The Hogwarts Express screeched into the tiny Hogsmeade train station as the train’s corridor filled with students of all ages, each wearing their school robes. Even though the Head Boy and Girl, Frank Longbottom and Monica Moon, were shouting for everyone to stand aside, it was so packed full of students that one could rely wholly on the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd to remain standing upright.
Once the train came to a complete stop, the prefects pushed and elbowed their way to the exits and opened the doors. Lily helped the eager students out and was greeted by loads of smiles and excited eyes as the students climbed past and out into the calmness of the fine evening.
It took only moments for most of the students to get out of the train and before long, Lily could see Remus standing at the next exit, helping a young girl with strawberry-blond hair out the door. Lily watched them for a moment, noting that the girl was wearing the traditional first-year garb—plain black robes with no identifying house colors or badge. She wondered which house the girl would be sorted into as she heard the familiar, deceivingly gruff voice of Hagrid, the school’s groundskeeper, calling for the first-years.
Peering out the window, Lily could make out the bulky outline of Hagrid looming over the batch of new students and smiled, wishing she too could go with him across the lake in the first-year boats. Lily sighed then turned towards the door to which she was stationed and gasped as she collided into someone. Grabbing the rail and balancing herself, she looked up to see Severus Snape glaring at her with his black glittering eyes.
“Lily Evans,” he breathed darkly, moving closer.
“Severus Snape,” she said, trying to match his chill tone and demeanor. She heard Remus rushing down the isle behind her as she and Severus glared into each other’s eyes.
“Is there a problem?” asked Remus, putting a hand into a pocket of his robes.
Lily and Severus turned their eyes from each other to Remus.
“This Mudblood should pay more attention to where it’s going,” spat Severus, his voice even more hateful as he glared at Remus.
Remus frowned and Lily felt his hand clamp lightly upon her shoulder. Perhaps he thought he was comforting her—perhaps he thought she would do something to counter the Slytherin’s verbal attack. But Lily felt she was above such resorts and was not so offended by Severus’ lowly insult. She did know, however, that Remus thought it was not something to simply let slide. Before anyone could properly address the situation, Severus quickly bent over, picked up the book he was reading, then slid out the door and into the night.
Remus stepped closer to Lily, keeping his hand upon her shoulder. “I think he should take his abnormally large nose out of his book while he’s hurrying around,” said Remus as he looked Lily over to make sure she was all right. “You know he wasn’t paying any attention, and he had no right, Lily. If you want, I can go and—”
“Just leave him be, Remus,” Lily interrupted, turning from Remus to look out the door.
She saw Severus find his way across the platform to a group of Slytherins as Remus muttered quietly, “good thing Sirius, James, and Peter have already headed off to the school.”
Lily only half heard Remus’ comment and continued to watch Severus and his friends choose a horseless carriage from the possible hundred that stood waiting for them outside the station, then she looked to Remus again. “Something seems different about Snape,” she said quietly, her thoughts fixed on Severus’ black eyes. “He seems, well, darker than before. More hateful.”
Remus gazed into her emerald eyes with silent agreement then followed her off the train and into the street. Not very many carriages were left, as the bulk of their procession to the castle had just headed off. To Lily’s disappointment, her friends Alice, Frank, Abby, and Marlene seemed to have gone on to Hogwarts in that procession without her.
Remus had obviously noticed her disturbed, searching glances, and briskly took up her small hand in his. “Come on.”
Lily smiled gratefully and let Remus guide her to one of the remaining empty carriages. She climbed in and seated herself as Remus hoisted himself in after her. He settled onto the bench seat across from Lily as the door shut with a snap. With a great lurch, they were off to join the others at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Lily and Remus sat, smiling at each other in silence, the awkwardness quickly seeping in.
“Er, did you have a nice summer?” Remus asked.
“It was nice, but I’m so glad to be heading back to school.”
“Me too,” Remus agreed. “I can’t believe it’s already our sixth year! It seems just yesterday that we were in those boats crossing the lake to Hogwarts.”
Lily smiled as she looked out through the trees and caught glimpses of the distant torches that lit the way for the first year boats. “Oh, I was so nervous sitting in that boat!” Lily recalled. “I didn’t know a thing about Hogwarts, or even much about being a witch. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.”
