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The Art of Surviving. by AC_rules
Chapter 1 : Average.
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 67

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A/N -sequelsequelsequel :O

Nuff said. More at the bottom :D

September first.

I stared out of the window as we entered London and hugged my arms across my chest. We always did the journey in two parts, stopping at the half way point to stay the night – and this year was no different, even if everything else was.

Petunia was sat in the back, much to her dismay. Mum had insisted that she had to be there to see me off this year, and she had thought it prudent to agree. She hadn’t talked for the past two hours of the journey, and instead was mirroring my actions – glaring out the window in silence.

I risked a glance at my mother. She had her fingers clenched around the steering wheel and her breathing was laboured. She looked tired. I wondered... was the exhaustion on her face, and the emotions, because she hadn’t been able to have a drink this morning?

I bit my lip, and turned back to the window. I had thought she was coping well, and she might well still be. We’d had plenty of guests over lately, and those accumulated bottles of wine could simply have been bottles that others had polished off. It didn’t have to mean that she was drinking. Surely, she was fine.

So I turned back out of the window and tried to avoid thinking about the thought that was dominating my mind, through all the thoughts about my dysfunctional family and all the thoughts of returning to Hogwarts after such a long period of absence – Mary McDonald.

Mary would not be coming back this year, and it seemed as though this thought had only just registered in my brain. I hadn’t been thinking about Hogwarts, I hadn’t wanted too, and... and now I was going back, and it had lost its magic somehow. For the first time it felt like just a school – teachers, homework and lessons. It didn’t feel how it had done before, full of magic and newness and this fabulous journey into becoming something I’d dreamed of for years – magical.

The buildings fell away behind me as I began to consider Hogwarts without Mary, and how that would feel. Of course I had experienced it for a little while last year, but now it was different. Things had moved on, this was seventh year, and I hadn’t been there myself for what now felt like a lifetime, even if it had only several months.

“Right,” My mum said in a falsely bright voice which didn’t fool anyone. I swallowed and got out of the car. Petunia was already out, as if being in such a forced small space was too much for any of us to deal with. I dragged my trunk out of the boot; Petunia had gotten a trolley and now mum had gotten out of the car, closed the boot and locked it. Pad’s was placed on top of my trunk. Simple. Efficient.

I should have apparated. 

Of course Mum was having none of it and I wasn’t about to argue with her. Maybe the normalcy of our yearly pilgrimage to London was something she needed to convince herself everything was all right. Or maybe she wanted us to act like a proper family for a little while longer, it didn’t really matter, but it hadn’t worked.

She looked worse than ever, and Petunia resented me from dragging her away from her stupid fiancé for so long, and it had been unnecessary. And it was hard.

We kept close together as we moved smoothly through the station, but did not speak. We all knew the way; we’d made the same journey six times before when there were four of us, and not three, and it was essentially no different.

We reached the barrier between nine and ten and stopped. “Together?” Mum asked, and we both nodded. Petunia took her left arm and I took her right, so that she was sandwiched between us. I hoped that our presence told us that we loved her, and that she didn’t feel alone. I manoeuvred the trolley with my other free arm (which was a little more difficult than it sounded) and we walked towards the barrier together.

Dad had always come up with amusing ways of crossing the barrier, but without fail we always crossed it together. We had to, because I was the only one who could pass through it alone, and Mum refused to leave without a glimpse of that scarlet red train and a glance of witches and wizards – a word that was not her own.

The station appeared with shocking familiarity. The train was already there, the September sunshine glinting and winking at me – taunting me.

Last year I had greeted Mary with a squeal and had thrown my arms around her. This year there would be no squealing, no hugging, no Mary. I had forgotten how raw that felt.

I glanced around, and found far too many familiar faces for it to be comfortable. They were all over, and they were all looking at me. Well, that’s what it felt like. I felt exposed stepping back on to the station and throwing myself back into the world I’d ignored for months.

I hadn’t seen any of them except James. James had caught me up on the happenings at Hogwarts well enough, and had explained the events of the summer until I almost felt like I was part of them again, but the fact remained that I had left Hogwarts early last year. And no one knew why.

