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Let It All Out by genhp
Chapter 2 : Bonfires and Brie
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 4

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* * *

The next morning comes all too soon, my body not yet accustomed to waking up so early. But something about being back at the castle meant as soon as the sunrise broke through the glass paneled windows of my dormitory, my mind was awake.

I sleepily rise from the soft mattress and pull the dark scarlet curtains from around my bed. Emmeline’s curtains are still drawn and I can hear the soft sound of snoring from behind them, so I take that to mean she is still asleep. Marigold’s curtains, however, are opened and her small form is spread diagonally across the bed, with one leg tangles in the curtain pull as she snoozes away.

I smile to myself as I rise and tiptoe towards the bathroom door. 

Lily Evans and Alice Knight are at the line of silvery mirrors on the left, chatting as they brush their hair. They occupy the dormitory next to ours along with Marlene McKinnon, Dorcas Meadowes and Jacqueline Niggle and the bathroom was adjoined to both of our respective rooms.

“Morning,” I say in casual greeting as I grab a fluffy towel from the shelf beside the showers, still warm from the laundry that a House Elf had no doubt brought up earlier.

“Good morning Aurora!” I hear Alice reply sweetly as I step into the shower stall and turn on the tap, the cool rush of water giving me goosebumps as I stand waiting for it to warm up.

“So did you get a chance to talk to him about…it?” I hear Alice quietly ask Lily.

I start to lather up a lavender soap in my hands, reveling in the scent and steamy water now flowing from the faucet.

“We’ve barely had time to talk about anything other than Head duties,” Lily replies, and I realize she’s referring to James. I am still for a moment, curiosity getting the better of me.

“He hasn’t even mentioned it?” Alice whispers. She was obviously trying to downplay the conversation, knowing I may hear.

“Well no, he keeps acting like everything is normal. Like its the end of last term again…like this summer didn’t happen. It’s infuriating, actually,” Lily replies, even quieter. But I can still make out her words.

“Do you suppose he regrets it?”

“I…I’m not sure. I don’t think so, because he hasn’t been unkind, just…”

“A boy?” The two girls share a laugh.

“Well yes. Clueless, essentially,” Lily replies.

I bite my lip. Perhaps Remus was wrong about them not bumping into each other in Brighton afterall…

I am considering telling Sirius about it a breakfast when I hear Lily and Alice exit the bathroom as a new pair of footsteps enter.

“Rora? If that’s you, pass that lavender soap, this stall’s out!” I hear Emmeline’s voice from the shower beside me. I roll my eyes and silently toss the soap bar over the side. I hear a thump and a grumpy exclamation.

Once I’m clean, I turn off the tap and wrap myself in my towel and step out onto the cold stone tile. I hesitate outside the stall for a moment before going back into our dormitory, wondering if I should share my newfound information with Marigold and Emmeline. I consider Margiold’s propensity for extroversion and gossip and think better of it…I had a feeling neither James nor Lily wanted many people to know.

As I step back into my room, my mind is tangled in thoughts about it; if Lily and James had gotten together over the holiday, this would mean big things for James. He had been in love with her for two years, essentially. But why would he then be so secretive about it now? He had certainly made no secret of his crush before…

Marigold is still sound asleep as I pull on my skirt and stockings, taking care not to wake her with my noisiness. Though I’m fairly sure nothing short of a dragon’s roar could wake her in the state she’s in.

Just as I have finished throwing on my favorite burgundy jumper on over my still damp hair, Emmeline emerges from the bathroom.

“I’ll meet you two downstairs,” I whisper to her as I stash my wand in my skirt pocket and grab my Astronomy textbook.

“Save some toast for me!” I hear Emmeline quietly exclaim as I descend the steps towards the Common Room.

The tower room is still quiet and mostly deserted. The dark wooden beams stretching across the high vaulted ceiling are flecked with the early morning sun as it stretches it fingers across the scarlet tapestries hanging from the curvilinear walls. It seems most everyone is sleeping in this morning as I survey the empty cushioned chairs and sofas, mismatched but rich in color and crafting. The enormous stone fireplace is crackling and I go over to make myself comfortable with my book.

But I stop when I realize the large sofa facing the hearth is, in fact, occupied.

“Remus!” I say, when I find the sand haired form below me, stretched lengthwise along the cushions. 

He opens his sleepy eyes and gives me a weak smile.

“Mornin’” he says with a yawn as he sits up to give me room to sit.

“Did you sleep out here?” I ask.

