Lily Evans sits at the edge of the Black Lake, staring out over the water.
It’s a rare moment of freedom- this is her seventh and last year at Hogwarts, and with Head Girl duties, NEWTs to be written and a war in the outside world, she is unlikely to have much time to herself. But this is the beginning of the year, and her Transfiguration essay, Charms project, and Potions assignment are all completed, and she refuses to think about the Heads meeting tomorrow, so she has the afternoon free.
For some reason, she’s thinking about Jude, the golden retriever her family had gotten when she was nine. Named after the Beatles song “Hey Jude”, he had enthusiastically greeted Lily every afternoon when she returned from school. They’d spent hours playing, until, when Lily was thirteen, Jude was given away when the family had to move into a flat where the dog could not be comfortable.
She misses Jude. It’s odd- she hasn’t thought about him in a while- but suddenly she’s remembering the time she had taught him to roll over, and all the times when, finding Lily crying over Petunia’s harsh words, Jude had presented himself to provide comfort.
She’s so absorbed in memories she can almost swear she feels silky fur brushing against her arm. A cold nose on her elbow, though, snaps her out of her reminisces, and she turns to find a shaggy black dog rubbing against her arm and wagging its tail.
She’s seen this dog before, occasionally, lingering near Hagrid’s hut or sitting under a tree, but it’s never approached her. She watches as the dog tilts its head, then rolls over onto its back, tongue hanging out.
She laughs. “Hey, boy,” she says, noting that the dog is male. “Where did you come from?”
The dog just wags his tail, staring at her.
How odd, she thinks. Just when I was thinking of Jude.
She’d only told a few people about Jude, for some reason- Marlene, Alice, Mary, and, to her surprise, Sirius, whom she’d befriended during the Snape debacle of the previous year, when the other Marauders were furious at him. She'd been angry at what he'd almost done to Remus (she still doesn't understand how James saved Sev- Snape from Remus' werewolf form, but she's impressed), but finding a normally suave person punching a wall in an empty corridor tends to catalyze a friendship. Even when the boys reconciled, Sirius and Lily would occasionally meet up. In a spur-of-the-moment heart-to-heart, Lily had told him about Jude. Sirius had seemed surprisingly interested, so she’d felt encouraged to elaborate.
The dog retreats, picks up a stick, and trots back to offer it to Lily, just as Jude once had. She takes the stick and throws it. The dog bounds off across the grounds, retrieving it and returning to drop it at her feet.
Thrilled, Lily starts playing fetch with the dog. She loves watching him run across the grounds, enjoys stroking his ears (oddly soft for a dog she thinks is a stray), savours the feeling of throwing the stick as far as she can.
Nobody interrupts this game- the fifth, sixth, and seventh years are tackling their homework and the younger students are either inside or fooling about on the Quidditch pitch. For a gloriously carefree hour, Lily plays with the dog, putting away all thoughts of the war, the next Heads meeting, the tricky charm she knows is going to be tested on Monday, and just focuses on being happy.
She’s so lost, she doesn’t realise her name is being called.
“Lily? Lily! Lily!”
She looks around and finds Remus Lupin approaching her.
“Remus!” she says, pleased. She gets along very well with Remus- he’s a close friend, and they share similar tastes in books and Muggle music.
“Lily, Marlene’s calling you, she- do you know that dog?” Remus looks oddly at the black dog, which has returned to Lily.
“No, he’s been playing with me for a while. Why, do you know him?”
Remus stares at the dog, which starts rubbing against the seated Lily’s knee. He raises his eyebrows and then looks back at Lily. “Yes. Yes, I do. We…call him Snuffles.”
The dog growls. Lily looks amused. “The Marauders, calling a dog Snuffles? This is a revelation.”
Remus laughs, and looks at the dog. “You’d better not let James see you do that,” he tells it.
“Don’t let James see what?” James Potter arrives, catching his name. He nods at Remus and Lily and then freezes as he sees the dog.
“Look, James, Snuffles has been playing with Lily,” Remus says, swallowing back a grin. James stares in shock as Snuffles licks Lily’s cheek. She laughs and strokes his fur.
“What in the name of- Snuffles, what are you doing?” demands James, who seems furious.
“He’s playing with me,” Lily tells him, petting Snuffles, who stares at James, tail wagging. “He’s really a very nice dog.”
“Well yes, of course, we trained him,” Remus says. The dog’s tail stops wagging- oddly enough, it looks as though he’s shooting Remus a glare. Remus can’t hold back a smug smile.
“You did?” asked Lily, impressed. “Wow. You did a good job of it. He’s really sweet.”
James chokes. “No, he’s not. Snuffles, get up. We’re going to have a talk later. Go.”
Lily frowns, puzzled, and is incredibly shocked when Snuffles exhales loudly, almost sighing, rubs his face against Lily’s shoulder, and trots off, bumping (it looks deliberate) into James’ leg as it goes away.
“You really trained him well,” Lily says, awestruck, leaning back on her hands. “But why did you tell him to leave?”
Lily stares in shock at James, Sirius, and Peter. They’re gathered around Remus’ bed in the Hospital Wing. It’s late, and nobody is around, except for Madam Pomfrey in the back, with Muffliato cast over her. “Animagi? But- but you’re not on the registry…” she trails off, frowning. “Hang on, so you’re unregistered. And you must have accomplished the transformation sometime in the past few years…you did it at Hogwarts?”
There’s no reply. There isn’t supposed to be. It’s a rhetorical question Lily has voiced as she processes this information.
“McGonagall knows, I suppose?”
“Well, she suspects,” Peter allows.
“We did ask some odd questions. And stole her notes. And asked for some subtle advice,” James adds. “But she hasn’t said a word.”
“Good old Minnie,” says Sirius appreciatively. Lily ignores this disrespectful nickname for a respect-commanding professor, and proceeds with her inquiry.
“So that’s what the nicknames stand for!” she exclaims. “Moony for Remus because he’s a werewolf, Wormtail for Peter…is your form a rat?” Taking Peter’s nod as a yes, she continues excitedly. “Prongs is James…antlers, I suppose? So a stag, maybe?” James smiles. Lily returns the smile and looks at Sirius. “Padfoot, though, is harder…a fox?”
Sirius grins and shakes his head. “No. A dog. A dog with shaggy black fur. He looks rather like a stray, actually.”
She stares at him for a moment, looking into those laughing grey eyes.
A shaggy black stray licking her cheek.
She gasps. A hand flies up to her cheek. “Sirius Orion Black, you-” She bursts out laughing. Sirius’ grin widens.
“Why did you tell him to leave?” Lily repeats, watching the dog walk away.
James darkly mutters, “He’s a troublemaker.”
“Well, that shouldn’t be much of a problem, should it?” Lily says cheerfully. “After all, you’re the Marauders. You deal with Sirius. Now there’s a troublemaker.”
Remus can’t hold back his laughter.