The first of September that year was unseasonably warm as summer insisted on stretching on longer than usual. As a result most of the students turned up at Kings Cross station in light summer clothes, trying to stay cool before we headed north. True to fashion many of the girls were wearing miniskirts, which didn’t go unnoticed by the boys on the train, and James in particular I noticed looked awestruck by Lily when he saw her short dress and platform heels.
We all met up on the platform and before long Lily had hurriedly put her robes on over her dress, no doubt disappointing James and half the other boys there. “If I’m Head Girl,” she explained, “I really should be setting a good example.” She affixed the Head Girl pin proudly and twirled around for us. “Well? How does it look?”
How did any pin on black school robes look? Small, to be truthful. But we weren’t about to say that. “It looks great, Lils,” said Martha with a grin. “Really sets off your hair.”
Lily shot her a look and stopped pirouetting. “I’ll find a compartment with you but then I’ll have to head up to the prefects’ carriage to give the newbies their instructions. Has anyone seen who the Head Boy is yet?”
As if to answer her question James stopped while walking past our gathering. “Morning, ladies,” he said airily with a grin. “Uh, Lily, can I have a word please?” He was already in his school robes as well, which was most out of character for him, but maybe he did it to impress Lily. She looked as baffled by his request as the rest of us were – I mean, we all knew he fancied her, but it wasn’t like him to be so, er, polite about it all – but she nodded her acquiescence and followed him to a spot about five yards away.
My parents, who had been catching up with Mary’s mum in the background, beckoned me over. “Sweetheart, we have to head off,” Dad called, looking a bit harried. He was more stressed than usual due to the war and its implications for all Ministry employees, not just those in law enforcement, and was keen to get to work even though it was a Sunday. My mother would never stay on the platform alone in a million years, being uncomfortable with all the magic in the air, so would obviously join him. I hurried over to farewell them properly.
“Now, remember what we talked about and study hard this year,” Dad reminded me. “A lot depends on your NEWT grades and I want you to be able to do what you want to once you’ve finished.” I smiled but groaned inwardly – we’d had this talk several times and all it seemed to reinforce in me was the fact that as far as Dad was concerned I wasn’t allowed to have any fun until the following June.
“And look after yourself,” Mum added. “Don’t do anything reckless and stay in groups when you go to Hogsmeade, I don’t like the sound of the security up there.” Typical. She always did have a copper’s perspective. Though I wasn’t convinced Hogsmeade visits would be going ahead at all this year anyway, what with the Dementors the previous May. Mum must have seen my face because she gave me a sudden smile. “And don’t forget to have fun,” she added indulgently. “Make sure you enjoy this year, it’s the last year you’ll have of no responsibility. Try to make the most of it.”
This time I smiled for real. “Thanks, Mum,” I said. “I’ll be fine, I promise.” And I gave them both a hug and waved them off the platform.
By the time I got back to the group Sirius, Remus and Peter had joined the girls and Sirius, the tallest by at least four or five inches, had obviously seen me coming over everyone else’s heads and moved over to make room for me. The conversation was focusing on speculation about what Lily and James were taking so long to discuss. So far the money seemed to be on a declaration of undying love (from James, that is), until Remus let slip another alternative.
“I’d better grab them before it’s too late,” he said, looking at his watch. “We’ve all got to get to the prefects’ carriage before the fifth-years beat us to it.”
“All?” Charlotte asked sharply. “Why would James need to go there?”
Sirius looked surprised. “Didn’t we say? Dumbledore’s made him Head Boy.”
You could have knocked me over with a feather, and by the looks on Mary’s, Charlotte’s and Martha’s faces they were having the same reaction. Mary found her voice first. “James? Head Boy? Where di’ tha’ come from?”
“No idea, we were as surprised as you are,” he laughed. “But it’s not a joke, he’s got the badge and everything.”
Martha giggled. “This should be interesting.”
Remus nodded. “I know. James Potter, Head Boy. Merlin only knows what he’ll get up to.”
Martha shook her head. “That’s not what I meant. Lily’s Head Girl.”
