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Mr Weasley expertly conjured more hot chocolate and a few cups of coffee and passed them around the drawing room. The memory frame was still dancing in front of them on the wall, still focused on the Room of Requirement where the girls were fannying about, discussing dresses and prancing around, simulating a waltz. 

Sirius and Lupin had begun regaling them with a few stories of when they had discovered and used the room. “Third year,” Sirius had said, “Needed somewhere to plot our next big fiasco. James found it first, much by accident like the girls did. The room gave us a map of Slytherin timetables and excellent books on humiliating hexes. Total genius.” 

Lupin chuckled, “Also gave us a great place for you lot to practice the Animagus’.” 

“That it did,” said Sirius, shuffling in his seat and looking up at the frame, “Thank Merlin. It’s going on to something else. One more minute of that lot faffing about frills, I would have gone to bed with a headache.” 

The Entrance hall was packed tight with students as it flittered into focus, emitting a dull roar from all the chattering, laughter and squealing that was going on as people were busy greeting friends and finding their partners. 

Large, elaborate pumpkins hung ominously in the air, casting a shadowy light that flickered over a collection of dark and sinister tapestries that were covering the walls. The ghosts of Hogwarts stood graciously amongst the living, loudly voicing to anyone who would listen, stories of their horrific and untimely deaths. 

Harry watched the scene feeling a twinge of anxiety in his stomach and the sudden urge to self-consciously shuffle in his seat. The memories of the Yule Ball were floating back to him with pangs of awkwardness and unease. He watched the students stand together in little groups of three and four, boys segregated from girls by the furious giggling, pointing and whispers at their peers. Harry felt enormously comforted to see the same sort of resigned, awkward emotions flickering on James’ face as he strolled into view. 

He was walking with a pretty girl with short blonde hair who had wrapped herself tightly around his arm, perhaps fearing he might suddenly flee out of the open front doors. She had a long white cloak on and was throwing coy looks over to a few onlookers before beaming up at James much like one would gaze at a knight in shining armour. He grinned back with a strained politeness before instantly slumping into a bored expression as soon as she looked away. 

Marlene and the young Lupin followed behind them; Marlene tottering on spiky platforms in a very tiny green dress with a black sash. The young Lupin was rolling his eyes as Marlene was carrying on, pointing to other couples and commenting on their attire. 

They all paused for a moment, looking around before Marlene furrowed her brow and exclaimed, “Where are they? They were here a minute ago.” 

“Can’t have gone far,” sighed James, “I expect they’ve probably combusted on the stairs somewhere in nerves.” 

The young Lupin laughed and shook his head, “I’ve never seen Padfoot so nervous.” 

“He almost poked my eye out when he was suggesting we head on out,” smirked James, illustrating his point with ferocious arm movements, “What the hell is wrong with the daffy bastard waving his wand about like that?” 

“We should wait,” said Marlene thoughtfully, “I promised I wouldn’t leave her alone with him.” 

James’ date snorted, “Why would anybody not want to be alone with him? It’s Sirius Black!” 

Marlene threw the girl a withering look and said patronisingly, “You wouldn’t understand, Anna dear.” The young Lupin fixed her with a firm be nice look to which she dismissed instantly with a roll of the eyes and an impatient snort. 

Anna seemed to be immune to Marlene’s sarcastic tone and bobbed her head around before pointing, “I think that’s them, over there.” 

They all swivelled around to look at Isabella and the young Sirius who were chatting a little too interestedly to an unknown boy in bright green robes. They had the air of two people clutching onto a life raft intensely, terrified for it to leave them lest they drown. 

“I doubt they even know who they’re talking to,” grinned James, “Bless them. This is going to be a fun night.” 

“Let’s leave them, eh?” suggested the young Lupin, “Might do them some good to be alone for a bit.” 

Marlene nodded her head, side to side as she considered this before sighing and agreeing, “I suppose.” She looked at Anna, “You two coming in with us?” 

Anna nodded emphatically before looking up at James who seemed momentarily distracted from the conversation as he stared towards the stairs with a far away look in his eyes. 

“James?” asked Anna, following his gaze; her eyes rested on the back of a pile of loose red curls, secured by a glittering diamond clip. The owner was dressed in a brilliant emerald dress and talking excitedly to a group of students. 

Anna furrowed her brow slightly as the red curls turned to reveal Lily, smiling and waving a few people off. Marlene and the young Lupin shared a meaningful look before Anna straightened up and gripped James’ arm tighter and tugged him towards the Great Hall. He shook his head slightly and focused back on the others before saying in a falsely bright voice, “Heading in then?” 

Marlene nodded and frowned at Anna who had grasped James firmly by the hand, looking irritated. She raised her eyebrows at Marlene before sticking her chin up an inch and gave her a look implying she was by no means discouraged. The young Lupin turned and led them away towards the Great Hall and they disappeared into the crowd. 

Harry and the others watched the students in the foyer for a moment, before Isabella and the young Sirius came hesitantly into view. They paused for a moment, looking around for their friends before smiling weakly at one another. They stood in silence for a moment before the young Sirius cleared his throat. 

