‘I hate patrols,’ Lily muttered as she and Potter walked through the dark, abandoned, second floor corridor at four in the morning. She pulled her cloak tighter around her shoulders to smother a shiver.
‘Really? I like them,’ Potter said brightly. ‘Lots of quality time with you, and-’
‘Funny,’ Lily said coldly. ‘I don’t like patrols for that exact reason.’
Potter’s face fell. They walked in uncomfortable silence – the type where Lily knew Potter was trying to think of a conversation starter and Lily knew she was going to do her best to quash it.
‘How were your holidays, then?’
‘Awful.’ She thought about it for a bit and then decided to burden James with her problems. Maybe he’d get sick of her talking and leave her alone. ‘My sister’s fiancé was around a lot.’
Potter looked surprised she had answered. His handsome face was thoughtful for a moment and then he said, ‘You don’t like him.’
‘I’d rather spend an hour with you than him.’ And that was saying something.
Potter smiled wryly. ‘Surely I’m not that bad?’ He ruffled his hair, seeming nervous. She raised an eyebrow. He stared at his feet.
Lily almost felt bad. The silence in the corridor was almost unbearable. ‘So how were your holidays?’
Potter grinned. ‘Lils-’
‘Evans,’ she reminded him curtly.
‘Evans, then. You don’t have to make small talk. I know you don’t really care what I did.’
So true. How did he know her so well? ‘No, I’m curious,’ she lied. ‘What does James Potter do in the holidays?’
‘Well, for the first month and a bit, Padfoot and I were at my place, with Moony and Wormy coming and going... Playing Quidditch, pranking Mum and Dad...’ his voice dwindled off. He forced a smile, but it didn’t reach his eyes. That seemed to be happening a lot lately- Lily mentally slapped herself. If she was noticing things like that, she was paying him too much attention. ‘In the middle of August we stayed with Remus and then we w- er...’ His eyes shifted to her face almost fearfully. ‘...ended up having so much fun we stayed for the rest of the holidays!’
Of course. Typical Potter with his perfect life, perfect family, spending time with his friends and playing Quidditch. Lily rolled her eyes, but it was dark enough that he didn’t notice. ‘Sounds great.’
‘Yeah, it does,’ Potter said sadly. Lily was about to ask him what sort of an answer that was, but thought better of it, knowing it would mean more talking.
Another fifteen minutes passed, during which Filch tried to give them detentions, – Lily suspected it was because Potter was there – Filch’s kitten saw Potter, hissed and bolted - Potter found this extremely funny but wouldn’t elaborate - and they found Marlene wandering about near the Transfiguration courtyard.
‘Oh, hello, you two,’ she said cheerfully.
‘Hi,’ Potter said.
‘What are you doing out here at ten to twelve?’ Lily asked.
‘Waiting,’ Marlene said simply.
‘What?’ Lily asked.
Potter sniggered. Marlene gave him an amused look. ‘I suppose you’ve figured it out, then?’
‘Perhaps,’ he said. ‘If I said I’ll say Evans captured you and dragged you back...’
‘I’d say thank you,’ she said, ‘and that I’m looking forward to breakfast.’ Potter nodded, grinning.
‘What?’ Lily asked again.
Marlene petted the top of her head. ‘Nothing, Lils.’
‘Oh,’ Potter said suddenly. ‘While we’ve got you here, McKinnon, I have a favour to ask you.’
‘What kind of favour?’ she asked with a coy smile.
‘Nice try,’ Potter told her. ‘Nothing like that, though. Padfoot would kill me.’ Marlene laughed. ‘I want to give you this.’ He pulled something small and red out of his pocket and passed it to her.
Marlene gasped. ‘Can you do that?!’
‘I can do whatever I want,’ Potter said with a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. Lily leaned closer to see what Marlene was holding. It was a small red badge - shaped like the Gryffindor crest - with the word “Captain” across the middle. Lily rolled her eyes, but she wasn’t sure how to feel; it was a nice thing that Potter was doing, but at the same time, he wasn’t Dumbledore. He couldn’t just pass out leadership positions.
‘James...’ Marlene said. ‘I don’t think you can do this.’
‘I’ve already talked to McGonagall about it. If I’m Head Boy, I want to do it properly and Quidditch Captain would just be a distraction. I’ve kept my old badge,’ he said, nodding to the one he’d just given her. ‘That one’s new, and it’s yours.’
Marlene pinned the badge to her robes with shaking fingers and then flung her arms around Potter’s neck. ‘Thank you!’
‘I expect a high standard from the team this year,’ he warned.
‘Yes, sir,’ Marlene said, beaming.
‘You know you’re just rewarding bad behaviour, right?’ Lily asked him exasperatedly.
‘Like Dumbledore did when he gave me Head Boy?’ Potter asked, smiling.
Lily smiled back, reluctanctly, and then shook her head and grabbed Marlene’s arm. ‘Come on,’ she sighed. ‘We’ll take you back.’
* * *
‘Where does she think you are?’ Sirius asked. ‘Because as much as I love her, I don’t really want her appearing here to tell us off.’ As if to prove his point, he cast a suspicious glance around, as if expecting Lily to step out from behind a statue.
