When James Potter Began
by Marie


Chapter 9 - The Whomping Willow

< >As much as he knew he was going to miss his parents (and especially Cara) over the holidays, James decided to stay at Hogwarts over the holidays. The chance to explore the castle and have an empty common room was too good to miss. He was very much in the minority though, Peter said his mum wanted him to come home straight away, and Remus said he'd like to stay, but his mother was ill and he needed to take the chance to visit while he could. Sirius, however, was thinking along the same lines as James. He knew there was fun to be had in a near deserted castle.

< >James woke up on the first day of the Christmas holidays and went down to the common room. Around him people where bustling around, making sure they had everything they needed before they got on the Hogwarts Express. James and Sirius sauntered down to breakfast taking their time; they were in no rush. They accompanied Peter and Remus to the front door to say goodbye.

< >"Say hi to your parents for me, Peter," James called, waving at the retreating boys.

< >"I hope your mum gets better soon," Sirius told Remus.

< >"What? Oh, er, yeah, thanks. 'Bye," called Remus, quickly and seemingly reluctantly shuffling away.

< >James wasn't the only one who found that response odd. Sirius was looking very puzzled indeed. They waved them off as they got into carriages and watched amazed as they moved off of their own accord, bumping and swaying, one after the other, as though pulled by invisible horses. This very unusual sight quickly made the mystery of Remus' strange response disappear from their heads.

< >James and Sirius passed the first part of the holidays sitting in the almost deserted common room by day, playing gobstones and exploding snap (and occasionally doing some homework) and every evening, when everyone had gone to bed they'd sneak out under James' invisibility cloak to explore the castle. By Christmas Eve, they knew about all the main corridors and rooms, they even knew a few secret ones.

< >"We'll have to tell Remus and Peter when they get back," James said at the end of one particularly fruitful tour of the castle, involving a one-eyed old crone with a hunched back. That one led right out of the castle, it seemed to go on forever and came out in what looked like a cellar. Sirius reckoned it was Honeydukes, the sweet shop in Hogsmeade. James had to take his word for it, because he'd never been to Hogsmeade. Sirius hadn't either, but he said his brothers had told him about it.

< >Christmas day dawned bright and clear. James opened the curtains and looked out at the grounds. It had snowed that night, and the sun was reflecting off the blanket of white that seemed to cover everything. The Forbidden Forest even looked beautiful. He chucked a pillow at Sirius.

< > "Oi, sleepyhead, wake up, you've got presents to unwrap." Sirius got up almost immediately, it seemed the idea of presents was enough to stop him wanting the extra 10 minutes he normally begged for every morning. James laughed at the delighted expression on his face as he looked at his pile of presents and turned his attention to his own little heap.

< >He had some lovely presents; his mum and dad sent him a new, red jumper and a copy of the Daily Prophet newspaper, with information about Puddlemere United's last match. Cara had sent him a box of sweets. James smiled to himself; she'd made them herself.

< >The note said: "Come home soon, I miss you big brother." James felt the familiar ache in his stomach; he missed her too. He'd be seeing her soon. There was a bag of dung bombs from Sirius, an ever-bashing boomerang from Remus and a screaming yoyo from Peter. It was a pretty good Christmas.

< >The castle looked beautiful, icicles hung from banisters and the suits of armour around the hall had taken to singing Christmas carols in a tinny sort of tenor. Unfortunately they only knew about half the words. Peeves, the school poltergeist took great pleasure in hiding inside the armour, filling in the gaps with rather rude lyrics of his own invention. James and Sirius found this especially funny. Even better was when the caretaker, a young and bitter man named Filch, could be seen clattering around trying to extract him.

< >Christmas dinner was just amazing. The hall was decorated with 12 Christmas trees decked with real fairies and tiny golden owls, all hooting softly. The sky in the ceiling of the Great Hall was bright and clear, and dry snow was falling softly. When the dinner appeared there was several turkeys, plates of potatoes, vegetables, stuffing and loads of other nice things besides. Christmas pudding followed this almost immediately. All the way through dinner, James heard the occasional loud explosion of a wizard cracker. He himself came away with a pack of exploding snap cards and a clown hat.

< >After dinner, James and Sirius decided to join in a snowball fight with a couple of the second year Hufflepuffs that had hung around. It was very vicious and James was soaked to the skin within about 10 minutes. It didn't help that someone had put some sort of charm on a couple of the snowballs making them into something like bludgers. They were rocketing around, hitting anyone they could reach. James was more than slightly puzzled by this, as he didn't think anyone present was capable of a charm this complicated. The second year boys, Davey Gudgeon and Cassius Tete were very nice, but not at all bright. He knew it hadn't been Sirius, because he was terrible at charms, and he certainly hadn't done it. He looked around, searching for Snape or a mischievous teacher (he thought Professor Mechante was more than likely). He glanced over at the castle and then did a double take. He spotted a pair of brilliant green eyes, a head of deep red hair and a huge grin. "Lily?" he muttered under his breath.

< >He was so deep in thought that he didn't realize that Sirius was trying to get his attention. He was shouting loudly at him from a little way off, and when he realized that didn't work, he made a particularly large, icy snowball and hurled it at the back of James' head.

< > "Hey, what was that for?" James demanded, angrily rubbing the back of his head. It had hurt.

< > "Look at those twits," Sirius replied, with a snort of laughter.

