Part I

And the only solution was to stand and fight,
And my body was bruised and
I was set alight

-Florence and the Machine-

There are a handful of moments that choose your path in life. Maybe you bought a chocolate shake instead of ice cream. Maybe you decided to wear a dress instead of pants. Maybe your future really was determined on the fact that you woke up ten minutes late on your first day of school. Or maybe none of it mattered. Maybe you still would have ended up where you needed to be, regardless of the little things. Either way, our decisions have an impact on our lives. If James Potter could have said one thing to his son, other than telling him how proud of him he was and how much he loved him, it would have been that every choice has an influence on where our lives lead.

Sixteen-year-old James Potter waltzed through the guest wing of his house, heading towards the last door on the left. He knocked, and after hearing a grunt of acknowledgment he went inside and threw his body on the bed before him. The sixteen-year-old girl that was lying lazily on the bed was not amused.

"Potter," Marlene growled between clenched teeth. "You have five seconds to get your muddy shoes off my bed. Your mother will kill me if she sees it."

"You know, Mar we've been friends since we were little," James pouted as he sunk deeper into her bed. "You'd think you'd actually start to use my first name at some point."

"Yeah you would think so‚" She frowned down at him feigning offense. "But that still doesn't explain why your shoes are on my bed."

Rolling his eyes at her, he frowned, laid flat on his back, and ignored her second comment.

"Is she friends with Snivellus anymore?"

"I'm assuming you are referring to Lily, because well you're always referring to Lily," she muttered. She tucked her long, sunny blond hair behind her ear and put down her book. "And I don't think so. Last time I talked to her, she said she would never speak to him again."

James's face lit up as his head filled with all the possible scenarios of what could happen between Lily and him. Each situation ended the same: with her swept up in his arms, and James the magnificent, handsome victor. Marlene saw the look on her friend's face and swiftly took the opportunity to kick him in the stomach.

"OY! WHAT THE HELL?" James groaned, glaring at her.

She let out a large heave of a sigh and smacked him repeatedly for affect.

"I don't want to see that look on your face! I know what you're thinking, and I'm not having any of it! You hear me? No more 'Get Lily' schemes!"

"Bloody bird," he scoffed darkly, sitting up. "What's so wrong with me liking Lily?"

"Oh, I don't know," Marlene began dryly. "Maybe the fact that she doesn't like you?"

"She's right, you know," Sirius interjected as he walked into the room, wearing nothing but a towel that hung loosely around his hips.

Marlene gave Sirius a dirty look as he dried his hair with a towel. Only Sirius Black could walk into a room almost completely naked and be completely shameless. James at least had the nerve to blush, despite the indecent words coming out of his mouth. Sirius was beyond any decency. In the mere three days Marlene had been visiting, he had barely worn any clothes in an attempt to bother her. Between that and James's several failed attempts to talk about Lily, Marlene was starting to second-guess her decision to visit James at all.

"Okay," Marlene sighed, rubbing her face in irritation. "James. I love you, we love you; but honestly Lily is a lost cause. She's one of my best friends, she really is, but when she commits to something. she commits to it. Period. And she actually has plenty of good reasons to dislike you, so why don't you just go snog Emmeline?" Marlene tried, "She's cute, she's ..clean. Why not?"

Sirius let out a bark of laughter. "Did you just say she's clean?"

"Hey, Black," Marlene snapped lethally, her wide, blue eyes narrowing on him, "why don't you go to your room and put some clothes on while the big kids have a conversation?"

"Oh, McKinnon," he smirked devilishly as he leaned against the bedpost. "Don't lie to yourself. You would love it if my towel fell, wouldn't you? You sexy mink, you."

Releasing yet another sigh, Marlene shook her head at Sirius and turned back to James. "But serious-"

"See?" Sirius sighed, as if he was foretelling a mystical prophecy. "You're even calling other people my name because you desire to hear it so much."

"BLACK! OUT!" Marlene screamed, pointing at the door and grabbing her wand for emphasis. "Or I'll turn little Sirius into a prune."

Raising his hands in innocence, Sirius conceded.

"Fine! I'll go in my room and pack."

