I stood at the bottom of the Astronomy Tower, debating whether I really wanted to go up. I mean, I didn’t really want to go up at all. But, I felt kind of obligated. I felt like I should turn over a new, less crazy leaf.
I knew that turning over said leaf though, would involve me explaining to everyone that, yes, I had been in a coma this summer and no, I wasn’t a werewolf and yes, I am alright now. I figured it would be easier to explain to everyone while they were all sloshed on Firewhiskey – so that when they saw me in the Great Hall, they would hopefully be too embarrassed to come up to me and ask again.
It made a lot of sense in my head.
But then, I was positively addled.
I figured that there would be a lot of people up there that I didn’t want to see – the Marauders, Tabitha, my general group of peers. But I thought that there may be a few people who I wanted to see – such as Lena, Frankie – I guess, and worst of all, even though I’d deny it if anyone asked me – James Potter. I wanted to see James because I knew that he knew what had happened that night and I was fed up being the only one out of the loop. I had been out of the loop for about seventeen years and I was over it.
I really needed to start talking to actual people, so I could stop over-thinking everything so much.
I took a step up the Astronomy Tower. And then, a flush overtook me and I felt panicked. I took a step down. That felt better. I looked down at my red trainers. I was right back where I started. Good, sweet Merlin, I was a mess. I turned away from the Tower. I was clearly so not ready for this. It was doubtful I ever would be and maybe it would just be easier for me to accept that then try to change it.
I trotted back towards Gryffidor Common Room, towards the Fat Lady’s sassy portrait and ultimately towards my bed – where I planned on curling up with Jack and sleeping. I felt like such a lazy ass. Sure, I wasn’t going to the party but I could at least read a book or something. I tried to rationalize that once term started, I would be constantly drowning myself in extra credit assignments – so one lazy night wouldn’t hurt that much. Before I could get that far, however, all the hairs on the back of my neck stood up when someone called out, “Hope?”
I turned, slowly. Frankie Holland smiled and waved at me, from the bottom of the Astronomy Tower steps, then jogged over towards me.
“Hey, did you, uhh,” Frankie stammered. I honestly didn’t remember him being this awkward. Perhaps it was just my summer in a coma that made people awkward around me. “Did you forget something in the Common Room?”
I should have lied. It would have been so easy to say, “Why yes, Frankie! I forgot my sweater and I’m just running back to get it – but don’t worry, I’ll see you soon!”
“I was actually just going to bed.”
Fantastic, Hope, really.
“You were going to…” Frankie looked confused. “Bed? It’s only like eight.”
“Well, I mean,” my hand went into my hair. Damn, the last thing I needed to do was mess that up more. “I’m just kinda tired…”
“Hope.” Frankie grabbed my hand. “You don’t have to feel nervous, you know. If it’s bad, then I completely understand but don’t you think you should, uhh,” he paused, and let go of my hand – noticing my odd stare. “Don’t you think you should give it a shot?”
A crash behind us distracted my attention. I peered over Frankie’s shoulder to see Sirius standing next to an overturned case of Firewhiskey that was beginning to spill out over the stone floor. Beside him, Peter was tutting and moving his wand, repeating “Reparo” over and over again. It took Sirius a moment to shake himself out of staring directly at us to point quickly at the Firewhiskey.
“Reparo,” he muttered sternly. The bottles quickly sucked the liquid up and the pieces of glass came back together.
My legs immediately went to jelly. As usual, Sirius looked amazing. He was wearing a ratty old Quidditch tee shirt that showed off his arms, his hair was pulled back with a hair tie into a small pony tail and his chin was all stubbly and delicious.
Sweet Merlin! Get a hold of yourself! He put you in a coma!
He put me in a coma, yes. And he was currently glaring at Frankie with such a fierce glare that I thought his eyes were going to pop out of his head and slap Frankie in the face. Peter ended up sort of pushing Sirius forward, muttering to him in those standard, hushed Marauder tones and they ushered up the steps.
“It was just supposed to be kind of a, well, small get together,” Frankie began. “But then the Marauders found out about it and, well, it’s kind of a full fledged, uhh, party now.” He smiled his cheerful smile at me. “It’d be a shame for you to miss it, you know.” He held his hands up in seeming self-defense. “No pressure, I just, uhh, think you could maybe use a little fun after your summer.”
My cheeks burned.
Frankie had a point. I had been in a coma for the summer. I did deserve some fun. Sure, my first Sirius sighting hadn’t been exactly… smooth, but well, had they ever been? And yes, Remus would definitely be up there but I think as long as he was in his human form I wouldn’t run screaming from him. I didn’t actually have any memories from that night, so I didn’t think that seeing Remus would trigger any traumatic flashbacks. Plus – I hadn’t ever been to a party at Hogwarts. It being my last year and all, it just felt right.
“Fine,” I muttered and Frankie grinned. “But if things get weird I’m leaving.”
I wandered off from Frankie when we got up to the top of the Astronomy Tower – mainly because a large group of his seemingly normal and lovely friends waved him over.
