Wednesday 8th January 1975
Dumbledore was quite right - the Fraser family’s murder was front page news on boxing day, followed by a series of features and articles on the mounting war, which dominated the rest of the Christmas break.
It was the first time Remus - or any of them - ever saw the dark mark, and they had no idea then that it was a symbol they would fear for the rest of their lives. A great black skull with a gaping mouth, and a long ropey serpent writhing forth. It was distinctly Slytherin-esque, and as soon as they were back at Hogwarts Sirius blasted the remaining snake motifs off of his trunk.
“Careful, mate,” James said, as smoke from Sirius’s spell filled the room, “You might be ruining a family heirloom there.”
“I don’t give a shit.” Sirius replied, firing his wand at the blackened wood once more, for good measure, “It’s mine, and I don’t want anything of mine to have that ruddy mark on it.”
It was pointless trying to reason with him. Since Dumbledore’s visit to the Potters Sirius’s hatred for anything remotely Slytherin had increased tenfold. He had been using hexes to defend younger students from Slytherins all year, but now he seemed to be actively seeking out trouble.
“The war isn’t happening here .” Remus tried telling him once, after his third detention in as many days, “Dumbledore told us to be vigilant, not start fights.”
“The war is everywhere.” Sirius replied, and James nodded in agreement. “Anyway, you can talk, what about you and Snape?”
“That,” Remus replied, piously, “Was personal.”
It was true; he didn’t hate Snape because he was a dark wizard, or a Slytherin, or anything like that. Remus didn’t like Snape because he was a nosey busybody - that, and nobody really liked Snape, except Lily.
Actually, Remus thought to himself, as he looked across the common room at Lily, sitting by Marlene working on some sort of transfiguration spell on a pair of shoes, even Lily hadn’t been hanging around Severus very much these days. Perhaps they’d fallen out. The redhead looked up and met his eyes, smiling brightly. He smiled back. James, sitting next to him, waved, and Lily rolled her eyes and returned to the spell she was working on.
“Doesn’t she know how much I’ve matured?” James sighed, heavily, thumbing the pages of his textbook roughly.
“I dunno if snogging a muggle in the back of the cinema really counts as maturing.” Remus replied, rescuing the manhandled book and smoothing down the corners James had bent.
“I didn’t mean that ,” James grinned, “Just like… in general. I don’t get it, I get on with Marlene ok.”
“You’re on the quidditch team with Marlene,” Peter said, “You’ve got stuff in common with her.”
(Peter had become very wise, since getting a girlfriend.)
“So, what,” James said, slowly, “You think I should try and get Lily on the quidditch team?”
Peter tutted, pitifully,
“Why don’t you find out something you both have in common? Like how me and Desdemona both like chess, and cheese sandwiches, and--”
“We’ve got nothing in common,” James replied, dreamily, “That’s why I like her.”
“Never going to happen, then.” Peter sniffed, with an air of finality. James looked crestfallen.
“Don’t listen to him,” Remus said, taking pity, “People don’t just go out with people because they’re the same, that would be boring. Opposites attract, and all that.”
“Yeah, you’re right, Moony!” James cheered up. “Maybe I should find out what sort of stuff she likes, though…”
“Er… yeah, might be a start.” Remus shook his head, returning to his Charms essay. He’d made his peace with the girl-obsession now; it was easier to just nod along and pretend to be sympathetic.
Fortunately, most of James and Sirius’s attention was taken up with training for the upcoming quidditch match against Slytherin, which was set for early February. With the war looming over everyone, the competition between the two houses had taken on a new and important meaning, and Sirius and James treated their positions on the team as full time occupations.
As a consequence, Remus saw very little of them at the beginning of the spring term - he spent much of his time in the library, as usual, and when the other two weren’t on the pitch practicing (with Peter watching, of course), they were in detention for one thing or another. There was hardly time to work on the map, or even plan a new prank; the marauders passed each other like ships in the night.
The situation grew so extreme that when the first Hogsmeade weekend rolled around halfway through January, Remus found himself without anyone to go with. He almost considered not going at all, until Lily brought it up after Potions one afternoon, suggesting that he go with her and (he assumed) Mary and Marlene. It sounded like a nice enough way to spend his saturday, and he remembered that he still owed Lily a present for Christmas.