I searched on the platform for James, feeling that at least he would be protective enough over me that I’d stop feeling like my heart was being presented to the whole station like an open target, like at any second someone was going to shoot a bullet through my over-exposed heart, or a green light would connect with my chest and I would feel no more.

Instead, I found Sirius and he was walking towards me.

He looked exactly like James had said – like he’d recently been run over by a bus, but was pretending like it hadn’t been a big deal. He met me with a grim smile and I knew that he felt exactly the same as I did to be back here, at Hogwarts, without its key component. Mary.

“Evans,” Sirius muttered, and I suddenly felt a wave of affection towards him. No matter how much my younger self would protest to hate it, Sirius Black and I had something in common, and a new found understanding of how the other worked. I cared about him, and I was pretty sure that he cared about me too.

I threw my arms around his neck, and found my eyes welling up again.

It shouldn’t be like this. I should still be able to hate Sirius for being a prat and I should be able to greet my best friend properly.

I stepped back away from Sirius and took in his appearance properly, the differences were not complimentary, but I understood them.

“Are you all right, Evans?” He asked seriously.

I nodded.

“Lily, dear,” Mum said, “Aren’t you going to introduce us?” Mum’s normal eagerness to know everything about this new world has dissipated slightly, but I was sure she still wanted to put names to faces as much as ever. Petunia was impassive, but I saw her gaze travel across Sirius for the briefest second – she was wondering if this was the infamous James, and if it was possible I had managed to socially interact with someone so attractive.

Sirius smiled politely, considering everything he seemed to be quite good at dealing with parents. “This is my mum, and my sister, Petunia,” I told him. They were still stood with their arms linked together tightly. “Mum, this is Sirius Black.”

She sent me a look and I nodded.  “I... I’m sorry for your loss.” She said, and Petunia stayed stony, perhaps with the tiniest trace of relief that this was not James.

“Lily,” A voice called, and over walked the man himself. He was all ready in his robes, but I noted he’d neglected to pin either his Head Boy badge, or his Quidditch captain badge onto them.

“James,” I breathed in relief. I didn’t bother to think about how I felt much safer now he was here, or bother to consider my emotions more deeply. It didn’t matter, and I didn’t care. I was glad James was here, and that was that. I hugged him too, and my eyes welled up again.

“James Potter?” My mother asked eagerly, and James sent a grin in my direction.

“At your service, Mrs Evans,” and he half bowed in her direction. Mum flushed slightly, and looked more gleeful than she had for weeks. Petunia looked as if she was about to throw up. “Petunia?” James asked holding out his hand.

Petunia looked startled and glared at the hand as if it were poisonous or repugnant.

“Maybe not,” James said. “Who’s this, Lily, if not your delightful sister that you’ve told me so much about?” The normal way he was acting made me feel like Hogwarts was all right, and that this – returning, was doable.

I smiled. “No, this is Petunia.” I smiled.

James waved his hand about a little more.

“Does she not understand English, Lily?” He asked, tilting his head and examining her as if she was strange inanimate object that he couldn’t quite work out. “Or is the concept of a handshake a little beyond her?”

“Leave her be James,” Another voice spoke, and Remus walked over and smiled in Petunia’s direction. “I wouldn’t touch your hands if you paid me; I don’t know where they’ve been, not that I particularly want to.”

Sirius’s lips made a movement that was almost a smirk. “Lily knows where they’ve been.”

And there was the old prat returning – was it entirely necessary to make these types of joke in front of my mother and sister? Thankfully my mother seemed to have missed the mildy-sexual reference, because she was glancing around the platform, but Petunia had definitely picked up on it and was now looking malicious.

“You’ll pay for that Black,” I said, and then I dragged James away from my sister. “Let’s get a compartment or something.”

“Who said you could sit with us, Evans?” Sirius smirked. Ahh, back to repressed emotions. Fabulous.

“Well who else am I going to sit with?” I snapped. There was a couple of seconds of silence where I realised just what I’d said, and who I’d said it too and then I decided it was best if I just shut up.

“Why don’t we get a compartment then?” James asked softly. I mentally thanked him for breaking the awkwardness.

“Yeah,” Remus agreed. I turned back to glance at Petunia and Mum, I gave mum a brief wave and she smiled. I wondered exactly how she’d be once I’d left.

