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Like a House on Fire by 800 words of heaven
Chapter 1: A First Time for Everything
Why was there always so much blood? I’d seen what had happened. The Killing Curse doesn’t leave a mark, let alone a whole river of blood. But still my dreams always insisted on conjuring it up. I wouldn’t have minded so much, but was it necessary to have it by the bucket loads? Wasn’t it enough that I couldn’t find some peace when I closed my eyes? Was the blood seriously necessary? Then a drum started somewhere in the background. That was new. Usually the nightmares were silent, which was a lot scarier than noise, so the drum was a welcome addition. But wait, why was the drum getting louder? And why did the blood seem to slip away? Don’t get me wrong, I was glad that it was going, but I couldn’t help but feel that something worse was going to come in its place. Then the blood disappeared altogether, and I could see a water-stained ceiling above me. And it turns out it wasn’t a drum but someone knocking at the door. Incessantly.
“I’m coming, I’m coming!” I tried to yell, but my voice was muffled in my blanket.
I tried to disentangle myself, but all I managed to do was get even more tangled and fall off the bed and onto the floor. Deciding that the blanket wasn’t about to loosen its death grip on me anytime soon, I half staggered, half crawled to the door and wrenched it open.
No sooner had I done that, a flash of red whirled past me and into my room. “You have to help me, Millie!” cried Lily, my best friend, as I closed the door and turned to face her.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, getting worried. What had my friend so upset this early in the morning?
“Oh.” That’s what. And here I was thinking that there was a basilisk living in her bathroom or something. “What’s he done now?” James Potter and Lily Evans were in a steady relationship – a steady love/hate relationship. He loved, she hated, just like the sun rose in the east and set in the west.
“Then what’s the problem?”
“So? So? If he sees me, I’m, I’m…!” It was interesting to note that the mere sight of James sent Lily over the edge. Imagine what would happen if he kissed her?
“Um… you could hide in here I guess… but I’m heading out. I haven’t had breakfast yet,” I said. Lily was overreacting as usual.
“You haven’t had breakfast yet? It’s almost ten o‘clock! What have you been doing? Sleeping?”
“The day’s half gone, Millie!”
“You’re so pessimistic! Look at it this way, there’s still half a day left!”
I left fifteen minutes later, leaving Lily to hide in my room. I headed downstairs, and being the klutz I am, bumped straight into someone who was walking up the other way. “Oh, sorry,” I mumbled, not looking up to see who it was. I had learnt from experience to avoid eye contact – otherwise they might start talking to you. “That’s okay. I’ll just make you do an extra fifty push-ups when we get back to school.”
Only one person threatened me with push-ups. “Hey, James,” I said. Now that I knew who it was, I was okay with looking at him--and realising that Sirius Black was standing behind him as well. I decided to ignore that fact and carry on my conversation with James.
“Hey. Happy birthday by the way,” said James.
“Um…” What do I do now? Do I lie to my Quidditch captain and friend, or do I commit high treason against my best friend? “I’m not quite sure…”
“She’s hiding, isn’t she?” He sounded so weary.
“Uh, yeah.” I was glad that I didn’t have to say it.
He shrugged. “She’ll come around.” Whoa! What was that?
“You’re not going to ask me where she is?”
“Even if I thought you were going to tell me, no.”
“Are you feeling okay?”
He laughed. “Yes. I’m feeling great!”
I looked over at Black. With an amused expression on his face, Black said, “Prongs got Head Boy.” Now it made sense.
“Wait, Lily did get Head Girl right?” James asked worriedly. Clearly this thought had never crossed his mind. And rightly so.
“Lily not getting Head Girl is almost as impossible as Binns realising he’s dead,” I said.
James let out a sigh of relief. “Well, I’ll let you go and do whatever it was that you were going to do. And we’ll…”
“We’ll go do whatever we were going to do,” interjected Sirius.
I wasn’t quite sure, but I don’t think that actually made much sense. Then again, nothing really makes much sense until I’ve had breakfast. “Right. You go do that,” I said and walked down the rest of the stairs. I was halfway through my second ice cream down in Diagon Alley (I know, I know, not very healthy, but hey, it’s summer) when I realised that through that whole conversation, Sirius Black’s eyes had only been looking at one thing. And that one thing was me.
“What,” Prongs began to ask as we headed up the stairs to get something from his room, “was that?”
“What do you mean?” I asked back.
“You know exactly what I’m talking about.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Yes, you do.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Yes, you do.”
“No,” we’d reached Prongs’ room. “I don’t,” I said as I flopped down on his bed while Prongs began to rummage through the mess looking for whatever he was looking for.
“You were eyeing my Seeker!”
“Yes, my Seeker!”
“I wasn’t eyeing her.”
“I’ve seen you look at girls like that before, and about six weeks later, they end up a blubbering mess!”
“It’s not my fault that they take this whole break-up thing so bloody seriously!”
“Well, don’t go doing it to my Seeker. I don’t want her unfocused, especially as the first Quidditch match of the season is against Slytherin!”
“Don’t worry; the game is more than six weeks away. And anyway, do you reckon she’d be like that?”
“Like other girls.”
“Well, if you want her to fawn over you and worship your shadow or something, you’re after the wrong girl, mate.”
“I’ve never had someone worship my shadow before.”
“Be careful Padfoot. Your good looks and charm just might not work on her.”
“They’ve never failed before.”
“There’s a first time for everything.”
“Why the hell didn’t you say anything?” I heard Lily say quite vehemently, pulling me out of my very pleasant ice-cream-induced daydream.
“Say anything about what?” I sighed. I really wasn’t appreciating being yelled at for no apparent reason.
“That it’s your birthday today! What else?”
“Um, I sort of figured that seeing as you’ve known me for the past seven years now, you’d know.”
“I do know!”
“I know. That’s why I didn’t say anything.”
“Gee, no need to rub it in,” she grumbled. We were lounging (well, in my case anyway) outside the ice cream parlour, enjoying the last day of summer for another year.
“Rub in what?” I closed my eyes again and turned my face back towards the sun. Merlin only knew when I would see the sun again. Hogwarts seemed to have a sunlight allergy.
“That I forgot! I fucking forgot my best friend’s birthday!”
“Don’t worry about it. Could’ve happened to anyone.”
“I feel like such a bitch. Especially considering what you’ve had to go through this summer.” Clearly, Lily wasn’t listening to me. Nothing new there, but that was okay. It was simply the way we were.
“If it makes you feel any better, I almost forgot your birthday once. James reminded me the night before.”
“How the hell did Potter remind you of my birthday?”
“We’re on the same Quidditch team, remember?”
She groaned. “Yes. Of course you are.”
“It’s okay if you forgot that, too. I mean, I’ve only been on the same Quidditch team as him for six years.”
“Shut up, Millie.” I did as I was told. When Lily was angry or upset (or, as in this case, both) you did as Lily told you to do. “Let me make it up to you,” she said.
“Seriously, Lils. It’s okay. You don’t have to –”
“Didn’t I tell you to shut up?”
“Right.” And I went quiet again, letting her talk.
“Whatever you want. A new broomstick, fine. The ownership of Honeydukes. Great, but you’ll have to wait until we get back to Hogwarts for that. Bloody Batman. I don’t care, even if I have to create Punk Town myself.”
“Um, it’s Gotham City.”
“Batman lives in Gotham City, not Punk Town.”
“Whatever. Just…” Lily looked absolutely wretched. I couldn’t help but feel a surge of love for her.
“A hug would be enough,” I said.
“A hug? Is that all you want?” she looked amazed.
“Honey, even you can’t get me Batman.”