The Midnight Marauder

James Potter and Lily Evans

October; Maya’s 5th Year, the Marauder’s 6th

Something changed over the summer, Lily thought to herself. Something...pivotal. James had always been – Lily grudgingly admitted – smart and handsome in that strange, messy-hair way. But now...they still played pranks. It was their trademark of sorts. Pink smoke going off in the Charms corridor or hundreds of miniature bats flying into the Great Hall like during breakfast this morning to commemorate Halloween. But they were also...there was no other word for it...serious. They didn’t disrupt class anymore – especially Defense Against the Dark Arts. And they didn’t play pranks on people anymore. No more taking someone’s books out of their hands (they had always been returned but it was super annoying), no more jokes at the expense of others (usually Slytherins but again, it had been immature.) More exact things were hard to pin-point but the change was real, definite.

What had happened over the summer?

Regulus’ outburst on the first day made it pretty clear that Sirius had run away. And everyone assumed that he’d gone to live with James. But how would that make them more mature? If anything, that should have encouraged their frivolity.

“Lily?” Lily jumped a bit and blinked. Mary looked at her with concern over the table in the Three Broomstick’s. “Are you okay?”

“I am,” Lily assured her, “Just thinking.” Mary looked over her shoulder and caught sight of who was sitting a few tables away; James, Sirius, and Maya. Maya and Sirius had their backs to them, but Lily had a clear view of James. And James, unlike he had in years past, was doing his best not to look at Lily. In fact, he hadn’t looked at Lily at all after first noticing that she was there.

“Oh, I see,” said Mary with a mischievous smile. “Now that he’s not bothering you, you miss him.”

“That’s not it,” Lily protested. Oh God, was she blushing? Lily sincerely hoped not.

Arthur, a muscular Ravenclaw that played Chaser on his House Quidditch Team and Mary’s current boy-friend, grinned. “Potter’s been behaving himself, hasn’t he? Guess that happens when the war affects your family like that.”

“Arthur,” said Mary, a bit horrified, “Shhh!”

“What do you mean?” Asked Lily.

Arthur and Mary exchanged glances. “Don’t you get the Prophet over the summer?” Asked Arthur.

Lily’s face fell slightly. “I do. But...Petunia...she started snatching them from me mid-way through the summer...” Mary squeezed her hand in sympathy.

“Who’s...?” Arthur’s voice trailed off with a stern look from Mary.

“My older sister,” explained Lily, “She doesn’t like magic much.”

“Ah...” said Arthur. “I’m sorry.”

Lily shrugged and smiled sadly. “It’s not your fault.”

“Anyway,” said Mary after a slightly awkward pause. “James’ grandparents were found dead in July.”

“What?” Said Lily in alarm. “That’s awful.”

“Yeah,” Arthur said with a nod. “Well, his grandfather was a big auror back in the day. Guess You-know-who wanted him out of the way early.”

Lily fell silent at this, thinking. Sirius got up and stretched lazily at the other table, and James put some silver sickles on the table. The three of them walked out; Maya gave Lily a smile and a wave as they passed them. Lily returned it happily. Despite all that had happened in the last few years, Maya still made Lily smile. Lily turned back to say something to Mary and couldn’t help but notice how her two friends were giving each other shy looks. There was the sound of a firecracker going off outside – Hogsmeade celebrating Halloween. Mary jumped a bit and Arthur put his arm around her comfortingly. Deciding to give them some privacy, Lily stood.

“Well, I’m heading back early. Prefect duties and all. Can’t let the second years blow up the tower.”

“You sure?” Asked Mary. Arthur tried not to look hopeful and failed miserably.

“I’m sure,” said Lily, giving her friend a tight hug. “Bye, Arthur!”

“See ya, Lily.”

Outside of the Three Broomstick’s there was a full-blown carnival. Magical sweets and cauldron’s full of love potions, invisibility potions, polyjuice potions (just to name a few) were sold on every corner. A firecracker went off by Lily’s ear and she jumped, stumbling into someone who was examining candied apples. The person grabbed her arm and saved her from a nasty tumble into the mud.

“Thank you,” Lily said, looking up at her savior. Then, she froze. She was looking into the hazel eyes of James Potter.

James let go of her arm quickly. “You okay, Lily?” He asked, “I didn’t grab onto you to tightly, did I?”

“I’m fine,” Lily said, rubbing her arm. “The mud would have been much worse.”

