Disclaimer: JK Rowling owns Harry Potter. Yay for her. She also owns James Potter who is, lets face it, a tad more prominent in this particular story.
Author's Note: Upon re-reading this fic I found several things annoying. These irritating things included, but are by no means limited to, certain sentence structures which make no sense whatsoever, Peter's rather conspicuous -and unexplained- absence in early chapters, lack of description and (as pointed out by phoenixtear19) Remus' less-than-believable response to the events portrayed. And so here it is, rewritten and hopefully improved. Oh and it will also be expanded when I get that far. If you feel inordinately attached to the original copy then… well, tough.
"Potter!" a frantic voice called across the Gryffindor common room. A few people looked up, however the individual being addressed remained quite thoroughly engrossed in his Potions Essay, oblivious to the outside world.
"Potter!" the voice repeated, louder. Over by the fireplace James' head stayed firmly down. Beside him, Peter Pettigrew made a small noise and gestured over towards the source of the summons, but James didn't notice.
"No that can't be right…" he muttered to himself. "Hell's bane can't possibly counter act it… what was I thinking? So if it's not Hell's bane… Got to be Adder's fork… that'd do it…" Sirius Black, on the other hand, noticed his friend's rather timid attempt at getting James' attention and took a far more direct approach.
"OI!" he smacked James off the back of the head. "Prongs it's generally considered polite to respond when a pretty girl is bellowing for you across the room."
James sent him a dazed and slightly confused look. "Wuh…?"
Both Peter and Sirius rolled their eyes. Peter pointed over to the Portrait Hole. "Amber is asking for you." he said helpfully.
James looked over and was met with the sight of Amber Goldman's slightly dishevelled figure. "Amber? You looking for me?" he called over the heads of their fellow early risers. Amber looked over to him and looked visibly relieved.
James had to admit, he'd never seen the girl look so unkempt. Her golden blonde hair was flat and dull looking and shadows surrounded her near-yellow eyes. Even her robes were hanging oddly, as though they'd been adjusted too often and now bore little resemblance to their original position. Realising that, when someone who took as much pride in their appearance as Amber was in such a state of disarray, it could hardly mean something good James closed his Potions textbook and sat up a little straighter.
Not that he was exactly lamenting putting his Potions work away, it had to be said. When James Potter was actually doing the homework assigned to him at seven o'clock in the morning, the day after it had been set, it was a sign that the Seventh-Year workload was a touch too demanding. James hoped vaguely that it was homework troubles getting Amber down too. But he doubted it.
"All right, what did you do with her?" she demanded loudly. James stared at her, utterly nonplussed. Behind him, Sirius made a fairly audible 'Eh?' sound.
"Er… I beg your pardon?" he asked her carefully.
"Lily!" Amber yelled.
James frowned in concern. "What about her? What happened?"
"Where is she? What did you do?" Amber demanded shrilly, her hand planted on her hip as she glared down at him.
James cast a glance over his shoulder at Peter and Sirius who both shrugged, clueless. A knot of worry immediately landed in James stomach as he turned back to Amber. "I didn't do anything to her. Haven't seen her since yesterday in Hogsmeade. Why?" he asked, in a voice that was meant to be soothing but rather came across as demanding.
"Because you…" she gestured emphatically over the three friends. "All of you are always doing things to people, and you're still all over Lily, and you were the last one to see her, and…and…" Amber's voice took on a hysterical edge and James leapt up out of chair.
"Amber." he said firmly. "Take a breath. Sit down. Here." he conjured up a glass of water and handed it to her while gently pushing her down into the seat he'd just vacated. "Now tell me what happened."
Amber took a shaky breath and dragged her hand through her hair. James noticed that Peter and Sirius were both standing beside him, regarding her with an expression similar to his own. "I…" Amber started. She took another breath, when she spoke again it was with much more certainty.
"Nobody's seen her. Not since she left the Three Broomsticks yesterday. She said she was coming back to the castle and… well we all saw her bump into you when she went out the door and then walk off together. And she hasn't… I mean she was… she's not the type to just wander off. I've checked everywhere but I can't find her. And… well there was that time that you trapped that Slytherin Girl in the Divination Classroom over the weekend and I just though… You did do something to her James, didn't you? Because I've heard things… around Hogsmeade and… a-and you did do something to her didn't you? It wasn't… ?" Amber's voice broke. She clamped a hand over her mouth, looking utterly horrified.
Sirius' mouth had formed a thin, grim line while Peter had paled a few shades. James knew what all of them were afraid of: There had been Death Eater activity in Hogsmeade over the past few weeks. Even letting the students go had been strongly debated amongst the teachers (with Professor McGonagall coming down firmly against, naturally). And Lily, being a muggle-born and Head Girl, was a prime target. Especially after the Daily Prophet's exceptionally helpful article about her being the first muggle-born Head Girl, Hogwarts had seen in over seventy years.
