Mary was still staring at the space Sirius left behind when she realized her jaw had dropped which probably made her look like an oxygen-deprived fish on dry land. What in Merlin's name just happened? All Mary had wanted to do was to politely thank Sirius – one moment of weakness of where she had to open up to him just a little – and he immediately used it to his advantage to embarrass her right in front of James and Remus.
Grinding her teeth in annoyance, Mary once again realized how much she hated that arrogant smirk on Sirius's face when he thought he was acting funny. And by the way, grabbing her by the waist like that had been completely unnecessary; she would have been fine on her own. In fact, all she would have needed was a gentle push to get on the train by herself. Instead, what did Sirius do? He had instantly wrapped his arms around her. How typical of him…
And right when she was about to tell him she did not appreciate being held so close, he had left before she even had the chance to do so. Mary was starting to feel more annoyed by the minute. Sirius Black... What a complete arrogant prat. Why 99 percent of the girls at Hogwarts was fancying that guy was beyond her.
Well... Alright, of course she could see why. As long as falling in love was all about appearances, that is. You had to be blind to not see Sirius Black was a handsome guy. But to Mary, personality was just as important when it came to falling for someone, and she certainly did not think highly of Sirius in that department. He was conceited, selfish and would consider a day he did not get a detention as a lost one. On top of that, Mary was pretty convinced Sirius only let the mousy-looking Peter Pettigrew hang out with him and his friends so they could legitimately pester the poor fellow.
After another moment, Mary grudgingly admitted to herself that - when she looked at it in a more objective way - Sirius catching her instead of letting her crash on the platform might have just been a polite way to handle things. And he did make sure she was doing alright before hopping onto the the Express after her.
That was quite unlike the Sirius she had known from previous school years. For the briefest of seconds he had actually seemed concerned, which was... well, there was no other word for it: rather nice. He also looked rather cute when he smiled. Mary had to shake her head to stop herself from thinking about that mesmerizing smile. What was going on here? Sirius Black was an annoying and arrogant git and she should not spare him another thought.
"Er… Excuse me."
Mary's mind got pulled to the present by the voice of a tiny boy. Scared first-year, she concluded at first glance. She just assumed the boy had lost track of his friends, so she smiled down at him and asked kindly: "Hi there. Are you lost?"
"No," he replied. "I'd like to go to a carriage upfront, but you and your massive trunk are in my way."
"Oh. Right! Sorry about that," Mary said, slightly taken aback by his behavior. Certainly she had not been this bold when she went to Hogwarts for the first time. However, there was no denying that the boy was right. Her luggage was practically blocking the entire aisle.
With a mighty effort, she pushed the heavy thing aside just a bit – why did she had to bring all those extra clothes? Why? – to let the boy pass. She then tried to move the trunk along the corridor a little further, but it would not budge. Oh well, she reasoned, at least no one would be able to move it anywhere else either. It would be safe to leave her things behind and start looking for Lily and Brice's carriage instead.
Her friends were hanging out in the third compartment from where she had hopped onto the Express. Thankfully, there was no sign of Sirius here - or any Marauder for that matter – so she casually walked inside, heaved a relieved sigh, and flopped down on a seat near the door. "Hey."
"Morning Mary. What took you so long?" Brice, a short blonde-haired witch with brown eyes who appeared to have been reading the Daily Prophet, asked in a cheerful manner.
"Me and my sleepy head almost forgot to hop on the train in time," Mary replied nonchalantly.
"Or so we heard," a pretty redhead with emerald eyes noted shrewdly, grinning at her from the other side of the carriage.
Mary groaned. "Oh Godric, what did they say?"
Lily chuckled. "Something about you, Sirius and Remus literally having to make a jump for the train. Is it true you tripped and Sirius had to catch you from behind?"
Mary noticed she started to blush fiercely when she was once again remembered by having Sirius's arms around her waist. She quickly pulled herself together. "Correction: I did not trip. The Express jolted when I tried to get on, that's why I fell. And of course Black was there right on cue to get his hands on me."
Brice arched an eyebrow. "Sirius Black wrapped his arms around your waist? Dear Godric, I can only imagine how awful that must have been."
"Well, you should know," Mary replied mockingly.
Brice had briefly dated Sirius back in fifth year, before he brutally dumped her once his eye fell on his next victim: a Beauxbatons exchange student. Her friend laughed while shaking back her curly hair before she faked a dreamy sigh and pretended to stare out of the window. "Oh, I remember. Those were the happiest ten days of my life," she added jokingly.
"Well, I certainly did not enjoy it. Mind you, this chivalrous act was completely unnecessary. Sirius did not have to catch me, a little push in the right direction would have been quite enough."
