At the conclusion of Em’s declaration, I grin and say, “That explains why you’ve been missing so many meals.”
“First your fling this summer, now this,” Evie says with delight. “You’ve become such a slut!”
“Jesus, Evie!” shrieks Em, tossing her pillow across the room in frustration. “We haven’t even-”
“She’s kidding,” I interrupt. “You know our Evie has a quirky sense of humour.”
“Of course she’s kidding,” Lily chimes in. “What she really meant is that she’s impressed by the amount of maturity you’ve gained recently, and
that she’s really happy for you. Possibly also that’s she’s a tiny bit sexually frustrated. Maybe even that she’s jealous you can maintain a relationship for longer than a week.” This last sentence is emphasised with a pointed, but affectionate, look in Evie’s direction.
“Well,” she says nonchalantly, “that may or may not be true. But don’t start harping on about commitment issues yet – this boy of Em’s hasn’t lasted a week yet.”
Em shrugs. “We only started spending time together a week or two ago.”
“Well,” prompts Leah impatiently, glancing up from her magazine, “aren’t you going to tell us about him?”
Em sighs blissfully, to our profound amusement. Leah snickers and hoists her up into the air with a spell that was particularly popular in our fifth year. Once Em has dropped back to her bed and is finished yelling at Leah, Lily stage whispers, “That was your cue to begin, dear.”
“Right, well, it’s JP Beddoe-”
“A Hufflepuff, Em?” snorts Evie.
“I quite like the look of him,” I interject.
“I actually have Defence with him.”
“Yes, him,” interrupts Em. “He’s from Leeds. You know I can’t resist a Yorkshire accent. And we bonded over Muggle music – sooooo
romantic. The best part is that he’s not just into the generic stuff, although he has a soft spot for the Bee Gees.” This reference presumably flies over everyone’s heads, save for Lily’s, but we’re accustomed to having Muggle pop culture shoved in our faces. “He’s also into these – oh
, well, I guess you’d call them obscure
– bands... It’s a shame we can’t play records, but some of the weirder wizarding radio stations have them on. And he sings songs to me and things.” She beams.
This description helps me to pick JP Beddoe out of my mental address book. He has shaggy brown hair, a fringe that flops over his eyes hopelessly (almost like Em’s), and big glasses with thick frames. He was absolutely miniscule in our first years of school, but around fourth year gained a bit of height and began tripping over his own feet. Around that time he also stopped being quite so normal, I recall. He gained an enormous camera, for one thing, which can be seen swinging around his neck on weekends, bouncing off his oversized knit sweaters.
Lily seems to be following the same thought process. “He’s the one with the camera, right?”
Em nods eagerly. “It’s really sweet, actually. His dad – Wizard, Slytherin actually – died in second year, so he lives with his mother. She’s a Muggle and sounds really lovely, if a bit scatterbrained. So his camera isn’t magical, or anything, but he develops his pictures in this special potion – really expensive, he says – that makes them move.”
I’m still stunned, once in a while, by the differences magic makes to a lifestyle. Evie, Leah and I come from entirely wizarding families, and Lily tends to cohere with wizarding customs; on the other hand, Em agrees to do things our way only when necessary, and even then a little grudgingly.
“I really like him,” confides Em, as though none of us have already guessed this. “You’ll love him. He’s so clumsy, and he’s well funny, and absolutely obsessed with tea. He drinks it all day; not sure where he gets it. Well, he brought his own chai tea from home, but that’s only for emergencies.”
Lily smiles. “Bring him to sit at the Gryffindor table sometime, Em.”
“At least this one’s not feuding with the Marauders,” says Evie, with a glance in my direction.
“I don’t think JP could feud with anyone. Probably would try to offer Voldemort himself tea and biscuits if he were to turn up on their doorstep.”
I giggle. “That sounds like the kind of boy whose romantic intentions with you I could support. Listen, I’m starving – let’s go down, and Em, tell JP to come over.”
“Well, I don’t – I don’t know
. I mean, I think it might be best if – you know, you’re a lot to deal with all at once, and I thought I might prepare him-”
“Oh, quit dithering. We’ll behave ourselves,” promises Evie, pouting at her reflection in the mirror.
We do behave ourselves, to my surprise and pride. We watch JP stumble his way to our table – in fact, I’m staring so intently that I pour soup into my lap – and stick our hands out enthusiastically, demanding that he take a seat. He’s quite the charmer, it turns out, despite the fact that even speech is apparently not immune to his clumsiness. By the end of the meal, he’s become comfortable enough with us to force a handful of Yorkshire teabags onto us.