Now it was the boys’ turn to look gobsmacked. Remus’ face was a cross between horror and amusement, Peter looked like he was in shock, while Sirius just started laughing. “Oh, that’s brilliant,” he said. “Those two having to work together all year. He won’t know what’s hit him.”
Peter clearly agreed. “How long before she caves in, do you reckon?” he asked no one in particular.
Charlotte grinned. “If James knows what’s good for him, he’ll not push it at all,” she said rather wisely. “Lily’s much more likely to take the bait if it’s not forced down her throat all the time.”
“You’re not wrong,” Sirius said rather heavily, and I suspected he wasn’t thinking about Lily and James at all, but rather Elvira and the rest of the fan club, who unsurprisingly were perched nearby watching him.
Remus’ face had an expression halfway between a smile and a frown. “In any case, I think I’d better rouse those two lovebirds out of their stupor,” he said. “It’s almost ten to eleven, we really have to get a move on. More so if they’re Head Boy and Girl.”
A moment later Lily and James came back to the group, their faces both a little bit pink which made me wonder what exactly they had been discussing. Lily looked at the rest of us. “We’ve got to go,” she said a little breathlessly. “Can you load up my trunk and save me a spot in the compartment? I don’t think we’ll have to be up at the prefects’ carriage all day.”
“Sure, Lils,” said Martha with a grin that I was sure Lily didn’t like all that much. At least, if it had been me I wouldn’t have liked it.
“Same for us, Padfoot,” added James. “Find a compartment and we’ll join you when we can.”
Loading our trunks onto the train gave me a welcome diversion from Sirius, who was looking better than ever. If that was even possible. I hadn’t seen him since we’d bumped into him at the Ministry back in July and was almost awestruck by his appearance - his hair was at just the right length, his eyes had a most attractive sparkle to them and I wasn’t convinced that cheekbones that perfect were even legal. And I hadn’t failed to notice that I’d been standing next to him during the conversation and that his arm had kept brushing against mine as people pushed past us to get to the train. Due to the warm weather, we both had short sleeves on so that contact meant skin on skin. I still had tingles from it. (Quivering Wreck 2; Laura 0. But who’s counting?)
Unfortunately my diversion wasn’t to last, as Sirius and Peter insisted on helping us with our trunks. What with five trunks, two bird cages and a cat carrier thrown into the mix, it was always going to be a convoluted process, especially since the other girls all had miniskirts on and were therefore moving very carefully. I had bucked the trend somewhat by wearing shorts and a t-shirt, more for practical reasons than anything else as I didn’t relish the thought of clambering around with trunks and bird cages and the like with a short skirt on, and the end result of that was that I ended up packing various things onto the luggage rack for everyone else, the others not keen on showing their knickers to the wider world as they tried to get everything in position.
The trouble was that this again put me in close contact with Sirius, who was really the only option to help us out in any meaningful way. After all, he was significantly taller and also more sensible than Peter who, realising he was just in the way, had gone to secure another compartment for the boys. Together we manoeuvred various bits of luggage, trying to make sure everything fit and nothing would come tumbling down on our heads the first time the train went round a bend, me trying not to let on that my knees were a little weak at his proximity to me. (Quivering Wreck 3; Laura 0. Great. I really was coping with this so well.) Finally everything was in place, which would have been good except that my left hand was wedged underneath Charlotte’s trunk and I couldn’t get it out, a result of my not paying enough attention to what I was doing.
“Uh oh,” I said, wincing as the heavy trunk pressed down on my hand. “Little help?”
Sirius, who’d looked a bit distracted as though he was thinking of other things, suddenly noticed what was wrong. “Oh, geez, Laura, I’m sorry,” he said, lifting the trunk effortlessly so I could extricate the trapped item. “Is your hand all right?” He looked amazing and I was more than a little unfocused. Why I hadn’t just pulled out my wand and levitated the trunk myself I had no idea, but then again I didn’t always think clearly when he was around.