James ignored the feelings of guilt that began to rise up in him, as well as the throbbing that immediately appeared behind his left eye. "Amber did you check the other dorms? The library? I know she fell asleep in there once."
Amber sent him a sharp look. "She only fell asleep because you accidentally gave her a sleeping draught." she snapped accusingly. Which was at least an improvement on weepy Amber.
"True." James responded patiently. "But did you check there?" Amber nodded. "What about the Hospital Wing?"
"I've been there three times throughout the night. At five o'clock Madam Pomfrey told me not to come back until after ten because she had some… something private going on in there." Amber managed, her bottom lip starting to tremble.
James swore under his breath. The 'something private' was Remus going in after his transformation the previous night. Another testament to the Seventh Years' workload was that neither James, Sirius nor Peter had been able to go with him. However Madam Pomfrey was too used to them showing up to visit Remus the morning after the full moon to have a problem with one of them showing up. James turned to grab Sirius and head to the Hospital Wing when he was met with the sight of Peter frowning at Amber.
"Did you sleep at all last night Amber?" Peter asked her gently.
Amber gulped and nodded. "A-a little. I um… I couldn't get to sleep for a while but I finally nodded off about one AM and then… well I woke up and Lily still wasn't there and…" she trailed off, looking helpless. James resisted the urge to swear again. He had a tendency to forget other people when Evans was involved.
"Right then. Pete, make sure Amber's okay and uh… check around the usual places, maybe with McGongall, see if she knows anything about this. For all we know she could just be trapped in a really, really long monthly meeting with the dear Professor." James said, his voice sounding nervous even to his own ears. Peter nodded and helped Amber up, moving over to the couches. "Sirius we'll go to the Hospital Wing and-"
"Wait, no!" Amber called over. "You can't go to the Hospital Wing, you'll get in trouble!"
James sent the girl a pitying look. "Right. Which would be such a change of pace for us." he commented dryly. Sirius snorted beside him.
"Oh…" Amber whispered, a smile tugging slightly at her lips. "Right. I forgot."
James nodded at her and Peter and turned towards the Portrait Hole with Sirius following closely. He was just reaching out when the Fat Lady's portrait swung forward. Revealing none other than Miss Lily Marie Evans.
Her hair was straggly and chaotic while she had shadows under her eyes that made Amber look like a picture of perfect health. Her robes hung off her oddly, though James suspected that was her posture rather than anything, and small leaves, twigs and patches of dirt were scattered across them alongside innumerable tears in the fabric. A large, angry-looking purple bruise covered the right side of her jaw while her wand arm was in a sling. Her skin was littered with cuts and scrapes and she looked more weak and fragile than he had ever seen her.
Her hands were even shaking.
James took a step closer and placed his hand on her uninjured shoulder. "Lily?" he said quietly. Lily's eyes, which had been wandering aimlessly, snapped into focus and landed on him though they still appeared slightly glazed over.
"Oh hello Potter." she said happily, albeit a bit dreamily. "Lovely morning, don't you think?" she asked him. James shot a look outside to where sleet rained down from the sky and a bitter wind was whipping the forest.
"Er… I suppose." He agreed. "Evans… where have you been?"
Lily appeared to consider a moment. "Well that's the question isn't it James?" she said vaguely. "A girl can't know where she's going if she doesn't know where she's been… And one must know where one is going because otherwise what's the point? When they go or why they go… that doesn't really matter. Just where they go and who with… those are what make it worthwhile… I don't suppose I know where I've been yet, do I James? That means I haven't a clue where I'm going… simply can't last. Can't go on not knowing…" Lily trailed off, staring intently at the middle distance.
James was momentarily jarred, both by her unprecedented use of his first name and also by the fact that she appeared to be swaying on the spot; whether it was a result of fatigue or a head injury he wasn't sure. The entire common room was simply gaping at her. James turned and shot them a glare which made most people return to their work and propelled Amber and Peter to come over.
"Lily, are you okay?" Peter asked as he drew up next to Sirius, both looking dumbfounded.
"Hmm?" Lily looked around for a moment before she finally realised where Peter was standing. She smiled warmly at him. "Oh! Oh yes I'm fine. Fit as a fiddle, right as rain…" Lily paused and a crinkle appeared on her forehead. "What does that even mean? Right as Rain. How is rain ever right? Or wrong, for that matter. It just sort of… is." she shook her head as though to clear it. "But yes I'm all right. Perfectly fit and healthy. Mm-hmm." Lily began nodding to emphasise her point, but her head clearly didn't agree with the sudden movement.
She let out a low hiss and raised her hand to her temple, lurching forwards slightly. James, whose hand had not yet moved from her shoulder, shifted immediately to hold her in standing position. He ended up with one hand on her waist while the other held her arm. Any onlooker could have almost called their position intimate, if it weren't for Lily's large plaster cast between them. That and the greenish tinge that had appeared on her face.
"Don't think I'd be a very good dancing partner right now James…" Lily murmured vaguely. James raised his eyebrows over at Peter and Sirius, both of whom wore expressions of awe.
