Dusk is about to fall. Red and orange light floods over the waves causing it to glisten like a burning sapphire. I’m sitting cross-legged on the beach watching the sun set while my finger traces nonsensical shapes in the sand. I throw myself back and laugh. This is true peace and happiness. This is it. I can hear running and so I sit back up. More than once I’ve had somebody trip over me. “Alright?” The figure beams and sits next to me. James.
“Yes, thank you. How are you?”
“Well, I’m better than I was yesterday. Had an actual night’s sleep for a change.”
“You mean Black let you sleep?” I laugh. “How bizarre!”
“Not really. He was moping about over Remus.”
“He loves him or something.”
I face him. He is flushed and his mouth is slightly downturned. “Are you jealous, James?” My voice is full of glee. He lies. “No.”
I laugh and wrap an arm around his shoulder. “Jamesie’s jealous. He wants Black all to himself!” I coo. We walk up the steps cut into the rock of the cliff and then race to the house, like we did when we were kids. From as young as I can remember we’ve been running up and down those steps and across the meadow to my house. James lives an hour away, but that’s nothing by Flu Network and our parents are friends, so we’ve grown up together. He’s almost at my door and I’m two paces behind him. I leap and bring him down as I fall. I stumble across the last three feet and lean against the door panting. “Beat you.” I grin.
“You cheated.” He replies.
I make popcorn while James watches the television in the sitting room. I call out to him. “Where is Black then?”
“Packing. Mum made him. I invited him to join us later. He can’t get enough of the muggle stuff you have.”
“You just invited him over to my house?”
Through the gap across the hall I see him cringe a little. “Yeah. Come on he loves you.”
“He hates my guts. He has to share you with me when it comes to summer.”
“Alright, he hates you. So what?”
I sprinkle salt into the bowl and then join him on the sofa, rolling my eyes. “So nothing.”
“Have you seen Lily at all this holiday?” He asks eagerly. His eyes even light up. It’s adorable really. I smile slyly. “Yes.” I say and pause for as long as he can bare.
“And?!” He demands.
“And we didn’t talk about you. Strange huh?” It’s a lie. A hideous bare faced, bare arsed lie. Lily has been made Head Girl, so of course there was a lot of discussion as to who would be Head Boy. Would Potter be Head Boy? I already knew the answer to that but I had decided to keep it to myself. All the better to shock you with my dear. “Jess!” James snaps his fingers in front of my face. I bat him away. “What?” I ask irritably.
“I asked you a question and you weren’t even listening to me.”
“I’m not Peter! I don’t find your mere presence enthralling.”
“That’s not fair.”
“No, it’s not. But nor is life.”
“Getting a bit wise, aren’t you?”
There is a knock at the door; I beam. Sirius doesn’t knock. He just barges in yelling “Prongs”. I open the door where a pretty red-head is waiting, impatiently. “I can’t believe you convinced me to do this.” She mutters.
“It’s just an evening watching tele. Hardly some terrible dare!” I sternly reply.
James bounds out of the sitting room, bowl at the ready. He throws the contents over a bemused Lily, screeching “Padfoot!” Realisation dawns. The five foot one, red headed female is rather different from the six foot something Sirius Black. “Oh shit.” He curses. “Oh shit! Evans, Evans I am so sorry. I am so so sorry. Um, I’ll help clear up.”
Lily shoots me a glare, but I’m enjoying watching James flounder just a little too much to care. Until she reaches for her wand, then I too help clean up. James’ square glasses are fogging up as his face goes redder than I have ever seen. It is a moment of perfection.
“PRONGS!” A voice roars from behind me. Sirius is standing, legs stretched wide open, holding a bottle of fire whiskey above his head. Then he notices the popcorn and the extra human in the room. “Woah! It’s Lily Evans!” Any joy I had taken from the brief moment has now been washed away with the timely arrival of Sirius Black. I grimace and growl sarcastically through gritted teeth. “Yes. You both know Lily I take it.” I snap and Lily snorts.
“That we do. That we do.” He nods enthusiastically.
I glance at the fire whiskey. “How much have you already had?”
I snatch the bottle. “Half. You’ve had half a bottle of whiskey.”
“I needed something to while away the journey.”
“It doesn’t even take a minute by Flu... you didn’t get here by Flu.” I realise, remembering that he did not emerge from my fireplace “How did you get here?”
“Glad you asked that.”
James gets excited. “It’s done?”
“Oh it’s done.” Sirius replies. “Come on Ladies.”
He leads us out of my house and parked in front of it is a motorbike of some kind. It’s big and black, and I have to admit, sort of cool. “That’s an absolute death-trap!” Lily exclaims. “Are you trying to get yourself killed?”
“No. Who wants a ride first?”
Lily backs away. I understand why, who would trust Black? But for some reason I find my feet are rooted to the spot. “Ladies first.” James says graciously.