“So…” 

“So.” 

“The decorations look bang on. Really good job.” 

“Yes, they are quite lovely. Lils and all the prefects did a wonderful job.” 

“Yeah…nice night for it, too.” 

“Absolutely. Not a drop of rain.” 

“Still warm out…not that cold.” 

“Just the right mix.” 

They looked incredibly strained as they stood uneasily, desperately avoiding eye contact. This caused the twins to snigger loudly and the Sirius in the drawing room to groan. 

“This is painful,” he cringed, “Not only did I look like a stuffed monkey, I behaved like one too.” 

“I like the way you’re both eying the doors,” smirked Lupin, “The pair of you look like you’re desperate to run like the wind.” 

“We were,” moaned Sirius and he shook his head at the memory, “Pull yourself together man!” 

They all chuckled as the couple in the frame watched their fellow students mill around them laughing and chattering. The both stood uncomfortably as people pushed past them, eager to get to the Great Hall and the impending feast. They looked over at Professor Slughorn who was stationed at the front doors to the castle, merrily chattering to Madame Pomfrey as he sloshed and waved his goblet, leaving droplets in its wake. 

“Sluggy looks lathered already,” commented the young Sirius, motioning to the Professor. 

Isabella followed his gaze and nodded her head vigorously, “Oh yes, bet he’ll knock back a fair few tonight.” 

They both smiled awkwardly at each other before the young Sirius said feebly, “Nice night for it too…” 

Isabella looked pained as she nodded her head, “Mmm.” 

The young Sirius grimaced as he looked hopefully at Isabella, “Did you want to go in or hang about here?” 

“I’m not fussed, really, whatever you’d like to do.” 

“Well I don’t really mind.” 

“Neither do I. Honestly!” 

“Oh, okay,” and he chewed on his lip before his whole body visibly relaxed as he said, 
“Look: there’s Evans.” 

“Oh thank God.” 

Lily came trotting into view, “I’ve been looking all over for you,” and she gave them both an encouraging smile, “Having a lovely time?” 

They both gave her pained expressions. 

Lily looked fondly at them both before she smiled broadly at the young Sirius, “You scrubbed up well, Black! I’m not used to seeing you with your shirt tucked in!” 

The young Sirius grinned at her, “Ta, Evans. You don’t look too bad yourself; quite the picture this evening.” 

Lily pretended to look coy as she fanned the air, “What? This old thing?” 

They all chuckled as another boy walked into the frame; he was blonde and had an infinitely bookish look about him. Lily introduced him as her date, Simon. 

“How’s it going?” asked Simon, looking terribly nervous and sweating at the hairline. 

“Well thanks, how’s you?” asked Isabella, smiling at him. 

“Oh, fine,” said Simon, scratching at his chin; he moved to lower his hand, but awkwardly caught it on his bow tie, tearing it down slightly. 

“Bugger,” he hissed, looking sideways at Lily before fumbling and pulling the entire bow undone. He giggled nervously before turning a horrid pink. 

“Here,” said Isabella, biting back a grin, “Let me help you.” 

As Isabella assisted the jumpy Simon with his tie, Lily sidled up to the young Sirius and whispered, “How are you doing?” 

The young Sirius shook his head weakly, “I’m dying out there, Evans.” 

Lily patted his arm, “I’m sure it’s not that bad.” 

“I’ve taken to discussing the weather-” 

“Well, that’s not so-” 

“At least twelve times.” 

Lily giggled but stopped immediately when he looked pitifully at her, “Oh Sirius, come on. Once you’ve both calmed down a bit and had something to eat, you’ll be fine.” 

“I need something more than that, Evans. I need a drink.” 

Lily rolled her eyes, “Well don’t look at me. I’m a prefect.” 

“Oh, ‘course,” said the young Sirius, giving her a sly grin, “Precious, perfect, prefect Evans getting toppled out of her mind? Never.” 

She made a face at him as she sniffed, “I don’t - ” 

“Clearly remember that time we all went to the Shrieking Shack?” supplied the young Sirius rocking back on his heels looking smug, “Not surprised. You were pissed.” 

Lily rolled her eyes at him as he elbowed her playfully before sizing up Simon with a repressive look, “What do you see in him?” 

Lily sighed, “Don’t start with me, Black. He’s very nice.” 

Nice,” said the young Sirius, raising an eyebrow at her date, “He looks like he couldn’t show a drunk a good time with three beers in his hand.” 

“Stop it.” 

“You could do a lot better, Evans.” 

“Is that right.” 

“It is. I know just the bloke…” 

Lily exhaled loudly, “Let me guess. He’s tall, has black hair, wears glasses and just happens to be your best mate.” 

“Got it in one,” and he grinned at her, “Come on, woman. This guy looks like a complete twat.” 

“He’s very nice.” 

“So’s James.” 

Lily looked mildly amused, “You won’t give it up, will you?” 

“Never,” and he grinned at her, “Neither will Prongs.” 

Lily smiled over at Isabella who was neatening Simon up before saying under her breath, “Perhaps you should sort out your own love life before trying to fix up mine?” 

