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Chapter 2 : Autumn Reds
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Autumn was Lily’s favorite season.
She loved celebrating Halloween, especially the Halloween she’d enjoyed when she was ten. She’d worked hard to create a witch costume for herself, forgoing the traditional warts and ungainly black hat for a more polished, glamorous look, streaking her hair with colors of all hues to reflect her belief that a real witch would use her magic to change her appearance to her liking. It had been almost unreal to find, less than a year later, that not only were witches real, but that some of them were incredibly beautiful, their flawless appearances merely enhanced by magic.
She loved watching the leaves fall, some of them waiting patiently until they had turned almost as red as her own wavy, scarlet locks before they floated gracefully down to meet their ends. She loved taking the precious bit of money her impoverished parents saved up and using it to purchase new school supplies, clean sheets of parchment and shiny new quills and ink wells. She loved taking walks outside in the blissful temperature between summer warmth and winter chill.
By far, though, Lily’s favorite thing about autumn was the arrival of September first.
She idly walked across the thin carpet of leaves that had begun to form on the stone road below, the impatient ones that still wore green and yellow hues, smiling when she finally saw the sign for Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. After a moment’s anxiety, the brief span of time that it took for her to get over her fear of judgment and plunge through the barrier right in front of the surrounding Muggles, she stood before the great red engine that would take her to Hogwarts.
Lily liked the color red, too.
She pushed gently through the throng of people that continually crossed her path, pulling her trunk behind her and struggling to keep her purse perched upon her shoulder as she walked. She made it all the way down to the last car, a storage area that had been expanded with a rather clever Extension Charm, rendering it large enough to effortlessly hold the bags of all the students on the inside but allowing it to retain the appearance of a normal train car on the outside. With several students in line ahead of her, Lily offered the exasperated-looking attendant an apologetic smile and took a moment to relieve the strain on her shoulder, setting both bags on the ground.
“Good morning, Lily,” Remus said, taking the empty space behind her. His mother and father waved briefly at her as they came to stand beside him, toting along his battered brown suitcase. Remus’s parents were still rather protective of him, though Lily wasn’t sure why, though she supposed it had something to do with the many illnesses he contracted each school year. Lily wished for good health for him each Christmas when she went home to visit her family, but his condition never seemed to change. It was a pity, since he was only sixteen years old, like her.
“Good morning,” Lily replied cheerfully. “Isn’t it a nice day?”
“It is nice,” Remus responded, and Lily was pleased to see that he looked reasonably well today.
The two of them paused in their conversing as she heard an argument approaching. The crowd parted once more, and the Black family stepped through, cutting everyone else in line and leaving the two boys’ bags sitting next to the attendant for him to take care of himself. Lily frowned slightly as she watched the two climb abroad the train, having fallen into silence now that their mother had made her exit and there was no longer a catalyst to spur them on.
“That’s so rude,” Lily remarked, glancing at her friend. “They should stand here in line with everyone else and make sure their things are put away. They aren’t better than the rest of us.”
“Well, they don’t really know any better, I think,” Remus replied. “I’ve never been to visit, but I think Sirius’s family has house elves to do everything for them.”
“That man’s not a house elf,” Lily objected. “Besides, Sirius has been a student for long enough now to have learned how to treat others properly, people and elves alike.”
“I don’t think the elves are really bothered by being ordered around, Lily. Don’t feel bad.”
“I just don’t see the harm in asking nicely. I bet that man doesn’t appreciate being treated that way.”
“You’re right there,” Remus replied, watching as the man paused long enough to notice the bags and form a deep frown. “Maybe I’ll say something to Sirius about it.”
“I’m sure the attendant would appreciate it.” Lily smiled. “By the way, I meant to ask, are you still interested in joining our study group for N.E.W.T.s?” She had really gotten to know Remus last year, when she and some friends had stumbled upon him reading alone in the library. She had invited him to join them as they studied for O.W.L.s, and he had really come to offer some great insight on various topics, particularly Transfiguration and Defense Against the Dark Arts.