< >They were wandering around the Whomping Willow, ducking and crawling below the furiously flailing branches. The Willow was a very recent addition to the Hogwarts ground. It was an extremely violent tree, and disliked anyone coming anywhere near it. A new game had become rapidly popular among the students, to try and get close enough to touch the trunk. It was very dangerous and incredibly stupid, and James couldn't understand what everyone saw in it. Davey and Cassius seemed to be enjoying themselves though.

< >All of a sudden, James heard a strangled cry from over by the tree. Davey was lying on the floor, unconscious, with blood all over his face. Sirius' normally rosy cheeks went suddenly pale.

< > "Go and get Dumbledore," James told him, "I'll get him to the hospital wing." He slapped Cassius round the face (he was more than a little hysterical) and ordered him to get Davey's legs. It was an awkward job, but between them they managed to haul him up to the infirmary quite quickly, Cassius whimpering softly. Dumbledore met them there, looking worried.

< > "What was he doing?" he demanded of James, who looked to be the only one capable of answering. James told him quickly about the game and about how they had got bored with the snowball fight and decided to try and break the record set by a Slytherin 1st year the previous week. He told him about his and Sirius' part in the incident and Dumbledore looked satisfied.

< > "Very well Mr. Potter, kindly take Mr. Black to Gryffindor tower and procure him a hot chocolate," his eyes twinkled, he must have known about James' occasional trips to the kitchens for food. "I have found that nothing works as well on shock as a hot chocolate and an early night. I think Mr. Tete will need to spend some time here with his friend; he doesn't look at all well. Oh, and 20 points will be given to Gryffindor for your presence of mind."

< >James was also feeling a bit shocked, so after he'd put Sirius into a chair by the fire and called for someone to watch him, he set off, rather shakily to the kitchens. He returned as quickly as he could with two steaming mugs of hot chocolate and pockets bulging with cream cakes that the house elves couldn't resist piling on him. He hurried through the portrait hole and plunked himself in the comfy chair next to his unusually quiet and pale best friend and tried to sooth his shattered nerves.

< >For a while, neither of them spoke. James was reluctant to try and make Sirius talk if he didn't want to, but after a while he spoke. "You know, when I was little, my mum was always telling me to stop or I'd put my eye out. I always thought it was just a threat to stop me playing with the meat cleaver or flying through the forest on my dad's broom." James rolled his eyes. "I never thought it could actually happen."

< >Sirius still looked rather worried, quite unlike his normal carefree self. "Don't worry Sirius, Davey'll be fine, Madame Pomfrey is wonderful, remember the time she managed to get rid of all those boils Peter got when he accidentally stood on Snape's foot?" Sirius managed a chuckle at the memory of Peter's curse (and the jelly legs curse Sirius had put on Snape in retaliation; he's wobbled about the whole day until one of the 4th years took pity on him and performed the counter curse).

< >A week later, when everyone had returned from his or her Christmas holidays, Dumbledore stood up at dinner with an unusually grave expression on his face, and said, "It has recently come to my attention that some of the pupils in this school have become involved in a rather dangerous game that involves tormenting a certain Whomping willow." A few younger pupils shifted in their seats uneasily. "Due to the fact that young Davey Gudgeon almost lost on eye on Christmas Day playing that particular game, I must insist that everyone stays away from that tree from now on, or there will be penalties."

< >The room broke into excited chatter. Most didn't know whether they were worried about Davey's accident or upset that they would no longer be able to play their new game again. Sirius and Peter both looked very relieved at the pronouncement, but Remus, he noticed, looked guilty.

Chapter 10 - The Marauders Are Born

< >Although Peter wanted to hear all about Davey Gudgeon's accident (so he could avoid doing the same thing), Remus was very reluctant to pursue the topic. Instead he asked Sirius and James about their adventures in the castle during the holidays. Sirius happily related to them the stories of their trips to the kitchens, told them about all the strange rooms they'd seen and about the secret passages. Remus was torn between fascination at their discoveries and horror at how easily they could have been caught wandering around the castle every night

< > "We'll show you, tonight." Sirius muttered to Remus and Peter. Peter whimpered and Remus looked pale and determined, it was almost as though he was reluctant to overrule Sirius.

< > "Ssh." James had suddenly noticed Snape; he'd been walking past the table and had stopped. He was listening intently. Had he heard? The thought made James feel uncomfortable. He tried to tell Sirius, but he brushed it aside.

< > "He couldn't have heard, I barely heard it and I said it."

< >So it was decided, that night the four of them sat in the common room, waiting until it emptied. James was sitting on his invisibility cloak, chattering with Sirius, ignoring Peter's frightened whimpering and Remus' paler than usual complexion. It took a while for all the stragglers to leave, there were a couple of older students frantically trying to finish a piece of work that they obviously hadn't done over the holiday like they were supposed too. James was feeling edgy, wandering a near deserted castle by night was one thing, but this was going to be harder with everyone back.

< >Finally the room was empty. James stood up, and trying not to let the others see that he was nervous, he flung the invisibility cloak over them all, and slowly they inched out of the portrait hole and into the hall.

< >It was hard work under the cloak. The four of them had to move slowly, carefully and quietly (which was hard, considering Peter stood on someone's toes at least once every five minutes). It seemed to take forever to reach the statue. They took the cloak off and James fought back a sigh of relief. He was just preparing to whisper the word that opened up the old crone's hump when he heard soft footsteps; they were very near. James fumbled for the cloak and made to throw it over the four of them. Unfortunately, he only managed to get it over Remus and Peter before the footsteps turned the corner and they found themselves facing Severus Snape.

