Lily Evans had been having such a strange summer. She had received a letter from an owl in the middle of the daytime. She had gone to a secret street of stores hidden behind a moving brick wall. She had bought robes and a cauldron and a stick that had produced sparks with a simple wave. And just a moment ago she had passed through a seemingly solid barrier between platforms on a crowded train station.
Lily stood as close to her parents as she could, her hands gripping her trolley so tightly that her knuckles were turning white. She nervously took in the crowded platform 9 ¾. Kids running around, parents waving goodbye. It seemed normal enough… that is if the platform hadn't been so hidden from the outside world.
"Well, you don't want to miss the train," Mr. Evans said, checking his watch.
Lily looked up at her father, admiring him. It had been very strange for all of them since that owl had tapped on their window. But out of her entire family, her father seemed to be dealing with it the best. He was very open-minded.
"Yes, you're right," Lily agreed in a small voice.
Mrs. Evans leaned down, wrapping her arms tightly around her daughter.
"Have a good time honey, and be careful," she said, her voice shaking slightly with emotion. When she pulled away, Lily could see that her mother had tears in her eyes. Lily did her best to give her a reassuring smile.
"I'll be alright, mum," Lily assured her.
Lily turned away and took a deep breath. Then, with butterflies in her stomach, she pushed her trolley toward the scarlet train.
As she approached a sudden loud whistle startled Lily. She felt a bit panicked. The train was about to leave, but she hadn't loaded her cart yet. She jogged the rest of the distance to one of the cars, almost colliding with another boy who was also running late.
"Sorry," the boy said, flashing an apologetic smile. He jumped onto the train and pulled his trunk after him. He shoved the trunk up the stairs, then to Lily's surprise he reached back for hers. She stood for a moment in shock, but was startled out of it as the train suddenly jerked. "Hurry!" the boy urged.
Lily used all her strength to lift the heavy trunk up to the boy. He pulled it aboard as Lily began walking as the train began to move. Her pulse was quickening. What if she couldn't get on board and it just left without her?
The boy turned back, but instead of getting out of the way, he reached out for her. Lily was approaching a jogging pace as she grabbed the boy's arm with both hands. She jumped and the boy yanked her onto the moving train.
"Ha, that was a close one," the boy laughed with a carefree grin as he slid the door shut behind her. In the small stairway that led to the car Lily was standing a bit too close to this new boy for comfort. But she took the opportunity to study him. He had long black hair that almost fell into his eyes, which were a stormy gray color. He was already dressed in robes, which looked very well pressed and elegant with a family crest sewn onto the front.
"Yes, thanks very much," Lily said politely with a smile as she slid past him to get to her trunk. "I don't know what I would have done had I missed the train."
"Yeah, me too," the boy said. "I'm Sirius, by the way." He held out his hand to her.
"I'm Lily," she said, shaking his hand. "Nice to meet you."
They both started down the corridor, looking into all the filled compartments. They had almost reached the back of the train before they finally reached an empty compartment. Sirius entered first, but Lily hesitated, feeling a bit like she was just following this boy around.
"Do you mind if I sit with you?" she asked.
"Not at all," he said with a charming smile. "If I didn't like you I would have left you on the platform."
They both laughed as Lily entered the compartment. Sirius lifted his trunk up onto the shelves above the seats, then grabbed Lily's and did the same. Lily situated herself in the seat by the window and Sirius sat across from her.
"So, are you a first year?" Sirius asked.
"Yes," Lily confirmed. "Are you?"
"Yeah," Sirius said. There was a short pause. "Nervous?"
Lily nodded vigorously. "Very much so," she said with a nervous laugh. "How about you?"
"I supposed I'm a bit nervous," he said, looking a bit thoughtful. "Just about the Sorting though. About which House I'm going to get put in."
"House?" Lily asked, looking confused. She wasn't really sure what he was talking about.
"Yeah, you know, Slytherin and Gryffindor and all them," Sirius said, as if it were obvious. But Lily still looked lost. "You've never heard of the Hogwarts Houses?"
"No… well I'm a little behind on this whole… er… wizard thing," Lily said slowly.
"Oh!" Sirius said, smiling as he finally understood. "You come from Muggles then?"
