Chapter 1: Sparkle like a Different Girl
Two women—one young and one older—ran through King's Cross station, the younger one pushing a trolley with a large suitcase and cage. To Muggle passers-by, the scene was relatively odd, though not enough to cease their routine commute. The women were obviously related, possessing the same slender, pointed facial features and long dark hair. The older woman—who was clearly the mother of the younger one—also had a small child on her hip, who was sucking her thumb as she clung to her mother's neck.
The trio raced towards platform 9, pausing at a wall between 9 and 10. After a quick perfunctory inspection of those around them—no one was looking—the women passed through the wall and onto Platform 9 ¾, where parents of Hogwarts students were wishing their children farewell before they hopped on the Hogwarts Express to go to school for the year. The women let out long sighs, relieved that the train had not yet left the station.
The younger woman turned to her mother, smiling slightly. "I guess this is it—enjoy your last chance to send me off to school," she teased lightly.
Her mother's eyes clouded over with unshed tears, hiking her younger daughter higher up on her hip and tucking a dark curl behind her ear. "It seems like just yesterday I was sending you off to school for your first year, Caroline."
Caroline rolled her eyes at her mother's theatrics, though fondly. "Mum, don't start crying now, you did plenty of that in the car here."
"Yes, well, you know how I can get," her mother replied, pulling her daughter in close for a hug with her free arm.
When the two broke apart, Caroline turned to her little sister, Ellie, with a doting expression. "Do you promise to be good for Mummy and Henry?" Henry was Caroline's stepfather and Ellie's biological father, a kind Muggle professor at the University of London.
Ellie looked like she was pondering the question before shaking her head.
"No?" Caroline asked, faking shock and horror. Reaching out with nimble finger, she tickled Ellie, causing the little girl to squeal loudly.
Normally, Caroline would glance around and apologize to those around them for the commotion she'd caused, but she knew that every parent on that platform was already staring at them. Leave it to Caroline Grayson and her blood traitor mother to attract attention wherever they go, she thought to herself, the smile on her face fading slightly.
Pressing a kiss to Ellie's head, she turned back to her mother. "Promise me you'll stay safe," Caroline asked beseechingly. "With You-Know-Who and all these attacks over the summer…well, I worry."
Her mother tried to fake a smile, joking, "I thought I was supposed to be the overprotective parent today." However, when Caroline didn't smile back, she added, "We'll be fine. I have the flat warded and carry my wand with me every day, now." After assimilating to Muggle lifestyle and marrying one, Caroline's mother had stopped carrying a wand with her regularly. In light of the rise of the Dark Lord, she'd become more cautious and gone back to old habits.
Caroline nodded. "Alright, well, I'd better get on before the compartments fill up." As if in agreement, her tabby cat Felix mewled loudly from his cage.
After one last goodbye, Caroline made her way over to the train with her trolley, eyes scanning the crowd for her best—and only—friend, Dorcas Meadowes. Though Caroline was sorted into Slytherin and Dorcas into Ravenclaw, they'd forged a strong friendship over their years at Hogwarts. With her mother's reputation for abandoning her pureblood life, being a Slytherin hadn't been easy for Caroline. Dorcas was the one person who seemed to understand that and sympathize with what she went through.
As if on cue, Caroline felt a pair of soft hands cover her eyes from behind and a familiar female voice muttered in her ear, "Guess who?"
"Is it…Priscilla Walderbash?" Caroline joked with a wide grin on her face.
The hands ripped away from her eyes with a loud cry as Dorcas grabbed Caroline by the shoulders and spun her around so the two friends were facing each other. "How can you compare me to that primeval toe rag?"
"Those hands felt pretty troll-like, therefore…" Caroline teased, only to receive a forceful shove from Dorcas in return; though it was obvious her friend was also fighting back a smile.
"Come on, I've already put my stuff in a compartment with the girls," Dorcas announced, leading Caroline onto the train.
"The girls" Dorcas was referring to were Lily Evans, Marlene McKinnon, and Mary MacDonald. While Dorcas may have been Caroline's only friend, these girls were part of the circle of friends that Dorcas had created while at Hogwarts. While Caroline had never felt excluded or discriminated against by the girls, she found it hard to fit in with their clique, as most of them were Gryffindors and therefore extremely suspicious of the Slytherin girl.
Fighting back a sigh, Caroline mentally prepared herself for spending the entire train ride on the outskirts socially as Dorcas led her to the compartment where the rest of the girls were waiting. She pulled open the door to reveal all three of them laughing about something that had happened to Lily over the summer—the details were never actually revealed—before they turned to enthusiastically greet Dorcas.
