The air was heavy with excitement and emotion; there must have been a thousand people standing on Platform 9 ¾, laughing, crying, gossiping…it was the same every year.
James and Sirius looked around at the swelling masses, a sardonic smile playing on both their faces: the start of another Hogwarts year was always heavy with the promise of mischief and fun.
They spotted the tall, lanky figure of Remus Lupin, not one hundred feet away, off to the side, looking quite disorientated by the large crowd; he hated being around so many people.
“Hey, Moony!” James called over the ruckus, bringing Remus’ attention to the two dark haired Marauders now approaching him, the frown that had been etched into his prematurely lined face slowly emerged into a shy smile.
James and Sirius reached him, laughter and light in their eyes, “Have a good summer Moony?” James asked, his black hair, sticking out in every direction.
“Superb,” Remus replied in his quiet, unassuming voice, slight smile still on his handsome, but exhausted face, “And yours?” he asked, carefully aiming this question at Sirius.
Sirius said nothing, he simply ran a hand through his long, black hair, plastered his trademark roguish grin on his face and punched Remus in the arm, “My we’ve grown, Moony, you’re beginning to look like a real boy,” he said, his voice straining to remain light.
Remus knew that Sirius had run away from home that summer and taken to living with the Potters, but Remus knew that Sirius would no sooner admit that he had had a hard time than Remus would announce his own being a werewolf.
Remus looked at James, his eyebrows raised, James smiled casually back at him, but also managed to communicate a warning with the look in his eyes.
Leave it alone…
Remus nodded gently, to indicate that he had understood then laughed as Sirius went into another of his hyperactive tirades about the fun they were going to have this year.
However, Sirius' observation had been quite correct, Remus no longer looked pallid and weak, but rather…he had grown over the course of this summer, becoming as tall as James, his light brown hair already flecked with his first greys, he had taken on a rather distinguished appearance, he was still rather thin, but he had now acquired an athletic figure; not surprising since inside of him a monster of considerable strength dwelt.
Sirius remained basically unchanged, though it seemed he had grown a full foot, pale skin heavily transposed against his dark hair and grey eyes, hair a little bit longer, chest a little boarder, but he retained a cat like physique; long and lean, he always looked like a predator, always searching for his next attack.
James, as always, was James. If no one knew better they would see his charming face and think he might be a polite, attractive, slightly bewildered young man; he looked like a choir boy, his hazel eyes peered out from behind his circular glasses and immediately people misjudged him because of them, they did not see past the glasses into his eyes which were always glinting with the distinct hint of trouble. His jet black hair had the rather satisfying effect of sticking up in several directions, he liked it, even if it did make him look a bit dotty.
Standing next to Sirius you probably couldn't find a better example of contrast: James looked like the boy next door whereas Sirius looked like every mother's worst nightmare and every middle aged housewives dream.
“James! Sirius! Remus!” A high-pitched voice exclaimed, and a podgy teenager came scurrying from the crowd, tripping over his own feet and skidding a few yards.
James, Sirius and Remus exchanged a look of amusement between each other before going to help him.
“Slow down, Wormtail, you’re a bloody health hazard when you try to run,” James joked, bending down with Sirius to help him up.
“Yeah, Wormtail, really, you need to work on that hand eye co-ordination thing, before you get someone killed,” Sirius added, his impish grin appearing once again.
“Oh! Sirius! I heard you ran away this summer, you’re living with James right? What did your parents say?” He asked excitedly.
Sirius clenched his jaw and an odd glazed look came over his face, he looked away from Peter, almost making as if to stand up and leave.
Both James and Remus noticed Sirius’ change in countenance, sharing a furtive glance at one another.
“Not now, Peter,” Remus hissed, so that Sirius couldn’t hear, Peter looked confused, his watery eyes darting from Remus to James and Sirius.
James was desperately searching for a distraction, noting that Sirius had both of his fists clenched, as if in preparation for a fight.
“Snivellus,” James said loudly, praising Snape’s timing.
Sirius head snapped around to see where James was looking, Sirius’s eyes narrowed to slits as he watched their greasy haired Slytherin friend amble towards to the train carriages.