“You go,” I assured him. “I’ll catch up with you later.” Frankie nodded, smiled and then loped over to resume conversation with his friends.
I wandered around the party for a bit before finding myself in a starry corner. If this was a Hogwarts party, I guess I had been missing out. The Astronomy Tower was so high that it seemed almost possible to grab the stars out of the sky. The whole castle grounds were visible from up here, from the groundskeeper’s little hut on the edge of the Forbidden Forest to the bloody Whomping Willow.
“Hey,” a calm voice announced it’s presence behind me. I turned around to see James grinning at me drunkenly. “Enjoying the party?”
“I uh,” I awkwardly took a cup of Firewhiskey from him. “I just got here.”
“Yeah, Sirius said he saw,” James’ eyes got huge when he realized what he said, and he began furiously rubbing his hair. “Never mind.” He smirked at me, that lazy grin that gave me goosebumps all up and down my arms.
“Where is Sirius?” I asked casually. Well, I attempted to ask casually. I could have bitten James’ head off with the tension I was feeling at the moment. James looked at me curiously.
“Do you really want to know?”
I stared at him, my expression completely blank.
“Why wouldn’t I want to know?”
We were talking in circles and it was, odd, to say the very least.
“Oh, well, we just kind of figured you didn’t really want to talk to any of…” I interrupted him before he could continue.
“If you had told me a year ago that you would be the only one of your lot to talk to me, I would have told you that you were mental.” I took a sip of Firewhiskey, felt it burn down my throat and smiled into my cup. I looked up to see James looking at me through wistful, drunk eyes.
“Things change,” he shrugged. “It’s kind of nice though,” he made a move to lightly punch my shoulder with his cup. “Being mates and all.”
“Mates,” I repeated and nodded. James took a seat on some random cushions that I assumed were specifically for the party. He patted the cushion next to him.
“If you sit with me, no one will bother you.” He smiled as I sat down. “You’ll see Sirius though, and Remus – if that’s okay.” I sat, as if invisible forces were pulling me in to James Potter’s spell.
“I think that’s okay.” I sighed. “I don’t really know how I’ll react in all honesty.” James nodded.
“It’s good to be honest.” He laughed. “Especially in such odd situations. More?” He held up a bottle of Firewhiskey and I let him refill my cup. I hadn’t realized that I had finished it off so quickly, but as I watched the liquid pour into my cup, I began to feel a tingling in my toes.
“So,” he smiled, leaning his head back and closing his eyes for a moment. “I think I’m making real progress with Lily.” I couldn’t help but smile. James Potter was all sorts of reliable.
“Oh, I’m so sure.” I snorted.
“No, no,” James’ eyes shot up and he leaned towards me. “Listen, I told her I’m done trying, that she’s obviously not interested so I’ll just leave her in peace her last year.” He grinned. “It’s driving her mad.”
“Wow, James, that’s so mature.” He shoved me lightly.
“I’m just trying to make some casual conversation, there, Hope. I mean, I can’t really ask you about your summer can I?” My eyes bore into him and he pointed at me. “See what I mean?”
We were silent for a few moments, but it was a comfortable, pleasant silence. The sky was beautiful and the weather was perfect and it was just sort of nice sitting with someone and soaking it all in.
“Hey, James,” I didn’t look at him. I had to spit my words out quickly or I knew they wouldn’t come out. “My nurse told me Sirius visited me almost every day this summer.” I paused, and gauged him for a reaction, but his features had become stoic and hard. “So, why won’t he speak to me?”
I looked down at my hands, eager to play with my hair or fidget in some nervous way. The Firewhiskey made me slightly calmer, but my heart was still pounding in my ears. James scanned the crowd atop the Astronomy Tower and I could tell by his face that he knew what he wanted to say.
“He thinks he’s fucked it all up.” He spat out. His eyebrows wrinkled. “I mean, he has, right?” James turned towards me. “You almost died because of him.”
My breath caught in my throat. I knew it was true but I hadn’t thought of that.
“I mean, he broke your heart. Then he almost got you killed.”
And here I was still waiting for him to talk to me. I was still waiting for him to need me.
“I just thought that maybe he visited because he felt…”
“I don’t really know what Sirius feels, Hope.” James’ tone was rising. I was thankful we were in a corner so that no one could hear the conversation. “I mean, he’s my best friend and practically my brother but he keeps all that locked up so much that I can only guess.” He turned to face me, and placed a hand on my shoulder. “I know, I know you had an extremely difficult summer. But please, take my word for it when I tell you that Sirius also had an extremely difficult summer.”
He was silent for a moment, and I could tell he was holding back.
“But, why? Why won’t you tell me what was so difficult?” I prodded him.
“Oh, I don’t know Hope – maybe the whole almost killing the girl he loves and then getting disowned by his family bit just proved to be a little too much for the bloke.” His eyes widened as the words fell from his mouth and I felt myself go dumb.
I shot up, and darted down the Astronomy Tower steps and straight to my bed.
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