Their reception of Caroline was decidedly more subdued, with small smiles or head nods. Since the three of them were sitting on one side of the compartment, Caroline sat with Dorcas on the other, immediately taking all three young women in.
Lily had already changed into her school uniform with a badge indicating her newfound status as Head Girl pinned to the lapel. Her long, ginger locks were pulled back into a high ponytail, with a few stray strands framing her heart-shaped face. Her wide green eyes were sparkling with joy and laughter as she watched Mary imitate some ridiculous relative of hers.
Marlene, a Gryffindor just like Lily, was still in casual clothes, picking disinterestedly at her nails. Caroline thought rather enviously that Marlene always managed to look flawlessly beautiful at anything, including chipping away at her own maroon nail polish. She'd always wished to look more like Marlene, who possessed a sultry, dark beauty about her.
The last girl, Mary MacDonald, was in Hufflepuff and overall the most approachable of the three. She was timid and shy around most people, blushing and biting her lip instead of speaking up. However, around the girls, her true persona came out as vibrant and exuberant, often found flailing her arms about in some grand tale or laughing embarrassingly loud. Her honey blond hair was often piled up on her head in a messy bun with some sort of wild accessory to go with them—her staple being Snitch earrings.
Dorcas was the glue of this group of very different girls. Dark-skinned and curly haired, she was by far the most laid back in appearance—she often bemoaned the fact she couldn't participate in the Muggle "hippy" movement, as it fit her aesthetic perfectly. Despite this easygoing attitude, Dorcas was fiercely loyal and wicked smart, hence her Ravenclaw placement. She saw the best in people and somehow managed to read everyone like a book.
And then there was Caroline. She felt so very out of place in the small compartment, watching the lively interactions of the girls while she sat in the corner, wishing she were back in the flat in London with her mother, Henry, and Ellie. She felt rather plain appearance-wise, with flat dark hair she'd attempted to spruce up with blunt bangs (which only ended up emphasizing how pale she was in comparison to her coffee colored locks). Altogether, Caroline often wondered how she'd ended up here in the first place.
"What do you think, Care?" Dorcas piped up, derailing her train of thought.
Caroline blinked rapidly. "Sorry, I zoned out for a bit. Think about what?"
Marlene grinned in a manner eerily similar to Caroline's tabby cat. "How bloody fine the Marauders have gotten this year—barring poor little Peter, of course."
Caroline struggled with how to respond, unsure if she should simply agree with Marlene, or give her actual opinion on the matter. She was saved from making a decision by the sound of Felix meowing from his cage rather pathetically, causing all eyes to turn towards him instead of Caroline.
"You can let him out," Lily offered kindly, gesturing towards the cage.
As soon as Caroline opened the door to his cage, Felix came rushing out, moving to settle in the space between Dorcas and his owner. His potbelly stuck out as he flopped onto his side, stretching languidly and yawning. The sight made Caroline roll her eyes fondly, reaching out to stroke him gently.
"What a glutton," Dorcas cooed, running a hand over Felix's head. She then glanced up at Lily, eyes scanning over her shiny new badge. "Who's Head Boy with you this year?"
Lily shrugged. "I haven't any idea. I figured the most likely guess was Remus, but I haven't seen him yet to find out."
Of all the prefects, Caroline agreed with Lily's assessment that Remus Lupin was the most responsible. Though quiet and sometimes reserved, he did his duties well without getting too lax or too strict. He walked the fine line rather well for a member of the Marauders, the merry band of pranksters in Gryffindor. They walked around school as if they ruled it—and if you asked one of the members of their large fan club, they might agree with that assessment.
Suddenly, the door to the compartment whipped open to reveal none other than Sirius Black and James Potter, the two most popular Marauders of all. Sirius leaned against the doorframe, arms crossed over his broad chest as he casually blew an inky strand of hair out of his face. His expression was formed in his signature smirk, eyes scanning over each one of the girls.
His smile fell slightly at the sight of Caroline, hackles raised immediately when detecting a member of Slytherin. "What are you doing in a compartment like this, Grayson?" He drawled, words sharp and ready to kill. "Don't you have some Dark Arts to practice with your fellow Death Eaters?"
His taunts cut deeply into Caroline, though she'd been bothered enough by her fellow students to know how to keep a cool expression no matter what someone threw at her. Leaning back against the seat, Caroline pretended to examine her nails in a similarly disinterested manner that Marlene had earlier.
In an airy voice, Caroline replied, "Our meetings for the purpose of world domination and destruction of all that is good usually occur on Wednesdays, Black. I can get you a schedule, if it concerns you so much." When she finally looked up, her returning smirk was positively acerbic, giving back as good as she got.
James cut through the tension with the quick deflection of, "The prefect meeting is happening in a few minutes."
