September 1st had finally arrived, and none too soon for Lily. The summer hadn't been in the least bit fun. She had, unfortunately, elected to spend July and August with her sister, Petunia, to help her sort through the last of their mother's worldly possessions before they sent what was left to charity.
Friends had tried to convince her to let Petunia do it by herself, but Lily knew that Petunia had a bad case of sibling rivalry where Lily was concerned, and Lily wanted to make sure she received what she wanted from her mother's effects. On top of that, it seemed Petunia had found herself a boyfriend, one Vernon Dursley.
Finally, everything had got the best of Lily, and she had snapped, ridiculing her sister for putting her through so many weeks of torment. The resulting row had been spectacular, because Petunia had dropped all pretense of caring about what the neighbors thought, and had yelled right back. Vernon had been so unnerved by the whole fiasco that he had stayed upstairs in the room he had claimed for his own the entire time the sisters had been shouting at each other.
Lily shook her head firmly and checked her things one last time. She was certain she had everything. Her seventh year was to be an important one, she was sure, and she didn't want to leave anything behind that might compromise it being one of the most wonderful she had ever had. Her mother had wanted her to live life fully, and that was exactly what she intended to do. Live life fully as a witch, find a job in the magical community, and never have to see her sister again, unless it was her own personal choice.
Now, standing in her favorite place in the world, Platform 9 ¾ , she grinned. She was ready to begin her seventh year. She was ready for Hogwarts.
In her hands, she held the letter informing her of her Head Girl status. She hadn't really imagined that she'd get the position, but it was hers, and she intended to make the best of it. Being a prefect had been a lot of responsibility, and she knew Head Girl would be even more, but it convinced her that Dumbledore still had confidence in her, and she was determined to make sure she earned that confidence.
Of course, she was dying to know who made Head Boy, but the letter hadn't said anything about that. She assumed it would be Remus Lupin, the Gryffindor prefect from last year. They would work well together.
The Hogwarts Express's whistle sounded once again, and she took a deep breath, turning to her sister who was standing silently behind her with her arms crossed.
Kindness and an overwhelming sense of concern washed over Lily then. This might be the last time she saw her sister, if the rumors of a Dark Lord with a passion for hating Muggle-borns were true.
"Petunia, I…" her voice trailed off a little as her sister turned her sharp eyes on Lily. "I just wanted to say thanks, and, well… take care of yourself."
Petunia nodded, and then slowly opened her arms up. Lily took the two steps necessary and enveloped her sister with a hug. No matter what her prejudices were, Petunia was still her sister.
"Be careful, Lily."
Quickly, she lifted her trunk up and grabbed her bags. Suddenly, someone was lifting the extra burdens from her shoulders. She turned, and stared, astonished, at Remus Lupin.
"Do you mind if I help you with these?" he asked in his reassuring, quiet voice.
Swallowing hard, as the young man's unrelenting stare was a little unnerving, Lily nodded. "Thank you, Remus."
The other Gryffindor prefect had always been more than polite to her, but as always, a little distant. He didn't let anyone get too close to him, except for James's friends. He had a way of looking at people that made it seem like he was drilling into their soul and taking them apart. There was one thing that most people could say with certainty about Remus Lupin. He was an excellent judge of character.
"How are you feeling?"
That question threw Lily for a moment, and she looked over at him quickly, as if trying to decide what he really meant.
"A little bit better, actually," she said, and sighed. "Going through Mum's things, that helped, you know? I told myself I was ready for her to go. It's been coming for such a long time, and realistically, we knew she couldn't last much past Christmas, but…"
"Losing someone is always hard," Remus said and took a step onto the train. "Would you like to sit with us? I imagine you could sit up in the prefect compartment, but…"
"They're all stuffy gits who are insufferable half the time," Lily finished and laughed at the look of surprise on Remus's face. "Oh, I think so too. Believe me. And they've made Nottham a prefect this year, as well. I don't think I can take a train ride to Hogwarts with him in the same compartment."
Remus nodded, and a slow smile crossed his face. "I think that's asking a bit much of anyone, really. Will you come sit with us? The blokes would be more than happy to have you."
By 'the blokes', he meant James, Sirius and Peter, she knew. Rarely did the four of them go anywhere without the other. They were each other's best friends, and really, brothers.
Last year, up until the very end, Lily had been convinced that James Potter would never change. He would always be the arrogant boy that showed off to receive attention from professors and classmates… and then, he'd cheered her up on a rainy day. Maybe there was hope for him yet.
"Well, I suppose I will. If I have your word of honor that nothing will be done to me on purpose whilst we're in the train."
Remus gave a look of mock hurt in her direction. "Whatever makes you think that you'd be in any danger in a car with us?"
Lily burst into laughter, and the sound of it echoed through the train. "I think that anyone in their right mind would be just a little bit suspicious to be invited to sit in a train with the infamous Marauders. Don't think I don't think you're not up to something."
Remus looked confused at the last sentence, but then shrugged. "You have my word, Lily. No pranking on the train. I swear it."
She nodded. "That's good enough for me."
With flair, he opened the door of the compartment for her, and she noted that Peter and Sirius were there, but James had not arrived yet. To catch their attention, Remus said, "Look who I've found!"