Lily frowned. "So what should he have done, then? Let you fall right on your arse? Mare, Sirius was only trying to help you. Why on earth do you hate him so much?"
A better question would be: why does Lily not hate Sirius anymore? He was easily as arrogant as James Potter, his best friend who had been trying to woe Lily ever since their fourth year. The weirdest thing of all was that Lily used to dislike Sirius as much as James, but all that changed by the end of fifth year when Peeves locked up the two of them in a deserted classroom. Ever since that mysterious nightly encounter, Lily and Sirius seemed to be getting along fine.
Which, if you asked Mary, was suspicious to say the least. Lily swears saying nothing happened between them and all they did was hang out together until Filch and McGonagall managed to get them out of there, but seriously: spending hours in an empty classroom with Sirius Black and no (attempt to any) physical interaction whatsoever? That just seemed downright impossible.
However, befriending Sirius had not changed Lily's feelings towards James. If anything, it only complicated things between the two of them, because Mary happened to like James Potter. They had been good friends ever since their first year. She believed he was a great guy. Not in a he's-so-cute-I-wanna-marry-him-and-have-his-babies kind of way, but Mary thought of him as a true friend. So the weird thing was that Mary was friends with James (but could not stand Sirius) and Lily liked to hang out with Sirius (and she hated James).
Surprisingly enough, Mary and Lily had not once argued about this confusing situation. And they would probably have to thank Brice for that, since she took a neutral stand and neither adored nor strongly disliked any of the Marauders. Well, except Remus Lupin. Mary had started to suspect Brice was developing certain feelings for Remus a few months ago, somewhere around the end of last year. Even though she never talked about it, Mary had caught her staring at him a few times and-
"-So..." Lily inquired.
"Why don't you like him?"
"Well, why don't you like James, Lil?" The smile on her best friends face faded rather quickly at the mere thought of James.
"There's your answer," Mary said, feeling relieved Lily would not fire more questions about her feelings towards Sirius Black. She had not yet figured out why their recent encounter was confusing her so much, and she had no intention to discuss it with Lily or Brice until she did. And if there was anything she could not do, it was keeping a secret from her friends. She suddenly remembered that James had been named Headboy. "Oh Lil, I forgot to ask. How did you take it?"
"Take what?" Lily replied while helping herself to a Cauldron Cake from Brice's bag.
"James becoming Headboy. How weird is that? I mean, I'm quite happy for him, of course, but the two of you together, who would have thought-"
Mary had stopped talking mid-sentence when she noticed the horrified look on Lily's face. All the color seemed to have left the redhead's cheeks and she had to swallow her bite of Cauldron Cake with great difficulty before looking up at Mary with big eyes. "Please, please, tell me this is your way of telling a bad joke?"
"No, I'm sorry. It's true," Mary said, preparing for the worst.
Lily looked like she had seen a ghost. And not a friendly Hogwarts one. "I... I was supposed to meet McGonagall after the welcoming feast," she stammered. "She would inform me and the Headboy about our duties. I was so sure it was going to be Remus, he and I have been Prefects together after all…" She groaned in frustration. "I cannot believe this! Out of all people, they chose bloody Potter!"
Brice, who had been watching the two of them silently, finally decided to speak up. "Well, I bet James will have the night of his life. Years of trying to get close to Lily and now he'll finally get a real chance to team up with her." She suddenly gave a loud snort. "Merlin, I would give anything to be around when he learns Lily is his partner."
Mary sighed. "Hate to bust your bubble there, my friend, but James has known for quite some time."
"What?" Lily snapped. "How on earth does he know?"
"The more appropriate question would be: how do you know?" Brice observed.
"Remus told me right before we got onto the Express. Actually, that's why we almost missed the ride. We were too busy arguing over why James preferred to keep this a secret which, of course"- she shot Lily a daring look - "was Black's idea. But hang on, they didn't say anything when they stopped by here earlier?"
Brice shook her head. "Sirius only shared the story about rescuing you from what would have been a downright embarrassing moment. I assume he still wanted James to surprise Lily with this 'jolly news flash'."
Lily was unusually quiet. She was rhythmically tapping her fingernails on the arm of her seat with a grim look on her face before making up her mind. "Well, I will not have any of it. This time it is Potter who's up for a big surprise!" Without further ado, she got up from her seat, tossed her auburn hair over her shoulders, opened the compartment door with a flourish and headed out.
Mary and Brice were left speechless in their seats. Then, while simultaneously drawing the same conclusion, both of them got up quickly and hurried after Lily. They would not want to miss a second from what was about to take place in the Marauder's carriage.
