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Marauders 1971-1972

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1st September 1971

Black, Sirius

Hello. Another Black.

Sirius felt the numbed fear that had been building in him since he’d been presented with his letter, by Kreacher, months ago reach a crisis point. His insides felt like they were physically quivering. He gritted his teeth.

“Don’t do it.” He hissed at the hat, squeezing his eyes shut as though it’d give the words more conviction. “Please don’t. I’m not like her. I’m not like them.”

Yes, well I’m glad we agree. I see not a cunning bone in you, Sirius Black. Nor do I detect any great respect for ambition…

Sirius didn’t care that he’d just been insulted by an old hat. To hear it, from an impartial judge, that he wasn’t like the others (even in the most basic association) made him slump out of his ridged posture in relief. He’d been so confused, for so long, and pulled in every direction since he first questioned his family as to what kind of person he really was. It felt like a release to be un-cuffed from this one Black tradition.

You’re quite welcome. Now, what would you say to “GRYFFINDOR!”

Sirius pushed up the old hat to reveal the Great Hall in all its cheering glory, and the right-most table clapping almost aggressively in welcome. He flicked his gaze over to the table nearest the doors to see the cool expression of his cousin Bellatrix, her dark eyes boring into him even from this distance. Before he could feel any real nervousness, however, he grinned at the sight of his biggest cousin, Andromeda, head girl badge gleaming on her chest, elbow Bellatrix so roughly she nearly fell off the bench. Sirius grinned back at her and hurried to the Gryffindor table still smiling, the image of his cousin clapping for him filling his chest with happiness like a tidal wave.

Evans, Lily

Lily screwed up her face as the old, frayed and rather dirty hat dropped down over her eyes and obscured the hundreds of faces in the great hall that had been staring up at her. It was oddly comforting, if a bit stuffy. It felt as though she were completely alone, removed from the fears of being separated from her family, and her sister, being in a new place and the possibility of being away from Severus for the first time since she’d stepped onto the magical platform.

No need to be so worried.

Lily stifled a gasp as a clear voice seemed to ring through her skull like an empty chamber.

I’m just flicking through to see where I should put you.

Lily didn’t like the insinuation that the hat was rifling through her thoughts, but she capitalised on the opportunity and thought as hard as she could; I want to go where Severus goes. Lily thought she could hear a smile in the hat’s next words.

I haven’t sorted a Severus yet. We’ll have to see how similar your two are, won’t we? Is he intelligent? You’ll make a model student I’m sure… proud of your own curiosity and ability… perhaps Ravenclaw? But what’s this?

The hours old memory of her father on the platform had creeped to the forefront of her mind. He’d squeezed her tight, called her ‘Flower’ and assured her that she could always come home, if it was too much. That things didn’t have to change, he’d said. She didn’t have to be brave.

And yet, here you are, Lily Evans, with no intention of leaving. So decisive and stubborn so young. I know when I see a “GRYFFINDOR!”

Someone whipped the hat off her head, pulling loose strands of copper hair free from her long, neat plait and she saw the table furthest from the huge doors giving her a particularly enthusiastic applause. She took a deep breath to push down the shock and allowed her face to break into a wide smile and she walked to the raucous end table, trying not to think of Severus behind her.

Lupin, Remus

Rather than sitting on the stool, Remus rather thought his legs just gave way beneath him and he should consider himself lucky that the chair caught him. He’d been so happy to be going to school for the first time, to not be locked away, but instead be given the opportunity to meet new people, but now… He’d spent most of his life up until this point away from the rest of the world, in the company of only his mother and father. Suddenly thrust into an environment surrounded by hundreds of children was totally nerve wracking. He’d quickly realised he had no idea how to interact with other people his age and being the focus of so many pairs of eyes made him feel physically sick.

The Sorting Hat was dropped on his head and fell down over his eyes, blocking sound and sight completely but not erasing the weight of the hall’s attention. Remus heard a voice ring clear through his head as though his own brain were thinking the words.

What an unusual young man. Remus screwed his eyes shut under the hat as though the voice was painful. Why so worried? I’ve seen students with a lot more riding on their house over the years than you.

The hat fell silent, as though it were sifting through his mind to find an answer. An image of his parents swam to the front of his mind and Remus’ knuckles whitened as he tightened his grip on the rim of the stool. I just want them to be proud of me. I make everything so difficult for them, they must be relieved to have their lives back now. It’s the least I can do. The hat seemed to ‘hmm’ in acknowledgement.

Well I see you won’t have to worry about bad marks, with a brilliant mind like that, your belief in hard work and fair play will take you far. You’ve a lot of ambition, for such a young kid.

It’ll never happen though. Remus thought. It’s all a waste. I can work as hard as I like and I’ll never amount to anything because… because of the way I am… Remus thought he heard the hat chuckle.

Have a little more confidence in yourself Remus. “GRYFFINDOR!”

Pettigrew, Peter

Peter’s feet didn’t touch the floor once he’d scrambled up onto the rickety, three legged stool, ready for Professor McGonagall to place the Sorting Hat on his head. When she did, it was as though all the lights had gone out. A smooth voice spoke in his ear and Peter squeaked in shock.

Desperate to prove yourself already and you’ve only just sat down.

Peter thought that he’d rather have faced some of the rumours which were spreading across the Hogwarts Express about the nature of the sorting, rather than sit here with the same hat that knew his parents sifting through his darkest thoughts. There were a few feelings he’d rather keep to himself.

Oh don’t worry I shan’t be telling anyone. Your insecurities are your own business. I suppose you don’t want to be in Ravenclaw?

I can’t compare to them… I’m not smart enough… I can’t… I just don’t know what I’m going to do… The gut-wrenching memory of his mother hugging him while his father congratulated him excitedly surfaced. Peter had played through it again and again and, like an old tape, had become more disjointed and worried with each viewing. His brothers watching from the hallway, whispering to each other. His mother saying how much this would change things.

They’re all squibs, you see? Peter told the hat miserably. Everyone’s watching me now.

And you just feel as though you can’t live up to all the new attention. Don’t worry, you’re not the first to be living up to high expectations. Not even the only in this year. You might be the odd one in your family, but you won’t stand out in… “GRYFFINDOR!”

Potter, James

James Potter nearly collapsed the rickety stool in his haste to sit himself on it and he could have sworn he saw Professor McGonagall roll her eyes before she placed the old hat on his head. Excitement bubbled inside him like some out of control reaction in his stomach and he swung short legs in anticipation.

Not a concern in your head I see? Said a voice in James’ ear that he knew to be the Sorting Hat.

Yes! I’m going to be in Gryffindor, like my Dad, right? The thought rang so sure and true that, if the hat had any, it would’ve raised it’s eyebrows.

I think I’ll be the one making the decisions here.

James conviction faltered for the first time in a long time. What? I’m not brave enough?

Well you’re certainly brazen enough. I’m not so petty that I won’t deny you your wish because of a little big-headedness. “GRYFFINDOR!”

Snape, Severus

Oh! Severus, you’ve been mentioned. Made a good friend already, have you? A hundred memories of Lily were presented by Severus for the hat to witness, all smothered in the association of loyalty, friendship and blissful happiness.

But you put her in Gryffindor.

I put her where she belongs. And now it’s your turn. The hat must have felt his indecision because it felt to Severus as though it voiced his feelings more accurately than he would ever dare to say aloud. You’d loathe to be in Gryffindor, and yet, you’d rather be with that girl than anywhere else.

Severus fiddled with his new robes. What if she forgets about me? She’ll make new friends. She’s nice, and pretty and funny and… well, you can see me. Saying (or rather thinking) the insecurities that had been weighing him down regarding Lily hadn’t made him feel better

But you’re not without your qualities. What an excellent mind, and no, I don’t just mean academics. You should have a little more faith in yourself, you’ve an incredible cunning streak you could put to very good use in Slytherin. The hat must have felt his conflict. It continued; You’re going to have to decide what kind of person you want to be eventually – you can’t deny yourself what you want in the hope of banal happiness. You can keep your connections, if you work hard enough for them, if you really want them. But people turn against you and you’ll wish you had just relied on yourself all along, right? Severus thought of his mother in that moment, sitting at the table with her son eating a lonely supper looking haggard while her husband wore off his anger on the picture frames and ornaments in the adjacent room.

Well if you want to think of it that way… “SLYTHERIN!”

* * *

Entering the Gryffindor girls’ dormitories for the first time, Lily had no spare energy to take awe in her surroundings. She had climbed what felt like a hundred staircases and eaten what felt like a week’s worth of meals that evening and now would like nothing more than to climb into her bed. Her trunk full was somehow up next to one of the beds even though the last time she’d seen it was on the train. She had the bed nearest the door and was neighbour to a girl called Dorcas whom she and Severus had met on the journey. She was kind-faced with an alarming amount of strawberry blonde curls and a liberal smattering of freckles to rival Lily’s.

“I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much in my life,” moaned Dorcas, struggling into pyjamas with her eyes half closed. “I’m gonna explode!”

Lily sat on the edge of her new four-poster bed and copied her new friend, pulling out pyjamas and stuffing her new robes into her trunk carelessly. It was going to be very different from staying at home. No more knocking on the wall that joined her and her sister’s rooms to hear Petunia knocking back. No more crawling into her parents’ bed in the mornings. She’d have to stop being such a baby. Petunia always said she could be such a baby. Petunia said it was because she was the youngest. Her fellow Gryffindor girls, Marline and Mary, were crowded around one of the oil lamps writing letters with feathered pens. Quills. It would probably be a good idea to write to her parents.

“Are you going to write home tonight too?” She asked Dorcas, who yawned hugely and nodded.

“I suppose. We can take them to the owlery tomorrow together, if you want? I suppose I could’ve just bought an owl and made things easier, but I love cats.” She grinned and snatched her new cat up from the ground as it stalked past her and pulled it up onto the bed, despite its protest.

While Lily wrote her first letter home (describing in intense detail all the fantastic food she’d eaten) she thought maybe, next year, when her parents were sure she wanted to stay, they might relent to getting her a cat too.

* * *

Sirius was yanked through the dormitory door by the arm. His new friend, James, had a thousand times more energy than he could ever hope to have after such a long and emotionally draining day.

“Look! Our trunks are next to each other! We’ve got the beds next to each other!” James was practically buzzing, the ends of his disastrously untamed hair quivering and his face shining. Sirius couldn’t help but break into a smile. He’d never met anyone like this boy before. He was a mess, one trouser leg tucked into his sock, his collar tucked into his jumper and his tie in disarray. He was such a contrast to Sirius and his immaculate self that it felt almost rebellious to be standing next to this boy. It was so deeply ingrained in Sirius to be perfect any time eyes were on him that he was constantly exhausted with the effort, it looked like it would be a relief to have the carefree attitude of this boy.

He heard the dormitory door open behind him and two other boys entered – the other new Gryffindor first years who they’d be sharing a dorm with. Sirius thought he remembered their names as Remus and Peter. He’d heard of the Potter family and the Pettigrew family (though always in sneering tones) but he couldn't think of where he'd heard Lupin before – though he was sure the name had cropped up somewhere.. He wondered if the boy was muggle-born. He didn’t know how to feel about him.

He was small, in a different way to James. Where his new friend was short and stocky, this boy was like a reed, pale faced with twig-like arms. Sirius noticed that his curly hair was drooping somewhat in the late hour and that the candlelight in the room made noticeable silvery scarring on his hands and across the bridge of his nose. He was talking to the other boy and smiling lightly though, clearly putting Peter at ease.

Peter looked as nervous as Sirius, wringing his fingers over the edges of his new robes. James interrupted his thoughts. He almost pounced on the other boys.

“What’re your names? Romulus, right? And Pete?” Clearly, James hadn’t been nearly as attentive as Sirius had been in the Great Hall. Sirius saw Remus smile good-naturedly again.

“Nearly. I’m Remus Lupin. I remember from the sorting, you’re James Potter, and you’re Sirius Black,” he replied, turning and nodding to Sirius.

“I’m Peter Pettigrew,” added the other boy in a small voice. It seemed like James’ boisterous attitude put him on edge a little.

“This is going to be great!” James flopped onto his bed, a satisfied grin on his face. “It’s going to be like one huge sleepover! I can’t wait for tomorrow!”

