"Good evening, boys and girls. I would just like to interrupt your supper tonight to make an announcement." Dumbledore had risen to his feet at the front of the hall, his loud voice easily audible over the chatter of his students. It was the day after the incident in the dungeons with Griggs, and I was avoiding Sirius whilst being generally moody towards and everyone and everything. Poor Soph didn't know what to do with herself, she was so confused at my behaviour. It didn't help that she was uncomfortable around sad people anyway. "As you all know, Halloween at Hogwarts is always celebrated with a feast. Dark times are upon us: a war is raging outside the very walls of this castle. And so this year, to distract ourselves from the sad world outside, we will not only be hosting a feast, but a Halloween ball!"
The first to cheer was James from over at the Gryffindor table, followed by the rest of the Marauders, then gradually the rest of the school burst into applause.
The loud noise was like a machine gun going off in my ear, and I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to block it all out without being too obvious and plugging my ears with my fingers. How could everyone be this happy? Griggs had died, Sirius had a girlfriend, my whole world felt like it was falling apart in front of my eyes... And yet they were all happy?
"Raspberry? You OK?" came Sophia's tentative voice in my ear. I moaned. No more noise, please... I could sense in her tone that her mood had lifted with news of the ball; she was probably already scheming about which boy she was going to ask. I couldn't blame her for being happy, though. I mean, who would care about my problems? Griggs meant nothing to her, Sirius meant nothing to her, I doubt I even meant much to her. She was only friends with me because I was the only friend she could get. After all, who would want to be friends with me? I was a freak.
I stood up, feeling Sophia's eyes on me, and snuck out of the hall. All the way out I could feel a second pair of eyes on me. I had a feeling they were Sirius'.
Despite trying my best to hide from him, Sirius found me the next day at lunch. I was in the library, my black hair tied back scruffily into a ponytail. I was flicking aimlessly through Hogwarts: A History when he found me.
"Raspberry." His voice was soft. "Why have you been avoiding me?"
I shrugged, avoiding his gaze. "I wasn't," I mumbled to the floor.
He sighed exasperatedly. "Please, Raspberry, I know this is a hard time for you, but why are you avoiding me? What have I done? You need to tell me because it's killing me here."
Suddenly I found tears springing up in my eyes.
"Why did you never tell me you had a girlfriend?"
Sirius looked taken aback. "What?"
"You don't have to pretend anymore, Sirius. I know. I know that you and Michelle are going out."
To my surprise, he snorted. "Me and Michelle are not an item, whatever you've heard."
"But - but - " I stammered, the tears coming out thicker. "I was there! The other night, when you had a fight with Regulus! I was there, and I heard you! You said that you had a girlfriend in Hufflepuff, so it must be Michelle, I mean there's no one else it could possibly be, so it has to be Michelle -"
Sirius broke me off by cupping my face in his hands. "Michelle is not my girlfriend -"
"- because she's not you."
And then his lips came crashing down on mine.
It was... I don't know what it was, it just was. There were no words to describe how it felt just then at that moment, in that little dingy corner of the library, with dust motes swirling about in the air above our heads, the sun filtering in through a dirt-crusted window and setting the scene in a glorious, heavenly glow that made me wonder if I was just maybe dreaming. Perhaps there were words to describe it, but my brain was in so much shock that it couldn't string the letters together to form them. Or maybe there really were no words, and this was the moment I had been waiting for my whole entire life.
It was like my dream.
Actually, it was exactly like my dream. That sense of togetherness, of belonging, of knowing that this was the way it was meant to be forever. The only difference was that this time it was real.
As his lips echoed the shape of mine and our souls merged together to become one, I knew there was no going back now. Sirius and I belonged together, forever. Whether he knew that himself was a different thing entirely.
"Do you think he's peaceful now?" I asked.
"Of course," Sirius whispered, pulling me close to him. We were standing on the edge of the Forbidden Forest in the chilling autumn wind, just the two if us, for Griggs' funeral.
