Chapter 4, Q.C.
Lily reached her compartment and slumped into a seat by the window. The four other girls looked at each, grinned with long suffering cheerfulness and chorused, ‘What’s he done now?’
Only one person could have put Lily in such a mood before they even got to Hogwarts.
‘Continuing to be an insufferable berk,’ Lily grumbled, not missing the grins for a moment. There were four other girls in her year in Gryffindor; Alice Yates, Laura Tavistock, Mary McDonald and Dorcas Meadowes. Lily loved them all, but her and Mary had always got on the best; probably because they were both Muggle-borns. Laura, Alice and Dorcas were all pure-bloods, but all five girls were good friends. Alice was forthright and as stubborn as you would expect of a Gryffindor, Laura was simple, but not stupid, she just didn’t complicate things and Dorcas was the kind of person you couldn’t help but like.
‘I still don’t see what your problem with him is, Lily,’ Laura began, but Lily interrupted.
‘Just because you used to share baths with him!’
Laura grinned at Lily’s implication but, only confirmed it, ‘When we were about two! Anyway, look at him now; he’s handsome-‘
Laura stoically continued, ‘Smart-‘
‘You’ve already said that, besides, if he wasn’t so obsessed with you, Lily, I’d quite happily go out with him.’
The other girls stared at Laura while Lily scowled, but without passion, ‘Go out with Black then; they’re practically the same person.’
Laura swept back her auburn hair and looked unapologetic, ‘Black’s just a man-whore. But I know for a fact you used to fancy him, Dorcas, same goes for you, Mary, so stop pretending you agree with Lily.’
Mary huffed at her, but Dorcas smiled sweetly and said, ‘Yes, but I could hardly start shagging a team-mate could I?’
Dorcas played Chaser on the Gryffindor Quidditch team, along with Black and Potter; she and Laura got on with them best out of any of the Gryffindor girls, who were torn between supporting Lily and laughing at the Marauders jokes.
Lily pretended to be sick at the thought, then had the last word, ‘He’s awful, and that’s all I’ve got to say about it.’
Alice almost felt inclined to point out that each of Lily’s arguments against James Potter had been neatly countered by Laura’s but decided she didn’t want Lily in a bad mood before the feast, so she left it. James had been pursuing Lily on and off since Third Year, about the time when Lily had come back after the summer and the boys had started noticing there were, in fact, girls in their year. He had though made the point that he could have any other girl he wanted; last year he had gone out and broken up with the Head Girl, two years above him. She had been in tears for weeks afterwards.
Alice had noticed that his relationships never tended to last more than a couple of weeks; Sophie Carson, the Head Girl had been the exception which lasted just over a month. Then he would be back to asking Lily out every couple of hours. Rumour had it that he was a fast mover though.
Dorcas, wise in boys’ ways, having two older brothers, pointed out that it was a form of flattery. Obviously Potter could have his pick of girls, but he wanted Lily; the others weren’t good enough.
Lily had replied that she didn’t want to catch anything.
‘I take it she refused,’ Sirius said as though James had never asked Lily out before.
‘It wasn’t exactly the best timing,’ Peter said to no one in particular.
‘Yeah, Prongs, have you ever thought of trying a different approach?’ Remus asked as he too slipped back inside.
‘Like what?’ James asked, ‘We can hardly pull out the “oh, I’m dying of a genetic disease” approach, Moony,’ he said glumly.
‘Try out the other females pining after you,’ Sirius suggested.
‘Did that last year; look what I did to Carson…’
‘At least she still writes,’ Sirius grinned. James received a letter every month or so from the poor girl who seemed to have fallen in love with him, he replied out of politeness but it had stopped him from taking advantage of his good looks and popularity. Over the summer had been different of course; what went on in Cornwall, stayed in Cornwall. It was part of the unwritten code they shared.
‘Other girls just aren’t …’
‘Evans?’ Peter suggested.
‘-what I’m looking for.’ James finished.
‘Stop being ‘Potter’,’ Remus said suddenly.
‘Yeah!’ Sirius exclaimed, ‘We’ll disguise you as someone; someone hot, popular and awesome… me!’
‘Padfoot, shut it. What are you on about, Moony?’
‘I mean: stop being ‘Potter’ and start being ‘Prongs’.’
‘You know, Moony, I never had Evans down as the bestiality type, but maybe that’s her thing. I always wondered why she wouldn’t go out with anyone.’