“Low blow, Evans,” said the young Sirius giving a soft whistle, “That hurt. I’m surprised at you.” 

Lily gave him a grin before clapping her hands and announcing, “Shall we all head in for the feast? Can’t hang about out here all night!” 

They all nodded and went through the doors to the Great Hall together; Lily motioned that she’d be back soon and wandered off with Simon to where his friends were sitting. 

Isabella and the young Sirius squeezed their way through students before coming across a table where Marlene, the young Lupin, James and Anna were sitting. Anna had removed her cloak to reveal an ornate, pink chiffon gown which threatened to suffocate anyone that came within two feet of her sleeves. She was looking incredibly bored and kept shooting annoyed glares at James. 

“Oh, there you are!” cried Marlene, jumping up and smothering them with gripping hugs. As she had her arms around them, she muttered, “It’s been a bloody nightmare; Sooky Susan over there has been rowing with James for the past ten minutes at least.” 

“What on earth about?” asked Isabella, struggling to break free. 

“Have a guess,” said Marlene, releasing them both and motioning to James who was sending subtle death looks across the room to Simon. 

“Anyway,” she said brightly turning back to them, “The party’s here now!” 

The young Sirius and Isabella took their seats, saying hello to the others, James giving them a pained look across the table. The young Lupin rolled his eyes at him before sharing a look with the young Sirius. 

“Where’s Alice?” asked Isabella, sipping her goblet, “She over with Frank?” 

“Yep,” said Marlene pointing across the room, “Said she’d pop over in a bit to join us.”
“Lils said that too,” said Isabella, motioning between her and the young Sirius, “We were just out there talking to her and Simon.” 

James sent them a definite traitor look before the young Sirius rolled his eyes and made a cutting motion across his neck, giving James a confident nod as he motioned his head towards Simon. 

Isabella glared at him before clearing her throat and saying, “How are you, Anna?” 

Anna gave her a blank look, “Fine.” 

Isabella smiled uncomfortably before asking, “Looking forward to the feast?” 

“Not especially.” 

“Oh,” and she shifted awkwardly before saying weakly, “That’s a lovely dress you're wearing.” 

“I’m glad someone noticed.” 

James sighed resentfully, “I did say you looked nice.” 

“Well it’s not as if you meant it,” spat Anna furiously. 

“I did mean it!” said James incredulously. 

“Why did you agree to go with me to the ball when I asked you, Potter?” she seethed, her voice rising an octave as she gripped her goblet violently, “Clearly you’re not interested in me in the slightest!” 

James mirrored her shrill tone and said with indignation, “I am interested in you!” 

Anna narrowed her eyes and spat, “Oh you’re completely infatuated as long as she’s not in the room!” 

“I don’t know who you’re talking about!” 

“Like hell you don’t,” growled Anna, “You haven’t stopped ogling after Lily Evans since she got here.” 

James gaped his mouth soundlessly like a fish out of water before he spluttered, “Utterly ridiculous. I have not been-” 

He was cut off by a flash of light as Anna whipped her wand at him, hissing ‘Obscuro!’, instantly shrouding James’ eyes in a black scarf. 

He spluttered for a moment before she snapped, “What colour dress is Lily Evans wearing?” 

“Green,” he said instantly before stammering, “Er – um, I meant I think she’s -” 

“What colour is my dress?” 

There was a horrible silence where his friends sat with horrified expressions planted firmly on their faces. Marlene snorted loudly at the blush creeping up James’ neck as he wavered, “Oh, ah, you’re wearing a, ah, lovely dress, that is, um…” 

“Just what I thought,” hissed Anna, “You’re an absolute git and I don’t know why I even bothered coming with you!” and she pushed her chair back violently and stalked away from the table. 

James slumped miserably in his chair and tugged off the scarf, “I did say she looked nice.” 

“Slick,” snorted the young Sirius, “How the bloody hell is that to treat a girl?” 

James made a face at him, before the young Lupin shook his head, “Pathetic, Prongs,” smacking him on the side of the head. 

James looked forlorn as he sighed, “I’ll go apologise to her when she’s calmed down,” and he unenthusiastically fiddled with his fork, “She’s right. I’ve been a total prat to her, she didn’t deserve it.” 

“Cheer up, mate,” said the young Sirius, leaning back in his chair, “Could’ve been worse.” 

“Exactly,” said Marlene flicking her napkin, “She was a bore anyway.” 

Marlene,” said the young Lupin, shaking his head. 

“What?” she said, looking incredulous, “She was! She was rude to Izzy. She was rude to me when we came to the table. She gave you a look that I certainly didn’t appreciate. Plus she looked like a giant, fluffy ringworm in that get-up.” 

Everyone choked on their drinks before Marlene looked at them with a confused face, “What? It’s true, isn’t it?” 

“Don’t hold back there, McKinnon,” sniggered the young Sirius. 

“Oh please,” and she rolled her eyes, “Life’s too short to beat around the bush. Dinner roll, anyone?” 

The young Lupin took a roll and said, “One day, you’ll get a slap with that mouth of yours.” 

“I almost did once,” said Marlene, to the mild astonishment of the boys, “A few months back when we all went to Brighton in the summer.” 

