It's been far too long, and I can only apologise profusely. It turns out I write better when I actually have something more productive to be doing. (That and Sherlock and Homestuck sort of ate my life, oops.) But I promise that the content of this chapter more than makes up for my severe lack of updating.
And thank you to everyone who's stuck with me for so long. I know it's torturous but I'm putting Between Love and Hate on hiatus to focus on this fic. Wish me luck! And enjoy!
James was the sort of person who loved seeing the look on someone's face when they reacted to one of his pranks. So it was such a pity that he'd come down with the mother of all colds on the day after the Third Wave of Bluelists was distributed, Remus reflected as he sat in class that morning.
But the day had just started, and by the end of it Remus would be wishing he was James. He would be wishing that all of them were James.
It started off as quite a normal day. Naturally, there was a fair bit of commotion surrounding the latest bit of literature from the Marauders. The reactions this time were extreme – either people were in giggling fits over the lewd cartoon, or they were burning it behind the gym whilst conducting highly sour-faced cleansing rituals. Someone had pasted a copy of it to the door of one of the Civics classrooms, with the scribbled additional caption of "MARAUDERS FOREVER". Sirius was so incredibly proud of this particular reaction that he nicked it at morning tea whilst no-one was around.
It was after morning tea that things really began to get interesting. Remus was sitting in math with Lily. They were always front-and-centre, taking comprehensive notes and racing each other to finish their homework. It always made Remus feel a little inadequate, as Lily was infinitely better at math than he was, but he put up with it because it was added motivation for him to work harder.
They were in the middle of one such race when Miss McGonagall entered the classroom with a stern face. Miss Vector looked up from her desk and the two ladies exchanged a worried nod. The whole class had fallen silent and none were surprised when McGonagall stepped into the centre with her I've-Got-An-Important-Announcement-To-Make face in place. There was a collective suspension of breathing as they waited for her to speak.
"Gather your things, students," she said, her voice shaking, "you're to assemble in the Great Hall immediately for important proceedings."
When it became clear that she had nothing else to say, the silence snapped with an outbreak of scuffling. People were simply throwing their things into their bags, and whispering amongst one another with their eyes trained on McGonagall.
Lily looked remarkably queasy as she gave Remus an anxious look. "I've got a terrible feeling about this," she said. All he could do was nod as they were drawn along with the wave of exiting students rushing into the corridor. It seemed that every class had been given the same message, because one by one the doors were opening and confused kids were forming a mob as they hurried to the Hall.
At first Remus thought it was war. Of course, it had to be. Why else would they call the whole school out of class? It was the Russians, or the Japanese, or the Germans even, and there would be bombings. Maybe they'd already started. But the moment he entered the Hall he realised that this was something much worse than war.
Mayor Riddle stood haughtily on the stage, flanked by some of his drones from the Chamber of Commerce, and the Headmaster stood off to one side, looking like he was bursting with rage. And then when Remus thought back, he registered that McGonagall's voice had been shaking not with fear, but anger. This was war, but not on an international scale. This was local, this was personal. This was the Spanish Inquisition, and it was most certainly not what Remus had been expecting.
Remus quickly found Sirius and Peter, but lost Lily in the crowd. The three boys took seats near the back. Peter looked like he was about to hurl, and Sirius was whiter than the snow outside. Remus couldn't tell if he looked as ill as they did, but he didn't feel it. He felt like a besieged warrior, and if anyone had spoken an unkind word to him at that moment he could have happily punched them in the face and sent them on their merry way.
Mayor Riddle approached the microphone and an uneasy quiet blanketed the Hall. He cleared his throat and the sound system emitted a high-pitched whine.
"By now," he began, "you will no doubt have divined what it is that brings me to your school today."
There were a few pious nods and a few cautious shakes of the head across the Hall.
"I'm here to talk about the Marauders."
At the mention of the Marauders, a flurry of inappropriate giggling bubbled up from all over the Hall. Remus could have sworn he ever saw the Headmaster smirking.
"Until now, this band of idiotic subversives has been mostly harmless. They have been nothing but filthy red agitators. But those of you whose letterboxes were polluted this morning will know that they have upped their game. They are playing dirty, and so we must remain ever-vigilant and play dirty right back."
There was a small smattering of applause – most people, whether in agreement or not, were too scared to move.
"I have reason to believe," the Mayor continued, with a slower, more sombre tone, "that the perpetrators of these monstrous pamphlets are students at this very school."
When he delivered the last word of his elegiac statement, there was a collective gasp. Up until now, Remus had thought that collective gasps only happened in comic books or at the pictures. Consider me disproven, he thought.
"Over the next hour, my trained colleagues will be questioning randomly selected students from all grades as to what they know about the Marauders."