‘Padfoot, SHUT UP!’ the other three shouted.
‘Fine…’ he whined, ‘just trying to keep the mood light; no need to get all shirty about it,’ he sank back into his seat and stared out the door window, unnerving passing girls.
Remus tried to find the words to describe the idea that was suddenly bouncing around his head, ‘What I mean is; stop being ‘Potter’: Quidditch player, smart-arse, girl’s dream-’
‘Captain, actually, now you mention it.’ James said smugly.
‘That’s a prime examp-’
‘WHAT!’ yelped Sirius.
James pulled a shiny badge out of his pocket; it was emblazoned with the initials ‘Q.C’.
‘You didn’t tell me! You let me believe that bloody Meadowes got it!’ Sirius yelled, diving across the compartment to snatch at the badge, ‘That’s mine by rights!’
‘Get your grubby paws off me, Padfoot!’ James shouted, laughing as Sirius scrabbled at his closed fist. A second later they were rolling across the floor and Peter, sensing what was about to happen, quickly closed the blinds on the compartment door. Seconds later a huge, black dog was standing on James’ chest.
‘Get off me, you great brute!’ James laughed as it worried the edge of his T-shirt.
‘P… Padfoot! Control yourself!’ Remus choked through laughter that threatened to overwhelm him.
James clambered to his feet as Padfoot snapped playfully at the air, and Peter warned, ‘Prongs, there isn’t room!’
‘Wasn’t going to anyway,’ James said, holding the badge over his head and sticking out his tongue, ‘Padfoot, as your Captain; if you ever attack me again, I’ll throw you off the team!’
Suddenly Sirius was on his knees on the floor in front of him, ‘You wouldn’t dare!’ he panted, appalled, ‘You wouldn’t win another match!’
‘Let’s not test that theory; though we could take the ‘puffs any day of the week! Especially since Diggory left last year.’
‘Who’s Ravenclaw’s Captain this year?’ Peter asked.
‘Bet it’s Quigley,’ Remus answered quickly.
‘Or Fenwick,’ James said, ‘and the Slytherins have still got Compton from last year. He did get them the Cup. Still, I reckon we could win it this year; just need a Goalkeeper, a Beater and a Seeker. I’m going to do try-outs next weekend; if we start early we can gel a team, get people up to scratch and then we’ll be flying.’
A few hours later; after an exhaustive discussion on Quidditch tactics between Sirius and James as Remus tried, once again, to teach Peter the finer points of Wizard’s Chess, they climbed down from the horseless carriages outside the castle. James had his Quidditch Captain’s badge firmly attached to his robes, despite Sirius’ best efforts.
All four of the boys were silent as they stepped down from their horseless carriage outside Hogwarts; they were back at school, they were the Marauders and they had a reputation to uphold. People were able to see them now, and they played up to their roles; the perfect distraction from the dark truth.
Sirius stepped down first and looked up the castle, surveying it with practised distain while looking carefully for any changes, and keeping an eye on one of the girls who had just got out of the carriage in front. Remus unfolded himself from his seat next and stepped down, keeping a mask of aloofness comparable to Sirius’ to hide his grin; the sky was clear, the stars out and it was three weeks until the next full moon. Then Peter jumped down, a smug grin of anticipation plastered across his lips. James was last, taking his time. He stood on the gravel and ran a hand through his hair, then he took a deep breath of late summer evening air and said quietly, ‘It’s good to be back.’
He smiled, looked round to check they were indeed the last ones to arrive and bounded up the stairs to the Entrance Hall. It wouldn’t do to be anything less than fashionably late, they were The Marauders after all.
Lily waved to a couple of people as she took her usual seat at the Gryffindor table, as Alice gestured for a Seventh Year boy to come and sit beside them. Lily was ignoring the way Severus Snape was staring pointedly at her and instead caught the eye of Benjy Fenwick, a Ravenclaw. He grinned, winked and twitched his head towards a sandy haired boy who was watching Laura carefully; he looked similar to a girl in her year.
She leant across to Dorcas and whispered, ‘Who’s that boy, a couple down from Benjy? The one staring at Laura?’
‘Who’s staring at me?’ Laura asked, turning round to look.
The boy looked quickly away, and Laura was distracted as the Marauders made their entrance; they always seemed to be the last to arrive. Dorcas looked up and grinned; the Marauders were always worth watching in a spare moment, especially on occasions like this.
