A/N: Sorry this update took so long. I've been extremely busy with school and music, and have recently joined the pit band for my school's musical, which equals many frequent, long rehearsals. Anyway, I'll try to crank out another chapter ASAP, hopefully in the next week and a half or so, but I can't make any promises. Thank you to all my wonderful reviewers I love you guys SO much! Everyone, please read and enjoy, and of course, review. I'm a bit worried that I'm taking this story too slow and it's boring...honest opinoins and constructive criticism are welcomed with open arms! There will be tons of Lily/James interactions plus action in general in the rest of the story;I just had to get the introductory sort of chapters out of the way.
As usual, Lily's breath was taken away by a mere glimpse of the high turrets of Hogwarts. The majestic castle, set against the backdrop of a clear summer night's sky teeming with twinkling stars was enough to invoke a sense of awe in all fortunate enough to behold the sight. She heard the cries of wonder from a group of little first years as they eagerly their necks to catch a better view. One of the young girls in particular caught her eye. Standing well over five feet tall, the 11-year old had the appearance of someone who had grown rather quickly in a short amount of time. Her worn blue jeans, ending a good two inches above her ankles, baggy olive green t-shirt that drew even more attention to her skinniness, and a wild, rebellious mass of warm brown curls (more accurately described as an out-of-control bush) hinted why she was not part of the giggling mass of prissy, pretty little girls who had just stepped off the Hogwarts Express. Even at a young age, the first years appraised potential friends by beauty and social status...neither which the girl appeared to possess, in their eyes. Cautiously walking towards the lone figure, Lily said softly, "Welcome to Hogwarts. I'm Lily Evans. It is a pleasure to meet you, Miss...?"
"Potter. Rosie Potter," she whispered in a sweet sort of voice, timidly taking Lily's outstretched hand. The fear and anxiety in her pure blue eyes could not be hidden as she peered apprehensively at the intimidating castle. Her eyes widened further when she took in the shiny badge neatly pinned on Lily's black and red robes. "You're Head Girl," she stammered.
"Yes," Lily clarified gently, "And as Head Girl, I guarantee there is nothing to fear. You'll have a wonderful time at Hogwarts, Rosie..." she trailed, name recognition dawning on her. "Wait a second...are you by any chance related to James Potter?"
"He's my cousin," Rosie pretending to wince, stifling a grin. Truth be told, no matter how mischievous, annoying, or plain stupid James Potter could be at times, she could scarcely stay mad at her charming cousin for more than a few minutes a problem all of his acquaintances shared.
"I pity you," the 17-year old muttered darkly.
Feigning shock at her words, the brunette asked, "Why?"
"That insufferable git," Lily said hotly, "is an annoying, bigheaded, stupid, arrogant toerag!"
"You forgot clever, witty, intelligent, and extremely good-looking," a rich voice butted in, sending shivers wracking up and down Lily's spine. "Stop it, you," she thought furiously, frantically swiveling her head around to locate the source of the cold breeze and wrapping her warm cloak closer to her delicate frame. The owner of the voice bounded over to the pair, stopping in front of his cousin and cried dramatically in a VERY fake French accent, "Madamesoille Rosie, howz zcorking itz iz to zee zyou!" Then, in the typical overzealous European style of greeting, he took her head into his hands and kissed her soundly on each cheek. "Zand zmy zdear Lily Zevans...zit iz vonderful zto zlook zupon zyour zfair face zin zthis dark zhour!"
"Don't even think about it, Potter," Lily warned, knowing fully well what was going to unfold next as he took a step closer. Tenderly, he brushed a stray curl off her creamy complexion and quickly, with a mischievous yet slightly wary (very unusual for the ever-so-confident James Potter) glint in his hazel eyes, he lightly touched his warm lips to each of the redhead's silky cheeks in turn, leaving her skin tingling in the wake. Both seemed to realize what had just occurred when they sported identical, fire engine-red blushes. A slight look of amusement crossing her olive face, Rosie cleared her throat loudly and fought back a giggle at seeing her sophisticated cousin so flustered. James wasn't the best Seeker the Gryffindor house had seen for nearly half a century for nothing, though. His lightning-fast reflexes quickly snapped him back to his senses, and he looped an arm around Lily's slender shoulders. "I see you've met my girlfriend, Lily Evans?"
"You wish," the girl in question snorted, keeping her eyes trained on the ground as to not reveal her true feelings.
Picking a piece of imaginary lint off of the tousled black robes she had just pulled on, Rosie snickered, "Dear cousin, if you were dating Lily right now you would be off in some broom closet.." She broke off as James treaded not-so-lightly right on top of the mustard stain on her purple and white tennis shoes.