I step towards Black; the whiskey reeks off of him. It doesn’t stop me though. He climbs on and I follow suit. “Come on, Braddock. Wrap your arms around me.” I do it. I’m being so obedient it shocks me. I turn to look at James and Lily. They’re standing close together, hands almost touching. I can almost see the excitement in James’ eyes as his glasses glint in the dying sunlight. He smiles at me. It says ‘Thank you’. Black revs the engine. I clutch tightly at his waist with one arm, I fling the other up as we pull away and whoop. It’s a blur of noise, fumes and speed. I love it. I wrap my other arm back around Black. He speeds up. Faster. Faster. I beg the speed to increase. “Ready?” He asks.
“For what?” I reply.
We lurch upwards. I scream. We keep going up. He heads towards the sea and follows the line of the beach. The sun sets and we’re left in the first grey of night. I lean my head against Sirius’ back and look at the dark ocean. He slows and pulls down onto the sand. “Why have we stopped?” I ask and snap myself upright in the hope that he hadn’t noticed my weight… I can imagine I’m that light. “We want to give them some time don’t we?” He replies, getting off the bike. Against my poorer judgement I do the same. I want to stay flying at that speed forever. “Well… I suppose so.”
“It’s why you invited her.”
“Yes. She was invited.”
“So was I, just not by you.”
I sigh in exasperation. “Exactly.”
“You’re going to have to try and like me.” He says suddenly.
“You want your best friends to get together. Which means we’ll be seeing a lot of each other and they won’t want you hanging around them all the time. They won’t care as much about your feelings. Besides, you’re our ticket into the cool parties.”
“I don’t have to like you, I just have to be able to tolerate you. And that’s absolutely not true.”
“Good luck with that. Come on. Share for share. I’ll go first... When I was a kid I was scared of our House Elf. There, I said it! Kreature freaked me out!”
I chuckle. “Fine… Can you just ask me something?”
“Alright. Which house did you want to be in?”
“Really? I thought you were a Gryffie through and through.”
“Sorry to disappoint. You and your brother, were you ever close?”
I can tell I’ve hit a nerve. He takes a swig of whiskey and then offers it to me. I take it but keep my eyes fixed on him. I can make out a nod. “Your turn.” I say softly.
He takes a deep breath and then fixes me with a smug expression. “How long did you like James for?”
“What?!” I gasp and take a swig from the bottle, barely cringing at the taste. “I haven’t. I don’t.”
“The whole point of this exercise is that you tell the truth.” He lectures. He lectures. I roll my eyes.
“I am doing.”
“Don’t lie Braddock.”
“I dunno, about a year- when we were ten! That hardly counts.”
“You CANNOT say a word to him.”
“Yes. So don’t. Or I swear to Merlin I’ll tell him that you liked Lily.”
“What?! What are you talking about? You’re insane.”
I shake my head. “No, I’m not. You don’t anymore, but last year…”
“Fine, I won’t tell.”
“Good. Now shall we go back?”
“Just one more question.”
“Go on then.”
“How long have you been wanting to kiss me?”
“Not at all.”
My eyes have adjusted to the dark and I can see him raise an eyebrow. My hand grabs some sand in a fist. I wait a moment, then throw it into his hair. He wails. Oh how he wails! Like a baby. “My hair!” He cries. “My beautiful hair. You’re a psychopath Jessica Braddock!”
When we arrive back at the house, they’re not waiting outside for us which is hardly surprising as we’ve been gone the best part of an hour. My parents are home, I can see their light is on and so I motion for Black to be quiet.
Lily and James are in the sitting room. “There you are!” Lily says enthusiastically. “I need to talk to you.”
“Do you now?” I ask, with a smirk and a glance at James.
“Yes. Can we go to bed?”
“Of course. You boys staying over? I don’t think Black’s sober enough to drive for an hour.” We all glance at Black who is stroking my wall and whispering to it. James replies. “Probably a good idea. We’ll apparate in the morning and see you on the train?”
“Fine by me. You can make the beds yourself?”
“Night then.” I say.
Lily waves goodnight and then picks up her bag before leading the way up to my room. She throws it down on the spare mattress that makes her bed.
“Thanks for dealing with Sirius.” She says sincerely.
“So, why didn’t you tell me Potter was Head Boy? He told me you knew.”
“I was still in shock?” I suggest.
“To be honest so am I. You’ve known him the longest, is he really a disgusting bullying toerag?” There’s a slight bitterness to her tone at the end. “No, he’s not. He’s just a teenager. And his best friend is a bad influence, but James is great. I’ve been telling you this for years.”
“Yes, I know. You really think that then?”
“Absolutely. And he’s a thousand times better than Snape.”
“Sev was fine until…”
“Until he turned into a Deatheater wannabe. I know.”
“So if Potter… If James asks me out… do I say yes?”
“Do you like him?”
“Unfortunately, I think I do. Damn it.”
“You will make his life. Now piss off and get changed.”
“Bitch.” She grins.