A/N Don’t own Harry Potter- that’s JK Rowling’s, and Rambo is David Morrell’s (reference to the novel versions).
I looked up, and a familiar tall boy with a strong frame and dark eyes was watching me.
“Yeah. What do you want?" I asked wearily.
“I was told you’re the go-to girl when it comes to finding books in here, and I was wondering about Defensive Magical Theory by Wilbert Slinkhard. Haven’t seen it, have you?”
Setting: Tuesday afternoon (third period), the library, My Corner. I was perfectly content alone; with the whole library to myself (some scruffy second years had Muffliato-ed Gobstones, but aside from their near-silent game I was in private) I was free to spread out- then the boy had approached me.
Doubtfully looking over him once, I recognised the bronze and blue tie as Ravenclaw and shrugged, turning back to my book and skimming through the lines. “I think they were all burned.”
“You know our Defence essay?”
I paused, frowned, glanced up and realised he had been in my Defence Against the Dark Arts classes for two years.
“Well, I haven’t actually started it yet and I was thinking it would be quite entertaining for Teddy if I basically wrote fifteen inches tearing apart that book.”
I couldn’t understand why he thought I was interested in his elaboration.
“It might be over there,” I shrugged, pointing to a shelf to my left, before sinking back into my book.
After a few minutes he sat in the seat next to me. I quickly swept papers and books away from him and sending him dirty looks, but he was too busy examining the blackened cover of the book to notice.
“What’s wrong with the cover?” he asked, running a finger over it.
“Fred, James and Dom. Third year. Bought all Flourish and Blott’s copies of the book, stole the school copies, and had a bonfire outside Hagrid’s hut. When I said they were burned, I wasn’t lying.”
He chuckled, and flicked it open. “Genius.”
“Yes. Can I get back to my work now?” I demanded.
“Fine by me.”
I glared at his lilted sarcasm, and began scrawling some notes hastily down on Boggarts, meandering through the possibilities they presented including perhaps their history, use and relevance to today’s modern age, when the boy spoke again.
“What did you do yours on?”
“I haven’t started it yet,” I answered through gritted teeth.
“Do you know what you’re going to do, then?”
I turned to him. “Look, it’s an unspoken rule in the library that you don’t disturb me. Ever. So go and find some stupid Slytherin to annoy- or even better, go piss off Willow Moon and give us all a fucking laugh.”
“Aren’t you a ray of sunshine?”
“No. Now go and irritate someone else- I don’t have time,” I said, gesturing to the papers around me. He only looked amused, but after a few moments of my glare he grabbed the book and waltzed out.
After the door shut, I rolled my eyes and promised myself if I saw him in a corridor I’d curse him.
Professor Gardner, Potions master and Ravenclaw Head of House, surveyed our class with her usual mix of scepticism and amusement.
“As you’ve been made aware, Headmaster Thomas has issued a new system of pairings in Potions. I’ve been constantly warning you as to this new development, however, many of you have not heeded my warning and will, as a consequence, be spending a great deal of your time miserable.”
Her gaze drifted to two airheads at the front of the class that had gossiped and giggled their way through their first year of NEWTs.
“I have paired you with someone I feel will benefit you in some way- if only to shut you up.”
I noticed how the quieter portion of the class, the half that were irritated by a lack of focus and discipline, smirked in quiet smugness. I assumed they had forgotten they would be the ones that would suffer as a result of Gardner’s sadism.
Folding my arms, I collapsed into them as the shrieks of indignation and pleas for changing began. My hands were a little too cold to rest on, but I did so anyway, seeming to steady my over-heated forehead.
I whined a little when I felt an elbow nudge me.
“What?” I growled.
“Nice to see you too,” he smiled.
I rolled my eyes. The boy from the library. Of course. Who else?
With the effort of waking up in the morning, I dragged myself back upwards. Gardner was a few tables along, already debating heatedly with a bimbo about her pairing (one of the more feisty, but still straight-laced and hardworking girls in the class), and the boy was still smiling at me.
