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The Art of Surviving. by AC_rules
Chapter 3: Alienation.
A/N - I love having such a short queue! I've literally updated everything, it's been so great. Aren't the staffers amazing? And wasn't the April Fools Prank fabulous? I loved it. It's the reason April fools is april fools for me.... Anyway, rambling! So heres a new chapter (yaaayy) with a bit more about the summer and such. As I've now updated everything I believe, I'm debating what to put in the queue next (because I have now returned to thoes days when I eternally have something in the queue) soo... if you have any preferences, tell me :D
I wondered if this September 1st was more emotional than Mary’s September 1st last year... My last September 1st (at Hogwarts, I mean), her last September 1st... except she hadn’t know that then. I cried a little bit harder. “You’re scaring me a little bit,” James admitted a hand round my waist and one hand knotted up in my hair as I cried. I rested my head on his shoulder and sniffed. I finally stopped crying and instead wrapped my arms around his neck. I inhaled deeply, and then let it out shakily. It seemed as though everything was different now, and I wasn’t really sure what to do with that knowledge.
“Shit James,” I muttered. “I’m sorry,”
I sniffed, and I’m pretty sure his lips brushed against the skin of my forehead, but the sensation disappeared as quickly as it came and then he just hugged me. Strangely I didn’t feel self conscious in front of him, and I wasn’t all together when that had happened (or what I had caused it) but I supposed... after everything James had seen me at my worse.
Far too many times.
“Just, Mary and my family, and,” I paused. “Then the Head thing, and stuff.”
“You don’t have to explain, its fine,” James said but he didn’t understand – I did have to explain, just maybe not to him. “Just, next time tell me when there’s something wrong,”
“It’s a deal.” I muttered. With another deep breath I stood up and brushed myself down.
“You sure you’re okay?” James asked, also standing up. I wrapped my arms around his neck again, and hugged him tightly for strength.
“Yeah,” I said, blinking again. “I’m sorry about being a bitch earlier,”
“Look, Lily; I’m sorry about the prefect meeting –”
“- Yeah, me too -”
“–And I’m sorry about the stuff on the platform with your family and, and...about somehow winding up your sister.”
“I’m sorry for being gone all summer,” I put in.
“I’m sorry for letting you, until last week again.”
“I’m sorry about all the apologies,” I joked weekly.
“Me too,” James said, half smiling. Then we both stopped and looked each other for a long moment – vaguely smiling and half just looking – and I suddenly considered everything for a minute. When had it become normal for me, Lily Evans, to allow myself to me comforted by James Potter? And when had I become so... comfortable in his presence.
We’d held each other’s gaze for what felt like an absurdly long time now, and I dropped my gaze and looked at my hands. Then I challenged myself again, forcing myself to meet his gaze again.“Let’s make a pact,” I said my voice sounding far too loud, and far too bright. “No more apologies – automatic forgiveness for all wrongs. Let’s... start afresh.”
“I suppose I can live with that,” James agreed, his lips twisting into even more of a smile and I blinked and looked at the floor. I felt like my emotions had been mostly cried out now, and was now a stage of almost-peace, without that safe feeling, I just felt... flat.
“Let’s go see the others,”
“Hey Lily!” Rachel grinned, and I noted she had regained some of her beauty that she’d lost last year. She was tucked in the corner of the compartment next to Remus, and opposite Alice, and smiled warmly in my direction. I supposed it wasn’t unusual that Rachel was here, given ever since the events of last year all of the Gryffindor sixth years – now seventh years – had stuck to each other like glue, but still... somehow I hadn’t expected her to be there.
“How was your Summer?” I asked politely, stopping in the doorway.
“Oh,” Rachel said with a telling little smile, “Not bad – we went on a cruise, mum reckoned we deserved it.”
“Wow,” I said, “You’re tanned,” I added. She smiled again and flicked her hair in a way that I’d definitely never manage. “You look good,”
“Thanks,” She said, and for a second it seemed as though she was going to return with ‘you look good too’ before she realised that I didn’t look at all. Then she closed her mouth quickly, then realised I was still looking at her, then she apparently felt obliged to say something because then she was going on and on... “I wasn’t looking forward to coming back this year, Charlotte’s parents won’t let her come back, so she’s being homeschooled this year – and Jeremy’s graduated, I suppose he will still be up in Scotland – with some up and coming Quidditch team, apparently – but still, it won’t be the same.”