“Do tell,” said James with a grin. 

“Let’s not,” said Isabella, giving a smile that looked more like grimace. 

“Don’t you remember?” asked Marlene, shaking a bread roll at her, “That hideous muggle girl wanted to go me for saying her boyfriend had as much technique as a cod.” 

“That’s a bit cheeky,” said the young Sirius with a smirk, “Even for you, McKinnon. What’d you do? Snog the poor bastard then rat to his girlfriend?” 

“For starters,” said Marlene, swallowing her mouthful, “I don’t think he was her boyfriend; she only wished he was. Second, I wasn’t the one snogging him. Izzy was.” 

Isabella smiled awkwardly as the young Sirius raised an eyebrow at her, “Long time ago,” she said as she elbowed Marlene, “He was rubbish anyway.” 

They all chuckled before they were joined by Peter who said his hello’s to the boys and made an unnaturally high pitched noise in the general direction of the girls. 

“Hey Pete,” said Marlene fiendishly, “Been hanging about any one-eyed witches lately?” 

Peter blushed furiously as his friends all shook their heads at him; Isabella snorted loudly when Marlene asked, “What about playing with the old one-eyed witch?” 

Marlene!” said the young Lupin looking appalled. 

The young Sirius let out a bark of laughter, “You’re pissed, McKinnon, aren’t you?” 

Marlene made a face, “I am not.” 

Jesus,” said the young Lupin, grabbing her bag and looking inside, “You are; there’s a hipflask in here.” 

“So I had a nip or two, who cares?” 

The young Lupin shook his head, “We’ve not even been here an hour.” 

“Honestly, Reems,” said Marlene rolling her eyes, “You’re a real nerd sometimes, you know that?” 

“You tell me regularly,” said the young Lupin dryly. 

“You can’t blame me,” said Marlene, taking the small flask out and showing it to Isabella, “With nerdy two shoes here and Sally sad sack over there, I needed something to keep me going.” 

Isabella grinned at her, “You’re a real trooper.” 

“Anyway,” said Marlene, pouting at the young Lupin, “It’s actually for Izzy’s birthday celebrations later,” and she gave Isabella a look before whispering loudly, “Saving some to get her through gift time!” 

Isabella groaned quietly as Marlene elbowed her, giggling. 

“Gift time?” asked James, looking thoroughly amused and looking over at the young Sirius who was giving Peter a death glare. 

That’s what I sa-aid!” said Marlene in a sing-song voice. 

“And what – prey – would Izzy need booze for at gift time?” asked the young Lupin. 

Isabella smiled a little too brightly, “Back in a tick; bathroom,” and she grabbed Marlene by the wrist and dragged her off. 

They wove through the crowd before disappearing out of the doors and into the girl’s bathrooms. A few other girls were in there and they all smiled and said hello’s before Isabella pulled Marlene into a cubicle and slammed the door. 

“What the hell is wrong with you!” 

What?” said Marlene, grinning, “Oh calm down. I’m only having a lend.” 

“A lend?” hissed Isabella, putting the seat down and slumping down on it, “Why didn’t you just come right out and say we were spying on them?” 

“I’m sure they know we did anyway!” cried Marlene, “It’s not the end of the world!” 

“This whole night is a nightmare.” 

“Oh Iz,” said Marlene as she leant against the door, “You both need to loosen up a bit. Here, have a nip.” 

Isabella took the hipflask and said mournfully, “I’m afraid too. I’m feeling like an idiot without the intoxication.” 

Marlene rolled her eyes, “Just knock one back to try to calm the nerves. Can’t make things any worse, can it?” 

Isabella shook her head and held up the flask, “You’re right. Cheers,” she mumbled before knocking back a mouthful. She shuddered before mustering a cough and saying, “This night is not going well.” 

“Rubbish,” said Marlene, inspecting her nails, “We’ve not even done with the feast yet.” 

“The only thing we’ve talked about is the weather.” 

“Ouch,” said Marlene before settling next to Isabella on the toilet seat and patting her knee, “Head up, soldier. It’ll get better, I promise.” 

“Really?” 

Yes,” said Marlene with a laugh, “Look I’m sorry I said those things at the table. You know me; I can’t help but talk about the obvious. Drives me mad, trying to avoid the elephant in the room.” 

Isabella smiled softly, “You can’t help yourself, I know.” 

Marlene grinned as she stared absently at the cubicle wall, considering tiny scratch marked embedded with messages. 

They sat in silence before she said something that made Harry’s spine tingle, “Ever wonder what we’ll be like in twenty years time?” 

“Sometimes,” Isabella said softly, “You?” 

Marlene grinned, “Sometimes,” and she giggled, “I’ll probably be husbandless and teaching your twelve children how to play the cello.” 

Twelve?” 

“Alright, probably less than twelve.” 

Isabella burst out laughing, “A lot less than twelve! And what makes you think I’d let you teach my children anything?” 

Marlene smiled and rested her head against Isabella’s, “I’ll be their favourite Aunt, mark my words.” 