There was a pause and James glanced around before asking. “Where are Mary and what’s-his-name-Arthur?”

Lily forced herself not to smile. “I decided to give them some privacy.”

“I can relate,” James said with a slight grimace. “It happens more and more now.”

“Sirius and Maya?”

“You got it.”

“What about Remus and Peter?”

“Remus wasn’t feeling too great and Peter,” James grinned carelessly, running his hand through his hair and making it stand even more on end than it already was. “Peter didn’t quite make it around the corner when we did the bats this morning. Filch caught him.”

Lily couldn’t help it, she smiled. “Poor Peter,” she said.

“To be fair,” James said. “We told him to not leave the common room until it was done but he wanted to watch...”

Lily shook her head, trying and failing to look stern, “You lot really shouldn’t play pranks anymore. Especially with all the serious things happening outside of Hogwarts.”

“That’s exactly why we need to play pranks, Lily,” said James. His voice was suddenly serious and Lily found herself wondering when it had gotten so deep. “If we don’t remind people how to laugh,” James continued. “How will they remember how to be happy? It’s stuff that makes us smile that keeps us going through the hard times.”

Lily looked at him and blinked. He ruffled his hair again, looking mildly embarrassed. “That’s actually philosophical,” said Lily, surprised.

“Ah, well,” said James ruefully. “I can’t take all the credit. Remus and Maya said something to that affect once. And that bat prank was the first time I’ve seen Thomas smile in ages.”

“Maya’s friend?” Lily asked.

“Yeah...they found his father’s body a few weeks ago.”

“That’s awful,” Lily whispered. She shivered involuntarily. It was times like these that she was glad her own parents were removed from the magical world.

Noticing the shiver, James almost reached out and touched her arm – the way he would to Maya or Remus – but he forced himself to stand still. Actually, he stuck his hands in his pockets as nonchalantly as possible. “Are you headed back to the castle?” He asked her.

“Yes,” said Lily. “I don’t think crowds are fun on my own.”

James almost asked her if she wanted to stay with him, but five years of her glares across the House Common Room made the words die on his lips. Instead he offered, “I’m on my way back, too. Would you like to...I mean...can we walk back together?”

Lily looked at him for a second, then asked, “Aren’t you going to stay? This seems like your kind of event.”

James shrugged. “Yeah, but Maya and Sirius ran off and it’s not much fun on my own.”

“Hey,” said Lily, a smile tugging on her lips, “I just said that.”

James grinned, a bit embarrassed, and ruffled his hair again, “Yeah, guess you did.”

“We can go back together,” Lily said with a smile. She back-tracked and added, “I would be silly to go back separately since we’re even heading to the same House...”

Her cheeks were pink. James wondered if his were too. He leaned his head in the direction of the road and they began to walk.

“So,” said Lily, mainly to break the silence. “Maya and Sirius...I have to admit I saw that coming.”

James laughed, “Oh, you have no idea! Sirius wanted to ask her out all last year but he couldn’t bring himself to do it.”

“I thought Gryffindor’s were brave,” Lily teased.
James grinned. “But when it’s someone whose friendship you value...Sirius was honestly worried that she would laugh it off and go hang out with Christy and Thomas for the rest of her life.”

“She is a year younger,” Lily reminded him.

“Doesn’t feel that way,” James said with a grin. “We hang out with her more than we do the girls in our own year...” James’ voice trailed off. That had been his fault. His constant nagging of Lily had made a strange divide between the Gryffindor girls and boys of their year.

“That was never my intention, you know,” said Lily quietly.

“What?” James asked, pulled out of his own thoughts by her voice.

“I didn’t mean to hate you guys that much…but I didn’t want to admit…especially as Sev – Snape – started changing…” Lily couldn’t believe she was saying this to James Potter, but he was surprisingly easy to talk to when he wasn’t trying to show off to his friends, or the crowd, or – she had to admit it – when he wasn’t trying to impress her. Has he given up on me? Lily wondered. Then she wondered why she even cared.

“We…I…” I was jealous that you were friends with him, James finished in his head. What he said aloud was, “We stopped. We’re done pulling stuff like that – honest, Lily. We’ve changed. I’ve changed.”

“I heard about your grandparents,” said Lily softly. “I’m sorry.”

James nodded, swallowing hard. “Grandpa always disapproved of some of the stuff I would do – he used to tell me that I was too smart to waste it on silly wand waving. I want to make him proud, you know?”

