The next few days would drag on ever so slowly for Lily. She was to return to the heart of London next week to board the spectacular Hogwart’s Express. The first day of the school term was to start on the first of September, so August seemed to have no end.
Lily packed her supplies, robes, books, and such into her trunk as soon as the family arrived home from Diagon Alley. Just about every day thereafter, she unpacked her trunk and repacked it again, going lovingly through her articles.
She tried to keep herself busy, but it didn't seem to work. She would try to read or to watch summer reruns on the television, but she couldn’t sit still enough for either.
A few days before she was to leave, Vernon Dursley, Petunia’s boyfriend, came over for dinner. He was preparing to leave for his final year of school that week as well, and the Evans wanted to wish him off properly. Lily never enjoyed the company of Vernon, for his attitude towards her was even worse than Petunia’s. He wasn't aware of Lily’s “freakish demonology”--as Petunia put it--but he knew something was different about her that he couldn't explain and therefore didn't like.
To ease the tension, Lily sent Berthold to invite her friend Alice, who lived around the corner. Alice was also a sixth-year student sorted into house Gryffindor and she was the kindest person Lily knew. Alice had been a loyal friend since they met on the Hogwarts Express their first year.
Lily was relieved when her mother came to her room after the doorbell rang to tell her it was Alice. Lily sprang up out of the pile of books and robes she was reorganizing and darted out to the living room. Alice was standing there, smiling meekly down at Petunia, who sat on the recliner, staring out from under a huge blue ribbon with a growling frown and arms tightly crossed.
“Alice, I'm so glad you're here!” breathed Lily, leading her pal down the hall and into her bedroom. “Sorry about the mess. I can’t sit still!"
Alice bent down to help Lily gather her books. “Trust me, I'm excited too.”
“I heard about Frank, Alice!” Lily smiled up to her round-faced friend. “I bet you’re proud of him!”
Alice blushed, flicking her blond fringe out of her light eyes. “Yeah, Frank is ecstatic about becoming Head Boy. Did he send you his picture with his new badge?”
“Of course! See?” Lily scooped up a small photo of the tall, lanky Frank Longbottom. This would be his seventh and final year at Hogwarts and he was hoping against all hopes that he would drop his Prefect title for Head Boy. Alas! There he was, waving in the little picture, wearing his best dress robes with the Head Boy badge gleaming on his chest. “His owl came the day after the Hogwart’s announcements were sent out.”
“He apparated into my living room as soon as he could clip on the badge!” Alice laughed, pausing to think about her boyfriend of many years.
Lily couldn’t help but feel lonely as she looked into Alice’s sparkling eyes.
"Have you received any more letters from anyone?" Alice changed the subject. "Remus? Or--Severus?"
Lily closed her eyes and frowned, remembering the terrible fight that broke out last year between Snape and the others. "Severus hasn't talked to me since last year. I tried sending a peace offering and some letters, but Berthold came back each time with my parcels undelivered."
"Looks like that fight was the last straw for him," Alice recalled, studying Lily.
"I even went out to his old stomping grounds to look for him but he never showed up. I'm done caring," Lily continued, crossing her arms and looking up. "If he wants to be like that--I'm one."
Alice gave her a look that showed mild skepticism. Severus was Lily's first friend in the wizarding world; the first person to show her that she wasn't a freak after all. But as the years went by, Severus became more and more jaded at school and despised her for being in Gryffindor. He despised her for not being a loner with him and he especially despised that she spent less and less time with him as she became more involved with school and socializing.
Just then a horse-like face poked into Lily’s room, snapping her out of her thoughts.
“You two better keep your mouth shut about your little Freak-school and owls and all that,” hissed Petunia. “Vernon’s just arrived and is parking his Volkswagen, and if you say anything about—”
“Don’t worry Petunia,” Lily said impatiently. “He’s not allowed to know, anyway. He’s not family.”
“And if you mess this up for me, he never WILL be!” Petunia slammed the door just before the doorbell rang.
“Do we have to go to dinner?” asked Alice with a wink.
* * *
The week at the Potter household couldn’t have gone by faster. James was so overjoyed with his new broom, and Sirius, who had lived with the Potters all summer, was quite enjoying his wonderful “secondhand” Comet one-eighty. Remus Lupin, friend, werewolf, and fellow sixth-year Gryffindor, had visited almost every day to fly around the Potter's secluded land as well. Little Peter Pettigrew, the fourth and final member of this elite group who called themselves the Marauders, was in Egypt and would send all sorts of funny artifacts to them.
