Chapter 1, Reunion

‘Did you have to do that, Sirius, dear?’ the elderly woman sighed, with the air of a mother who has long given up hope of controlling her children.

They’re just fooling about, Dorea,’ the silver haired man replied indulgently as the boy his wife had just called Sirius laughed, ‘Did you see her face! That’s going to keep her thinking for a while.’

‘Even so, Charlus; the Statute of Secrecy…’

But Mrs Potter’s reply was lost as the two boys suddenly abandoned their luggage trolleys in favour of two other boys.

In every way that Mr and Mrs Potter’s charges were similar; black hair, tall and athletic, looking for all the world like two brothers, the boys they confronted were entirely different. One, standing by a battered old trunk, neatly labelled Remus. J. Lupin, was as tall as the boys greeting him. Brown-haired, thin and with the kind of hollowed out face of the half-starved; though it spoke of something slightly predatory in him. He smiled in response to the shout, ‘Moony!’ that was directed at him and clapped his friends on the back as they reached him; he too had the brown skin of someone of has spent many days on Cornwall’s beaches.

The other boy was shorter and stouter, looking as though he had recently lost a lot of weight and wasn’t quite sure of how to deal with his new appearance, but was all the healthier for it. He too had obviously been in the sun, but hadn’t reacted well; he did have a ruddy, cheerful glow about him, however, as he greeted his friends.

In the meantime, Mr and Mrs Potter had taken charge of the boys’ trunks and with the aid of wands taken from their robes, levitated all four and the other miscellaneous items they had arrived with onto the train. They placed them in an empty compartment and retreated to the platform to join the conversation of two other adults.

The four friends were greeting each other with all the enthusiasm that two weeks of separation brings. They had agreed on the separation months before, in the aftermath of taking their Ordinary Wizarding Level exams, or O.W.Ls. The long-haired boy, Sirius Black, who had winked at the girl, had suggested it, saying, ‘Otherwise we’ll have bugger all to talk about…’

The others had agreed and in a fit of inspiration, the short boy, Peter Pettigrew, had furthered this by suggesting that they not even tell each other their exam results. James Potter had then leapt upon this idea, going so far as to begin a betting circle among them as to who would get what results. Now each had varying sums of money on their own and each other’s results; the last week had been building an odd tension as they wondered just how much they had lost and gained.

Peter quietly worried about the amount he had bet, and wondered how he was going to pay if he lost. Typically, he had been persuaded into offering more money than he actually had and wondered what sort of forfeit might be in order if he couldn’t pay up. Something horribly embarrassing probably, he scuffed his shoes, glanced worriedly at his fingernails and looked up at the other boys.

James Potter, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin were all tall, fairly good-looking, intelligent and to many outsiders it seemed that Peter didn’t belong with the rest of them. Beside them he was painfully average at best. Many assumed it was simply because all four were in the same House that they remained friends at all.

People often wondered where the four nicknames they had bestowed upon each other came from too. Remus was ‘Moony’, James was ‘Prongs’, Sirius was ‘Padfoot’ and Peter was called ‘Wormtail’. Collectively they were usually referred to as ‘The Marauders’ by the school population; students and staff alike. This was due to their reputation as the worst trouble-makers the school had ever seen.

What these individual nicknames meant, and their origin was a mystery to everyone they knew. Indeed, it was just one question in a list of many that people would have liked to ask them. But The Marauders didn’t answer questions like that.

The four finished their greetings and wandered back to where their respective parents now stood, chatting amid the clouds given off by the scarlet steam engine at the platform edge. Peter went to stand by his Mother, Remus to his Dad, while James and Sirius stood either side of Mrs Potter, like two protective sons. No one said anything about Sirius’ parents’ absence.

‘Thank you and Elizabeth, for looking after the boys over the summer, John, I hope they weren’t too much hassle!’ James’ mother was saying as they arrived and they all grinned at the shared memories.

Mr Lupin’s, ‘Not at all!’ was lost as a shrill whistle sounded from the steam engine at the front of the train, on which was emblazoned, ‘The Hogwarts Express’.