"Actually, Lillian," he said loudly, "I have come as your knight in shining armor to save you from terrible evil- McGonagall's wrath," he added in a half-whisper. "I assure you, she will not be at all pleased to find her Head Girl shirking her responsibilities already."
Lily could only imagine the thin red line the Transfiguration professor's mouth would be transformed into when she that the poor little first years only had Lucius Malfoy for comfort and guidance in their time of worry. Reluctantly wiggling out of James's hold, she called commandingly towards a small knot of young witches and wizards, "First years, this way," leading them towards the edge of the water. The lake, its glassy surface broken only by the occasional ripple was home to approximately twenty little boats that were gently bobbing up and down, waiting for their passengers to embark. Watching the beautiful redhead with a wistful, almost longing expression, James affectionately ruffled his cousin's brown curls and gave her a small push in the direction of the lake. Halfway there, however, Rosie turned around and said quite seriously, "Good luck, James."
"The reject's boat," Rosie thought ruefully, taking in the appearance of her other two passengers and soon to be fellow classmates at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. One, a very chunky black-haired girl with a major acne problem whose excessive weight made the boat tip precariously to one side, would definitely beat up anyone who merely looked at her in the wrong way. The other, a slim blonde, had to be permanently sucking on a particularly sour lemon, or so her expression indicated. "Er, hello," Rosie said awkwardly. She received a steely glare and a sneer in response. It was going to be a LONG year.
"Alas, another year has begun at Hogwarts," Albus Dumbledore began majestically after the Sorting had finished, silencing the chattering students with one slender hand. Rosie, Lily noticed with satisfaction, had been sorted into Gryffindor and was sitting a few seats down from her, looking a great deal happier than at their first meeting.
"The normal school rules are in effect, which a few of our older students would do good to remember," he added, with a large wink in the direction of the Marauders, who immediately became very interested in the goblets set before them.
"Do you reckon this is solid silver, mate?" Sirius murmured out of the corner of his mouth, running a hand through his silky black hair as he noticed some pretty Ravenclaws eying him with obvious interest. The two blondes blushed as he flashed a charming grin and wiggled his eyebrows. "Dunno," James stared at the petite redhead two places down from him, absentmindedly carving the initials "LE" into the wooden table with his wand.
"The full list of the 95 rules can be found posted on the bulletin board in each Common Room," the headmaster continued, "And I promise you, disobedience of these rules will result in unpleasant punishments." He inclined his head towards James and Sirius, who sat up straighter and had identical angelic expressions mirrored on their handsome features.
"Do you reckon he's talking about us, Prongs?" Sirius feigned disbelief. "We did receive thirty detentions last year," James pointed out, pretending to count them on his fingers. "Ten alone for that time we bewitched all the toilets in the castle to regurgitate their contents."
"That'll have to change this year," they snickered in unison, already plotting the newest wicked pranks for their final year at Hogwarts.
"Shut up, you two!" Remus hissed crossly, poking James very hard in the ribs and turning his rapt attention back to Dumbledore's speech.
"It always bewilders me why McGonagall didn't assign him to be a Prefect again this year," Sirius snorted.
"Now that I have the attention of every student in the hall," Dumbledore's said gravely, as his face grew serious and a feeling of apprehension immediately blanketed the Great Hall in anticipation of his words, "As you are all undoubtedly aware, Lord Voldemort's power is growing stronger every day. He is gaining supporters at an alarming rate and becoming bolder in his attacks and plans. Therefore, I must beg you to stand strong together...enemies and friends alike. It is only when differences and discord break the bonds of fellowship and love between us that the shadow of Lord Voldemort's evil can prevail. If given the chance, he will feed upon our fears and weaknesses and destroy us all. However-"his voice rose and changed to a more hopeful tone as he sensed the feeling of doom washing over everyone, from the first years, to the seventh years, and even the teachers. (With the exception of one table, of course. Lucius and his Slytherin buddies were snickering and muttering under their breaths about how their mate Voldemort could take on Dumbledore any day and win. But that was where they were dangerously wrong, and they knew it. To the normal passer-by, Albus Dumbledore was a tall, 60-year old man with a long silver beard, twinkling blue eyes, and half-moon spectacles that he always peered over quite magisterially, clad in a rather strange sort of clothing; flowing robes of midnight blue. Ha. As if. Albus Dumbledore was believed by many to be the most powerful wizard in the whole world...and the only person Lord Voldemort feared. But even Dumbledore, wielding such great magical power, could not defeat the Dark Lord).
