Chapter 1 ~ Prefect Badges and Kung Fu

Muriel ran the stretch of yard between her house and Severus', clutching her Hogwarts letter in one hand and a bright prefect's badge in the other. Mr. Snape had come home and left again half way through the summer, so she just threw open the front door and ran upstairs.

"Sev, look!" she exclaimed, reaching his room and throwing open the door. Mrs. Snape turned, grinning. She'd been fiddling with something on Severus' robes. "Dumbledore made me a prefect!" Mrs. Snape stepped aside, and Muriel began to laugh at the sight of a duplicate badge on his robes. "And you too? Merlin this is going to be a good year! The marauders are going to wet themselves!"

Severus, trying to look dignified behind his badge, snorted in spite of himself, then smiled. "I imagine I got prefect because Macnair's got no personality and Goyle has the brains of a niffler, but how did YOU get it? You get detention more often than I do!"

"Well, I think it's lovely, Mur," Mrs. Snape said quickly, hugging her and heading back downstairs. She didn't want to be around if her son was foolish enough to tease the girl.

Mur looked thoughtful. She'd been so excited that she hadn't given it any thought. "Well. I bet Dumbledore didn't want to saddle any of my dorm mates with the impossible task of keeping me in line. Maybe he thought if he gave me a little responsibility, I'd be more likely to behave responsibly."

Severus nodded, that was as good a reason as any. "What an astounding error in judgement," he said seriously. They both laughed, then ran downstairs to ask Mrs. Snape if they could go to Diagon Alley and get their things. She sent them by themselves, knowing they'd take care of each other.

When they arrived to catch the Hogwarts Express a week later, Muriel was anxious to find out which of their Gryffindor counterparts had gotten the badge. They sat together in the prefect compartment, waiting. Neither was surprised when Lily Evans and Remus Lupin came in a few moments later. Mur was glad. She hadn't gotten to talk much with Remus in the last few years, and she really liked Lily.

Severus was relieved. At least Dumbledore had chosen the least destructive of the marauders, and the least likely to abuse his power. That would give him and Mur a nice edge this year. He sat quietly while Lily and Muriel chatted. Remus didn't seem to have much to say either, at first.

"Mur, could I tell you something?" he asked finally. The other Slytherin prefect had arrived by now, and was sitting haughtily beside Severus. There were far too many mud bloods in the room for her taste. Even though there was only one. Severus felt his throat constrict as Muriel looked up at Remus, a serious expression on her face.

"We're all really sorry about that spell, second year. We didn't know it would be that bad." The Hufflepuffs and the Head Boy and Girl came in, then, and Severus didn't catch Mur's reply. NOW he had an idea what had made her so angry in their second year.

"I forgave you all for that by the end of the year."

Remus nodded. Maybe they would be able to get along this year. They listened to all the instructions the Head Boy (thankfully NOT Avery) and Girl had to give, and left for their respective compartments. Mur and Sev didn't have one yet, so they just checked each one to see if it was empty.

Ahead of them, Remus disappeared into a compartment. A moment later, James appeared in the corridor. Severus and Mur both brought up their wands. But he was only looking for Lily, who had already walked passed him.

"Lil? We've got a new game. Why don't you come and play it with us?"

Muriel shook her head. Potter was going to have to do better than that.

"No thanks, James. It's always too crowded in your compartment, what with your swollen ego and all."

He went back into his compartment muttering, and was about to close the door when Mur put her foot against the bottom and stood in the doorway. "I'll play," she said immediately, seeing the game. Peter and Sirius were sitting on the bench playing a very easy-looking version of Labyrinth. At least, it was made of wood and had only one level. She smiled her best smile as James, Peter, and Severus all groaned.

"You played that all summer!" Severus said quickly. "And we have our own board with us." She shot him a withering glance. The point was to show these boys who was best at it, not to sit quietly and play by herself.

"Sure, Mur, come on in." Remus was glad she'd accepted his apology and wanted to be nice to her. James was looking at him like he was crazy, so he mouthed the word, 'Prefects,' at him, hoping he'd understand. He saw his eyes widen as his head snapped back to look for the badges on their robes. Muriel smirked at him and plopped down next to Remus. Severus stood in the doorway. There was no way he was going to walk into that compartment and sit down with the marauders. They all watched in silence as Sirius tried it, and then Peter. Neither got very far. Muriel smirked when Peter passed the game to her.

"So, where'd you get a muggle game like this?" Remus asked finally as Mur finished the maze, the ball dropping neatly into the tray. She could tell that he was trying to ease the extremely tense atmosphere.

"Well, I had a spot of trouble with one of the older Slytherins last year, so Papa hired an Oriental wizard to come and teach me hand combat. He sent a board like this to me a few weeks before he came, and said that hand-eye coordination was really important in martial arts. Didn't want me hitting someone's eye when I was aiming for his nose, or something." She was careful not to look at Sirius as she spoke.

The boys nodded. They all knew why she'd wanted to learn to defend herself. She smirked. "It was really helpful. I'll show you!" She stood abruptly as James failed at the game, groaning. They looked up at her to see that she was grinned wickedly at Sirius, and holding out her wrists. Her wand lay forgotten on the bench.

Severus, who hadn't spoken all this time, was beside himself. Was she really going to give them a demonstration in these close quarters? It was nearly impossible. Sure, she'd thrown him once over the summer, but that had been outside, where there wasn't anything in her way. While she had been learning martial arts, he'd spent his time learning Occlumency, so he had no idea what she was capable of.

"What?" Sirius asked guardedly. She couldn't possibly want him to –

"Take my wrists and try to drag me into the corridor," she said, still smiling. This was going to be absolutely too much fun.

"Why me?" he asked quickly, not moving. He exchanged a glance with James, who'd set the game aside, looking worriedly at Muriel. Maybe she had figured out who'd helped her after all.

"Because, you're the one I'll most enjoy throwing to the ground, Black," she said quietly. Then, "Stand back, Sev, we'll be all the way into the corridor before it happens." Severus shook his head and moved further down the corridor as Sirius stood up and took her wrists. He stepped backward, but she didn't move.

"Black, you'll have to actually try to get me out there, I'm not going to just follow you!" Peter looked absolutely terrified, but James and Remus had amused expressions.

"I don't want to hurt you," Sirius said quietly. He was standing close to her in the small compartment, and looking into her eyes. He'd forgotten how pretty they were.

Muriel was very, very glad, for some reason, that Severus hadn't heard that. She pushed the thought away and swallowed hard as James made a noise of disgust. "It never stopped you before, Black," she said pointedly. Sirius felt something suspiciously like guilt in his chest before he narrowed his eyes.

"Alright." A moment later he was dragging her forcibly into the corridor, a playful grin on his face. It was easier than he thought it would be, though he was careful to hold her arms high enough that her wrists wouldn't come out of place.

He never saw it coming. One moment he was pulling her toward the front of the train, and the next he was on his back behind her, gasping for air. Snape was standing over him laughing. He felt someone's arms under his shoulders and scrambled to his feet to face a smirking Muriel. "Don't worry, Black. I'll promise no physical retaliation for hexes if you will."

Well, she certainly wouldn't have to worry about Avery this year. Sirius nodded, blinking a bit more often than was usual as he sat down in his compartment. Remus was grinning, but James and Peter both looked very upset.