"Ooh," squeals Em Cadwallader, looking up from the paperback novel in her hands, "I do like that idea." Her hair has exploded over her shoulders again, despite having been wrestled into barrettes not ten minutes before.
Evie Wildt, another of my roommates, looks impatient. "Which one?"
"Andy and Ellery Hines. He has a lovely deep voice."
I groan. "Oh, Evie, don’t rope Em into this. Listen, as much as I enjoy listing potential love interests for myself-"
"No, see, I was about to say," Evie says to Em, as though I haven’t spoken at all, "I don’t think he’s terribly bright. I just remembered that he was my date to Hogsmeade last year. I told him I was interested in a place in the Minister's cabinet, and we had a whole conversation about it before I realized that he thought I was talking about a unit of furniture."
I snort, but Em's face falls in genuine disappointment. "Oh, that's a shame."
"Well, we don't have to rule him out," she allows. "On the positive side, he must have a robust sense of humour, because he seemed quite amused by the idea of me squeezing into a cabinet in the Ministry of Magic."
Enough, I decide, beginning to shovel books into my poor, decrepit school bag. “We should do this again sometime,” I say, bouncing to my feet, “but for now, I’m getting out of here. I smell James Potter.”
It’s hard to ignore James Potter’s presence: he tends to commandeer the room, with his hair sticking out at all angles, a handsome grin that he must have been born wearing, and his position on the Gryffindor Quidditch team. His height doesn’t hurt, either – as a fifth year, he’s among the tallest in the house.
“He’s not here yet,” I say with a sigh to Em, who has been whipping her head around in panic. Yet is the key concept in this sentence – James and his cronies are impressively consistent in their popping up to show off.
As a rule, I spend evenings in the common room as a sign of loyalty to Lily – Lily Evans, yet another roommate and friend – who is resigned to the fact that wherever she goes, James will follow. But in the face of our Charms test the next day, I reason that she’ll be understanding if I hide in the library for an hour.
Neither Em nor Evie seem interested in accompanying me, so I make the trip through the cold castle alone. Madam Pince, the new librarian, eyes me suspiciously when I enter the library; she looks slightly unnerved when I give her a big smile in return. On my way past the famously neglected legislature aisle, I remember to dig in to Lily’s biscuits, stashed behind a book on 18th century equine laws.
Twenty minutes later, I’m hunched low over my textbook with my nose almost touching the tiny print. I’d been reading the same paragraph for about five minutes, periodically pausing to nibble on a Jammie Dodger. With a sigh, I toss my hair over my shoulder, dip my quill in ink, and begin to copy out the definition of a Silencing Charm – I have shamelessly acknowledged that I’ll have to ask Lily what it actually means later.
I lean back in my chair to survey my notes, sending a scattering of crumbs onto my lap. The section on Cheering Charms is a bit weakly informed, and I think of the textbook Evie mentioned. Not that she’s exactly a foolproof academic resource herself – in fact, thinking about it, I can’t remember having seen her with a Charms textbook since third year. She cares little about how she does in school and even less about what people think of her – and yet, unfairly, she gets good grades and is universally liked.
I turn into the Charms aisle without noticing the head of shaggy black hair a few feet away. “Evening, Thorpe,” says Sirius Black, glancing over his shoulder at me. I scowl. The only reason I’m in the library is that he shouldn’t be – anxiously, I consider the prospect that James might jump out at any moment.
Sirius and James are bloody inseparable. They have another pair of associates, too. It’s been about five months since the beginning of my fifth year at Hogwarts, and that lot are probably the biggest of my worries: neither the approaching OWLs, nor the lectures regularly dished out about them, can compare with the chaos that lot manages to create.
“Do you even know my first name, Black?” I ask absently as I squint at book titles, if only to fulfil the social necessity of a response.
“Of course I do, Addison,” he says smoothly, his dark eyes sparkling. He likes to argue.
“Andy,” I correct.
“You said name, not nickname.”
“And there are perhaps three people alive who are still under the impression that my name is Addison,” I say, barely hiding a smile. There’s a brief silence in which I consult the index of A Compendium of Useful Charms and Sirius – well, I can’t possibly think what Sirius is doing in the library. Cocky bugger.
Eventually, I snap the book shut and tuck it under my arm. “Cheers, then, Andy Thorpe,” Sirius calls after me. I don’t bother to reply.
“I don’t think I’m ready for this test,” frets Lily over breakfast. “I didn’t have time to memorize half the definitions, and I don’t think I understand the theory of Aguamenti at all.”
“Oh, you’ll be fine,” groans Evie, emerging from her mug of coffee. “You’re a bloody Charms whiz.”