As agreed, Remus met Lily in the common room on saturday morning, and they started down towards the Hogwarts front entrance.
“What happened to the M’s?” Remus asked, surprised when he found they were alone. Lily blushed, but that might have been the cold air,
“I thought it could just be the two of us, this time.”
“Fair enough.” He smiled. He liked Lily’s company very much – almost as much as the marauders.
“So, what are they all in detention for?” She asked, as they trudged through the snow down to the village.
“Various things,” Remus waved his hand, “Peter got caught out of bounds after dark, James got the blame for changing the words on the Slytherin trophies… and I think Sirius hexed a second year.”
“Typical,” Lily tutted.
“Yeah,” Remus grinned, as they trudged through the snow, following the trail of dark robed students ahead of them. “The trophy thing was brilliant though, you have to admit. The charm lasted seven days!”
“It wasn’t a very nice thing to do, though.” Lily frowned. Remus sighed. Why did girls always want to be nice?!
Once they reached the village, they stopped at the stationers, because they both needed new quills. Remus bought one for Sirius and one for Peter too, because they’d asked, telling Lily how Peter pressed too hard on his parchment and snapped two quills a week, leaving blotches everywhere – and how Sirius only used the most expensive brand, because he was vain about his handwriting.
After that they went to the post office, where Remus sent the Potters a package on James’s behalf – it was Mrs Potter’s birthday, he explained to Lily; and James hated missing any occasion to give a gift. Freezing cold by then, they decided that a butterbeer had to be the next port of call, and opted for the Three Broomsticks.
They found a small table by the fireplace and sat companionably, chatting about their lessons and their Christmases. Lily had had a big fight with her sister, which she talked about at great length. Remus told her about going to see Death Wish , but didn’t mention Dumbledore’s visit.
“Do you go to the Potter’s every year, then?” Lily asked.
“Yep,” Remus nodded, fervently, “They’re amazing. Me and Sirius always go. And Pete’s only up the road from James, so that’s cool.”
“Are you four always together?” Lily looked amused. It rubbed Remus up the wrong way.
“They’re my friends. My best mates.”
“I know that,” she replied, sounding a bit snippy herself, “But you’ve been talking about them all afternoon.”
“Have not.” Remus grunted, defensively, looking into his butterbeer, embarrassed. “...So what If I have?”
“Well I sort of wanted to get to know you a bit better, not your friends.” Lily had two red patches in her cheeks now, like a Dutch doll. Remus couldn’t understand why she was so annoyed.
“You know me, though. You’ve known me for four years!”
Lily stared at him, disbelieving. Then her expression changed. She ran a hand through her hair and laughed, humourlessly.
“Oh, Remus .” She sighed.
She shook her head,
“I’m such an idiot. You really have no idea why I wanted to spend the weekend with you, do you?”
He shrugged. She smiled, giving him that pitying look that girls were so good at. “Never mind,” she said, “Don’t worry about it.”
After that, the tone of the afternoon seemed to change. Lily appeared to relax into her usual self and started joking along with him. She even had a bit of a whinge about Snape, who’d said something extremely rude to Mary recently. Remus never got to the bottom of why she’d been so moody in the first place, but he decided that it might have just been his mentioning his friends - she’d always been clear about finding them annoying. She would only accept the price of a butterbeer from him by way of a present, and assured him that he needn’t feel like he owed her anything.
It wasn’t until the next day, when Remus, James, Sirius and Peter were sitting at breakfast, that everything became clear. James and Sirius were in their quidditch robes ready for practice, furtively discussing tactics, while Peter listened in with deep interest, nodding and murmuring, “Yeah, exactly,” now and then. Remus was checking his book list - he had several to return and a few more he still needed to cross-reference before he could complete his Transfiguration essay.
Marlene settled down next to them, in her own red robes, and reached for the tea.
“So,” she addressed Remus, “How did yesterday go?”
“Hm?” he asked, looking up from his parchment, “Yesterday?”
“You and Lily, in Hogsmeade!” She was giving him a very knowing smile. “She won’t tell us what happened, so it must be good.”