His sly smile returned and he looked at James waywardly, “I think we should pay Mr. Snape a visit, Mr. Prongs…”
James looked heartened by Sirius change in mood, but he heard the whistle blow and the conductor cry out ‘All aboard!”
“It might have to wait, Padfoot,” James whispered conspiratorially.
Sirius smiled, he looked positively wicked, “I think the wait might be worth it,” he said wildly.
They began to board the train, Sirius seemed to be back in spirits again, already organising his next attack on Snape with devious enjoyment.
“Maybe we could hex him so that grease pours from him in buckets…what’s that incantation again, James?”
“Slipertitius,” replied Remus, not looking up from his book, a frown forming on his lips.
“He doesn’t need help with that, Padfoot,” James pointed out.
“Right, yeah,” Sirius said distractedly, running his hands through his hair repeatedly, “it has to be something really big, something we haven’t done before…” he then began to list all of the curses, hexes, jinxes and charms he could think of, suggesting them out loud then refuting the idea soon after.
Remus looked over the top of his book at James, a disapproving expression on his face, James didn’t care, he was just pleased that he could get Sirius’ mind off the events of the previous summer, glad that he had been able to avert his attention before Peter could say something really stupid and have set him off.
He gazed out of the window, watching the scenery drift past and he thought back to the night that Sirius had turned up, literally, on their doorstep, the desperation in his eyes as he had asked if he could stay with them for a while.
His parents had been quite accommodating, being quite fond of Sirius, and none of them had asked any questions as they helped him bring his luggage to the guestroom.
But they had all noticed the welts and bruises on his arms.
James had silently helped Sirius get settled in, waiting until his parents had stopped fussing over him so that he could ask.
“What happened?” James asked tentatively, Sirius sat on the edge of the bed, James stood over Sirius with his arms crossed, his expression was somewhere between concern and fury.
Sirius barked out a laugh and eyed James with the his trademark smile, “Apparently,” he said slowly, “my parents did have objections to my leaving. Apparently,” he said, drawing out the word, “I may be a disgrace to the name of Black, but that doesn’t mean I ‘can just walk out of this house so easily!’” he screeched in a voice convincingly like his own mother’s.
Sirius still had a grin on his face, which seemed to irritate James “Look, can’t you be serious?” James demanded loudly and Sirius smiled at the word ‘serious’, prepared to offer his usual rebuttal: But I am! But James glared at him, Sirius could see that he was fuming with anger, “Tell me what happened.”
Sirius sighed resignedly, his posture slumped and the grin slid off his face: he really didn’t want to talk about, didn’t want to let James know that he’d been weak, didn’t want to see the pity in his eyes.
“Fine,” he said tiredly, “fine. I’ve had enough, had enough of my family, my father, my mother.” he sneered, “This afternoon she decided to give me a 3 hour lecture on the importance of blood, see, I guess she heard about my little tryst with those muggle girls…” he trailed off, “and I didn’t react to it well,” he shrugged, “ I guess I gave her a little piece of my mind, told her that I didn’t care about blood, that it didn’t matter to me, that there were more important things in life than blood,” he shook his head, “told her that she was a bitter old hag who was stupid enough to believe that kind of crap, told her she could go get buggered too, by a muggle no less ” he said, raising his eyebrows in exclamation.
The fury had been removed from James’ expression, now to be replaced by a look of celebration with his friend, but it was brief, and soon to be replaced by concern again.
“Predictably, neither she, nor my father were too impressed by that comment, he grabbed me by the arm, tried to hold me down, but I had my wand with me, managed to knock him back a few feet and I ran upstairs, packed everything and made a run for it…” he paused, his eyes went dark as he remembered something, “Stupid, bloody idiot,” he muttered.
“What?” James inquired softly.
“Regulus,” Sirius explained, “he tried to stop me, thought he’d have a go for the’ family honour’ or whatever,” he looked down at his bruised arms, “He hits like a girl,” he snorted. “Anyway, he slowed me down, and that gave my dear parents enough time to catch up with me, try to hold onto me, stop me from going for God knows what reason, I mean, it’s not as if they ever wanted me there…anyway, the short and hairy of it is, that I got away and now I’m here and I’m not going back,” he finished, staring determinedly up into James’ eyes, daring him to feel pity.
