The first week speeds by in a blur of new timetables and lectures from teachers about our impending and seemingly inevitable doom that is exams. At least forty times we were told that these would be the hardest things we would do in our lives. Then they set us copious amounts of homework. I’m sitting in the Gryffindor Common Room, curled up by the fire with three books open around me and a scroll of parchment and an ink bottle balanced precariously on the arm of the sofa. Lily is reading through one of my essays, chewing on the end of her quill. I don’t have time to worry about how bad it is that she has to pull that expression, I’m busy tomorrow and if I don’t get this done I’m screwed. Tomorrow is the first weekend back at school, and having made friends with the Pitches again, I have to help organise the traditional back to school party in the Room of Requirement.
“No.” I say holding my hand up. Black is hovering behind me, probably with his mouth open. “Give me two minutes.” Since his ridiculing of Snape I feel more inclined to like him. Besides, he was right. Now we see each other every day. We all sit together, we all eat together, Lily even waits for them to get breakfast. I have to learn to be more tolerant of him. I scribble my final sentence of bullshit and write my name at the bottom of the page. “What is it?” I ask.
“This party…” He begins.
“You’re all invited.”
“Everyone’s invited. That’s sort of the point. Anyway, Sophia wants you there.”
“Ravenclaw. One of my Pitches. Tall, dark hair, very thin.”
“Oh her! Reeaally…”
“Yes. Now we’ve got that sorted, can I please move on to my next bit of work?”
“No. Is it a ‘bring a date’ sort of party?”
“I suppose. Are you going to give some new poor soul an STD?”
“I don’t have STDs.”
“Yeah,” I scoff. “Whatever.”
“Who are you bringing then?”
“Wanna go?” He jokes. I roll my eyes and open a new book. “I’ll take that as a maybe.”
“Go away and find some gullible slut.”
“Shall do!” He calls as he backs away.
Lily is unusually quiet. I put my quill down very deliberately. “What is it?” I say.
“Nothing.” She replies breezily. I decide to leave it at that, not wanting to know what cogs are turning in Lily Evans’ over-active and far too intelligent brain. We stay up for another couple of hours working away. James joins us a couple of times, barely talking to me but focusing on distracting his girlfriend. Arm wrapped around her, head on her shoulder, kissing her neck every so often. Part of me is glad that he’s ignoring me, I need to get this work done, but the other half is growing insecurities like weeds as Black’s words come back to haunt me. They won’t want you hanging around them all the time.
At about one, I go up to bed feeling like shit and hating Black once again. I mutter apologies to the girls who had already gone to bed and were asleep as I stumble into my own four-poster. I draw the curtains around me to make it clear that under NO circumstances do I want to be disturbed. I pull out my wand and point it at the roof.
I carve it into the wood to mark my presence. I was here. This was my bed. Remember me.
I wake up to the pain of a fist hitting my arm. “Ow!” I breathe. “Go away Lily. I’m trying to sleep.”
That doesn’t stop the belligerent red-head so I sit up and push her away. She laughs. “It’s almost lunch time.”
“What? Ingrid’s going to kill me!”
“No she isn’t. I told her you had got a ton of work and set the boys to work.”
“I bet they’re loving that.” I mutter darkly.
“Boys or girls?”
“Probably true. So are you ever going to get dressed?”
“Do I have to?”
“If you want to make it up to Ingrid, you’re going to have to look incredible tonight, and that means getting up and eating something now.” I groan and flop back down on the bed. “Fine! I’ll go and get you some food. Just practice being nice for me?”
This time it’s the scent of food that wakes me. “I got you chicken and salad.” Lily’s voice drifts into my ear. “There’s potato salad too.” I sit up and snatch the plate. “While you’re stuffing your face like a pig, you can tell me what I should wear.”
She tries on dress after dress. Green, blue, pink, black, purple, strapless, lacy, short, very short, low back, detailed back and corseted. “Lils, how the hell did you fit all of this in your bag?”
“Extension charm. So what do you think?”
She chooses a lacy, short, green dress with matching wedges. Then she pulls me out of bed, brushes my hair and forces me to clean my teeth.
It’s one o’clock. “So, what are you wearing?” Lily asks.
“I don’t know.” I sigh. “Does it really matter?”
“Oh yes. One hundred per cent. Look, I have a boyfriend now so you need to get one too.”
“Is that what this is about? Setting me up with someone?”
“Not anyone specific,” She says in that breezy voice of hers. I narrow my eyes but allow her to pick out my outfit.
Two o’clock. We paint our nails, mine alternating red and gold.
Three o’clock. We read magazines and wait for our nails to dry.
Four o’clock. Makeup. It takes ages for me to get it just right, but when I’m done I have to admit I don’t look too bad.
Five o’clock. Hair. Curls and hairspray.
Six o’clock. Clothes.
The finished result is rather pleasing. I’m wearing a multi-coloured patterned dress that is very short and low cut with white knee high boots. I look… good. Lily looks stunning. There’s almost no point in trying to look pretty when you’re next to her.
