Chapter 4 : The Company We Keep
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Octavius had filled me in on what happened for the rest of the Welcome Back party, and I vowed to never drink firewhiskey again. Apparently I passed out on Remus Lupin's shoulder--they all let me sleep while the party continued--and then Remus had insisted upon carrying me back to Ravenclaw Tower. Though well built, he hadn't been looking very well lately, and I hardly thought he needed to be carrying drunk girls around. Lynn and Bridget took it from the staircase and got me into bed.
I was so embarrassed about it I could hardly look any of them in the face for the next week. Though I was ahead on my homework, I still decided to begin my ritual of going to the library during lunch instead of the Great Hall. Octavius would usually stop by with a small bit of food wrapped in a napkin before I was due in my next lesson, so I was very surprised when Lynn showed up on Wednesday instead of him--taking my avoidance success rate down a few notches.
"Hi, Jane," she slid into the chair next to me and offered me a muffin.
"Thank you," I said politely, breaking off a small bite, "where's Tavi?"
"Er… Octavius," apparently I was the only one who called him that.
"Oh! Him and the boys were going on about some Muggle studies project, so I offered to bring you some food. I also actually wanted to invite you to come to my birthday celebration. It's nothing big, and no drinking," she added hastily at the look on my face, "just James, Sirius, Lily, Remus, Peter, Octavius, and Penny."
"She's another Gryffindor sixth year," Lynn explained, "You met her at the party last weekend… she has short black hair… brown eyes… wearing the green dress?"
I still had no idea who she was talking about.
"Well, she's cool," Lynn smiled, "do you think you can come?"
"Sure," it came out before I knew what I was saying.
"Great! It's this Friday at seven. We're meeting in the Entrance Hall. See you later!" she waved merrily as she departed.
"Okay…" I whispered.
Bloody hell, what did I just agree to?
When Friday night rolled around, I was getting more and more nervous about hanging out with a small group of some of the most popular people at Hogwarts. I sat on Octavius' bed as he told me, very elaborately, about how he and James had managed to avoid punishment after they'd put a spell on Snape's telescope that caused his eye to stick to it. I'd in fact seen Severus hurrying towards the hospital wing on my way back from the library, telescope still glued to his face.
"Those guys are great, aren't they?" he finished.
He looked over at me from his spot in front of the mirror and asked, "what's up with you?"
"Spit it out. You look almost as terrified as you did before you had to give that demonstration in Potions," he turned back to the mirror in which he was doing his hair, grinning at the memory. Professor Slughorn had been quite impressed with the preciseness of my handling of potions ingredients, he made the whole class watch me prepare a sopohorous bean for a sleeping draught in my fifth year. Needless to say, all the eyes on me caused my knife to slip and a drop of its natural juice flew right into a hufflepuff's eye. He had instantly passed out as the entire class roared with laughter.
"It's just… they're…"
"They're really great! Don't be intimidated by them, Jane, they want to get to know you. You just have to talk to them. I think I'm going to wear my black sweater instead," he peeled off the gray one he'd been wearing. He was such a girl.
"We all know you're shy. Just be yourself. You're over-thinking it."
I sighed. Easier said than done.
"Okay I'm ready," he smiled with one last look in the mirror.
I didn't bring it up again as we made our way down to the Entrance Hall. Octavius, being so outgoing, couldn't understand properly. Lynn and the rest did seem to be really great, but I was so uncomfortable that I just looked like a stammering idiot. It had taken me almost a whole year to get as comfortable as I was with Tavi.
"Hey guys!" Lynn beamed up at us as we descended the marble staircase, "glad you could make it!"
"Happy birthday!" Tavi and I said in unison, though my voice was mostly drowned by his. It looked like we were the last ones to arrive. Everyone started chatting as we merged with the main group and made our way out the front doors and across the lawn towards the quidditch pitch. I lagged behind, and noticed Remus was matching my pace, careful to not leave me behind.
"Is this allowed?" I asked him quietly. Nobody else took any notice.
"Not entirely," a shy smile played across his lips.
We lapsed into silence, but when I realized the plan was to actually go onto the quidditch field, I panicked a bit.
"Are we--you know… flying?" I looked apprehensively at the fifty foot high goal posts.
"That's the plan," he glanced in the same direction I was gazing and added, "are you alright?"
"I can't, uhm," I pointed skyward. Everyone else was fighting over the brooms the guys had gotten out of the school's shed.
"What? You can't fly?"
I nodded. Flying had been the one thing I'd failed at in my time at Hogwarts. Madam Hooch had even told me I shouldn't ever travel by broomstick if I could help it. I missed the first half of what Remus was saying as I remembered my close shave with the whomping willow my first time flying.
"--he wouldn't mind at all. Should I call him over?"
"W-what?" I stammered.
"James. He's a really good flyer. You've probably seen him at quidditch. He wouldn't mind teaching you," Remus smiled warmly.
"I-no-I think I'll just," as I slowly backed away towards the stands, I tripped and landed arse first on the hard ground.
"Careful there," Lupin offered me his hand and easily pulled me up as I blushed a deep shade of red.
"Here, Montague, this one'll suit you," James Potter, apparently oblivious to what had just happened, offered me a broom. My eyes widened.