Dumbledore continued, "Hope is to those who remain true to each other and fight for good to triumph over evil in this war" (His eyes flickered over to the Slytherins, who dared to smirk in response). "That said, take caution and tuck in!"
The chatter and applause that would usually break out after one of Dumbledore's opening speeches was strangely muted. His words had seemed to bring the harsh reality back to those who were trying to live life as normally and happily as possible even with a Dark Wizard wrecking havoc all over Europe. Slowly, however, the buzz of talk and laughter reappeared as the wooden tables creaked and groaned under a vast array of delicious foods. Sirius reached for a chicken leg and practically inhaled it in one bite. Washing it down with a mouthful of icy pumpkin juice, he swallowed. "So, what do you reckon our chances are for the Quidditch cup this year?" he asked, purposely breaking the anxious mood. "With yours truly as their brilliant Seeker, bloody good," James answered arrogantly, stuffing a crisp roll into his mouth.
"Gentlemen, you know what this means!" Sirius cried. Sadly, his three companions never found out because...
"It means you are an obnoxious git besmirching the honored house of Black," a voice cut in silkily. Eyes narrowing, Sirius slowly turned around to find his dear cousin, Bellatrix Black flanked by none other than Snape, Malfoy, and another Slytherin, Rudolphus Lestrange. "Bella. How nice to see you," Sirius said sarcastically "How's ol' Voldie doing...or are you not on a first-name basis with the Dark Lord yet?" Rudolphus's pudgy fist came out, but Lucius intercepted it realizing they were in front of all the professors at Hogwarts. "How dare you speak his name!" Bella spat furiously, shaking her head of curly jet-black hair in rage. It was a pity, really, that someone so beautiful, like his cousin, with her perfect figure, almond-shaped eyes, cascading curls and olive skin, could be so cruel and cold.
"Defending him now, are we?" Sirius snorted. "How many Muggles did he murder yesterday...twenty? Oh, sorry, I forgot—you were probably there in your mask and black robes helping him!"
"For your information," Lucius informed him snidely, "One does not enter the service of the Dark Lord until he or she is eighteen years of age."
"And you would know how?" James smiled grimly, aware that he had caught Malfoy in the act of admitting his desire to join Voldemort's ranks.
"Tell me, Bella, why do the Death Eaters hide behind masks? Are they too cowardly to show their faces and receive credit for the "heroic" deeds they have accomplished; slaughtering hundreds of innocent people?" Sirius taunted.
"I could kill you and that low-lying scum just like that," Bella hissed.
"Oh, something else you've learned from that bloody !#!#!#!#?"
Instantly, Sirius knew he had crossed the line. Eight wands were simultaneously drawn (the Marauders' and the Slytherins') and four wizards had jumped to their feet, eight mouths opening to spit out a nasty curse of some sort.
"Dueling in the Great Hall," Professor McGonagall screamed, storming over to the Gryffindor table, face livid with rage. "All of you out...NOW!"
"But Professor, no one used any spells!" James protested weakly, looking forlornly at his half-filled plate as she gestured furiously for them all to follow her. Some might say that that would be a foolish move on Minerva McGonagall's part, taking on eight seventh-year students on her own, four of them potential Death Eaters who probably knew and wouldn't hesitate to use the Unforgivable Curses, but, like the Dumbledore, she too was full of surprises. Graduating the top of her class at Hogwarts years ago, McGonagall could have easily succeeded as an Auror—and a bloody good one at that. She performed the most advanced magic with ease, and was an Animagus, taking the form of a rather stiff tabby cat at will. No students would be foolhardy enough to challenge her, whether they were part of Voldemort's ranks or not. "Explain." she snapped when they were out of hearing range of the curious ears in the Great Hall. Sirius put on his most charming grin (one that even Professor McGonagall found hard to resist) and said sweetly, "Those four got a bit shirty with us when we insulted You-Know-Who."
"Remus, is this true?" she demanded, looking at the most honest of the eight for a clear answer. "Yes, ma'am. "
"In that case," Professor McGonagall's anger began to diminish; also attributing to this was that James was flashing his famous Potter grin in her direction. "I will give the headmaster the joy of deciding what punishments you four will receive. Potter, Black, Lupin, and Pettigrew; this way please, back into the hall...I will let you off with a warning this time," she finished calmly, as Albus Dumbledore walked serenely through the ornate doors of the hall, towards the no longer cocky Bella, Rudolphus, Severus and Lucius. Sirius shook his head, disappointed, as he settled back into his original seat and said sadly, "And I thought she was going to give us detention...we would set a Hogwarts record by being the first students to get in trouble on the first day."
"Life is sometimes unfair," James agreed solemnly, patting his best friend sympathetically on the arm.