James seemed to be deep in thought, he sat down on the bed next to Sirius, his hands clasped on his lap, “You can stay for as long as you want, mum and dad won’t mind, dad will go back and get the rest of your stuff, with some of his friends…oh I want to see the look their faces...”
“No,” Sirius said suddenly, “I want to go back…you can come with me, just…I need to do it,”
“Don’t be daft,” James exclaimed, “they’ll kill you!” he said, only half joking.
“Nah, they won’t, but they need to know that I’m serious,” he finished, the smile already spreading on his face.
“I know you are!” James laughed and he wrapped his arm around Sirius’ shoulder, pulling him in for a rare hug, their heads touched briefly and James said affectionately, “I’m glad you’re here Padfoot,”
Sirius smiled candidly at James, “Thanks James,” he said and briefly threw his own arm around James’ shoulder, “Now geroff you great dolt!”
James was snapped back to reality by Sirius’ hands waving in front of his face, “Hello, earth to James, you in there Prongs? I think he’s finally gone mad, Moony, his eyes have got that funny glazed over look…but then, perhaps he was thinking about someone, a certain redhead perhaps…” Sirius finished with a leering grin.
“Shove off, Padfoot,” James replied testily, pushing him out of the way, Sirius fell back into his seat, long limbs flailing, his bark like laugh sounding out.
“Honestly mate, I don’t know why you keep on chasing her, I mean, she’s not likely to give in anytime soon to your, ahem, persuasive charms,” he teased.
Remus had put the book back in his lap to watch the proceedings with amusement; Remus knew that Sirius had hit a sore spot mentioning Lily, even though it was all in fun, always in fun.
James shook his head at Sirius, who was still cackling with laughter, he knew that Sirius had been baiting him; it seemed to be a kind of game to him, the Mention Lily Evans and See How Flustered James Gets Game.
“Ah, come on Prongs,” Sirius reasoned after he had straightened himself up, “there are plenty of girls out there who love it if you looked their way, you’d be doing them a service if you gave them a bit of attention, make ‘em feel all special, Prongs,”
“That your philosophy too, Sirius?” Remus said disinterestedly.
“Ah, well, I’ve got to do my bit for the needy,” he shrugged gleefully.
“I think they would appreciate it a lot more if you could remember their names,” scoffed Remus.
Sirius’ grin stretched on his face, “I can only give so much, Moony,” he declared, his hand over his heart.
Remus just shook his head and rolled his eyes, “Get a grip Sirius,”
Sirius was about to retort, no doubt with some lurid comment, but was interrupted by the door sliding open.
The famous Lily Evans popped her head inside and Sirius shot a leering grin at James whose hand had immediately reached to ruffle his already messy hair.
She briefly glanced at the scene before her; Sirius long legs were stretched out haphazardly over both sides of the compartment, resting on the seats, his shoulder length black hair hanging in front of his dark eyes that were now watching her carefully, Peter was bundled next to James, sleeping, James was sitting opposite Sirius at the window, staring questioningly as was Remus, though the two boys expressions were quite different: James was watching her with eagle eyed intensity, whereas Remus looked up at her with mere interest, there was kindness in his countenance.
“ ‘Lo, Evans,” Sirius said merrily.
She didn’t acknowledge his greeting and instead threw him a look of contempt and rolled her eyes.
“Remus, we’re needed up in the Prefect’s compartment, new instructions,” she explained and he nodded and stood up.
“Bye Evans…” Sirius said in a singsong voice to which she sighed heavily.
“Guess I’ll be seeing a lot of you two then,” she said, but not maliciously, it was more like tired acceptance, she turned on them, her startling green eyes focusing on the lounging figure before her.
“Well,” he said flippantly, “we do try to keep up appearances,”
There was a tight smile on her face, something akin to McGonagall’s.
“Careful, Evans, the wind might change,” Sirius said, his dark eyes alight with danger.
She just turned and stalked out muttering “Idiot”, Remus turned to his friends, shrugged and followed her out.
“We miss you already!” Sirius called out after her.
“Honestly, I still don’t know how you can put up with them,” she said once Remus and Lily were both out in the train hall.