Sirius carefully folded his new robes and put them on the chair between his and James’ beds before taking a glance around the room. James was face-first in his bedding – asleep as though he hadn’t been bouncing from the walls not five minutes ago. Remus was sitting in bed writing a letter (presumably telling of his sorting) with a muggle pen. Peter was lovingly stroking what Sirius supposed was his new pet owl, a contented smile on his face.

Lastly, he looked over at his tie which was lying on top of his folded clothes. When he’d bought it, it had been black. Now it was red and gold.

Sirius smiled as he turned over to sleep.

AN: This was beta-read by TenThousandLilies from Fanfiction.net – it’s thanks to her that this whole chapter isn’t just one long, rambling sentence, as is my bad habit. :) This story is going to cover the Marauders’ first year at Hogwarts with chapters coving key moments rather than the year as a whole – just so you know what you’re getting in for. I’m hoping to cover the years 1971 to 1978 but that’s a long way to go… Anyway, thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll see you next chapter! Have a lovely day! ~

Chapter Text

By the time the pair reached the right Potions classroom on Monday morning, James was completely out of breath, having talked non-stop at his new friend the entire journey. Sirius - who was used to the quiet, reserved guests his family permitted to visit and his uptight, proper cousins - was completely thrown by the unapologetic constant talking. Every time James drew breath, he searched his mind for some contribution but didn’t have time to formulate an answer before his new friend was off again. In fact, he only stopped when they met the line that was the rest of the class, just worming into their potions classroom.

Sirius chose a table near the back and James rushed next to him, pushing his sweaty hair out of his eyes and beaming.

“Professor Slughorn teaches this class. He knows my dad; you know?” James stage whispered to Sirius, completely oblivious to the way his new friend leaned away slightly at the abrupt close proximity. “He’s right annoying, but he’s alright. He’ll absolutely pick favourites, so you might as well show off – are you any good at potions?”

“I’m okay,” Sirius replied, not looking at James and watching for the professor to come though the dungeon door.

“Did your parents teach you before you started here? My dad loves potions – he invented Sleekeazy’s Hair Potion, did you know? Mum’s always going bonkers because he’s messing about with all sorts of stuff and testing them out without telling us. He made all my hair fall out when I was five trying to invent a colour-change hair dye, you know?” James prattled on with his head in his book bag, trying to find his Beginners Guide to Potion Making and a quill. He emerged just as their professor entered, his arms full of a cauldron brimming with dry ingredients.

“Welcome to Potions, first years, I am Professor Slughorn. Funny that you should be starting your magical education with a subject which requires very little wand-work, however I hope that the precision and subtlety of Potions - which can be lacking in some other subjects - will give you an appreciation for magic as a multi-faceted art.” As he said this, he laid out the ingredients he’d been carrying onto the front desk and began to write out instructions on the blackboard.

“You’ll find that small nuances can determine the effectiveness of a potion early on, so I implore you to follow the instructions to the letter to achieve the best results. There’s not a lot of damage you can do with these low level ingredients, but it’s best to be careful.”

Sirius’ attention was beginning to wander – this speech was for muggleborns, or students with muggle-loving parents who knew nothing about magic and hadn’t been taught anything prior to enrolment. He wasn’t looking forward to being coddled for the first year of his magical education and could see his father’s complaint of allowing mixed magical and muggleborn classes at Hogwarts – or even allowing muggle-borns at all. He flicked though his Potions textbook, looking to see if any exciting potions were likely to be planned for their upcoming classes. At the very least, if this year was going to be easy he could put in minimal effort and still keep his parents off his back. He didn’t want to attract any negative attention. As boisterous as James Potter was, at least he had some background in potions and he wouldn’t be forced to help out an idiot for the rest of his school career.

James nudged him out of his thoughts by snapping the textbook he was reading closed. The class was moving around, collecting the ingredients that Slughorn had written out on the blackboard, with Slughorn himself benignly correcting students who were rifling in the wrong cupboards. James started up his chatter under the safety of the noise of the class and the clanking of utensils being dropped on the floor.

“So did you do much prep work before you came, Sirius?” James asked, grabbing a handful of beetle eyes. “My parents didn’t want me to do much because they said it would be unfair – but that’s so unfair! I could be top of the class at the beginning of the year without even trying!”

“My brother and I had tutors for potions, wandwork and arithmancy,” Sirius replied carefully, “but I think it’s a family tradition.”

James pouted at Sirius, dumped his newly collected ingredients on the desk in front of his cauldron and started pounding his beetle eyes into a fine powder.

“That’s so unfair!” Sirius couldn’t help but notice a definite whine coming out in his voice. “My parents wouldn’t let me get my wand until I got my letter! They said I had to do it ‘properly’! I can’t believe you actually got to practice with it before-hand!” James dumped his beetle eye powder into his cauldron along with half a pint of goat stomach-bile a little aggressively. “What is the point of being pure blood if you don’t get any benefit?”

James continued to grumble, but Sirius ran through what had been said carefully. He knew that his family’s views were unpopular, and so he spoke carefully with wizarding strangers, for fear of spouting some elitist propaganda that had been drilled into him. It was only thanks to his ‘muggle-loving’ cousin, Andromeda, that he’d ever had a chance to talk to someone who thought differently than his parents for more than five minutes. But what James had said aligned with that constant rhetoric of his parents. And so he tested the waters.

“My father thinks that muggle-borns and pure-bloods shouldn’t be taught in the same classes, because the muggle-borns would hold us back…”

Sirius stole a glance at James from the corner of his eye, trying to gauge his reaction, but James was too busy attempting to wipe the mist from his glasses with the sleeve of his robes, thanks to the warmth of the small fires lit around the room. Someone from the desk in front answered Sirius instead.

“What about half-bloods, then?”

It was the limp-haired boy from the train who was at the desk in front, paired up with the ginger-haired girl who’d been sorted into Gryffindor. She didn’t turn around into the conversation, but from the way her hands stilled, Sirius knew she was listening.

“Butt out, Snivels,” said James, not bothering to make eye contact. But the boy – Severus Snape, he remembered – wasn’t interested in James, he focussed his glare on Sirius.

“Well, what about them?”

Sirius didn’t answer. By his father’s reasoning, this wouldn’t even be a valid question, because the idea that a wizard would dilute their blood with a muggle’s would be laughable, but he wasn’t fool enough to think that this belief was repeatable. Luckily, James answered for him.

“Well, I suppose it would depend on how much work they’d done before attending.” James answered while conducting the twelve counter-clockwise stirs and adding crushed dandelion heads. “All Sirius is saying, is that lumping students of different abilities together in first year would make things difficult for students with no magical knowledge, compared to students like him.”

Snape opened his mouth to argue, but at that point, the girl joined the conversation proper.

“What, and you’ll split us depending on our parents then? Don’t you think that’s a bit unfair? What if I’ve read all my textbooks, and you haven’t? What if I’m better at this subject than you? How can you know? It’s only the first day!”

Sirius raised his eyebrows. He supposed she must be muggle-born, and she was scowling hard at James, pointing an aggressive finger at his face.

“I didn’t realise,” she continued, “that you’re not just a rude, fat-headed brat, but that you also don’t bother to think for yourself.” The girl turned back to her desk with such ferocity that her swinging plaits almost whipped James about the face. Snape smirked at James and threw a disgusted look at Sirius before turning to join his friend.

James looked at Sirius incredulously. “Have I really got a fat head?” he hissed. Sirius gave an uncharacteristic snort of laughter.

“It’s a bit big, I won’t lie.”

James scowled and squashed his face comically with his hands and but on an absurd voice. “What about half-bloods?” he mocked in a stage whisper. “What if I’ve read all my textbooks already?”

“I should hope you’ve read all your textbooks already, Mr Potter, given your father’s proficiency.”

Sirius fought to control a smirk as James snapped to attention at his cauldron and hid his hands behind his back as though he hadn’t just been caught distorting his face into that of a particularly wrinkly troll by the potions professor.

“Yes, sir!” He reassured as earnestly as he could manage, looking wide-eyed at Slughorn from behind his fuggy glasses. Slughorn maintained his hard stare for another half minute before cracking a grin.

“Not that it matters – you’re work so far…” He bent over James’ cauldron, which contained a substance of the dark green colour described by the textbook, but the consistency of snot. “…Would be commendable if you hadn’t allowed it to congeal because you were too busy engaging in the conversation of talented, pretty classmates! Better luck next time!”

Slughorn waddled off, still smiling to himself, apparently under the impression that he’d made an astute, fatherly observation. On the contrary, James made a face at Sirius and mouthed; “What pretty classmate? I hope he doesn’t mean you.”

~*~

After Potions, which had concluded with a decent amount of scowling on James’ part while Slughorn praised the pair in front, the Gryffindors had Transfiguration with the Hufflepuffs. Snape and Evans were basking in the glory of Slughorn’s praise, until they split for their next class, for their ‘innovative’ addition of lemon rind in an attempt to ward off the acrid smell of their boil solution. Sirius rather thought that students should only be praised for successes, since the pair’s potion has turned a lurid orange colour as a result and was useless for any purpose other than painting a Chudley Cannons banner, but Slughorn seemed to value innovation and experimentation.

Professor McGonagall, on the other hand, gave the impression of being a by-the-book individual. Sirius sat through her introduction to the subject, trying to ignore James fidgeting next to him, but approved greatly of her systematic awarding of house points to the few students able to turn their matchstick into a needle (he and a Hufflepuff girl with yellow ribbons in her hair and the surname Rodd). James spent most of the lesson scowling at Evans, trying to see if she’d succeeded in her own transfiguration without her noticing him. As a result, he achieved little other than a disdainful look from Professor McGonagall.

She and Remus, who shared their dormitory, appeared to be helping Peter, who by the end of the lesson was in a fretful state – from what Sirius could tell, he was panicking about his lacklustre performance in both morning lessons and Lily and Remus were attempting to reassure him.

The Gryffindors went to collect their dragon hide gloves in preparation for whatever could be waiting for them in their first Herbology lesson, chattering loudly about their first lessons and steadily getting swallowed up in the crowd of much taller students also changing classrooms. Sirius thought he saw the shoulder-length white-blond hair of Lucius Malfoy who, along with his father, Abraxas, had appeared in his drawing room over the summer. If he remembered correctly, he was a Slytherin prefect. Sirius attempted to identify the students around him – was Andromeda with him? But he had difficulty distinguishing one older student from another over the shoulders of the crowd.  

The walk to Herbology was their first real chance to look across the grounds in full light. The grounds of Hogwarts stretched far out around the castle and Sirius couldn’t distinguish any clear border. Past the greenhouses was the Forbidden Forrest they had been warned about the night before by the headmaster. Despite the Autumn sun dappling the ground at the fringe of the forest a mix of greens and oranges, it seemed that the darkness solidified only a few feet in.

There were three greenhouses, the one furthest to the forest being locked. A short woman with a round face was waiting outside the closest one. She welcomed them into the greenhouse and introduced them to the various tools and plants around the room. Sirius had never worked with magical plants before, other than those from the apothecary needed to Potions. 12 Grimmauld Place didn’t have a garden and his parents never took a particular interest in it, so he felt some excitement to be experiencing something unknown.

Professor Sprout (after having explained the classes of plants in terms of danger, how to recognise species of the same family, and how those similarities reflected the potions they were often used in) had them organise a set of cuttings into families based on the information provided in One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi. To James’ amusement, Sirius was visibly disgusted by some of the available plants. It was only the barrier of his thick, dragon-hide gloves that allowed him to even touch a small section of mimbulus mimbletonia, a little green tuber covered in greenish boils. He had to stop himself from vomiting when a bumbling Hufflepuff called Benjie Fenwick lost ten points for his house by accidentally dropping a handful of bouncing bulbs on the floor. Apparently, they did more than bounce, as Sirius and James discovered when they exploded over their shoes and small shoots started growing around their ankles – effectively trapping their feet to the ground and causing James to lose his balance and topple over backwards onto the greenhouse floor. Sirius thought he saw Remus Lupin snigger and point for Peter’s benefit.