I sat down in my seat and shook the hand in front of me. It felt okay and I didn’t think anything was broken, though it was throbbing slightly. “It’s fine,” I said vaguely, feeling it with my other hand to check for broken bones. “Doesn’t matter anyway, I’ve got another one.” I felt myself tensing up, a physical reaction to his presence that was fast becoming my defence mechanism, making sure I didn’t do anything that would embarrass me.
He chuckled but his smile was replaced very quickly with a look of concern. “You should get that looked at,” he said seriously. “Look, once we get there, don’t try pulling any of that stuff down yourself, okay? That’s what the porters are for.”
I nodded, pretending not to notice the grin Mary was flashing at me from the seat opposite. “If you insist.”
“Yes, I think I do.” He paused, looking around the compartment. “If I’m done here, I think I’ll go find where Wormtail has landed us.”
Fortunately Mary realised I was rather preoccupied and, once we were alone again, quickly steered the conversation away from Sirius. “Wha’ dae ye think o’ Dumbledore makin’ James Potter Head Boy?”
“A surprise, to say the least,” said Martha with a smile.
“Yeah, he wasn’t a prefect,” Charlotte agreed, a perplexed look on her face. “He can’t be Head Boy if he wasn’t a prefect. That’s unprecedented.”
“Not quite,” I corrected, glad to have something else to think about. “I’m pretty sure it’s happened before, but only like a dozen times in the thousand or so years Hogwarts has been going. I think it’s mentioned somewhere in Hogwarts: A History.”
“Bu’ why him?” asked Mary.
Martha was frowning. “Thinking seriously about it, though, who would you have given it to?” She started counting the previous term’s sixth-year prefects off on her fingers. “Caradoc Dearborn – he’s nice enough but I don’t know that he’s Head Boy material. I think the extra responsibility might finish him off, personally. Bernie Carmichael – he’s okay, actually before today he was my tip for it, but frankly I suspect he might struggle in too much of a leadership role. Remus – keeps getting the lurgy which probably counts against him, as well as chasing around after that darn rabbit half the time. And Gibbon – I really can’t see Dumbledore giving the Head Boy job to a Slytherin, not in this day and age.”
“And James did show exceptional leadership with that whole Dementor thing last term,” I added, thinking back. “Dumbledore commented on it more than once when he was debriefing us afterwards.”
“Tha’ micht hae bin it,” agreed Mary. “Ye canna deny he di’ tha’ verra well an’ all.”
“Poor Lily,” Charlotte giggled. “If she thought she’d be able to avoid him this year she’s had a horrible shock.”
Martha shook her head. “Who says she wanted to avoid him?” she asked, that wicked smile back on her face. “The only problem is that she won’t be able to see him just on her terms. Which will be a bit of a shock to the system, I suspect.”
Our conversation was interrupted again when we noticed some flashes of light in the passage outside our compartment and the door opened to once more reveal Sirius and Peter, who were apparently bored and had come to see us again. “You don’t mind, do you?” Sirius asked with a grin as he climbed over the prone body of Severus Snape lying on the floor of the corridor. “It was a bit quiet with just Wormtail.”
Charlotte just raised her eyebrows at him. “So what happened there?” she asked, pointing at the spot where Snape was now hidden by the closed compartment door.
Sirius shrugged as he sat down next to Mary, his movements almost awkward as he tried to find room for his long legs. “That? Oh, he’s just been Stunned. No permanent damage.” He looked slightly disappointed by that fact.
“And why was he Stunned?” Martha asked archly.
“He was in the way,” Peter explained.
“Trying to get in to see Lily, I expect,” Sirius elaborated, shrugging again. “I didn’t actually stop to ask, to be honest. I don’t think he even realised she’s not back yet.”
“An’ ye’re jus’ going t’ leave him there?” asked Mary.
“Fair point,” Sirius conceded, standing up again. “I’ll go dump him somewhere. Any suggestions as to where? Out the window, perhaps?” He grinned at us and I felt my cheeks starting to burn.
Fortunately leaving Severus wherever he did leave him took long enough for me to recover my composure, and by the time he re-joined us in the compartment I was almost breathing normally again.
