Disclaimer: All recognizable characters, settings, and situations belong to J.K. Rowling.
James: 1 September, 1971
James Potter overslept on his last morning at home. His mother, Gwendolyn, came in to wake him at her usual time, bringing a cup of tea and a small plate of buttery biscuits as she always did, but James had been so excited about going to Hogwarts he barely slept the night before, and now he couldn't force himself out of bed. Mornings were not usually traumatic at the Potter residence. Usually the promise of tea and biscuits was enough to lure him out of bed, but it would take much more than that today.
"Come on, Jamie. It's time to get up," Gwendolyn said, gently caressing his cheek. James grunted and rolled over in the bed. Gwendolyn did not give up. She put a hand on James's shoulder and began to shake him gently. "I know it's early," she said sympathetically, "but it's a big day and we don't want to miss the train."
"Uhn-uhn!" James whinged, pulling the blankets over his head. Gwendolyn pulled them back down again. James promptly pulled them up, and Gwendolyn responded by pulling them off of him completely and letting them fall to the floor. In return, James curled into a little ball and put his pillow over his head. "I'm sleeping!" He said irritably.
Gwendolyn took his pillow and dropped it on the floor. "I know you are, but now it's time to wake up."
"No!" James insisted, grabbing another pillow to throw across his face.
"Yes," Gwendolyn said, rubbing his back. She reached up to take the second pillow, but James clung to it, refusing to give it up. Only then did Gwendolyn start to sound annoyed. "If you're awake enough to fight me, you're awake enough to get out of bed," she told him. "So I want you up, bathed, dressed, and downstairs for breakfast by eight-thirty. It's eight o'clock now, so that gives you thirty minutes."
As soon as she was out the door, James reached down to the ground and pulled the blankets back up. By the time eight-thirty rolled around, he was sound asleep. At eight-forty his mother came in to check on him and sighed when she found him so obviously sleeping. "James," she said, sounding exasperated, "Do I need to get your father up here?" James did not respond, so she turned and left the room.
At eight-forty-five, James's father, Harry, came in, jerked the blankets off, lifted James bodily out of the bed and slung him, protesting loudly, across his shoulder. Harry carried his son down the stairs and into the dining room where he deposited him in his chair at the table and told him to eat his breakfast. James pushed his plate away and dropped his head onto the table.
Harry gave a small snort of laughter, but when he spoke his voice was firm. "You only have until nine and then you have to go get ready. You were already supposed to be washed and dressed. So if you don't want to eat, that's your choice, but breakfast is over at nine."
James immediately lifted his head, pulled his plate closer, and began shoveling his breakfast into his mouth. Dinner would be a long way off, he knew, and, while he was quite sure his mother would pack him plenty of food for the train ride, he didn't want to take any chances. Gwendolyn laughed, "Slow down, Jamie," she said. "You're not going to starve in the next two minutes."
James slowed his eating a little, but was still finished well before his nine o'clock deadline. He asked to be excused and darted back up the stairs. Harry and Gwendolyn were a little worried he would climb back into his bed, but they soon heard water running and knew he was washing. It wasn't long before he was downstairs again with wet hair and robes on. "Mum, have you seen my trainers?" He called as he raced around the manor looking for them.
"You left them in the parlor last night. I put them under the sofa," she called from the kitchen where, James was sure, she was making him enough sandwiches to feed a small army.
"I found them under the sofa and hid them," Harry's voice rang through the house.
"Where'd you hide them?" James asked.
"Wouldn't you like to know?" Harry called.
"Dad, I need them!" James insisted.
"Then you shouldn't have left them out, should you?" Harry replied.
"Bunnie!" James called for his favorite house elf. "Bring me my trainers!"
"Bunnie, you are to do no such thing!" Harry said sternly. "James, if you can't find them in time, we'll send them to you. If you leave things lying around at Hogwarts, they'll disappear and you'll never get them back."
"But I'm not at Hogwarts!" James snapped, coming into the dining room and stomping as loudly as his bare feet would allow him to.
Harry adjusted his Daily Prophet and ignored his son. James, who was not used to being ignored, walked up to his dad and pulled down the newspaper, sticking his face close to Harry's. Identical hazel eyes met over the top of the paper. James's eyes, like his mother's, gleamed behind round-framed glasses. The corners of Harry's mouth twitched for a moment before he broke into a smile. "They're in my closet," he said.