Amber simply looked disbelieving of the entire situation. "Lily are you…? Did you take anything, before you came here? Any potions or anything?" she asked moving closer to her friend.
James stayed in position, mainly because he was afraid Lily would collapse if he didn't. To his surprise she giggled at Amber's question. "Nuh-uh-ah, not supposed to tell. Madam Pomfrey said I shouldn't even be awake this long, but I told her… told her I could stay awake longer than she… Oh."
Lily lurched again. "Okaaaaay." James said soothingly, gesturing at Amber to move closer. "Evans? Amber here is going to take you up to your dormitory, alright? She's going to send you to bed and make sure you're feeling okay, okay?" While his voice was still assuasive, his expression to Amber was hard and bore no questioning. He may as well have painted a large sign above his head that said 'Do as I say OR ELSE'.
"No. No, don't… can't…" Lily's eyes closed and her head lulled backwards for a moment. "No. Slughorn, he was saying… he can't… Whoo." she swallowed hard. "I don't wish to alarm anybody, but I think I need to go to sleep now." she said in a voice that, unlike her previous tone, was crystal clear.
James smiled as pleasantly as he could at her. "I think we can accommodate you on that front Evans." he assured her. A quick tilt of his head and Amber was immediately next to him. He bundled Lily into her arms carefully and watched as Amber began moving her slowly towards the Girls' Dormitories.
Lily paused though. "Sirius!" she exclaimed. She'd obviously just noticed him. "Did you get any sleep at all last night Mister Black? Because you look terrible." Sirius, obviously at a loss how to respond to being told he looked terrible by someone who looked half dead herself, just shrugged a bit.
Moving on as though nothing had happened, Lily made her way upstairs. James stared after her, in shock.
"What in the name of…?" Peter murmured, shaking his head slowly. James blinked a few times and turned back to him and Sirius. Just the sound of Peter's voice shook him out of his stupor and reminded him that there were actual questions to be answered. And James liked having questions answered. Whether they ranged from "What will my Animagus form be?" to "What happens when you pour obscene amounts of bat-nip into the Slytherins' breakfast on Halloween morning?" And so he intended to find out what had happened to Lily Evans.
"Pete? Stay here and wait for Amber to come back down. Ask her about everything and then go see McGonagall, stalk her if you have to, just find out what happened. Sirius go-"
"Can't." Peter said quietly.
"What?" James asked.
"I can't stay. I've got remedial Charms in twenty minutes, Professor Flitwick said it's the only way-"
"You'll get through the NEWTS right." James finished for his friend, pinching the bridge of his nose. While Peter was capable, if not confident, in Charms he seemed to have a complete block on the Luminescence Charm and the Serendipity Charm. And so he was getting remedial lessons before the Christmas holidays so he could revise at home. "Fine then. Sirius, you do that." James said. Sirius nodded. "I'll go to the Hospital Wing and start harassing people for information. And I'll check in on Remus. I'll meet you back here in about half an hour?"
"Sounds good." Sirius agreed with a nod.
"Right then." James started walking over towards the Portrait Hole once again.
"Er… Prongs?" Peter interrupted. James looked back at him expectantly. "Well… I just… I mean why is this bothering you so much? We'll find out soon enough, we always do. And… well you said you weren't obsessing over Lily anymore." he pointed out, avoiding James eye as he spoke.
James glared at his friend, but he didn't disagree on any particular point: He had agreed to leave Evans be. More out of resignation than an actual urge to let her be. And he knew that they would discover soon enough what had happened to her soon enough, particularly with Hogwarts rumour mill. But it wasn't enough. She was hurt and he had to know why.
"I… She was…" he set his jaw stubbornly. "I was the last one to see her before she got hurt. Which means that if I'd come back with her, I could've stopped whatever it was that happened. So I need to know."
Peter looked suitably chagrined and made a small noise of agreement. Sirius, on the other hand, was frowning over at the entrance. James' gaze flickered over to where Sirius was looking and landed on Remus Lupin. An exceptionally tired, frail and vaguely terrified looking Remus Lupin.
"Moony are you…?"
"Something happened." Remus told them gravely, his voice scratchy. "I don't know what yet but…" He swayed slightly and for the second time that morning James immediately moved to hold someone upright. However this time Sirius was right beside him, propping Remus upright and looking deeply concerned. "Something happened." Remus repeated. He held up a glowing blue orb in his hand.
"What's that?" Sirius asked curiously.
"This is how we're going to find out what happened." Remus clarified. "But not here. Is the dorm empty?"
James nodded. "Peter you're going to be late. We'll tell you about it when you get back."
"C'mon Moony." Sirius said gently, heaving the boy towards the stairs. "You're not meant to be up on your feet this early mate. Madam Pomfrey is probably having a fit."
James silently agreed. But he sort of doubted that Remus felt he had much choice in the matter either way. And so, moving as one, the three boys made their way up the stairs with James eyeing the bright blue orb carefully all the way.