Remus smiled. He could understand; his mum was a Muggle, after all. “I remember you that first day,” Remus said absentmindedly. “Everyone thought you must have been some kind of angel. James was so—” He quickly looked up, surprised at what he was saying. “I’m sorry,” he breathed. “I didn’t mean to-“
“Actually,” Lily interrupted, hoping Remus couldn’t see the immense blush she felt wash over her cheeks. “What were you going to say about Potter?”
Remus smiled again. “Well, he thought you were beautiful.”
Lily studied Remus’ face and knew he was hiding something. “How, exactly, did he say it?”
Remus laughed through a genuine, sparkling smile. How handsome her slender friend Remus was, especially when he smiled! But he always looked so fatigued and worn.
“OK,” he started, wringing his hands together. “I remember him wondering how many ugly people had to be sacrificed to make such a treasure as you. Satisfied?”
Lily shuttered, then shrugged. “Yeah, that sounds more like the James Potter I know.”
Remus rolled his eyes a bit.
There was an awkward silence between them once again. Lily unconsciously polished her prefect’s badge with the sleeve of her robes, looking out the window as they journeyed through the gates that were flanked with statues of winged boars. The carriage continued up the sweeping drive, swaying calmly in the still evening. Lily could see the castle coming nearer, its many lighted windows shimmering against the dark blue starry sky.
“Look, Lily,” Remus said with a sudden edge of determination.
“I’m your friend, right?”
“Of course you are.”
“Well, I’m also James’ friend. He’s—”
“Remus,” Lily interrupted, a bit annoyed. “You don’t have to stand up for him.”
“All I want to tell you, Lily, is that he really is a good guy. Sure, he puts up this front, but if you just knew him better—”
“Remus—” Lily huffed.
“If you just knew him better,” Remus repeated. “He’s just not very good with words sometimes. And he thinks he has to put on this whole pathetic show for everyone… It’s the only way he knows to get attention, and that just shows that he’s not as confident as he seems…”
Lily bit her lip as she listened to Remus. She already knew that besides being an incessant mischief-maker and class clown, James Potter was simply playing to the role that was given to him—the role that seemed to make things so much easier. “Remus, you know I don’t hate him, right? It’s just that we, well, we just don’t quite seem to see eye to eye, that’s all.”
Remus raised an eyebrow but remained silent.
Just then the carriage jerked to a stop. They looked up at the castle, looming above them in all its brilliance. Lily smiled to Remus, and he sprang up and out of the carriage. He held a hand up to Lily and she stepped out after him.
“Look,” he whispered, as there were quite a few students bustling around before the great oak front doors of Hogwarts. “I didn’t mean to jump down your throat like that. I guess I’m just trying to look out for everyone, that’s all.”
Lily smiled over at Remus and hugged herself to his arm. “I know, Remus. We’re all lucky to have a friend like you.”
They parted once they stepped through the doors and into the cavernous, torch-lit entrance hall with its magnificent marble staircase. Lily hurried over to her group of friends, all huddled about preparing to enter the Great Hall for the start-of-term feast. Lily told them off for leaving without her, but they ignored it and cast their cheeky smiles towards Remus, who was making his way towards a group of boys that consisted of non other than James Potter, Sirius Black, and Peter Pettigrew.
“What did you two talk about?” asked Alice tauntingly.
Lily rolled her eyes and smiled, failing to find a way to change the subject. “Don’t make me hex you!”
* * *
Remus joined Peter, Sirius, and James, completing the foursome that was the Marauders—Messrs. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs. Upon Sirius’ demand, they were positioned closest to the double doors at the right side of the entrance hall. Those doors represented everything that ensured the survival and sanity of Sirius Black, for they were the doors that led to the Great Hall, moreover, food.
James had a bit of a shadow over his eyes as he glanced between Remus and Lily, who was standing with her friends at the other side of the entrance hall, furthest from the Great Hall.
“Don’t get your knickers in a bundle,” Remus said lightly to James.
“What did you talk to her about in the carriage, Moony?”
Just then, Professor McGonagall, Head of Gryffindor and Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts, came through the Hall’s doors and motioned for everyone to proceed in. The student body began to shuffle towards the Great Hall and Sirius jumped and poked his three friends along, determined to survive one more day with the merciful aid of the start-of-term feast.