“Why are you smiling like that?” I demanded, stifling a yawn. “It’s creepy.”
He inclined his head slightly to the left. “I thought I was going to end up with McFarland.”
I pretended to know who he was talking about. “And that’s bad because...?”
“He’s a jerk...”
Lazily, I rolled my neck and looked up at him. I was sure there was something familiar about him- and not just been-in-his-class-since-forever. It was more than that.
He smiled again. I was almost sure he was reading my thought process, so I blinked away.
“Just because you’re partnered with someone doesn’t mean you have to be best friends.”
“It’s always better, though.”
“Hate to rain on your parade, but we aren’t exactly friends,” I snapped. “I don’t even-“
I stopped. I prided myself on not being a total twat.
Some of the time.
A little bit.
There was a laugh in his voice. “What?”
“Come on, there was some snarky and hilarious retort dying to escape then.”
I turned back, my glare darker than before. “I don’t even know your name. That’s why.”
His eyes stirred. There was no perceptible movement- perhaps a tightening of the eyebrows, crinkled eyes, but nothing more. It was simply them. He was watching me. It was unnerving. I hadn’t been watched in such a long time.
As soon as it had appeared, though, it was wiped away. His brown eyes were pleased again.
“That seems a trivial detail, Lily.”
Of course he knew me.
He held out his hand.
I gauged him, before slowly shaking it.
“There,” Jack announced happily. “Now we can be friends, right?”
I snorted. “Yeah, sure. That’s how friendships work.”
“Nope,” he said slowly, flicking through his textbook, clearly more focussed on the lesson than I was. He glanced up. Did he ever stop smirking? “That’s how they begin.”
To be quite honest, I didn’t know what to say. I had been outsmarted by certainty and honesty- two things, ironically, I prided myself on. So I forcefully grabbed the book when he settled on a page, and skimmed through.
“Urgh,” I mumbled. “This is easy.” I looked up and raised my voice. “I want three ounces of powdered bezoars, a vial of filtered Kelpie seawater, and a generous scoop of dried Billywigs. Oh, and one...? no, half a litre of sugared water.”
He had the nerve not to move immediately.
He jumped up and did exactly as told.
Jack did it with a bloody shining smile, though.
I’m sleeping like a baby. I keep sleeping a lot. Mum says it’s good for me. Ginny wants me to be healthy, she says, so I have to sleep a lot, and mum wants me to. I can keep her company if I sleep. So I do.
I have to write a letter to you, though. I always do. It’d be weird if I didn’t. I’ve got all your letters. You’ve written a lot. Someone’s cried a lot on them. Have I ever answered you? I found your most recent one. I want to come back to Hogwarts- I’ve only missed a month, I can catch up. I’m clever. I know things. I can know more things. That’s how it works, right?
Dad and mum have both promised to pack my bags. I’m feeling better. I’ve been sleeping a lot, and that’s why I’m better.
I’ll be on my way when you get this so see you soon Eliana xxxxx
I slowly placed the letter on the table in the Great Hall. I did it as calmly and softly as possible while my stomach groaned, suddenly protesting the small meal I had eaten, sickened by it. I tried not to draw attention to myself.
“Is that... Ellie? Is that her writing?”
Sammy was speaking to me. It felt as though the whole hall shut the hell up, but it was probably just Roxy and those nearby who knew she was to me: their stares were penetrating.
My response came out through gritted teeth; my taste for her blood was long overdue. Despite Ellie. Should she have been well, would not have blamed Sammy. I could practically hear Ellie’s defence, that the girl was cursed and forced, she was already (needlessly) taking the weight of everything, she needed support and care herself...
Blah blah de fucking blah.
Whilst I contemplated exactly which area of her body to aim for, the idiot spoke again.
“Is she okay?” she asked, butter oozing sweetly out of her lips drowning the accusations made against her. Sammy’s over-regretful show disgusted me.