However, as one of the drones read out the list of students to be questioned, it was clear that to a degree, there was nothing random about this selection. The general trend was that the students from known left-wing families and known far right families were called. The left would be the ones they'd sweat for information, and they'd be expecting the right to have scouted out the likely candidates already. Remus thought that this was mildly ridiculous, as most of the left-wing families in town were as anti-Communist as the right. But of course Mayor Riddle saw everything in the most simplistic of terms.
When a "neutral" student was summoned, they were a known troublemaker. Remus, who had been holding his breath while the list was read out, was thanking the non-existent Lord that his name was omitted. However, three notable inclusions on this list were James, Sirius and Peter: James, from arguably the most progressive family in town, Sirius, from conservative stock, and Peter, guilty by association.
"Lucky break," Sirius whispered to Remus as they were leaving the Hall. Peter had gone to the bathroom to throw up, and Sirius was walking towards the designated interrogation rooms.
Remus nodded. "Good luck," he said. "Don't give anything away."
Before Sirius could respond, McGonagall swept past them. "Potter is away today, is that correct?"
They nodded, and she disappeared as far as she'd appeared.
Sirius laughed awkwardly. "As if I would give anything away! I'll play the parent card. Pretend I'm as backward as they are, and I'll get off clean. You wait and see."
"I'm sure you'll be fine," Remus said. "You're a good liar."
Sirius smiled despite evident nerves. "Well if you have faith in me, what could possibly go wrong?"
Peter emerged from the bathroom and joined them, but he was still looking faint. "C'mon, Sirius. We'd better hurry."
"I guess," Sirius said, grimacing. "See you later, Remus."
"See you," Remus said, frowning as Peter dragged Sirius away.
"THE REST OF YOU CAN GO BACK TO CLASS," boomed a teacher at the crowds leaving the Hall.
Remus really didn't think he could. He located Lily and dragged her aside. "Are you up for skipping out on the rest of the day?"
She looked around nervously before nodding. "Sounds good. I don't think I can go back to class after that display of disgusting... disgustingness."
They were seniors, so it was easy enough for them to duck out unquestioned. People would just presume they had a free period. There was a small café on the outskirts of the city centre that had good lunch and no qualms about serving people who should really be doing other things called the Hog's Head, and it was a convenient fifteen-minute walk from the school. They took a table near the back and sat down to lunch.
"I'm so scared," Lily admitted in a whisper as they were waiting for their food to arrive. "I'm so worried someone will say something... that'll lead back to one of you..."
"Me too," Remus said. "But I know Sirius and Peter will keep their mouths shut. They're good friends."
Lily smiled. "It's probably for the best James is sick today. You just know he'd want to leap up and take all the credit." She gave a cackle at the thought.
Remus forced a laugh. It was frighteningly close to the truth.
"But seriously," Lily said after a moment. "I don't want anything to happen to James. Just like, I suppose, you'd be heartbroken if anything happened to Sirius, and vice versa."
"It's just that," she continued, "well... Remus, can I trust you with a secret?"
"I've been told that I'm fantastic at keeping secrets," he said confidently.
She gulped and leant in closer. "I'm... I've got one in the oven," she whispered. "And James is the father. Well. Obviously. It's just that... this is going to change our lives. I won't be able to go to college when school finishes, because I'll have this thing to look after. And I'm going to need James's help."
Remus could do nothing but keep nodding. He couldn't think of anything to say. If he'd had his suspicions, he'd put them aside.
Thankfully for his ineloquence, the waiter arrived with their lunch. He handed it to them and gave Remus a wink as he walked off, as though to say "good luck with the girl". If he didn't have much more serious things on his mind, Remus would have laughed outright.
"James will be fine, won't he?" Lily asked, as though needing confirmation.
Remus wished he could promise her. He wished he could say that James's name wouldn't turn up once during the questioning, that no snotty fool with a grudge would bring him up out of spite.
He gulped, reaching across the table and putting a completely platonic hand over Lily's. "He'll be fine," he said.
The tone lightened considerably when the food came. Lily cheered up and began gossiping about her sister's social life – which, it seemed, was full of more intrigue than one might expect – and about her plans for when school ended.
"I'm hoping for a girl, to be honest," she said quietly. "My parents always said they were so lucky to have two girls. My mum was one of six, all boys except her, and she's pretty sure that's why her parents died young."
Ignoring that last flippant but rather poignant comment, Remus asked if she'd thought of any ideas for names.
"Oh, well, I'll consult with James, obviously," she said, adding somewhat shamefacedly "once I've told him."
Remus gaped at her. "You haven't told him?"
"I'm waiting for the right moment," she mumbled. "You know how James is. He's always excited about something. I can't quite bring myself to burst any of his bubbles yet."
He nodded. That had certainly killed the mood. "So, uh, names?"
"Oh, yes! Well, I've always thought that Rose was a nice name for a little girl. Or Harriet. I don't know why, but I really like Harriet."
"Harriet is nice," Remus agreed.
"Harriet Potter," she said slowly, testing the sound of the name. "You know what, that has a rather nice ring to it!"