‘Oh, Merlin! Is that the time already?’ Mrs Potter cried, glancing up at the huge station clock in disbelief. She sniffed suddenly and pulled both James and Sirius into a tight hug, ‘Do try to stay out of trouble this year, boys,’ she whispered tearfully.

‘And keep Sirius away from those girls!’ Mr Potter warned loudly, causing a burst of laughter. Sirius had the decency to look slightly embarrassed as he shook hands with James’ father.

Mr Lupin had one last thing to add though, ‘That reminds me! Apparently a pretty young thing, called Hazel, stopped Lizzy in the street the other day. She was asking whether you lot would be back next summer?’

More delighted laughter followed this and John Lupin ruffled his grinning son’s hair as he climbed onto the train. They pulled down a window and waved as the train shuddered and began to move, then they were out of the station and heading North through London.

James turned to his friends with a grin, ‘So… let’s take a seat, then you can hand over your money!’

Sirius snorted as they stepped into their compartment, ‘You claiming Divination talent again, Prongs?’

‘Yeah, well, you know me, didn’t even need to take the exam,’ James replied with an easy smile, taking a seat and resting his feet on the one opposite.

‘Moony, bets!’ Sirius ordered as he lay across the seat on which James’ feet were resting, taking most of that side of the compartment so that Peter was left a tiny gap between the door and James’ feet. A passing girl stopped to watch as Sirius flicked his hair out of his eyes and shuffled comfortably. Remus watched her out of the corner of his eye from where he lounged in the corner, wondering how long it would be before she realised that they were all watching her. Eventually the girl noticed that the conversation had ceased and blushed brightly before vanishing from sight.

Then Remus turned and raised an eyebrow at Sirius who realised his error, ‘Oh, sorry mate; too used to having those Cornwall girls hanging about, maybe we should have invited that one in?’

All four laughed at the memories Black’s words conjured; they had spent most of the summer at Remus’ house near Wadebridge. In recent years, Remus had seen Muggles on the beaches swimming out on planks to ride the waves back in to the beach. He’d asked his Mum about it; being a Muggle she knew a lot more about that kind of thing than he did. She said it was called ‘surfing’. So after O.W.Ls had finished he explained the idea to his friends, who promptly told him he was an idiot.

So Remus had changed his approach; he told Sirius that just as many girls did it as boys, athletic girls… he also told James that it required skill, balance and fitness; implying that James might not be up to it.

So the three descended on Wadebridge; dragging a protesting Peter with them, having told him that the sun and exercise would be good for him. Remus procured ‘boards’ for them and they found a secluded spot to begin their initiation.

Clad only in what Remus called ‘surf shorts’ and Mr Lupin’s Warming charms, they plunged into the North Atlantic, having spent a few minutes watching more experienced ‘surfers’ further down the coast. Typically, within minutes James was up and cresting waves as though he had been doing it for years; he said it stemmed from his “innate Quidditch talent and general awesomeness”. In fact, after a couple of hours the only real difficulty they were having was trying to keep Peter from toppling off his board. Sirius suggested tying his feet to it, but Remus pointed out that the board would turn upside if he fell off, which could present Peter with some issues.

A couple of days later they James decided that they all had enough experience to join the wetsuit clad Muggles shivering in the freezing water. They instantly stood out as being the only ons not wearing wetsuits and there was instant commotion on the beach as they plunged into the waves. Were these boys from some even colder, Scandinavian country or just crazy?

Still, by the time the tide had dropped and they abandoned the water to rest in the sun, they had a small crowd of admirers. Among this crowd were several young ladies, all wondering who was going to get the first case of pneumonia, but they eyed the boys just as keenly as the boys eyed them back.

‘But how do you stay warm?’ one girl asked as they walked up the beach, boards tucked under their arms, or in Peter’s case being dragged along behind him. She laid a provocative hand on Sirius bare chest, ‘Oh my God! You’re like a radiator!’ she cried as she felt the Warming Charm and instantly mistook it for body heat.