"Ah, yes," Lily said, a bit unsure. A man had come to her house when she had gotten her owl to further explain things to her family. He had been very kind in answering all their questions. One of the things he mentioned was the name given to non-magic people. Lily was pretty sure that the term had been Muggle. "My parents are both non-magic."
"I should have guessed, looking at the way you're dressed," Sirius said knowingly. Lily hadn't put on her school robes yet, so she was still dressed in her normal clothes. "Well, when we get to school the first thing we're going to do is get sorted into one of four Houses," he explained. "There's Slytherin, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff. Each one has different characteristics, and the House you live in will dictate where your dormitory and common room are."
"Oh," Lily said. This boy really seemed to know a lot about what was going to happen. Lily was a bit relieved to know more about what was going on. Everything had been happening so quickly and she had been beginning to feel a bit lost. "I supposed this is well known information in the… in the, er, magic world." Lily was not quite sure how to describe this new culture she suddenly found herself in.
"Fairly," Sirius said. "I guess I have a leg up with the knowledge of the school since I have a couple older cousins there… plus a whole bunch of kids of my parents' friends."
"Oh," Lily said again, feeling a bit silly not knowing what else to say. "Well, why aren't you sitting with them then?"
Sirius shrugged lazily. "I didn't say that I enjoy being around them," he said simply.
Just then, the compartment door opened. Lily looked up to see two more boys standing in the doorway. One had glasses over hazel eyes with short, messy black hair. The other was a small, slightly chubby boy with a patch of dirty blonde hair.
"Hey, are you first years?" the boy with the black hair asked.
"Yeah, what's it to you?" Sirius asked, though his tone was kept light.
"I am too," the boy said. "I'm James Potter and this here is my brand new sidekick, Mr. Peter Pettigrew. We're just trying to get a feel for the first years, seeing as we'll be seeing everybody throughout the year."
"Potter?" Sirius repeated. Lily noticed Sirius shift slightly, crossing his arms over his chest.
"Yep," James confirmed happily. "And you are…?"
"I'm Lily Evans," Lily jumped in, eager to meet more students. She liked James' idea about going around and meeting other first years, though she was feeling a bit too shy today for that.
"Very nice to meet such a pretty girl," James said with a charming smile. Then he looked at Sirius expectantly.
"Sirius," Sirius said a bit flatly. Lily wondered why her new friend suddenly seemed to be put off by the visitors. Just moments ago he had seemed so friendly and open.
"Well, hello Sirius," James said, now looking a bit suspicious. "Is there a surname with that?"
Sirius sighed and dropped his hands. Lily suddenly realized what he had been trying to hide. It was the family crest that was sewn onto his robes. "Black," he stated.
James eyes grew a bit wide. "Black?" he repeated just as Sirius had done. "Well, excuse me for intruding, your highness. I hope you won't have me beheaded for my ignorance." There was sarcasm practically dripping from James' voice. James laughed at his joke and behind him Peter did the same.
Lily looked at Sirius, utterly confused. Was there something she was missing? Was he actually royalty in this world?
"Yes, well now that you have met us, I suppose you should be moving on," Sirius said, crossing his arms again.
But James ignored him as he seemed to pick up on Lily's confusion and focused on her instead. "You know about the Blacks, don't you Miss Evans?" he asked. Lily paused, and then shook her head. "Well, they're only the most snobby, uppity Pureblooded family around."
"Pureblooded?" Lily asked.
James looked even more shocked. "You're Muggleborn?" he asked. Lily nodded self consciously, suddenly feeling as though she had done something wrong. Was it that obvious that she was new to this world? James looked at Sirius, then back at Lily. "Well, take it from me, it's not safe for you to be sitting with this bloke. His entire family hates Muggleborns."
Lily looked at Sirius, unsure of what to do. But Sirius didn't seem like he was going to give her the answer. He was going to let her decide for herself.
"Well, before you came in, we had been having a nice chat," Lily said finally. "So I think I'll stay here, thanks."
James shrugged his shoulders. "Suit yourself," he said. "Just keep an eye on him." And with that, the two were gone.
Lily turned back to Sirius, looking at him expectantly.
"Sorry about that," Sirius said, rubbing the back of his neck. "I won't deny that my family has a bit of a… dislike of Muggleborns. But I'm not like them, I promise. I'm the white sheep of the Black family." He paused. "Please believe me."
Lily nodded with a comforting smile. "I believe you, Sirius," she said as a look of relief washed over the boy's face.