“Oh no, I was just up early and came down to think and must’ve dozed off,” he explains with some embarrassment.

“Where’s James, Sirius and Peter?” I look around, but Remus and I were definitely the only ones around.

“Still sleeping,” Remus says. “We were up late,”

“Exploding Snap?” I guess, knowing that to be a favorite pastime of the group.

Remus shakes his head, and winces slightly. “Firewhiskey,”

I give a knowing look and a short laugh. “Well you certainly waste no time,”

“It was a bit of an odd night though,” Remus contends, “James wouldn’t tell us much about what happened this summer. Sirius was getting a bit miffed, actually, so he kept egging him on with more booze. Didn’t really work though,”

My stomach tenses slightly and I shift in my seat. I again weigh my options; should I tell Remus about what I overheard? I would hate to start a rumor. The gossip mill of this castle was a realm I avoided like dragon pox.

“What do you mean?” I ask innocently. 

“He kept avoiding the subject, the be honest. Makes me wonder…” Remus says, his eyes eyes faraway in contemplation. 

“What?” I prompt. Perhaps I could get him to the same conclusion as I without spilling the proverbial beans. 

“Well it’s a bit funny, because I asked about how Head duties had gone last night with Lily, and he seemed even less willing to say anyway,” Remus said. I could tell he was concerned. Remus was always the more perceptive of the boys. He had a keep sense of when something was wrong with any of us. 

“And I have a feeling something happened between the two of them, but knowing James it seems like he would say something if it involved Lily. He was obsessed with her after all,”

“Well,” I start, uncertain of how to respond without giving myself away. “Maybe there’s…more to the story than we think,” I prompt carefully.

Remus gives me an inquisitive look at this and I fear his coming suspicion when the creak of a drooling above us alerts us to my friends’ emergence.

“Breakfast, gents!” Emmeline exclaims as she drags a half asleep Marigold behind her. 

Grateful for the escape opportunity, I give Remus a shrug which hopefully communicates my willingness to continue the conversation later and lurch up to follow my two friends.

“See you later, Remus!” We call as we climb out the portrait hole.

* * *

“Looks like the house elves have gotten fancy,” Emmeline says once we sit down to breakfast, holding up a piece of a creamy brie cheese with her knife.

Marigold giggles. “Well it’s certainly very French. You would know all about that, wouldn’t you Em?” She spears a granny smith apple slice between the prongs of her fork and chomps into it noisily.

Emmeline rolls her eyes. “You sleep with one bloody Frenchman and the world doesn’t let you forget about it…” she mutters darkly.

Just then, a figure appears behind us. It’s Lily, carrying a stack of parchment. She gives a flash of a smile as she promptly hands me a piece. Her green eyes lock with mine for a moment, and I wonder if she knows what I overheard.

“New schedules,” she explains politely. “I’m helping McGonagall pass them out.”

“Thanks,” I say gratefully, taking mine. Marigold eagerly grabs her own, icy blue eyes racking the written timetable of hers and mine.

“I have two lessons with you, Rora! Tuesdays and Thursdays!” and she beams at me as she copies it down in her notebook. Emmeline grabs it now, noting her own.

“Ah, just Potions with you,” Emmeline notes. “And History of Magic with Marigold,”

James, Remus, Peter and Sirius have appeared now, striding over with yawns. The former three clearly have practically just rolled out of bed while Remus follows closely behind, still looking lost in thought.

“Hello Evans, how are you this morning?” James asks Lily politely when they approach us.

“I’m fine,” Lily mutters tersely with a quick smile and a downward glance. She hastily grabs four more of the slips of parchment from her pile and practically tosses them to the boys.

“Here. And Potter, you’d have better give me a hand with this,” she says pointedly to James, gesturing to her large stack.

James only smoothly replies, “Absolutely, Lily flower”

Lily’s green eyes blaze and I notice her flushing cheeks, “If you wish to keep your fingers, Potter, you will kindly not call me that,” she hisses, but we all hear.

“Fine. Allow me to help you with that, Ginger,” James responds, colder now, taking half of the stack. Lily visibly bites her lip and shoots him a stoney glance as the two of them walk off together towards the other House tables.

“Ah, young love,” Sirius muses sarcastically to me as he sits down and beings to dig into eggs and potatoes.

“You’d think they were a married couple,” Peter jokes as he looks after them. “They get on so well.”

Sirius gives a snort of laughter. “Practically destined to grow old and grey together, them.”

