The air is crisp and chilly as I step out onto the Hogsmeade platform, my wooden trunk in tow behind me. I look up at the clear sky over the far-off silhouette of Hogwarts castle, rendered golden in the late afternoon sunlight. A light breeze lifts my chestnut hair up in tendrils and I hastily tuck them behind my ears.
I smile at the voice and turn around to see Sirius Black, his grey eyes alight with excitement. His hair is long and black with only the devil-may-care effortless look a Marauder could muster. His tie is idly left loose, no doubt lazily cast on during the train journey. James Potter is beside him, his black hair too slightly (yet purposefully) mussed. James looks much the same as he did when I left them last spring. Tall and lean with thick frames settled on his enthusiastic hazel eyes and an arrogant yet somehow loveable grin on his long face.
“There you blokes are!” I say as Sirius pulls me into a quick but friendly hug when we near each other. “I thought maybe you’d skipped off this year when I didn’t see you on the train.”
“Our last year at Hogwarts?” Sirius asks smoothly as he releases me. “Never.” I survey him for a moment. He looks different than what I remember from the end of last term. Was he taller? Older? I couldn’t place it.
“And me being Head Boy and all,” James adds nonchalantly, with a smug but humorous smirk on his face.
I raise my eyebrows in surprise. “You got Head Boy?” Though James was certainly one of the top students in terms of intelligence and marks, he definitely was not one to be called a professors favorite. I sometimes thought him and the rest of the Marauders spent more time in detention than they did actually studying.
“I can’t say I’m not surprised,” I say with a nod of my head.
“I was more shocked than you!” Remus Lupin has joined us now, lugging his and Peter Pettigrew trunk behind him. Peter gives me a giddy grin in greeting and I smile and nod to him as well.
“Jealous, more like,” Sirius says playfully. “Your heart was wounded, when Dumbledore overlooked you,”
“Oh shove it Pads,” Remus says, but he’s smiling. “I don’t see you milking the rewards of being so well-liked at school either.”
“True, but I have other ways of reaping the benefits of a good reputation,” Sirius gives me a wink and I gag.
“Oh please,” but I’ve joined the laughter now too.
We begin to walk towards the gates of the station, to where the horse-less carriages are lined up, waiting us to take them up to the castle.
“Good summer?” Remus asks me as we trudge up the trail.
“Same old same old,” I answer with a shrug. “I’m thrilled to be back here.”
In actuality, my summer was as dull as ever. I had been confined to my house practically all summer. Living in a small suburb of London, there wasn’t much to do beyond help my muggle mother with housework and sit around all day. But I had ways to entertain myself. I was good at doing things on my own, and sometimes even preferred it. But this summer had been different. I sorely missed my friends, and knowing the day I graduate from Hogwarts was fast approaching made me all the more eager to see them.
But I snap out of my recollection and return my thoughts to the boys. “How was your blokes’ summers?” I ask, looking mainly at Sirius. I know he loathes being at home with his family. Part of me worries about him sometimes. He likes to pretend it doesn’t affect him, but I know it does.
He shrugs. “Same, really. I survived.”
“Well mine was splendid,” James adds. “Can’t believe my nights will be spent studying for NEWTS and lessons soon enough,”
“Not if I can help it,” Sirius answers with a playful expression on his face. “I’ve already got a few things planned…”
“As do I Pads,” James says. “You have no idea. All that time at home has made my mind come up with the most genius ideas!”
“Well you better tread carefully, seeing as you’re Head Boy now,” Remus warns, but he’s half joking.
“Oh Moony, always the voice of reason!” James says hyperbolically, but then scoffs, “I’m not worried.”
I smile. “You Marauders never change, do you?”
“Not for the world,” Sirius smirks.
Just then, I hear my name being called from behind me.
“Aurora! Rora! Aurora Mockinglow!”
I turn to see Marigold and Emmeline hurrying over. They had gotten caught up collecting their baggage and I had gone ahead in search of Sirius and James. I had almost forgotten about them in my excitement to catch up with Sirius and James.
“Over here!” I wave to them with a smile. Marigold beams as she strides over and greets the Marauders, hopping up and down on the balls of her feet, causing her soft golden curls to bounce up and down. Emmeline smiles lightly as well as she too says her hellos to the guys.
“Ah, Goldy and Emmy!” James greets them. “’It’s been too long.”
“Only all summer!” Marigold gives them a pointed but amused glare as she brings James and Sirius in for hugs. “You lazy gits couldn’t come up to London to meet us?”