“I’m telling Lils and Alice, you said that,” said Isabella, looking sideways at Marlene, “They won’t like that at all.” 

Marlene smiled, “Now, you. Are you feeling better?” 

Isabella grinned, “Yeah, thanks McKinnon.” 

Marlene smiled and stood up unsteadily, dragging Isabella with her. They giggled as Isabella said, “Shouldn’t have had that nip.” 

Both girls fell against each other in hysterical laughter before there was a sudden knock at their cubicle door, “Open up! It’s me!” 

“And who is me?” asked Marlene pompously. 

“For goodness sake Marlene! It’s me, Lily. The boys said you were in here!” 

Marlene giggled and wrenched the door open as Lily slipped in and eyed the hip flask, “Crisis?” 

“McKinnon here is pissed as a newt,” said Isabella giving Marlene a look, “Just started discussing the package at the dinner table.” 

Marlene tried to stifle a snigger as Lily gave her a withering look, “You didn’t! We’ve only just started the feast! I thought you said you were saving it?” 

“Relax, Evans; it’s the seventies.” 

Lily gave her an unconvinced look. 

“I had some for medicinal purposes,” said Marlene in a bored voice, “What with Potter glooming like he’s at the bedside of the ill, her and Sirius behaving like squeaky mice, Remus being a spoil-sport and Ratty poo-poo at the table, can you blame me?” 

Lily smiled at Isabella, “Still not any better?” 

Isabella shrugged, “Had a nip; see how we go, I suppose.” 

“Looking a bit down there, Evans,” said Marlene, frowning at her, “Everything alright?” 

“Super,” said Lily wistfully, “Everything’s dandy.” 

Isabella and Marlene looked at each other, “But…” 

Lily looked hopelessly at them before shaking her head, “It’s Simon. He’s about as  exciting as a flobberworm.” 

Marlene and Isabella burst out laughing as Lily giggled, “It’s true. He’s boring the absolute pants off me.” 

“Oh, Lils,” said Marlene, throwing an arm around Lily, “I could’ve told you that before we left the dorm!” 

“He is rather dull looking,” sniggered Isabella, “Why on earth did you agree to go with him?” 

“I don’t know,” laughed Lily, shaking her head, “I mean, he’s very nice. But Sirius is right; he couldn’t show a drunk a good time with three beers in his hand.” 

Marlene tipped her head back and shrieked with laughter, “He said that? Doesn’t mince his words, does he? Love ‘em!” 

“Oh Lils,” giggled Isabella, “Come back to our table with us; there’s no point trying to make it work.” 

“I can’t!” wailed Lily, “How will it look?” 

Marlene rolled her eyes, “Like you’re coming to spend time with us. Besides, you can keep Potter company whilst his date is off having a tanty.” 

Lily rolled her eyes and fixed Marlene with a don’t even think about it look. 

“What?” Marlene said innocently, “Couldn’t hurt, could it?” 

“You’re a regular cupid,” said Isabella dryly, “Should put that down for careers.” 

Marlene grinned, “Just trying to make the wizarding world a more loving place!” 

The girls all giggled before Lily looked around, “What are we playing at? It’s a ball and we’re in the bloody loos.” 

“I know,” said Isabella, “We should go back.” 

“We should,” said Marlene as they stood up, “We all feeling better now?” 

“Whirly, but good!” 

“Good,” said Marlene giggling, “Let’s get out of here. I want to go see if we can’t get Ratty poo-poo to blush some more!” 

They all shrieked with laughter as the frame blurred to focus on the Hogwarts lawn; the Beech tree not far in the distance. 

Lily, Marlene and Alice were twittering as they carried brightly wrapped packages towards the tree; James, Remus and Frank were following carrying a small table with a giant birthday cake hovering on top. 

Peter followed, skulking along behind them. 

They arrived at the lake bank and the boys placed the table next to one of the large rocks under the tree. The girls then arranged the presents next to it and skipped nervously around waiting for their guest of honour. 

They were then joined by the young Sirius who was guiding a blindfolded Isabella to the group; his right arm was around her shoulder and he held his left arm out, holding hers as he walked her down. 

Isabella was laughing as she pleaded, “Is this really necessary?” and motioned to the scarf around her eyes. 

Yes!” squealed Marlene, “And it’s not coming off until midnight!” 

“And we still have a few minutes,” said the young Remus, bouncing about checking his watch before adding, “What’s that you’ve got there, love? Oh look out, McKinnon’s got more booze,” and Marlene blushed as she retrieved a bottle of Firewhisky from behind the stack of gifts. 

She giggled with Lily before adding, “Oh come on, one birthday drink isn’t going to end the world!” 

They all grabbed a goblet from the collection produced by Alice and waited patiently for the clock to strike. 

When it did, they all cheered as they pulled of Isabella’s blindfold. 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” they all chorused as Frank sent up some multicoloured sparks from his wand. 

They all cheered and drank their drinks whole, smirking as the young Sirius gave Isabella a peck on the cheek to which she blushed furiously and looked to beg the grass to swallow her up whole. 

They all laughed and chatted as they refilled their glasses a few times over and Isabella’s arms were laden with gifts and choruses for her to open them then and there. 