~*~

Lunch was an excitable affair and the Gryffindor prefect had some difficulty in controlling the first years and keeping them from running across the Great Hall to hear stories of lessons they hadn’t had yet from other houses. Sirius contended himself to scan the crowds for members of his own family. He saw his older cousin Narcissa have the top of her head kissed by Lucuis Malfoy and saw Andromeda standing at the Ravenclaw table talking to a round faced student he didn’t know who was roaring with laughter.

James was absentmindedly stuffing his face with ham and mustard sandwiches while watching incredulously as Lily, the ginger haired Gryffindor girl, grabbed a slice of corned beef pie and walked across the hall to the Slytherin table and sat down next to a black-haired boy Sirius assumed to be Severus.

“Can you believe her!?” Asked James indignantly. “Going and sitting at the Slytherin table on the first day. I mean, why sit down on You-Know-Who’s table when you’re a muggle-born? Hasn’t she read up on anything since getting her letter?”

“The other boys, their parents are all starting to side with him too, I think,” Sirius noted. “Those boys-” he pointed over “Rodolphus and Evan, their parents are thought to sympathise with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Slytherin is going to become a dumping ground for He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s followers and their children, especially if first years who would otherwise go to Slytherin ask the hat otherwise based on politics.”

James narrowed his eyes at Sirius. “Okay, first, how do you know about the Slytherin first years and second, how do you know for sure you can ask the hat what house you want to go to? I thought it was supposed to look at your traits and see where you belong?”

Sirius hesitated – he couldn’t be certain which way his new friend would take his answer. He considered James’ stances up until now, despite his pure-blood status.

“Well my mother told me to ask for Slytherin,” he confessed. “I’m not like the rest of them and she doesn’t want me to… stray, I don’t think. I reckon she thought that if I got into Slytherin, I’d come around eventually.”

He risked a glance at James to gauge his reaction and felt a relief like warm sunlight when he saw James’ mischievous grin – a hundred times more reassuring than any familiarity of Grimmauld Place.

“And you asked for Gryffindor?” James seemed delighted at the very idea of Sirius deliberately disobeying his parent’s blood purist idealism.

“Oh no,” Sirius smirked, “I didn’t even have to ask – the hat was quite offended that I’d even suggest it’d place me in Slytherin.”

James slapped the table in utter joy and attracted a few curious stares with his uproarious laughter and Sirius found himself joining in, thinking for the first time that he wasn’t as strange as he’d been made to believe he was for the past eleven years. In some kind of personal act of final rebellion, when they left the table to make their way to Flying Lessons in the grounds, he filled his pockets with handfuls of mint humbugs.

“Are you excited for flying lessons?” Asked a boy with shockingly ginger hair and an obscene amount of freckles called Edgar Bones, who’d been in their Herbology lesson and had met the pair in the Entrance Hall. “Personally, I don’t see why we should have to if we don’t want to sign up for the Quidditch team next year – there are more direct and practical methods of magical transportation.”

“Like what?”

A group of Gryffindor girls had caught up with them, including Lily. “I hope it’s a bit more graceful than flying looks – I’m Dorcas, by the way.” She introduced herself to Edgar.

“You can use the floo network,” Remus suggested, having joined the group along with Peter as they passed a squat hut near the forest border on their way to the Quidditch Pitch. “It’s much faster than brooms. Or you could apparate, but you have to be seventeen to get your license.”

“No!” James interjected, “you can go by side-along if you’re underage, remember?”

Explanation of magical transport carried the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff first years down to the flying instructor on the pitch, a woman with sharp eyes who looked a bit like a hawk. Next to her lay a pile of broomsticks and while his parents had often scorned Quidditch and brooms as some fanatical idiocy of the lower classes, he still thought that, given the choice between the two, they’d rather the school offered something a little sleeker than these ratty brooms. He amused himself for a few moments, imagining Hogwarts trying to teach his stern, eleven-year-old mother to fly on a broomstick. It was an absolutely absurd image and it was for this reason that he often wondered if his mother had entered the world the same loud, snobbish adult that she was now.

James pouted at the broom selection. “If I have to ride a broom,” he whined, “why couldn’t I just bring my Cleansweep? Will these things even hold us up?”

The teacher clapped sharply and directed them into a line facing her – there was a fair amount of pushing and shuffling as students attempted to stand next to their friends. Sirius ended up squashed between James and Peter.

“Good afternoon first years,” the teacher greeted the, handing out the shabby brooms. “My name is Madame Hooch, and I won’t be having any silliness, thank you. As you might know, broomsticks are an important part of wizarding tradition and Hogwarts believes that it evens the playing field between students for everyone to have some command over the art, along with apparition which will be taught in sixth year.”

There was a shadow of excited whispering at the promise of apparition lessons. Peter, on the other hand, was looking disdainfully down at his broomstick. Sirius watched as Remus snorted at Peter’s expression good-naturedly. Despite James’ complaints, Sirius noted him hanging on Madame Hooch’s every word. She talked them through commanding and mounting the brooms and Sirius self-consciously followed her instruction. James seemed to be perfectly at home with the idea, Peter, though nervous, looked like he at least was familiar with the process, but Remus and Lily looked to be in a similar dilemma to him. As much as Remus had laughed at Peter’s unease, he looked suitably awkward standing squarely on the grass holding what looked like a glorified sweeping brush between his legs.

‘Kicking off from the ground hard’ turned out to be a lot harder than Madame Hooch made it sound. For students like James and Pater, who were at least familiar with broomsticks, they had no qualms with the notion that an object would hold them up of they did. Remus quickly got over the nervousness that came with the questionable instruction and looked utterly surprised that he’d made it two foot into the air. Sirius only made it off the ground on the thought of what his mother would say about him being so undignified and the disgust of his own cowardice after proving to his new friend that he was a true Gryffindor. Once in the air, flying seemed distinctly less difficult as he hovered obediently at the height Hooch had deemed appropriate and watched her try to convince Dorcas to get in the air.

“Will you try out for the Quidditch team next year?” James asked, indicating the small group of Sirius, Remus, Peter and Edgar.

Peter looked positively repulsed. “I’d probably smash my head open and be sent home first game, I don’t think so. I’m so clumsy. I reckon my mum would like it idea, but my dad doesn’t see the point in Quidditch, so…”

“Yeah, but would you want to?” James insisted. Peter looked a little taken aback.

“Well, I don’t really know. I mean, I asked her and she said she didn’t care either way when it came to Quidditch… But my brothers…” Peter trailed off nervously and risked a fall in letting go of the handle to wipe his sweaty hands on his robes. “I don’t know...”

James seemed to consider Peter for a few moments, before appearing to giving him the benefit of the doubt.

“Well, you’ve got all year to decide. I suppose that’s why they open trials in second year. We’ve got this whole year to practice. And I suppose muggle-borns would have to familiarise themselves with the sport… But then you’d think they’d let us bring our own brooms.”

“I heard,” said Edgar enthusiastically, “that some kid a long time ago, in first year got dared to fly home and smashed into the wards around the castle grounds and got turned into a slug!”

“Yeah, I heard that too,” said James. “My dad told me, but he was laughing so I think it was just a story.”

Once Hooch had coaxed the whole class into the air, they were instructed to fly in a circle around the pitch, which resulted in Lily Evans crashing into Remus, which distracted Peter and caused him to lose his grip and flip upside down. The class ended in a fair amount of alarmed screaming and James and Edgar complaining about the inferior ability of the rest of the class.

~*~

The last lesson of the day was Defence Against the Dark Arts, which got off to a loud start as a result of the muddy, ruffled looking Gryffindors which caused a fair amount of hilarity among the Slytherins. The professor didn’t particularly enthuse Sirius, a tame looking blonde woman who dressed in some bizarre amalgamation of wizarding and muggle clothes called Fairley. In contrast to the madness of flying, the class consisted of a long introduction to the history of the Dark Arts and an explanation of how malignant and benign magic is categorised by law.

“You’ll find,” Fairley lectured, “that despite the classification of spells by severity, it is difficult to take a witch or wizard to court on the basis of the use of a spell alone. This is why wizarding law relies on case law for convictions. For example-”

Sirius heard James quietly thunking his forehead off the desk next to him. He allowed himself to zone out and cast around for something more interesting. September sun was setting and shining through one of the high windows, casting the two rows in front in blinding yellow light. They spent the first lesson copying down the different classifications of spells and making notes of the Latin roots of many spells. Professor Fairley left each student with a long list of spells with instructions to translate them loosely into English and classify them.

Sirius watched Severus and Lily talking as he screwed the top back onto his ink bottle and dropped it into his bag.

“My mum told me that they used to teach Latin at Hogwarts – you know?” Severus told her, scanning the list of spells. “She tried to teach me some, but it was really difficult when it came to spell roots – well you know how my dad is.”

“I can’t imagine anything more dull,” said Lily, stuffing the homework into her Defence textbook. “Be quite useful to know how incantations are created though. Do you think that means that a person could just make up spells? Are all Latin words spells? Or does a wizard just pick one at random? I wonder how it’s done…”

Sirius thought he remembered his tutor talking about the nature of spell incantations, but he must have zoned out because he seemed to have retained very little of it. He scowled, thinking that if he had just paid attention, he might have been able to do this homework without spending hours on end in the library looking up Latin root words.

“Do you know any of these?” Sirius asked James, who had a red blotch on his forehead from where it had been pressed against the desk for the hour.

“Yeah, a couple – some of them are a bit obvious though – don’t you think ‘lumos’ sounds like illuminate? I’ve never heard of some of them though. What’s this?”

James pointed to a spell on the list.

“Equus Venaticus.”

“I’ve no idea. I can’t even take a guess.”

“I thought you had a tutor?” James accused.

“Yeah, but it was boring sometimes,” Sirius confessed. “Hurry up, we can dump our bags and go to the library to get started before dinner.”

James actually groaned and stamped his feet up the grand staircase. “It’s the first day for God’s sake,” he whined. “I picked the wrong friend. Is it too late to change? I wanted to go exploring.”

Sirius paused on the stairs in thought, allowing others to barge past him, before making the decision which would decide what kind of person he was going to be from this point on.

“We’ll do it tonight!” He called after James, running to catch up. “We’ll go to the library and do the homework, then tonight, we’ll go!”

James turned to him, grinning.

“At night?”

“Yes,” said Sirius, nodding breathlessly.

“If you’re sure -”

“I promise! Let’s do it!”

James actually clapped his hands in excitement, his eyes shining. “Then I’ve got such a great secret to show you!”

~*~

James and Sirius had decided over dinner to go to bed on time with the other first year boys to avoid suspicion. Sirius was utterly unable to fall asleep, as time wore on he grew steadily more and more excited – for whatever secret James had managed to keep tight lipped about, for being up at night in a huge castle, for defying his parents, for exploring… He lay looking at the red canopy, waiting for Remus’ quill to stop scratching in the darkness, thinking that he was quite excited about being in Gryffindor and having a real friend.

A few moments after the silence had reached a deafening point in the first year boys dormitory, Sirius slipped out of his four-poster and padded across to James. He pulled back the curtains with minimal noise and peered around to see if he was awake.

Apparently excitement had exhausted James – he’d clearly tried to stay awake as he was slumped sideways and was wearing his dressing gown, his glasses still on but digging into the side of his head.

“Hey,” whispered Sirius, poking James. “Hey, let’s go!”

James sleepily complained until he came to his senses and seemed to remember their plans a few hours ago and suddenly came to life. He grinned at Sirius and pushed him out of the way to get to his trunk.

“What’s the secret?” Sirius reminded him, kneeling down and trying his best to maintain his manners and not snoop over his friend’s shoulder into his trunk.

“I’m getting it, hold on…”

James’s smirked, having caught something at the bottom of the piles of clothes and books. He tugged at whatever it was rather than just unpacking his things and so it took some effort, but the reveal was worth it.

“Wow!” Sirius breathed, reaching out to feel the lighter-than-silk material James had presented to him. “Is that an invisibility cloak?”

“Yeah – like in ‘The Tale of the Three Brothers.’ It was my dad’s, but I think it’s a family tradition to give it to your son on their first year of Hogwarts – I don’t reckon I’d be able to give it up to my kid if I had a son.” He confessed.