"It's nice, yeah. I'm not sure how James will feel about it, though... I get the impression that he's into ridiculous names."
"Well, the baby gets his surname. So I suppose it's only fair I get to name it."
Remus could see no issues with that at all.
"Although, knowing James," Lily continued, "he'll be angling for a little boy to make into some sort of twisted protégé. Harry Potter."
She snorted, and Remus couldn't help but laugh a bit. "It's not as good as Harriet, is it?" he said. "It sort of sounds like the name you'd give to a juvenile character in a children's book."
"It does, doesn't it?" Lily mused. "But I suppose we'll work something out eventually."
"Of course you will," Remus said consolingly. What with the state of things, it was one of the few things about which he could be certain.
When they'd finished their rather needlessly long lunch, it was just about the time that school would be ending, so they headed back in that direction. Remus would meet Sirius and with any luck they would kiss their worries away. Lily decided that her services were needed elsewhere.
"I'm going to head to James's instead."
"Sounds like a good idea," Remus said.
"Yeah," she said, nodding. "I'll fill him in on all the things he's missed. And maybe some things that he ought to know..."
Remus gave her an encouraging pat on the shoulder. "He'll like that bit of good news. You know, something to be glad about amongst all this nonsense."
Lily smiled nervously, not unlike Sirius had when going in for questioning earlier that day. "I sure hope so."
They parted ways and Remus stood outside the school, bouncing up on his heels as he watched swathes of students leaving and not one of them Sirius.
Just his luck, the one person he really didn't want to see turned up at his side, glaring at him.
"What do you want?" Remus snapped, glowering at Severus.
"Sirius," he said, and Remus immediately regretted his kneejerk reaction of piqued attention. Severus smiled smugly and continued. "He was sweating when he came out of the interview," he said. "He looked like he'd just had the worst experience of his life. White as a sheet. Close to tears."
Remus narrowed his eyes. "And why are you telling me this?"
Severus sighed. "Can you really not tell?"
"No I can't fucking tell," Remus growled, "all the last times we've conversed I've been under the impression that you hated me."
Severus laughed calmly. "You idiot. I've never hated you. You've never gone out of your way to make my life into a living hell. But the people who have, they love you. James and Sirius. You're their weakness, Remus. And the best way to get to them has always been through you. Don't take it personally."
"Don't take it—don't take it personally? What the fuck else am I supposed to do?"
"Stop cussing at me, for one," Severus said, still emotionless. "I'm just trying to help you out, Remus. Because things are going to start happening soon, and you've never been as bad as James and Sirius. You don't deserve what they have coming to them."
Remus just stared at him – honestly, he had no idea what the lunatic meant. He tried to think back to that afternoon. Had Snape been on the list of those questioned? No. No, he definitely hadn't. So where was he getting this shit?
"Look, I'm not in the mood for this rubbish," Remus said. "Can you—can you just leave me alone?"
"Your funeral," Severus said, quirking an eyebrow. He turned and walked away.
A few minutes of deep thought later, Sirius emerged, looking almost as pale as Severus had described him.
"How was it?" Remus asked immediately.
"Awful," Sirius said, and Remus noticed a slight tremor in his speech. "It was sickening, Remus, the things they asked. Fucking Peter, man, he chucked all over his interviewer in the first five minutes or something. He had to be sent home."
Remus bit his lip. "I'm glad it's all over."
"Yeah, where did you disappear to?" Sirius asked. By now they were about half-way between the school and the bookstore.
"Lily and I ditched and went out for lunch," Remus said. "Oh, and, to where did you disappear."
Sirius smiled despite himself. "Yeah, yeah. Sorry. I'm glad you two were having a good time."
"Sorry," Remus echoed.
"Let's stop before this turns into some sort of pity party," Sirius said, and Remus couldn't have agreed more.
They reached the bookstore and stood in the doorway for a few minutes, browsing the latest arrivals.
"I wish I'd been James today," Sirius said. "Too sick to come to school. Man, he had it easy."
Remus nodded. "It's very lucky for him. But Lily's just gone over there now to fill him in."
"Speak of the devil," Sirius said, gesturing to the street outside.
Sure enough, Lily was dashing up towards the bookstore, her red hair unmistakeable even from a distance. Remus could instantly tell that something was wrong, and one quick shared look told him that Sirius had twigged too.
They stepped outside and Lily came crashing into them, flinging herself at Remus and clinging on to him. It took him a moment of surreal absentmindedness to realise that she was sobbing.
"Lily!" he exclaimed, grabbing her into a tight hug. "What's happened?"
The first thought that crossed his mind was that James had not reacted well to the news of her pregnancy.
For not the first time that day, he was totally unprepared for what came next.
"It's awful," she said. "They've arrested James!"
Don't forget to leave a review! They really make my day. Even if it's just to yell at me for being a lazy writer. Go on. Do it. Review it.
Aaaanyway, it's getting interesting now, isn't it? More actual plot development to come next time...
- Legs :D