“What do you call a haunted chicken? A poultry-geist! EEEEE-hehehehehehee!” cackled that insufferable Jack-O’-Lantern. It had been rattling off obnoxious, corny jokes and riddles for the past fifteen minutes, always followed up by that horrible, vexatious cackle! It concerned me slightly that I was thinking what a shame it was that the pleasure of sticking the great, orange vegetable with a knife wasn’t mine Was it just me, or had the stress of the day made me unnaturally violent?
After we’d left Hogsmeade to go back to Hogwarts via a passageway in Zonko’s, I’d finally figured out what the absurd parchment that Remus had given to Potter was: and enchanted map. I’d never seen anything like it. Hogwarts drawn out perfectly with all of its inhabitants labeled neatly. However, I wasn’t given much time to marvel at the brilliance because the boys rushed us off to the Hump-backed Witch statue again so that we could retrieve our bags.
Having spent more time in Hogsmeade than Black and Potter had planned, we’d run all about the castle afterwards. With only an hour to go before the feast, we’d dropped off our bags and Honeydukes purchases in the Gryffindor common, and then hurried back out again. Then, we’d gone to the kitchen to get a bowl of punch and a bowl of butterbeer. Afterwards, we’d scurried off to the Gryffindor Seventh Year Boy’s Dormitory, where we hid everything for the party.
Then, we’d made it down to the Great Hall just in time for the feast. Our seating arrangements, peculiar as they were, had attracted plenty of attention from our fellow students. Even a few Slytherins (including Severus Snape) had glanced over at us with bewildered curiosity. As usual, I’d sat by Marlene, and my other friend Alice had sat across from her. However, thanks to our hand crisis, I was stuck sitting beside Black and across from Potter. Pettigrew sat to Black’s left, and Remus sat beside Potter and across from Black.
“Eat quickly,” Black had muttered to me as he piled food onto his plate.
Following his lead, I’d attempted to multi-task by explaining to Alice and Marlene where I’d been all afternoon while trying to eat quickly as Sirius had ordered, but I didn’t think they’d understood half of it. I was fairly certain that I’d been mostly unintelligible, and I was positive that they’d understood no more than five words of my entire monologue…if they’d been lucky.
Finally, the sumptuous dinner had melted away and was replaced with dessert. I’d reached across the table to grab a frosted chocolate cupcake, but Potter took hold my hand. Having both of my hands ensnared by Marauders had disgruntled me just a tiny bit.
“Take only what you can carry. We’ve gotta go,” Potter had informed me urgently, dropping my hand. I’d glanced over at Pettigrew. He’d been stuffing his arms and face with every confection in sight.
Resisting the urge to vomit at the grotesque spectacle, I’d grabbed the cupcake and put my hand back underneath the table then looked to Black. He’d looked over at Remus, who’d nodded discretely drew his wand while shooting shifty glances to his left and right. Potter had looked warily around himself before dropping his cloak on the floor and sliding silently under the table after it. Pettigrew, his cheeks still bulging with the amount of food crammed into it, had looked back and forth in a blank sort of panic between his three friends. Suddenly, as though some dusty light bulb had flickered on somewhere in the darkest, furthermost recesses of his mind, he’d clumsily drew his wand, dropped it, darted underneath the table to retrieve it, and popped back into his seat, hitting his head on the table in his haste.
I’d looked back at Black again. He’d drawn his wand, too, and was nodding at Remus with a sly; Remus had nodded back solemnly. Then, they’d both looked at Pettigrew, and he’d given a few jerky, apprehensive nods.
“Would you like to do the honors, Lily?” Remus had inquired politely.
“What honors?” I’d asked warily.
“Just count to three, Evans,” Black had ordered impatiently.
“Just do it, or let someone else!” Black had exclaimed.
“Fine! One, two, three,” I’d counted with indifference.
Many things had all happened in the same instant as I reached the number three. All of the Jack-O’-Lanterns above the Slytherin table had exploded, showering its inhabitants in shards of the combusted, great vegetables and wax from the candles. The origami bats had all dive-bombed the Slytherins as well, giving them paper cuts at the worst. I’d also noticed that the hair of every person in the hall turned a vivid, festive orange.
I’d noticed all of this just a split second before I was dragged under the table by my Black-hand.
“Well done, gents…and lady,” Potter had praised above the clamor that had grown throughout the Great Hall, throwing the invisibility cloak over himself, Black and me.
“Where are Remus and Pettigrew?” I’d wondered
“Under a disillusionment charm,” Black had answered as we carefully maneuvered out from under the table.