For the rest of the trip, Sirius calmly and patiently answered all Lily's questions about the Wizarding world. He explained the significance of all the Houses at Hogwarts, and explained that people like his family got sorted into Slytherin, and he was hoping not to be put there with the rest of the "snakes."
Finally their trip came to an end, and Sirius and Lily disembarked together. They followed the crowd of first years summoned by a very large man down to a lake with a dozen or so boats. But Lily was far too preoccupied with the breathtaking view of the Hogwarts castle to pay much attention to these little boats. Before she knew it, Sirius had pulled her into one of the boats along with two other boys and they were moving across the lake unprovoked. Lily was in awe. How could this all be happening?
Everything was starting to blur together. Walking up the steps of the intimidating castle. Meeting an equally intimidating woman who introduced herself as Professor McGonagall. Walking into a grand entrance hall with a marble staircase. Then walking into the Great Hall where the rest of the school was waiting. Feeling exposed standing in front of all these people as the first years received their sorting instructions and the ceremony began.
Lily kept close to Sirius throughout all this, listening to his hushed commentary, some of it being useful information while others being humorous comments making Lily giggle and help her feel a bit more relaxed.
Not long into the ceremony, Sirius' name was called. Lily could tell he was nervous as he fidgeted. She recalled him telling her that he was dreading this most of all and didn't know if he would be able to stand being in Slytherin like his family wanted. Lily gave him a reassuring smile as he bravely stepped out of the line of first years and made his way up to the stool, where Professor McGonagall placed the Sorting Hat on his head.
There had only been three students Sorted before Sirius, but his Sorting seemed to be taking an awfully long time. Lily shifted nervously, her eyes trained on Sirius. Was something wrong? She gazed out at the rest of the school, noticing a general shifting among the students. It seemed that something was not normal here.
Finally, the Sorting Hat shifted on Sirius' head as the flap that acted as its mouth opened. "Gryffindor!" It shouted to the school.
Lily felt so relieved for him and as the Hat was removed she could see how relieved he looked as well. She wanted to jump and clap for him. But she was suddenly aware of something. The Hall was almost completely silent. Lily looked around at all the surprised expressions. She couldn't understand. There had been clapping and cheering for the other first years, especially from the Houses they were Sorted into. What made Sirius so different?
"You've done it now, little cousin!" came a shout from a dark haired girl from one of the other tables. Lily remembered Sirius mentioning that he had older cousins here.
The Sorting continued and the tension in the Hall eased. All the other first years got cheers from the crowd. Sirius, it seemed, had been a rare exception.
When Lily's name was called, she could feel her hands begin to shake. Her mind was a blur of unanswered questions. She didn't know what to think.
Sitting on the stool, she was glad that the Hat fell down over her eyes so she wouldn't have to look at everyone staring at her. But she almost jumped out of her skin when she heard a small voice in her ear.
"Lily Evans," the voice said. Lily figured that it belonged to the Hat. "Ah, a Muggleborn. I see you're very nervous. Don't worry, you'll adjust. All the Muggleborns do." There was a pause, but the words of this Hat had calmed Lily down immensely. "Through your fear, you also have a lot of courage here. I think the House for you is obvious. Gryffindor!" It shouted the House to the school, and Lily jumped slightly again.
She was relieved as the Hat was taken away and she could hear the cheers of her fellow students. She smiled as she made her way down to the Gryffindor table and slid into the seat next to Sirius. He gave her a big smile.
"Congratulations, Lily," he said.
"Yeah, you too," Lily responded. "I'm glad you didn't get put into Slytherin. But I'm sorry about the… er… awkward silence."
Sirius shrugged. "I should have expected as much," he said. "People hear the surname Black and immediately think Slytherin. Even the Sorting Hat did. Luckily I was able to convince it otherwise." Sirius actually looked quite proud of this.
Lily and Sirius quietly watched the rest of the first years being Sorted. They both cheered for new Gryffindors. They also watched as the two boys from the train, James and Peter, joined them at the Gryffindor table.
There was a tremendous feast after the Sorting. Lily had never seen so much delicious food in one place before in her life. She ate until she felt like she couldn't move. Then it was finally time to retire to the dormitories. Lily and Sirius stood and followed the rest of their class out of the Hall. They were led through a maze of corridors, making Lily's head spin. She had no idea how she was going to find her classes.