"Yeah, and why do you care, Potter?" Lily snapped, crossing her arms over her chest.
Sirius let out a bark of laughter. "Take a look at this pin and you'll see why," he replied, pointing to the badge shining on James's Gryffindor robes. It was the Head Boy pin, as lustrous as the one fastened in the same place on Lily's lapel.
With an incredulous gasp, Lily demanded, "How the hell did this happen? You weren't even a prefect!"
A bit of color flooded the Head Boy's cheeks as his eyes suddenly became decidedly interested in the floor. "I'm not totally sure, to be honest. Your guess is as good as mine."
Caroline was floored by the boy's response. The James Potter everyone else knew would've reveled in the opportunity to elevate his status, would shout it from the rooftops. Yet this James seemed almost…embarrassed by it, if the way he was avoiding eye contact said anything.
Feeling a pang of sympathy, Caroline pointed out, "Technically, there isn't a rule that says the Head Boy has to be a prefect beforehand. It just goes to whoever the Headmaster believes is the most deserving of that responsibility." She paused and gave James what she hoped was an encouraging smile. "Professor Dumbledore must think very highly of you. Congratulations."
James smiled back, albeit hesitantly. "Anyway, I've got to round up the rest of the prefects." With that, he and Sirius left the compartment, gone as quickly as they appeared.
Caroline turned to Dorcas. "Would you mind watching Felix for me while I'm at the meeting?" As a Slytherin prefect, Caroline was obligated to attend the meeting and listen to the Head Boy and Girl address the new prefects, lay down the law, etc. etc.
Dorcas rolled her eyes. "Of course. I doubt he'll require much attention," she said, gesturing to the way Felix was already asleep, his snores ringing out rather loudly for an animal of his size.
Chuckling, Caroline stood and glanced at Lily, whose gaze was far away. "Lily? Are you coming to the meeting?"
Shaking herself out of her stupor, Lily stood and the two girls walked over to the compartment where the meeting would be held in silence. Obviously, the shock of James becoming prefect was much more than Lily could handle, judging by the way she muttered angrily under her breath as they walked. I'm not going to touch that situation with a ten foot pole, Caroline thought as they arrived.
Most of the prefects were already there when they arrived, with a rather nervous looking James standing as everyone else took a seat. Lily trudged over to where he was standing, though she made a point of not speaking to him or acknowledging his presence in any way, shape, or form. Caroline scanned the seats and saw one next to Remus Lupin, walking over slowly.
"Do you mind if I sit here?" She asked politely.
Remus nodded, flipping his ashy brown mane into his eyes as he did so. "Feel free."
The meeting was as dull as it always is—procedures and responsibilities were something that Caroline enjoyed being lectured about. James and Lily took charge rather well together, though, unintentionally in sync with both their tone and message. Caroline noticed with a slight scoff that one of the new prefects from Ravenclaw was starry-eyed as she gazed up at James, hanging on every word that left his mouth.
"It never stops, does it?" Remus muttered under his breath. Caroline looked over at him and then realized he had also noticed the Head Boy's latest fan and bit her lip to hide a smile.
She let out a faux sigh and leaned back. "Maybe if she's lucky, he might look at her once in her Hogwarts career."
"Or—even more fortunate—say her name. Out loud."
His words caused Caroline to let out a rather undignified yelp of laughter, getting the attention of everyone around them including their fearless leaders. Covering it up with a fake cough, Caroline cleared her throat and muttered, "Sorry. Carry on."
"Anyway," James continued, sending the pair a narrow-eyed look as he did so. "That's about it. We should be arriving soon, so continue on as you were."
As people got up to return to their compartments, Caroline followed the crowd to the door, ready to get back to her faithful companion Felix and Dorcas. The call of her name from James stopped her and she turned back, raising an eyebrow.
He moved over to her and cleared his throat awkwardly, waiting until everyone had left before speaking. "I wanted to, uh, apologize. For earlier."
Eyebrows knitted together, Caroline questioned, "What do you mean?"
"Sirius. The sh—stuff he said it wasn't, you know, it wasn't…good."
Caroline fought the urge to roll her eyes at this lukewarm attempt to deal with his friend's bad attitude. "Don't worry about it, James. It's no secret that Sirius Black would rather gnaw off his own arm than be in the presence of a member of Slytherin."
James scratched the back of his head, only further ruining the mop of black hair on his head. "Still, you're pretty cool and didn't deserve to be talked to that way."
"Well, no one deserves to be spoken to that way, but it's never stopped him before, has it?" Caroline remarked bitterly. "Don't sweat it, James. I'm a big girl, I know how to handle big-mouthed assholes."