“I understand,” said Lily, thinking of home. “I’m the only witch in my entire family – I never want to tell them when things are difficult for me, because, I’ve got to do well.”

“But things aren’t difficult for you,” said James, surprised. “You’re Lily Evans. You’re the brightest witch in our entire school!”

“Cut that out,” said Lily, a bit sharper than she intended.

“Cut what…? I mean, I’ll stop,” said James, bewildered.

“Don’t compliment me,” said Lily, her voice still harsh. “You’ve done it too many times in jest, it doesn’t mean anything.”

“Ah, Lily,” James said, his voice slipping into the joking tone that had so often dominated their conversations. “It’s true though.”

“Stop or I’ll walk the rest of the way on my own,” Lily said sternly, her eyes flashing a bit.

“Okay, I’ll stop,” said James, controlling his voice. “I’m sorry.”

Lily nodded and they walked in silence. Both of them furious at themselves for ruining a perfectly good conversation.

“Your parents…” James asked hesitantly. “How much do they know about all that’s happening? Feel free to ignore me if that’s too personal.” He added quickly.

“Not much,” Lily answered. “I don’t know how to tell them…”

They were quiet again for a minute. The stars had begun to shine and the sky was darkening to a deep blue. The lights in the castle were already shining and Hagrid was hauling firewood across the grounds in the distance.

“Are you scared?” Lily asked quietly.

“Of what?” James replied, just as softly.

“Of losing your family?” Lily was horrified the second those words were out of her mouth. It was so personal; but she couldn’t help it. That was what scared her – she wanted to be able to protect her family, even Petunia who could barely stand the sight of her. Lily would do anything for her family.

“Of course I’m scared,” said James quietly. “Bravery isn’t lack of fear, it’s doing stuff even though you’re scared.”

“I think you’re secretly a philosopher, James,” said Lily, amazed. “Or was that Remus and Maya too?”

James smiled as they walked into the great doors of Hogwarts. “Nah…that was all me,” he told her.

Then they were surrounded by a ton of second and first years on their way to the Great Hall for dinner. A couple of stray bats came shooting past them, chased by a very red-faced Mr. Filch and James’ blanched.

“Potter!” Filch howled. James turned and ran, disappearing into a secret passage to escape the caretaker’s wrath.

Lily stared after him, completely surprised that she had thoroughly enjoyed the conversation.

A couple of hours later, Sirius, James, and Peter were pretending to get ready for bed for the sake of the rest of Gryffindor Tower. The full moon was high in the sky and Maya and Remus had both slipped away to give into the power the moon had over them. The other three Marauders’ would wait another hour or two before sneaking away and joining them in their animagus forms. Peter had decided to take a quick nap – tired from spending the afternoon polishing old trophies for his detention – but James was staring out the window with an odd expression.

“Prongs?” Sirius asked. There was no response.

“Prongs?” Still no response.

“Prongs!” Sirius accompanied the last call with a thrown rolled-up sock that bounced off James’ nose.

“Huh, what?!” James complained.

“Nothing,” Sirius said, falling back onto his pillows with his hands behind his head. “What the hell are you thinking about, that’s all.”

“Oh…” James looked embarrassed. “Nothing.”

“I know you better than that, Prongs,” said Sirius.

“Swear you won’t tell anyone, Padfoot,” James warned. “Even Moony and Wormtail.”

“I’ll promise I won’t tell them,” said Sirius.

“Midnight, too.”

“All bets off for that one, mate. Midnight can read me like an open book.”

James frowned. “She might tell, Moony though.”

“Not if I swear her to secrecy,” said Sirius. James didn’t look convinced.

“C’mon, Prongs,” Sirius wheedled. “What’s so important, anyway?”

James stood up and ran his hand through his hair bashfully. “I walked Lily back from Hogsmeade.”

Sirius laughed. “Good one, Prongs.”

James glared at him.

Sirius mouth dropped open in surprise. “You’re serious?”

“Does it look like I’m joking?” James grumbled.

“But…bloody hell, mate…that’s amazing!” Sirius said.

“Shhhh!” James said, glancing at Peter.

Sirius waved it off, “Wormtail sleeps like a rock…oh my God, though…she talked to you? For that long? By yourselves?”

“Yes!” James said, exasperated.

Sirius’ wide smile spread across his face. James’ tried to look dignified, and then an even larger smile grew on his face. “Prongs…”

“Shut up, Padfoot.”

“Good job, mate.”

James threw the sock back at him, but neither of them could stop smiling.

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