< >He was wearing a triumphant expression that twisted his normally ugly face into something extremely hideous. James was the first to regain his composure.

< > "Well, hello there, Severus, this is a pleasant surprise."

< > "Potter," he hissed in grim acknowledgement. "Black, Lupin, Pettigrew - what are you doing here?"

< > "We could ask you the same thing Snape." Sirius almost spat the last word. James was quite alarmed; he didn't think Sirius' voice could possibly contain that much venom.

< > "Well, I believe that Professor McGonagall would be very interested to find her two prized pupils out of bed in the middle of the night." His voice dripped with sarcasm.

< > "Ah, she certainly would, almost as interested as she'd be if she found their friend Severus Snape with them." The tone of James' voice was almost identical to Snape's sarcastic hiss. Snape didn't seem to be able to think of a retort to this, he obviously hadn't thought of the possibility of getting himself in trouble too. He opened his mouth to say something, and closed it again. James repressed a laugh as he realized he looked remarkably like a fish. Sirius wasn't so careful, he laughed outright. James shot him a warning look, and he stopped, but it was too late, a figure had just come round the corner. It was Professor Mechante.

< >The alarm on Snape's face quickly disappeared when he realized it was the head of Slytherin House and was replaced with a smug sort of expression. James had often heard Snape mention that Professor Mechante favoured Slytherin students and he clearly believed this was the proper thing to do.

< >She looked from one face to the other, a glint in her dark eyes. James thought for a second that it looked like amusement, but then, he realized that was being stupid. They were in huge trouble. There was nothing even remotely amusing about the situation. He felt behind him to see if Remus and Peter were still there. He couldn't feel anything, so he assumed they'd left. Two people from 1 house could lose enough points between them; he didn't want them to be in trouble too, neither of them handled it very well anyway.

< >They followed Professor Mechante to her office in silence, she was wearing a long black nightdress, and it made her look no less threatening. She shut the door behind them and motioned for them to sit. She then took a seat behind her desk and looked at them intently, her chin resting on her hands thoughtfully. It was a full minute before she removed her penetrating gaze. James, for one, was relieved. She made him feel more than slightly uncomfortable

< > "I could ask you why you were out wandering the corridor in the middle of the night, but I know I would not receive a truthful answer, so as it is late I will save myself the trouble. I will however take 30 points from Gryffindor and 20 from Slytherin for this escapade and all three of you will receive detentions. You will report to Filch in the trophy room tomorrow night." She dismissed them, and James was sure, that time that he'd seen that glint again. Snape stalked out, he was furious at this complete lack of favouritism. Sirius followed him. James made to leave too, but Mechante called him back.

< >"Potter, do you think in the future you and your fellow marauders could refrain from being caught wandering the corridors at night, especially by me. As much as I enjoy your little jokes, I may have to tell Min- er, Professor McGonagall next time, and I don't really want to be the one to do that."

< > "Er, certainly, Professor." James couldn't believe what he was hearing. It seemed Professor Mechante had one of the very special Slytherin traits, a complete lack of loyalty. His first impression had been right, they'd be okay with her, as long as they weren't caught.

< >James left, amazed and walked silently back to Gryffindor tower with Sirius; they couldn't risk Professor McGonagall catching them out. They slipped back into the tower, (narrowly escaping a lecture from the fat lady) and found Remus and Peter in their dormitory. They listened intently to everything that had happened and none of them could believe James' story about what Mechante had said to him.

< >Sirius looked thoughtful. "Marauders, eh?" he asked. "It has a nice ring to it."

Chapter 11 - Wands at Dusk

< > "I can't believe she's making us do our detention with Snape." They were on their way to the trophy room for their detention and Sirius was complaining loudly.

< >"Do you remember what I said on our first day?" James replied. "It seems our teacher has a sense of humour, and a cruel one at that." Sirius chuckled and stopped complaining.

< >That day, at breakfast, Snape had given them such a vicious, snarling look that Peter had almost collapsed in fright. Severus was very bitter about the previous night and seemed determined that the "Marauders" should take all the blame. James laughed, it wasn't their fault Snape liked to stick his over large nose in everyone else's business. If he'd stayed in bed instead of wandering around trying to get them expelled, he wouldn't have been in trouble. As for James, he couldn't believe they'd got off so lightly. He shuddered to think how many points McGonagall would have taken from them if she had been the one to catch them, they'd have been on detention for about a month, too.

< >He'd spent the day as normal, only half paying attention in lessons and giving Snape amused looks whenever he got the chance. He had, however, also devoted a lot of time to avoiding Lily Evans. She'd caught his eye in Charms, first lesson, and James had once again got the feeling she knew everything. It was most disconcerting. He was dying to know where she got her information.

< >In the trophy room, James and Sirius met a rather sour looking Severus Snape. "You're late," he hissed. "We're to polish the trophies by hand, no magic. Filch said to leave when we're done and if they're not clean when he inspects them tomorrow we'll get a week of detentions." James realized that this would be all the conversation they would get out of Snape that evening, and set to work polishing the Quidditch cup.

< >After a while, to James' surprise, Snape spoke, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "I do hope your thin little friend is feeling better. He does seem to be ill a lot doesn't he? Perhaps it's serious." He almost crowed the last part. Sirius growled at him, and James had to grab his robes to hold him back, but he was losing his cool too.