“Well we told Rora and you lot to come round!” James defends himself. “I was always happy for a visit!”
Emmeline grins and points out, “Yes, which is nice and all except for the fact that you live in Godric’s Hollow in the middle of bloody nowhere.”
“It’s the thought that counts,” James says, waving her off.
We all laugh at this as we finally reach the carriage post. We drop our luggage off with Filch and all seven of us somehow manage to squeeze into a single carriage.
I am wedged between Peter and Marigold, across from Sirius, Remus, James and Emmeline. The carriage lurches to a start when we’ve settled and we begin the short journey up the path towards the castle. My stomach feels funny, almost a nervous excitement. I really have missed this place.
As we round a bend, there is a clearing in the trees and I can glimpse the Black Lake below. I see several tiny shapes moving over the glassy waters, the warm glow of lanterns illuminating their paths in the spreading darkness of sunset.
“Aw look, it’s the new first years!” I say, smiling as I point out the window. We all lean over to look.
“Ah, so young,” Remus whispers with a nostalgic glance.
“There so small, aww! Ickle firsties.” Emmeline adds.
“And so naïve and innocent, “ Sirius muses.
“And corruptible…” James adds with a devilish grin towards me.
“Remember when that was us?” Peter asks with a grin t us all.
I smile at the memory. I do remember.
I had known all about magic and Hogwarts from a very early age. My dad used to do little trick spells and charms when we were too young to learn ourselves. He so loved the culture of the world he left behind to marry my mother, and was eager to pass on as much of it to us as he could from early on.
“I can’t believe it’s our last year, I whisper, to no one in particular.
“Me neither,” James says, his eyes too still faraway. “We have got to make this year one to remember.”
“We will, Prongsie, don’t you worry,” Sirius assures him with a haughty smile. I smirk with one side of my lips.
“So what NEWTS are you lots taking this year?” Remus asks us. So we all take turns comparing classes and explaining career goals. I myself was mainly studying Astronomy. I wanted to work at the Observatory in London after Hogwarts and study the stars and distant galaxies.
“I hope they don’t give me Ancient Runes again, this year,” James moans. Somehow, the last two years in a row, James had inexplicably and accidentally been placed in Ancient Runes, his most loathed subject, and had to suffer through a week before a fixed schedule could be processed and switched around for him. The rest of us had had a great time giving him a hard time about it.
“May as well choose it for your NEWT focus, mate,” Sirius teases sarcastically.
“I will sooner jump arse-naked into the lake!” James exclaims.
“Oh, but haven’t you already?” Marigold teases, referring to an infamous Halloween game of dare last year. We all laugh heartily at the memory.
“I may never get the image of Prong’s freezing arse cheeks out from my brain,” Sirius muses, fighting back bark-like giggles. “And frankly I don’t want to.”
“Should’ve given you the nickname Moony, if you ask me,” Peter adds. I snort loudly at this and James rolls his eyes at us.
“You lot are just jealous of my courage! Only a grown man could’ve done that, if you ask me.”
“Yeah, yeah Prongs,” Remus mutters with a smile, his eyes downcast as examines the front page of the Daily Prophet he had stowed in his back pocket. Suddenly his expression falters and is replaced by dark concern. “Blimey, more deaths.”
The carriage quiets quickly after he says this. We all know what must be written in the paper. More war casualties, no doubt. They were growing more and more with each week.
No one moves. We all undoubtedly want to learn more, to check that we don’t recognize any names. But yet we all hesitate. Somehow reading about the atrocities makes them more real, more close to home. Closer to Hogwarts.
“What happened this time?” Emmeline asks quietly. Her eyes are full of concern.
“Three killed in London this morning. Death Eater muggle attacks, allegedly…” Remus replies, but then quickly folds up the paper and stows it back in his pocket. “But anyway, let’s not ruin our first day back.”
“Right,” James whispers, all signs of jest now erased from his face. “Of course not.”
We remain quiet. I gaze out of the window again. The moon has risen now, casting a silvery glow on the rooftops of the castle. When I look back Sirius is staring at me. We exchange a glance, silently surveying one another. There is a kind of sadness in his eyes. There is undoubtedly concern in mine. I am well aware who is family is. And what side they’re on.
We finally reach the top of the cliff, and we exit the carriage and enter the castle with the rest of the students. We are ushered through the Entry Hall where Professor McGonagall is directing students along to the doors leading to the Great Hall for the feast.