“I didn’t know that we were supposed to learn Cheering and Confundus Charms at all until Leah told me this morning,” Em shares cheerfully. We all take Leah’s wordless glower as confirmation of this.
If there’s one thing Leah Bell can do, it’s glower wordlessly. She particularly enjoys doing so in the mornings and when dealing with those who mess around with her. In our first year, when a homesick Em was teased by Evie, Leah offered to share her bed with the former – only after chucking a pot plant at Evie’s head, of course. But the rest of the time, I should add, she’s actually quite chipper – terrifying, of course, but chipper.
“Cheering Charms,” begins Evie, “originated – erm.”
Helpfully, I reel off a history of Cheering Charms. I receive shocked looks from all around and exclaim, “What? I studied!”
“Well, repeat that, will you?” Leah says, slipping out her wand. “I’m going to write it on the sole of my shoe – an old Muggle trick, I hear.”
“I hope you’re not serious,” chastises Lily, reaching for the salt.
“Busted, Leah,” sings Evie. “The prefect’s caught you in the act.”
“Oh, not even Lil would take points off her own house,” dismisses Leah.
“Really? Not in my experience,” James Potter says, dropping into place beside Remus Lupin, who’d been eating in silence with a shabby book propped up against the pumpkin juice.
For starters, Remus is a handsome boy, by all accounts. I know from Arithmancy lessons that Remus is smart, and from eavesdropping that he often disapproves of the pranks the other boys pull. He’s a prefect, along with Lily, who occasionally storms about complaining that she can’t understand why Remus sticks with James and crew. Altogether, a pleasant presence. James, on the other hand...
I whimper into my food.
“Yeah, well, you’re the exception, Potter,” smirks Em.
“Well, that stings, Caddywally.” He and his cronies had been calling Em that for years, despite – or, arguably, because of – how it very clearly grated against her good nature.
Em looks furious, and I finger my wand under the table. At the beginning of the year, Em wouldn’t hex a soul, but she’d been different lately. There’d been a “disturbance in the force”, as Evie once declared (to Lily’s exasperation – she’d been the one to introduce us to a Muggle craze called Star Wars). But on this occasion, Em takes a deep breath and returns to her Niffler Nuts – sickeningly sweet cereal hiding gold charms.
“Listen, Evans,” James continues, leaning forwards in his seat and using a softer voice reserved for Lily. “There’s a Hogsmeade weekend coming up, and you owe me a date.”
I raise an eyebrow. I’m hardly surprised, of course, and yet still amazed.
Lily throws down her fork and stands up noisily. I hurry to mop up the milk she’s knocked over, and gulp down a couple more mouthfuls of toast. It appears we’ll be leaving shortly.
“No, James Potter, you listen,” she hisses, jabbing a finger in his chest. “You disgust me, I despise you, and good ruddy luck finding another date for Hogsmeade, because your ruddy head is too big to fit through the doorway of all the stores I want to go to. No, really, the chances of me going out with you are lower than the chances of you asking me nicely next time.”
Em stands up, too, with a determined expression. “Oh, and if you call me Caddywally once more, I will plant false memories in the heads of every one of your teachers, so that you’re known as Potty for the rest of your days.”
I choke on my laughter. Lily rejecting James is always entertaining, but once in a while there’s a remark for the books. Em’s addition, too, is just as funny as it is surprising.
After a moment’s silence, Lily turns away from James and says stiffly, “Em, Leah, we have Divination now. Let’s go.”
“Right, and after that Herbology,” Em says, wrinkling her nose. Already back to normal. She’s always whining about the plants we study and digging the dirt out from under her nails with cries of disgust, but the fact remains that she’s the best in our year at the subject.
The trio left, Leah doing an even worse job of hiding her amusement than me. I smile, watching James watch Lily’s red plait swing about. He’s wearing an expression that gives him the air of a sulky toddler, and I can’t help but think how incredibly appropriate that is.
The concept of "the force"
, and that of a disturbance in the same, in this context belongs to the Star Wars series and franchise. The Star Wars series and franchise is the creation of George Lucas. This is also a good time to acknowledge that I'm borrowing many characters, settings, and events from JKR - anything you recognise isn't mine!
Big fat edit on 19/07. It's been ages since I posted the first chunk of chapters, and since then I've written a lot
and decided it was time for a revamp. These changes will include a shocking tense change (from past to present), more silliness to offset the angst, and, erm, more desserts.
Revamp aside, this is my first story on the archives and reviews make me flail. And flail violently, too - I may need to clear my desk of breakable objects before I start posting again. Thank you for reading, and I hope you haven't been confused by the avalanche of new characters.
Expect: trouser snakes, Serious Conversations, kittens, and snogging.