“As much as I like standing in the door way...” James said from behind me, very close behind me – why hadn’t I noticed that? “That’s your queue to move, by the way Lily,” James informed me.
“Oh,” I said, “Right,” Then when, for reasons unknown to me, I still hadn’t moved he gave me a strange look, physically picked me up from around the waist and moved me a few inches to the left so he could get passed. Sirius, who was the only one outwardly watching this, winked at me.
James slid past me, sat down and put up his feet on the opposite side of the bench. Considering I’d taken such a long time to move, I felt I should stay where I was – as if there was some reason for me to remain standing to retain my dignity.
“You all right Lily?” Remus asked, and I suddenly remembered he’d been in the prefect meeting and that, actually... so had Rachel.
“Yep,” I said, leaning against the door frame and glancing at everyone. It seemed like such a monumental step backwards to be here, amongst my old friends, whose features all seemed to have aged and matured, but were achingly familiar at the same time.
Rachel and Alice was chatting, Alice occasionally glancing down at her ring and smiling wildly. Frank was obvious in his absence, although I doubted he’d been away for a particularly long period of time. Remus was half reading a book, but occasionally adding in bits to whichever conversation he felt needed something. Sirius had been talking to Peter about something or other, but now he appeared to be ignoring him to favour James, leaving Peter sitting in between two conversations looking slightly put out.
I looked at Sirius himself for a moment, and it seemed that at least he seemed to be glad about going back. Occasionally it looked like he was enjoying himself and being reunited with the others definitely seemed to have lightened him up a little bit – and of course he was still delighted that James was Head Boy.
“Not going to sit down, Lils?” Sirius asked with an almost-smirk as he looked up (probably noticing I’d been looking at him).
“Erm, no,” I said decisively.
“How was your summer then?” Rachel asked, looking up from Alice. Suddenly all attention seemed to be fixed on me again. I raised my eyebrows as I thought back to the days of summer stretching themselves in front of me...
How was my summer...? What an odd question, how utterly absurd and...
The May sunshine reminded me of last year’s exams, and I didn’t want to think of that, so mostly – I stayed indoors. It would have been this time last year when we’d been in the heart of our OWL’s – before Snape’s betrayal, before Mary was even dying (to my knowledge) and long before my Dad’s heart attacks.
And we’d complained last year, about the sun – about how it was so gloriously sunny whilst we had to be inside, revising, and the second our exams finished it disappeared, and the hot summer we’d been promised had failed us. Then it had rained, and rained, and rained – almost all summer. But that was then, and this was now – and now I was at home, and I’d left Hogwarts early, and Mary was dead, and Snape was as good as dead, and my Dad was buried last week.
I was so pale, that whenever I looked in the mirror it reminded me sharply of Mary. So today I thought, screw it, and I ventured out under the hot may sun in a strap top and an old pair of shorts. Then I wondered around the tiny garden for a few seconds, before stopping at the vegetable patch and staring.
The vegetable patch was a testament to how little time Dad must have had recently.
My father used to grow tomatoes. Well, not just tomatoes – all kinds of things, really. Once upon a time he had his own shop and sold his home grown fruit and veg. That was his dream since he was tiny, which I only found out at his funeral, and as Charlie Evans said, it’s rare for someone to achieve their lifelong dream even for a little while. He continued the speech by saying that he thought perhaps his father’s dreams had changed when he met my mother, who wept silently throughout the whole service, and that his new dream was simply to live his life with her.
He did, Charlie said, and with his two beautiful daughters there was no way anyone could say his life wasn’t a success.
Who cared if he lived in some crap town with a crap job which stressed him out much it caused him to have a heart attack at such a young age? He had a wife, and he had kids. Who cared if his lifelong dream fell through because of some big sodding supermarket? He had a minuscule vegetable patch. Did it matter that now we were completely skint? No, it didn’t, because my father had, apparently, been happy.