Anyone else would have been lost for words trying to explain such a phenomenon, but these four boys were renowned for their ability to provide instant and extravagant alibis.

‘We’ve got insanely fast metabolisms,’ Sirius replied with a shrug as the girls crowded round even Peter to feel these ‘hot’ guys.

What Remus said next though, made their summer, ‘Unfortunately though it’s a genetic disorder; eventually our bodies will just burn themselves out. We go to a special clinic near London for help, but it’ll be a miracle if any of us reaches thirty. So we’re enjoying ourselves while we can,’ he said with the tragically calm air of someone who is already resigned to his fate as the girl’s gasped around them.

‘Oi, Moony, enough daydreaming!’ James said, nudging his vacant eyed friend with an elbow, ‘I’m sure Louisa will be back next summer!’

Despite himself, Remus grinned at James’ sally and replied, ‘And she’ll be missing me till then.’

‘Whoa, Moony! You’d better stop that or you’ll end up like Padfoot!’

‘And the problem with that would be?’ Sirius asked casually, resting his hands behind his head and putting his feet or Peter’s knees.

‘Do you know how much dog biscuits cost these days?’ James riposted and was rewarded with a burst of laughter.

James knew his friends too well; he could tell what any of them was likely to be thinking at any time and it was only too obvious Remus was remembering long legs, sun-bleached hair and warm, brown eyes. Now though, Remus was pulling a scrap of parchment from his jeans pocket before saying solemnly, ‘Now, no crying when I win everything, ladies.’

The next half an hour was spent working out who owed who money.

True to form, Sirius beat them all with his exceptional memory and got six ‘Outstanding’s, Remus pulled a close second with five and James only felt slightly as though he had let himself down when he announced, ‘Four O’s, five E’s.’

‘That’s what you get for playing too much Quidditch!’ Peter piped up suddenly; he had really come out of his shell over the summer. Sirius said it was all the female attention, but James reckoned it was the weight loss.

‘And staring at Evans all day,’ Sirius added as he accepted a handful of coins from James.

‘Every day.’ Remus finished helpfully.

James looked affronted, ‘You can never play too much Quidditch!’ he replied haughtily, knowing only too well that the second statement had an uncomfortably true ring to it.

It was a well-known fact that four elements governed James’ life; excitement, food, Quidditch and Lily Evans, not necessarily in that order. Sirius often said that if Evans appeared in a bikini, on a broomstick, bearing a treacle tart; James’ head would probably explode. Remus often said that the likelihood of that ever happening was nil.

It turned out, in the end, that Peter had actually won the most with an uncharacteristically good grade. Before the exams, Sirius had offered him fifteen to one odds that he couldn’t get an Outstanding in any of his exams. Peter had given him two galleons and in an unprecedented coup had got an O in Transfiguration, making himself thirty galleons in the process.

‘You cheeky little sod!’ Sirius exclaimed as he handed over most of the contents of his moneybag, ‘When did you get so clever?’

‘About the same time you were offering fifteen to one odds that an Animagus couldn’t get an O in O.W.L Transfiguration,’ Peter replied, looking smug as he counted his earnings and handed five galleons to James and Remus in payment for his own debts.

‘And that, boys, is what two and a half years of becoming illegal Animagi gets you,’ James rounded off, ‘Oh, and several werewolf bites…’

‘Carry on like that and I’ll bite you properly next time!’ Remus warned as he hastily recast the Muffling charm they had put on their compartment, just in case. He hated them talking about his condition, but he was used to it and joked along with them; it wasn’t like they were trying to hurt his feelings or anything, it was just what they did.

‘Awh, he’s so cute when he says things like that!’ Sirius said in his best little girl’s voice.

‘I seem to remember I sent you off howling last time, Padfoot,’ Remus replied with a lopsided grin.

‘Yeah, well it bloody hurts when some great mon- beast bites you on the tail!’

The whole compartment seemed to darken for a second and something flickered across Remus’ face as Sirius almost said the one word that Remus loathed.

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