“How come you didn’t apparate?”

“Mum wanted to come,” I said stiffly. I didn’t want to talk, I wanted to hide away from everyone and go home. This was a little bit harder than I expected it to be. The tone of my voice seemed to take James back a bit.

“This looks like a nice compartment,” Sirius commented.

“They’re all the same, Black.” I said stepping in and throwing my coat on the side. “I’m going to grab my trunk.”

“I’ll come with you,” James said hastily. I swallowed but allowed him to follow me back off the train. “What’s up with your sister?” He asked. I didn’t answer. “Lily? Don’t ignore me.”

“She doesn’t like magic,” I replied. “And I don’t think she appreciated being talked to like she was some kind of monkey.”

“I tried to be polite,” James countered. I found my patience for him slipping. Why was it only last week I had truly enjoyed his company? We’d spent the whole day together and I’d had a perfectly lovely time?

Petunia glared at me as we approached.

“I’ll get this,” James said smoothly, grabbing my trunk off the trolley and sending a smile in Petunia’s direction.

“Thanks,” I replied, grabbing Pad’s cage off the top, and I’d half walked away when I realised James Potter was no longer at my side.

“- I’m sorry if I seemed impolite before,” He was saying to Petunia with a winning smile. “I’m James Potter, a friend of Lily’s.”

I stepped forwards, sensing Petunia was about to blow. I grabbed hold of his arm again, and tried to get him to move away. “No Lily, I want to introduce myself properly – I don’t want a first impression counting against me.”

“Get away from me you freak.” Petunia spat, stepping backwards looking horrified. James was speechless. “I will not shake your hand.”

“I’m, one of Lily’s...” James began again, looking utterly confused at being treated as though he was worthless piece of shit.

Precisely. You’re freaks, both of you.”

“Petunia,” I warned, stepping in front of James slightly. “Can’t you just -”

“No, I hate -”

“There’s no need too -”

“I don’t care about -”

“Lily,” Mum’s voice said, floating through my consciousness. We both fell silence. I closed my eyes briefly and turned towards her. She looked vacant and spaced out.

“Yes Mum?”

“Are you going to be home for Christmas?”

“If... if you want me to be,” I said. She nodded. “Look, Mum, I’m just going to put my bags on the train then I’ll come, erm... back.” Then I grabbed James’s arm, feeling irrationally angry at him for being witness to that embarrassing display of what my family were like, and pulled him away. Then I relinquished my hold on him and tried to walk faster than he could manage.

He increased his walking speed to match my own but didn’t say anything until we’d boarded the train for the second time. “You left Hogwarts early last year, to go back to that.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” I snapped back, knowing I was being entirely unfair to him. He had a perfectly fair point.

“She just...” He stopped, shook his head. Grabbed my trunk off the floor and carried it back to the compartment.

“Thank you,” I said after he hauled my trunk up to the shelves, and gently placed Pad’s cage up there too.

“You don’t seem particularly thankful,” He commented, leaning back on the edge of the compartment and looking at me seriously. “What’s wrong Lily?”

“I don’t want to be here.” I answered through gritted teeth.

“So you’d rather be at home with your bitch of a sister?”

“Get your nose out of my business, Potter.”

“It’s my business too.” He interjected.

“Why? What gives you the right to go introducing yourself to my family -?”

“I’m you friend Lily.”

“Neither of us want that, Potter.” I snapped before I could stop myself. I didn’t want to be horrible to James, but it seemed to be coming out on automatic – a manifestation of my bitterness and my desire to run very far away from this place.

“And how do you work that out?” He asked darkly.

“You want much more than friendship and I want –”

“Yes, what do you want?” James said, stepping forward so that he was millimetres away from me. “Because that would clarify quite a few things.” He was angry. I didn’t blame him. I was being a bitch and... and he was standing so close that I could see every single detail of his angry face, and then I realised I was supposed to be answering his question...

What did I want?

“I...” I began then I stopped and looked at James properly. His anger seemed to have evaporated a little more. I wanted to cry.

“Lily!”A voice yelled, and the compartment door was flung open. Alice seemed to take in our close proximity with wide eyes. “Your family!” She exclaimed.

“What?” I asked turning round to face her.