As they passed between the doors and into the splendid Hall, decorated for the feast with golden plates and goblets gleaming in the light of countless floating candles, Remus put his arm around James’ shoulders.
“Don’t worry, Prongs,” he whispered. “I put in that good word for you.”
They took their seats at the middle of the Gryffindor house table, which was situated along the far side of the hall. James extracted every detail concerning Remus’ journey from Hogsmeade with his lovely Lily Evans. When Remus had finished speaking, he folded his arms and turned his attention to the top of the Hall, where the staff sat, facing their students. James conversely buried his hazel eyes behind the palms of his hands.
“You said what?” James hissed as he let his arms fall upon the surface of the polished table, sending a spoon soaring over Sirius’ shoulder. “You told her that I’m not confident? You said that I—oh, man. A ‘good word’, you say?”
Remus looked back at him from across the table and rolled his eyes. “Trust me on this first, Prongs, before you hex my eyebrows off.”
The boys suddenly hushed and looked up as the sixth-year Gryffindor girls came along between the long banquet tables of their house and Hufflepuff’s. James, with his arms folded upon the edge of the table, spotted Lily in the group. Her gaze met his eyes and she smiled down at him before sitting between her friends, Alice and Marlene.
James sat up straight. That was odd, he thought. She smiled at him! For no reason!
Sirius, sitting next to James, looked quite bewildered as well. “Look at me, mate,” he ordered quickly. “Do you have something hanging out of your nose?”
When Sirius couldn’t find anything repulsive or disfigured on James’ face, they directed their astonishment to their werewolf friend.
“I told you. Trust me,” Remus said as he turned his gaze now to the doors of the Great Hall.
Everyone fell silent as James too looked towards the doors to see Professor McGonagall enter, leading a long line of terrified-looking first-years. They made their way to the top of the Hall, where they were to undergo the Sorting.
Everyone waited as McGonagall brought forth a stool and an old, patched wizard’s hat. She set it upon the stool and as it began to sing, Sirius growled. About half way through the song, Sirius couldn’t take it anymore. “Don’t they know we’re starving here?” he complained, a bit too loudly.
Some nearby students chuckled at his comment, but the majority glared, including Remus. “Quiet, you," he hissed at Sirius. "Besides, you ate three cauldron cakes just an hour ago on the train.”
Sirius was about to say something, but James pointed covertly towards the top of the hall and Sirius changed his mind. There, at the center of it all, their great and mysterious headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, stared over his half moon spectacles at the Gryffindor table. James could feel his light blue eyes peer into him, and really wished he wouldn’t. He knew for a fact that they would be seeing the headmaster enough as the school year progressed, and the thought of getting a detention within the first hour of his sixth-year was not something he had hoped for. It would have been quite an accomplishment, yes, but not something that would do too well with the first-day-back excursion they had been planning since the end of their fifth year.
Soon enough, the song ended (“About—effing—time!” said Sirius, again a bit too loudly.) and McGonagall stood beside the hat, unrolling a large scroll of parchment. She began calling names in alphabetical order, and the first year house Sorting began.
Sirius forgot about his food deprivation as McGonagall got to the ‘B’s.
“Black, Bellatrix,” the Professor firmly pronounced.
The girl quickly snatched up the dingy Sorting hat and sat on the stool.
“Slytherin!” shouted the hat.
Bellatrix absolutely beamed.
“Black, Regulus,” called Professor McGonagall.
“Slytherin!” the hat announced once again.
Sirius had gone completely pale and James put a kind hand on his shoulder. So it was settled. Padfoot was to remain the only Black never to be sorted into Slytherin. As far as he was concerned, he had no brother.
Once the house Sorting ceremony had closed, Dumbledore gave a nice short speech (“Welcome, old and new! Tuck in!”) and at the clap of his hands, upon each table appeared their feast.
Sirius growled again, but this time, it was a sign of satisfaction. He began to scoop garlic mashed potatoes directly from its golden serving bowl and into his mouth. Peter dove into the Shephard's pie while James and Remus had a go with the steak and kidney pie.
Conversation quickly broke out throughout the Great Hall, along with the clinking and clattering of goblets, utensils, and plates.
“Rodolphus Lestrange will be pleased about Bellatrix,” came Marlene Marchbanks’ voice from Lily’s side.
