, followed us one beautiful full moon?”
“No, silly. It's not like I'd put myself in the line of огонь – I watched from the window until I saw a wolf, a олень and a dog disappear through the hole at the base of the Whomping Willow.” When she mentioned the олень and the dog, James' expression froze noticably. Lily continued in an innocent tone, “Does Dumbledore know, by the way? That Ты two – and probably Peter too – are illegal Animagi?”
“About that... do Ты think Ты could, maybe, not tell him?”
“Who do Ты think I am, Severus?” James noted the obvious distaste with which she сказал(-а) the name of her former best friend and smiled to himself. He almost missed Lily continuing her sentence. “I'm not going to run to Dumbledore. Anyway, that's pretty impressive magic, turning yourself into an Animagus. How in the world did Peter manage?”
“He nearly didn't,” James сказал(-а) with a laugh. “The first time he changed, he nearly became a крыса forever.”
“McGonagall would probably have been proud,” she said, with just the tiniest hint of sarcasm. “But. My silence has one condition: you'll let me come with Ты on full moons.” All the humour was now gone from her expression.
“Lily, did Ты not listen in third-year Defence Against the Dark Arts? Волколаки are vicious during the full moon. They don't differentiate between friend and foe. Remus would tear Ты limb from limb.”
“But that's just the thing: from what I've seen, Ты guys get pretty torn up too. So what I'm proposing is this: Ты let me wait for Ты outside the passage, so in case Ты need back-up, someone knows where Ты are. So that if... if Ты don't come back at dawn, there'll be someone to alert Dumbledore.”
“Look, Lily, I'm touched that you'd do that for us... but it's too dangerous. What if we can't keep him in the Shack?”
“James, your concern is appreciated and all, but have Ты ever seen me Stun anyone? Not to toot my own horn или anything.”
“Come to think of it... no, I haven't.”
“Well, let's just say Ты don't want me to demonstrate it on you.” She looked him square in the eye. “So. Deal или no deal?”
“I'm going to have to talk it over with Sirius – and Remus is going to be extremely against this idea – but I say deal.”
“It better be.”

–––––––

James had been right: Sirius was against the idea because Lily was a girl, and specifically James' all-time dream girl, which was bound to equal distraction, and Remus because he didn't want to risk harming another person. Peter was not present, which was honestly not that surprising – they were seeing less and less of him that year.
“Guys, honestly. I don't know about you, but I'd feel better knowing there was someone that had our back – and Padfoot, before Ты start, it's not just because it's Lily.”
“Really?”
“Yes! Really. And besides, she сказал(-а) she'd go to Dumbledore if we didn't let her.”
“She сказал(-а) that?” Remus asked, his unwillingness clear in his expression.
“Well... not exactly. Not in those words. But it was very clearly implied.”
“As in...?”
“As in, 'My silence has one condition.'”
“Oh. So we pretty much have no choice?”
“I would say so.”
“Fine. But that doesn't mean I like it. What if she's seen?”
“She won't be – I'll leave her my Cloak.”
“And does she know she'll be left the Cloak?”
“As of right now? Nope.”
“Ah. Well, Ты better go tell her we agreed before we change our minds, Prongs.” James gave them a grateful smile before leaving his old dorm and heading towards the Heads' Quarters, a slight spring in his step.

––––––––

“So they agreed.” Lily stated, a triumphant expression on her face.
“Yeah, but there's one thing: Ты can't be seen.”
“Why?”
“And here I thought Ты were еще than just a pretty face...” James teased, earning him a хлопать, привкус on the arm. “Anyway, don't Ты think people would wonder if they saw Ты sitting out the night by the Whomping Willow once a month?”
“You do have a point. But no worries, I can do a decent Disillusionment Charm.”
“Ah, but Ты don't need to,” he сказал(-а) mysteriously.
“How else do Ты suggest on making me invisible, then?”
Wordlessly, James pulled the Invisibility плащ out of his school robes.
“James – is that – an Invisibility Cloak?”
He drew it around himself, leaving only his head visible. “Does this answer your question?”
“It – yes. But is it an actual Invisibility Cloak? Not just a normal плащ with some charm cast on it? But... however did Ты get it?”
“It's been in family for ages and ages, and it's still going strong – so I guess it must be real, not that I ever thought about it.”
“So I suppose now I know how you've managed all your pranks?”
“Yep.”
“And I'm not supposed to tell anyone?”
“Uh, yeah. Ты understand, right?”
“That the secrets of the almighty Marauders must be kept secret, lest their credibility goes? Yeah, I understand.”
“Awesome.”

–––––––

“All right, all right! Guys. Calm down, okay?” It was the third week of school, and James was trying to calm the Prefects down at their weekly meeting. “We – that is, your amazingly wonderful Head Girl and I –“ Lily smacked his arm for what had to have been the tenth time that week, and it was only Tuesday “– have some news for you.”
A chorus of 'Ooooh's rose up, and James kicked himself for not having worded that better. “Regrettably, not that.” He fully expected another smack, but even Lily seemed to have grown tired of the constant violence. “Yes, well, anyway, my point was this: seeing as Ты all now that dark forces are at work, yadda yadda yadda, there's a war coming and so forth, we've decided that the students – especially the younger ones – need some entertainment in the dark winter months ahead. Which is why... we've decided to hold a Winter Ball – well, that's what it will officially be called. In actual fact, this is how it's going to be: around seven pm on a день that is yet to be decided, the entire school will meet in the Great Hall for a feast...” Lily tuned out James' speech – she had no need to listen to him explaining the event they'd planned just last week. She did, however, marvel at how eloquent James seemed to be while addressing the Prefects. They seemed to almost... respect him? No, that wasn't possible. This was James Potter, after all: he may have commanded many things, but respect – unless it was from a fellow prankster – was not often one of those things.
Huh. Maybe he really has changed.