Finally they approached a portrait of a rather large woman, who startled Lily by moving and then demanding a password.
"So this is home," Sirius commented as they clamored through the hole behind the portrait into a cozy room with squashy armchairs, tables, a roaring fire, and two sets of stairs.
"Not quite," Lily said uneasily, gazing around, mentally comparing it to her real home. "It's just school."
Sirius didn't get a chance to respond as their prefects directed them to their dormitories. As most of the Gryffindors immediately made their way up to get situated, Sirius and Lily both hesitated.
"Think you'll be able to find your way back to the Great Hall for breakfast?" Sirius asked.
Lily laughed nervously. "Doubt it," she said. "It's unbelievable how enormous this school is. I don't know how I'm going to find anything!"
Sirius gave her a reassuring smile. "Well, how about we meet here tomorrow morning and we'll walk down together?" he suggested. "I've got a pretty good sense of direction, I'm sure I can find it again."
"Sure, that sounds great," Lily said. She glanced up the staircase that led to the girls' dormitory. "I'd better get going. I'll see you tomorrow morning, then."
"Yeah, see you," Sirius agreed as they went their separate ways.
Lily was up bright and early the next morning. She was cleaned up and dressed before any of her roommates had even begun to crawl out of bed. But as she made her way down into the common room, she was surprised to find that Sirius was already there waiting for her.
"Well aren't you an early bird," Lily said with a smile.
"Good morning to you, too," Sirius said with a laugh as he stood from the squashy armchair he had been lounging in. "Today is an exception. Usually I'm never up this early."
"What's the special occasion?" Lily asked as they started from the portrait hole.
Sirius shrugged. "A bit of nerves I suppose," he said.
"How do you like your roommates?" Lily asked as they started down the corridor toward the Great Hall.
"They're alright, I suppose," Sirius said lazily. "Those boys from the train, Potter and Pettigrew, are both in my dormitory. They seemed alright, though Potter gave me some odd looks. Then there's another boy… I didn't catch his name, he was very quiet and went right to bed." He paused. "How about your roommates?"
"They seemed very nice," Lily said. "We didn't really talk much though. It had been a long day and it was getting letting. We all pretty much just went to bed."
"Yeah, that's kinda how it was in my dormitory last night," Sirius agreed.
They continued talking as they walked. It was mostly Lily asking about the classes they were taking and what each subject entailed. Finally they made it down to the Entrance Hall, which was directly adjacent to the Great Hall.
Lily was only vaguely aware of a group emerging from a set of stairs ascending from a lower level opposite of them. But she did notice Sirius' stride falter. She sent him a questioning look and almost ran into the group coming toward them. She stopped abruptly, surprised. The group was led by an older girl, maybe seventh year, with heavily lidded eyes and long black hair. Then she noticed that every member of the group had green trim on their robes. They were all Slytherins, and most of them seemed older. Suddenly Lily felt uneasy.
"You've got to be kidding me," the leader laughed, stepping closer to Sirius and looking down on him. "I didn't think you could shame the family anymore, cousin. But you sure proved me wrong." She snorted a laugh. "Gryffindor? This is an all time low, little Siri."
"Shut it, Bellatrix," Sirius mumbled.
Then the girl stepped up and shoved Sirius hard in the chest, sending him stumbling backward. Lily was in shock, unsure of what exactly was going on.
"You know what your parents are going to do to you when they hear?" Bellatrix continued. "You'll be living in the attic. Or maybe even in a tent in the yard. They're not going to let you back into comfort, that's for sure."
Lily could just stare. Would Sirius' parents really do that to him?
"I said shut it!" Sirius spat angrily. He lunged forward to retaliate, but other Slytherins had jumped in. Suddenly Sirius was pinned up against the wall. A tall, blonde haired boy stepped up, winding up and punching Sirius in the jaw.
"Stop it!" Lily suddenly shrieked, panicked at the glimpse of blood. "Stop it, leave him alone!"
A few faces turned toward Lily.
"Already got yourself a little Gryffindor girlfriend, Sirius?" Bellatrix sneered. "Oh, your poor mother and father will not be pleased."
"I don't care what they think," Sirius said defiantly, earning a knee in the stomach from the tall Slytherin boy, who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying his job. Sirius doubled over slightly as the wind was knocked out of him.