“That’s better,” he said, taking the seat next to Mary again. “Good thing I moved him, too, it wouldn’t have been very nice for the others to come back from the prefects’ carriage and find that sort of rubbish lying around outside.”
I smiled to myself as I leaned over to pick up Mary’s cat, which was nestled by my feet. Having Circe on my lap, I theorised, would give me something to pay attention to that wasn’t Sirius. “Who would have thought you, of all people, would end up with your best friends as authority figures?” I said lightly, playing with the cat’s fur as I tried not to look at him too much.
He grinned again, validating my resolve to play with the cat a bit more. After all, no one should have a smile that seductive. It just shouldn’t be allowed. “Can’t argue with that,” he agreed. “Prongs, too, the king of detentions. I think he’s even had more than I have over the years. He may never live this down.” He shook his head resignedly, leaning forward in his seat and resting his elbows on his knees. “Don’t know what’s got into him, myself.”
Martha nodded, giggling. “Absolutely. James and Remus both in positions of power. Merlin only knows how much will go to their heads.”
“At least one thing’s for certain,” Peter piped up from Lily’s seat, where he was lounging back looking rather comfortable. “We won’t be getting in nearly as much trouble with him to back us up.”
We all shared a laugh at the thought of James passing off all the boys’ pranks as things necessary for him to perform his Head Boy duties properly. He did have the gift of the gab, so it was possible that he might just pull it off sometimes, though probably not if he was trying to convince McGonagall or Dumbledore. I stayed relatively quiet throughout the conversation though, not wanting to say too much in case I embarrassed myself or, worse, let on anything at all about what I thought of Sirius.
Eventually Lily poked her head back in the compartment, indicating that the Head duties were completed and James and Remus were also free. She looked pointedly at Peter, in her seat, and Sirius, next to Mary, before coming back in.
“I’m not sure that we’ll all fit, people,” she said with a grin. She had a point – while six of us could fit reasonably well, there was no way known that the compartment would take nine.
James poked his head over Lily’s shoulder. “I think it’s high time you were getting back to our compartment anyway, Padfoot,” he said. “That’s if it’s the one I think it is. The gigglers have found your trunk.”
Sirius groaned. “I knew we shouldn’t have left it unattended,” he muttered, shaking his head, though I caught his eye and it was twinkling. “What are they doing this time, trying on my clothes or planting love potions?” Even though he was smiling I got the distinct impression he was only half joking.
James grinned. “Both, probably. And I think that some of them have even had a go at my trunk, just for good measure. Now come on and leave these girls in peace, will you?”
Lily stepped back outside while Peter and Sirius left, then came in and plonked herself down with a smile. “This could be a rather interesting year,” she admitted.
“We heard James was Head Boy,” Charlotte said with a grin. “And you’ll have to be working closely with him all year …” She let her voice trail off.
Lily nodded. “And, you know, a year or two ago that would have been a nightmare. Always watching me or propositioning me and making lewd suggestions and goodness only knows what else. But he was most restrained today, not a hand out of place, not one inappropriate comment or even a leer. I think he’s growing up.” She looked rather pleased with the situation.
Martha was smiling. “So are we taking bets? How long before he jumps you? Or do you think he might even have grown up enough to not even try without getting permission first?”
Lily looked rather pink. “How about we leave the betting for now,” she suggested, colouring even more. “I’ll let you know in another week or so.”
Mary had a rather wicked look in her eye. “I thin’ we’d be better off takin’ bets on who jumps who firs’,” she said with a grin. “If James is this restrained it micht jus’ be Lily here who caves i’ afore he does.”
Martha grinned at her. “Mary, you’re a girl after my own heart,” she said fondly. “I think you might be spot on.”
Lily was shaking her head furiously. “I don’t know what you mean,” she said, though it was clear she was trying harder to convince herself than anyone else. “But, in other news,” she went on, looking at us with a sly grin, “I couldn’t say this when we went to Diagon Alley ’cause Dad was there, but guess what? Petunia’s got a boyfriend!”