I’d only met Charlie Evans once before the funeral and he was what my mother used to describe as ‘a heart attack waiting to happen’ before the word heart attack became a taboo that would not be mentioned. He was very large with his fat stomach hanging over the waistband of his posh black trousers, and several chins which wobbled as he reached the climax of his speech. I couldn’t help but think, if money really mattered as little as he was making out then why hadn’t Charlie Evans given us a big wad of cash to help care for my Dad after the first heart attack?
Now I’d definitely seen too much of the bloke. He kept coming round and sitting with my mother to ‘keep her company’ which to my disgust mum seemed to find helped her a lot. Every time he invited himself over she’d start wasting all the money the life insurance company had paid out by cooking up huge lasagne’s and casseroles. I hoped that her motive behind this was to force Uncle Charlie into an early heart attack too, but I kept silent.
Petunia’s fiancé was also heart attack waiting to happen. He often popped round when these large dishes were being cooked and made loud inappropriate comments about how he thought the health risks of being overweight were ridiculously blown out of proportion. He’d start talking about how heavy his father had been, and how it had never had a negative impact on his health at all. My mother sat tight-lipped and silent whilst he rumbled on like a first class fool. It seemed Vernon Dursley was not my mother’s favourite person in the world, and I was glad that at least she hadn’t gone completely crazy.
Apart from Vernon who ignored the fact that they’d ever been a Mr Evans, and Charlie who expressed his grief by sitting with my mother and refilling her wine glass regularly, everyone else skittered around us – the family in mourning – and rarely mentioned my father’s name except for in a hushed whisper to show their grief. This was beginning to annoy me so much that I had dreams about walking through crowds with people whispering ‘John Evans, John Evans, John Evans, John Evans’ then I’d suddenly come face to face with Sirius Black who would say, quite audible ‘Mary McDonald’ and I’d wake up crying.
But I didn’t want to think about it, so I screwed up my forehead and I bent down next to my father’s vegetable patch and I ripped weeds up until my hands bled, with the May sun burning my shoulders. My bare knees were buried in the dirt, and the vegetable patch became tidier and tidier, although I wasn’t sure if I was pulling out the right things, or if I’d just decimated his potatoes, or his carrots or parsnips...
Petunia had told me repeatedly that I had no right to have anything to do with Father’s funeral, because I was never here. I hadn’t seen the way his health had been deteriorating or how stressful he’d found working on commission to the point where it literally stopped his heart from beating. I couldn’t help but agree with her.
All my memories of my father were from years and years ago, or from brief weeks at Christmas, Easter and summer which would be spent wishing I was at Hogwarts with Mary and Alice. At Hogwarts I was clever, brilliant and popular, whereas here I was just Petunia’s weird freak sister.
She’d successfully tarnished my reputation whilst I was away and now people only went near me to earn themselves ‘a bit of skirt’ or to see if I really was ‘a dealer’. Was it any wonder that I’d spent as little time at home with my family as I possibly could? I wanted to tell Petunia that and yell at her stupid bony figure that if she hadn’t been so horrible, I might have some decent memories of my father to dwell on.
Then I looked up at the sun, and I thought of the others, at Hogwarts – stuck in some class, unless it was the weekend, which it well could be – I’d completely lost track of the days – and for a second I missed them.
So I walked back to the garden and took a couple of packets of seeds from the utility cupboard, before returning to the garden. My father used to tell me which seeds should be planted when and why, and it was now I wished I had drank in every word he’d said, but I never did. So I just tore the packets open, and I planted it all – vaguely hoping that something would grow.
I’d only been at home for about an hour before the letters came. Four letters, four owls, and four more times I’d burst into tears. Sirius’s had been the shortest – We’re worried about you, please contact us – and Alice’s had been long and rambling – everyone’s talking about you... the guys say you’re not in Hogwarts... what did Dumbledore see you about...? You’re not in trouble are you?- and that one had sucked even more energy out of me, and made me desperately wish that I had simply been in trouble, and that Dumbledore had not called for me to tear my world apart for the second time in so many months.