"Thanks!" James exclaimed, running off to fetch them. It wasn't long before James was back down the stairs, this time bellowing for his copy of Quidditch Through the Ages. "It's in the bathroom where you left it," Gwendolyn called, now from James's bedroom, where she was packing his trunk.
"No it isn't. I found that, too," Harry corrected.
"Where is it then?" James asked.
"Not telling," Harry said belligerently.
"I'm going to start hiding your things," James said, stomping once more into the dining room.
"If you can find any of my things where they're not supposed to be, you have my permission to hide them," Harry replied nonchalantly, not looking up from his paper.
James stomped back up the stairs to search his parents' room. "Bunnie," he whispered to the empty room and the house elf appeared with a crack just as Harry's voice came drifting up the stairs.
"And don't you dare ask one of the house elves!"
James ignored him. "Get me my copy of Quidditch Through the Ages, and anything else of mine my dad may have hidden."
Bunnie's eyes went wide. "Master Harry says Bunnie isn't to be giving Master James his things."
"Well, I'm telling you you can," James told her. "Don't worry about getting in trouble. If he finds out, I'm the one who'll be in trouble. Not you."
Bunnie looked as though she were trying to decide. Finally, she shook her head and ran headlong into the wall with a loud thump.
"What was that?" Harry called.
"Bunnie, stop it! You don't have to punish yourself!" James told her frantically. He always hated it when she did this, and he hated it even more knowing it was his fault for making him choose between his orders and his father's. "Get out of here! And no punishing yourself!" James whispered to her as he heard Harry coming up the stairs.
"What was that?" Harry repeated the question.
"I dropped a book," James said, looking down at the ground to hide his red face. For someone who got into mischief as much as he did, he was a terrible liar.
"You're lying to me," Harry said sternly.
"It was Bunnie. I told her to get my book and she started punishing herself because she couldn't follow both our orders." James confessed, hanging his head.
"Did you tell her to stop punishing herself?" Harry asked quickly.
"Yes, and she did," James assured him. He sneaked a peak at his father's face to gauge his anger. He saw only disappointment there. His stomach tied up into knots.
"And how did that make you feel, watching her punish herself because you disobeyed me?" Harry asked.
"Guilty," James admitted, speaking so softly that Harry had to strain to hear. "I should go apologize to her."
"Yes, you certainly should, and never forget that someone who is kind to wizards but cruel to house elves is not a kind person. You can tell a lot about a man by the way he treats his inferiors. A true man will be as kind to his house else as he is to his friends. Do you understand me?"
James drooped, if possible, even more. "Yes, sir," he said.
"Jamie," Harry said softly, slipping into his son's childhood name as he put a finger under his chin and forced him to lift his head. About five months before, on his eleventh birthday, James decided he was too old to be called "Jamie" and began insisting on "James". His mother had not yet managed to get used to it, and James was beginning to suspect she never would, but his father had dropped into the new habit quickly, forgetting only in moments of stress.
"I'm not cross with you. I know you didn't do it on purpose. This is a lesson everyone has to learn at some time. Cruelty is surprisingly easy to come by in this world, and we all have to do our part to fight it. There's never a good reason to be cruel or thoughtless."
James nodded. "I'm sorry," he whispered.
"I know you are, and I don't want you worrying about it anymore. I won't have you going off to Hogwarts with a cloud over your head." Harry gave James a hug, kissing him on top of his head briefly before James barreled down the stairs to apologize to Bunnie.
Far too soon for his parents, all James's things were gathered. His trunk was waiting in the living room, and he sat on it impatiently, tapping his foot on the floor.
"Here's your lunch, Love," Gwendolyn said.
"What is it?" James asked, reaching out to take it.
"Sandwiches, fruit, some crisps, and chocolate frogs, but you are not to eat the chocolate frogs until you've at least had a sandwich and a piece of fruit."
"What kind of sandwiches?" James asked.
Gwendolyn smiled. "Well, I wasn't sure what you'd be in the mood for, so I made all your favorites," she told him.
He stood and wrapped his arms around her. "Thanks, Mum," he said.
She hugged him back. "Oh, I'm going to miss you, Jamie," she said as she kissed him on the forehead.
"I'll write you every day," James promised her.