I’d heard about Petunia, Lily’s older sister, who was apparently jealous of her for being magical and therefore tried to distance herself from Lily as much as possible. Lily had always been a bit touchy about this as they had been close as children and she missed her sister’s company.
“Petunia??” Martha’s voice couldn’t contain her surprise. She and Charlotte had met Petunia whereas Mary and I hadn’t, though we understood that the older Evans girl wasn’t much like Lily at all and was in fact rather plain and bossy. “Really? Petunia, a boyfriend?”
“What’s he like?” asked Charlotte eagerly. She was always up for a love story, even if it was Petunia’s.
Lily smiled, then made a face. “His name’s Vernon,” she said, “and he’s appalling. The sort who knows everything and will tell you so himself. And he’s revolting-looking too – huge, with a round face and piggy eyes and a moustache, of all things.” She paused for dramatic effect. “Honestly, I think he looks like a walrus. Kind of like a younger version of Slughorn.”
We all giggled at the thought – Lily’s description, while short, was undeniably eloquent, and we all had a mental picture of the unknown Vernon. Which was less than attractive, I might add.
Martha grinned broadly. “I’d pay to see that,” she said. “Horsey Petunia and Walrus Vernon. They could start their own zoo!” S he then clapped her hand over her mouth, realising she’d insulted Petunia. “Oh, I’m sorry, Lils,” she went on hastily. “I didn’t really mean that, I was just having some fun. Petunia doesn’t really look like a horse.” She gave Lily a hug in a show of contrition, though she did look at Mary and me over her shoulder and mouth, ‘Yes, she does!’ And Charlotte, witnessing the whole thing, nodded significantly at us in obvious agreement.
Mary chose to change the subject to get Martha off the hook. “Hoo’s yer ma going, Lily? Copin’ wi’ th’ treatmen’ all richt?”
Lily looked up and Martha gratefully dropped the bear hug. “She’s in remission at the moment,” Lily said, her face brightening. “She was pretty ill at the end of last term, apparently, but Dad said my being home perked her up a bit. I almost felt guilty to be coming back.”
“Oh, don’t beat yourself up,” I said with feeling. “You can’t help having to come back to school. At least you were able to give her a couple of months, and you’ll be going home at Christmas.”
She smiled appreciatively at me. “I know. And she was loads better, almost like the old times before she was ill.” And we fell deep into discussion about various family members and, immersed in gossip, didn’t notice the time until the train was slowing down.
To my combined disappointment and relief we didn’t see the boys again until the train had pulled into Hogsmeade station. We ran into them on the platform as we milled around looking for the horseless carriages, and shared a giggle at their faces when they saw us.
“Oh,” said Peter, looking rather disappointed. “You’ve changed into your robes.”
“Funny aboot tha’,” said Mary. “Considering we’re a’ school nou an’ we hae t’ wear them.”
“Colder here, too,” Charlotte pointed out, struggling to contain a smile. “It being much further north, and night.”
Sirius was also looking disappointed. “I guess,” he said, holding out a hand for Charlotte’s owl as she struggled to hang onto it in the bustle. It had been complaining towards the end of the train journey so she’d let it out of its cage in an attempt to shut it up for a while. “Though maybe it’ll stay hot till the weekend.” He looked at us hopefully.
Martha shot him a look. “And what if it does?”
“Calm down, Padfoot,” came Remus’ measured voice from behind us. “You’ve had all summer to eye off girls, how about you let these ones be for a while.”
I froze involuntarily: I hadn’t even thought of that. I suddenly had all sorts of mental pictures of what he’d been up to over the summer, and to my dismay I was feeling rather jealous of all the unknown girls he’d found attractive and possibly hooked up with. I even started looking surreptitiously at him to see whether I could see any telltale signs, such as love bites or even lipstick marks. Stupid, I know, especially considering most of the relevant parts would be covered by either his robes or his hair, but then again I didn’t always exactly see reason where he was concerned. To my ever-increasing horror I was discovering that I was becoming more like Elvira every day, so to take my mind off it I busied myself with letting Cerridwyn out of her cage so she could fly up to the owlery, and putting the empty cage with a nearby pile of trunks which would be collected and transported to the school later.
