CHAPTER 17 "Responsibility"

Knock, knock, knock.

James looked at the door, he had just laid Sirius on his bed and was about to change into his pajamas. Peter was already in bed and Remus was reading.

Knock, knock, knock. It repeated.

"Go see who it is," Remus said.

James went to the door and opened it slightly. It was Lily, she stood there looking anxious.

"Of all the people I expected, you were the last person I thought it would be," James said and smiled, he opened the door completely. "Miss me already?"

"No," Lily rolled her eyes and walked past him into the dormitory. "I need your help. It stinks here."

"Yeah, Sirius..." James said and untidied his hair nervously.

"I can't find Meredith. I thought your map could help," she said firmly and looked at James.

"You told her?" Peter asked. "I thought we weren't going to tell anyone."

"Well," James said nervously. "It kinda slipped."

"And it was a little obvious," Lily said. "Now where's the tracking map?"

James got the map from his bed stand and handed it to Lily. Lily opened it in a hurry but stopped to take the map in. It was amazing. She looked up at James eyes wide opened, he looked proud. The map was a small piece of paper that had many folds and magically showed every corner of the school. Also, she could see little footsteps with names all over the castle.

"Wow," was all she could say.

"It still has polishing to do," James said.

"But it works?"

"Of course!," James said and pointed at the Gryffindor's 1st years boys dormitory that had five footsteps with their names on them.

"Where is Hufflepuff's common room?" she asked.

"Down here," James pointed out.

"I can't find Meredith," her anxiousness was a little more evident. "I knew something wasn't right. She wouldn't have disappeared without saying anything. I can't find Thomas Eggart's name either. Her boyfriend." Lily swallowed nervously.

"Let's see," James said and took the map. Peter and Remus got out of bed to help look. They looked and looked into the map and no M. Darby or T. Eggart could be seen. James could see Lily turn pale.

"Where can she be?" swallowed Lily.

"Well," Lupin thought. "If she is not on the map, there's only one place I can think of…"

"The Forest," James finished and the three boys looked at each other.

"Is Eggart a pureblood?" Peter asked Lily.

"I… I don't know," Lily stuttered.

"We have to go check," James said.

"Wh... Why would they be in the forest?" Lily asked. "It's not likely, is it?."

"It's the only place that's not on the map. Plus…" Lupin said and stopped to look at James.

"Plus, we found something in the forest the other day," James continued.

"What did you find?"

"A clandestine classroom," Peter said. Lily's eyes widened.

"Then, what are we waiting for?" Lily said and walked out of the room. The three boys followed quickly. James took a few seconds to find his cloak.

"What? Are you cold?" Lily asked, looking at the cloak.

"You'll see," James' eyes sparkled. "Come on."

James, Peter, Remus, Lily, Mary, and Phyllida walked out of their common room after curfew. The boys were used to wandering at night, the girls were not. They felt a little apprehension but their worries for their friend were stronger.

"We should get help," Phyllida suggested.

"And tell them what?" James asked.

"That Meredith is missing?" Lily said, annoyed.

"Oh," James wasn't used to having a good excuse to be out.

"I'll go get Professor McGonagall," Remus said.

"Mary and Phylli you go too," Lily said. "She might not believe in a Marauder by himself," And so the group was divided. One left into the castle and the other headed out of it.

"We should hide," James said, pulling out his cloak looking straight into Lily's eyes. James cleared his thought and said earnestly: "Besides the map, which is new, this is one of my biggest secrets and the reason for our success."

"An old dirty cloak?" Lily asked half-joking. James grinned and covered himself with the cloak and disappeared. Lily gasped, Peter giggled.

"Come on get in," James said and covered Lily first. Lily felt completely uncomfortable feeling James so close and the intimacy of the cloak's isolation. She breathed in relief when Peter joined them in their invisibility and the three walked out of the castle.

"What now?" Lily asked at the edge of the great forbidden forest.

"It's this way," James said as he pulled the cloak off. Lily swallowed as she looked into the deep dark and noisy forest. She had never done anything she wasn't supposed to, so she was pretty nervous about the whole matter. Peter had Lily's same expression.

James walked in with no hesitation. Lily looked at Peter and Peter looked at Lily. They recognize each other's anxiety. Peter frowned and nodded at Lily. They looked back into the forest and followed.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch. Her footsteps were all she could hear, the four of them were concentrated in listening. James walked as though he had the forest memorized, not hesitating with any step. His mahogany wand was tight in his hand ready for anything. Right then, Lily realized she didn't have hers ready. She nervously looked into her pockets and readied her wand just as James had.

They walked what seemed like hours, but it hadn't been more than a couple of minutes when they started to hear voices. Lots of voices. Loud voices. Laughter. Lily suddenly was afraid for her friend. James paused and raised a hand for them to stop. He looked at them and put his index finger on his lips. Lily hadn't noticed, but Peter and she had linked their arms some time on their way into the forest. Both stopped at James' indication.

"I was right. There here at the clearing," James had walked back silently towards them.

"Did you see Meredith?" Lily asked.

