WARNING: Strong Language


 The bright red steam train waited patiently on the platform as children slowly piled onto it. The platform was scattered with families all saying their goodbyes. Nervous first years bid adieu to their parents. They looked nervously around them, eyeing each other up wearily. They were trying to figure out who looked like the sort of person they'd want to be friends with. It was that or sit by themselves for the long journey to Hogwarts.

The older children, the returning students, were all excited. They grumbled and rushed their goodbyes with their families as their eyes danced over the faces of everyone around them, searching for their friends. All they wanted to do was to meet up with the people they'd left months before and head back to the best place on earth.

Making her way through the platform barrier was a girl on her own. No family were there to wave her off, or wish her luck. Her face harsh but sad as her eyes glazed over, taking in the scene before her. Jealousy bubbled up inside her as she overheard conversations between father and son or mother and daughter. Resentment grew as she watched people hug their loved ones one last time before the Christmas holidays. Extremely aware that she had no one to say goodbye to, no one to give her parental advice or words of warning, she pushed her way through to the train with her trunk and owl cage in tow. Quickly climbing onto the train, she isolated herself from the happy families behind her, making herself comfortable in an empty compartment that looked out onto the platform.

Brooke Anderson was a beautiful witch. Her sharp, majestic face was normally softened by her blue/grey eyes, that were once filled with happiness and wonder. But now that they were dead and emotionless, they just seemed to make her face that much harsher. She had defined cheekbones and full lips that were constantly pressed together in a thin line. Creases were on each side of her mouth showing that it wasn't always this way. That once upon a time she was very prone to smiling. All of this was framed by her luscious deep red hair, that hung half way down her back in ringlets.

Her sad eyes flitted across the crowd out the window, stopping every now and then at overly happy students. This only caused the lump in her throat to get bigger.

First she noticed James Potter, a tall 17 year old boy, jumping up and down excitedly. His athletic build, from playing Quiddich helped him to stand out slightly from most of the other students. His black hair was wild and untamed as it stuck out in all directions. He'd knocked his glasses askew as he pulled him mum in for a hug, cutting her off from whatever she was saying. Brooke could only imagine it being a warning about staying out of trouble, that they all knew was a waste of time. The corners of Brooke's mouth curled up slightly at the sight of the Potters, as she thought back on everything they had done for her, but it seemed to make her heart grow heavier.

Moving her eyes on, not wanting to impose on the precious moment she could only wish for Brooke let her eyes fall on one of James' friends, Peter Pettigrew. He was a short, somewhat mouse like boy. His nose was pointed, and his mouth was too small for his face. His high cheekbones just added to the mousiness of his features He had blue, beady eyes and thin brown hair that hung limply into his eyes. Peter waved at James, his face lighting up at the sight of him and started rushing over to him. Half way there he tripped over his too large feet, only just managing to regain his balance. The corners of Brookes mouth curled up again but her eyes were left unaffected by the small smile.

Once Peter had disappeared out of sight Brooke started scanning the crowd again, hoping she might find something that would strike some sort of emotion in her. Something that would mean she wasn't dead any more. Something that meant she wasn't broken. All she wanted was to feel anything other than pain.

That's when her gaze met Regulus Black. A young, weak looking boy, as though he wasn't eating enough. His black hair fell at his shoulders. His dull grey eyes were dead and emotionless. He had what one would call a regal look to his face. High, defined cheekbones and a strong jaw. His face matched the emotion in his eyes, or lack there of. All it took was one glance and you knew he was a Black. He stood looking at the beautiful woman before him, showing the world where he got his looks from. She too had a harsh face, that seemed impossible to home a smile. Regulus simply nodded at his mother before turning his back to her.

The heaviness of Brooke's heart just seemed to get heavier at the scene. She couldn't understand how people could disregard their parents in such a manner. They never knew if it would be the last time that they would see them again. Her eyes glazed over again as she thought about how much some people didn't appreciate what they had. Anger rose in her when she thought about how lucky some people were but they just didn't realise it.

Having decided she'd seen enough Brooke tore her eyes away from the window and leant back in her seat. She let out a long sigh and screwed her eyes shut, thinking back to the last time she saw her parents. A sad smile appeared on her lips as she remembered the last loving words they said to her.

Brooke was stood on Platform 9 and ¾ with her mum and dad.