"Everyone ready?" Harry asked, coming down the stairs with James's copy of Quidditch Through the Ages and an oddly-shaped wrapped box. "Here, have it, you cheeky monkey," he said, smiling as he handed his son the book. "I wouldn't want you to be bored on the train."
"Thanks, Dad. I promise I'll keep up with it at Hogwarts," James reported.
"See that you do," Harry said with mock sternness, ruffling James's hair."There's one more thing your mother and I wanted to give you," Harry told James, handing him the box. James opened it quickly, excited to see what was inside. It was a cat carrier, containing a small gray kitten with bright blue eyes. James recalled seeing her in the window of the pet shop and being taken with her when they went to Diagon Alley a few weeks before to get his school things.
"She's beautiful! Thanks," James said, hugging his mother and then his father in turn.
"What are you going to name her?" Gwendolyn asked.
"I don't know," James said, opening the carrier and carefully removing the kitten.
"What do you think she looks like?" Harry asked.
"Maybe I should call her Shredder," James said.
"Oh, I don't think she looks like a Shredder," Gwendolyn said, laughing as the cat began nuzzling James's neck.
"I know. I'll name her Griselda," James announced.
"After Griselda Martin?" Harry asked.
"Who else?" James asked. Griselda Martin was the Seeker for England's quidditch team.
"A fine choice," Harry said approvingly. Just then Griselda sneezed.
"I think she approves," Gwendolyn said, reaching out to scratch her back.
"Come on, you two. It's time to go." Harry said, pulling a pocket watch out of his robes and looking at it. James used to love playing with that watch: it had a eighteen different hands and told the time for each planet. For some reason, James had always been particularly interested in knowing when it was tea time on Jupiter.
Harry picked up James's trunk and made his way over to the floo. James put Griselda in her carrier and followed. Gwendolyn took a moment to check that she had a handkerchief before making her way to the floo as well. Moments later, the house was empty.
Platform 9 ¾ was bustling with activity as all across the platform children said goodbye to their parents and parents shouted last minute warnings and reminders. James was the picture of cool confidence as he stood with his parents, taking in the scene. Next to him, a sandy-haired boy his age was saying a tearful goodbye to his own parents. "It's not to late to change your mind, Remus," the boy's mother was saying. "You can still decide you'd rather stay home."
James turned away from them. He would not have stayed home for all the galleons in Gringott's. He would miss his parents at first, but wild hippogriffs could not have kept him from this adventure. Hogwarts would be more fun than he had ever had before. He allowed his parents to hug him briefly. "Goodbye, Love," Gwendolyn said, tears filling her eyes.
James launched himself into her arms. "Don't cry, Mum," he told her, "Please don't cry."
"I'm sorry," she said. "I promised myself I wouldn't do this. You have to send me loads of owls."
"I will," he promised. Then he spared another hug for his father.
"Behave yourself while you're at school," Harry said, smiling. He knew his son well enough to know there was little chance of that happening. James was pulling away slowly, not sure if they were ready to let him go. Harry fought the urge to smile at the little two-step dance James was doing, slowly drifting further and further away from them, his excitement evident on his face. "Go on, then," he told his son.
James didn't need to be told twice. He turned and practically ran to the train just as the whistle was sounding. He struggled to get his trunk up the stairs and stood by the door waving until the train began to move and his parents were out of sight; then he turned with a hopeful heart toward his new adventure.
He was surprised at how full the train was. He was in the last car before he managed to find a compartment that wasn't full or nearly so. There was one boy in it, a very sad-looking boy with curly black hair. James took a deep breath and opened the compartment door. "May I join you? Everywhere else is full," James said to the boy.
The boy looked at James and shrugged. "Suit yourself," he said. James came in and put Griselda's carrier on the seat across from the boy.
"I'm James Potter," he said, holding out his hand.
"Sirius Black," the other boy said, taking James's hand and shaking it firmly. Sirius had curious gray eyes and, if James were the type of person to notice such things, he would have noticed that Sirius was very good-looking.
"Pleased to meet you," James said, smiling. Sirius only nodded. He did not smile. James took his trunk and began trying to lift it into the luggage rack. His father had lifted it so easily, but James could not manage it.
"Would you like some help?" Sirius asked.
James looked at him for a moment, torn between wanting to do it himself and wanting it to just be done. Sirius didn't wait for him to answer; he simply rose and took one of the trunk's handles. James took the other and, together, they managed to lift it.
