A note before you begin this perilous journey:
I started writing WITS when I was 15. I am now 21. (Holy crap, that's actually frightening). Needless to say, the first few installments are somewhat ridiculous. I mean, guys, the teachers ride on the train in the first chapter. Let's all just laugh until we cry, seriously. (You will notice that I have added a couple of lines in an attempt to better explain this failure of logic. Debatable whether or not I have succeeded). Also, be prepared for an absolute hailstorm of clichés. If you think you can handle these unfortunate ailments, then please proceed. I do think you can see a pretty substantial growth in the quality of my writing as the story goes on. Just don't say I didn't warn you.
Disclaimer: I would have to be seriously deluded to take credit for J.K.R.'s amazing creations. All characters, situations and…well, pretty much anything you recognize, belong to J. K. Rowling.
Chapter One: Surprises and Secret Agents
"Agent Potter, do you copy? We're at sixteen hundred hours. Hogwarts Express in motion. Operation Rodent Bomb commencing immediately, over."
Under the rusted gas lights of the Hogwarts Express, four boys were sprawled about the benches of a train compartment. Sirius Black, who had just spoken, was holding a purple walkie-talkie against his mouth. When he heard his crackly voice project out of the twin device in his mate's hand, he let out a loud whoop of delight.
The three Gryffindor boys sitting on the benches around him exchanged identical looks of dark exasperation.
Rather than responding in kind, James Potter glanced down at the muggle device. "I still don't understand," he said. "If we're standing right next to each other, then what's the point?"
Sirius was scandalized. He brandished his walkie-talkie in front of James' face, as though he wasn't looking at it properly. "This is a high-tech muggle invention," he said. "They could revolutionize our pranks! Plus, they're amusing," He considered for a moment, "And shiny."
Remus Lupin, who was generally the voice of maturity in the group, glanced up from the book he was reading and regarded Sirius for a moment. "I hate to be a buzzkill, but you do realise that those won't work once we get to Hogwarts, right?"
"WHAT?" Sirius gasped, with so much force that the final occupant of the compartment, Peter Pettigrew, jumped a little in his seat. "Blasphemy! Why are you lying to me, Moony?"
Remus rolled his eyes, though he couldn't stop traces of a smile from gracing his lips. "You still haven't read Hogwarts: A History, I take it?" At Sirius' blank look, he shook his head in defeat. "Muggle inventions don't work on the school grounds; there's too much magic. It interferes with them."
"Ah, bollocks," Sirius said. "I had such big plans…" He trailed off, staring dejectedly out the train window. James, on the other hand, seemed to have perked up considerably at this revelation.
"Bad luck, Padfoot," he offered, not sounding sorry in the slightest. "Anyone up for a round of Gobstones?" He dug into the small bag at his feet and pulled out a battered wooden box that looked several hundred years old.
Sirius wouldn't have it. "Put those away," he ordered, snatching the game right out of James' hands. Something inside the box crashed around as he did so. "We've got a mission to carry out."
"That is an antique, you git," James said, lunging for the Gobstones. "And what on earth are you on about?"
Sirius grinned manically. "Mr. Walkie-Talkie may be doomed to die when we reach school, but that just means we have approximately... three-point-three hours to execute Operation Rodent Bomb."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Walkie-Talkie?" Remus enquired, eyeing his friend as though questioning his sanity. "You namedit?"
Sirius waved away his comment impatiently. "Of course. Right, assignments. Agent Potter, you will accompany me to the Slytherin compartment."
"Sirius, I'm really not in the mood right now."
"Agents Lupin and Pettigrew, you'll be standing guard. Are we clear?"
There was an unintelligible and less than enthusiastic response.
Sirius dropped the front. "Okay seriously, what happened to you lot over the summer? You used to be so fun."
Peter shrugged, leaning back in his seat. "It's late; I'm tired."
"I have to finish this chapter before we get to school." Remus did not even glance up from his book."
"And I just ate seven pumpkin pasties," James added.
Sirius gaped at them for a second, apparently finding no response. Then, he gestured wildly with his hands. "Those are the most incredibly stupid excuses I have ever heard!" he said. "Pete, I have no comment, other than it's barely five o'clock. Remus, please, who actually does holiday reading? The teachers only assign it because they have to. And James, you'll have noticed that I've eaten nine-point-five, and I'm still fully functioning. It's the first day of Seventh year. It's our last first day ever! And I'll be damned if we, The Marauders, the eternal pranking brothers, do not start it off with a bang."