After that, we’d quickly made our way back to Gryffindor Tower, which brought us up to the present time and my distress over that confounded Jack-O’-Lantern. We were setting up for the party, and so far, Remus and I had been doing most of the work.
The refreshment table was set up with bowl-fulls of candy, punch, and butterbeer. I didn’t know how many times I’d used a refilling or duplication charm. That pumpkin sat on an end table by the sofa, which had been pushed closer to the fire than usual to make room for a small dance floor. Potter had placed an enchantment on the room so that an energetic party beat filled it.
“Gum?” Black offered, holding a piece of Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum right under my nose. I lowered his hand and the gum away from the dangerously close proximity they had with my nostrils.
“No thank you,” I said. I knew that the odds were extremely low, but as long as there was even the slightest chance that he had just offered me one of the original pieces of gum – the ones he’d carried out Honeydukes in his mouth – I would abstain from the treat.
Just then, the portrait hole opened, and the whole of Gryffindor spilled into the room just as the Jack-O’-Lantern fired off another corny joke.
Marlene and Alice quickly approached me as soon as they entered the common room. “How can you stand this hair color, Lily?” Marlene inquired above the noise. “It’s so distracting!”
“It’s very easy if you’ve had to live with it your whole life…However, my hair isn’t usually quite this vibrant,” I replied.
“I don’t think that part of the prank was the most brilliant,” Black admitted. “All of this orange is rather blinding, and sadly enough, I have to admit that I just can’t quite seem to pull it off.” Alice, Marlene, and I all gaped at him in mock astonishment. “What?” he demanded, slightly on-edge. “Okay, Evans. Let’s go…over there. C’mon. She’ll talk to you later,” he assured Alice and Marlene.
Before I could protest, he dragged me off. “Why’d you do that? Those were my friends back there!”
“I don’t like girls! Especially when they’re all looking at me!” he told me.
“Okay then. I’ll just walk around with my eyes shut all day so you can feel at ease,” I said sarcastically.
Black rolled his eyes. “Now that’s just pointless. Besides, you’re surprisingly alright…for a girl at any rate. If you can look past the goody-two-shoes and the annoying tattletale in you, you aren’t half bad, kid,” he told me as his own strange kind of compliment.
I couldn’t stop the half-smile from creeping across my reluctant face. “And I suppose, for an annoying, pig-headed, trouble-making Marauder, you aren’t so bad yourself.”
“You see? I knew we could come to some sort of a…well, an almost agreement,” said Black.
“Almost?” I inquired
“Well, I don’t completely agree with you. I’m not just ‘not so bad’. I’m fantastic!” he explained.
“Sure you are,” I agreed sarcastically. “You’re also proving me right by being pig-headed.”
“Well, at any rate, I’m honored. I thought you reserved those kind of titles specifically for Prongs,” he told me.
“What about me?” someone asked. I looked and saw that Potter and Remus had just joined us.
“He said you look goofy with orange hair,” I told him. “And actually, Black, I’ll give them to anyone who deserves them.”
“Who deserves what?” Remus asked. “House points?”
“Kisses?” Potter guessed hopefully. “Because if you are giving out kisses, I think I deserve one.”
“What have you ever done to deserve a kiss from me?” I demanded.
“Oh, come on! I busted you out of the most boring class besides History of Magic. That’s gotta count for something!” he exclaimed.
“I like potions. It’s not boring at all!”
“Well, sure it is!” he contradicted. “It’s so easy for you that you can do it in your sleep! Now if that’s not boring, I don’t know what is.”
“Whether Potions is boring or not, you still don’t deserve anything. Your form of ‘busting me out’ involved threatening to knock me unconscious, if I remember correctly,” I said.
That stumped Potter for a short moment, but then he told me, “It was for your own good, you know. It’s healthy to break the rules every now and again, so therefore, I do deserve a kiss.”
I rolled my eyes and decided to let the subject drop. “Where’s Pettigrew?” I inquired.
“Not here,” Black replied.
Remus, who had been chuckling at my debate with Potter, cleared his throat. “He’s in our dormitory. He got a stomach ache from all the sweets he ate,” he informed me.
This information didn’t exactly surprise me, seeing as I myself had witnessed just how much he’d shoved in his mouth at one time.
“I’m thirsty,” Black said, changing the subject. “Let’s go get some butterbeer, Evans.”
He started to pull me towards the refreshment table, but I grabbed hold of Remus’s hand to stop him. “What?” he asked, looking back at me.
“Not a good idea,” I told him. “If we drink too much, we’re going to start needing to relieve ourselves, and friends don’t let friends need to use the loo.”
“Well, it’s a little late for that, seeing as I already…Wait. Did you just call me your friend?” he demanded incredulously.