Her mum was just an older yet softer version of Brooke. Her red, curly hair fell by her shoulders, framing her soft, round face perfectly. Her eyes were a dark brown, so dark they could almost be mistaken for black. There were crows feet in the corners of her eyes as well as lines around her full lips, showing that her life was full of laugher and happiness.

Her dad however was the complete opposite. His short, blonde hair was styled to perfection, not even one strand was out of place. His blue/grey eyes shone brightly as he looked lovingly at his daughter a smile widening across his face, which were the only features that gave him away. His face was sharp and defined, and had no wrinkles or creases, giving him a harsh, well aged appearance.

“And please Brooke, stay out of trouble.” Her mum begged, although she knew all too well that it was a pointless plea. And the reason for that was making his way over to them.

“Charles! Eliza!” James called them, pulling them both into hugs one at a time. Eliza wrapped her arms around him tenderly, as though a mother would hug one of her own children. Whereas with Charles it was a brief hug with a single pat on the back before they pulled away. “I will personally make sure that Brooke doesn't get into any trouble.”

The Anderson's and the Potter's had been friends long before James and Brooke were born. James was the brother Brooke never had. In fact, he was the son her parents never had.

“That's what worries us.” Charles laughed, shaking his head. Brooke's whole face lit up as she laughed along with her dad. Her eyes shining brightly, appearing more blue than grey.

“I don't like what you're trying to insinuate, Sir.” James clutched his heart as he pretended to be hurt. “I'll have you know you're daughter is the bad influence, always dragging me into her mess.”

Brooke rolled her eyes as James wrapped his arm over her shoulder, flashing her one of his playful grins.

“James, take care of her please.” Eliza's voice was soft but firm this time. Her eyebrows furrowed as she got serious. There was something to her voice that was unrecognisable. Something Brooke had never heard in her mothers voice and it worried her.

“Mum.” Brooke answered back before James got the chance to respond. She wiped the smile off her face and looked at her mum with serious eyes. “Hogwarts is the safest place to be. I will be fine. It's you two who need to take care of each other.”

Fear could be seen on Eliza's face as she was talking to her daughter. Deep down she knew Brooke was right. She would be perfectly safe at Hogwarts. It's everywhere else that was turning nasty. It was her and her husband who would not be safe. Especially with the job they had to do. She pushed all of the fear out of her mind and smiled at Brooke again.

“I just worry. It's my job to.” Eliza grinned, pulling Brooke into an embrace as the whistle of the train blew.

Brooke quickly kissed her mum goodbye and gave her dad a hug and a kiss on the cheek. James shook Charles' hand and kissed Eliza on the cheek before reassuring them that their daughter was going to be safe with him.

James and Brooke made their way to the train amongst the last remaining students on the platform. Brooke gave her parents one last wave out the window, and she knew there was more going on than they were letting on. They really were scared about something but they wouldn't tell her. Brooke could see something in their eyes. But she pushed the thoughts to the back of her head, putting it down to saying goodbye to her for the whole school year. She blew them one last kiss and then they were out of sight.

The door to the compartment flew open causing Brooke to jump, her eyes springing open to see who had interrupted her thoughts. Lily Evans was stood in the doorway, light from the corridor shining off her making her red hair look even brighter. Her green almond shaped eyes took in the broken girl before her. Without a word she sat opposite Brooke with a friendly, understanding smile on her face.

“How are you doing Brooke?” Lily asked sweetly, not removing her eyes from Brooke's. She wasn't sure whether to approach the subject of what happened or to let Brooke bring it up instead. All she knew was Brooke needed to know she was there. Even if nothing ever came of it.

“I'm doing fine.” Brooke lied. She gave Lily her best fake smile which seemed to do the trick. Brooke had been asked that same question more times than she could count and had become a bit of a pro when it came to answering it and making her answers believable.

“Any news on what happened?” Lily asked carefully. She had no idea whether or not Brooke would even want to talk about it but thought it was worth a try.

“Can we not? Please.” Brooke croaked, her voice cracking. It had been two months since her parents had gone missing and Brooke was yet to say two words about it. What happened had just about killed her and she knew there was no way she could relive it. Not right then anyway. Rather than confiding in anyone she just withdrew into herself, refusing to talk about it. Becoming a shadow of who she used to be.

Lily nodded at Brooke sadly, unsure of what to say to her. Putting herself in Brookes shoe's Lily knew she'd hate being treated any differently than before. But for some reason her mind just went blank and she couldn't draw up a topic for conversation.