I heard Roxy mutter, “she’s fine.”
She spoke again, smiling and tossing her hair over her shoulder and leaning in, overly-interested and talking overly-loud. “Oh, good. I still feel so bad for what happened to her, she was such a nice person and-“
“Shut up, Samantha,” I spat, snatching up the sacred letter and stowed it safely in my front pocket. “Shut the fuck up. You don’t know anything.”
Her eyes widened, shock matched with a slight pout at her interrupted woe-is-me speech. “I’m sorry, Lily, but I really am. I just wanted to make it known how much I wish I could change what happened-“
“Fuck you and fuck your opinions,” I said evenly. “There is a reason we haven’t spoken in eight months despite sleeping in the same room. Don’t do something you’ll regret.”
“Please. We all know how hard this has been on you-“
Roxy interjected again, more urgently. “Seriously, Sammy, back off.”
“-but it’s not the end of everything-“
The frayed strings pitifully holding my control in place let the monster inside free.
I leapt to my feet and cast my wand in her general direction, a great bang erupting from it but someone smacking the beam of light aside before it made impact. Sammy shrieked and fell backwards off the bench, true shock and fear now scrawled across her face.
“STOP TALKING LIKE SHE’S DEAD!” I screamed. “SHE’S NOT DEAD, AND YOU’RE NOT-“
I went to strike again, but a hand grabbed mine before I could brandish properly, firmly yanking it away from the direction of Sammy.
It was Jack.
“Calm down, Lily,” he said quietly, taking my other wrist when I turned to hit him. “You need to calm down.”
For a moment, I struggled against him, savagely considering kicking him in an unprotected area, before I heard the silence. Every single person in the room, no difference between adult and student, was watching us.
Some- the younger, unsure ones who hadn’t been told the story but undoubtedly would be- were staring in fear. The middle, the ones who had only heard the convoluted, Daily Prophet version of the tale were hurriedly sharing gossip with their equally uninformed peers. Then, of course, there were the older ones. The ones who had heard Harry Potter scream to his colleagues that his children had found the Death Eater and could be dying, those who raced to see the teachers hasten a covered body out of the school, those who had seen me the day after Ellie was taken to intensive care in St Mungo’s, and those who cried softly when the news broke that she wouldn’t be able to return.
Of them, some had tried to forget: they were watching with shallow pity in their eyes. Some didn’t remember: some were pointing, making a joke, whispering sarcastically under their breath at my expense. I singled out a tall boy as one of them- even when eye contact was made, he kept grinning. Some remembered all-too-clearly: they weren’t looking at me. They were looking at their plates, at the swirling ceiling- away.
As long as they didn’t let their tears show, they were fine.
“Come on,” Jack muttered, letting my hands go and helping me stumble from behind the bench. Sammy was being pulled to her feet by a gaggle of her friends, looking suitably flustered.
He quietly took my wand and pocketed it.
I stared at her for another moment, then turned on my heel and marched out. Jack kept to my side.
We simply walked; I think he was following my lead, but he stuck so close by I couldn’t tell. Passing students who didn’t know of my explosive behaviour paid little attention to the pair of us, and I found myself glancing across to Jack. Finally, he caught my wandering gaze and smiled slightly.
“Why are you here?”
My tone wasn’t hostile, for the first time since speaking to him. I was only curious why he bothered, and he seemed willing to answer.
“You were in pain.”
I frowned. “I wasn’t after some poetic riddle...”
He sighed, stopping. I stopped a step after him. “Look, you use your pain as anger, and it’s all well and good when the teachers deal with it- but no one’s helped you with your pain. And, after all, that’s what’s holding you back, so I thought I should.”
Jack’s eyes were dark. Brown, but they glittered with something else. It was shining and young, and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was his personality or his luck that made them do so.
One discernable thing in his eyes, however, was how earnest they were.
“I don’t understand why you care.”