James snorted once Sirius was gone.

"I don't know why he bothers...He knows he'll go mad at home and be back in less than a month."

"Well after we're done with our little talk, I guess I better get my stuff together too. I think I left my Quidditch gloves in your room‚ Did I?"

He frowned and whined. "I don't want you to leave."

Smiling, Marlene reached over and ruffled James's black, untamable hair affectionately.

"I don't either, but I have to move on to my next stop on the Friendship Tour. Besides, you still get until tomorrow night with me before I head off to visit Dorcas."

"And Lily," James added bitterly.

"That's it! You are banned from saying her name!" She grabbed a pillow and smacked him in the face.

His glasses flew off his face, and a huge grin rose from ear to ear.

"Oh, you want to play that way, McKinnon?"

Giggling, she leapt off the bed and tried to run away from him. But James was far quicker than she. In the time she was across the room, he had his glasses on his face and his arm around her waist threateningly.

"Now, should I throw you in the pond, or just beat you with pillows?" he asked himself.

"James Harold Potter‚" Marlene began between gritted teeth as she struggled to get away from him. She tried to use her five foot ten inches to her advantage, and it usually worked. But James was tall enough for that to not matter this time.

"Yes, Marlene Marie McKinnon?" he snickered into her ear.

"You are an eternal flirt." She rolled her eyes.

"My, my, my," Sirius interrupted with a smirk fresh on his lips. "What would your Lily Flower think if she saw this?"

Marlene took this opportunity to elbow James off of her.

"She'd probably beg me to shag you to get you off her back."

James leaned against the bedpost suggestively. He flexed his Quidditch muscles while making the most unattractive face Marlene had ever seen."Are you offering, Marlene?"

"A little hard to take you seriously with your fly undone, Slick."

Immediately his eyes flickered to his jeans, as a light blush crept onto his boyish face.

"Thanks, Mar."

"Anytime, James," she snickered as she moved for the door. "Lunch, boys?"

Sirius took this suggestion an was the the first to take the lead. His sleek, black hair breezed through the non-existent wind, as he puffed out his chest and lugged his six-foot body down to the kitchen. Marlene followed; her bright blonde hair shaped her face well, accenting her pale blue eyes. Though they were fully grown to a respectable height, Marlene was just two inches shorter than the boys around her. James brought up the rear, adjusting his glasses and laughing as they went.

"Sirius, you really need to stop singing in the shower," James laughed as he plopped down next to Sirius.

"You kind of sound like a howler monkey mating with a Hippogriff," Marlene mentioned thoughtfully before taking a bite of a sandwich.

James snickered in agreement as he grabbed a sandwich of his own.

"You two are just jealous of my natural talent."

"That's exactly what it is," Marlene muttered sarcastically.

Sirius gave her a cheeky look. "Why would you know what I sound like in the shower anyway, McKinnon? You trying to sneak a peek?"

"Oh yes, Sirius," Marlene's voice dripped in disdain. "Because even though you constantly offer to show me your kibbles and bit, I would really go out of my way to catch you naked, when all I need to do is walk by your room to hear you."

"I bet you think about me naked a lot, Dollface."

Marlene rolled her eyes and turned to James. "It's like he hears the words he wants and tosses out the rest."

"What time is it?" Sirius asked suddenly, grabbing James's wrist to look for himself. "Shit, I have to get my stuff."

"I'll help," James gulped down his food and following his best friend up the stairs.

Marlene stayed and read the letter Lily had written her just yesterday. Though it was exceptionally difficult to be friends with both Lily and James, she somehow managed it...just as long as she didn't talk about Lily to James, and James to Lily.

Dear Mar,

Dorcas and I are having a blast! I wish you could come sooner. I know you promised Potter you would spend a few days with him, but I honestly believe you could have blown him off to see us for an extra few days. You know he wouldn't have looked away from his mirror long enough to notice...Okay, maybe that's a little harsh. That would fit Sirius more. How about, "he would probably too busy bullying smaller people to notice?" Is that better? No? I can feel you judging me, but I'm not taking it back. I won't ever ask you to choose sides, but that in no way means I have to keep my opinion to myself, you know.