“Ah, so good to be back home,” Sirius sighs as he looks up at the high ceiling above as we walk along. I smile and reply, “It is, isn’t it?”
“Potter! James Potter!” we hear Professor McGonagall call when our huddle approaches the doors.
“Yes Professor?” James replies, looking back at her in confusion.
“As Head Boy, please stay behind and help me acclimate the new first years!” she orders sternly, gesturing for him to come up to join her. “And good heavens, they’re due any moment. Where’s Evans?”
I, along with the rest of our group who had been previously going our merry way, all stop at this.
“Evans?” James asks out loud, his eyes suddenly dreamily lit with a kind of intrigue. “Lily Evans?”
“Yes, Potter, of course!” McGonagall answers incredulously. “Didn’t you know she was appointed Head Girl? By Merlin what have you been up to this summer?”
My mouth is hanging open slowly in amusement. It is a widely known fact that Lily detests James, despite his rampant and quite public declarations of admiration for her. I look at Sirius, who is pissing himself with laughter.
“Prongs! What luck! You and Evans!” he laughs, and then turns to me. “I can’t wait to see her reaction when she finds out,”
And right on cue, she comes through the front doors. As she comes to our gathering, a look of slight confusion and skepticism on her face rises as she spots the Marauders.
“Ah Miss Evans! Come, you and Mr. Potter will be helping direct the first years on the protocol of the Sorting!” McGonagall explains as she ushers Lily over to James’s side. Lily looks at a loss for words, though quite obviously miffed at the situation. She crosses her arms and rolls her arms as James stares at her and gives her a wink and a smile.
“Move along, Mockinglow, Black, Pine, and the rest of you! I need you all seated before the first years come in!” McGonagall orders. We all reluctantly make our way to the Gryffindor table and sit down. I gaze up at the enchanted ceiling, which shows a clear and vibrant sky full of bright stars and the risen crescent moon. I smile to myself. I’m home.
I sit between Emmeline and Marigold, across from Sirius, Peter and Remus. The plates in front of us are bare. Peter’s stomach growls audibly.
“I hope the Sorting goes by quick, I’m starved.” Peter mumbles, glaring longingly at the empty trays at the middle of the table, beside the adorned centerpieces made of pine branches and candles in the colors of our House.
“It very well might, there are less newbies this term,” Remus says with a frown. We all look at him with confused glances. I raise an eyebrow.
“I overheard McGonagall telling James,” Remus hastily explains with a sheepish look. “But I mean it makes sense. I doubt muggle parents would trust magic folk, what with the current…situation.”
“Well blimey Remus, you’re just a fountain of sunshine and happiness today, aren’t you?” Emmeline says exasperatedly.
“Seriously, Moony. Lighten up, mate,” Sirius adds, his own eyebrow raised at his friend. Remus gives another awkward look and shrugs.
“Sorry, but this has just been on my mind a lot,” he mutters. “I didn’t mean to be a buzzkill…”
“Well buzzkill, you are my friend,” Sirius says, giving him a gentle pat on the shoulder.
“Ems, you never said how your holiday went?” Marigold asks Emmeline now, successfully changing the subject. Emmeline just shrugs.
“Paris is beautiful! But that’s nothing new,” she says casually, but her face has slowly turned a glowing red. Marigold raises an eyebrow and prods her further.
“Did you meet any fit Parisian wizards?” she asks eagerly, with an impish and highly suggestive grin. Emmeline seems to sink down in her seat a bit as her blush intensifies. “Maybe. I don’t know.”
Marigold practically shrieks as she laughs and exclaims, “I knew it! Ooh I am jealous! You are spilling once we get up to the dormitories!”
I laugh and shake my head. This was typical Marigold. Always pushing us to meet boys and always spilling her own escapades, whether we wanted to know or not.
There is a loud creaking sound from behind us. We all turn to direct our attention towards the doors, as they open to reveal two neat lines of very small, very scared looking first years. McGonagall, James and Lily are behind them, ushering them along towards the front of the Hall to be sorted.
Lily’s face has reddened since we left her, no doubt in frustration, but James looks as suave and confident as ever. As they pass up, James winks at us and attempt to lock his arms with Lily’s. But she pulls away and visibly stamps on his foot. Sirius and I giggle silently as we watch them pass.
Sirius leans over to whisper to me, just as Dumbledore, clothed in shining golden robes, rises to welcome the new students. “This is going to be a great year.”