“I don’t blame you,” Sirius said, his eyes travelling hungrily over the cloak, his fingers drifting over the surface in something akin to an act of worship.

“It’s cool, isn’t it? Come on.” James stood up and threw it over his head, vanishing from sight. Sirius clambered to his feet, reaching out to feel for James before his new friend threw the watery material over his head so they were face – to – face under the cloak.

“Let’s go then.”

Sirius smiled to himself as he crept down the dormitory stairs and out of the portrait hole, keeping as close to James as possible to avoid their feet appearing. He felt a distinctive thrill at the thought of how furious his mother would be if she ever found out about his short, smiley friend with a taste for rule breaking and the adventures that they had planned to go on together.

 

 

Chapter Text

James Potter had never been happier, and it wasn't as though he didn't have many great experiences to compare the last month to. So far, he and Sirius had spent five nights sneaking around the castle and they'd already found the entrance to the Slytherin common rooms and an old dungeon likely used for torture judging by the chains and screws. Not to mention, slipping into the restricted section and finding the most unusual books on how to do the crazy things that James had spent his childhood reading about in muggle children's books. They'd found books about curse fire that has a life of its own, they found books on wizards who could turn into animals, they found books on creating zombies. It would be dishonest for him to claim that he hadn't given himself nightmares, but it had added to the thrill.

After the first week, when the introduction segments of their classes came to an end and they started to perform what James considered 'real magic' he was considerably more excited. Defence had turned around from being about classifying spells to actually using them. Professor Fairley had brought in a jar of snails and allowed them to practice jinxes and counter jinxes on them. He and Sirius had been thrilled to find lists of simple spells with the same root were very easy once one was mastered and so they picked their favourites to use on unsuspecting spiders and Severus Snape.

James had never had a true rival before, but he had always quite liked the idea. Before Hogwarts, he had merely enlisted the help of friends or his parents to act as his mortal enemy so he could pretend to valiantly take them down in the name of bravery and chivalry. Usually the enemy was Salazar Slytherin himself, but he supposed he could settle for the greasy haired first year for the time being. Of course, he quite failed to register that Salazar and Gryffindor had once been great friends and this was where the tragedy lay, but short-sightedness could affect a person figuratively and literally.

Not many people were willing to jump in front of Snape and take a jinx for him, probably because he had gone straight to the library to learn a litany of awful hexes for retaliation after the first time James caught him off guard on the corridor. Apparently the humiliation of uncontrollable tap dancing had spurred him into a spree of extracurricular reading.

If he was honest with himself, he quite enjoyed the challenge Snape was putting up. There was nothing brave about picking out someone defenceless, but since the Slytherin insisted on coming back with ever more disgusting and unusual spells it gave him and Sirius a perfectly good excuse to pour over huge volumes in the library in the evening looking up the best way they could get the upper hand. Suffice to say, their Defence grades were excellent.

To make sure that the school didn't lull into boredom after the first month, the house Quidditch teams could be seen practicing in the early morning and late into the night for the first match in November. James had looked with unadulterated longing towards the try-outs for Gryffindor which took place in early October.

"I wish I could try out this year! If only I could try out they'd see how prodigal I am and take me anyway. It's an absolute sin that Dad wouldn't let me bring my broom. If I had it I could have done some flying outside the pitch and maybe caught the captain's eye – been talent spott-"

"Oh my goodness!"

Lily Evans, side-by-side with Severus Snape, passed James and Sirius in the grounds on Saturday afternoon as they watched the new Hufflepuff team practice.

"Potter, do you ever stop talking about yourself?" Said Snape derisively, rolling his eyes.

"Oh good afternoon Snively, Evans," said James, getting up from the ground and pulling himself up to his full, unimpressive height.

"I hope you're thinking of trying out, Snape. I can't think of anything that would help Gryffindor's chances more, to be honest." Sirius had stood to join James, dwarfing him by a few inches. As a pair, James thought, they looked much more impressive. Severus rolled his eyes and veered away from them, tugging on Lily's arm who was positively growling at the two boys.

"I'm sure she gets more riled up than him," Sirius commented. "How are they so close already? I thought she was a muggle-born? Isn't Snape's mother a Prince? That's a pureblood family."

"What are you two saying to rile up Severus and Lily today?"

Remus and Peter had appeared behind them, both wrapped in Gryffindor scarves. Peter's nose was bright red.

"Have you done the transfiguration homework?" Peter asked, sitting down and rummaging in his book bag. "I did the spell, but the theory… I don't see why some metals are more difficult to transfigure than others…"

"Yeah, we did it" said Sirius, looking up at Remus, "have you not yet? Usually you help each other out, right? It's due on the 3rd. I swear McGonagall can smell guilt on your parchment if you did it the night before."

"Well I haven't done it yet, so I told Peter to ask you two," Remus answered, looking at his hands. His bony fingers were worrying the material of his new scarf, widening the holes in the knitting.

"I would have thought you'd have been on top of it too, Remus," James said absentmindedly and he sifted through the papers in his bag, looking for the homework for Peter. Sirius frowned.

"Remus I saw you in the library just the other day doing your homework due this week. Why didn't you do it then?"

Remus scratched his neck and laughed good naturedly. "Well I needed a textbook that had been taken out so I just thought I'd save it for another day."

James emerged with a dog-eared slip of parchment. "Here you go Peter." He handed it over. "We spent a good while looking it up, but we found some alchemy textbooks that related the transfiguration. We just put that it depends on the density of a metal and that it can be referenced on the muggle Periodic Table, didn't we Sirius?"

"The book was called 'Theory for Elemental Transfiguration,' We left it in the library if you want to take it out, Peter. It wasn't so hard once we found the book."

"Thanks a lot guys." The small boy finished scanning James' essay and handed it back to him. "I'll go and take it out later. Remus do you want to do it with me?"

Remus glanced off towards the castle. "I can't tonight, sorry. I'm busy…" He flushed pink at his weak response.

"Busy with what?" Sirius asked. He picked up his bag and made to return up the grounds towards the castle, minding the early sunset streaking over the forest.

"Well… Well Professor Dumbledore is doing me a favour and wants to meet with me early."

James flashed Sirius a look of bemusement which was returned with raised eyebrows.

"Are you in trouble, Remus?" Asked Peter.

Remus didn't answer. He looked off thoughtfully and allowed them to reach the doors in awkward silence, at which point he stopped. "Look, I don't want to go into it. It's k-kind of personal…" He trailed off nervously, looking at the floor rather than at their faces.

Peter, ever out to please, beamed at Remus in an attempt at reassurance. "Remus, you can tell us anything! We're your friends, you know? Right?" He turned to James and Sirius. "We're all mates so you can tell-"

"Don't worry about it Remus, we all have things we'd rather not become common knowledge." Sirius interrupted Peter and sent him a hard glare. "Any respectful family can honour that, isn't that right James, Peter?"

Peter, changing his tact quickly, nodded in blind agreement, but James scoffed. "What's it got to do with family honour? If Remus needs a mate because something's up, then we're mates, Peter's right." James turned to Remus, looking up at the taller boy's awkward face. "But don't stress Remus. You don't have to tell us anything if you don't want to." He tugged on Remus' sleeve in an attempt to get him to look up and smiled at him.

"Look, it's dinner soon – don't look so glum. Why don't we snag some extra food and take it up to the dormitory and have a midnight feast tonight?"

Peter gave a little cheer which cause several passing Ravenclaws to peer at the group curiously and Remus gave a tentative smile behind his scarf.

Remus parted ways with Peter, James and Sirius after dinner, the latter with their deep robe pockets weighed down with various desserts they'd slipped from the dinner table and wrapped in napkins. The three remaining boys took to the Gryffindor boy's dormitory where they hid the snacks in James' bottom drawer of the bedside cabinet. Sirius then attempted to perform a tricky climate control charm on it to stop the cream from melting out of the cakes, but it proved too advanced for him and he merely succeeded in freezing a Battenberg into an icy brick.

James picked up the solid cake and examined it.

"Well I've no idea how to reverse the spell without just melting it with an 'incendio' but I suppose it could be a strong weapon to lob at the Slytherin seeker if they get too far ahead in the first match."

"I'm going to go and do McGonagall's homework, thanks James," said Peter, handing James back his essay. "Will I find that book in the muggle studies section or the alchemy section?"

James slotted his essay into his transfiguration textbook. "We found it under alchemy."

Peter beamed, hitching his bag up over his shoulder. "Thanks a million, James. I don't think I could have got away with another shoddy piece of homework from McGonagall."

James and Sirius heard a clatter a few moments later as Peter stumbled clumsily on the stairs and undoubtedly dropped his transfiguration textbook.

"I think he'd clumsier than me," said James, hauling himself up onto his four poster and inviting Sirius up next to him. "What do reckon that whole thing was about Remus? And what did you mean about family honour? The only time I ever heard 'family honour' was when my dad would go on about the Malfoys being all about 'upholding family honour.' But I don't think he ever said it in a nice way. Do you think Remus' family has a matter to discuss with Dumbledore about him not 'upholding family honour' at school?"

Sirius bit his lip in thought and hummed. "I doubt it. Remus' family would have no cause to want to make sure Remus upheld any honour among pure-blood society, because even though Remus has a pure-blood surname, his mother is a muggle. The name doesn't hold any worth within the sacred 28."

James scowled. "My dad doesn't agree with the sacred 28."

"Yeah, I can imagine, since he's not in it," said Sirius. "My mother always said that the only people who disagree with pureblood society are those who are out casted from it. She said it's all jealousy and low-class attitude."

James rolled his eyes. "Your mum sounds like a right laugh."

Sirius ignored him.

"So, if he doesn't have a discipline meeting with Dumbledore, what were you getting at?" James asked.

"I just meant," said Sirius, pulling the tie out of his hair, "that it's rude and unbecoming of Peter to pester Remus the way he did. If he has a secret, he should have a right to it. All families have secrets." Sirius finished with a pompous finality that made James cringe.

"It makes me gag when you say words like unbecoming." James said. "It makes you sound like the Minister's second deputy." When Sirius didn't fight back, he moved on. "Anyway, I disagree. I think Peter's right. "We're friends. We shouldn't have secrets."

"We're not really friends though, are we?" said Sirius. "I mean, we barely know Remus and Peter and you and I have only known each other a month or so. We don't have anything in common with them other than circumstances beyond our control."

James pulled a rather unattractive face. In his opinion, they were friends. Remus and Peter were as kind to them as Dorcas, Marline and Mary, often kept them company and stepped forward as a willing wizard chess or exploding snap partner. He though Sirius was being rather cold, but he supposed at least he was being honest. Perhaps Sirius had a higher standard of what made a friend. Perhaps that then meant that earning that friendship was a sweeter reward.

"Well even if we aren't friends, I want to know what's troubling Remus, if he'll tell us. For him to meet with Professor Dumbledore… that's something big. McGonagall usually handles anything within Gryffindor house. This must be a problem that affects the school at large."

The two sat in silence in the otherwise empty dormitory for another five minutes or so, listening to the occasional autumn leaf flit against the tower window in the wind, wondering. Eventually, Sirius shrugged off his cloak and rummaged in his trunk and pulled out his chess board and pieces and invited James to a game in the common room until Peter returned.

When Peter returned with his homework, they sat around the fire as the common room slowly emptied around them until their only company were a few sixth and seventh years in the far corner. The fire was low by eleven o'clock when the portrait hole swung open to reveal a tired looking Remus being dropped off by a tall, thin man with dark hair and a kindly face who waved him goodbye as the Fat Lady swung closed again.

"Remus!" Peter exclaimed, standing up immediately and dislodging their exploding snap tower and causing a substantial amount of singing to the hearth rug.

"Was that your dad?" asked James from his seat on the carpet. He was attempting, tentatively, to pick up the smoking cards from the fireplace. Remus picked his way across the common room.

"Yeah, he came to meet Dumbledore and then got him to agree to extending my curfew as long as he promised to walk me back to the tower to spend some time with me."

"That's pretty nice of him," James commented.

Remus smiled. "Yeah. He even said it was lonely at home in the evenings without me. My mum's been working late recently." He removed his cloak, draped it across a nearby chair and joined them in front of the fire.

"Say, Remus, what do your parents do?" Peter asked. "I don't think you've ever told me."