< > "You love that, don't you Snape?" he snapped at him. "A sick kid?"

< > "Well it's almost regular, isn't it?" Snape carried on, he had the advantage and he was pressing it. "Maybe next time it'll be really bad. Like death."

< >Sirius gave a loud snarl of rage and whipped out his wand, yelling, "Petrificus Totalus!"

< >At the same time, Snape had also shouted something, and a jet of green light had emitted from his wand. Snape toppled to the floor, his arms and legs stuck to his sides. Sirius seemed unhurt, except, James thought, "Oh no."

< >Sirius was leaning out of the window; he seemed to be throwing up. He went to his side to see if he was all right. He was shocked to see that slugs were pouring out of his mouth with every retch, and falling two floors down onto the ground with a splatter.

< >James didn't have the first clue about what to do. If he went get a teacher, Sirius would get in trouble for cursing Snape and they were already in enough trouble as it was. He stood there, looking at the result of this impromptu duel, wondering what the best course of action would be. He came to a decision suddenly. He performed the counter curse on Snape, who promptly stood up and started threatening James with all sorts of curses, jinxes and finally with telling a teacher. James grinned at the furious look on Snape's face.

< >"Yes, Severus, you go and tell a teacher. You can explain why you're perfectly fine and Sirius here is throwing up slugs. I suggest you finish polishing your trophy and go to your common room. Tell nobody, or you'll be in trouble." Snape seemed to see the sense in this and left, glowering at James as he swooped out the door. James glanced around the room and out of the door to check for Filch, seeing he wasn't there, he performed a quick spell to polish the trophies, and when he was satisfied they were all gleaming, he took Sirius back to the common room, still burping slugs into the paper bag James had in his pocket. It had once contained dung bombs.

< >Back in their dorm room, James told Peter all about what had happened, who listened, open-mouthed. He looked terrified that Snape knew such a horrible spell. During this conversation, Sirius said nothing. He was sitting on his bed, a huge bowl in his hands, retching, throwing up huge, fat, black, slimy slugs. After a while it seemed to be subsiding. The slug attacks were coming less often, and fewer slugs were coming up each time. James decided that this was something that worked itself out after a while, which was lucky, because he didn't really want to take Sirius to the infirmary. Sirius however didn't look like he felt very lucky. Peter looked quite repulsed by the sight of the bowl full of wriggling black slugs and had sat as far away from Sirius as possible. James was inclined to agree, but didn't really want to leave Sirius alone, it was bad enough that he was throwing slugs up without being left alone to do it.

< >It took a while for James to realize there was someone missing. "Peter, where's Remus?" He asked.

< > "I don't know," came the reply, "maybe he's ill again."

< >That night as James lay awake in bed, he remembered Snape's words. "Well it's almost regular, isn't it?" As much as he hated to admit it, Snape had been right, there was definitely something odd about Remus' illness. It seemed to be happening often, and at regular intervals. There's no way he could be faking it, because he often looked very tired and haggard, very much like he was recovering from a very bad bout of the flu. James sighed and closed his eyes; he was going to have to get some answers out of Remus.

Chapter 12 - What's the Matter With Remus?

< >It wasn't as though that was the last time Remus disappeared without a trace. Over the next few months, Remus went to visit his mother at least three times, James was really starting to worry about her, she must have been really ill. But it wasn't only his mother that was ill; Remus was looking terrible, tired, drawn and pale. His smile had lost its mischievous quality and had been replaced with a vague sort of gesture, only slightly reminiscent of the grin it had once been. His manner hadn't changed much. He still wanted to be involved in every hare-brained scheme Sirius or James came up with, and he always carried off his part with every semblance of enthusiasm and cheerfulness, but James noticed that it wasn't quite the same anymore. He seemed cheerful enough, but James could tell that if this façade were scratched away they'd find a very sad Remus Lupin.

< >James went home for Easter, (Cara had threatened never to speak to him if he didn't), but he didn't get to spend much time with his family, as the absolutely huge pile of homework they'd been given just didn't seem to end. Still, it was nice to see her again, and his parents (and the bag of galleons his dad slipped him behind his mother's back was very useful too) and he was a bit sad to leave them. Never mind, it wouldn't be long until summer, as he told a tearful Cara several times on Platform 9¾ at the end of the holiday.

< >Back at the castle, he greeted his three friends happily. As sad as he was to leave his family, it was great to be at Hogwarts. He predicted that this last term would be big for the Marauders. He couldn't have been more right, but he didn't know it yet.

< >It only took a week into the new term for Remus to disappear. James wished he'd tell them before he went to visit his mother. But Remus had just been home; surely he didn't need to return only a week later. James was staring out of the common room window as he contemplated this. It was beautiful night, the stars were bright and clear and the full moon was throwing a pale, shivery light onto the grounds. James glanced casually around, he wasn't really looking, he was too deep in thought, but out of the corner of his eye, he could have sworn he'd seen the branches of the Whomping Willow flailing madly. Who'd be out at that time? If the Marauders didn't dare venture out on the grounds this late, then no one else was likely to. He turned his head to get a better look at the Willow, but it was perfectly still, and looked completely harmless. James shook his head, what was wrong with him? Was he seeing things? He mentally shook himself and went down to the dormitory, but he just couldn't shake the odd feeling he had.