Alice had given her a beautiful white silk scarf with a glittering broach; they tied it around her head and fastened it with the jewel and gushed over the result. 

Lily had given her a beautiful photo-frame that was decorated with rare stones. It held two images; the first looked to portray the four girls in their first year at Hogwarts. They looked tiny and they giggled and hugged as they stood in front of the fireplace in the Gryffindor Common Room. The second image was taken in exactly the same position only it captured the girls at the age they were at that moment. They all welled up and carried on as they examined the photos. 

Marlene’s gift was snatched away once Isabella had unwrapped it and peered into the box; the girls giggled raucously as Isabella blushed deeply. “We ordered it by owl from that gorgeous shop in London; we just sent them your picture and measurements and they sent this back!” cackled Marlene, “We didn’t tell them to send us something quite that special!” and they all fell about in hysterical laughter, all snatching at the contents which looked to include black and red lace. 

They all seemed to carry on their party for quite a while; James had performed a spell (much to Lily’s surprise) that brought the music down to the Beech Tree. They all laughed, danced and drank and giddily sang, ‘Happy Birthday’ as Isabella clumsily cut her cake. 

They sent off some fireworks that James, Remus, Frank and Peter had presented her with as their collective gift and scattered as an unsteady Professor Slughorn trundled down to investigate the commotion. 

Once he’d grumbled and disappeared back to his post, the audience heard shrieks of laughter from the group. 

“Someone help me down from this bloody tree!” yelled Lily from somewhere out of the frame to which they heard James respond, “My dearest Evans, it would be my greatest honour!” and a scuffling. 

“Oh just cut the theatrics James and help me down!” and they heard Alice laughing hysterically as James yelled, “OW-stop-ouch! Stop kicking me, I’m trying to help you Evans! Hang on, did you just call me James? You’ve never called me by my first name!” 

“Will you just focus on watching where you put your hands?” and they heard a slap. 

“But we’ve had a breakthrough!” yelled James, amidst Alice’s laughter, “I’ve been madly in love with you for years now and confessed my feelings for you time and time again! We need to address this head on!” 

“POTTER!” 

“Go out with me Evans!” they heard James yell at the top of his voice before Lily yelled, “NO! NOW HELP ME DOWN!” 

Marlene came falling into view, half carried by a young Lupin and they were laughing uncontrollably. 

“Did you see old Sluggy? Look’ like he wasss about to burst a vessel!” slurred Marlene. 

Isabella and the young Sirius followed, laughing with them and she retorted to her friend, equally slurring, “Glad he didn’t- awwful mess!” and the four of them fell about each other laughing unsteadily. 

“Oh, Ella Bella Bear, I almost forgot, I got a gift for you,” said the young Sirius composing himself and attempting to pompously shoo the other two away. 

Marlene suddenly gave a significant look to her friend before saying pointedly, “No, I think we’ll be staying right here.” 

The young Lupin rolled his eyes and attempted to pick Marlene up bridal style and carry her away. She struggled and started an attempt at a subtle conversation in overly theatrical whispering, “We can’t leave her with him when he’s brandishing - ” 

“Come on Marlene!” interrupted the young Lupin impatiently, dragging her to the side of the frame where he attempted to restrain her from barrelling over and duelling the young Sirius. 

Meanwhile, he was giving her odd looks as he distractedly pulled the package out from his jacket pocket they’d seen him showing the others through the dome in the Room of Requirement. 

Isabella looked panicked as she started to stammer, “Look, it’s not that I don’t like you and all but - ” 

The young Sirius looked incredibly offended as he pushed the package into her hands and snapping, “Look. Just open it. If you don’t like it, feel free to give it back,” and stood there in a sulk. 

Isabella cast a fleeting look of panic to Marlene before she nervously began unwrapping the gift; a look of utter astonishment swept over her face when she saw what was inside. 

“It’s beautiful!” she gasped and Marlene looked stunned and froze where the young Lupin was scuffling with her and called, “What is it?” 

“It’s simply gorgeous!” Isabella breathed as she abruptly dropped the packaging and looked lovingly at the item she carefully cradled in her hands. 

It was a very fine silver chain that had two tiny, simple charms hanging on it. One was a small bell that tinkled softly whilst the other one was a little bear that had small sparkling eyes. 

“So...do you like it?” said the young Sirius hopefully. 

“Oh, yes! Of course! You shouldn’t of – I - ” and he interrupted her by bouncing about bursting with, “See? A bell and a bear: ‘Bella Bear’!” and he looked smug and awaiting praise of his ingenious jewellery choices. 

“Why were you so adamant about staying?” asked an amused young Lupin, walking up behind his girlfriend who had escaped and run over to her friend and stood there gushing with her over the gift. 

“Oh!” Marlene said, absently waving her hand at him, “We saw you lot with this package the other day. We, ah, thought you’d bought something else,” and she and Isabella burst out laughing at the thought. 

The young Sirius looked curiously at his friend before deciding it was useless to work it out and proceeded to fuss over Isabella and secure the pendants around her neck before standing and admiring the result with Marlene. 

