Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to Harry Potter. I simply revere JK Rowling, the goddess who invented it all.
Many thanks to my beta, Mrs. Padfoot, and my Brit-picker, Elizastarbeth. You're both completely awesome!
Chapter 1: Plot
Wednesday, 1 September 1976
The little red sofa in the Gryffindor Common Room witnesses a great deal of life going on around it. Sweethearts linger, curled up on the worn, velvety cushions. Friends confess their deepest, darkest secrets in front of the hot fire. Even troublemakers put their heads together behind the tall red back to plot every imaginable sort of mischief.
All of them, as various as they are, have one great commonality. They are growing up. Physically and emotionally, quickly and slowly, steadily and in great bursts, they are all growing up, and that is never an easy business.
Take this young man for example – this sixth-year with a mop of untidy black hair and a dejected look about him who has just strewn himself across the length of the red sofa, his skinny legs dangling over the armrest. It is only the first of September, his first night at Hogwarts after the summer holidays, and he already looks as if he is ready to take the train back home, defeated. He drags his glasses over his nose and leaves them haphazardly on his chest while he rubs his face, digging his fingers into his eyes and stretching his skin taught before he buries his hands into his hair. This young man is James Potter, and defeat is not at all his usual style.
Another young man appears. He drops to his hands and knees and, flipping onto his back, stretches out on the matted bearskin rug, crossing his ankles and positioning his hands behind his head to bask in the warmth of the fire. His collar is loosened and, shaking his head, he flips a lock of dark hair away from his face before he settles in for his evening of leisure.
Against the hearth, a third boy curls up, drawing a napkin-wrapped bundle from under his robes. He sniffs it with his pointed nose and his eyes sparkle as he sets it down on the hearthstone.
"Budge up, Prongs." Someone pushes James' legs from the armrest. He clutches his glasses to his chest and sits up to make room on the red sofa. This last young man, with an ugly scar trailing down the side of his neck, sports a fantastic grin that lights up the room. He sits back, crossing an ankle over his knee like he owns the place, while James slouches into the cushions and shoves his glasses back onto his nose.
These four boys, friends bound together in loyalty to each other and in love for all things mischievous, have gathered around this red sofa, where they have lived and grown together for five full years.
Remus, the smiling one, is leaning forward; he wheedles a biscuit away from Peter's stash in the napkin. Sirius intercepts it and Peter grimaces; he hands over another. They can always get more from the kitchens, as Sirius reminds Peter – dozens more, if he likes.
As they embark on their sixth year, the red sofa will witness their lessons, will cradle them in their times of sorrow and in times of laughter. The red sofa will sponsor merciless teasing and heart-to-heart talks. Above all, it will always be there, unnoticed, depended upon. Such is the manner of life.
"You're blocking the fire, Wormtail." Sirius waved his friend further to the side of the hearth and re-crossed his ankles. Peter shook the biscuit crumbs from his empty napkin and scooted to the side where he leaned back against the masonry to observe his friends. Even while Remus chewed his biscuit, he couldn't stop smiling.
"What's Moony so happy about?" Peter asked.
Sirius chuckled low in his throat. "Were you so busy nicking those biscuits that you didn't notice Margie Lufkin chatting him up after the feast? I swear I thought she was about to grab him and snog him right there in the Great Hall."
Nodding his head, Remus' smile grew even larger. "That would have been very interesting."
"Margie's a nice girl," Peter said.
"And she's grown a lot over the summer," Sirius added, "if you know what I mean."
He winked at him and stuffed the remainder of his biscuit into his mouth, while Peter, with a loud snort, snickered and choked on a crumb.
Remus gave them a half-hearted eye-roll. "I think I'll take her to Hogsmeade soon," he told them.
Once Peter cleared his throat, he wrinkled his nose in concern. "I thought you said the first Hogsmeade weekend was on a full moon."
"Who said anything about waiting for the Hogsmeade weekend?"