We are all enchanted. Even Evie, in the aftermath, has nothing negative to say about him – a phenomenon never before seen. In the Entrance Hall, each of us bid a rather startled JP goodnight with a peck on the cheek... except for Em, who sneaks in a good snog.
Sirius sidles up to me. Our detention with Donovan was the previous week, and we’ve chatted a bit since then. “Cadwallader’s dating Beddoe?” he asks curiously. Their names make the question sound ridiculous, like he’s speaking in code.
“Yeah, and he’s lovely-
“I thought I might steal you away for the evening,” he interrupts, “take you to a certain common room.”
“Oh, well, we don’t know the password – plus it’ll be packed at this time of night.”
“Actually, I was under the impression my role was just to show you where it was,” admits Sirius with a laugh.
Luckily, I’m in too good a mood to be embarrassed. “Really?” I scoff. “I thought you were committed to our cause, Black.”
He laughs again, which brings a smile to my lips too. “I’d be happy to go the extra mile, Thorpe. I’ll get back to you tomorrow.”
Before I can respond, he’s lost in the crowd. I stare in the general direction he went, shaking my head. My heart is beating very fast after a very short exchange with him, and that’s never good news.
A few days later, Evie and I trot down to the dungeons together. She’s telling me all about how she’d accompanied Em to breakfast at the Hufflepuff table and there had been intrigued by a tall, brooding boy.
“Hardly sounds like your type,” I say with a lazily raised eyebrow.
“Oh, that’s all changed now,” she dismisses. “Now that Em’s dating an artiste” – she pronounces it sarcastically, arteeeeste
– “I’ll need to open my mind.”
“I hardly think taking blurry shots of Em while she’s drawing diagrams of Venomous Tentacula makes JP an artiste.”
“But he’s ador
able and his hair is per
fect.” Evie mimes flicking a fringe out of her eyes, as JP does several times a sentence. “So anyway, I checked out the Hufflepuffs for his doppelgangers, but all the good ones must have been off being artists somewhere artistic. And then Brooding Boy caught my eye.”
“From the way you describe him, he doesn’t sound
eye-catching,” I say drily as the staircase we’re about to step onto changes course. Unaffected, we take the other.
“All I said,” she says defensively, “is that he was reading a book of poetry. Sylvia someone – Muggle, looks like.”
“Yeah, and that he didn’t say a word to anyone,” I point out. I’m relieved to have something trivial and familiar to argue about with Evie – I’m exhausted, well aware that my hair is sticking out in all directions and that my Transfiguration homework is still incomplete.
“Thorpe, Wildt,” chirps James, emerging from a dark passageway with Sirius at his side, “good morning!”
“Morning,” we chime, exchanging dubious glances. Sirius catches my eye and winks.
“Do allow us to walk you to Potions, ladies,” continues James. “It’s good you’re
here, Wildt – what’s that Runes essay supposed to be about, again? Due after lunch, innit?”
Sirius falls back to talk to me. “You look tired, Thorpe.”
“I’m not,” I insist, stifling a yawn. He chuckles, but I can’t even muster up a smile in response. “History of Magic is a right headache.”
“Just don’t do the work,” he grins. I can tell he’s trying to cheer me up. “That’s my solution.”
“Your haircut’s better than mine. You can get away with stuff.”
“With that little quiff you’ve got going on, you’ll get whatever you want – doesn’t matter what your grades look like.”
“That’s got nothing
to do with my hair, love,” he drawls.
“Must be the surname, then,” I mumble.
We keep walking in silence, but I’ve felt Sirius tense beside me. Momentarily, I consider apologising, but decide against it: it’s early
, and we’ve just discussed the stress that I’m under. He probably doesn’t think anything of it.
Evie gives me and Sirius a strange look as we enter Slughorn’s classroom. He makes to follow her to the desk they share at the back, but hesitates and says to me quietly, “Are you still up for the common room later?”
I manage a smile. “Yeah, that’ll actually perk me up some.”
“Entrance Hall after lunch, yeah?”
“See you then.”
I have double History of Magic directly before lunch, and I emerge from Professor Binns’ classroom with my arms full of textbooks. In my right hand I hold the four feet of notes I made during class, scanning them as I walk. I can’t help but raise an eyebrow at some of the complicated diagrams and underlining – not to mention the cryptic comments: in one corner, I’d written PIPES
, and in another, IT WAS INGOLFR!!!