The Potters were fairly well off and had plenty of land hidden by a circumscribing wood that allowed the boys plenty of space to practice Quidditch, romp, and scheme in privacy.
The day before they were to arrive at King’s Cross, the three Marauders went romping through the fields, enjoying their last day of freedom. As the sun was beginning to settle below the horizon to make way for the stars, they plopped down at their usual retreat next to the stream.
“Butterbeer?” asked James, reaching into the small pack he had brought.
They each took one and popped the caps, laying back to watch the stars leap into view and listen to the trickling water of the lazy stream.
“I got a letter from Lily Evans yesterday, Prongs,” announced Remus, with a slightly taunting overtone.
James choked a bit of butterbeer down as he looked curiously to Remus.
“Ah,” Sirius snorted. “The prefects already making plans for taking over the school?”
“Yeah,” laughed James. “Quite the conspiracy.”
Remus chuckled. “No, you dumb blokes. She asked if I’d like to be in her study group again this year. I could try to put in a good word for you—maybe if you—”
“What makes you think it would work this time, Moony?” asked James, looking back towards the sky.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Remus shrugged, running a hand through his dusty chestnut hair. “I was kind of hoping this school year would be different—that maybe some of us have finally grown up a little. You don’t seem to get much of a positive response from her with your little show, now, do you?”
James searched the stars for some kind of answer.
“She just doesn’t understand,” James stammered. “We just don’t see eye to eye yet, that’s all.”
But how he wished they did.
“Why does Remus get all the girls?” asked Sirius suddenly.
Remus spilled butterbeer down his front and James laughed.
“How do you mean?” asked Remus narrowly. “I think you’ve got me confused with yourself and Prongs, mate.”
“No, I haven’t,” said Sirius, taking note of Remus’ coy fidget. “Evans writes to you every summer, and so does Monica Moon and, and--”
“You know, you’re right, Padfoot,” said James, turning on his side to get a good look at Remus. “Maybe they like that pitiful, reserved kinda guy.”
Remus frowned angrily. “You’re off your trolley, mate. I'm stuck in Friend-land with these girls... They write to me because I’m involved with Hogwarts, just like they are—I get out there and do things for the school.”
“We're involved, too!” said James.
“Yeah right,” snorted Remus. “Playing Quidditch and pranking doesn’t count for much, if you ask me.”
“But you're right there with us pranking,” poked Sirius. "You've got some conflicts of interest, mate."
“True, but I’m also a prefect, haven't actually broken any serious rules, and I am involved in so many clubs that I can’t even recall all of them right now.”
James smirked. “I think you’re compensating for something, mate. Is there something we don’t know about you, Moony? Some dark secret with fur and claws and fangs--”
The three boys looked at each other and roared with laughter.
Just then, a shooting star streaked across the starry night, breaking up the laughter as they watched and adored. These boys lived for the night, and if there was something that brought them together more powerfully than the bittersweet silver moon, it was the sky in which it resided.
“Are you ready for this year at Hogwarts?” asked Remus after a sip of his cheery drink. Someone had to break the stillness. "I mean really ready?"
James and Sirius lazily glanced over.
“I mean, we’re going to have our hands full. And I’m not so much worried about classes as I am about keeping you two in line,” admitted Remus.
“I think we can handle ourselves, Moony,” muttered James a few moments later.
Sirius sat upright, folding his knees up to his chin and throwing a pebble in the stream's tranquil current.
“I know what you’re getting at, Moony,” he blurted, “ my brother.”
“Not only your brother, Padfoot. But also Bellatrix. She starts this year at Hogwarts too. And then there's Rosier, Wilkes… Snape.”
Sirius’ face grew grim and he quietly growled under his breath. James sat up and nudged his closest friend.
“We can handle ourselves,” James repeated more boldly. Then he grinned, looking towards the moon. “To lighten the subject, I understand we only have a couple weeks until the full moon. Then things will be just as usual. You’ll see.”
Sirius grinned and Remus sat up.
“What would I do without you guys? You have no idea what you’ve done for me,” the warewolf confessed with a grateful smile. “What your friendship means to me.”
James set his butterbeer bottle down in the grass and patted Remus on the back.
“Well mate,” he said casually. “Just let us copy your notes, and maybe you can still hang around this year.”
Sirius snorted, butterbeer dribbling down his chin.
“Prat!” Remus yelled with a grin, and before James could react, Remus and Sirius had him pinned and were stuffing dry grass, twigs, and dirt into his robes.