Over the next few weeks I try to get Sirius on his own, to finish our conversation but it seems impossible and it doesn’t help that Sophia is acting like his own personal leech. Or that wherever I go, Matthew seems to be there, watching me. Instead, I become closer with Tiffany, as the rest of my friends seem intent on sucking each other’s faces off and I’m far too freaked out to sit with Matthew and his friends. Interestingly, Remus is rather keen to linger around too.
It’s early December and it’s snowing outside as I sit in Transfiguration listening to McGonagall discuss a theory with James, who I can tell is loving every second of it. And so is McGonagall. “So can you tell me Mr Potter, how one applies Habbot’s Rule of Thumb to human transfiguration for acquisition of power?” She asks with a smile rarely seen on the professor’s face. James arrogantly leans back on his chair lazily. “Habbot’s rule states that for each transformative spell the caster must apply an anti-enchantment so as to prevent permanent damage. Professor, what’s the most epic thing you’ve ever transformed?”
“I once transfigured my head into that of a dragon.”
“Wicked.” Remus and Sirius say in unison.
“Thank you for that assessment.” The professor says with a smile. “Now, these spells are particularly difficult because they are all individual. They are personal to you as they take into account your DNA-”
“-filthy muggle rubbish”
I turn around and glare at the speaker. Avery. “Shut up.” I hiss. “Nobody wants to hear your crap.”
“You’re such a blood traitor Braddock.” He retorts with a nasty leer which splits his wide face in half. I want to hit him but McGonagall’s stare falls on us and I stop talking instantly. Avery misses this subtle sign, however and to my delight he continues to blab. “You know, it wouldn’t surprise me if you went and slept with one, that’s your type right? Skanky? Didn’t I see you with Matthew Stebbins? Talk about filthy, you know his Dad’s a mudblood and his Mum’s a muggle. Ugly dog of a woman too-”
“Avery.” McGonagall says in a quiet, deadly sort of voice. “How dare you use such foul language in my classroom, how dare you be so insensitive, and how dare you be so vulgar? Here is no place for your ill-reputed views.”
His lip twitches in irritation. “Sorry Professor,” He grunts.
“You should be. And to make sure of the fact you shall receive detention for the next three weeks. Don’t worry you won’t be alone, several of your housemates will join you.”
“What, for missing a lesson?”
“No, for attacking a muggleborn in my classroom, I take it you are not so stupid Avery?”
“Of course not Professor.”
“You know that attacking anyone, regardless of blood heritage is wrong and vile?”
“I know that attacking purebloods is.”
“And that is why you shall spend your next three Saturdays with me. Now.” She turns to the rest of the class and gives us our instructions for the lesson.
My partner is Sophia. She turns to face me and sighs. “So, what should I transform into? Oh what about wings? I could give myself wings like a fairy.”
“You know I have to do the same as you?” I query and she looks at me with a bemused frown.
“Yes. Why wouldn’t you want to be a fairy? Oh, oh yes of course. Sorry.”
“What?” I demand.
“No, never mind. My mistake, what would you like?”
“Why couldn’t I be a fairy?”
“Um, only that fairies are very dainty, you know? And delicate? And you’re not as pretty as Ingrid, Angel and me. I thought you’d feel self-conscious.”
I glare at her. “Wings it is.” I snap.
“No, no it’s fine, I understand. Stebbins asked where you were.”
“Sophia.” I reply with a smile as fake as a barbie, “I want to do wings. And why?”
“He said that he couldn’t see you at break. Alright, just promise me you won’t get jealous of me? I wouldn’t want to hurt your feeli-” She breaks off, mid-sentence and starts laughing. I look at her as if she’s gone mad, then follow her line of sight back to where Sirius is glancing over at us with a concerned expression plastered across his face, clearly worried that a bug is caught in her throat. I roll my eyes as she flicks her gaze to me and asks with a stiff smile fixed in place, “He’s still looking right?”
“Yes,” I say, “Sirius is still looking at you. Why does Matthew want to know where I am?”
“Merlin’s beard keep your voice down!” She giggles. “I don’t know, or care quite frankly. We have a chance though? Don’t you think? Me and Sirius? Angel doesn’t think so, but Ing does. She says we are so cute together. And we’re hanging out so much now. It’s like we’re meant to be or something!”
I don’t understand why I’m so angry. I put it down to Matthew Stebbins’ strange behaviour. Why does he need to know where I am all the time? And why does Sirius have to spend time with Sophia?
We spend the rest of the lesson coming up with the incantation for the wings, each spell has to be different to account for the differences in our genetics. When the bell goes I’m only too happy to pack up my books and flee from the classroom.
Just once I think I’m free I hear Lily’s loud laughter permeate the corridor and the inevitable cry of, “Wait for us Jess,” from James. Disgustingly obedient, I loiter in the corridor as tiny first years scurry by, dodging out of my way. “Jess, how awesome a lesson was that? We were just saying we should start a transfiguration class!”
“Transfiguration eh? No surprise there.” I reply to my friend, who has his arm wrapped around the red-head’s tiny waist. “So,” She says, with a flick of her auburn hair. “Are you in?”