Leah, hurtling out of another classroom, crashes into me with the force of a runaway freight train. She beams at me, linking her arm through mine and immediately dragging me down the hallway. “Lunchtime looms, darling,” she cries. “Imagine the cheese sandwiches, the bangers, the mash, the pies – ah, the pies
We’re attracting some attention, primarily of the negative sort – I attribute this to the fact that our flailing limbs put all bystanders in obvious mortal peril. I try to keep conversation hushed (and my face hidden), but Mary and Isabel have hooked themselves on, too. When I ask politely how everyone’s lessons were, they mostly shout in my ears.
“God,” says Isabel matter-of-factly, “do you know how cold it is in the dungeons? Couldn’t concentrate all through Potions. Actually, I think the weather has sent everyone in our year off the rails.”
“Ours too,” agrees Leah, “right, Andy?”
I yawn and attempt to shrug. “I was in History of Magic. Nobody shows emotion in that class.”
Our human chain – or human roadblock, perhaps – was in the overcrowded Entrance Hall by that point, clogging up the doorway. I disattach myself tenderly and promise to catch up with everyone later.
I tighten my Gryffindor scarf around my neck and pull my robes around my sweater-swaddled figure. I can’t see Sirius anywhere and am too tired to do anything more proactive than lean against the wall and hope I’m not being stood up.
Eventually, he finds me, giving a sympathetic smile that warms me to the bone. He has a tiny gap between two teeth on the right side of his mouth. “Well, you look revitalised,” he teases. “You sure you don’t want to go take a nap instead?”
“I’ll live. How come you weren’t in Arithmancy?”
“Needed a break.”
“Right, well, do you have the password?” He nods, and I frown. “But how’d you get it?”
“A fourth year acquaintance of mine was kind enough to share the information,” he explains, which I translate to mean that one of his many female admirers had been charmed into revealing it. “And I figure no one will be down there, since it’s so cold and everyone’s gone loony and
I smell steak and kidney pie.”
“You’re a miracle worker.”
He takes me through a door and down a flight of stairs, halting in front of a still life that I can’t be bothered to pay much attention to. “Justice,” he says confidently, one hand on the painting’s frame. When he tugs, it swings open to reveal a doorway.
There’s another flight of stairs, and then there’s marvellous heat. It isn’t stiflingly warm, but it’s comforting – although I can’t work out where it comes from, since there’s no fireplace in sight. We must be on the same level as the dungeons, but it feels incredibly different. The ceiling stretches to twice my height, and there’s a strip of uninterrupted window at the top of one wall, through which I can see a layer of snow.
“Apparently, it’s brilliant in summer,” says Sirius. “There’s sunshine and dandelions and, apparently, a breeze.”
I nod absently, looking around once more at the plush carpet and perfectly round wooden doors. I sink into an armchair in the middle of the room and pat its neighbour for Sirius to sit in.
“It’s completely empty,” he comments.
I can’t help but wonder if he’ll kiss me.
“If we do the other two houses soon enough, you’ll be able to cross your first item off?” he asks.
, well, no – I got a detention from Professor Vector a couple days ago, so I’m finished with number one, ruined my reputation with every ruddy teacher. Sorry, I forgot to tell you.”
“Hey, congratulations. Shall we celebrate?” He grins mischievously at me and, without waiting for an answer, waves his wand; a giant Gryffindor banner appears on the wall ahead of us.
“You’re so bad, Sirius Black,” I chastise, giving a weak laugh. We sit there for a while, admiring the new decorations.
“I wish I wasn’t a Black,” he says suddenly, without looking at me. “It’s none of your bloody business, but I thought you should know. I don’t take advantage of it. My whole life I’ve been trying to live it down.”
I avoid his gaze. “I shouldn’t have said that thing, earlier. I’m tired, that’s all. It was something I wanted to say to you years ago, but it doesn’t apply anymore. I mean, to be fair, you used to, well-”
From the corner of my eye, I see him smiling slightly. “Yes, I did talk about it a bit.”
“Publicly,” I say.
“But I’ve never wanted it.”
I nod. The banner begins flashing gold and red lights across the room, and I start to giggle. He whispers at me to be quiet, although can’t help but add laughter of his own. He leads me from the room, waving off my thanks, and we enter the Great Hall for a bite of pie before class.
I wake up better rested. The night before, I was exhausted enough to accept defeat an hour after dinner, packing up my books and falling into bed. My sleep had been smooth and uninterrupted. Certainly, I should be at the top of my game. Unfortunately, in the shower I manage to recall what I dreamt about – and worrying about it makes me weary.
