I wake up and glance across at Lily, except she isn’t there. Her bed isn’t made, but it’s unslept in and I can tell that the sheets are cold. Nobody else seems to notice as they bustle around the dormitory, finding clothes and going to the bathroom. My eyes adjust to the light slowly and I can make out Tiffany checking her bag frantically. “Checked under the bed?” I ask. She shakes her head and dives under her mattress emerging with a piece of paper. Suddenly she’s next to me. “So, where’s Lily? I saw her crying yesterday.”
I hesitate. People are going to find out anyway. “It’s her parents. They died.”
“What?” She gasps. “That’s terrible!”
“Yes, it is.”
“Do you know-”
“I was going to say how she is.”
“Oh. I have no idea. James would know better, he’s gone with her.”
“Lily needs you more than a boy. Even if that boy is James Potter, however wonderful he may be. You know he'll try and comfort her by reading her Lord of the Rings or something. I overheard him talking about it with a friend of mine once. Apparently he dresses up as something called a hobbit sometimes. Did you know that?”
Funny how he never told me that. “Tiff? Has anyone told you how amazing you are?”
“No.” She replies honestly. “Thank you. Now hurry up and get dressed. Remus said he’d help me with some homework.” She gestured to the parchment that she had been so desperate to find. I shove her away and get dressed then do my face and teeth. I pull my hair into a pony-tail.
“You look nice.” Tiff comments, with a raised eyebrow. We sit together at the Gryffindor table and talk about what it would be like, just for one day, to have an entire day without another grisly piece of news. In the muggle world there are wars being fought, and by the look of the paper there’s going to be another one here in our world. Three brothers murdered, two muggle born and one a muggle. The mark had hovered over the house. It’s being called the ‘Dark Mark’. His sign. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s sign. Somebody has to do something about this, and soon. “Where’s Dumbledore?” Tiff asks me and I look up at the table. He’s not there.
“I don’t know. Why would he have to leave?”
“Some urgent business?”
“Something to do with these murders maybe.”
“Maybe. But what can he do?”
“Well, there is something. James told me about this Order of the Phoenix. I think Dumbledore must be the head of it or something and its aim is to bring the Deatheaters and You-Know-Who down. So, maybe they have some plan?”
“Perhaps. Oh there’s Remus!” She stands up and waves. I glance around to see just Remus and Peter strolling towards us with amused looks plastered on their faces. They sit opposite us. “You alright, Jess?” Peter asks, helping himself to some sausages while his friend reads over Tiff’s essay.
“Yes.” I scan the Hall once more. “Where’s Sirius?”
“He should be down in a minute. He said he had something to cheer you up.”
Remus shoots a glare at Peter. “He also asked us to keep that quiet.”
I frown. “What?”
They um and ah, stuttering around the answer until Sirius himself slides in beside me when they fall silent. “I have a gift for you.” He says with a gleam in his eye.
“A gift.” I repeat, like an idiot.
“Yes, you know what one of those is don’t you?”
“Shut up,” He grins, then pulls some parchment out of his pocket. He clears his throat and the other two boys brace themselves. Sirius begins to read. “Bright like midnight fires,
Her eyes are lit with secret desires,
I like the way her lips move,
It makes me feel her groove.”
Remus yelps. “Please stop this Padfoot. Her groove?” But I can’t help but die inside, but I die smiling. Sirius meets my eyes and continues his poem. “When I wake up in the morning,
A new sensation is dawning,
Although I might be yawning,
I keep on thinking of us spawning.” I laugh, loudly. “In the middle of the night,
You are my only delight,
I think about you always,
Trust me, I’ve been counting the days.
Sorry if I didn’t do things right,
And instead I chose to fight… you,
I’d give you satin red flowers,
Taller than Hogwartses towers.
You must know that normally when I'm competing with Prongs my rhymes are better than this,
But I had a mission you see,
To put a smile on your face,
There for all to see.”
Sirius bows and I applaud him. I look around but it looks like nobody else was listening. Remus is banging his head gently on the table, Peter has his fingers in his ears and is singing to himself and Tiffany is rustling her parchment loudly. “Thank you.” I tell him and nods. “So, the poem, was it about anyone in particular? I know the last verse was directed at me…”
“Who do you think it was about?”
“James.” I say with a smirk. "Or more likely Remus."
Remus stops hitting his head on the wood and shakes his head. "I bloody well hope I'm not the inspiration for that monstrosity."
Sirius responds with a bark of laughter that is utterly contagious. “I suppose you would say that. “
I nod, sagely."Yes. I would too. You and Remus are the only true romance I’ve ever seen. He loves you even more than chocolate.”
“He loves chocolate more than breathing.”
“Then he loves you more than wanking.”
They both look at me with expressions of mingled awe and bemusement. It doesn't matter, I crossed the appropriate-ness line a long time ago. “I can see why you’re such good friends with Prongs.” Sirius concedes. It’s the first time he’s said anything positive about my friendship with James. It’s amazing how little we’ve talked about that issue. The James Problem. We’ve always slid past it. “Thank you.” I say, confused at the compliment. “Drat.”
“What?” He asks.