“One of these days, she’s really going to kill or curse him,” Emmeline mutters. “I know I would,”

“Good first sleep everyone, I trust?” Remus addresses the group as he pours himself a generous cup of tea, clearly withing to steer the conversation away from Lily and James. I make eye contact with him and I see the questioning in his eyes.

“Oh yes, the sound of Marigolds snoring and Aurora’s sleep talking is quite conducive to a well rested night,” Emmeline responds as she bites into a piece of golden brown toast. Marigold shoots her a glance and I bitterly reply in confusion, “Sleep talking?”

“Yes. Something about chocolate mice and Franz Dinglemeyer?” She replies, referring to a famous (and quite attractive) Quidditch player from Germany.

Sirius and Peter are beside themselves laughing. “Fancy him, then, Rora?”

My face goes hot.“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Anyway. What’s your lot’s schedules like?” I hastily change the subject and lean over to compare my timetable to Sirius’s.

I notice we share Charms and Arithmancy this term, and a free period on Wednesdays. For some reason, whether fate or chance, we had never gone a year at Hogwarts since knowing each other without sharing these two lessons. It was, in fact, a shared Charms lesson during our fourth year when we had first become friends.

“Nice, as always” Sirius says as we line ours up. “I’ll be expecting you to help me with the Arithmancy, seeing as I’m bloody hopeless in maths,”

“But of course,” I say amicably. “Why’d they put you in there, anyway?”

“Required for Auror training,” Sirius replies. “Unfortunately.”

“Must I always do your mathematically inept self’s bidding?” I let my lips break into a smile as raise an eyebrow expectantly, but I’m only joking. On more than one occasion, I had been practically designated Gryffindor’s resident maths tutor.

“Yes, you must,” Sirius says in mock-contempt.

The group continues our morning chatter as we practically stuff ourselves to death with the delectable food. Hogwarts cuisine had that funny way of sneaking up on you, and before you knew it you would find yourself curled up on a sofa somewhere napping away the afternoon.

“Well mates, Emmeline and I are going to go for some sunbathing on the grounds, care to come?” Marigold asks us, as she and Emmeline begin to rise from the benches. I’m still working on my omelet and Sirius has helped himself to seconds so I wave her off.

“I’ll just see you later in the common room, go ahead,” I say.

“No worries. What about you, Remus? Peter?” Emmeline inquires of the rest of us.

Remus shakes his head and politely declines. “Nah, Pete and I are going down to the kitchens for some stocking up on food,” he gives us a devious smile as they too rise.

“Oh be a dear and grab me some pumpkin pasties?” Emmeline asks eagerly.

“Will do, Ems.”

Once they’re gone, Sirius looks surreptitiously back at me. “So what’s this about Emmeline shagging some French wizard?”

I choke on my pumpkin juice. “Oh, summer love, y’know,” I say casually, trying not to laugh. I know having everyone in school know about her romantic escapades is about the last thing that Emmeline wants. And having Sirius and James know would eventually ensure that.

“Hmm, interesting,” he says with a smirk. “And what about you, Rora? Any summer flings?” He is staring at me furtively, yet intensely now. I am a bit caught off guard. I don’t think he’s ever directly inquired about my romantic jaunts in the world of snogging and shagging before.

“Uh, no not really,” I spurt out awkwardly.

“Hmm,” he says simply, digging back into his food.

“Black,” comes a voice behind us. We turn to see Marlene McKinnon, standing there with her long blonde hair and imposing Chaser frame, has come over. “Good rest of your summer?”

Sirius shrugs haughtily. “S’alright. How was Scotland?” 

Marlene smirks, “Not as good as London. But beautiful,” She gives me a nod and a courteous smile. “I actually came over to check when Quidditch trials are scheduled?”

“Ah. That,” Sirius has finished his plate now, so he pushes it away from him and begins to rise to face her. “I reckon James is the one to ask, being Captain and all?”

“Right. Well let me know when you blokes sort it, because I won’t be having anyone taking my slot,”

“You never know, could have some amazing First Year talent,” Sirius responds casually. Marlene raises a brow.

“Just let them try to match me,” she stares challengingly straight into his eyes as she says this. 

I push around the remaining bits of my breakfast on my plate.

“Oh that reminds me,” Sirius says, looking back at me. “Gryffindor welcome back bonfire, tonight. On the lake, at sunset,”

“Well, as is tradition,” I say. It is true. We’ve had one since fifth year. And they always ended up being broken up by Filch or whoever else. But perhaps this year, being our last, the staff would give us a break.