Rachel’s, which had been signed from both her and Charlotte, had been simple – hope your okay Lily, everyone’s talking about you – we all need you here – but James’s had been... decidedly not simple. Whenever I thought about it I could hear his voice reciting it in my head, panicked and emotional with a forced state of calm as he tried not to totally freak out.
Lily, it began in a hurried messy scrawl that was unlike his own, Where are you? Look, I’m so sorry about earlier –it didn’t mean anything, honest and I just... I’ve looked on the map, and you’re not at Hogwarts. Are you okay? What did Dumbledore want to talk to you about? I’m so worried – please don’t do anything stupid. McGonagall won’t tell us where you are, she says it’s up to you to tell us, so... please, just answer this – James.
I didn’t answer them immediately, and I didn’t even make a big deal when I felt Petunia and Mum read the letters over my shoulder. “I left in a hurry,” I said quietly – in my funeral voice – “I didn’t say goodbye to any of my friends,”
“Go back,” Mum had implored, resting a hand on my shoulder. Petunia’s glare told that she half wanted me as far away from her as possible, and half wanted me glued to her side. Mum had been on her second glass of wine.
“No,” I’d said, staring at the wood of the table. “I need to stay here,”
So I’d written my response on the kitchen table, helping myself to my own glass of wine, and cutting off my contact from my friends. I couldn’t tell them yet. It was too raw. It wasn’t physically capable of putting the words down onto parchment – it was far too hard. Don’t worry about me, I’d written, tears silently falling down my cheeks in our shitty kitchen, Dumbledore offered me the chance to go home and visit my family for awhile – he said he thought it would do me good. I think he’s right. You all know I’ve been a bit strange recently, and I really feel I need to be away from Hogwarts for a period of time. I’m sorry for not answering your letters sooner, I’ve been trying to settle back home.
And then, I don’t know what possessed me to do – but it felt important, it felt like the right thing to do...
Please don’t contact me for awhile, I really need to get my head straight and I need to do that on my own. I’m sorry.
Then I’d sent it, along with another letter informing Dumbledore of my decision to stay at home (to which I received a polite letter of response telling me I could have all the time I needed) and they had listened to me, and they had not written to me anymore.
I scrabbled around in the soil until the last of the seeds were buried, and then I felt back onto my bum and stared up at the May sun. My shoulders were burnt red and scattered with freckles, and I was covered in mud, and I cried for a long time.
“Lily dear?” Mum said, emerging from the house when the sun began to dip below the row of houses behind ours. In her hand was a glass of red wine, and she looked at my position in the dirt worriedly. “It’s nearly time for dinner, Lily,” She called, “Are you okay?”
I nodded, pulling myself off the ground and rubbing my hands together.
“Charlie and Vernon are here,” She said, “We’ve been watching you from the kitchen,”
“I’ll just go and wash my hands then,” I said, stepping into the house and taking my cardigan off the hook. The material made my burnt flesh smart as I pulled it on, but I ignored the sensation. “What’s for dinner, Mum?” I asked.
“Tomato soup,” She replied, and my heart sank in my chest.
My father used to grow tomatoes.
We were eating shepherd’s pie, tucked around our tiny table in our tiny kitchen, trying not to move our elbows too much in fear of knocking our neighbours out. “Top nosh, Mrs Evans,” Vernon said, smiling heartily at my mother. She smiled politely and did at least seem slightly gratified by Vernon’s compliment, in fact – Vernon had grown on all of us, mostly because Petunia seemed to be so much of a better person when he was around. Yes, he was a rambling pompous fool, but that could be forgiven by the way he looked after my sister – making sure she’d didn’t have to walk anywhere alone, offering to buy groceries for mother, and genuinely being quite amiable.
It was hard to really like him, but I couldn’t find that much about him which I strongly disliked. Since Charlie had gotten bored of hanging around our house like a pesky fly, it was good to have... if not a man, a male presence, hanging about – offering to do any of the jobs that Dad had normally done.