< >The next day, James, Sirius and Peter went down to breakfast. Sirius was telling Peter all about the time put Muggle itching powder in his teacher's trousers at primary school. James was still thinking about Remus' disappearance, until Sirius snapped him out of it. He was wearing a thoughtful expression (one he seldom wore in class, so James predicted he'd have a detention by the end of the day) as he suggested putting itching powder in Snape's robes. James couldn't see the harm in it, and agreed, and the three of them walked to the Great Hall together, happily plotting how to get the itching powder into Snape's robes, Sirius, was only the ideas man, and the mundane processes of practicality was always left to James and Remus. Peter was useless.

< >Remus was at breakfast that morning, but he looked terrible. He looked more ill than James had ever seen him. He gave them a vague smile and gestured to the seats he'd saved for them.

< > "How's your mum?" James asked, as soon as they sat down. He was very worried, and he was sure that at least some of his concern showed in his voice and face.

< > "She's feeling better now, thank you." Remus' reply was prompt enough, but James saw through it, he wasn't telling the truth. He wondered whether his mum was really ill, if she was she must be seriously unwell, and he contemplated the idea that maybe something else was going on. He snapped himself out of his thoughts, deciding that Remus would tell them what was going on in his own time and joined in the conversation. Remus seemed to have come up with a plan to get the itching powder into Snape's robes.

< >The plan itself was simple; it was going to be the execution that would be the problem. James (as the quietest) would be under the invisibility cloak; while the other three caused a distraction he would pour it down his neck. There was no way Sirius could be trusted to be silent, he'd have giggled, Peter would have been too terrified and Remus, well, he wouldn't have been able to bring himself to do it. He was simply too nice.

< >It didn't go too badly either, Sirius swapped Snape's wand for a fake one before he went to charms, and while he tried to cast the 'Alohomora' or unlocking charm that Sirius had used to let the redcap out in Defence against the Dark Arts with a rubber fish, James sneaked into the class under the cloak. He tiptoed behind Snape, avoiding touching anyone or anything, and tipped a large amount of the Muggle itching powder down the neck of the robes of Snape, who was already muttering curses under his breath. He snuck back out of the door, taking off his cloak, joining his friends who were watching the action, first destroying the evidence by transfiguring it into a quill (James really had a knack for Transfiguration).

< >Then the fireworks started. Snape swore loudly, and everyone's eyes turned to look at him. He was wriggling about like a fish out of water, writhing and shouting, trying to scratch himself in five places at once. At least, James thought all eyes were on Snape, but he felt someone's eyes on the back of his head and he turned to look and found himself staring into those brilliant emerald green eyes again and felt himself blush and turn away. It was almost like being naked. He felt sure that Lily knew he'd done it, but how could she, and how could she know they were going to be there. He made a mental note to ask the others if they were telling her their plans.

Chapter 13 - The Quidditch Final

< >James had been wrong when he'd thought this trick was going to get them a detention. There was simply no proof that the 'Marauders' had had anything to do with it. Professor Flitwick had ushered Snape off to the hospital wing, fortunately he'd been too preoccupied as he rushed past, wriggling frantically, to notice four boys, all doubled up in silent laughter. The thing with Muggle tricks (as Sirius gleefully informed them all) was that wizards didn't have a clue how to handle them.

< >The next Saturday was the Quidditch final, Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw. Gryffindor had pummeled Slytherin into the ground at the last match, and the entire Gryffindor house was really looking forward to winning the cup, it had been a long time since the team had won the cup. James was really looking forward to the game, especially since he knew he would be playing in the first game next year.

< >The Gryffindor stand went wild as the team walked onto the pitch in their scarlet Quidditch robes. James and his friends among them. He was sitting quite high up with Sirius, Remus and Peter. A few seats away from them, he spotted Lily sitting with her friend, Arabella Figg. James didn't know why he'd noticed this. He shook himself and turned his attention back to the match.

< >The commentary was being provided by a 7th year Hufflepuff who played beater on the house team, Ludo Bagman. He always seemed to love commentating, and his big round face seemed even redder and rounder than usual when he had the magical megaphone in his hands.

< > "And they're off, Gryffindor takes the Quaffle." James was really enjoying the match (especially since Gryffindor had pulled ahead by 50 points in the first ten minutes. Harold Lider had been right when he'd said their Chasers were good. The Ravenclaw three didn't seem to be able to get a look in. Lider was particularly good, he had scored three of the five goals so far, and all his maneuvers and orders seemed to be working well. The Gryffindor beaters were very good too. The Ravenclaw chasers were looking distinctly bruised and battered.

< >He glanced over at Lily (why did he keep doing that?), and he noticed she was pointing to something. He followed her arm to a point on the pitch, and at first he couldn't understand what she was looking at, and then he saw it, a tiny glint of gold in the distance, the Snitch. He never would've seen it if it hadn't been pointed out to him. He couldn't imagine how Lily had managed to see it. He didn't have time to think about it, however, as with a cry of, "Oh, I do say!" from Bagman.

< >Everyone in the stadium watched as the two seekers streaked down the field, chasing the tiny, winged Golden Snitch. They were neck and neck, neither seemed willing to stretch out an am to try and grab it in case to hindered their speed. The crowd gasped as one, as a Bludger shot towards them at high speed. The Ravenclaw seeker doubled over as it smashed into her stomach, causing her to roll over on her broom only just hanging on. In her pain, she had lost the Snitch, but fortunately for her (and not so lucky for the Gryffindor team) she had smashed right into the Gryffindor seeker and both of them lost sight of the Snitch. They went spinning off above the Hufflepuffs. There was a huge groan of disappointment from all corners of the stands (except for the Slytherin part, who didn't really want anyone to win).