The train bellowed, igniting something in the remaining students on the platform. Within moments the platform became empty, leaving only tearful parents ready to wave their precious children off to school for the year. The corridor jumped to life as people pushed their way into empty compartments, chattering away to one another. The train pulled away from the platform, leaving behind all those parents. Leaving them in a horrible dark world.

The movement of the train stirred something in Lily and she hopped up from the seat and headed to the door, stopping just short of it. She turned back to look at Brooke.

“Head Girl duties call. But I'll come straight back afterwards, okay?” Lily explained. She wasn't sure if Brooke would even want her to come back. But still, she kept the friendly smile on her face whilst she waited for Brooke to respond. After all, Brooke was Lily's closest friend since she cut her ties with Severus.

“I'd like that. Thank you.” Brooke whispered. She moved her eyes from Lily to focus on the scenery passing by.

Lily felt a tug at her heart as she smiled sadly at the back of Brooke's head. She headed out of the compartment and shut the door behind her.

Brooke let out a deep breath and let herself disappear into a world of her own. A world where her parents were still alive. A world where she didn't have to deal with everyone treating her differently. A world where she was happy.

The peace and quiet was short-lived when moments later James stumbled through the door with a big grin on his face. He was followed directly by Sirius and Peter. The latter stopped as soon as they saw Brooke, their faces filled with pity.

“So, B.” James started causing Brooke to look up at him with a small smile on her face. “I know you don't like the riff raff I associate myself with. But everywhere else is full. Do you mind?”

Before the question had even finished coming out of James mouth he had taken the seat next to Brooke, wrapping his arm around her shoulders. This was enough for Sirius and he collapsed into the space opposite Brooke with Peter sitting next to him.

Sirius Black was Regulus' older brother. They were very similar in looks. Both aristocratically beautiful. Sirius too had high cheekbones and a strong, chiselled jaw. His hair however was a lot shorter, and was styled perfectly, lazily falling into his bright silvery grey eyes. However, his build was a lot more like James', tall and athletic. His silvery grey eyes were constantly shining brightly and a smile was always playing on his lips.

“Do I have a choice in the matter?” Brooke asked dryly as she leaned into James, breathing in his familiar smell. She felt herself relaxing into him and realised that this was the calmest she'd been in a long time. There was something about being with her best friend that just seemed to make everything that little bit better, even if only for a moment. Her heart seemed to ache a little less. It became a little easier to breath. She didn't feel so trapped in herself when she was around him.

“You know me. Just trying to be polite.” James grinned as he planted a kiss on the top of her head.

“You wouldn't know polite if it came and bit you in the arse.” Sirius smirked at James with a wink. James rolled his eyes at him, chuckling loudly.

Peter sat uncomfortably, playing with his hands. Obviously not knowing what he could or couldn't say. He wasn't one for confrontation and was constantly seeking peoples approval.

“Anderson.” Sirius spoke elegantly to get her attention. Brooke's eyes slowly moved to his and she noticed his eyes were dancing with glee. A playful smile appeared on his lips knowing anything he said would wind Brooke up. “You look like crap Princess.”

Brooke couldn't hide the disdain on her face even if she wanted to. If there was one person she couldn't stand it was Sirius Black. He was cocky and arrogant. He thought the sun shone out of his arse. And unluckily for her he was indeed one of James' best friends. Which meant that much to Brooke's chagrin she got to spend most of her time with the one person she hated more than anything.

And worst of all was the nickname he had taken to calling her the very first day they met on Platform 9¾. All because he knew all about who her parents were that made her a spoilt princess. And now, he used it just to get a kick out of her.

“I know something that will help perk you up.” He continued with a wink.

“In your dreams Black.” Brooke snapped. Her emotionless eyes glared at him as he faked heartbreak.

“So did you have a good holiday Brooke?” Peter asked, trying to defuse the situation. James threw him an exasperated look whilst Sirius kicked his shin. Realising his mistake pity filled Peter's now red face once again as he looked at Brooke, stuttering an apology.

“Don't Pete!” Brooke warned, her eyebrow raised. “Do not pity me.”

Peter mumbled a quiet apology and looked down at his hands. The last thing he wanted to do was cause anyone any upset.

Sirius on the other hand took a good look at Brooke. He took in her vacant expression and emotionless eyes. He noticed that unless James was there to help her through this she just shut herself off from the world. His eyebrows furrowed and his face grew hard.

“Snap out of it then.” Sirius snapped at Brooke. Her eyes snapped to his and her mouth dropped open in disbelief.