“They’re... I mean, the Slytherins...”

“They’re muggles.” James muttered, sounding mildly horrified and then we were all dashing out of the compartment and back on to the platform. My head was spinning. I wasn’t ready for this – it was bad enough returning to Hogwarts without factoring in James and Sirius, and just... everyone.

My brain didn’t seemed to be processing any of this new information, and the whole day seemed like some kind of bad dream that I was entirely detached from.

Mum and Petunia, though, they were in trouble. And why? Because they were muggles.

I stepped back off the train, feeling that everything seemed to be going round in circles with all this boarding and unboarding, and then my eyes found them.

It seemed like nothing had happened yet, but a group of the worst Slytherins were there sending looks at each other, their hands in their pockets talking in undertones. I could feel the danger, and obviously Alice had done too if she’d thought to warn me... Even mum and Petunia were looking significantly uncomfortable.

Prevention. I darted over. “Mum, Petunia, I think maybe you should -” And then the rest of my words were cut off.

“Oh, they’re yours are they Evans? We were wondering when the owners of this filth would show up.” Avery. “Should have known they’d be yours, that one’s got the same dirty nose as you,” he said gesturing towards my mother’s face.

“And this one’s got that same pathetic expression,” Mulicber said, stepping forward and roughly grabbing Petunia’s face. He squeezed her cheeks between his fat thumbs and laughed in her face. Petunia didn’t know what had hit her; she was visibly shaking, shocked, and unable to move. It looked as though she wasn’t breathing and my blood was suddenly boiling.

“Keep your hands off,” James snarled, pulling out his wand. I vaguely registered that he’d been behind me and now...

“You’re right.” Mulciber said with a grin. “I’ll never get rid of the smell, will I Potter?”

“You should know,” Avery added. “You’ve been hanging round this one for long enough to know.” He said gesturing at me. They all laughed – a huge chorus of malicious laughter that made my brain buzz with anger.

“Leave them alone,” I spat, pulling out my wand too and pointing it in Avery’s direction. Then Alice was with us again, and her wand was out too. She was just behind me, backing me up...

“What are you going to do, mudblood, throw it at me?” They all laughed again.

“I bet her throw would be a lot more effective than any spell you attempted,” Sirius said, stepping into the fray with his own wand out. Things were getting out of hand, everyone was staring, and my heart was thudding in my chest. I couldn’t think straight. “I’m a little shocked they let you back in,”

“Likewise,” Avery returned, “I thought even this place wouldn’t let in a dirty bloody traitor like yourself,”

Then Remus and Peter appeared, pulling their wands out. Then Frank. Their words muddled around in my head and I couldn’t quite make sense of them.

“Evans,” Sirius muttered in my ear. “Get them out of here all right,” I nodded, and grabbed their arms.

“Mum, Tuney, get out of here.” I said and for what felt like the millionth time this morning tears were welling up in my eyes. I bit my lip and led them towards the barrier as quickly as I could.

Mum seemed to have woken up from her daze and stepped back through barrier quickly, Petunia lingered.

“Lily,” Petunia said, and it was the first time she’d said my name for months and her voice was uncertain and scared. I wanted to reach out and do something momentous, but there was no time. They needed to get through the barrier where they were safe, and where none of them could so much as draw out their wand for fear of being dragged away by the ministry officials. “Mum,” She whimpered, and I grabbed her hand finally understanding – she was just as scared about Mum’s state as I was, and terrified of being left alone with her.

“I’ll write to you,” I promised, and then I shoved her back through the barrier and to safety. I was shaking. 

How could this happen at Hogwarts? How could this be allowed to happen on platform 9 ¾, meters away from the muggle world?

It only cemented my belief that the magical world was no longer mine, and increased my uncertainty that I actually wanted to return.

I turned around and suddenly Alice was in front of me.

“Let’s get on the train,” Alice said quietly steering me from the confrontation that appeared to still be continuing, and onto the train. “Are you okay?” She asked looking at me warily.

“I’m fine,” I told her bitterly, trying to look out over her shoulder and make sure that everything was okay. I disliked the fact that I was being treated as though I was made of glass, and I disliked the fact that they were right even more. I was so... fragile. It was sickening.