"Oh. My mother works at a local high school as an English teacher and my father works… for the Ministry."

"Really?" James exclaimed. "What department?"

Remus opened his mouth to answer, but to his surprise, Sirius did for him.

"He works for the Department for the Regulation and Control of Dangerous Creatures, doesn't he?"

Remus looked a little taken aback. "Yeah, he does. How do you know?"

"Well I knew I recognised your surname from the sorting, but I couldn't think where. I thought my mother must have mentioned your family to me at some point because she talks about other families a lot. But I recognise your father's face – wasn't he in the paper about five years ago? My mother kept the clipping. Something to do with the regulation of werewolves…? His name is Lyall Lupin."

Remus had gone quite white. "Y-yes, that's right. How did you remember something from so long ago?"

Sirius pulled a grim face. "My mother has a long memory for such events. And wishes for everyone else in the house to remember it as she does."

"Why was your mother so interested? What does she do?" Asked Peter. Sirius looked bitter.

"Oh she doesn't do anything. Her role is to mind other families' business and keep me and my brother in line."

"You didn't tell me you had a brother," James accused, a bit put out. "Is he coming to Hogwarts soon?"

Sirius nodded. "He'll be here next year."

"Oooh! Fantastic! What's he like? What's his name?" James asked eagerly.

"His name's Regulus. And he's fair, I suppose. We get along, but my parents get more joy out of him than they do out of me."

James grinned and punched Sirius lightly on the arm. "I knew you had a streak of rebellion in you."

Distantly, the clock tower could be heard to chime in midnight. James rubbed his hands together eagerly.

"It's midnight snack time!" He exclaimed, jumping up with a sudden burst of energy. Together the little group made their way up to the boys' dormitory, Peter rubbing his eyes but grinning contentedly despite his sleepiness, James falling up the stairs in his eagerness and Sirius poking light fun at his clumsiness. And at the back of the group, Remus followed, a small, comforted smile on his face, holding his Gryffindor scarf aggressively tightly in his hands.

It was Monday morning at breakfast and James was scanning the Gryffindor table as he slowly spooned an absurd amount of scrambled eggs into his mouth. He'd thought, when he, Sirius and Peter had left the dormitory, that Remus had merely woken earlier than them and set off alone. He couldn't see his familiar, sandy head anywhere along the table however. He turned to Sirius.

"Have you seen Remus this morning?" James asked.

"No," Said Sirius thoughtfully, also casting a glance along the table. "Maybe he went to the hospital wing. I thought he looked ill yesterday. He went to bed early, didn't he?"

"I suppose…" Said James. "We'll see if he turns up for potions."

Remus failed to show in Potions, then Transfiguration and by the time the Gryffindors were walking down to Herbology they were feeling distinctly concerned.

"Suppose he really is ill?" Peter wondered, looking towards the first floor as though he could see into the windows from their distance.

"Or perhaps his father came to see him again." Sirius suggested.

"Speaking of Remus' father," whispered James as they filed into the stuffy greenhouses under Professor Sprout's watchful eye. "What was that business you mentioned yesterday about him being in the papers?"

Sirius cast a sidelong glance to Edgar Bones, who seemed to be pairing up with Peter in Remus' absence. Once he'd determine that the Hufflepuff couldn't hear them over Sprout explaining how different growing conditions for knotgrass could affect its properties in potion making he leaned towards James conspiratorially.

"Well I haven't a particularly good memory of the details, but I do remember my mother lamenting his position being criticized in the paper because she thought he had the right idea about half-breeds."

James looked up at his friend quizzically. "What do you mean, like half-bloods?"

"No, it means creatures with human qualities, like centaurs and vampires and werewolves. He must have advocated for something against them, or my mother wouldn't have been interested. She hates the idea of magical blood being watered down. The idea of allowing part-humans to live like wizards is about as abhorrent to her as mud-bloods."

"Your mother sounds like a fine woman."

The boys' whipped their heads up so fast they appeared to have snapped their necks. Lily and Marline were on Sirius' right-hand-side and apparently Lily had heard their little whispered conversation though Marline looked none the wiser and was watching Professor Sprout intently.

"Butt out, Evans," muttered James. "We're trying to have a conversation here."

"You disgust me, Sirius Black." She hissed savagely. Sirius merely rolled his eyes.

"A person is not always the sum of their upbringing. Surely you must realise this; standing, as you are, in a wizarding school."

Lily narrowed her eyes at him before turning back to her notes – for once not bothering with a sharp retort. James raised his eyebrows behind her back.

"Wow, can you teach me how to do that?"

"I'm just starting to wish people wouldn't make wild guesses about my morals when I'm not even sure what they are yet," Sirius sighed. "Anyway, he'd been attacked or something as a result. I suppose it must have been from an advocating group – or a werewolf itself – but my mother was worried the Ministry was going to bend and fire him, but in the end they just rejected whatever he'd put forward."

"He was attacked by a werewolf?" James hissed, any interest he might've had in the lesson having disappeared quite abruptly.

"Oh I don't think he was bitten. I would have remembered that. And if he is a werewolf, would Dumbledore have allowed him to come to Hogwarts yesterday?"

"Werewolves aren't dangerous on days other than the full moon though, Sirius." Said James, frowning disapprovingly at his friend.

"No, of course not, but it's full moon tonight – and werewolves are recorded as being temperamental on the nights surrounding the true full moon."

"Oh Merlin, you've just reminded me that we've got astronomy homework for tomorrow."

"And now you have Herbology homework to complete for Thursday, Potter and Black, because judging by your empty parchment, you've failed to take in a single word I've said to you today."

Professor Sprout had appeared behind the pair. "Now I asked you to raise your sample of knot grass in the appropriate conditions to be used in Polyjuice Potion. If you had been paying attention you would have known this. I expect immaculate results and then perhaps I will not have to inform your Head of House of your inattentiveness."

"Yes, Professor," the pair conceded shamefacedly.

Remus continued to be absent, from lunch, their last two classes and then dinner. James and Peter sat in a corner of the common room looking out of one of the tower's windows into the early October night with Peter's telescope as they hurriedly filled out their star charts for tomorrow. Sirius lazed nearby flicking though a library copy of Advanced Potion Making in an attempt to find out more about the uses on knotgrass in Polyjuice Potion.

"I just don't understand why he didn't tell me if he had to go somewhere," muttered Peter out of nowhere. James looked up at him. The smaller boy was rubbing his nose and looking morosely at his star chart. "I mean, I thought we were friends."

"I wouldn't worry on it too much, Peter. I mean, you've only known each other for a month. Maybe it's a family emergency, or something private. Remus is a quiet guy."

Peter didn't answer. James had the distinct impression that he hadn't solved Peter's worries – but he had no other solution so he allowed the other boy to finish his star chart in silence. Just as he was putting the finishing touch to his own, Marline McKinnon appeared at their table.

"Hello?" James wondered if this would have anything to do with Sirius' spat with Lily in Herbology but apparently Remus' unexplained absence hadn't gone unnoticed with the other Gryffindor first-years either.

"Do you know anything about where Remus has gone?" she asked, nodding at Sirius, who had popped up from behind his potions book.

"We've no idea."

Marline sat on the arm of the squashy chair Sirius had commandeered. "Apparently he told Lily that his mother is ill and he had to go and visit her."

Peter raised his eyebrows in worry. "Really? Gosh, I wonder if that was what his dad wanted to talk to him about yesterday… But he seemed cheerful after…" He worried his lip with his top teeth, apparently thinking back to yesterday.

"I had just thought that you three would have known more about it, since you guys go everywhere together. Lily was really worried."

Sirius sat up proper in his chair and closed his book. "Well Peter sees him the most after Evans, I suppose, so if they don't know anything, we certainly don't. Whatever it is, it looked serious though – his father was here yesterday."

James thought back to yesterday, new information in mind. He hadn't thought that Remus had seemed upset yesterday, but perhaps he was glad to be visiting home? Remus, he thought, was a quiet person and James wouldn't put it past him to try to hide anything amiss about his family. He scanned the common room for Lily Evans and found her sitting with Dorcas and playing with the other girl's cat. Why was it that Remus had told Evans what was going on? James had seen the two together, certainly – they sat together in some lessons and Remus was neutral to the rivalry between Snape and himself and Sirius. Despite this, it still miffed him that he would confide in her over Peter, or him and Sirius.

"I hope she's alright, but if he didn't seem upset, I suppose everything must be fine…"

James helped himself to Peter's telescope and occupied himself with the sky outside, despite having finished his chart. He smirked as he spotted Canis Major and Orion off to the East.

"Look how cool the moon looks tonight," he commented, unknowingly interrupting Marline's babbling about not being about to find a passage which directly stated how to grow knotgrass for Polyjuice Potion in their Herbology or Potions textbooks.

James took the eyepiece away from his face and looked down onto the moonlit grounds. Reflections of the high windows dotted the otherwise blank expanse of grass. If he squinted into the black edges of the Forest, he could see the gamekeeper's hut and even the Whomping Willow, shifting as it was disturbed, down by the boathouse.

He didn't know if it was a trick of the flickering lights, but he also thought he saw a stocky figure open the great doors to the Entrance Hall and momentarily cast a strip of dim orange across the grounds.

 

Chapter Text

6th October 1971

It was a bright, but cold Wednesday morning which saw Lily Evans making her way down to the dungeons to meet Severus Snape before breakfast began. As the descended Hogwarts’ many staircases, students from Gryffindor and Ravenclaw diverted away – some on the first floor, probably on their way to the library to finish some homework at the last minute and most on the ground floor for an early breakfast. By the time she’d passed the potions’ classrooms and the temperature had dropped to uncomfortable levels, she was the only student in sight without the distinctive green tie.

It was a pity, she thought, that students were sorted at all. All it did was pit them against each other. This was more that the friendly houses they had been sorted into in her muggle first school so they could compete against each other in sports day events and easily filed into the hall for lunch. Though the history of the founders was interesting (she’d discovered a chapter on their relationships and the early running on the school in Hogwarts, A History) all it achieved was to give a historical backing for unnecessary rivalry. She supposed it was nice to have a pre-selected set of students to make connections with, but what if they didn’t get along? Severus has often recounted how noble his house was before he was even sorted into it, but in the past few weeks, it seemed to Lily that he simply wasn’t making friends.

Lily knew her friend was unusual – after all her school friends back in Cokeworth had been nothing like him – but she had put most of this down to him being a wizard and supposed that she would run into more people like him at Hogwarts. Now that she was here, however, she found that many of her house members were more like her old classmates in the muggle world than she had expected. The student that she had found most similar to Severus was probably Sirius Black in the way that he was often quiet and pensive, but making the same seemingly random, tactless outbursts that Severus had when they’d first met. She supposed it had more to do with how they were brought up than it did that they were both wizards – though Severus would probably stop speaking to her for a week if she voiced to him that they were similar.

She could see why, though. Since before the train had even pulled up at Hogwarts, it seemed that those four had it on for Severus the same way that her sister did.

They just can’t be bothered to get to know him, she thought, stopping before the Slytherin portrait. Just because he’s different to them and looks a bit shabby.

The portrait swung forwards and out came Severus, accompanied by Evan Rosier and William Wilkes.

“Evans,” they acknowledged neutrally, before making their way down the dim corridor towards the stairs. She and Severus followed them at a slower pace.

“Binns first,” Severus commented dully, looking down at his timetable. “What could be worse? I can think of about twelve things I’d rather be doing than sitting in that room for an hour learning nothing.”

“We can compare notes on the defence homework though.” Said Lily. “Remus said he’d help me with it, but…” She trailed off. “He said he was going to visit his mother. He’s been away a few days now.”

“Doesn’t look like he’s around this morning either.” Severus commented, nodding towards the Gryffindor table. Lily could see James Potter, Sirius Black and Peter wolfing down breakfast, without Remus. “Pity his housemates are though.”

“Those two really are a couple of twits. I just don’t understand why Remus bothers with them.” Lily sighed and sat down next to Severus at the Slytherin table. “They’re just as insufferable out of lessons as well, would you believe it. I’m sure I’ve heard them in the common room at stupid times in the night, coming in and out of the portrait hole.”