"What've you got in here?" Sirius asked, grunting under the weight of the trunk.
James was a little embarrassed to admit he didn't know. His mother had taken care of all his packing.
No sooner had he released the words from his tongue than he lost his grip on the trunk handle and it came crashing down. The lid flew open as it hit the ground and James's clothes went flying all over the compartment. A pair of underwear landed on James's head. His face grew hot with humiliation as Sirius started to laugh - a loud, joyful laugh that made James want to join in. After only a few seconds, he did, pulling the underwear off his head. He was still snickering as he began gathering his things. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that Sirius was gathering as well. They tossed his belongings into a messy pile in the trunk.
"I think this is yours," Sirius said, handing James a package wrapped in silvery paper. James opened it quickly and a note in his mother's loopy writing fell out. James read it.
My Darling Jamie,
By now you're in your dormitory and have probably already made loads of new friends. I want you to be sure to share these with the other boys in your dormitory. I won't bother telling you not to eat them in bed. Just be sure to brush your teeth after. I'll send you a new batch next week. Be good.
James pulled a tin out of the box and opened it to find it full of chocolate biscuits. "She makes the best biscuits!" James exclaimed, dropping the letter on the ground and handing the tin to Sirius. "Here, you want one?" James asked.
Sirius reached down and picked up the letter. "Don't you want your mum's letter?" Sirius asked.
James shrugged. He took it and tossed it into the trunk, not seeing the look of sadness that crossed Sirius's face.
"Awoo shuwoo done wanin?" James asked, his mouth full of the biscuit he had just stuffed into it.
"What was that?" Sirius asked, giving a small laugh that did not quite reach his eyes.
"Are you sure you don't want one?" James repeated once he had swallowed.
Sirius took one. "Thanks."
James dropped the tin into the trunk and flung the top down. It didn't shut. He opened the trunk and rearranged the top layer of contents. The lid still would not go down. James opened it a third time and pushed the contents as hard as he could, trying to make them fit. The lid still would not shut.
"How did she get all this in here?" James asked.
"Folding your clothes might help," Sirius suggested lightly.
"I don't want to fold them" James replied dismissively. "Come help me sit on it."
Sirius came obediently and the two boys sat on the trunk, forcing down the lid. James popped the lock and they got up. The lid was bulging, but it looked as if it would hold. "I hope we get wardrobes or something at Hogwarts. Otherwise you're going to have to hang all your clothes in the bathroom." Sirius said, reclaiming his seat.
"Maybe I could hang my pants out the window. That way I'll always know which window is mine if ever I decide to go night flying."
"Oh, do you like flying?" Sirius asked.
"I love it!" James enthused. "I'm really good, too. I'm going to try out for the quidditch team next year, and I bet you anything I make it."
"Who's your team?" Sirius asked.
"The Tinworth Tempests, what about you?"
"Are you from London, then?"
"Yes, are you from Tinworth?"
"No, they're just the closest team. We live near Godric's Hollow."
The compartment opened just then and a red-haired girl came in, followed closely by a greasy black-haired boy with shifty black eyes. James disliked him instantly.
"Mind if we join you?" The girl asked. She was clearly upset.
James shook his head. "I'm James Potter, and this here's Sirius black," James said, motioning toward Sirius.
"Hello," Sirius said, giving a small wave.
"I'm Severus Snape," the new boy said, seating himself next to James. His voice grated on James's nerves.
"Lily Evans," the girl said. James looked at her; she had the brightest green eyes he had ever seen. James felt a rush go through his chest, and he startled. He felt as though he knew her, somehow, but he was sure he'd never seen her before.
"What are you staring at?" She asked, sitting down next to Sirius.
"You have beautiful eyes," James said.
Severus Snape snorted, and James turned on him in disgust.
"Is something funny?" He asked, sneering.
"You have beautiful eyes," Snape said, doing a poor imitation of James. "Who says something like that to someone you've just met?"
"So, what year are you?" Lily asked.
"First," James announced.
"Me, too," Sirius added.
"So are we," Lily said.
"Do you know anything about the sorting?" Snape asked.
Sirius and James both shook their heads.
"Where do you want to be, if you've got a choice?" Lily asked softly.