“Make sure to pass it on,” he says to Marlene, who smiles and turns on her heel to head back to her friends.

“Will do, Black.”

“Blimey, you two need to shag already,” comes the voice of Dorcas Meadowes from across the table when Marlene leaves earshot. She was a petite but fierce sixth year in our house.

Sirius looks around to her, perplexed. “Excuse me?”

“Do us all a favor and be done with it,” Dorcas teases, and her friends erupt laughter.

Sirius give one bark-like laugh.

“You are hilarious, Dorcas, really…But you’re a bit late on that one,”

I choke the last bite of my omelette as. But Sirius is not paying attention, instead he has taken out a piece of parchment I assume is his timetable and is examining it. 

“Right, well, what are you plans for today?” I ask as we both rise and make our way out towards the entrance hall. 

“Going to scope out a good spot for the bonfire out on the grounds. Care to join?” Sirius offers. 

Having not much else to do, I shrug in agreement. “Sure. Em and Marigold are probably already out there anyway,”

“It’s a plan,” Sirius responds with a smooth smile.

We break out into the clear sunshine of the grounds, watching the long silhouette of the trees shadows splaying across the vividly green lawn. We step carefully down the sloping ground towards the black lake shore. Many of the students seem to have a similar idea to us and their lounging forms can be seen throughout the landscape.

We approach a familiar tree by the waterside and take a seat beneath its shaded branches.

I slip off my shoes and dip my toes in the water.

“So, you never finished telling me about your flat,” I say as I plop down on a rock beside him.

Sirius runs a hand through his long dark mane of hair. “Yeah. Well James’ parents are really doing me a favor, helping me get a lease in London. Probably in Diagon Alley or near it,”

“Are your parents…okay with it?” I ask carefully. I knew too well the relationship Sirius had with his mother and father.

Sirius is a silent for an uncomfortable moment. “They don’t know anything about it, to be honest,” He finally says with a sigh.

“So you’re going to leave without telling them?” I ask, trying to keep my voice away from accusation. 

“I already left,” Sirius answers simply. 

My eyebrows raise in surprise. “Y-you did? When?”

“This summer,” He answers, his tone still even and unemotional. He takes out a small white package from his shirt pocket; a pack of cigarettes. He uses his wand to light the end of it and takes a long drag. This was a habit I had always disapproved of, but I say nothing to it.

“James and his family took me in a few weeks ago, after they got back from Brighton,”

“What happened?” I whisper. From everything I knew about Sirius’s family, him leaving wouldn’t have been a calm affair. 

“Mother dearest being her usual self,” Sirius answers bitterly. “Father being his usual worst,” Sirius takes another song drag. He offers it to me but I shake my head. I never was one for cigarettes.

“But what about Regulus?” I ask, referring to his younger brother. “Will he be…”

“Regulus has chosen his side,” Sirius snaps bitterly. “He can have them all to himself, for all I care,”

We are silent for a moment. 

“Was it bad?” I question slowly. I stare at Sirius, who is gazing off across the sunlit water, his hair billowing slight in the breeze across his face.

“I didn’t stick around for long,” Sirius answers. “My mother and father, they…wanted me to do something. Something I would abhor.” His voice is suddenly shaking with anger.

I wait for him to continue. 

“I refused. So they said either I do what they say, or leave. So I left,” He continues simply.

My heart is weighed down for him. watch as he blows smoke from his nostrils and heaves a sigh.

 We sit in silence for a moment, staring out across the expansive grounds, flecked with exploring students. I want to say words of comfort to him. I want to understand his situation. But I can’t.

“Oi!” Comes a loud shout from behind us. We look around to see Marigold and Emmeline strolling over to us, shoes in hand as they splash across the lakeshore to us.

We both straighten up a bit and wave at them.

“Have you two seen the new baby unicorn?” Marigold asks enthusiastically, beckoning to the gamekeeper’s cottage. “Hagrid has one tethered in the paddock with it’s mother for Kettleburn’s course tomorrow. He’s showing them off to the students!”

“No, we’ve just been over here,” I respond, not really in the mood for baby animals. My mind was still preoccupied.

“Maybe we’ll see it later,” Sirius answers, seeming to be thinking the same thing as me. “And anyway, I’ve got to go meet up with James and the gang, we’ve got to scout out a bonfire locale,” He stands up, puts out his cigarette.

“Okay, see you later,” I say, locking eyes with him and trying to convey my concern. He nods slightly and turns to make his way back. My eyes don’t leave him as he walks away.