"That's what secret passages are for," Sirius explained.
Remus went on. "We could go this weekend, before there's too many assignments piled up. She hates to get behind in her work."
Sirius closed his eyes and loosened his tie a bit more. "Feeling pretty confident there, eh Moony?"
"Margie and I owled a lot over the summer."
"Sounds like Moony's found himself a little girlfriend."
"Just go for it," Sirius encouraged. "She obviously fancies you."
"She obviously hates me," James spat out.
The boys stopped to look at him in confusion.
Peter knit his brows together and leaned forward. "You don't think she's still mad about the time you put those pickled Horklumps in her pocket? Sure they made her stink for two weeks, but we were only twelve years old."
"Don't be a moron," Sirius chided. "Prongs isn't talking about Margie. He's on about Lily again. Try to stay with the program, will you?"
"What's the deal with you and Lily?" Remus asked James.
"Nothing except that she hates my guts."
"Nah, she doesn't," Sirius told him.
"She does." James was sure of it. "Did you see how she wouldn't even look at me at the feast tonight?" He'd tried everything short of a strip tease to get her attention.
"She was busy catching up with her friends," Remus said.
"And what am I? Chopped rat spleen?"
"Owww." Peter clutched his right side dramatically.
"Your spleen is on the other side, Wormtail," Remus told him.
"Oh." He switched sides to try again. "Owww."
"That doesn't mean she hates you," Sirius said, ignoring Peter entirely.
"She didn't answer any of my letters over the summer." Not one out of eight. "I may as well have sent them to the Bermuda Lethifold."
"I wish you would have," Sirius told him. "You wouldn't have sulked as much."
"Maybe she was busy visiting a bunch of crazy aunts or something," Peter suggested. "I know I was."
James pressed back into the cushion and rubbed his eyes again. "She's never ignored my letters before."
"You two did have that rather humiliating fight last June," Remus said.
James grimaced at the reminder. He'd been trying to stop thinking about it for two whole months. "I can't believe that she's not over that by now."
"Girls are weird," Sirius said.
Remus leaned back next to James. "We just need to make her see reason."
Sirius shook his head. "Girls can't see reason. It's physically impossible."
"Really?" Peter asked.
Dropping his hands into his lap, James breathed out a tremendous sigh – a sigh borne of many weeks' frustration and disappointment. Lily had never liked him the way he wished she would. She'd never looked at him as anything more than a friend. And the more attention he paid her, the more she pushed him away. What was wrong with her? Was it really that hard for girls to be reasonable? "I'm beginning to think so."
Sirius rolled onto his belly and propped himself up on his elbows to look at Remus. "If she could just realise how depressing Prongs is when he's like this," he said, "then she'd have to date him out of compassion for us."
At least Remus seemed to take James' problems seriously. "Try talking to her about it," he told him. "It's not like she's going to hex you. Apologies go along way with girls."
James massaged his eyes under his glasses and groaned. "How am I supposed to apologise if she won't talk to me?"
Sirius sat up on the dark rug and faced him. "She doesn't have to do any talking. You do. Just corner her somewhere."
He could just imagine trying to manage that conversation with her twittering friends latched to her elbows. "She's always bottled up in that pack of girls – with Jane and Karen." Talk about supreme embarrassment.
Sirius waved the argument away. "Let us take care of the other girls."
"Yeah," Peter added. "What do you think your fellow marauders are for?"
"What do you have in mind?"
"It's going to depend on what our timetables look like, but I've got an idea." Sirius, with an excited gleam in his eye, sat up on his heels and leaned forward conspiratorially. Behind him, Peter crawled up to listen to the increasingly hushed voice.
"Right after the last class tomorrow," Sirius began, "Wormtail and I will catch up to the girls and offer, real gallant-like, to walk them to dinner."
"What if they aren't coming out of the same lesson?" Peter asked.