“Thank you Vernon,” Mum smiled, delicately wiping the corners of her mouth and barely touching her own shepherd’s pie. “How are you getting on at your job?” She asked politely.
“Oh, very well.” He said, puffing up his chest slightly. “You know it was my Uncle’s business,” he began, “but since his unfortunate death it’s been in new hands, still – when they heard my name they offered me the job immediately,”
“How long have you been working there now?” Mum asked.
“Oh, well,” Vernon said, eating another forkful of shepherd’s pie and chewing deliberately, “I started in February, so it’s been nearly six months now,” He nodded.
“Goodness,” Mum said, “And you’re being promoted all ready – you’ll be plenty qualified to look after my daughter then,” He nodded seriously.
“Mum,” Petunia piped up, “About the wedding...” She began.
“I thought we said we weren’t going to talk about that yet?” I asked, butting in deliberately. Petunia narrowed her eyes at me but said nothing.
“No, no,” Mum said, shaking her head, “It’s quite all right Petunia – do go on,” I felt slightly betrayed, and the look Petunia sent me only reinforced it, but I ignored the feeling and carried on eating my own shepherd’s pie.
“It’s about my wedding fund...” Petunia began slowly.
“Oh no, Pet,” Vernon interrupted. “No – there’s no way we can take that money now,” I suddenly found myself liking Vernon even more. “It wouldn’t be right, it wouldn’t be decent,”
“But how else are we to pay?” Petunia asked, her voice rising slightly. “It’s what Daddy would have wanted! That’s what the money was for.”
“No, Petunia, I have some savings -”
“Which is for the deposit on our house!” Petunia exclaimed.
“Tuney,” Mum said, “I rather think he was going to put some more money into the fund,” She said quietly, “There wasn’t half as much as you might have thought – but of course your welcome to have it,”
“Mum!” I exclaimed, looking up at her in shock. “We don’t have any income! You have to pay for food, and for the mortgage -”
“And for your school books and food for your stupid pets!” Petunia interrupted angrily. “And for anything your little heart desires.”
“Petunia,” Vernon said in a voice that I supposed was meant to pacify her, needless to say it didn’t work.
“Of course all of that stuff is essential, but my wedding can just be -”
“Paid by my savings,” Vernon said, “Petunia, dear...”
“Lily,” mum said. “Your sister has to pay for her wedding somehow.”
“And you have to pay for the house!” I exclaimed, standing up. Petunia did the same.
“What does the house matter to you – you don’t even live here?”
“I’ve been here all summer!” I exclaimed angrily.
“Oh yes,” Petunia said, “You came back for three and a half months because out father died. That’s all we ever get you’re for – summer, and Christmas if we’re lucky...”
“Dad wouldn’t want Mum to starve!” I yelled.
“What would you know what Dad would have wanted, you haven’t seen him for six years!”
“That’s shit!” I yelled.
“Lily!” Mum exclaimed, shocked at my use of relatively mild (in my opinion) language.
“Get out of my house!” Petunia yelled, banging her bony fists on the wood of the table. “You’ve been nothing but a nuisance since you got back here – you haven’t helped around the house, you haven’t done anything – if you were really worried about Mum’s money you’d have stayed at your freak school where she wouldn’t have to feed you!”
“Petunia,” Mum said, also standing. “That is enough.”
“And what about your precious wedding fund?” Petunia spat, ignoring my mother’s protests. “You’re not volunteering that money are you? Yours is safe.”
“She can have it!” I exclaimed. “I’m not going to need it!”
“Of course not!” Petunia yelled. “No one would marry a freak like you!”
“No!” I yelled back. “Because I’m going to marry someone who has the money to afford my wedding!” And then she threw her glass of water at me, and then I stormed out of the kitchen, slamming the front door behind me as I exited onto the pavement.
“It’s the Evans chick!” Someone yelled after me, as I rounded the corner between the streets of houses and headed for the place that had become my permanent summer refuge – the park. “Evans,” Someone yelled, and an empty can of larger collided with my shoulder. I resisted the urge to turn around a pull out my wand on him.