* * *

Later Marigold, Emmeline and I are back in Gryffindor Tower, up in our dormitory starting the arduous task of unpacking and settling in. My things were still largely either still packed inside my trunk or flung haphazardly about my bed and side-table.

Marigold is holding up a dark green dress, with a low back and fitted waist. I had just flung it on my bed in the rush of my unpacking.

“It’s for the graduation ball at the end of term,” I explain, not looking up at her as I continue sorting through my trunk.

“Oh, it’s just so lovely!” Marigold exclaims, holding it out to herself. Marigold had a special love of fashion and beauty. She also had a special love of borrowing every last piece of clothing in my wardrobe.

“Well, it was my mum’s,” I say warningly. “We’ll see if I can look half as good as her in it,”

“Oh please, Aurora,” Emmeline chimes in from across the room. She has been pragmatically sorting and organizing her pile of books onto her little shelf. They were neatly set up in small groups of three, surrounded by trinkets she collects from her travels. I notice a new one I haven’t seen before; a small Eiffel Tower figurine distinctively engraved with ‘Emmeline, J’Taime’.

I bend back over and start grabbing more objects out of my trunk. A small telescope, a box of quills, a thick scarlet jumper.

Suddenly, there is a loud and pointed chirp at the window. We all look up to see my owl Ophelia has perched herself on the open windowsill.

“Ophie!” I exclaim as I catch sight of her. “What’re you doing up here, girl?” I walk over to her and give her wing a gentle stroke. She coos in response.

I notice she has a small rolled up bit of parchment clamped inside her beak.

“Oh, have you got mail already?” Marigold rises her from bed and slides over next to me, watching eagerly as I slowly unwind the packaging. It seems to have been covering a delicate glass vile full of a soft lilac smoke, with a white tag attached to the cork. I gingerly unfold the tag and read:

A little of home to remind you of us. Miss you already. Love, Dad.
PS: Stay safe.

I smile to myself as I open the vile and inhale the shimmering mist. It smells like mum’s cooking, blossoming trees, and burning candles, all at once. There is a lump in my throat.

“Aw, dad,” I whisper to myself. He really was impeccably good at this sort of thing. Little things to send me to brighten my day.

Marigold takes a sniff. “Oh, strawberries and basil and perfume!” she cries out. “Is that what your house smells like?”

I give her a confused look and then examine the bottle closer. “Hmm, it must have an enchantment on it to smell like comforting things depending on the holder,” I mutter. “Genius!"

“Your dad is a grade-A wizard, Rora,” Emmeline has come over too, and is also taking a whiff from the vile. “Parchment, orange spice, sea salt …Must have been bloody difficult to conjure this…”

I just smile and hold the vile to my chest for a moment. I reread the attached note, and my eyes stop at the last phrase. Stay safe. Once again, a reminder of the war, the horror looming just outside my peripheral, has been brought back to my attention. I gently fold up the note and place it under my pillow.

“Well, anyways, we should probably start getting ready for the bonfire. It’s nearly sunset,” I suggest after a moment. It’s already half past six.

“Right,” Emmeline says, still staring with interest at the vile as I stow it in my trunk. “And we shan’t be late for that, lest our heads be chopped off by the Holy Marauders?”

I give a snort of a laugh as I grab a woolen jumper from my trunk and throw it on over my jeans and t-shirt. I pull on my leather brown boots, worn and broken in past repair, but endeared strongly to my heart.

We make our way down the stairs and out the portrait hole. Though it is not yet sundown and thus we are perfectly allowed to be out on the grounds, too many people heading towards the grounds would attract too much attention and arise suspicion, so we cautiously and quietly venture out into the corridor.

We creep down the walkway, passing a few students every now and again, no doubt heading back from a late dinner or walk. No one seems to take special notice of us.

Once we reach the grounds, we spot a tiny grouping of students already down by the lake. The sun is slowly nearing the horizon, casting a golden-red glow over the grounds. The sky is only lightly cloudy, and a small dotting of stars, which I quickly identify as the Pleiades Cluster, has started to appear at the top of the sky above me.

As we approach, we see that Sirius and the boys are already standing around a great stack of wood in a sandy pit. They’ve moved logs in a circle around it to use a seating.

Evidently, the bonfire has not yet been ignited, as Remus is working on arranging the wood pile so that it’ll catch the flames. There are a few other Gryffindors there already and they’re spread out chatting.

“Oi!” Marigold calls out to them. They wave to us in greeting as we join their group.