“Nice one Black,” said Marlene, elbowing him, “Cracker job; gold star above your name.” 

“Cheers, McKinnon,” grinned the young Sirius, elbowing her back, “I’ll sleep well tonight, knowing you approve.” 

Isabella fingered the charms around her neck and looked brightly at the young Sirius; “Thank you, it’s so beautiful!” and she threw her arms around his neck and gave him a kiss on the cheek. 

He stumbled a bit before smiling dazedly and muttering, “It was nothing, really...” 

She giggled before they heard a scream and sparks fly at the remaining birthday cake, causing it to explode all over the ground. 

“What in the hell -” said Marlene as they spun around to see four other students walking menacingly towards them. They all had evil sneers across their faces and the girl at the front was alive with malice. 

Harry and the others immediately recognised her as Bellatrix as she seethed, “Do you know, I thought you could sink no lower dear cousin; heaven knows that if there’s anything that could be possibly worse than a mudblood, it’s an Eastern whore!” 

“You know what?” fumed the young Sirius, tensing up and looking furious as he and the young Lupin pushed Isabella and Marlene protectively away from them, “Why don’t you and your little Slytherin friends just go fu - ” 

Filth!” sneered a flat faced boy, staring nastily at the fray, “She’ll already have been passed around like a piece of meat at her local Harem.” 

As the young Sirius raised his wand violently to hex him, Bellatrix’s eyes flashed dangerously and she screamed, “AVEDA KADAVRA!” 

The four Gryffindor’s threw themselves to the ground as Bellatrix’s spell collided with the Beech Tree and one of its branches smashed in the explosion. 

They looked terrified that she’d used such a spell on her fellow students; she looked slightly stunned herself at what she’d done, but recovered quickly with an evil cackle. She raised her wand once more as she screeched, “Ready to die little one? You have sullied the most ancient and noble name of Black for long enough; your mother will THANK ME!” and as she drew herself up in her reverence, she shot another spell in her cousin’s direction. 

They four of them ducked again, Marlene narrowly missing the hit as she and Isabella clambered for their wands; Bellatrix glared and spat, “Almost got myself a blood traitor!” 

“You’re going to pay for that,” growled the young Lupin as the young Sirius snarled, “You’re mental. You should be locked up your crazy bitch,” and both boys raised their wands as Bellatrix screeched, “Crazy? CRAZY?!” and she aimed her wand at Marlene and Isabella, cackling madly as she went. 

Before it hit, Isabella had moved with the speed and agility of a cat and had thrown Marlene on the ground before she lifted her hands towards the oncoming spell. 

Harry and the others caught their breath as it seemed certain she would get hit and be killed; however what she did threw them into even further shock. 

Isabella seemed to catch Bellatrix’s second killing spell and throw it into the air and, as her eyes glowed purple, she breathed fire into the now swirling curse. She spun her right hand in a circle as she created a huge ball of flames and threw it at the Slytherin’s like a cannonball, causing them to scream and fly out of the way. 

The flat faced boy swore at the top of his voice and raised his wand to defend himself; only he didn’t get an opportunity to utter a word before Isabella had raised her hand again and seemed to throw an invisible ball at him. There was a violent gush of wind as her wandless spell hit the Slytherins and the ground beneath them rumbled and broke as if struck by a heavy bolder. 

They stared, petrified at the petite teenager before Bellatrix screamed in blind fury, “Eastern WHORE!” and attempted to strike her once more with her killing spell. 

Isabella’s eyes glowed brighter as she whipped her hand up and struck it through the air causing Bellatrix’s wand to snap cleanly in two with a loud crack

“You BITCH!” screamed Bellatrix as she tried to fly at her opponent; the other Slytherin’s grabbed her and with one last terrified look at Isabella, they pulled the hysterical girl away and ran back up to the castle. 

The young Lupin, Sirius and Marlene stared astonished up at their friend; Isabella stumbled back a bit and looked incredibly drained. 

Lily, James, Alice and Frank came running over screaming, “Are you alright?” 

“Oh God,” wailed Alice, “You’re not hurt are you?” 

“We saw the whole thing from way over there!” cried Lily, who was pale and clutching at James’ sleeve, “Didn’t we? Saw the fire and everything!” 

“That wasn’t them,” said Marlene, her voice breaking. “That was Iz – the fire was Iz.” 

The young Lupin stumbled as he tried to help Marlene up and said, “I think I must have missed some lessons,” and he looked dumbstruck at Isabella, “Where in the hell did you learn to do that?” 

The young Sirius looked at her hesitantly; he was pale as he helped his friend pick up the now sobbing Marlene. 

They all seemed to distance themselves from Isabella as she whispered faintly, “Eastern defence duelling; we’re taught different magic,” and she leant against the still smoking Beech Tree. “Had Bellatrix been an adult, her curses would have been stronger and I wouldn’t have been able to reflect it back against her; fortunately, she’s still only a mental teenager.” 

Her friends seem to consider this; Peter hovered away from her fearfully as if she would suddenly start erupting into flames. Isabella noticed; she also seemed to take in the fact that they were all looking at her uncertainly, especially the young Sirius. 