“No one’s expecting you to be,” Alice replied. “Anyone would be shook up,”

“Well I’m fine. I want to go back out.” I was in the mood for pulling out my wand and hexing the lot of them. I was feeling recklessly hopeless, and a little blank. I didn’t want to be safely stuck on the train away from the action.

Alice glanced out through the open door. “Well, James’s parents are there now, and the others seemed to be scarpering. Look, here the others come now,” And she was right, they all came filling in, each of them sending me an encouraging smile that made my stomach clench and fill with bitter acid. “One more thing,” Alice said with a smile. She held up her hand and wriggled her fingers at me.

I raised an eyebrow. She shoved her hand in my face.

“A ring.” I commented flatly.

“I’m engaged!” Alice exclaimed.


“Frank asked me to marry him on my birthday last week,”

“You’re engaged?” I questioned.


“You’re seventeen.”

“So?” Alice asked, suddenly defensive.

“It’s a bit young isn’t it? I mean, you’re still a teenager.”

“Aren’t you even going to try to be happy for me?”

“Well, yes, I’m delighted.” I said quickly, “I’m still shook up from the thing, but really, great about the marriage thing.”

“Right,” Alice said, because the whole conversation had suddenly got mildly awkward. Then she turned towards our pre-saved compartment.

“Look,” I added quickly. “Don’t be too lovey-dovey in front of Sirius,”

“I know, Lily.” Alice said with a sudden hard expression across her features. “I know what I’m doing, I’m not incompetent.” And then she stalked into the compartment, slamming the door in my face.

Great. I’d already managed to piss of half of the people who still liked me, my family had been attacked and this was turning out of be, without a doubt, the worst September first in the history of the world.

I took a deep breath, and then I pulled the door open and entered. I slumped into the only available seat – next to James, and was unable to stop myself resting my head on his shoulder and closing my eyes. I was exhausted, my head hurt, and I hadn’t even managed to say goodbye to family properly. Now I wouldn’t see them for months, and although for a second Petunia had shown a rare display of affection by the time I was able to write an explanation down on parchment her vulnerability would have changed back into loathing, only worse because this time she had foundation for it.

Finally, after holding back for half the morning, a tear rolled down my cheek and fell onto James Potter’s shoulder. Then I scrunched up my eyes and tried very hard not to think. The others were taking about the summer, and one of James’s arms wrapped around my comfortingly. I needed it and thus no longer felt the edge to tell him to keep his hands to himself, and start yelling at him. What did it matter that this was James Potter, arrogant git of the century and all round arse, who I’d been pissed at only ten minutes previously? I was drawn towards him, part of me knowing that he was the only one who was able to offer me that small scrap of comfort.

“Lily,” James said in my ear after a good ten minutes where I tried to ignore the idle chatter that the others seemed happy to engage with.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I muttered.

“Well I’d worked that out myself,” He returned. “But, I didn’t think you’d want to be late to the prefects meeting considering you’re Head Girl.”

“Congrats, Lily.” Frank said, offering me a smile. I tried to smile back but it came out a little more like a grimace, but I decided it was good enough.

“Bad luck,” Sirius said. “Remus managed to avoid it,”

I glanced at James... he hadn’t told them?

“Oh really?” I asked, feeling a sudden renewed surge of confidence due to this knowledge. “Who’s the new Gryffindor prefect?”

“Rachel, I think,” Alice said she still sounded a bit stiff about the whole marriage thing.

“Anyway, I should be getting along.”

“I’ll walk you there,” James said quickly. I placed a hand on my hip and smirked at him. “Shouldn’t you get your badge first?”

His eyes widened slightly. “You mean my Quidditch captain badge?” He asked hopefully.

“That, James, and your shiny new Head Boy badge,” I said sweetly.

“You’re kidding.” Sirius said gleefully – and it was the first time I’d seen him look so happy for about six months (not that I’d seen him at all for three of those months). “You’re Head Boy, Prongs?”

“Yes he is.” I put in.

“Will you be keeping me in line James?” He asked, “I mean... giving me detentions and stuff?”

James rolled his eyes and reluctantly pulled out both badges from his bag.

“Let’s put it in clear view, shall we?” I asked taking it from his hand and pinning it on the centre of his chest. “There now, you look nice and smart.”

