Defence Against the Dark Arts had become most people's favourite class. The Gryffindors were still unsure what to think about their new defence teacher but they couldn't deny that he really knew what he was talking about. Even the Slytherins liked him which was saying something. It was probably the first time the Gryffindors and Slytherins agreed on anything. Professor Salazar took them through the syllabus that Professor Dumbledore had set down for him. After boggarts, they studied Red Caps, horrid little goblin like creatures that lurked around old battlefields and dungeons – anywhere that blood had been shed – waiting to kill lost people. After Red Caps they moved to kappas. Kappas were creepy water-dwellers that looked like scaly monkeys, with webbed hands itching to strangle unwitting waders in their ponds.
James wished that his other classes were as much fun. Potions was a nightmare. Lily was still working with Snape. There had been a moment when James thought that Lily might have been angry at Snape for attacking a muggle-born but she seemed to have completely overlooked it. James found Lily and Snape ridiculously distracting and his potions were suffering as a result. James and Lily were managing to be civil in divination as they tried to decipher lopsided shapes and symbols in each other's tea-leaves. Professor Lifflilee's tower room was boiling hot and James barely felt comfortable at the tiny table he shared with Lily. Professor Lifflilee hadn't predicted anyone else's death since that first lesson when she'd seen the grim in Mary MacDonald's tea leaves. Several of the Hufflepuffs absolutely loved Professor Lifflilee. Britney Simon and Lisa Redford had taken to spending their free periods and lunchtimes hounding the teacher's classroom in an attempt to learn more about their futures.
Everyone seemed to enjoy Care of Magical Creatures. Sirius had completely forgotten about his Flobberworm leaving only James and Lily left in the competition. Both James and Lily received outstanding for the task. After studying Flobberworms they had moved onto Salamanders; a small fire dwelling lizard that feeds on fire. From there they studied the Augurey; the Irish Phoenix, a thin, mournful looking bird. They had been paired up to look after an Augurey for a week. The birds were kept in the care of magical creatures classroom and the students had to come and check on them at least once a day.
At the beginning of October, James and Sirius began to get distracted by the prospect of the start of the Quidditch season. Cynthia had the team discussing tactics in the locker room on Thursday evening.
"Gryffindor is used to winning the Quidditch tournament and this year isn't going to be any different," Cynthia explained. The new team mates looked slightly anxious. "I've made sure we've got subs this year because last year there were moments when some of you shouldn't have been playing. I'm not having my team playing injured."
They all thought back to the match when James had to try and score regardless of the fact his arm was broken and another match where James had been hit in the head with a bludger. "Some of you are new to this but you'll be great. James has an amazing eye for Quidditch players and you guys were his bet. Sirius, Rob – you guys are awesome – just do what you do. James… I know you're used to playing chaser but I know you're capable of this."
James nodded. The team jumped to their feet, grabbed their brooms and headed out onto the pitch for their training session. Cynthia had them working just as hard as Astrix ever had. They had practice three times a week. The weather was getting colder and wetter, the nights were darker, but nothing stopped the Gryffindor Quidditch team from practising well into the night.
James had to find himself a date before Saturday's Hogsmeade trip. He didn't have any idea who he should take. Remus and Peter were complaining, "why can't we just go with the Gryffindor girls?"
James sighed, "because it's the first ever Hogsmeade trip. We can go with them next time!"
"I want to go with Mary," Peter complained.
"Yeah the girls are just going together. Why can't we?" Remus frowned.
"Even Alice and Frank are going with them," Peter finished.
"Well you guys can do that if you want," James sighed.
"I think I might," Peter replied. Remus nodded.
"Si, what about you?" James asked.
"I'm going with Felicity," Sirius smiled.
"Really?" James and Remus were suddenly interested. "She finally forgiven you for being a pure-blood?"
"Apparently," Sirius smiled. "What about you James?"
"Not sure," James sighed.
James didn't have to think about it for long. On Friday morning the marauders were sat at the Gryffindor table when Zoe Wadsworth, a Gryffindor fourth year made her way down the table towards them, "hi James."
James smiled, "hiya Zoe."
"James, do you have a date for Hogsmeade?" She asked, blushing slightly.
"No – not yet," James replied.
"Would you… would you like to go with me?"
"Yeah," James smiled, "I'd love to."
She smiled excitably at him, "I'll see you tomorrow then." She practically skipped off.
The next morning the Gryffindor boys made their way down to breakfast. The third year girls were a little bit late for breakfast, they'd taken extra long doing their hair and choosing outfits. They'd even put on a bit of make-up. They made up to where the Gryffindor boys were sat. Alice sat beside Frank whilst the others just slotted in where they could. Marlene ended up sitting next to Sirius whilst Lily sat beside James. "You girls look nice," James commented.
"Thanks James," Marlene smiled. Lily didn't reply but she turned a bright red colour. They sat chatting as they ate their breakfast. A quarter of an hour later they were all leaving the Great Hall. James made his way over to Zoe as Sirius went in search of Felicity. James and Zoe made their way out into the entrance hall where they followed the other students out into the grounds. James barely paid any attention to the couple of aurors who began to follow them. Zoe noticed them but chose not to comment.
"I felt kind of guilty about asking you to Hogsmeade," Zoe frowned, "you know – Rachel is my friend…"
"Yeah… that was ages ago now though," James sighed.
"That's what Erin said but I still felt bad," she replied.
They walked through the village, "have you ever been to Hogsmeade before James?"
"Er yeah. I've been with my parents," and I've been with Sirius when we're sneaking out for firewhiskey. Zoe nodded. They visited several shops and had lunch at the three broomsticks. They talked happily about near enough everything; Quidditch, lessons, family, the prospect of war… They didn't once run out of things to talk about. James laughed at how different it had been with Rachel. They had never had anything to talk about.
James looked at his watch, "it's almost time for dinner. We better get back to the castle."
They made their way back up to the castle. James kissed her on the cheek before they walked into the Great Hall, "I had a great day today. Thank you."
"Me too – maybe we could do this again sometime?"
"I'd like that," James smiled before making his way over to his friends.