“They’re an acquired taste,” Remus said with a kind smile.
Lily snorted, tossing her fierce red hair over her shoulder, “Yeah, acquired," she said, emphasizing the word, and Remus gave a little laugh at her frustration, Lily Evans had no time for the Marauders and their, what she called, ‘silly little games’, it wasn’t that she hated them, she just grew tired of their childishness, Remus seemed to be the only one she could stand, even though she was wary of him at first because of his ties to Potter and Black, but she soon found his temperament to be much like her own, and so they found themselves friends, Lily was a particularly good study buddy, he couldn’t ask James and Sirius, who had never needed to study in their lives, but Lily was always willing to help others, something for which she was greatly admired for at Hogwarts, in all houses.
Remus knew how much it irked James to see Lily friendly with anyone, especially a guy, especially one his Marauders.
He tended to steer clear of this fact in conversations.
The two of them reached the Prefect’s compartment and listened to their instructions just as they had done last year, neither of them suspected that being a 6th year Prefect was any different to being a 5th year Prefect, but still, you never knew.
“Have a good summer, Remus?” Lily asked politely as they walked back to their companions.
“Pretty good,” Remus replied, “and yours?”
“Had to spend it at my aunts with my sister Petunia,” Lily said, rolling her eyes, “bonding session apparently.”
Remus chuckled, knowing full well that Lily did not get along with her sister, seeing as she didn’t understand about her being a witch, Remus knew full well what it was like to be misunderstood.
“Later then,” he said as she slipped back into her own compartment.
She smiled brightly, her brilliant green eyes crinkling up, “You bet, oh and tell Black that this year he’s not to go into the girl’s dormitories…I don’t know how he did it last year, but I don’t ever want to wake up in the same room with him ever again,” she sighed.
He nodded and shook his head walking back to his own friends, currently in a rather animated conversation about Quidditch, but at the second of Remus entrance, James became quiet and Sirius looked a little disgruntled.
“So…” James urged.
“So what?” Remus inquired, knowing full well what James had meant.
“So what did she say?” James said, frustrated.
“Oh, nothing really, thinks you’re all prats, she had a bad summer and, oh Sirius, she wants you to keep out of the girl’s dorms this year,” Remus replied quickly.
Sirius barked out a laugh again, “Yeah right,” he laughed, “Evans isn’t going to keep me out of there, if Dumbledore can’t, then Evans isn’t bloody likely to, is she?”
But James ignored Sirius and focused on Remus, “Why was her summer so bad?”
Remus shrugged, plonking himself back into his seat, “Just had to spend it with Petunia is all,”
“Her sister,” Remus explained.
James ran a hand through his hair again, he hated that Remus knew more about Lily than he did, hated that Remus could have a conversation with her that didn’t involve Lily telling James to ‘deflate his head’ or ‘jump in the Lake’, but he hoped he didn’t let it show.
“And that’s a bad thing because…” James goaded.
“Because her sister thinks that Lily is some kind of monster, doesn’t understand about her being a witch,” Remus sighed.
James felt a flush of anger towards this stranger who shared Lily’s blood, and also something resembling jealousy towards Remus, which he quickly swallowed.
Sirius nudged him with his foot, his expression darkly contemplative, “Quit obsessing mate, let her be ‘the one that got away’, you’re wasting your time with her,”
James remained silent and returned to intently staring out the window, trying to think of reason after reason why Lily would continually spur his advances.
He couldn’t be as disgusting as she said he was, could he?
Well, he was disgusting to her and that’s all that mattered, wasn’t it?
Sirius continued to watch James with the same expression on his face, his brows were furrowed and he continued to stare at him intently.
Remus watched this interaction with mild interest, but he soon resumed his book.
It was another hour before he there was another sound in the room, apart from Peter’s assorted snorts and wheezes.
“I’m bored," Sirius moaned, his arms folded across his chest.
“Then find something to do,” James suggested, still gazing distractedly out the window.
“Well, you could have a nice little nap like Wormtail here,” Remus said, indicating the snoring and spluttering figure before him.
Sirius snorted, “Yeah right,”
“I think a little nap would do you a world of good, Padfoot, you’re cranky if you don’t have a nice little afternoon sleepy time,” Remus teased.