“Head Boy,” Sirius repeated happily.

“Well... almost smart enough for Head Boy-dom,” I said and then proceeded to straighten his tie. 

“You’re not even wearing your robes yet,”

“Keep your badge on, there in my bag.”

“Bickering like an old married couple,” Remus commented with a fake tone of nostalgia.

“Well, you know what they say about the Head Boy and Girl?” Sirius said ambiguously.

“All those evenings working together...” Remus added.

“At it like rabbits.” Sirius finished.

I managed an almost laugh at that, and my newfound confidence seemed to be here to stay. I didn’t feel like I was going to collapse at any second, or like I was standing on top of a tall tower waiting to go falling down to the bottom of a deep pit.

“Come on, James,” I said with the trace of a smile. They all seemed slightly thrown by my sudden change of mood, but I decided that it was no use considering whether it was normal to have such a mood swing or whether I should be worried about being taken in to St Mungo’s after having a nervous breakdown. Instead I should just appreciate the fact that I no longer felt like an avalanche waiting to happen.

“Coming,” He said, sending me a slightly confused questioning look that I decided not to attempt to decipher.

“Look,” I said, “Sorry about earlier, I’m just... I don’t know,” I finished, shrugging, and then leading my way down the corridor.


“Oh, crap,” I muttered rummaging through my bag in the hope that it would magically appear... but the fact remained. I simply just couldn’t find it. “James, I can’t find my badge,” I said, looking up at him hoping he’d come up with some grand suggestion. “Should I just nip back to the compartment or...?”

“No, they’ll be here soon,” James said. “It doesn’t matter – it’s only a badge,” I nodded, and sat myself down next to him. Although I no longer felt the need to rest my head on his shoulder, I did notice that I was sitting a lot closer to him than I normally would have down. I frowned internally and corrected my sitting position in a subtle way, hoping he didn’t think I was being rude.

Remus was the first to get here, along with Rachel who did indeed seem to be the new Gryffindor prefect, and then people from the other years filed in until I was sure everyone was here. I glanced at James and he nodded.

“Right everyone,” I began, keeping my voice level and even. “We’re just going to go over -”

“Weren’t you involved in the fight on the platform?” An obnoxious sounding Ravenclaw girl said. At first I thought the question was directed at James, and then I realised that she was staring right at me.

“Well...” I began.

“You were, I saw you. How come you’re Head Girl, if you can’t even be here ten minutes without getting into a fight?”

I was speechless. This girl was what... a fifth year? And yet here she was undermining my new found authority, when I’d only been in possession of it for about fifteen minutes.

“I -” I began, glancing at James unsurely.

“Didn’t you get with Diggory at that party last year?” My face flushed pink. The party... it had been a month after Mary, and I’d drank a little bit too much... but I hadn’t done anything too terrible. People did those types of things all the time and I hadn’t slept with him or...

“Lily?” James question sending me a peculiar look, I had done my very best to keep the whole thing a secret from James.... Sirius had found out about it of course, and he’d agreed to keep that knowledge hidden from him.

“Diggory told all of us Hufflepuffs about it,”

 “So she’s all round a good candidate for Head Girl,” One of the Slytherin’s sneered. “And she’s a mudblood,”

“She hasn’t even got a Head Girl badge.” Said the Ravenclaw girl who’d started the whole thing. “How do we even know she is Head Girl?”

“Of course she’s Head Girl!” James declared. “Honestly, she’s Lily Evans – who else would be Head Girl? Now, it would do you all well to show some respect.”

“Sorry I’m late,” Amanda Brocklehurst said slipping into the compartment with an apologetic smile. She looked slightly concerned but sat down quietly enough.

“Like Lily said, we’re just going to go over the basics for those new prefects, throw round some ideas about how the system could be better – the general.” James said. His confidence was shocking, and everyone in the compartment seemed to be looking at him with a certain degree of respect. Even the younger Slytherin’s weren’t eyeing him with the same distaste that they did everyone else in the world. I suddenly felt very inadequate. “Have you got anything else to add Lily?” All eyes turned to me. My face burned and I shrunk down on my chair.

“No,” I answered, my voice coming out as a pathetic sounding squeak.