“Why hello there,” James beams in greeting to us and promptly hands us bottles of foaming butterbeer. He must have smuggled it into school somehow, perhaps with that bottle of fire whiskey that had finished Remus.

“Cheers,” I say gratefully as I grab a bottle for myself. I sit down with Marigold and Emmeline on one of the logs in front of the pit.

Marlene and her friend Ginnifer Kirke, another Quidditch player, are to our right already tucked into their butterbeer and chatting amiably with the others. I cast my gaze upon Marlene for a moment. Her sunny blonde hair, wind swept and thick, looks more like someone who’s spent all her summer days on a beach rather than on the foggy British isle.

“It’s a beautiful evening out,” Frank Longbottom observes, who is sitting to our left with Alice and Dorcas.

“Mhmm, “I agree, taking a sip of butterbeer. “It feels so nice to be back,”

“And great conditions for Quidditch,” James adds, as he comes over to join our small huddle.

“Have you already got tryouts set up, then?” Marlene inquires from beside us. Her dark blue eyes are enthusiastic. “I was asking someone earlier who was not very helpful,”

“Yes,” James says. “Wednesday afternoon. Set it all up with McGonagall earlier”

“Excellent,” Marlene says. “I’ll be there.”

“You reckon we have a good lineup for players?” a fellow seventh year named Ricky Frell asks keenly. He has dark wavy hair and piercing green eyes that contrast with his warm olive skin.

“We should. And even so, if we have me as Seeker, Sirius and Marlene as Chasers, Ginnifer and you as Beaters, that alone should mean we’re a strong team,”

“You’re damned right it does!” Sirius calls from the other side of the firepit, where Remus and him are still setting up the logs. “Gryffindor for the cup!” He raises his butterbeer to them and gives himself a hardy gulp.

“You know, you don’t have to do that,” Emmeline calls back over to him, referring to the extreme precision that Remus and Sirius are giving to the setting up of the logs for the fire. “If you just use your, I don’t know, wands, the fire will catch no matter how you do it. It’s like, magic.”

Sirius just smirks at her and replies curtly, “So young, so naïve,” She rolls her eyes with a smirk, as she leans back casually on the log. Marlene giggles at this. The breeze lifts up the strands of her fair hair but she doesn’t pull them back.

A snap and crackle catches our attention now as Remus silently ignites the wood that has now apparently been perfectly placed. The flames immediately overtake the logs and rise up with sparks and smoke. We all take a moment to admire the sight of it, the fire’s hot light reflecting spectacularly on the waves lapping the shore a mere few feet from our toes.

“See, worked like magic, didn’t it?” Sirius says pointedly to Emmeline. She just raises an eyebrow back at him.

“What do you reckon Lightfoot’s gonna assign us an essay on first?” Remus wonders aloud as he sits down to join our cluster. “The value of Charms in modern wizard society, or the best charms to combat psychological disorders?”

“Oh for Merlin’s sake Lupin,” Marigold snaps suddenly, rolling her eyes with a groan. “I am so not in the mood to talk schoolwork at the moment, please.”

“It’s an impending doom, like it or not,” Emmeline adds wryly with a shrug. “NEWTS, and all…”

“Ugh please!” Marigold throws her head back with a scoff. “I am not required to think about that until Monday or else my brain may explode its contents with the stress of it all!”

“Goldy’s right! Forget school for tonight!” James calls. “A toast, friends.” He climbs on top of a broken washed up log. “To the beginning of the end!”

“Cheers!” we all chant back, as we take sips of the golden and buttery brew. The last sliver of the sun is peaking out from behind the mountains in the distance. The utmost top of the sky is dark and descending. More dotted stars begin to appear from their daylight slumber.

I look around at us, Gryffindors all cuddled and content around a roaring fire, on the shores of a huge lake, on our first day back at school. I can’t help but feel a bittersweet mixture of emotions. Pride, comfort, nostalgia, longing, all at once. I make eye contact with Sirius, who seems to be thinking the same thing. His light grey eyes pour into mine and the corner of my mouth lifts up into a ghost of a smile. I know that he, more than anyone else here, shares the feeling of truly being at home at Hogwarts. The one place we could be safe.
I get up to sit beside him.

“Cheers Sirius, to this year,” I hold out my bottle to his. He smiles and clinks my glass to his, not breaking his glance from mine. I can see the gratefulness in his eyes, for listening to him earlier.

“To this year,” he answers, before emptying his glass down his throat.

* * *

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