‘Particularly because you’ve just got out of detention,’ Remus said, chuckling.
‘Bathroom. She offered to wait so we could walk back together.’ It had just about killed James to refuse extra time with Lily. ‘I told her I was old enough to find my way back to the common room alone.’ Remus smiled sympathetically, which James appreciated, although he would never admit to it. ‘McKinnon was with her, though.’
‘Evans found her?’ Sirius asked, grimacing.
‘Yes,’ James said. ‘She’s looking forward to breakfast, though.’
‘Presumptuous,’ Sirius said.
‘Not really. You fancy her, Padfoot, admit it.’
‘I’ll do no such thing.’ James and Remus shared a look.
‘Could we have some light, Prongs?’ Peter asked, tugging at the sleeve of James’ robe.
‘Sure,’ James shrugged. He slipped his hand into his pocket and pulled out a small golden ball, about the size of a walnut. ‘I solemnly swear I am up to no good.’ He gently tossed it into the air. Wings appeared from hidden compartments on either side of it, and it hovered near his head. ‘Light for me,’ he murmured. The Golden Snitch began to glow, filling the dark corridor with warm light. ‘Follow us,’ he told it.
‘No problem.’ As the four of them walked, the Snitch followed, casting its golden light everywhere. Glowing and following weren’t the only things the Snitch could do. James had trained it. It had a secret compartment that they used for passing notes in classes, an invisibility feature made possible by a strong and audio responding Disillusionment Charm, the ability to spray paint at passers-by and to bump into people, causing general confusion. Like the Marauder’s Map, there was a password to gain access to these qualities and also one to return it to its simplest state; a normal Snitch that could be used in Quidditch trainings.
Sirius, being a Beater, had tried to charm a Bludger into doing the same thing, but unfortunately for him, James and their dormitory, Bludgers were not nearly as receptive to spells, likely because they did not have flesh memories. Someone would also have noticed its disappearance, since – unlike Snitches – a pair of Bludgers could be reused in games. Nonetheless, James had had to admit he liked the idea of a glowing Bludger.
‘We have movement,’ Remus warned, pointing at the Marauder’s map. Sure enough, little Slytherin dots were starting to move. Sirius grinned.
‘Five minutes is all we need. Wormy, a diversion would be great, but be careful; Slytherins are not morning people.’ Peter scurried off, hopefully to make something go bang.
‘Or lunch people or afternoon people,’ Remus added.
‘Or night people. Come to think of it, I’m not sure they’re people at all,’ Sirius said thoughtfully.
The three of them laughed as they jogged to the fake wall. The wall itself actually existed, but like the entrance to Diagon Alley, if the bricks were hit in the right order it became translucent and allowed people through it. Obviously, if a person tried to get through without the combination, they would encounter solid brick. Behind the “wall” was an alcove and while inside, the Marauders knew they would be able to see anyone walking through the Dungeon corridor outside.
Remus performed a quick Cushioning Charm on the wall, Sirius walked up and down the corridor waving his wand and James tapped in the combination. He had a very good memory for things like this, and, since there were over one-hundred things to tap, they didn’t have time to waste. When the three of them had been inside for about five minutes, a rat came darting up to the wall. The three of them shared a grin as it morphed into Peter. James pulled him through.
‘Diversion successful,’ he reported, a proud blush creeping up his cheeks. ‘Blew up a tin of pink paint in their common room. I left as a rat when Slughorn came in.’
‘You used the one that doesn’t stain anything?’ As much as they liked pranks, they hadn’t pulled any that deliberately hurt or permanently damage anyone or thing since about fourth year. It was better that way, because it made everyone edgier and often, the suspense was as good or better than the prank itself.
‘Yeah. It was the one Padfoot got in the holidays, where it sings off-tune songs about whatever it’s painted on.’
Remus elbowed Sirius in the ribs. He made a face. ‘Moony,’ he whined. ‘That hurt! If you want me to be quiet then use your words, not your elbow.’
James was quicker on the uptake. ‘Pads,’ he said exasperatedly. ‘He didn’t want you quiet. Victim number one just arrived.’ Sirius’ expression brightened and his head turned – rather like that of a dog spotting a rabbit – to stare at the Slytherin boy who was walking past their hiding spot.
‘His name’s Brandon Dean,’ James whispered, consulting the Marauder’s Map.
‘Accio Brandon Dean,’ Remus muttered. Summoning people was possible but most of the time, quite a useless endeavour, since it was so easily blocked; you had to know the person’s full name and they had to be close enough that they wouldn’t have time to block it. The Marauders had this planned.
The boy’s expression twisted into one of alarm as he was pulled toward their hiding spot. He put his hands up, looking terrified as the wall neared, his shoes skidding on the ground, but it was unnecessary because he hit the Cushioning Charm and bounced off across the corridor into another Cushioning Charm. He proceeded in this manner, bouncing off the charms Sirius had placed.
He ended up in a disgruntled heap on the ground (also Cushioned) before picking his bag up and walking away quickly. He shot a confused look at the walls over his shoulder and doubled his pace.
James’ was happy and mischievous, Sirius’ was bark-like and equally joyous, Peter’s was high-pitched and gasping and Remus’ was the loud, contagious type, but they were all laughing.