A slight silence.
"Inspiring," James deadpanned. "But I suppose you have a point. Does he?" he put to the other two.
Remus thought about it. "I suppose he does. Pete?"
He sighed. "Indeed."
"Brilliant!" Sirius lit up again. "Operation Rodent Bomb recommencing. Duck and cover. Code red."
Again, Remus, James and Peter looked at one another bleakly.
"I will never forgive Professor Davinger for assigning that Muggle Studies assignment over the summer," muttered James.
"Does he even know what he's saying?" Peter asked doubtfully.
"Fire in the hole!" Sirius exclaimed.
Remus raised his eyebrows. "Definitely not."
At that moment, there was a loud knock on the compartment door. Sirius stopped speaking into the walkie-talkie at once, looking vaguely annoyed at the interruption. James, meanwhile, rose to his feet and slid the door open to reveal a younger boy who was clutching a letter in his fist.
"This was just delivered this to our compartment by mistake. It's for James Potter."
James frowned slightly and looked down at the envelope. It had nothing written on it that might indicate its contents; it merely featured the Hogwarts crest and the words James Potter scrawled neatly in black ink.
With a shrug of confusion directed at his friends, he tore it open and pulled out a small square of parchment featuring a short, hand-written letter. As his eyes scanned it, he felt his stomach drop.
No… it couldn't be.
"Well? What is it?" Sirius demanded impatiently, obviously keen to return to Operation Rodent Bomb.
James raised his head, a bemused smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
"I'm Head Boy."
Lily Evans let out a wail of horror and dropped the letter she had just opened as though it was made of toxic waste.
"Lily?" Evangeline Hansen abandoned the refreshment trolley and bolted back into the compartment, an expression of terror on her pretty face. "What in Merlin's name—?"
All Lily could do was point at the discarded piece of parchment on the ground with a trembling hand whilst opening and closing her mouth soundlessly.
With a confused frown, Evangeline bent down to retrieve the letter and, very apprehensively, began to read it. As her eyes flicked over the words, however, her confusion only seemed to grow.
Lily was hardly paying attention to her friend. Her mind was much too busy digesting what she had just read.
Head Girl. She was Head Girl.
And Potter was Head Boy.
Obviously, there had been a horrible mistake.
James Potter was not Head Boy material. He was a prankster; a trouble-maker; a pig-headed prat. Lily knew for a fact that he had had more detentions over their six years at Hogwarts than everyone else in their year combined.
Dumbledore had clearly gone mad. Either that or she was having some sort of horrific nightmare…
"Head Girl! Lily, that's fantastic!" Evangeline had glanced up from the letter and was regarding her with an earnest, albeit slightly perplexed, grin. Her smile evaporated the moment she met Lily's steely gaze.
There was a thud as the compartment door slid open again and a small figure burst in, blonde curls flying everywhere. "Eva!" said Isabelle Willetton in a tone of exasperation that did not usually grace her soft-spoken lips, but was altogether too familiar when paired with Evangeline's name, "You left without paying for those pasties. The trolley lady practically had a fit..."
Eva glanced down at the now slightly squashed pumpkin pasties in her hand, and did a double take, as though she couldn't believe they were there. "Ahh, bollocks," she said. "I'll be back."
Isabelle reached out to pull her back by the elbow. "I already paid for them, dummy." She was in the middle of rolling her eyes when she caught sight of Lily. "Oh," was all she could say as the mutinous scowl became apparent. "Er, Lily, are you alright?"
The newly christened Head Girl let out a grunt in response.
Evangeline took it upon herself to answer. "She seems to be distressed about this." She shoved the wrinkled parchment she had been holding into Isabelle's hands.
With a look of apprehension, the blonde witch took the note. She skimmed it in what was probably record time and then looked up, frowning. "Why are you so upset about this?" she asked. "It's… wow, congratulations. You deserve it. Although I wonder why they only just sent the letter…"
Lily couldn't take it anymore. She glared at her two irritatingly oblivious friends and exploded.
"Did you read the second paragraph?"
Isabelle, looking slightly startled, hastened to reread the section in question. "Erm… 'It might interest you to know that this year's Head Boy is James Potter, also of Gryffindor'… Oh." Comprehension dawned on her face.