Severus took his hard gaze off the back of James’ head to look up the Gryffindor table. “Who’s your prefect? You could tell them. Or I’ll tell Malfoy. You know he’d love to catch some little Gryffindors breaking rules.”

Lily looked scandalised. “You can’t tell Malfoy! He’ll take points from us for sure! I don’t want the whole house to get into trouble because they’re a pair of inconsiderate twits.”

Severus returned to his breakfast with a shrug and a smirk. “It was worth a try.”

Lily scowled at the side of his head. She hoped Severus didn’t hate James Potter so much that he really did tell Lucius. “Don’t be sneaky, Sev.” She scolded.

Lily felt a sudden hand on the top of her head and jumped. Looking up she found the Slytherin prefect, Lucius Malfoy, looking down at her.

“Evans, would you please sit where you belong before Professor Slughorn finds you? Don’t you two see enough of each other in the library? If I recall correctly, the two of you were in there for hours last night. Are you joined at the hip?”

“Please, Lucius, we were just finishing.” Severus piped up.

“Yes, you say that, but it’s every mealtime, Snape. And if it’s not happing over here it’s happening over there-” he nodded towards the Gryffindor table. “You make the place look untidy. Just sit with your house when you’re supposed to. You’re here for seven years and you need to make connections. That’s why the houses exist in the first place.”

Severus sighed and rolled his eyes. “I’ve already made a connection,” he replied, somewhat cheekily. “What’s wrong with her.”

Lucius glanced at Lily then fixed Lily with a hard stare, all friendliness forgotten. “Don’t get me started, you don’t want to hear it. Look, what you do and who you consort with in your free time is none of my business, Snape, but don’t come to me with this attitude as though you’ve any social standing and don’t expect me to do anything more than professionally tolerate your riffraff friends. Evans, move yourself.” He gave the pair one last, disparaging look and stalked back off up the table to sit with the other NEWT students.

Lily scowled after him, but dutifully collected her things. “What’s his problem?” She asked Severus, attempting to brush off the altercation. “Did a Gryffindor piss in his tea once or…?”

Severus didn’t bother to humour her. He stood up abruptly and tugged on her robes to bring her with him. As they reached the doors, Lily turned around and caught three people watching her. Lucius and the girl with long blonde hair sitting next to him and then, at the Gryffindor table, James Potter with an almost amusing combination of annoyance and curiosity on his face that reminded her of a confused dog. She snorted and followed after Severus.

Severus set a quick pace up the stairs to History of Magic and Lily could tell from the stony look on his face that he was far more annoyed than she was. As expected, the class was dull and so they took the opportunity to compare the Latin roots they had been given for their next class. Occasionally the boredom was interrupted by a small thunks. It seemed that Sirius was trying to teach James a charm under the table but whatever it was, he wasn’t very good at it and objects like chalk halves kept randomly flying towards him and then dropping in mid-air.

Despite that it began with a lesson as dull as History of Magic, Wednesday was Lily’s favourite day. Except from Transfiguration in the evening, Gryffindor was paired with Slytherin for lessons all day that day and it was the most she got to see of Severus, except for weekends. She thought they made rather a good pair in Defence and Potions and was sure that her results at the end of year exams would show it.

They were making their way to double potions after lunch in the afternoon when Severus finally blurted out what had been bothering him all morning.

“It’s not that you’re a Gryffindor,” he blurted over her, coming to a stop in the middle of a corridor so abruptly that Lily almost walked into him. A group of Hufflepuff sixth years making their way to the transfiguration courtyard grumbled at the pair when they almost tripped over them.

“Wha-”

“Lucius, you know. It’s not that you’re in Gryffindor. His problem, I mean.”

Severus pulled them out of the way into an alcove that housed a torch bracket and painting of a frilly looking witch tending to a baby dragon sitting in a caldron in her fire.

“About this morning? It’s not that big of a deal Sev. Some of the prefects are just like that. That Ravenclaw one that always kicks people out of the library for spilling ink-”

“No but it is important.” Severus interrupted her again and Lily raised her eyebrows at him. “Sorry, but just… just listen, alright? I guess the talk that goes on in your common room isn’t the same as in mine, but I’ve been hearing some odd things from the older students – they stay in their quite late and they don’t even notice I’m there if I sit in the corner. They’re talking about what they’re going to do once they get out of school and, well…” Severus looked up at the stone archway. He seemed to be searching for the right words. “Have you heard of Voldemort?” he asked.

Lily raised her eyebrows. “No. What’s that? It sounds like an OWL level potion.”

“No, it’s a person. I hadn’t even heard of him until I can here, but I heard his kind of ideas before. I used to see it in the wizarding newspaper but my mother used to scoff at it. I mean, she married a muggle, I suppose. No matter how much they seem to hate each other…”

Lily gave a frustrated huff. She was so tired of everything in this place being about ‘blood status’ as Severus called it. “Is this more of the rubbish that Potter and Black were spouting back in the first week? Because if it is-”

“No.” Severus interrupted her again. “That was just Potter and Black being arrogant as usual. He wouldn’t dare. Anyway, his family aren’t part of the Scared 28 so maybe they have some impurities far down the line. When he saw that Lily was about the start asking questions he hurried on. “Never mind the Sacred 28 for now. This stuff sounds serious, it’s not their idea. They’re following in the newspapers and radio broadcasts about this Voldemort and it looks to be similar kind of ideas behind Grindlewald.”

Lily had a vague idea about the rise and reign of Grindlewald during the 1940s in central Europe and his defeat at the hands of Albus Dumbledore, but only what Severus had told her during those endless days they had spent before Hogwarts talking about the hidden world. She supposed he must have learned what little he knew from his mother as, compared to the wizarding children she had met since starting Hogwarts, Severus’ childhood seemed somewhat isolated from the wider wizarding world.

“Look, I don’t really get it myself, but the things they say are scary and I think that’s what Lucius meant this morning. He really doesn’t like being questioned.”

Lily remained unconvinced. Almost every morning, Lucius would wearily instruct her back to her house table, or stride down to the Gryffindor table to collect Severus with an almost fatherly fashion. True, the Slytherin prefect had never been nice to Lily, but she felt that he had never been unfair or rude to her. Until this morning.

Apparently, Severus could tell she was unconvinced, because he raised his eyebrows. “You must have noticed, because I know I have, the purebloods – they really aren’t the same as the rest of us. They just act differently. You wouldn’t believe the way Lucius speaks in the common room when you see him patrolling the corridors. It’s amazing really. I’d give a lot to be able to become another person like that.”

Instead of answering him, Lily checked her watch.

“Come on, Sev, we’re late for potions.”

She merged with a group of Slytherins coming from lunch and hurrying for the dungeons. She could hear Severus following after her.

The truth was, Lily didn’t want to hear about it. She had spent the better part of the last two years wiling away the hours in parks and by the lake with Severus while he opened her eyes to this new and magnificent world that she had agreed to step into. She had all but sacrificed the friendly sisterhood she had with Petunia for this, had decided against the high school her parents had chosen for her and had moved far away from home, without the comfort of a telephone call and to be honest, she was disappointed by how it was shaping up. She was growing very tired of hearing about this pureblood nonsense. It was all very boring and stuffy and seemed to sit in front of far more interesting things – such as her apparent innate ability to levitate objects with a stick of wood.

I’m not really upset she realised, holding the dungeon door for Severus and apologising to Professor Slughorn for their tardiness, I’m just not interested. It’s getting in the way of all the magic.

She took a free seat at a place for two and smiled at Severus as he sat down next to her, just to make sure that he knew she wasn’t mad.

“Let’s just be the same as we always were,” she insisted. Severus gave her his awkward smile in agreement.

~*~

“Remus!”

Curiosity had Lily and Severus snap their heads up. Just as they were getting ready to leave double potions, Remus Lupin had slipped into the door. Apparently, Peter Pettigrew had noticed him and shouted out as he was now sitting with a hand over his mouth and an embarrassed flush on his face.

Professor Slughorn looked up from the students’ potion vials on his desk at the outburst and smiled warmly at Remus.

“Ah mister Lupin!” He stepped around the desk with some difficult caused by his enormous stomach. “Yes, Professor McGonagall warned me that you might miss the lesson today. Though I am most surprised that you came to collect work that you could have easily escaped from!”

Lily watched as Remus shyly fidgeted with the strap of his satchel. “Yes well… I didn’t want to fall behind, Sir.” His voice was unusually soft and he avoided his classmates’ eyes, though Lily knew he must feel her and everyone else’s curious stares.

Slughorn beckoned him forward to the front desk to show him the work that had been covered in his absence. As he did, Severus elbowed her in the ribs.

“Lupin is limping,” he whispered to her behind his long hair. It was true. Lily watched carefully as he joined Slughorn behind the teacher’s table and she could see that he was favouring his right foot.

“Maybe he caught his leg in a trick stair,” she suggested. In truth, she was worried about him. He looked tired, skittish and rather grey – she thought his eyes seemed glassy as though he’d been crying and hoped that his mother was alright. Perhaps he just didn’t want to come back after being at home, she reasoned and managed to comfort herself a little with the possibility. She couldn’t imagine being away from home if one of her parents were ill. She found it bad enough without the added anxiety.

~*~

Lily gave Severus a brief hug as they parted for their last lesson though she was noticeably distracted by Lupin, a fact which had Severus scowling. She eyed the sandy haired boy all through transfiguration, frowning as she saw his timid interactions with the pair of morons Potter and Black. Instead of the note-taking that the rest of the class was participating in, she pulled out a muggle ballpoint pen from the depths of her bag and began to draft a letter to her sister. It really didn’t do well to carry on this animosity. She did not underestimate Petunia’s ability to hold a grudge for three months for one moment – especially not in a case such as this where she was justifiably bitter. She put her pen to the parchment and began.

~*~

Dear Tuney

Would you believe that I am writing this in the middle of a lesson? Please don’t tell mum you know she’d go spare. I just really wanted to talk to you right this moment, but since there aren’t any phones at Hogwarts, this is the next best thing isn’t it?

I’m really missing you and sometimes I wish I were at home still. Tell me about the big school. You’re always so short in the letters I get from mum and dad. What are the other kids like? Are there many from our old primary there or is it like starting over again? That’s a bit what it’s like here. Of course, I have Sev, but he wasn’t put into the same house as me – his is called Slytherin – and we only have a few lessons together. I know you don’t want to hear about Sev though.

I’ll tell you about the people in my house. I think you’d like them. With me in the girls’ dormitory is this girl, Dorcas. She’s got a pet cat and you know that mum and dad wouldn’t let me have one. I can see why, I suppose. It gets up to all kinds of mischief and wrecks the tapestries and the chairs and the prefect has to go around fixing everything. There’s also Mary and Marline. I think their family are magic already though and they know what they’re doing in a way I just don’t yet.

Oh and in the boys’ dorm there are four of them. One is really nice; this boy called Remus. He’s a bit quiet and you would probably like him he doesn’t ever get into any trouble. He’s friends with Peter, who’s not so bad but I don’t think the two of you would like each other – he’s a bit nervous and sort of follows Remus around but he’s nice enough.

I wish you were here to tell off the other two though. They’re such pigs. Well, Sirius less so I suppose but over the month he’s definitely become more like the other boy – James. He’s totally obnoxious and is always losing points here and there for being clumsy and for not keeping his mouth shut and for laughing in classes. And he’s such a bully. He says the worst things to Severus and attacks him in the corridors. He really rubs me the wrong way and I reckon you could sort him out well enough!

I’m sure you’ll understand – I just wanted to talk to you a bit. I don’t really have anyone here yet who I really get along with – I left all my old friends at home with you. It’d make me so happy if you wrote back but I get it if you’re still mad.

Lots of love,

Lily.

~*~

Petunia left her bedroom window open but the dusty looking barn owl just stared at her obstinately, refusing to leave. It perched on the headboard of her bed at stared at her as though it were waiting for her.

“Oh alright then,” she whispered for fear of waking her parents in the next room. She wiped her tears aggressively with the back of her hand and shuffled through her desk draws for some black paper on which to write a reply.

 

This chapter gave me so much trouble! I think it was just too early to bring out Lily as I hadn’t properly established anything with her yet – it should have been Remus or Severus I suppose. But I’d promised Lily last chapter so… Haha!