Sirius for his part looked like he had been about to say something but caught himself in time, settling instead for shrugging as Charlotte’s owl perched on his shoulder, above the heads of younger students, clearly not wanting to make its own way to the owlery just yet.
In the jumble to get into the carriages we found ourselves muddled up a bit with the other students, and as a result no one ended up sitting with who they had thought they would, though I noticed that James was already pulling rank to get him and Lily in the same carriage (“Sorry, folks, but the Head Boy and Girl have to arrive together”). However, I lost Mary and Charlotte in the crowd and ended up in a carriage with Martha, Remus and Sirius, who was still carrying Charlotte’s owl, which seemed to have taken a liking to him. Of course he’d be in my carriage. I couldn’t avoid him even when I was trying to.
“How’s that hand going, Laura?” Sirius asked almost immediately once we sat down, fixing me with a look of concern as he pushed his hair out of his eyes.
“Right as rain, thanks,” I said, somewhat surprised he’d remembered it was even hurt. To demonstrate I moved it around and flexed it a few ways and only winced once. “I’ll be juggling Bludgers again in no time.”
A smile crossed his face briefly but was quickly replaced by the look of concern he’d worn earlier. “You should still get it looked at,” he said seriously. “I’ll take you up to see Madam Pomfrey when we get there. Once I’ve given this back to Charlotte.” He gestured at the bird on his shoulder.
That was the last thing I needed. Time alone with Sirius. Merlin only knew what I might do without supervision, and I really didn’t want to embarrass myself. Or him, for that matter. “That’s okay,” I said. “I don’t think that’ll be necessary.”
He shook his head. “You shouldn’t be wandering around the castle alone after dark,” he said, still without a hint of humour. “Dumbledore stressed that to James in his letter, to make sure everyone’s extra careful.”
Uh oh. It looked like he’d meant it, he was really going to insist on accompanying me. Fortunately something occurred to me that meant I could avoid the trip to the hospital wing. “It’s fine,” I said. “And Madam Pomfrey will be at the feast anyway, I’ll just go and see her before we get started and she’ll have it fixed like a shot.”
His expression cleared and I breathed an inward sigh of relief. “Right, that should be okay,” he acknowledged. “We’ll save you a seat.” And he looked pointedly at Martha and Remus who hurriedly agreed.
To my relief Martha changed the subject. “So, how was your trunk?” she asked Sirius, a mischievous smile on her face. “Elvira nick any of your underwear?”
Ah, the benefits of being an ex, I thought. I would never have had the guts to ask him about his underwear, be it in jest or otherwise.
He and Remus both laughed. “Not that I know of,” Sirius said with a grin. “I think we caught them just in time.” His eyes were sparkling and I wasn’t sure just how serious he was being.
Remus joined in. “Though I did see Elvira stuffing something down the front of her robes,” he said, his eyes dancing.
Sirius looked surprised. “You did? What was it?”
“Probably anything with your home address on it,” Remus said lightly. “Or possibly that blow-up doll you carry around. I couldn’t be sure.”
Sirius looked mortified until he realised Remus was joking, which wasn’t until Martha and I had joined in the laughter. Which I admit was probably due as much to the look on his face as it was what Remus had said. I wasn’t sure whether he actually had a blow-up doll and was annoyed with Remus for letting it slip, or whether Remus had made it up and he was worried we might have believed it, but for once I found I didn’t really care. I mean, if he did, then maybe he’d stay on the market for longer and I might have a chance. (Yeah, right. I know, pie in the sky. But a girl can dream.)
Once we got to the castle and filed into the Great Hall I marched straight up to Madam Pomfrey at the staff table to have my hand looked at. I wouldn’t have bothered usually except I didn’t want Sirius bugging me about it ad infinitum and possibly taking matters into his own hands. Fortunately Madam Pomfrey, excellent at her job, had a quick look at it and fixed it in no time at all, and I was back at the Gryffindor table, ready for whatever the new school year would hold, well before the first-years came in for their Sorting.
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