"Potter. Potter is Head Boy." Lily said this as though trying to convince herself that she wasn't dreaming. She looked incredulously at her friends. "How is that possible?"
"I'll admit, it's a bit of a surprise…"
"Surprise?" Lily cut Evangeline off mid-sentence, a mad gleam in her eyes. "It's bloody ridiculous!"
Isabelle opened her mouth with a placating expression, but Lily was already beyond help.
"Did you see what Dumbledore wrote?" she despaired. "It's all about 'working in cooperation' and 'setting aside differences'. I can't! I won't! This is Potter we're talking about for God's sake!"
There was a sharp silence, followed by a crinkling noise as Evangeline opened one of her pasties. "You know," she said, and then took a huge bite. "You acshually ha' a poin'." She swallowed. "I mean, what sane person would make a Marauder Head Boy? They're like… immaturity personified."
"Exactly!" Lily shrieked. She slumped back into her seat and crossed her arms. "They're immature. And dumb. And stupid."
Evangeline nodded in agreement, missing the irony for the truth.
"What about Remus, though?" Isabelle reminded them, taking a seat next to Lily. "He's a Marauder and he's alright. I would have thought he'd be Head Boy, actually."
Lily and Evangeline contemplated this statement, unable to come up with a decent retaliation. It was true, Remus Lupin was a decent human being. He was definitely the most tolerable of the bunch.
"Alright, I suppose Remus doesn't exactly qualify as stupid," Evangeline allowed. "But he does have very questionable taste in friends."
"What have I done to deserve this?" moaned Lily, who was obviously still focused on the whole James-Potter-being-Head-Boy thing. "We're not even at school yet and my year's been completely ruined." She sent an accusatory glare at the small barn owl who had delivered the letter, meriting a sharp bite on her finger and sending the offended creature flying out of the train window. "Agh!"She clutched at her hand and then began dabbing at blood with the corner of her school robes. "Great. This is just great."
Isabelle and Evangeline looked at one another and came to the silent agreement that letting Lily stew for a few minutes was probably the best course of action. Outside, the sky was beginning to darken, leaving the compartment filled with the eerie blue colour of twilight. The rusty gas lamps in the corridors of the train had been lit; an indication that they would be arriving at Hogwarts soon.
A few minutes passed, and Lily glanced at her friends, feeling slightly guilty for subjecting them to her outburst. Having just reunited after the summer months, it was still a novelty to see their faces again. Evangeline, with her pale skin, dark brown hair and sapphire eyes, was still the beauty that she had always been, though her preventative measures against this characteristic seemed to have increased over the summer. Her usual tight ponytail and lack of grooming complemented her baggy sweatshirt over worn jeans in a tragic sort of fashion.
Isabelle, on the other hand, gave the impression of thorough and precise grooming. She had barely filled out since the end of sixth year, still very much the small, slender-shouldered thing that she'd been three months earlier. Ever the quiet one, she was often overlooked around Lily and Evangeline and their larger-than-life personalities, but it seemed she preferred it that way.
Lily was on the cusp of an apology when the compartment door slid open. Three heads whipped around in curiosity, but there was no one there. The door slid closed.
"What the—?" Evangeline had barely opened her mouth when there was an explosion from further down the train, followed by a series of terrified yelps.
Lily's hand moved instinctively towards the pocket of her jeans. She curled her fingers around the thin beam of wood in the fabric.
Before anyone could think twice about what was happening, a strange, static-filled voice bounced around the compartment.
"No, Pete! You have to… button… no, hold it down… yeah."
"Oh right, I get it! AGENT PADFOOT? MISSION COMPLETE! WHERE ARE YOU?"
Peter Pettigrew's shrill voice blasted out of nowhere, as though he was shouting in their ears. The sheer volume caused everyone to shriek. Lily leapt out of her seat, smashing her head on the luggage rack.
"Crap!" Wincing in pain, she stumbled forward and smacked into a surprisingly solid patch of air. An odd yelp erupted from somewhere in front of her and the next thing anyone knew, Evangeline had been knocked cleanly off her seat as though by some invisible projectile. She landed sprawled out across the compartment floor with, strangely enough, a human leg lying next to her.
"Idiots." A familiar voice came from where Evangeline was lying, shell-shocked, on the carpet and Sirius Black appeared, ripping off a cloak which looked as though it was made of air, or liquid, or some combination of the two. He was lying right on top of Eva, who now wore a look of utter disgust.