Black, Potter and Lupin swept into the hall, three abreast and each a model of their own personality; Black glanced around emotionlessly and nodded to a couple of people he deemed worthy of his attention. Potter, with the ghost of a smile playing about his lips and badge glittering on the lapel of his robes attracted a lot of attention as Dorcas exclaimed, ‘I knew it! There was no way McGonagall would let Black captain the team!’
Lupin was beside them, and stalked into the room with an almost distasteful expression on his face and more than a few of the younger years flinched from his cruel gaze. Then the image was lost as he laughed and clapped Black on the back, but more than few were know watching them, waiting for something to happen. Lily could see several girls watching the three hungrily as they passed the Slytherin table.
‘Wow,’ breathed Mary, beside her, ‘They look…’
They were tanned, calm and relaxed as they sauntered across the Hall; not a care in the world and confidence radiated off them in waves. Peter scurried in behind them, looking as though he had got lost or something between the front door and the Great Hall, he caught up with the others as Avery called from the Slytherin table, ‘Too bad abou- Argh!’
One of the benches at the Slytherin table suddenly collapsed, spilling Sixth and Seventh Years across the floor but the Marauders hadn’t even looked round. Gales of laughter broke out across the Hall and several of the teachers frowned, but no one had seen any magic being done; it could very well have been a simple coincidence.
‘Hey, girls! Good summer?’ Potter asked as they took seats just down from where Lily was sitting, ‘Alright Frank? How’s it going?’ Then he looked up in surprise as though he had just realised something was happening at the Slytherin table.
Lily glared at him, knowing, like everyone else that the Marauders had somehow engineered the bench collapse, but unable to pin anything on them. Professor Slughorn was now reattaching the legs.
‘Congrats, James, or should that be Captain now?’ Dorcas said.
‘Hey! Less of the flattery, Meadowes, you’ll just make him worse!’ the brown-haired Seventh Year Alice was sitting next to called down the table.
‘Well, I take it that me and Sarah are still on the team?’ she asked, fluttering her eyelashes shamelessly.
James gave her an appraising look, ‘That would depend, Meadowes.’
‘On what?’ she blinked, surprised at his sudden seriousness.
‘On how much you’re willing to do for the team,’ he said and cracked a mischievous grin at her.
Dorcas grinned back, she had actually been worried for a second, but he was keeping up his usual flirtatious banter, ‘Oh, I’m sure there are plenty of things we could do for the team,’ she said seductively and almost everyone nearby burst into laughter.
Peter hung back in the Entrance Hall, just out of sight as the others marched inside, grabbing attention simply by being there. He moved to the edge of the doorway, crouched down, aimed and shot a low level Weakening charm at the end bench of the Slytherin table. Then he hurried after his friends, feigning being out of breath as he caught up with them and the bench broke behind them.
Minutes later the new First Years were being led in; nervous anticipation strewn across the group and they lined up beside the stool that Flitwick had just brought in. Peter wasn’t interested in that though; he was waiting for the feast to start and the pasty he had had at lunch seemed to have worn off hours ago. He didn’t like this new diet plan that Remus had drawn up for him, but he was enjoying his new fitness; he wondered if anyone else might notice.
‘That one on the end could be fit in a few years’ time,’ Sirius said casually, looking at the line of First Years.
‘Black, are you checking out First Years?’ Alice asked in disgust.
‘Got to keep an eye on the talent,’ he answered, apparently with complete seriousness and completely unfazed by Alice’s reaction, ‘Lizzy Townley’s not looking bad, and Harry Greene’s been watching Laura like a hawk since we came in.’ he added.
‘That’s who he is? I thought he looked like Tamsin!’ Lily exclaimed, having only heard the last part.
‘Tammy’s got better breasts though.’ Sirius said with a grin.
‘You’re such an arse, Black.’
‘Love you too, Evans, you’re just like my sister.’
Lily frowned in confusion, ‘You don’t have a sister, Black.’
‘Brother then if you want to get technical, just cause he’s called Regulus doesn’t make him any less of a little girl,’ Black replied contemptuously.
Lily was about to lecture him on the importance of family, but she something in Potter’s eyes and the way Remus was ever so slowly shaking his head at her told her not to. She bit back her words and turned away to watch the Sorting as Professor McGonagall called for quiet and whispered to Mary, ‘Wonder what the new Defense Teacher will be like? I can’t see anyone new at the Top Table…’