“I’m sorry if I scared you,” she whispered, looking down, “Only that nut was using the killing curse – one of us could have been seriously injured or even killed had I not done it.” 

The seriousness of what had just happened seemed to sink in quietly and they all peered uncertainly at each other. Isabella looked like she was about to cry at the fact that they all seemed to be slightly frightened of her. 

Goodness,” breathed Lily suddenly, putting an arm around Isabella, “I’d hate to cross you when you’ve not had a few to drink!” 

They all chuckled nervously which gradually turned into hysterical laughter as they began to relax and close in on Isabella, showering her with thanks and praise. 

Geeez, Bella Bear, I knew you had a bloody awful temper but breathing fire?!”  exclaimed the young Sirius with an incredulous look to the group. 

She made a face at him, “Well you’ll know what to expect if I find you carrying on with anymore tarts after Quidditch matches!” 

“Hey Izzy, can you teach us to do that?” said Marlene weakly, as she conjured more Firewhisky and offered it round to the still quite shaken group. 

Isabella pondered this as she drank the liquid straight from the bottle saying, “Most of it is innate.” She gasped once she’d swallowed before adding, “My mother used to do it at royal parades when I was little as entertainment, can you imagine? I’ve never really done it properly before tonight; but I can try to show you I suppose.” 

“Good grief, what else did she do?” asked Frank as he was passed the bottle. 

“Oh, usually something quite showy. She was very much the glamorous party hostess,” said Isabella with a dry laugh. 

“Was?” asked James curiously. 

“She died when I was seven. My father too; their ship was attacked whilst they were on a royal tour.” 

“Oh I’m sorry -” blushed James quickly. 

“It’s okay,” smiled Isabella gently, squeezing his arm. “It was a long time ago; plus I didn’t really know them all that well, they were really only figureheads to me. Not really the parental type.” 

She followed this by answering their curious looks with, “An arranged marriage. My father was an only child, like me, and they were slightly disappointed to say the least when they had produced a girl,” and she laughed sarcastically. “Not what one wishes for when trying to preserve a dynasty.” 

“Well we’re all mighty glad you were a girl,” announced the young Sirius loudly and clearly changing the subject, “Especially me,” and they all laughed as he waggled his eyebrows. 

“You’re such a pervert sometimes, Black!” said Lily laughing before Marlene added, “Now! How’s about teaching me to breathe some fire, lady!” 

The next fifteen minutes were filled with the group falling about each other laughing as Isabella was trying desperately to teach Marlene and Lily to conjure flames without their wands. 

“No, no you have to imagine the flames in your throat and use everything that you have to visualise them flowing out like this,” and she began doing wild motions as if spurting copious amounts liquid into the air from her mouth. The white scarf was still wrapped about her head like a sweat band and she was using it to illustrate flames; she looked rather like a hippie at a carnal gathering. 

Marlene was scrunching her eyes shut and copying the arm movements; she looked like she was violently choking on her own tongue. 

Lily was trying just as hard but kept losing herself in laughter at the sight of Marlene. 

They all considered it a lost cause and began chorusing for Isabella to show them something else that they claimed she had been ‘hiding from them’. 

“Okay, okay,” she finally agreed as they were readying themselves to return to the castle. 

She stood for a moment, eyes closed and seemingly deep in thought as the others bounced about in anticipation. 

She suddenly opened her eyes that had glowed purple again before striking both her arms up; they heard a sudden crack of lightening before a burst of flames appeared, instantly turning to smoke as ten phoenix’s sprang through and began soaring above their heads. 

They circled for a moment before disappearing in the same flames as Isabella flicked her wrist. 

She stood wavering for a moment before her eyes sprung open, back to its usual dark colour. They all stood in silence before raucously applauding and whistling. 

She giggled loudly with them before snorting and doing a mock curtsy, looking heartily embarrassed. 

The scene went blurry again and began focusing on the Gryffindor Common Room. 

Harry and the others used the slight interim to bombard the present day Sirius and Lupin with questions. 

Blimey!” exclaimed Fred as George asked, “What else do they teach them in that Empire?” 

“Yeah, what was the other stuff she could do?” asked Harry, looking equally amazed. 

“She was quite impressive in combat,” said Lupin with a sigh, “There were a few battles, post Hogwarts, that were won because of what she could do without a wand. Plus certain protective spells and shields; she was a real asset to the Order...” 

The realisation of Isabella’s current lack of presence from their cause and subsequent absence from their knowledge seemed to dawn on Harry and the others. 

“What happened?” asked Hermione quietly. 

The present day Lupin looked at Hermione for a moment, before turning to Sirius who was staring blankly at the frame where his young self was laughing and kissing Isabella in what looked like a joyful and long awaited union. He was declaring loudly to a crowded Common Room, “Come on Bella Bear, be my girlfriend! Forever and always!” to which she threw her arms around him and declared, “I shall!” 

“She died,” he whispered before running his hand over his face. He stared at the frame for a moment, head resting on his hand before abruptly standing up and walking out. 

They all sat in silence as they watched the image of them laughing and dancing about before fading out once more to the Beech Tree.

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