"Stop!" Lily yelled again, trying to push her way toward Sirius. But two other Slytherins were blocking her out of the group.
Lily whipped around to see the two boys from the train hurrying down the staircase.
"Peter, go get a teacher," Potter instructed. The smaller boy scurried off while Potter hurried to the group. "Back off!" he demanded as he shoved his way into the group.
There was more shouting and pushing, and soon things seemed to be getting even more heated. Thankfully an authoritative voice entered the hall.
Lily turned to see the strict looking professor from last night, Professor McGonagall, marching into the hall. All the chaos stopped immediately.
"This is a poor way to start off the year," McGonagall stated, looking down on them sternly. "Thirty points from Slytherin." There were a few moans in protest, but Professor McGonagall ignored them. "Now, if you would kindly make your way into the Great Hall."
The Slytherins regrouped and made their way in the hall as one. Lily moved over to Sirius, who was slumped awkwardly on the ground.
"Are you alright, Sirius?" she asked worriedly as she knelt down next to him.
"M'fine," Sirius mumbled.
Lily studied him. His lip was bleeding and a bruise was already beginning to form on his jaw.
Professor McGonagall approached the two. "Mr. Black, the Hospital Wing is on the second floor if you require Madam Pomfrey's services," she stated. "She's a new matron, but I assure you, she's very well qualified."
"There's no need for that," Sirius said as he slowly got to his feet.
"Come on, we'll walk you up there," Potter said suddenly, stepping up. Lily gave a start. Partly because she had forgotten Potter was still there, and partly because he was offering to be nice. He hadn't seemed like such a kind boy yesterday on the train.
Sirius seemed about to protest again, but Lily sent him a pleading look. He sighed and gave in. He turned and started back up the staircase, Lily on one side and Potter on the other. He started out a bit slow and awkwardly, but then quickly seemed to be getting his confidence back.
"You'll have a nasty bruise there," Potter mentioned with a sideways glance.
"I've had worse," Sirius said with a shrug.
"I don't understand," Lily spoke up. "They were mad because you were sorted into Gryffindor?"
"It's not really Gryffindor," Sirius clarified. "Getting sorted into Gryffindor was like the last straw, I think. Like I'm finally just shoving their beliefs back in their faces by rejecting Slytherin."
Lily looked up at Sirius. "I still don't think I get it," she said.
"You'll learn," Potter spoke up. "Some families just think they're better than everyone else because they're Pureblooded, and won't tolerate anybody they deem to be lower than themselves. And Slytherin is just full of those families' kids."
"And then Gryffindor is the polar opposite," Sirius interjected. "I couldn't be any less Slytherin right now if I tried."
"Oh," Lily said. She understood… but she didn't. It was a prejudice of some sort. But it just seemed so excessively extreme. A whole group of people had just beat up on Sirius simply because he didn't believe that bloodline was the most important aspect in a person.
"So, I suppose I was wrong when I assumed you were like the rest of your family back on the train," Potter said after a moment.
"I have the scars to prove it," Sirius muttered darkly.
"I don't doubt that," Potter said. "I'm sorry for what I said."
Sirius shook his head. "Don't worry about it," he said. "I'm pretty used to it by now."
The group fell quiet once more.
"Would this be it then?" Potter spoke up. Lily glanced up, seeing that he had stopped in front of a set of rather large double doors. He grabbed one of the doors and tugged it open, peeking inside. "I believe we have found the Hospital Wing," he announced, as he tossed it the rest of the way open to reveal a large room lined with hospital cots.
The three stood in the doorway a bit awkwardly for a moment just looking in. Then, very suddenly, a woman appeared from a room in the back and was on them in a moment.
"What happened here?" she demanded. Lily realized she must be the matron, Madam Pomfrey.
"Seems the Slytherins were disappointed not to have him one of them," Potter spoke up, motioning toward Sirius.
Madam Pomfrey turned her hawk-like gaze toward Sirius with his bleeding lip and bruising jaw. "Alright," she said sternly. "It doesn't look too serious. You two go back down to breakfast and I'll send him along shortly."
Madam Pomfrey led Sirius away as Lily turned with Potter, exiting the wing and closing the door behind them. In the deserted hallway, Lily hesitated and Potter turned, giving her a questioning look.
She sighed to herself. "This is going to take a lot of getting used to."