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    As the Hogwarts Express pulled away from platform nine and three quarters, the Marauders got themselves settled into their usual compartment at the rear of the train. As ever, they had an entire holiday’s worth of news to catch up on, and this year there was an especially large amount of catching up to do. 

    “So I said, ‘that’s it! You can stick your blood status where the sun doesn’t shine – I’m out of here!’ And then I grabbed my trunk, jumped on my Cleansweep, and soared straight on over to the Potter’s.”

    “No way!” Peter Pettigrew looked up at Sirius with a whole new level of awe.

    “Yeah, that’s pretty much what I said when he and all his worldly goods turned up on our doorstep. My mum nearly had a fit!” James added, “Course, once she’d heard what those...” he trailed off, flicking a glance towards Sirius.

    “Go for it.” Sirius said with a wave of his hand, “They’re not my family anymore.”

    “OK, well, once she’d heard what those...” James then used a word that made the other two Marauder’s wince, but with still no response from Sirius, he continued, “... had done, she welcomed him to the family with open arms.”

    “A brother I can be proud of, at last!” Sirius and James high fived each other at this, before collapsing into their seats.

    In truth, it’d been the best summer holiday James could remember, despite the circumstances of the wider wizarding world. Ever since he’d been a little kid, he’d begged his parents for a brother, but it had taken Regulus’ defection to the dark side to propel Sirius from his own family and into theirs. From the moment he’d arrived, they’d been planning pranks, practising quidditch, and generally having a blast. In fact, he’d been almost sorry to return to school. However, a letter from Dumbledore naming him head boy, and more importantly mentioning his co-head, had quickly changed his mind. Oops, I guess I’d better get going, he thought suddenly.

    “Well, we should probably be getting along to the perfects’ compartments” he said aloud to Remus, “Sirius, you fill Peter in on operation abject humiliation while we’re gone.”

    Remus closed the carriage door behind them, and then turned to James.

    “Operation abject humiliation? Good to see that your promotion hasn’t gone to your head.”

    Meanwhile, at the other end of the train, Lily Evans and her best friend, Alice Burke, were already settled in for the meeting, having left their bags in their usual compartment with their roommates, Hestia Jones and Marlene McKinnon. The tea trolley had just left the nearly empty prefect’s compartment, and Alice was happily tucking in to her personal mound of provisions – her mother didn’t believe in junk food, and so she was taking the opportunity to make up for nine weeks of healthy eating. Lily, meanwhile, was not being her usual enthusiastic self. After three cauldron cakes and two chocolate frogs, Alice began to notice that something was amiss. 

    “You’re not dieting again, are you? ‘Cause seriously, once you can see ribs, you’re officially thin enough.”

    Lily smiled, ever glad of her best friend’s ability to straight-talk her out of a low mood.

    “Nah, nothing like that. It’s just...” Lily paused, trying to find a way of putting it objectively, “...why would Dumbledore make James head boy? He had so many other options – Remus, Severus, Amos.”

    “OK, moving straight past the fact that you mentioned your boyfriend third,” Alice responded, smirking, “what’s so wrong with James? He’s responsible, smart, a team player...”

    “Firstly, Amos Diggory is NOT my boyfriend; we went on two dates. Second, James is no smarter, more responsible or team player-y” Alice’s smirk widened at this rare loss of eloquence, “than any of the other candidates.”

    “If you say so. Dumbledore must be up to something dastardly then – he’s probably joined forces with the Marauders themselves!”

    Lily rolled her eyes, but found herself smiling at her friends gentle teasing.

    “I’m being weirdly obsessive again, aren’t I?” When Alice failed to deny this, Lily continued, “OK, so take my mind off things – tell me about your holiday. How was your visit to Frank’s house?”

    “Oh man, I forgot you’d been in Mugglesville for the last couple of months – we got attacked!” Ever since her parents had died eighteen months earlier, Lily had been living with her sister Petunia, and her new boyfriend, Vernon Dursley. Both were determinedly anti-magic, and so Lily was forbidden from having any contact with the wizarding world during the long summer months.

    “Attacked?” Lily replied, shocked. And I thought my holiday was bad.
    “Yeah – you know Frank’s been helping the anti-‘You Know Who’ movement? Well, we were out having a walk, and suddenly a couple of his followers just apparated around us and started throwing hexes right left and centre. They were totally over the top too – one of them even tried to put us under the Imperius curse.”

    “No! So, clearly you got away...”

    “Yeah, Frank was amazing.” Alice sighed, overcome by a rare moment of girlishness, “He threw more stunners than a Dutch dragon squad – Auror training is definitely paying off. Still, we only just got out of there, and now the Longbottom house has to have round-the-clock security.”

    “Wow; it’s getting really real now, huh?” The two girls sat in silence for a few moments, considering the changing world in which they lived.

    “Hey, mind if we join you?” Remus’ head popped around the door, throwing the girls a sheepish grin. Alice shrugged, unfazed either way. Lily however, looked truly pained, aware of exactly who else the ‘we’ would include.

    “I’m guessing I no longer have the option of avoiding him,” she responded, resigning herself to her fate.

    “Nope!” James bounded past Remus to sit by Lily. “You’re stuck with me now, all year long!”

    “James,” Remus warned, “remember our chat.”

    James looked pensive for a moment, before shuffling off the edge of Lily’s lap.

    “Sorry Lils,” he offered, “how was your summer?”

    Lily was utterly shocked by this turn of events; James was giving her personal space, and asking her something other than ‘do you want to go out?’ Does this mean I can’t yell at him? she thought petulantly.
    “Um, fine thanks,” she responded reluctantly. “So, you’re head boy?”