“In?” I repeat.
“The club? We were thinking we could make it a duelling club too. You know, practice against the enemy and everything.”
I try to hang back but so does Sirius; she keeps on babbling and there’s no escape once Lily has decides to get passionate about something. We sit down for lunch and to my surprise Sirius sits opposite me. I smile at him. He returns it. I help myself to a sandwich and a handful of crisps while a few owls descend with the lunchtime edition of the prophet. “I didn’t know you subscribed.” I mention to Lily. It’s normally Remus’ copy that we crowd around at lunchtime. “I don’t.” She replies, a frown creasing her brow. The owl offers a leg and I notice the stamp. Petunia? She hates anything to do with Hogwarts, why is she writing to her sister? Lily and I exchange a glance and I lean in closer so as to read the letter with her.
Mum and Dad were in an accident last night. They got hit by some stupid blue car. They died before the ambulance got there.
I don’t know whether this will get to you, what with your stupid owl system, but if it does you’d better be here before Tuesday the 9th, that’s when the funeral is.
Vernon’s being wonderful, as always.
Bring someone with you if you want but it’s going to be a small funeral.
Please come home, Lils, I need some help.
I finish reading before she has. I watch her finish the letter. The boys are shouting at each other, something about putting Peter in the girls’ quidditch changing room. They don’t notice Lily break. They don’t see her crumple up into a ball and whimper. I put an arm around her and say words that don’t mean anything. “I’m so so sorry.” I whisper. Words won’t bring them back, they won’t fix anything, but it’s all I can do. I can say meaningless things and hope that she mends herself. I prize the letter from her hands as James spots his broken girlfriend. “Lily, what is it?” She doesn’t reply. “Lils? Are you alright?”
“Probably just realised she’s going out with you.” Sirius chuckles, throws a grape into the air and catches it in his mouth. “Lily?” James asks.
I move her onto him and then let him read the letter. His jaw drops and he pulls Lily closer, putting his hand on her head. I stand up and take the letter with me to the teacher’s table at the front of the hall which we’re not supposed to go up onto. McGonagall frowns as she sees me approaching her. “What is it Braddock?”
“Professor,” I tremble. “It’s Lily. She’s, well, she’s a mess.” I hand over the letter. McGonagall’s face drains as she reads it. “I take it Petunia didn’t know how to contact the school.” She says, coolly.
“I don’t think so. She’s always been rather… anti-magic. Is there any way Lily can get home not by train?”
“I’ll open up the Floo network from my office. She can leave within the hour until the twelfth. Then I expect to see her in my class again on the Thirteenth. Oh, and Braddock?” She calls out as I turn away to speak to Lily about this. “You are a very good friend. Most would want to be there, jealous of the boyfriend getting all of the credit, but you have taken the initiative and I think she will be very grateful in the long-run.”
“Thank you Professor. I don’t mean to sound rude, but can she stay in your office while I pack her bags? I doubt that she wants to be the centre of attention at the moment.”
She stands up and follows me to where Lily is sobbing into James’ shoulder, unaware of the sideways looks she’s getting from everybody. McGonagall sweeps her up from James’ arms and leads her out of the Hall, talking softly in her ear and somehow stopping the tears that were sliding down her cheeks. “What is it?” Sirius asks me as soon as they’re out of sight, James having followed them out with Lily’s bag. “You know what Black? You can be a real bastard you know that?” I march out of the Hall, but I know that he’ll follow me. “Jessica, what is it?”
I wait for him to catch up and make sure that nobody else is within earshot. I look him in the eye. “Her parents were in a car accident. They died.”
“Do you need your ears tested?”
“No, it’s just… I was an idiot. She must loathe me.” He mutters irritably to himself. Hating himself more and more by each second. “Look,” I sigh, putting a hand on his shoulder as a signal for him to stop. “You didn’t know. And how could you? Just be there for her when she gets back… She’ll take James won’t she?”
“Probably. Oh, um, sorry about that. You gonna be okay?”
“Of course. I’m not the one… Lily… I don’t know. I need to be strong for Lily. But I need to pack for her, and what will she wear? What will she want to wear for the funeral? Or what if I don’t pack her underwear? Or I forget her hairbrush? Do you think she needs a hairbrush? She does have one at home… You know Mr and Mrs Evans had a library? It’s this beautiful room with books and ladders and a sofa. He was a barrister. A brilliant one too. He often gets called away to London for big cases. Got. Got called away. And Mrs Evans was amazing at sewing, the things she could do with fabric was magical! Oh… She was making Lily her gown for the ball at the end of the year….”
Strong arms wrap themselves around me and I bury my face into Sirius’ chest only to realise that my face is drenched with tears. I mumble an apology, but he just pulls me closer and puts one hand through my hair. Somebody walks past us and I know that they will have looked back and judged me. Judged us. I pull away. “Thank you.” I sniff and wipe my face with the sleeve of my robes. “I wish someone could just help pack, you know? Get all the right things.” I shake my head and force a smile. “How awful do I look?”
He laughs at me. “Here…” He says softly and wipes mascara from under my eyes with his thumb.
“I’ll walk with you.”