“Yes, I’d like that,” Remus replied. “Have you decided on a time yet?”
“No, but I’ll let you know, don’t worry,” Lily said, realizing that it was almost her turn in line. The person currently handing his bags to the attendant turned around, and Lily and Remus were pleased to see Peter standing there. The shorter Gryffindor waved at them, obediently kissing his mother goodbye and walking over to where they stood in line.
“Hey, Remus!” Peter said brightly, glancing over at Lily. He didn’t know her very well, and she never seemed terribly pleased to see him, Sirius and James, especially the three of them together. “Hello, Lily,” he said tentatively.
“Hi, Peter,” Lily said quietly. She didn’t know him as well as Remus, but she had always suspected that he got more wrapped up in James and Sirius’s schemes than he usually planned on. Besides, she liked to try to give people the benefit of the doubt most of the time.
“Looking forward to the term?” Remus said.
Peter began to offer predictions about the Gryffindor Quidditch Team’s upcoming season, and Lily took the opportunity to leave the conversation, handing her bag gently to the attendant. When she turned, Peter was already moving toward the nearest entrance to the train, the engine having begun to make a noise that signaled that it would soon be departing the station. She passed Remus once more and offered him a parting smile as he moved to the front of the line.
Peter climbed aboard the train ahead of her, taking a right turn and heading toward the sound of loud gloating, which was being uttered in Sirius’s unmistakably proud tone. Not quite ready to face the seemingly friendly ridicule of the full set of Marauders, Lily took the left turn instead, quickly deciding that she’d made a good decision when she noticed the snack cart up ahead of her. She waited patiently as a pair of nervous-looking first years purchased a small fortune in Chocolate Frogs, and when it was her turn, she still hadn’t decided which items she should purchase. When the attendant looked as if she was nearing the end of her patience, Lily gave in, requesting one Pumpkin Pasty and a Cauldron Cake with an apologetic smile.
“Have you ever tried these?”
Lily turned to find James Potter standing at her side. She almost didn’t recognize him, however, because he was wearing a timid, genuine-looking smile in place of his usual arrogant smirk, and also because he was extending what looked like a pack of Every Flavor Beans that had not yet been tampered with to her. She took a moment to breathe in and out, fully aware of the fact that this moment marked the first time she’d spoken to Potter since the fateful incident of last year.
“Yes, I’ve tried Bertie Bott’s Beans.”
James looked like he might falter for a moment, but he shook it off, gently pushing them into her hands. “Well, have some more, Evans. My treat. Assuming you liked them, of course.”
“Of course I like them. There’s every flavor, so there’s bound to be at least one you like…” Lily realized that she was laughing to herself and paused, remembering to whom she was speaking. “I mean, thank you. Between these and the things I bought, I won’t have an appetite for the feast.”
“I, um…” James stopped mid-sentence, using the energy to form a tentative smile instead.
“There you are!” A confident-sounding female voice echoed from behind them.
Lily turned from James, smiling as she found the faces of her two closest friends beaming at her from a compartment a few feet down the corridor. One, a tall Muggle-born girl with stick-straight blonde hair, was Ellery Edelstock, the first girl to ever play Keeper for the Hufflepuff team. She had met Lily during their first day of Transfiguration, when they had shared a parrot that they took turns changing into an umbrella during the double period. Standing next to her was Celestine DeMarco, a beautiful Gryffindor girl of Italian descent whose mother had selected her name based on the amount of Warbeck albums she played during the pregnancy. The latter of the two waved at Lily frantically, signaling for her to come and join them for the ride to school.
“Uh…” It was apparently Lily’s turn to be lost for words. The familiar sensation of frustration and embarrassment had not occupied her stomach during her brief conversation with James, and the resulting emptiness left a wide realm of possibility, one that seemed terrifying at first blush. “I should probably go and join them, you know, before the train takes off,” she decided at last.