    “Seems like it. Congratulations on getting head girl. You must be pleased.” James smiled politely at her.

    “I was,” she muttered, before turning to their new fourth, “Remus, how was your holiday? Is your mother feeling any better?”

    Both of the boys turned red, as Remus replied,

    “Well, she waxes and wanes. Thanks for your concern.” The girls exchanged twin looks of confusion, particularly as both boys looked more amused than saddened. Recovering first, Lily tried a new line of inquiry.

    “Did you hear about Alice’s hol...?” She trailed off as the door opened, and they were joined by the three Slytherin prefects.

    “Oh, we all heard about Alice’s little adventures,” Bellatrix Black drawled, her voice dripping with sarcastic concern, “you really should take better care in picking who you associate with.”

    “Sorry, grave-robber says what?” Lily responded acidly, coming to her friend’s defence, “aren’t you one of You-Know-Who’s little groupies?”

    “Aw, is the little mud-blood jealous?”

    Instantly, seven wands were duel-ready. However, before it could go any further, the door once again opened to reveal the remaining seven prefects. Lily, aware of setting a bad example, hastily returned her wand to her pocket, and the others quickly followed suit.

    “Are we interrupting something, Lils?” Amos asked warily, as they hovered by the doorway. James glowered at him, but otherwise the group returned to forced smiles.

    “No, not at all. We were ... just waiting for you lot. So, as you will have been told, James and I are the new heads. I figured we could do the same as last year – split into sexes to discuss anything you think we need to know, and then pair off for patrol. Any questions?” Lily looked around quickly, before continuing, “OK, girls in here, and James will take the guys in the next compartment.”

    James raised an eyebrow at her, smirking, but otherwise refrained from commenting on her authoritative attitude.

    “What she said,” he said to the guys, standing up and leading the way.

    The train managed to get to Hogsmeade with no more than the usual number of incidents – one lost toad, three hexes, and an unconfirmed case of emerging Spattergoit; all in all, Lily thought they’d done pretty well. Course, there’s always the feast to go wrong, she reminded herself as she chivvied the trembling new first years towards Hagrid’s looming form. As she glanced around, she was surprised to note James was doing the same. First he doesn’t flirt with me, then he lets me tell him what to do, and now he voluntarily helps out without asking for anything. What is he ... oh my goodness, he’s finally given up on me! 
    She wasn’t sure why this thought should leave her feeling suddenly cold, but it did. It’s not that I actually like him flirting with me, it’s just... how could he not be interested? Lily was well aware that the alterations she’d made to herself in the past few years had been met with widespread approval by the male population; it turned out that guys preferred lower cut tops, more make-up and subtle flirtation, and less discussion about potions class. She’d always assumed that James’ continued pestering was proof that he was just as shallow as the rest, so his sudden disinterest was most disturbing.

    With the last of the little ones safely away, she carefully moved towards the remaining prefects in the last ‘horseless’ carriage. Ever since the truth of the carriages had been revealed to them in fifth year, the majority of the students had become a touch skittish about their invisible steeds. In Lily’s case, this was exacerbated by the childhood fear she had of regular horses, which she blamed on an unfortunate incident at her sister’s eighth birthday party. Amos, already comfortably seated next to his fellow Hufflepuff Juliet Caperi, chuckled at her obvious discomfort.

    “Come on, Lils, they’re not going to bite,” he said as she continued to edge towards the door. She glared up at him, before jumping in and sliding into the seat opposite.

    “Prove it.” She responded sulkily.

    “Really, Lily,” he continued disapprovingly, “don’t you think we’ve got bigger worries than innocent thestrals?”

    Lily rolled her eyes at this, once again glad that she hadn’t taken things further with the pompous Hufflepuff. His fellow house member Juliet, however, widened her eyes at this, gushing:

    “Oh my goodness, you mean like You-know-who? I heard,” at this point her voiced dropped to a theatrical whisper, “that he was planning to attack the school!”

    A couple of the prefects gasped at the news.

    “What?” James responded from Lily’s left, “Why on Earth would he do that? We’re just a school? Plus, going up against Dumbledore? I doubt even he’s that reckless.”

    “He’s got a point there Jules – it doesn’t exactly make a whole lot of sense.” Amos added.

    Juliet reddened at the twin looks of scepticism from her fellow prefects, but responded:

    “Well, all I know is that Susan said that Andrew overheard Rosier and Snape talking about it, and apparently, there’s something You-know-who wants, and he’s willing to risk coming here to get it. I wander what it could be?”

    “Perhaps he’s heard about our very own rabid thestrals?” Amos said, cracking himself up. Juliet looked genuinely curious about this, while Lily returned to glaring.

    “Or maybe he just wants to meet someone with an ego as big as his. I’m sure you’d get on great with him Amos.” Instantly Lily regretted saying this, as Amos abruptly stopped laughing and instead looked hurt. Way to go, head girl. Less than one day into it and you’ve already alienated almost half the prefects. She couldn’t help noticing that James had brightened up at this comment however, seemingly trying to stifle his own laughter. Why’s he so happy at our arguing, she wandered, does he want no-one to fancy me? The short journey had certainly given her a lot to ponder.

    A.N. Yes, the HP lexicon puts Sirius moving out in 5th year, but all we know for certain is that he was about 16 – if he was young for his year, with a birthday in August, then he could have been 16 still during the first part of the summer between 6th and 7th year, as Harry was. If this seems farfetched, then let’s just call it artistic licence – I don’t want the war to have gotten too far at this point.

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