Anyway, thank you for reading it – I’d love to hear what you think. Hopefully the next chapter shouldn’t take so long.

~BS

Chapter Text

8th October 1971

“Hey, how’s your little sister?”

Petunia didn’t register the question directed at her until she felt a tug on the strap of her bag. Behind her was a boy in her year she knew – his name was Ben - holding onto her and smiling benignly. Petunia got on with him fairly well, but he had always been Lily’s friend despite being older than her. Though feeling unwilling to delve into this conversation with anyone, she didn’t really want to brush him off.

“Oh, she’s okay.” Petunia didn’t quite want to look into his eyes so she focused on his eyebrows with some difficulty as they were so blond they almost weren’t there at all. “I suppose you were expecting her to come in with the new kids?”

Around them the crowd of pre-pubescents slowly thinned as they were reunited with their parents or had collected their friends and bikes to travel home with. It was a pleasant evening with crisp autumn leaves and piercing afternoon sun and Petunia was feeling somewhat bitter that she had considered having fun by the river with Lily during her last lesson only to remember that she was miles away over the border in Scotland.

“Yeh, I was sort of excited to get to see her again but I haven’t seen her since the year started. You always leave off for home so early – I haven’t had a chance to catch you.”

“It’s because you dawdle,” Petunia accused, not acknowledging his words and watching the light wind lift his fine white hair out of order. Oh course, he smiled.

“Yeh, that’s what me mam says.” He glanced around at the almost empty street their school sat on and bent down to lift his old bike from the ground. Petunia remembered when he got it from his older brother. He was a mechanic now. He started to walk his bike and Petunia was forced to follow. The steady clicking it made echoed off the crumbling brick of the empty residential back alleys.

“So where is she then? She’s not sick or something is she? I don’t even see her by the lake anymore. Or on the heap.”

“Of course you haven’t seen her on the heap. We’re not allowed on the heap.” Petunia almost let the wicked excitement of ratting out a sibling for misbehaving bubble up inside her before she remembered that her family just didn’t have that dynamic anymore. She was suddenly an almost only child. As if her sibling had died and everyone was pining.  He didn’t get it obviously. He was laughing good-naturedly and it ruffled Petunia that he had shared something secret and exciting with Lily that she hadn’t. She let his laughter die awkwardly as a punishment and they were forced to walk in silence. The clicked their way out of the alleys behind the blocks of houses and out into the wider roads, past the grassed over coal heap and the dilapidated pit head winding gear that they had been prohibited from climbing.

“She went to boarding school in Scotland.”

The clicking stopped and Petunia turned around to see him giving her a humoured, incredulous look.

Boarding school?” His thin lip was curled and his invisible eyebrows knitted in complete incomprehension and Petunia almost laughed. “In Scotland?”

“That’s what I said.”

“But…” Petunia suddenly felt bad. Mistakenly, she’d looked into his wide grey eyes and seen the hurt and disappointment. “She didn’t even say ‘bye to me. When’s she coming back?”

“She’ll be back at Christmas.”

The wind picked up and lifted their hair. Petunia shivered. It had been mild that morning and she hadn’t bothered to bring her jacket. She pulled her jumper sleeves down over her cold knuckles and gave her classmate a pitying look. She liked Ben – even though he was like that horrid greasy Sev and came from the rougher end of her town. She’d been to his house before after school with Lily. It was smaller than theirs and attached on both sides – she remembered that their fence had been bowed in at the end of the back garden and needed re-posting. His family was nice though. His older brother used to let them sit on his skateboards and freefall down the sloping road their house sat on. They hadn’t seen much of each other over this summer. Lily had spent so much time with Severus talking about magic and Petunia had spent time with the girls from the high school. After all, she was grown up now and couldn’t keep playing in fields and rusty parks with her baby sister.

Ben sighed and swung his leg over his bike. “If I come to yours will you give me the address so I can write to her or something?” Petunia agreed and he drifted lazily around her, just slowly enough so as not to lose his balance.

“Doesn’t your mum want you straight home?”

She caught him roll his eyes as he replied. “Me mam won’t mind. Don’t you worry about me getting into trouble.” Petunia puffed indignantly.

“I wasn’t the slightest worried about you.”

“Yeh, alright.”

Ben agreed to wait at the door while Petunia flew up the stairs and snatched up the half-finished reply she had scribbled to Lily. On a separate piece of paper, she copied down the address. Her bag thumped as is hit the bed when she threw it down and she grabbed her jacket on the way down the stairs.

“Mum, is it okay if I play out for a bit!?” She towards the kitchen as she headed towards the door.

“Welcome home,” she heard her mother say sarcastically. The door to the kitchen opened and Mrs Evans caught sight of Ben waiting at the open front door holding his bike and school bag, her daughter behind the threshold with her brown curls in disarray from the wind, her jacket skew-whiff.

“Hello Ben, I haven’t seen you in a while.”

“Hi Mrs Evans,” he replied politely.

“So can I?” Petunia asked again, smiling persuasively. Mrs Evans laughed. It had been quite a while since Petunia had given any hint benign mischievousness that her and Lily used to get up to. For a good year she had been rather bitter and at times malicious.

“Be back by six, okay?”

Ben cheered cheekily as Petunia threw her an appreciative smile. She took the shed keys off the hook by the front door and began to close it behind her.

“You stay off that heap!” she warned just before the door clicked shut.

~*~

Dear Lily,

I won’t tell mum you were slacking in lessons – but aren’t they very exciting since they’re magic and all that?

Your classmates sound nice. Why do you think I would like Remus so much? Or is it just because he does what he’s told? I’m not some teacher’s pet, you know. Mum’s always saying you shouldn’t cheek your older sister.

That brat James sounds like he needs pushing in the river. I hope your mate Severus isn’t letting him bully you or I’ll be having words. Don’t let them rub off on you. I don’t want you to come home at Christmas a different person.

I’m not going to say sorry for ignoring you because Severus really was a piece of work and I just don’t understand how you could take his side on that but I can’t stay mad at you for so long. You can tell Severus to send me a letter to apologise if he decides he’s going to re-invent himself as a decent human being.

Benjamin was asking after you today. I told him you went to boarding school in Scotland and he was really upset that you didn’t say goodbye. I gave him your address so I expect he’ll write to you. I don’t know what you’re going to tell him about the school, but he really wants to see you at Christmas. You know he gets along with you in a way he just doesn’t with the boys in my year.

He did tell me a secret though. That you went up the heap to the wheel. I won’t tell on you though because I made him take me up there after school on the bikes. You couldn’t get me to climb that thing for love nor money though. It looks alright from the street but standing underneath it I swear it was touching the sky.

The big school is same as always, though now your year’s come in I’m not a little one anymore which is nice. It’s a bit weird seeing your friends and not seeing you though - sometimes I forget you’re away and think things are like last year and I’ll meet you after school. I have to pack my things so quickly and leave early so no one catches me to ask where you are because I don’t know what I would say to them.

Love from Pet.

~*~

Hi Lily,

I didnt believe Petunia when she said youd gone to boarding school but she actually gave me the address so I suppose she must be telling the truth. I cant believe you didnt say goodbye to me. I was looking for you this whole month at school cos I didnt even know you were gone.

The address Petunia gave me was a bit weird. What kind of name for a school is Hogwarts? I cant believe youre all the way in Scotland which is pretty much like being in another country. Do you get to visit anywhere or do you just have to be in school all the time? Is it like the Malory Towers books you and Petunia used to read?

Why are you even there anyway? Why not just come to the big school here? Is it a special school like for really clever kids or what? And how come your parents didnt send Petunia? I just dont get it.

Do you have any friends there?

I really hope I see you at Christmas. It was nice that your sister wanted to play out with me today (she wanted to go to the heap!?) but my old mate Billy (you remember him cos he once stole your pencil) moved away to Leeds and now I kind of have friends but I dont have any really good friends. Not near where I live anyway.

Speaking of, I havent seen that boy that you used to hang around with. You know the one Petunia doesnt like? I cant remember his name it was like Slivius or something weird. But anyway he hasnt been around in ages and usually I see him all the time cos he sort of wanders in the estate but his parents had a massive fight the other day and it must have been outside in the street cos I could hear them from my bedroom window. Dunno what it was about though.

Anyway I miss you loads (even though you didnt say bye to me) and if this isnt a pretend address your sister gave me then please write back I would like to still be friends even though were far away.

Benny.

~*~

10th October 1971

Remus watched several Official Post Office owls land in front of Lily at the breakfast table – their red and yellow band around the ankle was quite distinctive. She took the three letters – one from each owl – before they flew off without waiting for a reply just as the school owls did.

“Say, Lily – how come you’re getting mail from the Post Office? Why not use the school owls?”

Lily smiled up at him – obviously her mail had cheered her up immensely. “I sent off with a school owl, but my sister took so long to reply that she had to post it the muggle way.”

“I suppose letters with wizarding address must be redirected to another branch,” Remus mused, but Lily didn’t seem very interested. She had torn open one of the letters and was reading it in the way a person tries to both savour and scoff their favourite food. 

“Are you lot coming to History of Magic?” James had appeared behind Remus, Lily, Dorcas and Peter with half a bacon sandwich in his hand. Remus could see Sirius standing by the Slytherin table talking to an older student with long black hair. Peter jumped up, nodding, while Lily stuffed her collection of letters into her bag for later as Dorcas made to join James. At the other boy’s expectant look, Remus held out a slip of paper, remaining seated. James read it aloud.

“If you would be so kind as to meet me at quarter past nine on Wednesday morning we can discuss your first month upon request of your father who has written to me with some questions which cannot be answered without a direct meeting with you. Apologies for causing you to miss your first lesson this morning. Professor Binns has been warned of your absence.

Professor McGonagall.”

“You jammy bastard,” James complained. “Getting to miss Binns. What does your dad want to know? Nothing about getting into trouble? McGonagall doesn’t usually meet with students except for a good telling off.”

Remus smiled vaguely. “Oh I doubt it. Probably just my dad being overly paranoid about me as always. And she did want to ask me if I caught up alright after missing a few lessons last week.”

James pouted at the thought of having to sit through an hour of magical history while his class mate got to sit out and wasn’t even going to get into trouble. “I’ll pick up a copy of any homework for you,” James promised with a sly smile and turned to meet the Gryffindors in the entrance hall. “See you later!”

Remus sat at the Gryffindor table as it emptied around him. At the staff table, everybody but the headmaster and the groundskeeper had left already and a Ravenclaw prefect was dragging a few second years away from their breakfast lest they be late.

He really hoped his father hadn’t turned up at the school again. It had been nice to have him around on the day but if he kept showing up Remus was worried one of him classmates would spot him and that would just be more difficult questions to answer. As much as Remus wanted to keep his secret tightly sealed, it hurt him to have to make up elaborate lies. Not only was he a poor liar, but these people were already like friends to him – something he’d never experienced before. He didn’t want to push them away.

Remus had rarely seen the corridors as deserted as they were five minutes into first lesson. His footsteps echoed around the wide corridors and birds had settled in the transfiguration courtyard once they were safe from the trampling feet of hundreds of students.

McGonagall was waiting for him outside of her office. She gave him a rare smile in greeting and opened the door for him to step inside.  Remis had never been inside Professor McGonagall’s office before but he supposed it looked exactly how he should have expected. There was a sturdy, plain oak desk in the centre of the room with two cold looking chairs in front of it and one not much more inviting behind it. On the back wall was an impressive bookshelf of which the bottom shelf was mainly magazines of varying age. A high, tall window looked out onto the transfiguration courtyard and another small table underneath held up several small group photographs of what looked like old quidditch teams and staff photos. One showed a group of older students and there were several quidditch trophies in an alcove near the door. The fire in the grate was merely embers.

“Sit down, Lupin. I don’t want to keep you long.”

Remus sat on the opposite side of the desk to her and tucked his hands under his thighs. He knew he hadn’t done anything wrong but still he felt a little nervousness at the setting.

McGonagall pulled open a draw in her desk and set a letter onto the desk. “Your father sent this to me – it reached me a couple of days ago. He wanted to know how it all went. I was surprised he was going to me for information.” She gave him a questioning look and Remus felt the same squirming in his stomach that came every time he tried to start the letter for his mother and father updating them on the 4th of October.