< > "And after that, er, rather unfortunate incident," Bagman resumed commentating with a distinctly flustered tone, "we resume play, Ravenclaw has the Quaffle."

< >Delighted with the fact that Gryffindor hadn't got the Snitch, the Ravenclaw chasers were playing much more aggressively, Gryffindor was a very good team, and Ravenclaw knew they had their work cut out for them. They were pulling back, 50 points to 20, to 30 and very soon it was even. James looked over at Lily again, and she was, once again, pointing to the snitch. At least, he assumed it was, he couldn't actually see it. He grabbed his binoculars and scanned the pitch where Lily was pointing, and, sure enough, there it was. How on earth could Lily see that with the naked eye? This time only one of the seekers had seen it. The Ravenclaw one, as James realized with a start. The Gryffindor seeker soon realized and gave chase, but it was too late. With a triumphant cry and a victory lap of the pitch, the Ravenclaw team had won the Quidditch Cup.

< >The team and its supporters walked dejectedly back to the Gryffindor common room.

< >Back in the common room, they met a very strange scene. Sybill Trelawny, a 5th year, was sitting by the fire, surrounded by her three friends (James didn't know their names) and they seemed to be holding something like a séance. Sybill stood up and greeted the gathering crowd (who were all looking on incredulously) in her incredibly misty voice.

< >James noticed that she looked remarkably like an insect. Perhaps a firefly or something like that. She was tall and thin and delicate looking and she wore huge glasses that made her eyes at least three times as big and reflected the flames from fire. She was wearing countless gold bangles and chains; she looked like a walking jewelry shop.

< > "I would like to invite anyone interested to have their fortunes read. I believe there are secrets among you that my inner eye can lay bare." Sirius snorted with laughter before volunteering. James joined in too; he thought it'd be fun. It was certainly something to do. Peter seemed quite worried but sat down too, Remus looked more scared and flustered than James had ever though possible, and he practically ran up to their dormitory, and Peter, looking relieved, ran after him.

< >James couldn't figure out what was so terrifying about Sybill Trelawny. She was a bit weird (okay, very weird) but she was just a girl. Anyway this whole fortune-predicting thing could be funny. Sybill had a reputation for believing herself to be brilliant at Divination and had told everyone she was a 'Seer'. She told Sirius he was going to settle down, marry a nice girl and get a respectable job. He was going to be trampled down by a rampaging Hippogriff when he finally met his end. He'd told James his end would be much nearer, indeed, she said she saw the grim in her crystal ball. This would ordinarily have disconcerted James. The Grim was a huge dog that haunted graveyards and was believed by most wizards to be the worst omen of death. But Sybill had said Sirius was going to get a respectable job, so James didn't really think much of her skills at predictions. He didn't really believe in fortune telling anyway.

< >He wondered a lot about Remus, about why he'd ran off like that. Maybe he really did believe that Sybill could see the future and was afraid of what she might see. Perhaps he had a secret he didn't want her to 'lay bare'. He went up to talk to him, but he was asleep, or at least, it looked like he was. He decided he'd ask him tomorrow.

Chapter 14 - Remus' Secret

< >James felt like tearing his hair out in frustration. Remus was getting harder and harder to read. He refused to tell them anything. He had disappeared again that night, and hadn't told them. James assumed he was visiting his mother again, but why would he disappear like that without telling anyone if that was all he was doing? James thought hard, but nothing came to him. What could possibly be so terrible that Remus wouldn't tell them about it?

< >He made a decision. "Sirius, wake up. Get up! Oi, get out of bed." James was almost shouting.

< > "Wha? James, what're you playing at?"

< > "Come on Sirius, we're going to find Remus."

< >"But he's at his home, isn't he?" Sirius sounded very confused.

< >"I don't think so," said James. He told Sirius all about the things he'd thought about recently, and he watched Sirius' expression change from puzzled to intrigued.

< > "Yeah, it has been weird, hasn't it?" He said. "Let's go."

< >They threw their robes on quietly and threw the cloak over them both. They were just about to leave the dorm when Peter stirred.

< >"Where are you going?" he asked sleepily.

< >"Kitchens, go back to sleep, we'll bring you something." James lied quickly, Peter wasn't exactly useful when they were on their nighttime wanderings, and two people could move faster than three anyway.

< >They searched everywhere; they looked in the hospital wing first, then all their classrooms, and then the library (it was Remus' home away from home). They were just about to give up when James had an idea. Well, it was more like a feeling really.

< >He and Sirius approached the Whomping Willow cautiously. It was still now, but James knew that it wouldn't be much longer if Sirius and he got too close to it. Just as he had expected, the tree started to whip about violently, and James wondered to himself why they'd come out to that particular place. He couldn't answer himself. He'd just felt the need to look here.

< >He was about to suggest to Sirius that they should give up and go back to bed, that he noticed Sirius was no longer with him. He was walking around the tree, poking it thoughtfully with a long stick.

< >"I think I've invented a new game. If you can get a stick on a certain knot on the branch you get a point or something. It's really hard because the tree seems to want to break the branch to bits."

< >James laughed at Sirius' stupid new game, and challenged him to touch the knot at the bottom of the tree, it looked particularly difficult as it was small and low down, and quite out of the way. Sirius took up the challenge enthusiastically. Then the strangest thing happened.