Seven o’clock. We stand outside the Room of Requirement and the door appears in the wall. I push it open. Music blares out and I grin. The room is already full. And it looks beautiful.
Purple and gold mist hovers just below the ceiling casting a dim glow that illuminates shadowy figures dancing. There is a large table, heaving with alcohol and food, manned by Angel who refuses to drink, making her the perfect bartender. Lily pulls me into the room and music throbs around me. “Angel!” I call. “Angel!”
“Oh, there you are! Ingrid was about to get worried. Where’s your boyfriend, Lily?”
Lily shrugs. “Not sure, have they arrived yet?”
“Oh yes. Sirius has been flirting with Sophia shamelessly for the last ten minutes.”
I can’t help but comment. “Has he shoved his tongue down her throat yet?”
“Not yet. Oh, Matthew Stebbins is looking for you.”
I sigh. “Pour me a drink first?” she hands me a cup of ice vodka and Lily takes an elf-made wine.
Matthew Stebbins is a studious Hufflepuff who is gorgeous but oh so slightly obsessive. I can see him waving at me through the crowd. He has blond hair and green eyes, high cheekbones and perfect teeth. He is a chaser on the Hufflepuff team and so has broad muscular shoulders. Very attractive. “Jessica!” He beams. “Hello Lily.” Lily nods but then ditches me to be with James and Black. Matthew shrugs. “So, how are you?”
“I’m alright. You?”
“Yeah, yeah great. I haven’t had chance to talk to you this week.”
“No. I haven’t really seen you.”
“Oh. I’ve seen you.”
I smile sheepishly and take a gulp of vodka. “That’s nice.”
“Yeah. You look great by the way.”
“Well I do try.”
“You don’t have to.”
I laugh and take another drink. It’s awkward. Please, please somebody save me! I grimace. I nod.
“Do you want to dance?” He asks. I flounder. What am I supposed to say? He’s… he’s just not…
“Sorry Stebbins, she’s my Lady for the night.” A voice to my left says. I whip around to see Black, grinning. I don’t argue. Even Black is better than leading on Stebbins so I allow him to take my hand and lead me across the floor. I can’t help but sway to the music. “A thank you wouldn’t go amiss.” He says with a smug smile.
“Thanks.” I say shortly.
“So why did you come to my rescue? I could have handled that.” I lie.
“You looked like you were having a shit time.”
“Well, yeah. He’s a really nice guy though. Really sweet and everything. He just gets a little… fixated on things.”
“By things you mean you. And by fixated you mean obsessed and stalker-y.”
“You deserve better.”
“I can hardly do better. He’s gorgeous. Haven’t you noticed?”
“He’s got a massive zit on his neck.”
“Yep. Hideous thing.”
“And you can do better. Just ‘cos he’s popular and allegedly good-looking it doesn’t mean that he’s the best thing for you.”
“Who is then?” I finish the vodka and it seems to freeze my throat; unlike the muggle equivalent. I shiver and wait for Black’s reply. He seems to be giving my question a lot of thought. “I don’t know.” He finally says, “but not him.”
“I know, I do know that. Come on Black, tell me, are you as notorious as your reputation suggests?”
He smiles. “What do you think? And I think we can stop with the surname crap now.”
“Just tell me. Sirius.” I add. He has such an odd name and it’s awkward to finally say.
“No. Not at all.”
“How not at all?”
“I may have kissed a lot of girls, but I’m still fairly innocent.”
“Oh really?” I ask, disbelievingly. He shrugs.
“What can I say? I’m a gentleman deep down.”
“So you’ve never…”
“Yeah.” He looks almost embarrassed but then cracks a smile. “Still, I’m more experienced than you.”
I laugh. “Maybe, but that doesn’t mean you’re any good.”
“Oh really.” He raises an eyebrow, takes a step towards me and cups my face in his hands. He gives me a long, hard look and I can’t help but feel my stomach writhe uncomfortably. Nervously. I stare up into his grey eyes, then glance at his rough stubble that outlines his jaw. My breath catches in my throat and I hate myself for it. Am I falling for Bla- Sirius’ stupid tricks? His methods for getting girls? I try to turn my head away but he pushes it back to look at him and slowly, he leans. I give in to temptation. Just this once. I close my eyes.
I’ve kissed quite a few people. I know there aren’t butterflies or fireworks. It’s a slobbery mess of saliva and occasionally teeth hitting together if he doesn’t know what he’s doing. There’s nothing special about a snog apart from its grossness.
But Sirius’ lips are smooth and firmly gentle. He doesn’t try and shove his tongue down my throat as I’ve seen him do with nearly every girl in the year. Instead he lingers, barley touching my lip and letting tension build inside of me so that I’m desperate for his touch. He moves his hand to caress my jaw, pulls away for a second and then presses his lips against mine again. This time harder. As if he too cannot stand being without. I place one of my hands on his chest, which tenses immediately, and the other on the curve in his slender back pulling him closer towards me.
For the first time, I like it.