Sirius stood up immediately and his face broke into a grin. It was common knowledge in Gryffindor that he had run away and had spent all summer with the Potters. However, he still seemed his usual, exuberant self.
"Lily Evans! Love of my life! Apple of my eye! Who needs Hogwarts? Say you'll run away with me, Lily. I'll be the man you've been dreaming of!"
"Sirius Black!" Lily tossed back, and smiled, throwing the prankster off for just a minute. "I'd love to run away with you, darling, but I just don't think you can afford it."
Stunned, Sirius sat there for a moment before he burst into laughter. "I didn't think material possessions mattered all that much to you, Lilsipoo."
Lily winced and sat down with a sigh next to Peter. "Hello, Peter."
He looked startled that she would even talk to him and managed to whisper "Hi" before here looked away from her and out the window.
An awkward kind of silence settled over them then, like they were waiting for something… or someone. Lily found herself studying Remus and Sirius, who were sitting next to each other, but didn't look too happy about it. Something had definitely happened here. Normally they never stopped talking. Well, normally Sirius never stopped talking.
"Thanks for saving me a spot there, Mo…" The door to the compartment had opened, and in the doorway stood James Potter. Lily noticed that his hair was still mussy, but he'd somehow managed to grow again over the summer. He was taller and… oh yes, broader.
Being attracted on a physical level to James Potter was nothing new for Lily. She just wished that she could get used to it. A warm blush was spreading all over her face now, and she silently cursed her red hair for making it so obvious to everyone in the compartment.
"Hello James," she finally managed.
A smile, no, not just a smile, a grin, took over his entire face when she spoke to him. She had always admired the way he never smiled with just his mouth… when he smiled, even his eyes laughed along with him.
"Come in, you great prat, you're letting a draft in," Sirius said, and scooted over so that James could sit on their side.
"Hello to you too, Sirius," James said, and the greeting was accompanied by a swift punch to Sirius's left shoulder. "Hello, Lily," he said after a moment.
"What'd you do this summer, Remus?" Sirius asked.
"You know what I did all summer, Sirius, you daft prat," Remus said casually. "Just because Lily's in the car with us doesn't mean we can't carry on as usual. In fact, she's here for a reason."
James looked up sharply and caught Remus's eye. Slowly, though, he began to relax. "I suppose we could use a witch of her considerable talent."
"Thank you," Lily interjected, "but I would like to know what I'm helping you with before I agree to lend you my services."
The boys all looked at each other and again, a silence settled in the car. "Oh, Merlin. You didn't expect me not to ask, did you?"
"We were kind of hoping you wouldn't," Sirius admitted, "but that didn't seem very likely."
"She's the only one in the school who could possibly fix the problem," Remus said. "I'm good, but I'm nowhere near as good as Lily is."
"I don't have an opinion," Peter said, his mouth still close to the window he'd been looking out of for the entire time.
"We know," James, Sirius and Remus said at the same time. Lily couldn't help but laugh.
With a jerk and a hiss, the Hogwarts Express took off from the station.
"Finally," Lily said on a breath. "I wonder what was taking so long."
"They were searching the train," James said casually. "Things have got really bad this summer, Lily."
Her eyes met his and something passed between them that neither one understood.
"How bad? What do you mean? I mean, I tried to read the paper this summer, but what with the packing and dealing with Petunia and everything else that was going on… I just didn't get the chance to really understand, I guess."
"Lord Voldemort's been on a killing streak for the past few weeks. He's gone after some Muggle families, and notoriously Muggle-friendly ones, too. The Prewitts are gone."
"Oh, no," Lily moaned. "How… how awful."
James bent his head, and when it came up again, he had a sort of forced smile on his face. "How was your summer, Lily?"
"I spent the entire summer trying to keep my sister from stealing all of my mother's things out from underneath of my nose!" Lily announced, and Sirius and Remus sat up a little straighter.
"This sounds like a good story," James said.
"Oh, it is," Lily quickly became animated as she shared stories of Petunia's not-so-intelligent attempts at taking some of their mother's more valuable things. Pretty soon, she had all of the boys rolling around laughing.
"A vase? Under her shirt?" Peter shrieked with laughter.
"I can't, I can't… I just can't believe it!" Remus struggled hard to breath.
"Then she had the nerve to tell me she was pregnant, of all things!" Lily's voice was hard to understand through her laughter, but the boys got it, and laughed even harder.
After a while, James stopped listening to the story and began to listen to the sounds of the train. Something wasn't right.
"Hold it," James announced suddenly, and his tone was humourless that everyone stopped immediately. "There's something not right here. Do you hear it?"
Sirius got a peculiar look on his face, and Lily could have sworn she saw his ears prick up. Remus drew his eyebrows together and Peter sat perfectly still.
"It's a whine," Lily muttered. "I've never heard that before. It doesn't sound good."
"No," James muttered grimly. "No, it doesn't."
I swear, my Remus does not a) have a moustache, and b) does not invoke suspicions that he might be a child molester. He is a creep-free Remus!!
Special thanks go to Anne, who is, as usual, the most awesome beta in all the land. No joke. Also, she really cares about making sure my stuff isn't terrible and run rampant with plot holes. I appreciate that.
Also, I want to thank Carissa and the people at Timeturner.net for inspiring this novel. I'll finish it, just for y'all. ;)