"Actually, mate, I think Jane and I are going to sit this one out," Remus said. I turned my wide eyes to him and he gave me a small wink.
"What? No! It's going to be so much fun!" Lynn joined the conversation.
Octavius smiled knowingly at me from the opposite side of the throng of people--we had learned how to fly together, so he'd experienced my failure first-hand.
"Sorry," Lupin smiled apologetically, "we're just going to have some fun with our feet on the ground. We'll have plenty more time when you're finished flying."
"Fine," Lynn still looked a bit disappointed, but turned to everyone else and asked if they were ready.
Moments later they were all kicking off the ground as Remus and I made our way to the stands.
"Thank you," I whispered.
"No problem at all," he allowed me to go up the stairs first, "I'm actually not much of a flyer myself. Anyway, I saw you almost collide with the whomping willow in flying lessons first year," his eyes danced with laughter, "we don't need a trip to the hospital wing tonight."
"You… how?" was it possible for me to be more embarrassed tonight?
"I happened to be looking out the window during an exceptionally boring History of Magic lesson," he actually chuckled. I turned red again.
I was thankful Remus didn't seem to mind lengthy silences, broken by a few sentences of conversation at a time. We passed a surprisingly pleasant forty-five minutes while the others zoomed around the field; even though not much was said, I felt strangely relaxed. When the flyers had tired and began descending, Remus followed me back out of the stands.
"You two missed out!" Lynn called when we were close enough to hear her, "we were thinking about heading over to Hagrid's now."
"Sounds good," Remus responded and I nodded agreement.
I again remained silent as we made our way across the now eerily hazy, dark grounds and listened, instead, to the others relive their moves out on the quidditch field. Penny had Sirius in an intense conversation about quidditch. James knocked on the door of the one room wooden cabin Hagrid, the Hogwarts groundskeeper, lived in.
"What're you lot doin' out so late, eh?" Hagrid looked around at the large group in front of his door.
"We were wondering if you'd like our company for some butterbeers," James said matter-of-factly.
"Where you, now? Well, come in then," his huge form moved out of the doorway and we all filed in. Even though everything was disproportionately large to accommodate Hagrid's height, the room looked much smaller with all of us crammed inside. I flattened myself against the wall until everybody else got situated.
James and Sirius had immediately started catching up with Hagrid around the table with Remus and Lynn. Peter, Lily, Octavius, and Penny had all taken seats on the huge bed against one wall. I was just going to make for the lone stool by the fire when Hagrid took notice of me.
"Jane! I didn' see you come in," he boomed, "how's it goin' with them malaclaws? I on'y jus' saw 'em las' week. Professor Kettleburn sure has a great year planned."
"Yes, I'm looking forward to meeting the merpeople in a few months," I replied, hopefully managing to turn only slightly red, hyperaware of many pairs of eyes looking from me to Hagrid and back again.
"Nah, don' get too excited abou' them," he waved his large hand, "bit rude, if ye ask me--"
"Do you two know each other?" James finally spoke up.
"O' course! I met Jane back in 'er firs' year," Hagrid's eyes crinkled so I could tell he was smiling under his tangled black beard, "bin havin' a cuppa ev'ry once in a while since."
Everyone looked at me. This time I knew I turned red as a brick.
"R-right," I stammered, "good times…"
Octavius was giving me a weird look from across the room. I wasn't entirely sure he'd known I had tea with Hagrid either--it was only once every couple months. He looked just as surprised as everyone else.
I quietly sidled over to the stool and sank down as conversation slowly began again. The rest of the night passed perched on said stool, only speaking when spoken to. Lynn seemed to be having a good time, but then, she seemed like the type of person that could have a good time just about anywhere. She talked easily with everyone, and (to my slight dismay) was sure to include everyone even if it meant pointedly asking me questions that I couldn't just nod or sign in answer to.
Sirius politely made conversation by asking me to tell him everything I knew about cars and motorcycles after hearing me hesitantly telling Lynn my parents were Muggles. James and Octavius enthusiastically joined that conversation, and thankfully Lily and Lynn helped me answer some of their questions--at least one of both of their parents were Muggles too.
When Hagrid realized it was already past eleven o'clock, he scolded us for being out so late and sent us back up to the castle. On the fifth floor we parted ways, Tavi and I heading to the west as they continued climbing to the seventh floor.
"Did you have a good time?" he asked me quietly.
I nodded, not able to conceal a smile. Tonight had actually turned out much better than I thought it was going to.
"I knew you'd enjoy yourself," he smiled knowingly.
"Which is heavier: a pound of feathers or a pound of gold?"
"They're equal, unless you're considering density, in which case, gold," I argued with the bronze eagle doorknocker, with whom I rarely got on well. Octavius audibly sighed.
"Just go in," the knocker snapped.
"Glad he wasn't in an argumentative mood tonight. So, Hagrid, huh?" he arched an eyebrow at me as we entered the common room.
"He knows a lot about magical creatures," I shrugged, "he's better than the library for getting homework done."
"Wow, then he really must know his stuff. I never thought there'd come a day when Jane Montague would admit that anything is better than the library," he said sarcastically.
I rolled my eyes and waved goodnight over my shoulder when we parted at the staircases up to bed. Some things were better than libraries… admittedly that was a very short list.
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