He paused, clearly debating something, then gestured ahead. “Shall we?”
I hesitated, then began to walk.
When we settled in the library I wasn’t entirely sure what his plan was. I was sat opposite him, but when he shrugged my bag off his shoulder and planted it between us; I was more concerned about that.
“You were a bit preoccupied in the hall,” he shrugged, “and it’s not exactly heavy.”
I smirked, and he caught it. He grinned back. “What’s the joke?”
Slowly reaching out, I dragged the bag towards me, unloading several thick textbooks, my planner, and heavily loaded muggle files. Jack’s eyebrows rose with every new item.
“Undetectable Extension Charm,” I told him, shoving them unceremoniously back in.
“A successful one, too,” Jack added, still impressed. Snapping out his reverie, he winked. “Well, that, or my weight lifting has had more of an effect than I first thought.”
“Okay, Rambo, calm down,” I snorted. The undeniable smell my books had released reminded me of our surroundings. “Why are we here? I mean, the library is pretty much my office, but I kinda wanted to escape it for a few hours.”
He pointed at me and stood up. “Good point! We’re gonna do your Defence essay. I’ve done mine.” He began to scan across the row upon row of books behind him. “Have you got anything particular in mind?”
I scowled. “Not doing it now.”
“C’mon. You’re ruining my fun,” he drawled, rolling his eyes. “Seriously, we have free reign. This doesn’t happen often. Why aren’t you jumping for joy? You could write about a pygmy puff and it’d be relevant.”
Admitting defeat, I let the bag slump down and trailed after him. “I don’t know what to write about.”
“Something violent? Dragons?”
I shook my head.
My wrinkled nose said it all.
Slapping him was not beyond me until I turned on him and saw the laughter he was containing. I chose to simply purse my lips and continue looking.
“Damn, you’ve lost your sense of humour.”
“Did I ever have one?”
“I’m pretty sure you did.”
I decided to be honest. Who’d he have told, anyway? “Funny things have just... lost their effect, I guess. It’s like when a game is already won before the end- the excitement is lost, because you’re certain of the outcome. It makes everything else invalid.”
He slowed, and rested his hand gently on my forearm. “Not invalid. Just different.”
“Are you going to challenge everything I say?”
He had snapped back to Happy Jack.
I sighed, and gestured that we sat back down. He sat next to me this time. “I don’t want to write about a dangerous magical creature, or the laws or the curses or any other random thing that relates. I just want...”
“I want to be told what to write. When a question is dictated to us, I can answer it. When a theme is given, I can copy the basis of an old essay and rewrite it. When I’m given free reign... I have to think.”
Jack gave me a sceptical look. “Basically, you lack creativity.”
“I don’t lack creativity!” I denied, trying to pretend that didn’t sting. “I just don’t want to have to think about things properly in order to get good grades- I’m working my arse off I’ll have you know, but just because I’m working at something doesn’t mean I aspire to do it my whole life, so an easy way out can be a blessing.”
I stood up and threw my bag over my shoulder.
“And might I just add that you sounded both náive and dumb saying that? You’re making judgements about people you’ll never understand. Goodbye.”
I tried to turn on my heel, but he grabbed my bag’s strap too quickly.
“And... progress made.”
After a moment, I turned and looked at him. He released my bag as I looked down on him.
“Why doesn’t doing Defence contribute towards what you want to do?”
I blinked. “My future isn’t in Defence.”
“So drop it.”
“I can’t- to get where I want to go I need it.”
“So it does contribute to your dreams.”
To be perfectly frank, I hadn’t even considered that aspect of it.
“-erm, yes. I guess it does.”
“So it’s only good for you if you enjoy it as much as possible, if you’re stuck with it. Right?”
“So... what interesting, original, and funny subject do you want to do?”
Jack immensely enjoyed making ridiculous suggestions, but once I broke a smile I couldn’t help but see his humour.
I found myself appreciating his company, despite the waste of time that it was.
