Sitting in the Gryffindor prefects' compartment on the Hogwarts Express, Lily Evans held her breath every time the door opened and another prefect appeared. Who was the other fifth year? Who was she going to have to work with? Poor little Pettigrew wasn't likely to have been chosen, but it could be any of the others. Please don't let it be Black, she implored. Or Potter, either. I don't think I could take their ridiculous arrogance for more than five minutes without hexing them silly. Please let it be Remus.
It wasn't until the train started to pull out of King's Cross that she had her answer. Benjy Fenwick, one of the seventh years, had already called the meeting to order when the compartment door slid open one last time and Remus Lupin slipped inside. Greatly relieved, Lily smiled at him, and he gave her a quick grin in return as he settled into the last seat.
Remus was all right. He was thick as thieves with those insufferable idiots Black and Potter, of course, and sometimes he went along with their stupid pranks and troublemaking. But he was quieter than they were, and took his studies more seriously, and had such a kind way about him that she couldn't help liking him in spite of his questionable taste in friends.
. * . * .
Lily's new duties quickly became routine. The most time-consuming part was the evening patrol through the corridors, but the fifth, sixth, and seventh year prefect pairs took it in turns, and the patrols were generally uneventful. At most, they might find a student or two sneaking around after curfew. Usually, she and Remus just walked through the dark, empty passageways and talked. She discovered that his quiet manner concealed a mischievous sense of humour—his dry, deadpan comments kept her in stitches.
One evening, toward the end of September, Lily was in the common room waiting for Remus. But it was Fabian Prewett, a sixth-year prefect, who came down from the boys' dormitory instead. "Hi there, Evans. McGonagall says Lupin is ill—I'm doing his patrol tonight."
"He's ill? I hope it isn't anything serious."
Prewett shook his head. "McGonagall didn't say, but she didn't look very worried. He's probably just got that cold that's been going around."
Lily nodded, and led the way out through the portrait hole into the moonlit corridor. Remus did seem to be the kind of person who always caught whatever was in the air. He missed lessons more often than anyone in their year. Now that she stopped to think about it, it was a wonder his marks were as good as they were.
. * . * .
The next day, Lily kept an eye out for her fellow prefect. Remus didn't appear at breakfast, and sure enough, he was absent from lessons all day. She did see him at dinner, though, sitting down at the other end of the Gryffindor table with Potter, Black, and Pettigrew, who all seemed to be teasing him about something. He was grinning good-naturedly, but Lily thought he looked awfully pale, and really quite exhausted.
After dinner, Lily was sitting with some of her friends in the crowded common room, working on a Charms essay, when Remus and his gang came up from the Great Hall. They settled down at their favourite table by the window and proceeded to cover it with pieces of parchment.
"Here you are, Moony," she heard Potter say. "Defence Against the Dark Arts and History of Magic—and you'd better appreciate that one, 'cause I stayed awake through Binns's whole lecture just to make sure I'd have notes for you."
"I've got your Potions notes," said Black. "Not much happened, though—Slughorn was too busy telling us stories about his important contacts at the Wizarding Wireless Network to remember to teach anything." Lily had to choke back a laugh so the boys wouldn't realize she was eavesdropping. Black was absolutely right about that day's wasted Potions lesson.
"And I've got Care of Magical Creatures," said Pettigrew excitedly, handing over a mud-spattered sheaf of parchment. "It was a practical on hippogriffs today, Remus—old Kettleburn was brilliant!"
The boys fell silent then, starting on their homework. Lily stole another glance at Remus to reassure herself that he seemed more or less okay, and then went back to her own work. (All right, maybe she did sneak a look at that Potter prat as well, but that didn't mean she fancied him or anything. That would be ridiculous.)
The common room gradually emptied out as students finished their work, or gave up for the night, and went upstairs to their dormitories. Lily stayed up rather late working on her essay—she liked the topic she had chosen and wanted to finish it before going to bed. When she was finally satisfied, she looked around the room, letting the ink dry. The only other person still there was Remus, asleep in his seat at the table with his head resting on a pile of books. Lily frowned. She didn't like to disturb him, but if he wasn't well, he ought to be getting a decent night's sleep instead of dozing in a hard wooden chair.
He didn't respond, so she went over and gently tapped his shoulder.
Remus lurched awake at once, sitting straight up and blinking a few times. He grinned at her sheepishly. "Thanks. I guess I dozed off."
"You look like you should be in bed." Lily thought his face looked a bit grey. "Fabian Prewett said you've been ill. How are you feeling?"
He shrugged. "Better now, thanks—I'm sure I'll be fine in a day or so." He frowned at the stacks of books and parchment that still covered the table. "I wish I hadn't fallen asleep, though. I've got to keep up with lessons—I can't afford to fall behind, not with O.W.L.s coming up."
"Oh, piffle," said Lily lightly, "you're always near the top of our year! I'm sure you don't have anything to worry about."
He didn't look convinced. "I need to qualify for N.E.W.T. level courses in as many subjects as I can, so I can keep my options open when I'm looking for a job. I can't afford to slip up where O.W.L.s are concerned."
Lily laughed. "You do worry too much! You're good at so many things—the jobs will come looking for you."
Remus only shook his head, looking unexpectedly bleak.
Just then Black thumped down the stairs from the boys' dormitory. He was wearing red striped pajamas, and his normally smooth and elegant hair stuck up in all directions—he'd clearly just dragged himself out of bed. "Come on, Moony," he yawned, "it's almost midnight. It's time you got some sleep."
Remus stood up, sighing. "I was on my way." He began stuffing books into his schoolbag. In his haste, the sleeve of his robes caught on something, revealing a large white bandage underneath.
"My goodness," said Lily, "what's the matter with your arm?" Madam Pomfrey, the school nurse, could heal most cuts instantly. Only magical wounds, or very deep ones, needed bandages.
Remus went bright red and kept his eyes on his schoolbag. "Nothing," he muttered, "just an accident."
"But what happened?" She was worried about him now. This was all very odd.
"I don't think it's really any of your business," said Black sharply.
Lily swung around, ready with a cutting reply. But what she saw on Black's face wasn't the lazy arrogance she so despised. Instead, he was radiating a kind of fierce protectiveness. In her astonishment, she let the matter drop.
. * . * .
A/N: Many thanks to Jadzialove for her patient and perceptive help with this story!