< >The tree stopped moving the minute Sirius touched the knot and a hole opened up at the base. James looked at Sirius, astounded. They exchanged a look, and, without discussing it, they moved forward and into the tree.

< >Ahead of them they saw a passage, it looked about as long as the one to Hogsmeade they'd discovered at Christmas. They had to crouch down to get through. It seemed to go on forever, but James' curiosity was insatiable. He just had to know where it went and what they'd find when they got there.

< >When they finally reached the end they found a door, they looked at each other one last time. Sirius nodded, he looked quite excited. James was quite excited himself, but he also couldn't help but feel a little apprehensive. He felt somehow that there was something different about this passage to the others they had found. He tried to tell Sirius, but he couldn't put the feeling into words, so he just nodded back. They opened the door, wands out, and saw the most terrifying thing they'd ever seen.

< >A werewolf.

< >James couldn't believe what he was seeing. He knew he should be running as fast as he could in the other direction, but he was rooted to the spot. Sirius was staring, open-mouthed, pale and terrified. The werewolf turned and growled at them.

< >James was jolted back to his senses. He put the leg locker curse on the wolf, he had no idea if it would work, and he didn't really want to hang around to find out. He grabbed Sirius by the arm, ran back through the door and slammed it shut. The next second found the two boys running as fast as they could at a crouch for the way out. The hole in the tree opened in front of them and they shot out. James made sure to touch the knot again and the hole closed up, and the tree froze.

< >James and Sirius collapsed onto the grass a few feet away from the Whomping Willow, breathing heavily with a mixture of exhaustion and fright. What on earth was a werewolf doing at Hogwarts? Was it a human werewolf or a natural one?

< > "We should tell Dumbledore." James said, but even as the words left his mouth he had doubts. Sirius voiced them.

< > "We probably should, but I don't think he'd take too kindly to us being out wandering the grounds at night." He was right of course, so they decided not to tell Dumbledore.

< >They did, however tell Peter and Remus. Both boys changed colour. Peter blanched, and didn't even pretend to be angry with them for leaving him out of their adventure. Remus went red. He squirmed in is seat and had a guilty look on his face.

< > "Remus, what's wrong, why do you look so guilty?" James asked, looking curiously at him.

< > "Oh, well, er, I, er, shouldn't have gone to see my mother, I er should've stayed and went with you. I might have been able to help, I know lots about werewolves." He stammered his reply, and it was so unlike the usual, articulate, pleasant Remus Lupin that James was startled. He was right of course, Remus probably did know a lot about werewolves, he was better at Defence Against Dark Arts than all of them put together. James got the same marks as him, but James only knew what he needed to, to pass with a high mark, Remus knew so much more.

< >The night after they'd met the werewolf, the four of them were noticeably subdued. James was in a thoughtful mood, and he was thinking about that werewolf. Why was it there, why wasn't it in the forbidden forest or something, that was where the werewolves were supposed to live.

< >And then it hit him, a spark of realization; he remembered why they'd been out there in the first place. What if they had found him after all?

Chapter 15 - The End of the Beginning

< >Remus paled. James had woken him up early, and the other two boys too. He needed to have it out with Remus.

< > "You're a werewolf," James said; it wasn't a question. Remus looked petrified, and paler and more ill than ever. Sirius was gaping at James and Remus, and Peter looked as though he was about to faint.

< > "Yes, I am," Remus replied quietly. He seemed defeated and sounded incredibly sad. "I was very little when I was bitten, and I lived in a small village full of wizarding families. I could never make friends because of what I am. I was ignored, abused and beaten up regularly. That's why when I came to Hogwarts I didn't tell anyone. I couldn't take the rejection. I knew I'd never have friends again if anyone knew I was a - a - a monster." He spat the last word out as though it tasted bitter. James was astounded. How could he have believed he wouldn't want to be friends with him after he found out? "How did you find out, James?" Remus finally asked.

< > "Remus, I can't believe you think that. I want to be your friend, I really do, and I just wish you'd told us sooner. It wasn't too hard to work out. You're a terrible liar and you disappeared once a month when there's a full moon. You look ill and tired afterwards, but it's okay. I don't mind," James said, trying to sound soothing. Remus looked up, hope etched all over his face; it was as though he'd never dared to believe that this response could ever be possible.

< > "Yeah Remus," Sirius was speaking now; he'd stopped gawking. "I still want to be your friend too. Is there anything we can do to help?" James had been thinking the same thing. He knew the transformations were supposed to be painful, and Remus always returned looking very ill. He wanted to help if he could.

< >Peter hadn't said anything yet. James gave him a warning look, that clearly said "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Peter gave a whimper and huddled under the blankets, cowering. He seemed terrified. How could he be scared of Remus? There was no one more polite, more articulate or more conscientious than Remus J. Lupin and Remus looked happier at that moment than he'd ever looked.

< > "I didn't dare believe you'd accept me. I couldn't bring myself to tell you in case you hated me for it. I loved having friends. I didn't want to risk it," he said, his voice seeming to have more strength than before.

< > "Well it seems, my dear Remus, that telling us was the best thing you ever did. James and I will be much better friends now we know, and we'll be able to make your disappearances more convincing. Tell me Remus; is your mum really ill?" Remus shook his head, looking a bit ashamed of himself. Sirius grinned wickedly.