I’m clean, robed, and ready to leave by the time Lily awakes. She insists drowsily that I wait for her; since she looks like I felt yesterday, I take pity on her. I wait patiently as she tumbles out of bed and pads into the bathroom with the duvet wrapped around her torso lending her a certain resemble to an oversized sausage roll.
When I still haven’t heard the sound of water running several minutes later, I pop my head around the doorway and find her asleep in the bathtub, still wearing the duvet.
I’m triumphant at the sight. I’ve been collecting evidence to supplement my claim that all sixth years are being overworked. Leah sleeps more, Em’s hair is frizzier, Evie shouts more; Peter is more anxious than usual, Remus more dishevelled. Even James mopes after Lily with slightly less conviction, and Sirius wears that tired smile sometimes. Fine – but Lily Evans, napping at inappropriate times? Never
I rouse her, and let her scald herself with hot water, stick a brush in her hair, and put her sweater on backwards. “Maybe you shouldn’t be taking so many patrol shifts,” I suggest mildly as we leave the dorm.
“Can’t,” she mumbles incoherently. “OWLs, NEWTs, but sixth years no.”
I giggle and pull her into a one-sided hug. The bright side – which I believe friends are supposed to helpfully point out to each other – is evading me on this occasion, and eventually I come up with, “At least it’s Friday.”
“Hogsmeade weekend,” Lily points out, rubbing her eyes. “Potter will stalk.”
Encouraged by her increasing coherence, I shrug. “Maybe he’s tired enough himself to give you a break.”
“Desperate. Maybe last Hogsmeade, Remus will tell – Death Eaters, whatnot.”
Although I feel this statement needs clarification, I decide to let her recover first. We sit opposite them at the Gryffindor table. “Morning,” they chorus lamely.
Lily yawns in reply, but I chirp, “Morning!” Sirius pours us mugs of coffee – I’m impressed that he remembers to add milk and one sugar to mine.
The problem is that I’d had a dream about him. I can remember nothing but flashes: circling the grounds with a stack of toast in hand, racing on brooms, curled up on my favourite couch in the common room. I accept the coffee without making eye contact.
Remus tuts at the newspaper. He has shadows under his eyes, and his hair resembles James’ – although, unlike James, he keeps trying to flatten it with one hand.
“Is that the Prophet
?” I ask.
He nods and spins it around so I can see what he’s reading. It’s a list of recent deaths and disappearances, and it’s even bigger than the last time I checked it. As Lily peers over my shoulder, I make a point of reading each and every name.
Lily sits her hand on her chin miserably. My lips tighten and I reach for the crumpets instinctively, buttering two carefully and taking an enormous bite.
“Enjoying that, are you?” teases Peter. I look up and realise that I have an audience.
“I like crumpets,” I say defensively. “I try to save them for weekends so I don’t get tired of them.”
“How come you’re eating them today?”
“She thinks she has a bad day ahead,” Lily announces.
“Don’t take this too personally,” I deadpan, “but none of you are particularly enthusiastic this morning.”
“It’s contagious. Only the other day, everyone was going totally mental.”
“I doubt the Prophet
helps,” mutters Sirius.
“It’s all safety tips,” comments Remus, squinting at a double page spread on protecting your Muggle neighbours.
“And those dreadful
statistics.” Lily shakes her head, with a lingering glance at the Slytherin table. “It’s just awful to think that there are people considering going off with the Death Eaters.”
“Hopefully it’s all just talk,” I say bracingly, before changing the subject. However, I don’t entirely put Sirius’ reaction out of my mind – when I run into James in an empty corridor later, I decide to take advantage of the opportunity. He’s heading to Quidditch practice, and I walk with him for a while.
“Hey,” I say suddenly. He’s been complaining about his keeper. “Erm, during breakfast today, Sirius was kind of bothered by something Lily brought up.”
“I just wanted to, you know, check with you.”
This seems to amuse him profoundly for some reason, although he catches himself and hides it. “Well, Thorpe, what were you talking about?”
“People who want to become Death Eaters.”
Understanding flickers in James’ eyes, but he merely says, “You know, Thorpe, I’m not the person to talk to about Sirius’ problems. In fact, believe it or not, that person would probably be Sirius.” I raise my eyebrows, and he groans. “Right, sorry, sorry, let me try again. As decent as it is of you to check
, it’s not my business to discuss his business with you.”
I nod, humiliated. “I know.”
He gives me a smile and we part; I’m left alone on the landing, feeling ridiculous. Just one flight of stairs later, something seems to occur to James, and he turns around. “Don’t get all hung up if he doesn’t want to tell you,” he calls. “He doesn’t trust anyone with that crap.”