"Then I'll take Jane and you'll take Karen."
Using Pete for girl-charming duty was entirely non-standard procedure. "Why doesn't Moony take Karen?"
"Because while we've got the girls occupied, Moony comes up and tells Lily that he needs to show her some Prefect thing."
"A Prefect thing?" Remus, leaning in, with his elbow perched on his knee, had a sceptical look on his face.
"Yeah. You know. A Prefect thing. You've got all day to think up something good."
James was the last one to lean in to the huddle forming around him. "Where do I come in?"
Licking his lips, Sirius grinned broadly. "Moony takes Lily to that empty classroom on the ground floor."
"The one where we stashed those cases of Frog Spawn Soap last year?" Peter asked.
"Right. And Prongs is waiting for her. Moony locks her in, and she's cornered for a pretty little chat. Next thing you know," he said to James, "you're snogging her brains out." He leaned back on his heels, radiating admiration of his plan.
"How are we going to find out their last classes if our house isn't all together?" Remus asked.
"Easy. We'll sit with them at breakfast, flirt a whole lot, get them giggling. They'll be blabbing like pixies by the time McGonagall hands out the timetables."
There was one major problem with that plan. "If Lily isn't talking to me," James said, "she isn't going to giggle if I flirt with her, and if she did, I wouldn't need a big strategy like this."
That didn't seem to faze Sirius in the least. "So don't come to breakfast. Just eat in the kitchen and avoid her all day. We want to make sure you don't accidentally tick her off any more before the big lock-in."
"But I was going to try to get a seat next to her in Herbology. She's always in a good mood in Herbology, and Sprout usually makes a seating plan on the first day." James couldn't think of anything better than a whole term sitting next to a happy Lily – it would be heaven at Hogwarts.
Sirius let out a puff of breath and leaned back, to rub his chin. "Good idea Prongs, but that puts a whole new spin on the problem."
"Maybe we won't have Herbology on the first day," Peter said.
"Crud. I wish we had the schedules," Sirius said. "Do you think McGonagall would mind if we crashed her office to sneak a look at them tonight?"
That particular suggestion was entirely ignored by Remus. "We'll have to work out the Herbology thing anyway," he said, "so we may as well integrate it into Operation Lock-In. Sort of a plan B."
Sirius stayed right with him. "We would have to make sure Jane and Karen get seated together, so it won't look too suspicious."
"If Lily's the odd one out," Peter added, "James can jump in next to her before Sprout comes around to record the seating plan."
James shook his head. "Lily won't sit still for that if she has time to switch with somebody."
"Okay, listen." Sirius had it all worked out. "Moony will ask her to be his partner at first, and then, at the last possible second, he'll switch places with James."
Remus groaned. "Lily is going to kill me."
And she would too. "I'll save you a place by Margie, if you want." James was going to owe Remus big time.
"If we can pull off Operation Herbology Partner," Remus said, "we may not even need Operation Lock-In."
James didn't believe he could ever be so lucky. "That's assuming we even have Herbology tomorrow."
"Even if we do," Sirius added, "after the cold shoulder Lily was dishing out to James over dinner, I'd say we'll need both operations plus a major dose of good luck."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Padfoot."
Sirius reached up and clapped James on the back. "This'll work great. Just you wait and see."
Author's End Note: How do you like my characterization of the marauders so far? Did the change in tense after the introduction feel smooth, or was it confusing? Were any parts funny to you? Please review!
Please note that, as the narrator of this story is actually the red couch itself, the setting will be firmly restricted throughout the whole story. This is intended to keep the focus on the emotional growth of the characters, and on how their individual behaviours are all subtly intertwined, rather than on the events themselves. Important details that happen away from the couch will be related as needed through conversations amongst the characters. I've had a lot of fun with this little story. I hope you like it.
For review responses and additional commentary, please visit my Live Journal. The link is on my author page, or you can enter: pasmosa dot livejournal dot com.