< > "You always were a terrible liar Remus Lupin, I think it's my turn to play the role of teacher." They got changed and headed downstairs to breakfast, laughing. James called to them that he'd be with them in a minute and turned his attention to the quivering wreck that was Peter.

< > "Get a grip on yourself." James said softly, almost dangerously. "There's nothing to be afraid of. It's just Remus, he hasn't changed over night. You should trust your friend enough to know he's not like they describe werewolves. You shouldn't believe everything you hear Peter, people who write books don't always know best." With that he went down to breakfast, hoping Peter would join them soon. He didn't want him to be a problem.

< >Remus was chatting merrily with Sirius at breakfast. He was still a bit pale with the shock of it all, but he was also very happy. James joined them, and that morning they had the best breakfast in ages. James held his breath as Peter approached the table. As always, he was a loose cannon. James breathed a sigh of relief as Peter sat down next to him and smiled at Remus.

< > "You're right" was all Peter said to James, but James felt more warmly of Peter at that moment than he had in a long time.

< >What little was left of the year disappeared almost immediately. Before they knew it, trunks were packed, rooms were empty and animals were hooting, hissing and croaking in their cages. They had their exam results; James was pleasantly surprised to find he'd passed everything with very high marks. James was torn between sadness at leaving the place where he'd had more fun than he'd ever had in his life, and happiness that he'd soon be seeing his parents and his wonderful little sister again. At breakfast on the last day, James, Sirius and Remus slipped fizzing whizzbees in the sausages and before they knew it, people were levitating all over the room. Professor Dumbledore included. His eyes twinkled in James' direction. He smiled innocently back. He was also levitating, it would have looked too suspicious if they were the only ones still in their seats.

< >Dumbledore muttered an incantation, created no doubt, to counter this particular phenomenon. It can't have been the first time this had happened (but probably not on such a grand scale). People moaned sadly, grinning, as they settled back into their seats.

< >On the train, the boys hurried to find an empty compartment. They wanted to discuss Remus' problem and what they could do about it. Sirius looked uncharacteristically serious as he asked Remus to tell them about his affliction and any ways they could help to make it more bearable.

< > "Well, every month Madame Pomfrey takes me to the Whomping Willow and the shrieking shack in Hogsmeade. You know the screams and howls the villagers have been hearing recently? I made them. The transformation is very painful, and because there are no humans to bite, I bite and scratch myself instead." He sounded very miserable. "No human con go anywhere near me while I'm like that. I'm a monster. I don't think there's anything you can do to help me."

< > "No human, eh?" Sirius said. What was he talking about? "Look, I think I've had an idea, but I'm not sure if it'll work, so I won't tell you about it just now because I don't want to get your hopes up. I have to think about it over the summer and I'll tell you when I see you next if I think it's possible. Okay?" James really wanted to know what he had in mind, but he didn't want to get Remus' hopes up either. Remus did seem more cheerful after Sirius' announcement, although that was probably because he had three friends who were willing to do whatever was in their power to help them. James could see he was very grateful. He smiled at Remus, who grinned back.

< >They passed the rest of the journey quietly. They couldn't really talk anymore because people were running up and down the train and popped in and out of their compartment. Instead they had a few games of exploding snap, and chattered happily about their plans for the holidays. Sirius was going to Greece with his parents to visit his oldest brother who worked for the Department of International Magical Co-operation in the Ministry of Magic and he had some task or another to do in Greece. Sirius wasn't too clear with the details. Peter was going to France with his parents. He wasn't really looking forward to it though. As far as James knew, he wasn't doing anything special this holiday. Neither was Remus. James suggested they all get together at some point in the holidays.

< > "Look, if anyone gets bored, you're always welcome at my house. Just send me an owl first." The other boys grinned back at James as the train pulled up in Platform 9 3/4. He waved goodbye to them all as he met his parents and was just about to go when he spotted Lily with her parents and very sulky sister. He caught her eye and smiled. She smiled back, and James got that strange feeling again. She knew something and James was pretty sure he knew what, but he just waved at her and shouted, "See you next year!"

Author's notes - The Method Behind my Madness

< >I wanted to write a Lily and James fan fiction that was through James' eyes. I've read many Lily stories, and I decided this was a good angle, as it's not done so much.

< >I also decided that the common representation of James as cocky and self-assured wasn't how I saw him. I saw as him as a normal 11 year old with many strengths and positive qualities, but also all the nerves and worries of any 11 year old. Any similarities with Harry's first year were intentional. I wanted them to be alike in more ways than the physical resemblance and I decided they should feel the same way about Mr. Ollivander etc.

< >I tried to keep to the characters provided by J. K. Rowling, as I'm terrible at creating them. When I needed to create my own characters I used a method not unlike Ms. Rowling's. I tried to make them fit their personalities.

< >Cara, the name of his little sister and one of few characters I made up, means 'beloved'. I wanted her to be a special part of James' life and her name is symbolic. Rheia Sabio (DADA teacher) also is made up, name-wise, of root words. Rheia was the clever wife of evil Kronos in Greek mythology who rescued her children form being eaten by him. Sabio is 'wise' in Spanish. Professor Mechante (Potions teacher) - 'mechant' is evil in French. Self-explanatory.

< >Thank you for reading this, I hope it cleared some things up for you. And thanks to Gypsy for fixing a majority my mistakes and putting this story on her website! I'm really proud of it. :-)

Disclaimer - I own only what you don't recognize; the rest belongs to the wonderful J. K. Rowling.

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