"I can't see anything from here unless I make myself seen," James looked to the sides looking for a plan. "There, over there," he pointed at a big mossy rock, the three of them silently walked towards it.

Lily looked from behind the rock into the clearing, she froze at what she saw. There was a group of boys laughing and cheering as a little girl (Meredith) was dancing over what would have been a teacher's desk. Thomas was there.

All Lily remembered afterward was that she didn't take a single second to think. All she remembered was the rage she felt in her chest. All the feelings of fear and insecurity that she had lived with since she had been attacked didn't exist. All was replaced with anger, she was finally facing them, the ones who had made her feel small. And now her friend was being made a fool. Lily didn't know many spells, she had only learned a couple. At this moment she wished to have learned more. With only three spells, protego, petrificus totalus and expelliarmus, Lily attacked Thomas first -obviously- and then a person who had their wand pointed at Meredith. Lily had a few seconds advantage, the shock the boys felt as they saw her throwing spells everywhere took a while for them to react. But when they reacted, another wand had started throwing spells too. In the middle of the chaos, Lily realized she really liked the petrifying spell that immobilized her adversaries, she repeated the spell and took down three, including Thomas. James got the rest. Realizing everyone was under control, Lily ran to pick Meredith up, who had fallen off the tree-desk. Her eyes were coming into focus but were unable to focus on Lily.

"Mer!" Lily yelled and shook her friend. "Mer! Wake up! James help me."

"I'm here," he said as he kneald next to the girls. "Renervate," he said pointing at Meredith's head. Her eyes suddenly focused.

"Lily?" Meredith said with a high voice, her eyes started to fill with tears, and then started weeping uncontrollably. Lily pulled her friend into a tight hug and whispered:

"You're Ok, Mer. You're ok."

It took Meredith many minutes to calm down. Peter finally appeared, he had frozen in shock looking at Lily and James and by the time he ran into the clearing, it was over.

"What do we do now?" Peter asked.

"First we get her out of here," James said, helping Lily stand Meredith.

"And what about them?" Peter pointed at the immobilized boys.

"You stay here, I'll go get someone." The two of them walked Meredith slowly out of the forest.

"What on earth is going on here?" Professor McGonagall was walking towards them in her pajamas, followed by Remus, Phyllida, and Mary.

"Meredith!" Mary yelled and ran towards them.

"In the forest," James said as Mary replaced him in carrying Meredith. "Peter is there with them. They had her bewitched."

"Take her to the Hospital Wing, afterwards I want all of you in my office," and with that, she walked into the forest wand in hand.

"Are you ok, Mer?" Mary asked in a whisper. Meredith shook her head and started crying again. "Come on, let's go."

It took about half an hour for Professor McGonagall to appear. Lily and James let the rest know what had happened and then they all waited anxiously in silence. There was a loud bang as the door of the office opened fiercely and made them startle.

"All of you, follow me." Professor McGonagall's anger was noticeable in her voice. She guided them over to the headmaster's office in a petrifying silence. The six of them looked pale and uneasy as they walked up the staircase into Dumbledore's office.

"Please, sit down." Professor Dumbledore invited them to sit on the six chairs prepared for them. "I need a detailed explanation of what happened today. James, would you please start with your birthday party today in Gryffindor's common room?"

James swallowed. He hadn't expected the headmaster to know about that. He breathed in and spilled everything, at least almost everything. Lily was completely mesmerized to hear him tell a tale with all the important information but at the same time hiding anything incriminating, like the cloak, the map, and their nocturnal adventures. Lily joined the tale only to explain how she realized Meredith was missing and looking for James' help. Dumbledore ended up with a story that included the finding of the clearing, Meredith's disappearance, and finding her but nothing illegal on their part.

"I wondered where the meetings were taking place. Never thought it was outside the castle, having so many options on the inside," Dumbledore thought out loud. "I'll be checking the forest after our meeting. You all can go back to bed and sleep. Those responsible for tonight will be suspended."

"But who's teaching them dark magic?" Lily asked impatiently.

"That is something you're not responsible to find," Dumbledore said with finality and send them off.

"You're such a sly liar, Potter" Lily observed as they walked back to their chambers.

"Thank you very much!" smiled James.

"That wasn't a compliment," Phyllida said. Peter and Remus laugh at that.

"Thank you for tonight. If you hadn't helped we would have found Meredith too late, with no memory of tonight."

"You're very welcome," James said with a dramatic bow and winked at Remus and Peter.

"You're such a show-off," Mary rolled her eyes. "Unicorn"

The Fat Lady's portrait opened. The six of them found themselves in front of a mad baggie-eyed Sirius Black.

"What is the meaning of this?" He asked with his arms crossed against his chest. "You've abandoned me!"

"Chill, man," James said.

"You were in no condition to follow us," Remus observed.

"Nothing a good bucket of cold water can't fix!" He stomped his feet. "I missed the adventure."

"There'll be lots more, relax man," James said.

"I really hope not," Lily said and the girls left to their bed, leaving the explaining to the boys.

A/N: Two chapters left! Maybe 3... ? We'll see... I need to finish it this year, si o si. Hope you enjoy this chapter and let me know if you did. Love to have readers again. Thank you :)