I looked around me and found Remus and Potter gaping at me with their mouths wide open, Remus managing to look a little more composed than Potter. “Technically I did, but it was very loose terminology,” I explained.
“Aw, Evans. I loosely think of you as a friend, too!” And then Black squeezed me.
It was a rather uncomfortable position, seeing as my left hand was pinned behind my back. To make matters worse, my dangerously full bladder screamed in protest.
“That’s my bladder you’re squeezing there” I told him in a strained sort of voice.
He instantly relinquished his hold on me with an oath. “Sorry. I’ve gotta go really bad, too. I hope Bronski’s done with that potion soon. How long do you think it’s been?”
Just then, another loud, freakishly annoyingly voice interrupted our conversation. It was that insufferable PUMPKIN!
“What do you get when you cross a vampire with a snowman? Frostbite!” Then, the high peel of its horrible laughter filled the room.
The mindless cackling triggered something inside me, Before I could stop myself, my wand was out, pointing in the general direction of that accursed pumpkin, and I screamed, “REDUCTO!”
“GANG WAY!” Black shouted at the same time that Potter cried “DUCK AND COVER, PEOPLE!” as he dove to the ground.
By some miraculous happenstance, my hex hit its mark. The cackling hit a strangely unprecedented, shrill pitch for one fraction of a second before it blasted to smithereens.
There were about three seconds of absolute silence in which everyone stared at me from the ground or from behind chairs and cushions. Black just gaped silently at me from my side. He was crouched slightly, and his hand was still raised, though it was no longer protecting his face. Then Potter sprang up from the floor, looking quite disheveled with his glasses askew and some of the messy hair atop his head smoking – the result of diving for cover just a split second too late.
“You killed it!” he declared in astonishment. Then the cheering started. Everyone was on their feet, rejoicing over the fortunate demise oft the Joking Jack-O’-Lantern at my hands.
“Sirius? Lily?” said a voice over the clamor.
It was a little fourth year girl who’s name I couldn’t remember. “Madame Bronski told me to tell you…that, er, I think she said some sort of potion is ready or something. She said you’d know what I was talking about,” she said.
Black and I were gone and out of the common room as soon as we heard the girl say “Madame Bronski”. She ran after us and shouted the rest at our retreating backs.
“So, Evans,” said Black as we trotted toward the hospital wing, “now that we’re almost-kind-of-not-really-friends, I think you should come watch me and Prongs play Quidditch next weekend.”
“We’ll have to see about that. I’m not all that big on Quidditch.” I reminded him.
“We can remedy that. We’ll make you our biggest fan,” Black assured me with a wink.
“If I come and watch, will the four of you leave me alone?” I inquired.
“Probably not,” he replied. At least he was honest.
“Fine. I’ll come watch. But you may have to wake me up afterwards,” I warned him.
“Fall asleep and I’ll throw the quaffle at your head,” he threatened as we burst through the doors to the hospital wing.
“That was rather quick,” Madame Bronski commented, looking the two of us over. “I’m glad to see that one of you hasn’t killed the other throughout the course of the day.” She was pouring a sparkling, silver potion into two goblets. “Come here and drink this. Hold out your hands please.”
She handed us both goblets and we drank as we were told to do. The potion trickled down my throat with a texture of something akin to sawdust. As we drank, she poured what little potion that was left in the vial over our hands.
I gasped as the liquid made contact with our skin. It felt like shards of ice being dumped on me; it felt as though they fell right through my skin to my nerve cells and to my bones. It was a tingling sensation that one would experience had his or her hand fallen asleep, and I had the urge to shake it around as I would’ve if it had fallen asleep. Black did anyway, rattling my teeth around.
I didn’t register that the potion had begun to take effect until my palm was half-ways free. I experimentally separated the heel of my hand from his, and he gaped at the gap with apparent glee.
Slowly, so slowly, our hands came apart at their invisible seams. Finally, after about three minutes, only the tips of our middle fingers were still connected…And then we were free.
“Now, the tingling sensation will probably remain present for the next half-hour while potion wears off, but aside from that, you should be fine. The two of you are free to go now.”
“Well, that’s good because I’ve kinda gotta go reeeeealy bad,” Black informed us, pressing his legs together from his knees on up with the lower halves of his legs spread apart and his feet turned in towards each other. He squatted, tugging at the hem of his shirt. Then he turned tail and waddled out of the room as fast as he could.
“Me, too,” I admitted after snorting at the ridiculous spectacle. And in a manner that was far more composed, I followed Sirius…I mean Black…swiftly out of the hospital wing to find the nearest ladies’ room.
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