“I beg your pardon?” Brooke only just managed to get the words out. James gave Sirius a warning look, hoping it would deter him. Instead Sirius shook his head at James.

“Snap out of it.” Sirius repeated as though what he was saying was obvious. “If you don't want pity get on with your life. I get it. It's hard. But all the while you are this shell of a person all you're going to get is pity. Everyone is walking on eggshells around you because they don't know what they can and can't say to you. If you want people to treat you like before, then you need to be that person again. Snap out of it”

Brooke's face went from complete and utter disbelief to anger. She could feel every fibre of her body come to life.

“Get on with my life?” Brooke started raising her voice. James tightened his arm around her hoping it would calm her down but was out of luck. “I wish it was that easy Sirius. I wish I could just get over it and move on. But I can't! I've tried. Merlin knows I've tried. Why don't you tell me how to 'get on with my life'!”

Tears stung Brooke's eyes as she looked into Sirius'. That was the most she had spoken about anything relating to their disappearances to anyone but the ministry. And the aching of her heart was a reminder of why.

The tension in the compartment was suddenly thick. No one had said anything. Brooke pulled away from James and stared out the window again. James was glaring at Sirius, trying to tell him what a dick he was without talking. Sirius was trying to think of the right words to say and Peter was still playing with his hands uncomfortably.

The door slid open and Lily popped her head into the compartment to check on Brooke. As her eyes took in the scene her face dropped. She knew from the way everyone was sitting that something had gone on. It was obvious. You could cut the tension with a knife.

“Evans!” James grinned at her. The other three turned to watch the Lily and James, wondering if anything had changed this year. “You're looking rather exquisite today.”

“Potter.” She all but sighed his name whilst nodding her hello to Sirius and Peter.

“So, do you fancy...” James started to asked Lily, intending to ask her out but she raised her hand lazily to silence him. Her green eyes focused on his hazel eyes.

“Not a chance.” She spat causing him to sit back, rejection clearly affecting him. Sirius and Peter stifled a laugh and Brooke glanced at Lily trying to work her out.

James was irrevocably in love with Lily and had been chasing her for the last four years,

Lily on the other hand had never once shown James any interest. She thought he was arrogant, cocky and rude. To add to it James had a long standing feud with the guy who used to be Lily's best friend so it just came naturally for her not to like him. But even with all of this Brooke could swear she saw the corner of Lily's lip curl upwards. Only for a second though.

“We've not even made it to Hogwarts yet and it's already Evans 1, Potter 0” Sirius barked a laugh making James go pink. A small smile formed on Lily's lips as she sat next to Peter.

At that moment Remus Lupin walked into the compartment. A tall, gangly boy who had chocolate brown eyes with yellow specks in them. His hair was dusty blonde and hung just past his eyes. He was good looking, not in the same sense as James and Sirius, but in a worn and weathered sort of way. There were dark circles under his eyes, showing that he wasn't sleeping. A huge grin was on his face as he took in his friends before him.

“Well well well, look who finally decided to show up.” Sirius announced as Remus took a seat next to James. A smile toying on his lips.

“I can't help it that I'm a very popular person. I'm just needed everywhere else.” Remus laughed, smiling out of the side of his mouth and taking the final seat next to James.

“Don't say that Moony! You'll make him jealous.” James piped up, also grinning now.

“Oh yes, Merlin forbid anyone makes poor Sirius feel inadequate.” Brooke grumbled as she stared out the window. She hadn't even realised she had said it out loud until everyone started laughing at her comment, and Sirius just sat there glaring at her.

“Remus, did you find the Head Boy?” Lily asked, changing the subject to the first thing she could think of. “I mean, what sort of person doesn't show up to his first meeting as head boy?”

Remus shook his head at Lily and opened his mouth to speak when Lily screwed up her face at James. Something glistening on his robe had got her attention. A badge.

“You!” She gasped, staring at the Head Boy badge James had. “What idiot made you Head Boy? You've already missed the most important meeting!”

Brooke looked at James, also staring at his badge, unable to believe that James Potter had been made Head Boy.

“Well Evans, it looks like we're going to be spending a lot of time together this year.” James grinned, winking at Lily.

“Not if I have anything to do about it.” Lily muttered and stormed out of the compartment leaving everyone more relaxed than when she had entered.

“That's a fake, right?” Peter questioned. He eyeballed James suspiciously.

“Nope. All real. You are looking at the new Head Boy.” James straightened up, showing off the badge.