It was a picturesque moment, really, us standing there with my head on his shoulder, looking down at the place where Griggs was buried, the autumn leaves swirling down from the topmost branches of the trees. The Black Lake glittered in the weak morning sun behind us, and not so far away from Griggs' grave there was a lonesome sparrow perched on a branch, sending out woeful tunes like an accompaniment to the funeral.
"Hey, I need to ask you something," he said, a smile tugging at his lips. "I nearly forgot all about it... Would you like to be my date to the Halloween Ball?"
I grinned. "No, I'd never want to go with you, you're an ugly twat." I paused for a second to watch the shock register on his face before continuing. "Of course I'll come with you, you sill old bean!"
A huge grin broke out on his face as he slowly realised that my first answer had been a joke. "Come on, let's go in, it's cold."
The door squeaked as someone entered the girls' dormitory and again when they closed it softly behind them.
"Hey, B," came the quiet voice of Soph as she perched on the bed beside me.
"Hey, Soph," I replied, pulling my headphones off and chucking them onto my pillow. "What's up? I haven't seen you much lately."
"That's because you're always with Sirius," she muttered spitefully.
I looked down silently at my hands. "I know, Soph. And I'm sorry. I promise that we'll hang out like we used to again. Do you forgive me?"
Soph sighed, closing her eyes for a few seconds. "You're not a very good friend to me sometimes, Raspberry. But at least you are my friend, which is more than I can say for anybody else. So, I guess I'm going to have to forgive you, aren't I?"
"I guess so."
We sat in silence for a few moments. Soph busied herself by fiddling with her fringe, and I shuffled through my Beatles tapes. "So..." I pouted. "Do you know who you wanna go to the dance with?"
Soph shrugged. "There's not really anyone."
I grinned, grabbing my pillow and hitting her with it. "LIAR!"
"Hey!" she objected, hitting me back. "I'm not a liar!"
"C'mon, Soph, it's obvious that you like James. You stare at him like he's God or something."
Sophia blushed. "Really? Is it that obvious?"
"How much... How much do you like him, on a scale of one to ten, one being 'oh, he's fit', and ten being, 'I am completely head over heels in love with him, I think he's my soul mate'?"
Soph muttered something incomprehensible.
"Don't say 'what', it's rude!"
"Oh, sorry. I mean, pardon?"
Oh dear God.
"Nine? Are you sure?"
Soph nodded mutely.
I sighed, bringing myself up onto my knees as a change of position. Soph winced as a scary-looking expression came onto my face. "Well, then, we're going to need to make a plan to make James Potter fall in love with you."
"Alright, you know what you have to do, right? Just go in there and stride right up to him and ask him out. James likes confident girls."
Sophia and I were standing outside the hall, Soph wearing a cute little outfit that I'd designed for her and her face made up perfectly with some special foundation that I'd stolen from Michelle along with some nice mascara, eyeliner and shiny pink lip gloss.
"If this goes wrong I am going to blame it on you, Raspberry Samuel," she promised gravely before striding out into the hall. I followed her in some distance behind and began making myself a Breakfast Butty at the Ravenclaw table, which was conveniently situated next to the Gryffindor one.
"Hey, James," Soph said, staring dazedly up at him through her lashes as soon as she reached him.
"What's up?" he asked kindly.
"I was wondering if you wanted to come to the Halloween Ball with me?"
"Oh. I wasn't expecting that," he remarked. For a few seconds he stood in thought, and I saw Soph's lip begin to tremble.
Please say yes, please say yes, please say yes, please say yes, please say yes, please say yes, please say yes, please say yes, please say yes, please say yes, please say -
"Sure," he decided brightly. A triumphant grin spread across my face and I dropped my Breakfast Butty down, skidding over to the Gryffindor table and hugging Soph.
"Your plan worked!" she cried happily into my shoulder.
"Yay," I said.
My plan had worked, it was true. But what I was not so sure about was James' motives behind saying yes.