"Get off," she said, giving him a hard shove and stumbling to her feet. Strands of hair were coming out of her ponytail.
"My pleasure," muttered Sirius, rising gracefully to his full height.
At that moment, James Potter, unnoticed until now, stepped out of the shadows. Despite his irritated scowl, he managed to appear mildly sheepish.
There was a moment of silence, and then Evangeline voiced the question that was running through everyone's minds.
"...What the hell just happened?"
In an uncharacteristically sardonic tone, Lily spoke up. "Just another prank-gone-wrong, I expect," she said, rubbing the back of her head.
"Not exactly gone wrong," corrected Sirius. He let out a dark chuckle. "That is, unless the Slytherins have somehow managed to get rid of the hundreds of mice that have filled their compartment…"
James didn't seem to share in the amusement. "Sorry about this," he said with a sigh, addressing the girls. "I thought this compartment was free. We didn't mean to intrude."
Lily's hand fell from her forehead at this very un-James-like statement. She found herself staring up at the speaker, speechless, as though to check that it was actually him.
It was James alright, but it was a different James to the carefree prankster she remembered. His jaw, usually accommodating a crooked smile, was set and clenched, and his generally bright hazel eyes had lost a measure of their childish twinkle. It was impossible to convey just how unsettling this image was.
"Prongs, Padfoot! There you are! We've been looking everywhere for you!"
Lily flinched when the compartment door slid open again. Peter Pettigrew bounded inside, trailed by a distinctly less enthusiastic Remus Lupin. With the troublemaking foursome now complete, the compartment had become rather crowded.
"Did you see Goyle?" Peter asked Sirius with a nervous giggle. "The great lump's going to have a hard time getting those mice out of his robes."
Sirius cackled, and even Remus spared a short laugh. "Apparently, Avery tried to stun them," said the sandy-haired boy. "No wonder they multiplied."
"I imagine Snivellus was crying like a baby," added Sirius, making them all double over in laughter. All save James, that is, who merely cracked a smile.
Evangeline, who had been scowling ever since Sirius had pushed her to the floor and squashed her pumpkin pasty, moved toward the door and yanked it open. "As much as I'm sure we'd all love to hear all of the details," she said, "would you mind moving elsewhere? I don't particularly want to be incarcerated once the Slytherins go crying to the prefects."
"Unlikely," Sirius said. "But thanks for your thoughts, Hansen. Always nice to be reminded that you're a bloody stick in the mud."
Her fists tightened. "And lovely to see that you're still a conceited prick, Black."
"Takes one to know one."
Evangeline lost it. "Get the hell out of our compartment!"
"What is going on in here?" The voice of authority was painfully familiar to the students. It was also very, very out of place.
"Professor." Sirius gaped upward as though he was seeing some grisly apparition. "What are you doing—"
"—on the train?" McGonagall finished for him, adjusting her spectacles. "That is my business, Mr. Black. And I'll thank you and Miss Hansen to at the very least trynot to make a spectacle of yourselves before we so much as reach the castle."
Sirius glanced distastefully at Evangeline, who stared at him with pure loathing on her face.
"If you'll please," McGonagall carried on, "I'd like to see Miss Evans and Mr Potter." She nodded toward Lily and James. "Follow me."
The Head Boy and Girl looked at one another for the briefest of instants. And then, as McGonagall turned and strode away, the two of them twitched to life and hurried after her down the hallway. Lily trudged along in a sort of daze, mildly aware that James was somewhere behind her as she replayed the past five minutes or so on a continuous loop in her mind.
Was it just her, or had Potter refrained from backing Sirius up? That was incredibly unlike him. James never kept quiet when there was an opportunity to cause some mayhem—especially when Sirius was involved. It crossed her mind that this new persona might be an act, or some sort of extravagant set-up for a prank.
She glanced back at him quickly, and only felt her confusion grow. The goofy smile that she'd thought to be a permanent fixture on his face was nowhere to be found, and his expression was set and serious.
"Just in here." Professor McGonagall's clipped tone broke her train of thought. She motioned towards a small wooden door at the very front of the train. "In the interest of resolving this situation before he is required at the feast, Professor Dumbledore will be with you shortly."
And with that, she ushered them forward, leaving the awkward pair to await the Headmaster in solitude.