Remus stiffened slightly at the news. So slightly that no one seemed to notice him shifting uncomfortably in his seat. Remus was happy for James, but he just didn't understand it. Remus was the sensible one, the voice of reason. He was the prefect, and had been since fifth year. But suddenly, by doing nothing but causing trouble, pranking people and hexing Slytherins, James had managed to nab Head Boy role. It had always been a prefect that got chosen, so what made James so special?

Shaking his head Remus snapped out of it and a small smile appeared on his face.

“You have some making up to do then Prongs.” Remus looked towards James. “Lily was not happy that you missed the meeting. And I guess now she knows it's you she'll probably try to make your next year hell.”

“Oh come on, she's made his life hell for the last five years.” Sirius sighed. “Ever since he started chasing her. How much different can it be?”

Sirius looked round at everyone as he waited for someone to tell him otherwise. But everyone knew that he was in fact right. Lily had never made James' life easy, He was so accustomed to it now that it was just part of his daily routine. And Sirius, knowing he was right, had a smug look on his face as everyone in turn shrugged at him.

Brooke finally looked away from the window to watch the boys laughing and joking about their summer holidays. Her eyes scanned over the laughter lines on James' face. She took in the way Sirius' eyes sparkled when he laughed. Peters laugh was deep and throaty, drowning out everyone else. She watched them longingly as she tried to remember the last time she laughed. The last time she was carefree and happy. It was watching the four Marauders blissfully enjoy themselves that Brooke realised that she missed it. All she wanted was to be able to laugh. And maybe, hopefully, now that she was going home she could finally start to heal.

James hung back with Brooke, both of them watching as the rest of the guys rushed off the train to get a carriage. He finally took a moment to study her now that they were alone.

Brooke's robes hung off her thin frame hiding the fact that she'd lost so much weight. But all James had to do was look at her sunken cheeks to work it out. Her skin was paler that it usually was, another sign that she hadn't been looking after herself.

“You need to take me care of yourself B.” James spoke softly to her. He edged his way between Brooke, who was avoiding looking at him, and the door so she couldn't escape him.

“I've done my best J.” Brooke whispered, knowing that James wouldn't believe her lie.

“You can't fool me. So don't even bother.”

Brooke finally met James' gaze, letting out a sigh. She had known this was coming, but she had hoped that it wouldn't have happened until they actually got to school.

“I lost everything.” Tears filled her eyes as the words tumbled out of her mouth. “I have nothing left.”

James' breath caught in his throat as the words hit him. He had known that it was difficult on Brooke, but he never expected her to become so withdrawn that she forgot what she still had. Struggling to find words of comfort he just pulled her into a hug and felt her crumble in his arms.

Movement interrupted James and Brooke, and it was at that moment that they realised that the train was completely deserted and had started moving to leave the station. James grabbed Brooke's hand and dragged her through the carriages to a door leading to the platform. Taking one look at each other they both jumped out of the train, which luckily was yet to pick up any major speed.

Brooke lay flat on her back, looking up at the clear, starry sky in silence. Her arms were spread out as she felt the cold, concrete platform beneath her hands. She breathed in the fresh, crisp air as she slowly pushed herself up.

James was already back onto his feet and was reaching out to help Brooke up which she took.

“You haven't lost everything.” James soothed. He still had hold of Brooke's hand. “You just need to open your eyes. Then you'll realise just how much you still have.”

“James, they were my parents.” Brooke sobbed.

“And they were basically my parents too.” James explained as he wiped her tears away. “You're not the only one hurting. You just need to learn to deal with the pain in a different way.”

Brooke pulled away from James and walked away from him. Her heart was aching and there was a lump in her throat. Her head swam with memories of her life before all of this.

“Let's go James. We have a long walk to the castle.”

Brooke spun on her heals and headed off of the platform and started up the dirt road towards the school. The winds caught her hair, whipping it around her face. She folded her arms across her chest and kept her eyes locked on the road ahead of her.

The trees cast shadows on the road, leaving little light.

“Lumos.” James' chanted with his wand in his hand as he ran to catch up to Brooke.

For the whole journey to Hogwarts Brooke and James walked in silence much to James' chagrin. He had tried to make small talk but Brooke just wasn't interested. All she wanted to do was get to the one place that she hoped would help her feel less broken. Where she would have plenty to distract her.

* * * * *

Brooke stood in front of the castle and a small smile played on her lips. Relief washed over her for a short moment as she took in the welcoming sight before her. Here she was. She was finally home.

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