Sirius simply raised an eyebrow and smiled at the joke, shaking his head at Remus.
“Come on, not long to go anyway, here,” Remus said, tossing him a book, “you can read this,”
Sirius dropped the book as if he was allergic to it, “Pwhht, I don’t need to read anything, I know it all,”
Remus stared at him with a bemused expression, “Then why don’t you go revise it all in your head and think of a whole different language til we get to Hogwarts then?”
Sirius smiled broadly, turning back to the still quiet James, “Come on Prongs, you’ve been a bore the whole trip, up for a bit of fun?”
James looked up at him, he smiled at Sirius’ restlessness, “Settle down, mate, we’ll be there soon, we can have as much fun as your little Black heart desires when we get there, just sit still for now,”
Sirius looked disheartened, his expression dropped into a scowl as he relaxed back into his seat, still sprawled over both sides of the compartment, but as always, he listened to James.
45 minutes later they had arrived at the station, Sirius had gently woken Peter by yelling in his ear and laughing maniacally, James and Remus just laughed and shook their heads, stepping off the train.
Sirius stretched his long legs out, complaining about the lack of space in the compartments.
“No, Sirius, you’re just an abnormally tall freak,” James had commented lazily.
They grabbed another coach and headed towards Hogwarts, all four of them stared out the window as they approached it, never quiet overcoming the awe that the castle had instilled in them.
They entered the Great Hall, all still laughing about the various things they had done during the summer, though they managed to catch snatches of harried conversation among others.
“Did you hear about those muggle killings?”
“My dad said that he’s becoming more powerful, that nobody can stop him…”
“He’s taking over, it’s starting…”
James knew that that summer had been particularly eventful, strange muggle deaths had almost doubled in the last year, there were disappearances within the magical community, deaths…all leading to something. Everyone knew that Voldemort was rising, James and Sirius had experienced this quite close up, with the Potters being high up in the Ministry of Magic, and Sirius’ family being, well, in agreement with the stance that Voldemort and his supporters had taken.
Things were becoming more and more dangerous, there was a certain disquiet among the whole wizarding community.
They plonked down into their seats, Sirius was winking and waving at various girls already, while other girls were staring hopefully at James, who simply flashed them a smile, at which they all burst into furious giggles.
Peter eyed the girls with intent hope, knowing that he could never catch one of his own, but maybe one of Sirius’ cast offs…
The hall became silent as the Sorting Hat was brought out and placed on a stool, James, Sirius, Peter and Remus looked on with a sense of nostalgia, remembering their own sorting fondly.
They listened in silence as the first years were sorted, cheering whenever they got a new Gryffindor, they then became silent as Dumbledore approached the podium, he waited for all to become silent before speaking.
“First of all, welcome to our new students, I know that in the coming years you shall all find various ways of ending up in my office,” he said, with a twinkling in his eyes, the Marauders knew was directed at them, “and also, welcome back to all our students, I expect great things from you all this year, especially…” he paused, “especially in the face of such adversity,” the twinkle was gone from his eye, replaced by a fierce intensity now, “no doubt you will have all heard about the various attacks this summer, no doubt you must have felt the fear of uncertainty, knowing the risk we all undertake in such dark times, but we must remain strong, we must face these trials together, as divided we cannot hope to conquer Voldemort,” he continued, unmoved by the audible gasp that went as His name was spoken, “I must ask you all to triumph over your fears and try to band together in these uncertain times,” he finished, staring out over the sea of faces now gazing up at him, he could see the looks of fear and puzzlement flickering on their young features.
He cast a quick glance at the Marauders, gauging their reactions, Remus young, but lined face was poised in askance, as were James and Sirius’, Peter’s eyes were flickering around the room uncertainly, as if he was unsure of what to feel.
Dumbledore sat down again, his expression pensive, he clapped his hands and a feast appeared on the table, James, Sirius and Remus were still staring at him, as were some of his other students that had picked up the hidden warning in his words.
But their wariness over his words faded as they hesitantly started to eat and converse with their fellow students, and Dumbledore smiled, They should be allowed their innocence, hard times are coming, let them enjoy themselves, let them have their fun…