“I just… didn’t know what to say to him Professor. I mean… I didn’t escape so what else is there to say?”

McGonagall raised an eyebrow. “Well I think he wanted to know if you were happy with the arrangement once it had played out in reality and the headmaster and I were wondering the same.”

Remus pondered this. Of course, he hadn’t enjoyed the experience. He never did. It was painful and embarrassing, vile and dehumanising. As always, he had spotty memories of the night itself. He remembered the overwhelming stillness and silence of the abandoned cottage, and the smell of damp plaster and long dead mice – but few thoughts more sophisticated than overwhelming frustration at his inability to satisfy the huge urge to escape and attack had crossed his mind.

But in reality, it hadn’t been as awful as usual. At home, first in his barricaded bedroom, then in the kitchen, the basement and even the stone outhouse depending of whatever new town they were in that year were like a cage. This had been a completely new environment. In fact, he distinctly remembered being distracted from his urges by the unusual freedom. Never, at the full moon had he experienced the freedom to climb the stairs and go into other rooms, to nose into cupboards and crawl under beds. It had occupied a more human part of his mind for a few minutes at anyone time. That human curiosity.

“It wasn’t so bad actually. I think he quite liked it at times.”

“He?”

“Yeah…” Remus looked at his feet. His shoelaces are coming undone. “Well I feel like we’re not really the same person. We don’t really think the same way. I would never behave like that… Except that I do. When I’m him.” Remus directed his answer at his lap and trailed away into nothingness. He had comforted himself since this all started once he decided that the person he became at the full moon wasn’t really him. After he’d been bitten, he had hated the man who had done it – why couldn’t he have just controlled himself? Why did he have to come after a child like him? After he had experienced the full moon for himself and realised the insatiable need to bite any human within the vicinity be they a stranger or his own mother, he had felt sympathy. Never would the thought cross his mind to hurt his own mother and father before. Never had they needed to lock their son away from them, never had he been so violent.

And so he had thought If I turn into this monster every month that I can’t control, how can I blame the man who did this to me? Actually, I feel sorry for him. Probably he doesn’t have a family to keep him safe.

“I’m very grateful,” Remus said quietly. “That you can do this for me.”

“Yes, I believe you mentioned a few times,” McGonagall said wryly. “I hope you aren’t going to feel the need to personally thank me every month for the next seven years Lupin.”

They sat in a silence that felt awkward to Remus but the professor didn’t seem phased as she pulled out a small stack of papers bound together by string. “These are your records from Madame Pomfrey. I heard that you managed to avoid any serious injury this time.”

“Yes, but I did ruin some of the furniture.”

McGonagall smiled. “Yes well, the furniture is replaceable. Madame Pomfrey has opened up a correspondence with the research team at St Mungo’s who are currently looking into remedies for magical animal bites. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but there are many magical creatures which do irreversible damage. Your father had explained to me that he had been unable to look into any of this research for fear of having uncomfortable questions directed at him. Luckily, Hogwarts does have the means to collaborate on these matters both for the benefit of yourself and any students in a similar situation, but also for the intellectual curiosity of its staff. Professor Slughorn in particular is very interested in this vein of medicine. As is the headmaster himself. Now your mother and father have given the school permission to use our own discretion when it comes to trialling various medications – at your agreement of course.”

Remus looked blankly at her. He had no idea there was anything that could be done to help him and allowed himself to feel a hint of hope. He knew, of course, that there was no cure for lycanthropy but if there was something that could just make it easier or even erase the ugly scars he was left with…

“Yes, I would like trial some things, maybe.”

“In that case, I expect Madame Pomfrey will be in touch with you over the next few weeks. Now the other matter was merely logistics. Obviously the staff knew you were excused, the headmaster told them you were ill, but this is in no way a steadfast excuse. If a member of staff were to visit the hospital wing and find you absent they could easily become curious. Not to mention that the link between you being ‘ill’ and the date will eventually arouse some suspicion in a few of our staff.”

“My dad told me to tell my friends that my mother was ill and that I was going to visit her.” Remus mumbled, not meeting her eyes. He didn’t like this particular story. “He said it was a good idea because they weren’t likely to have meet my mum because she’s a muggle.”

“That could work among the staff,” McGonagall conceded. It would be better for everyone to be using the same story. Your father did mention to me that you were uncomfortable with misleading your classmates but rest assured neither me, the headmaster nor your family are holding you accountable for the circumstances and should you wish to tell you friends you may, of course do so. Though your father advised very strongly against it.”

Remus just nodded. He knew this already of course. He’d received a heavy debriefing on the 31st of August. The very idea that he would tell the other Gryffindors about his affliction was laughable.

McGonagall put the letter from Remus’ father back into her desk and leaned forward to address him in a friendlier manner.

“On another vein, how has your first month been at Hogwarts? Have you enjoyed your classes?”

“Very much so,” said Remus, truthfully. Though his mother and father had made every effort to teach him within their own home in the ways of the wizarding world and though he had experienced some patchy muggle schooling, Remus had never experienced anything quite like Hogwarts. And though he would never be quite the same as his classmates, he had never felt as though he belonged as he had this past month.

“I’m glad. I see you’ve made friends with Mr Pettigrew and Miss Evans. And your professors have only had positive things to say about your work, I’ve very pleased with your progress. There have been many students with fewer burdens to carry than you who have taken more difficulty in adjusting.”

“Thank you, Professor.” Remus could feel the blush creep up past his cheeks to his ears.

“Well Mr Lupin, twenty minutes remain of your History of Magic lesson so if you hurry you might be able to catch the end of it.” Professor McGonagall briskly rose and swept over to the door. She held it politely open for her student. Remus smiled gratefully at her before hurrying down the corridor towards the grand staircase.

~*~

Later that month, Remus found himself making his way to the hospital wing just before curfew as per the summons from Madame Pomfrey he’d found on his bedside table in a sealed envelope that morning. He’d agreed to trial a muggle sedative before Halloween holidays. If it worked, then Madame Pomfrey had agreed to use it during the full moon on the 2nd of November.

Remus was greeted warmly by the matron and two strangers who were introduced as healers from St Mungo’s research department. One, a young man with strawberry blonde hair and the other in perhaps is mid-fifties with salt-and-pepper facial hair. The older man was wearing a travelling cloak over his teal St Mungo’s uniform and the younger a garish orange jumper.

“Mr Lupin, this is Healer Briggs and his colleague Healer Devon.” Remus smiled shyly at the two professionals and mumbled a meek ‘good evening.’

The hospital wing was a wide, high ceilinged, L shaped room with Madame Pomfrey’s office and the supplies cupboard located out of sight of the main door around the corner. Taking advantage of the concealment from the main door, there were two beds with privacy screens only used for the most embarrassing of cases – usually botched de-pimplings – and this was where Remus had spent the morning of the 5th of October and where they were planning to allow the healers to trial muggle drugs on a werewolf for the first time. There was still a fortnight until the full moon but Remus was sure he could smell their excitement.

Behind the screen was a setup that Remus found a little frightening. There stool a metal table on top of which were two capped syringes and a small glass bottle of some white opaque liquid. He supposed this was the muggle drug.

Remus has never been to a wizarding or muggle hospital before and so didn’t know how much magic to expect. He had, of course, injured himself many a time – sometimes benignly as a result of jumping off adventurously high walls and other times as a result of his crippling need to bite into some kind of flesh when confined to his room during the full moon. Either way, his father had been able enough in basic magical medicine to stop his knees from bleeding and his mother sensible enough to clean out his self-inflicted wounds before they could ever become infected.

The older man, Briggs, began to unpack small plastic tubing from sealed bags and took out a muggle calculator.

“I hope you won’t mind if we do this the modern way. We are using muggle medicine after all. Could I please have your weight in kilogrammes?”

Madame Pomfrey instructed Remus to strip down to his underpants and vest and step onto a set of analogue scales she had just conjured so that Briggs could calculate the dosage. Meanwhile, Devon took out a set of paperwork headed with the St Mungo’s banner. He indicated Remus to sit next to him and summarised it briefly.

“Now I’ve already sent all of this through to your parents who have written back in consent conditional to your agreement. Your matron explained briefly in her letter summoning you didn’t she?”

Remus watched Briggs draw up the white liquid out the corner of his eye and shifted nervously on the hospital wing bed next to Devon. “Yes. Madame Pomfrey said it was a sedative which means it makes you go to sleep and that it is used on muggles before surgery and such.”

“That’s right. So far, no wizard has been able to cast a spell which holds on a werewolf during transformation. It is, of course, possible but very difficult, to stun a werewolf after it has transformed but unlike muggle medicines which are calibrated specifically to body weight and therefore allow quite an accurate estimate of the time it will take to wear off, stunning spells and similar can wear off at any moment depending on the magical strength of the subject. Not only that, it is particularly dangerous for a person to be in the room with a werewolf which could wake at any moment and have his wand arm for supper.”

Remus gave a small appreciative smile at Devon’s attempt at a joke. He noticed that the skin under his eyes looked somewhat bruised and Remus wondered vaguely if he had been sleeping at night.

“Now your weight doesn’t change when you transform and so we’re hoping the effect will last during transformation. The effects only last for little over half an hour so we’re afraid that we would have to continuously dose through the moonlight hours. There is an increased risk of side effects with repeated dosing though, so we’re merely going to test your tolerance to the drug today and note any side effects you may experience with the one dose.”

Remus suddenly didn’t like the sound of this. He’d imagined it would be somewhat like a dreamless sleep potion, which was simply drank and then a blissful sleep ensued where the length of time was determined by how much was consumed. This sounded a lot more… precarious.

“Muggles… use this all the time?” he asked tentatively.

Devon smiled reassuringly. “Oh yes it’s used on infants, children and adults. I’d be very surprised if something unexpected happened today. Really it’s November the second we’re unsure about.”

“Oh…” Remus watched Briggs come up by him with a small thin needle and felt rather reproachful. “Is it an injection?”

“Not quite. It’s given intravenously so this part is going to hurt unfortunately.”

Madame Pomfrey gave him an apologetic look as she took his left arm above and below the elbow in a firm grip. Remus resisted automatically before he caught himself.

“Sorry.”

“That’s quite alright Lupin.”

Briggs smiled pleasantly at him as he crouched down beside Madame Pomfrey but his expression didn’t do much to detract from the sharp object his is hands. He flicked the crook of Remus’ elbow with his fingers and slowly fed the thin needle under the thin skin of his arm. Remus gritted his teeth, watching with wide eyes, but managed to resist the urge to pull his arm away. Not that it would have been a successful attempt as the matron has an iron grip on his arm.

“There.” Briggs pulled and the fine metal needle slid out leaving the thin plastic tube resting in what Remus supposed was his vein. Sluggishly, dark crimson blood reached the end of the short tube before beading at the end and dripping down onto Remus’ forearm. He flinched. There was something different about having a foreign object sitting inside of him that turned his stomach the way the coppery taste of his own blood in his mouth at dawn didn’t anymore.

Briggs twisted a short clear tube to the end and to that attached a syringe full of some clear fluid.

“What’s that?” Remus noted that his voice sounded a little high and he swallowed aggressively.

“Just water. To flush the line. You’ll feel it go in but it won’t hurt.”

Remus watched as the blood seemed to disappear from the line. Briggs unscrewed the syringe and this time, nothing came out of the end.

Madame Pomfrey let go of him and he pulled his arm protectively towards himself, careful not to bend it.

“So, this is the drug we’ll be testing today.” Briggs held out the carefully measured syringe of milky liquid. “It might sting when it goes in. You should fall asleep within a few seconds and sleep for maybe half an hour before waking. When you wake, you will feel a bit dazed but this will wear off in an hour or so. Did you read and understand the list of side effects I sent to you?”

Remus nodded. “I looked them up in the library.”

“Good. We checked your mother’s medical history for any adverse reactions to similar substances but we couldn’t find anything alarming.”

“Um… okay.”

“You still agree for me to give this to you, bearing in mind that it has never been tested on a wizard suffering from lycanthropy in human or wolf state?”

Remus licked his lips and agreed.