Fine. I'm sorry. I take it back. Satisfied?... No? Whatever, I don't care.

Anyway, I can't wait for you to get here! Petunia has been gone all week so it's just been Dorcas and I running around town. Mary came for a few days, and we tried to tan outside. Of course, I burned to a crisp, but Mary and Dora insisted on taking pictures with me. They said it was for memories' sake, but I know it was just because it made them look better to be next to me! You know they seek me out when they are exceptionally brown!

How is everything going over there? Has Black flashed you yet? I bet you he's waiting to do it. You'll just be sitting there reading that charms book I gave you, and BAM! There's he is in all his glory, traumatizing thought, I know, but I felt you needed to be warned in he does though, I'm going to need to know if he lives up to his reputation. Hope to see you soon, Marls!

Lots of Love,


Marlene's childish laugh filled the empty air at Lily's letter. Lily came off as a strict follower of the rules, and she was. At school, as soon as she put on that badge of authority, she was a woman in charge. She knew every regulation in the book, and she didn't let anybody get anything past her. But having said that, Lily was still this little ball of energy. She was constantly moving and working towards making everything about her and around her better. It was her passion in everything she did that drew people toward her. Her spark of electric energy shot out through her dazzling fiery hair.

Just as she was about to write her friend back, she heard the boys coming down the stairs. Before James could see her note, Marlene tucked it into her pocket and rose to meet them.

Sirius was grabbed his stuff and frowned as he hesitated in the fireplace. His mood wasn't what it was just moments ago. There were very few moments that Sirius Black had spent not smirking, but this was one of them.

James clapped on the shoulder supportively.

"I'll see you soon."

"Yeah," Sirius whispered in a defeated tone as he adjusted the bag on his shoulder.

Marlene's stomach clenched at the sound of it. She'd never seen or heard Sirius defeated; he was always sure of himself. She'd always been a somewhat friend to Sirius, but it wasn't a deep relationship. He was more of a guy that was always just hanging around, making sleazy comments. But in that second, she saw real pain, and she felt bad. She knew about his home life in vague detail, like the way you would know someone's favorite Quidditch team but not really know why they feel that way.

Sirius shook out of it before she could say anything. It was like needed distance in order for him to go. Instead he just waved and flooed to his house.

"Is he going to be okay?" Marlene asked, following James into the living room.

James's grimaced, his natural smile faded off his face.

"He gets like that before he has to spend time with them. I think they bring out the worst in him."

For a second, neither of them said anything, but after a while, James decided to brush it off. Sirius would be fine. He was always fine. They shouldn't worry about him; if anything happened they would hear about it straight away. He figured he should enjoy the last night with Marlene, as he wouldn't see her until they started school in a month. So they went out to the little pasture of grass, and under the hot summer sun, they went over some Quidditch skills. For hours they flew, until the sun went down and their stomachs growled with hunger. They finally headed inside and each cleaned up, and then James started cooking dinner.

"You're sooo going to get captain," Marlene told him as she handed him a knife.

"I don't know, Mar," he said, giving her a smile. "It could be you, you know."

She shook her head.

"Not a chance in the world, James."

James's parents wouldn't be back until the next day. They'd gone for a two-day trip to France for their thirty-fifth year anniversary, and Eleanor Potter was very hesitant to leave. She knew her son well and knew how quickly he could get into trouble even better. But her troubles were resolved when her son asked if Marlene could visit. Marlene wasn't the only person who could talk James and Sirius out of getting into trouble...she just did it more quickly than most could. That was a trick she learned from James her whole life; she knew exactly what to say to make him rethink his actions.