"In Gryffindor, where dwell the brave of heart, like my dad!" James said. Snape snorted again. "You have a problem with that?" James asked, his upper lip curling into a sneer.
"Gryffindor's fine for people like you - people who would rather be brawny than brainy," Snape replied, mirroring James's sneer.
"Where do you want to go, seeing as you're neither?" James asked. Sirius laughed.
"I'd rather be in Slytherin," Snape said, giving James a haughty look.
"Why would anyone ever want to be in Slytherin?" James asked, raising his eyebrows. "I think I'd leave." James turned to Sirius for support. "Wouldn't you?"
"All my family have been in Slytherin," Sirius said, looking nervously at the ground.
"Really?" James asked in shock. "You seemed all right."
Sirius shrugged. "Maybe I'll break tradition."
James turned to Lily, "Where would you like to go?"
"I don't know," she admitted. "I'm muggle-born. All I know about the magical world is what Severus has told me."
"You're far too nice to be hanging around with the likes of him," James said, ignoring Snape's gasp of disbelief. "Why don't you forget about him and come be friends with us? We'll tell you everything you need to know about being a witch."
"Severus is nice!" Lily protested.
James turned to him, looking him up and down, an expression of purest disgust on his face. "Doesn't seem very nice to me."
Lily huffed. "Come on, Severus. Let's go find another compartment." She got up and stomped out of the compartment. Severus rose and left right on her heels.
"See you later, Snivellus!" Sirius called after him.
"Nice one," James said approvingly.
"What a git!" Sirius spat.
"What do you expect from someone who actually wants to be in Slytherin? Oh, sorry," James said, quickly remembering that Sirius might end up in Slytherin.
Sirius shrugged. "I don't want to be in Slytherin." Sirius wrapped his arms around himself briefly before dropping them awkwardly to his lap, where he began picking at his fingertips. "I really don't."
"Maybe you won't be. Maybe we can both be Gryffindors," James said reassuringly.
"Maybe," Sirius said softly just as his stomach growled so loudly that both boys burst into loud laughter.
"Did you bring your lunch?" James asked.
Sirius shook his head.
"You can share mine. My mum packed enough for ten people," James said, pulling out the sack she had given him. "Looks like I've got a turkey sandwich, a ham sandwich, a cheddar cheese sandwich, a bacon sandwich, and a tuna fish sandwich. Why in the world did she pack me tuna fish? I never liked that."
"I'll take it. I love tuna fish."
"Here, have it," James said, tossing the sandwich to Sirius, who reached up and caught it deftly. "So, what did you think about that girl?"
"Yes. Pretty, wasn't she?"
"Pretty enough, I suppose. I don't much like her choice of company."
"Maybe she'll move on once he's in Slytherin."
"Maybe she'll be in Slytherin, too."
"She's far too pretty to be in Slytherin. I bet she's a Gryffindor, like us." James had already decided that Sirius would be joining him in Gryffindor.
"I know she'll be a Gryffindor. I think I'll ask her out tonight in the common room."
"You want to ask her out?" Sirius asked, incredulous. "I don't think she'll want to go out with you."
James narrowed his eyes at Sirius. "Why wouldn't she want to go out with me? I'm smart. I'm handsome. I'm talented. I'm everything a woman could possibly want."
"Only she didn't seem too keen on you."
"Only because of her friend. Once she realizes what a git he is, she'll be begging to go out with me. You wait and see."
"Want to make a wager on that?" Sirius asked.
"What kind of a wager?"
"You like chocolate frogs?"
"I bet you my entire chocolate frog collection she won't go out with you."
"You're on. How long do I have to convince her?"
"Until the end of the term?"
"That should be plenty of time," James said, running his fingers through his hair confidently. "You just watch. I'll have her eating out of my hand by the end of the week"
"Do you even remember her name?"
"Sure I do. It's Lily. Lily Evans, and I'm going to marry her someday."
Sirius snorted. "If she ever marries you, I'll eat an entire venomous tentacula."
James threw the cheese sandwich at Sirius's head. Sirius reached up at the last instant and plucked it gracefully from the air. "Thanks. I was just thinking I'd like another sandwich."
"You've got good reflexes. You'd make a fair seeker."
Sirius nodded. "I know."
The two of them passed the rest of the trip pleasantly and, when the train pulled into Hogsmeade station, they climbed out together and looked up at the castle they would be calling home for the next seven years.