They could already hear a girls' high cries coming from a compartment far ahead. Conforming their suspicions, they soon spotted a group of students gathering around a single compartment near the front of the Express. Brice exchanged a glance with Mary before making her way through the crowd.
"You KNEW and you didn't even have the decency to explain I am forced to work with you all year, you arrogant prat!" Lily was shouting.
Mary gently pushed aside two curious-looking second years so she would have a better view on what was going on inside. The situation she witnessed inside almost made her laugh aloud.
Every single Marauder was dead quiet; none of them seemingly willing to interrupt Lily's rant. Remus was following her every move from behind a spell book he had been reading. Peter had paused lifting what appeared to be some Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans to his mouth. Naturally Sirius was the only one who still seemed completely at ease. He was lounging in his seat with his feet leaning on the opposite chair, watching Lily with an amused look on his face. When Mary's eyes finally settled on James, the only word she could have used to describe the way he looked was, well, petrified. He was gazing at the furious redhead, who was currently blaming him of bribing Dumbledore, obviously wishing he could make her stop shouting like that, but not quite knowing how to handle the situation.
"-something only you could come up with!" Lily fumed, not quite done yet with reprimanding James.
"-Hang on there, Lily," Sirius calmly interrupted, "Can you stop shouting for just a minute?"
To the surprise of everyone present, she did.
"This was all my idea. I told James to keep you in the dark. I thought it would be a fun thing to do, but I see now that I was wrong. In any case, if there's anyone you should be pissed at, it's me."
Lily blinked. "Oh," she said, clearly trying to make sense of everything he had just said. "Well, you shouldn't have done that, Sirius. This was so unfunny it's not even ironic," she added in a calmer voice.
"Gotcha Lil. I'm sorry."
She shrugged. "That's quite alright. I would have found out sooner or later, I suppose."
An uncomfortable silence, in which James's gaze was shifting from (a now smiling) Lily to Sirius and back, followed.
"Anyone care for some beans?" Peter asked promptly, trying to break it. "You Mary, might I offer you some beans?"
She shook her head. "No, I'm alright here, Pete. Thanks anyway."
She looked over at James, who was audibly relaxing in his seat now that Lily had stopped yelling, although he still seemed reluctant to look her in the eye, and locked eyes with Mary instead. He grinned foolishly at her. "James," Mary asked, "out of curiosity: how did you hear Lily was named Headgirl?"
James straightened up in his seat. "Well, as you know, my dad works at the Ministry. He ran into Professor Slughorn at a reception in July. Our Potions master was rather enjoying the mead that evening. Long story shirt, he got a bit tipsy at one point and told my father about Dumbledore considering to make me Headboy and you-" he shot Lily a cautious look "-Headgirl."
"But that still doesn't make much sense, now does it?" Brice wondered aloud. "It's usually former prefects who get the job. If one of you guys were to be become Headboy," she blushed slightly, but Mary – who was standing close enough – was the only one who noticed, "it should have been Remus, right?"
Remus shrugged. "I suppose Dumbledore just went another way."
Sirius chuckled appreciatively. "Yeah, Dumbledore probably hopes you lot finally get it on this year!"
James kicked against his shins (Sirius: "Ouch!") and an annoyed Lily was about open her mouth again when Brice intervened right on time. "Allllllright, that's quite enough. You two have no choice but to work this out eventually, but now is not the time. We'll be arriving at Hogwarts shortly, so we'd better go back and change."
Brice grabbed Lily by the elbow and pulled her along through the crowd of spectators while stating: "Nothing else to see her, folks. Move along now, all of you."
Mary on the other hand lingered in front of the Marauders compartment as she was curiously looking at Remus, who had returned to his book.
"Something the matter, Woods?" Sirius asked, watching the growing smile on her face.
She ignored him and continued to stare at Remus until he no longer had a choice but to look up. "What?"
Mary did not say anything, but cocked her head in the direction where Brice and Lily had left while keeping her eyes on Remus, trying to convey a clear message. Brice likes you.
"Er Mary… What're you doing?" James stumbled, looking puzzled.
Remus on the other hand understood her just perfectly. A blush crept up his checks and he was looking at Mary, hoping she would get the message: I don't want them to know. Mary nodded once, making sure Remus knew his secret would be safe with her, before walking off.
The Express had already started to slow down. Remus sighed as he got up and started gathering his belongings so he would be ready to get off the train upon their arrival. James and Sirius, who were still stretched out in their seats, were staring at Remus in wonder as they tried to figure out what kind of moment they had just witnessed, but it was Peter who expressed their confusion in words. "What in Godric's name was all that about?"
----- End of Chapter -----