“What are you talking about?!”
“Yeah,” Sirius looked up, curiously, “What are you talking about, McKinnon?”
“Didn’t he tell you?” She stirred sugar into her tea, innocently, “Remus and Lily went on a date yesterday.”
“What?!” James, Sirius and Remus all exclaimed at the same time. Sirius began to laugh,
“ Moony on a date?!”
“With Evans?!” James looked horrified.
“Bloody hell!” Peter said.
“It wasn’t a date!” Remus said, slamming down his quill. As he said the words, he felt a horrible sinking feeling - had it been a date? How were you supposed to know, if people just ambushed you like that?! He looked at James, desperately, “But I don’t fancy Lily, she’s just a friend!”
“Yeah… I know, mate.” James said, though Remus didn’t think he sounded very sure. “It’s fine. I’ll… see you after practice.”
With that, James got up and left the table. Sirius stared after him for a moment, then looked at Remus, then back at James, before shrugging helplessly and getting up to follow his friend out of the hall. Peter followed shortly after, and Remus lay his head on the table, groaning.
“Wow, sorry, Remus,” Marlene said, very quietly, “I had no idea. Um… James really fancies her, then?”
Remus groaned again, before getting up and grabbing his books.
“I’m off to the library.” He said, not looking at her.
* * *
He didn’t go to the library, though, in case Marlene went to find him there or - even worse - told Lily and Mary where he was. For the first time since his second year, Remus went into hiding.
The problem with this, of course, was how much he’d grown since his second year. Many of his usual nooks and crannies were simply too small now. In the end, he settled himself behind the statue of the hump-backed witch, just inside the passageway to Honeyduke’s. It was dark, but he lit his wand for light, and the faint smell of chocolate was very comforting.
He tried to read, but his brain wouldn’t let him concentrate - it seemed to just want to keep playing his visit to Hogsmeade over and over again. Had Lily said something he had missed? Had it been in her body language, maybe; had she dropped hints? Would James have understood them? Would Sirius have? It was very unfair, Remus thought to himself, pitifully. Lily was a very good friend, why would she want to muddle it all up with feelings and holding hands, and kissing ?!
He really hoped he wouldn’t have to talk to her about it, now. Maybe she was just as embarrassed as he was. Worst of all, what if James never spoke to him again? He didn’t know how to explain that he didn’t see Lily in that way - not when every other Gryffindor in their year seemed hellbent on coupling up.
Maybe he ought to have snogged Marlene when she’d offered, back in November. He wondered if they’d all leave him alone once he got it over with. You have to start snogging girls some time , he told himself. Everybody does - it’s normal. But not Lily - he couldn’t do that to James. In fact, Remus decided, that was probably the very reason he wasn’t interested in her - because she was otherwise extremely pretty, funny, kind, clever - and better than him at Charms. Lily was just the sort of girl he would fancy, Remus knew for sure, it was just that his friendship with James was much more important.
Feeling very enlightened and self-sacrificing, Remus emerged from his hiding place. He set off down the nearest staircase, planning to go to the quidditch pitch and catch the last few minutes of practice. After that he would do something nice for James - offer to read over his History essay or something. Yes, then everything would be right with the world again.
But, as Remus had once been told; the best laid plans often go wrong. He was just nearing the bottom of the grand staircase - taking it three steps at a time just because he could, and not really looking where he was going - he knocked headlong into another student coming up.
“Watch it, mudblood .” Severus Snape snarled, scrambling to his feet, glaring at Remus. Remus tutted,
“Piss off Snivellus, I’m as much a half-blood as you are.”
“You and I have nothing in common, I assure you.” Snape replied haughtily, brushing off his robes.
“I suppose when it comes to hygiene standards--”
“Careful, Loony Lupin,” Snape narrowed his beady eyes, “Don’t say something you’ll regret.”
“Oh, bugger off,” Remus replied, impatiently, stepping forward, “I haven’t got time for this, either curse me now or get out of my way.”
Snape stepped to the side at once, giving a flourish with his hand to show Remus that he was free to go. It was disquieting, but Remus couldn’t worry about that now, and continued on his way.