“Right,” James replied, taking his small stash of candy and nodding at her before he turned in the other direction to head back to his friends. As she moved to go as well, Lily noticed that he had too much candy for just himself, having almost certainly purchased enough for his friends to share. She released a tiny smile, fluffing her hair nervously and heading toward her friends.
As soon as she sat down, Celestine leaned forward at her. “That was strange.”
“What?” Lily asked, popping one of the beans into her mouth. Treacle – good so far.
“Well, you just had a conversation with James without hexing him even once.”
“We were impressed,” Ellery added, grinning at her friend knowingly.
“What?” Lily repeated, her tone becoming slightly defensive as she bit into too large a chunk of Pumpkin Pasty. “What is that supposed to mean? I don’t just go around hexing people, you know…” She began to chew somewhat hastily, afraid that she might choke if it went down as is.
“It’s nothing, it’s just…” Celestine smiled, pursing her full lips. “It was weird, watching you two interact like normal people. The question is, did only one of you get Polyjuiced, or was it both?”
“Very funny.” Lily rolled her eyes, stuffing the rest of the treat into her mouth without thinking.
“She’s just hoping you two are on better terms so you can see about getting Sirius Black to ask her to Hogsmeade,” Ellery added, digging in her luggage for her school uniform.
Celestine began to protest loudly, unintentionally letting everyone in the surrounding compartments know that Sirius Black was incredibly attractive but in such a way that he was either too proud or too stupid to actually make use of it and ask a girl out on a date. Lily leaned against the window, her hands idly fishing in her bag for her own uniform but her mind outside with the rolling hills that escorted the train along its route. As her friends continued to badger one another, she busied herself with counting the seconds until they arrived at Hogwarts, where she could put enough people between her and James Potter to perhaps forget about him entirely.
Within the hour, the Hogwarts Express came to rest on the grounds of the school, and Lily followed her friends and the other students up to the carriages that would take them to the opening feast. However, when she had placed her hand on the railing to heft herself up into one of the carriages with her friends, she realized that she had somehow dropped one of her prized possessions, a ring that her mother allowed her to borrow each term for good luck on her exams. She asked the other girls to hold the carriage for just a moment and turned back to look for it.
She found it lying in the dirt at the bottom of the stairs that led up to the carriages. However, when she stood up, she found that she was not alone. A familiar face had happened upon her.
“Lily,” Severus said, sounding pleasantly shocked to find her alone. He took a few moments to stumble over his thoughts, unable to decide what to say to the girl he hadn’t spoken to in months.
“Hi, Severus,” Lily replied after an uncomfortable silence, inwardly shaming herself for being rude. Then again, she had been a bit distracted by the fact that his hair had grown more ragged since the last time she’d seen him, and he smelled as if he hadn’t had a bath in several days.
“H-hi,” he managed, shoving his hands awkwardly in the pockets of his trousers and finding a second surprise there, holes big enough to allow three fingers on one hand and one on the other to poke part of the way through. “I missed you this summer,” he blurted without thinking.
Lily nearly admitted aloud that she could have predicted this comment, but she instead settled for a polite nod of acknowledgement. “I really should be getting back. The carriages are about to leave.” He couldn’t very well argue with it, now could he? Perhaps she was too late as it was.
He said nothing, and she took this as her chance to get away, being careful to avoid his eyes.
“Lily, please, just give me another chance.” The second blurt bordered on an annoyance. This person was far from the cooler, more composed version of her friend, the one who had been the first person to educate her about the intricacies of the magical world beyond her school letter. Surely this could not be the same boy who was the only person fit to challenge her in Potions?
“Sev…” The old nickname slipped out, and the inner monologue of shame started anew. Lily sighed, finally meeting his eyes only to find tears forming in them. She immediately turned back toward the carriages. “I just can’t talk to you about this right now, okay?” she called softly back.
Then, Severus watched her retreat through the tears, two words echoing in his mind: right now.
I’ve been trying to perfect my use of dialogue tags and punctuation for dialogue. To that effect, if you believe that I’ve made a mistake, please include those comments as part of your review. Thank you in advance, and I hope you are enjoying the story!
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