This wasn't Marlene's favorite way to see James. She liked him best when he was off causing mischief with Sirius, Remus and Peter, because there was a twinkle in his eyes and spring in his step that couldn't be matched. It was then that James was in his element, and Marlene loved seeing it. But spending time with James alone was a rarity, and because of this she enjoyed it almost just as much. When they were together, he was relaxed and laid back. He took time to talk about things he wouldn't have the patience to cover when he was with the boys. In this light, Marlene could see what all the other girls saw. He was handsome in a way were his gawkiness somehow meshed with his Quidditch athleticism. His black hair was uncontrollable but it only brought out his large hazel eyes, even through his glasses. But what struck Marlene the most was how genuine of a person James was. Unlike Sirius, he never put on an act or tried to be someone he wasn't. Everything he said or did, he meant. And that sincerity had a certain power behind it that couldn't be replicated. Marlene knew if she had known him in a different way for less time, she could have fallen for him. She knew why Lily resisted him, but as he avidly ranted about the mistreatment of muggles and Muggleborns, Marlene really felt that Lily wasn't seeing the whole picture. Because, she reasoned, if she saw him like this, or rather the way everyone else did, she might fall in love with him, too.

It broke her heart a little to see how perfect they would be together if they both just stopped for a second and saw each other from a different perspective. James was already there. He saw all the beauty there was to Lily, and if she would let him, he would be able to find a lot more. But that was the problem: James was always five steps ahead of everyone else. And Lily refused to see the bigger picture. To her, it wouldn't matter in twenty or thirty years if she gave James a chance. All it would do would validate every sleazy attempt he had made on her in the past.

It was ridiculous. Marlene wanted so much for Lily to just open her eyes, but she was doing everything to stop herself from meddling. James Harold Potter could never be edited. He was the way he was, take it or leave it. So somehow, Lily had to just love him for who he was... If that was even possible.

Once it reached midnight and her yawns became more and more frequent, Marlene hugged her friend goodnight and trudged off to bed.

James head for bed after cleaning up the dishes. He could have done it with magic, but he found that he didn't mind doing it by hand. Cleaning was actually one of his favorite hobbies. Years of chores had programmed him to be good at it, but weeks of detention had taught him to appreciate it. When he cleaned, he could work out whatever problems were plaguing him and get out all of his excess energy to the surface. Tonight, like most nights, he thought of a redheaded girl. On this night however, he regarded Marlene's advice.

Marlene had told him the exactly what he needed to hear. Lily Evans had no interest in him, and probably never would. Sure, there had been a handful of times where he had done things that hadn't put him in the most colorful light, but there were also times where he did good things. And even then she only saw the bad in him. Remus had once told him that he needed that ego check now and again to keep him grounded. And that very well may have been true, but was it wiser just to let her go and chase a girl that wouldn't be offended if he caught her?

Finishing up, James climbed up the stairs and fell into his bed. Sleep found him swiftly and kindly, but it didn't hold him for long. At 3:23 in the morning, he was awoken by the sound of his front door bell ringing. James rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and stumbled out of bed to get the door. It was the middle of the night, and his parents wouldn't be back until that afternoon, so James couldn't think of a single soul who would be banging on his door. Marlene had woken from her sleep; she stood beside him, tall and golden in the moonlight.

Yawning, she asked, "Who is it?"

"No idea," he said gruffly before opening the door.

But both Marlene's and James's jaw dropped as they saw Sirius standing in the doorway. His clothes were ripped; his body was ragged and beaten by what appeared to be a series of hexes. Most horrific of all were his eyes. His stance was still tall and proud, but his gray eyes, which always held such mirth and joy, were hollow, broken, and filled with loaded tears.

"Sirius," James whispered. He gaped at his best friend, unsure of what to say.

Sirius gulped.

"I ran away...I just..." He couldn't finish, as he leaned against the doorway.

James leapt into action he grabbed his suitcase, and moved out of the way so Sirius could enter.

"Come on, mate. Let's get you to your room."

"I ...I...can find a place in the morning," Sirius's voice scratched, as his jaw trembled.

"Why would you? You're home," James told him, as he put a hand on his shoulder in a firm gesture that Marlene had seen Mr. Potter use countless times with James.

Marlene then felt her maternal instincts stir as she, too, moved forward. James took the lead with Sirius's things while she gently walked over and grabbed his hand. The gesture made the tears in his eyes threaten to fall, but she didn't wait for them. She squeezed his blistered and bruised hand with a soft one of her own, as she shut and locked the front door.

"Come on," she told him softly. Her nightgown grazed his arm as some of his blood rubbed off on her. "Let's get you cleaned up."