I hated Petunia even more, maybe if she hadn’t spent most months of the year spreading crap about me to make the summer months as horrible as possible. The guy yelled something obscene, and I swallowed down the torrent of insults that I was burning to throw at him, put my hands in my pocket and kept my head down.
I hated the god damn summer.
“Lily? Summer – how was it?” Alice repeated, and she still sounded slightly irritated from my comment about her newfound engagement, let alone factoring in my long months of absence from their lives. I frowned and wondered why exactly they hadn’t thrown me from the carriage for being such a horrible friend. And why exactly I had decided to lie.
“It was okay,” I said.
“Ah,” James said. “Any elaboration?” He suggested. I decided to forget my pride issues and sat down on the bench opposite him as I tried to think of some elaboration that didn’t reveal how completely dreary my summer had been – from start to finish.
“I spent most of the time trying to avoid Petunia’s wedding plans,” I replied truthfully. There had been so many arguments about the damn wedding fund this summer, it almost wasn’t worth the bother – but it was the principle of the thing.
“Is her fiancé as charming as she is?” James asked. I sent him a look. “Seriously though, what’s he like,”
“He’s, er...” I paused for a second. “Tall.”
“So you don’t like him?” James asked. I raised my eyebrows at that. “Well, you’d normally say something good, and if all you can come with is ‘he’s tall’ then obviously...”
“I don’t dislike him,” I countered. “I just don’t like him. He looks a bit like a whale,” I carried on. “Or like when he was younger he walked into a window, and his face stuck like that – but there’s nothing necessarily wrong with him.”
“Rich?” Rachel asked with a wicked smile.
“Not exactly – but he has a good position at this company, so I think the idea is he could be rich in a couple of years, so really, that’s gold dust for someone in our area,”
“What do you mean?” James asked curiously. I glanced at Alice.
“It means that most people in our area are living off unemployment benefits with no prospects.” I replied.
“It’s not that bad,” Alice returned – she’d visited last summer, with Mary, and I’d visibly felt their shock about how scummy it was, but had quickly recovered and pretended it was just as quaint as Mary’s village.
“You saw the nice part – that’s the part we live in,” I said, “We’re the ones who get gardens, well, a few square inches of grass. There’s no need to look so shocked, James – everyone knows I’m dirt poor.” I said slowly.
“I’ve never thought about that,” James returned.
“I live three blocks away from Snape, for God’s sake,” I muttered. “Anyway, Vernon – that’s her fiancé, fancies himself as a bit of a handy man – we’ve had our pipes cleared, gutters fixed, roof re-shingled or something, so that’s always nice...”
“He’s sounds like a right laugh,” Sirius commented.
“He’s not really the laughing type,” I said, “But neither is Petunia – so I’d say they’re pretty much perfect for one another.” It felt bizarre to be with these guys again, talking about thing, and to have people listen to what I said... “The rest of the summer I spent trying to avoid the beer boys,”
“The beer boys?” Alice questioned.
“Well, the guys who hang around on the street, drinking an endless supply of beer – god knows where they get it from – and throwing things at people. Petunia managed to convince everyone at the local secondary school – where I should have gone – that I’m a drug dealer/ bit of a slut, which means that I’m one of their favourite targets for throwing things at people, or making comments, or trying it on or whatever.”
“Wow.” Rachel said. “So.... a good summer all round?”
“Yeah,” I sighed, sinking back in my chair. “Brilliant.”
Yet, I’d suffer through it time and time over if it meant I didn’t have to return here, to Hogwarts – my old home.
Thestrals were ugly. I remembered reading some book that said they had a sinister kind of beauty, but they were wrong. Everything about their presence was ugly. Their bones gutted out from their dark bodies and there was something sickeningly hypnotising about watching the way their muscles moved when they walked, dragging the carriage up to the castle. They shone slightly.
I was pretending they didn’t exist.
I wondered if the others had talked about them on the carriage back to the train... I’d gotten a portkey... they’d seen them before. It didn’t seem like the sort of thing you’d discuss but we’d all been there. We’d all watched Mary die. We could all see them now.
I tore my gaze away knowing full well that the horrible skeletal creatures were going to reappear in the heart of my nightmares. I looked at Hogwarts instead.