“Why?” asked Lily.
"Because Bellatrix Black’s been promised to him, and now they're in the same house,” Marlene answered, matter-of-factly.
“Really?” said Lily, taken aback. “Isn't that kinda-creepy? He's a seventh-year, right?”
“Yes,” said Sirius after he swallowed a mouthful of mashed potatoes. “Once Trixy’s through Hogwarts, they’re to be married at once. A tradition!” He snorted loudly. “Not too many options when there’s so few ‘purebloods’ born these days.”
Once everyone had their share of supper, pudding, and then some, Dumbledore stood and the Great Hall fell to an immediate hush.
“Well,” started Dumbledore pleasantly, his voice echoing around the Hall. “Now that we have all had our fill, I have a few announcements to make. I must remind you all that the forest on the grounds is out-of-bounds to all students, as is the village of Hogsmeade to all below third year. Mr. Filch, the caretaker of this castle, has asked me to tell you that the list of items forbidden inside the castle has been extended to include Self-Propelled Parafoil Kites, All-Surface Toboggans, Fighting Bozo Bop Bags,” he paused, his light blue eyes twinkling as they flickered over to James and Sirius, “and sporks.”
"It's not a spoon, it's not a fork!" James, Sirius, Remus, and Peter quietly sang together.
“Anyway,” Dumbledore continued with a small cough. “The list is accessible to anyone who wishes to view it in Mr. Filch’s office. Now, it’s getting late and I do believe that you’ll want to get situated for the night, so be off!”
As sixth-year prefects, Remus and Lily stayed behind to watch for stragglers as the rest of the students made their way to their dormitories. After about a half-hour of patrolling and finding no rule breakers, they decided to get up to the Gryffindor tower themselves. They turned up the marble staircase and every now and then, they’d dodge behind a tapestry or sneak through a passage behind a statue. They got to the seventh floor and went to the end of a particular corridor, finally ending at the portrait of the Fat Lady. Lily gave the password (‘Eadwacer’), and they proceeded through a hole in the wall that the portrait exposed.
The Gryffindor tower was bustling with chatter and laughter. Lily threw herself down onto a fluffy, scarlet-colored armchair in front of the hearth; exhaustion was finally catching up with her. She was somewhat relieved that it was only Saturday. Class didn’t start till the following Monday, so she would have an entire day to get situated.
After a moment, she looked around at her fellow Gryffindors. Alice was perched on a windowsill with her boyfriend, Frank. Lily's other friends were dispersed in conversations around the room, or perhaps in the dorm rooms, sitting upon their four-poster beds, chatting. Lily also noticed a first year girl, sitting at a table all alone with her chin resting on her folded arms, staring around the room.
“Bones. Smith.” Lily called to a second-year boy and girl, who were just setting up for another game of Wizard-Spin-Jacks with a first-year boy.
The three came over to Lily.
“Why don’t you play at that table over there,” Lily suggested, pointing at the lonesome, strawberry-blond haired girl. “It’s a better game with four, anyway.”
They smiled at the idea, snatched up all the game pieces and set off to the other table. Lily watched the little girl glow at their arrival and they began to teach her their game.
“That was sweet,” came James Potter’s voice from behind the chair Lily was slouched upon. “Mind if I join you in front of the fire?”
She looked up to see his hands resting on the head of her chair. He was upside-down from her view below.
“I can’t hog the only fireplace we’ve got, now, can I?” Lily asked, smiling up at him.
James came around and pulled another armchair towards the fire. He plopped himself sideways in the chair, his legs draping over one armrest, his elbows on the other (quite in the fashion of Sirius, no doubt).
James looked at Lily, trying to find something to say. Not too cocky, not too stupid, he thought. “Oh! They’re having Open Flying at the Quidditch field tomorrow. Want to come along?” he asked.
“Hmm. I’m not too good on a broomstick,” Lily admitted through a yawn.
“Well, it’s not like you have to play Quidditch. You can just fly around and, yeah know, feel the wind in your hair and stuff.”
“Maybe I’ll pop by.”
Not too cocky, not too stupid, he racked his brain again. “Hey, you could also bring your football along and teach me a thing or two.”
Lily brightened at the idea. “OK. That sounds like fun.”
Lily stared into the flames of the fire. James stared into those fiery green eyes.