In the common room, I find that the other sixth years have dragged a handful of tables together and are gathered around, poring over crumbling tomes and labelling ink-stained diagrams. I assume that they’re trying to finish their homework before the weekend.
Sirius is the only person sitting upright, his books piled in front of him, untouched. “Thorpe,” he says with a grin, as I collapse in a chair.
“How’s the homework?”
“Brilliant, of course. What about you? Don’t you have any?”
I shake my head. “Had a couple free periods today and came over all illustrious. The downside is that I’m so bored.”
He leans toward me. “What about doing something else from your list?”
Only half an hour later, we’ve stolen a book from right under Madam Pince’s nose. I won’t repeat the methods we use to break into the restricted section, but if Pince knew, we’d be submitted to torture more painful than anything Filch could dream up.
Sirius made a face at her on our way out – the book stashed under my robes – and I giggled all the way back to the common room. “I feel like a delinquent,” I say.
“Isn’t that the whole point?”
We take one look at our friends and decide to sit somewhere else – perhaps to discuss, without being constantly shushed, the triumph of crossing another item off the list. I curl up in an armchair the colour of the sunset, and say cheekily, “It’s nothing new to you, is it? Being a delinquent?”
“God, no – us Marauders, delinquents all. Even Remus, secretly.”
I laugh. “Right, so, have you always been in these roles? Like Remus is the one with the conscience-
“-Peter the one without a spine, James the leader, Sirius the flirt?” he completes. His tone is still almost amused, but there’s a touch of sharpness to it. “Sure, Thorpe, sure. But you might say that we’ve never been in those roles at all.”
Despite myself, I grin – which appears to offend him. “Black, you’re putting words in my mouth.”
“I am not
“Yeah, you are,” I insist, “because I didn’t even have a chance to-”
“Oi, be quiet!” I snap, although with a little smile, because neither of us are taking this too seriously. “You can’t expect to get away with painting me in a certain way, without letting me defend myself. As I was saying, I didn’t have a chance to say what I even think your roles are! Besides, I know
,” he repeats slyly.
“You think I haven’t seen Peter’s ruddy spine? He’s stubborn as a mule. And I’ve seen all of you take charge of a Marauder operation at some point, without James even there. I haven’t seen you with a girl in months – well, weeks. I was just making a point
about the two-dimensional roles you’re sometimes put in.”
Sirius smirks. “Always had a certain admiration for people who can win an argument like that.”
“Like how?” I demand.
“Well, by ranting your way off into something that sounds above everyone else’s level – when really it’s just a load of hippogriff poo.”
“Yeah, well, you go making it out that I don’t understand
, all tragic,” I mutter.
He snakes an arm around my shoulder, and I can’t be bothered to shake him off. “Actually, Peter doesn’t have a spine,” he says thoughtfully. “His bed is the dumping ground for the rest of our crap.”
I shake my head, as best I can with my hair anchored between my neck and his bicep. “You’re ridiculously close, you lot. Yeah, our dorm is a kind of weird family, but you’re also all best friends ever. And you’re boys.”
“Well observed, that last point.”
“Throwing it out there.”
“We’ve been through the shits together,” he explains merrily. “Maybe it helps that we’re only four. Do you remember that fifth one? Can’t even think of his name.”
“Something with a D, I think – he left halfway through first year, right?”
“Didn’t make it past Christmas,” Sirius confirms. “He was a Muggleborn, and his parents were worried about Voldemort.”
“Get with the times, he’s You-Know-Who, now.”
“God, Voldemort is bad enough.”
“Better than Addison,” I scowl.
“Better than Sirius Orion.”
We walk in silence with the stolen book tapping against my thigh. “If your dormitory’s your second family,” says Sirius thoughtfully, “what’s your actual family like?”
“Well, you know they’re all magical,” I begin slowly. “My mum’s scary, my dad’s busy; I don’t know if they stay together for any reason other than convenience and familiarity. I spend time with my little sister mostly. Annabelle. She bites. And plays Quidditch like – like James Potter the second.”
“I want a little more detail than that. Give me the scandal.”
I shake my head violently. “Oh no, I expect something in return for familial anecdotes.”
He makes a face. “I’ll get back to you.”
Hurray for JP! He's my personal favorite. I wish I had written about him a bit more, he deserves some of the spotlight. Anyway, I've started including little chapter images - but don't get excited, they are literally just images cropped to squares with numbers typed over them. Whoop whoop. Thank you for reading!
Expect: mascara, perspiration, and the wildlife of the digestive system. Also a bit of bonus Hagrid.