It was frustratingly ironic that my place of escape, had become the place I wished to escape, and I felt a familiar irrational fear as I stared at the entrance. It was stupid, and I wouldn’t have considered such a notion in several million years – that I, Lily Evans, could be absolutely terrified of going back to Hogwarts. And yet, I was.
And there Hogwarts was, towering above me and being impossibly huge and imposing and welcoming at all the same time – it seemed to smile at me, the towers and turrets serving as a reminder that I used to love this place.
Now I hadn’t to gather the strength to be able to exit the carriage and draw it up from some reserve deep within me.
“Are you okay, Lily?” Remus questioned from behind my left shoulder. I wanted to turn around and yell at him – no; of course I’m not okay, because people keep sodding dying and disappearing and changing – but instead I forced myself to smile (even though it made me want to cry so badly that my eyes started prickling) and stepped off the carriage.
“It’s good to be back,” Sirius said, shoving his hands into his pockets and smiling slightly at the castle. If Sirius, who had also lost Mary, could be positive about returning here – where half the time I was practically longing every single ghost to take on Mary’s face, and where the rest of the time I was dreading that they might... and where everything and nothing reminded me of her at the same time.
I’d become too comfortable at home, that was it, I’d wrapped myself in a little bubble of safety – as if our little town was the only place in the world, and I was away from death and Voldermort and prejudice. Where arguments with Petunia made me feel like a kid again, and I didn’t have to think about the fact that soon, all too soon, I was going to be pushed into the adult world – made to look after myself. Hogwarts was complicated. Home was different, even though the lack of Dad made things solemn.
There weren’t so many people, at any rate. And now these people were pushing around me at all sides, rushing up to the gates as the heavens opened and the September rain started to fall. “Come on,” Alice implored, grabbing my arm and pulling me up the stone steps and into the castle. And last year’s feast had been such a long time ago, and it had been drizzling then, and Mary had sworn loudly, and Dad had been on the platform telling me to have a little fun, to enjoy myself. This year was supposed to be the difficult one – NEWT’s.
“Hi Lily,” Amanda Brocklehurst said, appearing out of nowhere. “You haven’t seen Marlene have you?” I shook my head. “Sorry about my sister...”
“Congrats on Head Girl!” A Gryffindor girl said from the year below. Her name was on the tip of my tongue.
Amos Diggory raised an eyebrow at me as he passed. I flushed.
“Hi Lily,” A Hufflepuff said with a smile, and then another girl passed – who I used to sit next to in Charms and she smiled too.
“Mudblood,” A young Slytherin hissed, making a point to bump into me.
“Good summer?” Frank asked, appearing from nowhere.
I nodded my head spinning. Then there was a girl ahead with purple hair, and my heart stopped.
“I got drenched!” A second year Gryffindor was declaring to anyone who would listen. Then the others appeared, and Alice exclaimed “Where did you get to, Lily?” and then she noticed Frank, and her ring glittered, and Peter said “Pity there’s no prank this year,” and the others shrugged – unperturbed. Then the girl with purple hair, a little to the left in the corridor was laughing and Sirius had noticed it too, and everyone was going into the hall, and, and, and...
“Lily...?” James began.
“I’m fine!” I snapped, shaking myself out of it as I tried to breathe steadily. “Let’s just go in,” I said, grimacing and using up the last of my energy to get myself through the door, and into the great hall.
“Welcome!” Dumbledore exclaimed, but even he didn’t sound very convinced. His voice was laced with worry; an acknowledgement that the whole world was looking grim. “Welcome students – back to Hogwarts!”
And I thought, yeah right.
A/N - Remember to tell me which story you want updates for next, and please review! I may not always answer these days (because there's so many!) but I swear to you I appreciate every single one. Also, I'll always reply on my MTA page... so come talk to me there :D It'd really cheer me up as I've been having a rough week (today I saw this kid get run over, he's fine now - thank god - but it was honestly a horrible thing to watch and I spent half an hour with him waiting for the paramedics and the police and stuff. It was so strange). So yeah... Thanks for reading!