“A study of the life and death of Professor Binns. I’m pretty sure that would fascinate the readers,” he snorted.
I raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, yeah, okay... I get the point... it just has to be perfect, you know? Like your idea- the whole thing is great, and I think Teddy will love the put-down of dad’s old teacher... it has to be that good. Or better.”
He looked at me again, still smiling, but with an openly curious look in his eyes.
“It’s just... weird to me.”
“That he’s your dad. To me, he’s the saviour of the wizarding world and should be revered... but to you, he’s just the guy who makes the bad jokes and read you stories when you were little.” He shrugged. “It’s a bit alien.”
“He doesn’t actually tell bad jokes. He’s quite funny,” I corrected mildly. “But he always told us stories- mum saw enough of us in the day, so dad put us all to bed. He’d tell us the muggle ones, too. The only one we didn’t hear was the one about a boy who saved the world... we were told that about third year, but we found out much earlier than that from other people. I guess I didn’t mind it being that way, because I’ll never see him as that man. I just see him as mine.”
He didn’t say anything, but he watched me for a while before turning away.
“Anyway- back to work.”
“Not that we’ve worked much.”
“If certain people made decisions, we might.”
I gave him the finger, but picked up a book about magical creatures, flicking through. A page caught my eye.
‘Werewolves are dangerous, cruel creatures, scattered throughout our history and are often considered to be some of the darkest creatures to exist.’
My thoughts were something to the effect of ‘HELL. YES.’
“A study... into the stereotypes and prejudices of half breeds throughout history. And how incorrect they are.”
He grinned at me.
“Get me all the books you can find on magical creatures and get me a couple of reliable history books.”
Jack frowned. “How am I supposed to know which history books are reliable?”
“...you’re a Ravenclaw.”
“STEREOTYPES!” he yelled, pointing an accusing finger at me, but he winked and darted around the corner of the shelves.
By four o’clock, he had adamantly missed two lessons and I had finished my essay.
I had happily done it, too.
Well. Jack deserves his credit; his witty little remarks on the topic (that more often than not ended up in my essay) kept me highly entertained.
“What for?” he chuckled, swiping up the last book and slotting it back into place. I shoved the last quill back into my bag.
“For helping me with that- usually I’m up late doing the Potions homework.”
“No bother. But if anyone asks, I had to physically restrain you for at least three hours and that’s why I didn’t go to class.”
I smiled. “Got it.”
We meandered to the library door, he suddenly turned to me. “And if you ever need me again, don’t hesitate to ask. I don’t mind.”
We parted ways. As I walked, a faint winter glow of light was still trickling through the windows. I vaguely watched it, trying to decide which teacher I would face over the Great Hall incident when I came face to face with Professor McGonagall herself.
“Professor!” I exclaimed. “Listen, about before- I’m really sorry. I just lost it.”
She surveyed me over the top of her spectacles, and I could feel the disbelief rolling off her in waves.
“Is that so?”
“Yes. I’ll try not to let it happen again.”
She nodded slightly. “Good. I trust you’ll get plenty of sleep tonight, Miss Potter: I was talking to Professor Gardner and it sounds as though you have a rather exciting lesson ahead of you.”
I nodded and smiled, hurriedly trying to escape before she gave me detention or something horrible like that.
“And Miss Potter?”
After wincing, I turned back.
“Try to keep out of trouble.”
I took a deep breath, before sighing. “Always, Professor.”
The light was brighter as I quickly passed the interspersed bursts of it: it seemed to be smiling.
Jack was the sunshine and I was cloud cover.
A/N Massive shoutout to the amazing response my last chapter got! Thank you all so much- my last story didn't get touched until about the 4th chapter was up. You guys are all great- thank you so much for the words of encouragement. By the way, I hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year.
Oh, and I'm submitting this on the 1 year idea anniversary for In My Blood, the eighth of January, and the official posted anniversary was the eleventh.