“Lily?” James asked glancing at me worriedly. “Are you okay?” I nodded and didn’t meet his eye. Instead I buried my hands in the folds of my robes and examined the tiled floor. “Look, I just need to talk to Amanda – I’ll be two seconds.” I nodded again, still not looking up. “Then I’ll be back.”

I had frozen up right there in the middle of the prefect’s meeting. I’d managed to speak twice more – both coming out as garbled and nonsensical, causing me to flush a fantastic shade of scarlet. James had tried his best to get me talk, by continually asking me if I had anything to add, which unfortunately only made me into more of a joke for everyone else present. Then, mercifully, he stopped, and I’d just sat there marinating in my embarrassment silently.

The tears were welling up again, and I knew this time they were definitely going to fall. I reached for my bag and into the pocket where I usually had a packet of tissues – might as well be prepared for all eventualities, especially today, when everything was going wrong.

My finger pricked against something sharp, and I drew it back quickly as a tiny blob of blood appeared on my finger. I cautiously went in with my other hand, finding... my Head Girl badge.

Which had been there all along.

Then the tears burst out, and I was sobbing like a baby. I hugged one of my knees to my chest and just let myself cry. It was okay, there was no one here – no one to see me and I had every reason to cry... Mary was dead. My Dad was dead. Mum was... a widow. My remaining family had practically been attacked on the platform. Alice hated me. Petunia hated me. James most probably hated me. Mary was dead, so she couldn’t hate me – but she probably would hate me if she was alive and I was the worst Head Girl there’d ever been.

I was a shaking crying snivelling mess.

James stepped back into the compartment. “Turns out that Ravenclaw bitch was Amanda’s sister, and I reckon she thought Amanda should have been Head Girl. Little stirrer. She said she’d make sure she dropped it,”

My head was clouding up with nonsense, and my heart was pounding, and I was crying and sobbing and generally acting like a pathetic fool, but James hadn’t noticed that yet. I wanted to yell, stomp and curse at the world for nothing being fair, because it wasn’t fair. Why did Mary get to be dead? Why did I have to come back to Hogwarts and face everyone, and why did I have to deal with all these people who so obviously hated me? It was bollocks, and I was bollocks, and I wanted to go back home into my tiny box room and hide where I could just send jinxes at the walls and at spiders, where Petunia would just ignore me and where mum would bring me up biscuits and keep asking me if I was okay.

I wasn’t ready for this – to be back at Hogwarts. Or any of it. Or anyone. I needed more time, but I didn’t get time – just like Mary didn’t get time and like Dad didn’t get time – and the world was closing in and I couldn’t get a grasp on anything anymore. It was speeding by, much too fast, and I had no idea how long it would be until the next person fell, and whether I could survive loosing everyone else and...

James was kneeling down in front of me looking more than slightly alarmed.

“Lily,” He said, but I barely seemed to hear him.  I was on a different frequency, unable to sort my head out, chocking on my excessive tears as they rolled down my cheeks. “Lily,” He said again, and pushed his hand away, vainly attempting to wipe away the tears with the back of my hand and look like I wasn’t crying.

“Go away James!” I exclaimed, bringing my hands to my face and trying to hide. I was so spectacularly hideous when I cried, and in some twisted way that seemed to be the biggest issue at that moment... that James couldn’t see me at my ugliest and most pathetic... “Leave me alone!”

James pulled my hands away from my face and stared at me. His eyes said it all – he was scared of me, as if I was some terrifying monster that was about to eat his head hole or something horrible like that.

Then he said, and the words that reminded me of another occasion – months previously – when he’d looked at me with the exact same expression in his eyes, “What’s wrong with you?”

And, as if it was possible, I cried even harder.

A/N - This is going to be a bit different, as you'll see from the next chapter. Hopefully you appreciate the parallels with taob, because I felt they were entirely appropriate, if a little sad... but hey! I've written quite a few chapters. I have a plan. I have inspiration. I do not, as it stands, have any readers or reviewers (hinty hinty hinty hint :D).

This is up quite a lot sooner than I expected it would be. Thank your reviews on the last couple of chaptersof taob. <3

This is all for now, thank you and GOOD NIGHT.

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