I jerk my head in the direction of the Hufflepuff table. Matthew Stebbins is watching us with an alarming intensity and stabs his fork onto his plate. Sirius watches as the plate shatters under the impact. “You alright? Has he spoken to you since your date?” He can’t help but snigger at the last bit. I roll my eyes. “No, I’ve been avoiding him. But he’s everywhere I look. It’s like he’s following me. What?” I demand, catching a glimpse of his face. He seems amused but angry. I’m angry. How is it any different from his constant smooching of Sophia? Talk about double-standards, and feminism too. I’m sure I can fit that somewhere into the argument. I restrain myself from saying any of this out loud. He would just laugh at me if I did. “You’re avoiding your boyfriend?” He asks. We both know that I’ve been doing a bit more than ignoring him. Kissing Sirius wasn’t exactly perfect behaviour. Only now did that hit me. A flood of shame washed through my veins and I closed my eyes. “Yes, he’s not my boyfriend though” I sigh. Sirius sees that he’s upset me. I think… suddenly I can’t read his expressions and his handsome face becomes as unreadable as mermish. Remus coughs. “Lessons.” He says.
We all have potions together apart from Tiff, who has muggle studies instead. Two seats are empty where Lils and James should be at the end of our bench. In front of us sit, Dean Winchester (our fellow Gryffindor) Cody Tennyson (a nice Hufflepuff with a good sense of humour) Connie Lane (another Hufflepuff, I like her) Decimus Tunelbee (the last Hufflepuff on that table and the tenth sibling in his family) and Louise Carnaby (the Ravenclaw, she likes to be more creative with her potion making). Next to them was an almost fully Slytherin table. Mandy Munday (the Hufflepuff bitch) is sitting in-between Snape (ugh) and her beloved Davey Parkinson. There’s a Slytherin boy called Hiro Satou, and another one called Edwin Cook. I don’t know why I’m ignoring Professor Slughorn and watching everyone else in the class, but I am. Anything to avoid looking at Lily’s empty seat. I lean on my hand and squeeze my eyes shut. My other arm falls limply past my chair.
Everyone gets up suddenly and heads towards the supply cupboard. “Where are you going?” I ask Sirius as he walks away. He stops, looks around. “We’re making Polyjuice Potion, we’re trying to accelerate the process.”
“Right,” I say, “Of course.” I slide off of my stool and follow him. We collect the ingredients and then join Remus and Peter at our table. These are the pairs we’ve ended up splitting into ever since James and Lily have been going out. James insisted they be partners because he didn’t want Snape getting any ideas. He wanted to mark his territory. Of course that’s not how he put it.
Occasionally, my fingers will brush against Sirius’ as we reach for the same thing, or his forearm will press against mine. I don’t know why it’s significant, but it is. He slips some parchment towards me and I push it under my hand, frowning at him. The classroom is humming with noise, why can’t he just say something to me? Nobody will hear. I lift my hand to see his scrawling handwriting smudging itself along the page.
I heard something. About Lily.
James told me she’s having a really hard time.
He says she wants to see Snape.
What should I tell him?
I read and reread the message. How is he hearing from James when I haven’t had any news? Why does Lily need Snivellus so much and not me? How do we change her mind? I clench my jaw. I don’t look at Sirius, but I speak anyway. “Tell him to tell her that I say he’s not worth it, remember the pain he caused her. Remember that she’s strong and tell him to buck his ideas up and to start behaving like a proper boyfriend. If she wants Snape then he isn’t doing a good enough job. James needs to be the boyfriend he promised her.”
I glance at Sirius, he’s smiling down at his crotch. I feel suddenly VERY uncomfortable. “What are you doing?” I ask.
“Talking to James.” He replies.
Peter overhears and waves at Sirius’ lap. “Hi Prongs!” He says. I remain confused.
“What is going on?” I plead. “Is your thing called James? Have you named it James?”
“No, look. It’s James.” He beckons me closer and on his lap is a mirror, out of which James is staring. “Wha… Hi,” I say, waving. James grins at me, but he looks tired. “How is she?”
He frowns. “In her room, she’s been up all night. Thanks for the clothes.”
“Although I did need some too.”
“Right. Of course. Sorry.”
Sirius interjects. “I’ll send you some later.”
“Thanks mate.” James replies. “So Jess. You think I should man up?”
“Boyfriend up.” I correct him, turning slightly pink. He heard me.
I hesitate. “Well, she brought you because she needs you more than anyone right now.” A trace of resentment trickles through my voice. “So why are you talking to us? You should be with her.”
“But, but I don’t know what to say.”
“You don’t have to say anything.”
The classroom door bursts open. We all turn around to see Professor McGonagall striding down through the desks. She mutters something to Professor Slughorn who turns pale. “Carry on everybody,” He cries. “I shall be back in a moment.”
He follows our head of house out of the room and there’s a moment of silence while everyone looks at each other before descending into hushed conversation. The boys huddle together, but I stand up and linger by the door.
“Are you sure?” Slughorn says. I can hear the anxiety in his voice. “There’s no doubt-”
“None at all Horace,” McGonagall replies sharply.
“It’s not your fault. Just make sure you do something. This cannot continue.”
“I know. Which students do we think were responsible?”
She sighs. “Snape, Mulciber, Avery and probably those we talked about last week. The younger ones, trying to prove themselves. The girl won’t say anything, which is hardly surprising given what happened to her. A first year. It’s unthinkable.”
“How is that possible? Snape is in here with me.”
“We’ve only just found the girl.”
“How is she?”
“They’re sending her to St Mungo’s. The cuts won’t heal and she’s delirious from the curse.”
“Of course, Minerva.”
I hurry back to my seat just in time for the door to open. Slughorn’s usually cheerful face has become dark. He tells us to pack our things away, we can leave early, but he stops Snape before he can leave. We glance back, but the door swings shut and any conversation is muffled.