“Would you care to tell me why you felt it necessary to launch yourself off your broom and tackle Miss McCormack?” The lines on Professor Finnegan Spore’s forehead deepened as he finished reading the letter explaining the situation that had brought me to his office.
I sat there in silence. While his words suggested he was asking a question, the edge in his voice told me that this was no request; it was a command. I opened my mouth to explain, but quickly shut it. Although Professor Spore had only been appointed as Head of Gryffindor House a month ago, I was becoming increasingly familiar with his style. If I told him that I didn’t ‘launch’ myself on Kenna, merely ‘lunged’ at her, that would result in a lecture on semantics. Did it matter that she was the one who grabbed on to me and threw us off our brooms? Did it matter that I didn’t intend to land on her? Of course it did. But I knew Spore well enough by now to know that he wouldn’t find my clarifications particularly relevant.
He would take my attempts at sharing my side of the story as an opportunity to ‘weave a tale’ and ‘pull the wool over his eyes’. When those phrases entered into the conversation, you had better just accept your fate. Spore will first clear his throat and then begin his most favourite lecture of them all - the state of young witches and wizards today. No, I would not be going down that road with him this time. I had already heard that lecture. Twice. Besides, there really wasn’t an easy way to explain why I did what I did unless I got into the series of events that had unfolded over the past five days: and I wasn’t going to do that. He wouldn’t believe me anyway. Six days ago, I wouldn’t have believed my explanation either.
His pale green eyes studied me and I looked away from the force of his gaze. Surely, he wouldn’t just let us sit here in silence for much longer. My file was open and I focused on the small square that appeared in the air above it. The image slowly dissolved from the still image of my school portrait to a moment from last year’s Quidditch Cup. I watched my dark red hair flying behind me as I soared through the sky with the Quaffle firmly in my hand and couldn’t hold back a smile as I watched the Quaffle fly right through Ravenclaw’s middle hoop.
“What happened, Miss Potter,” Professor Spore asked as he tapped his wand twice on my file. My deep brown eyes met his for a moment and I felt my stomach twist itself in a large knot. Gryffindor’s celebration at the Quidditch pitch dissolved into the Great Hall. I could see myself in the front row of the choir, cheeks flushed and brown eyes sparkling as we sang in front of the entire school. As that faded, the voices of my professors could be heard as my final class reports came into focus. The parchments from my assignments, essays and exams shuffled across the square and Spore’s wand pointed at one.
“Lily Potter has wonderful potential.... while her focus could be improved, her effort is always solid....” He then pointed at another.
“…Potter should not sit next to Hugo Weasley - she is a source of distraction for him.” And another.
“She is one of the top Potions students in her year...”
The knot in my stomach began to unfurl and I let out a small sigh. With a tiny wave of his wand, Professor Spore sent those images back into my file and two squares appeared in front of me. Gradually, they grew in size so that I had no trouble seeing what they held. The first square held an image of my scowling face as I pulled weeds from the Hogwarts vegetable garden on Monday. I watched myself wipe the sweat from my forehead, my hands leaving splotches of dirt on my face and clothes. I could see my mouth moving as I dug in the earth and sent a silent prayer of thanks to Merlin that there was no audio. As if he could read my thoughts, Professor Spore gave me a hard look before pointing his wand to the square. “The altercation between Lily Potter and Lefteris Paraskevas resulted in the early dismissal of my transfiguration class today. Wands were drawn and they were screaming at the top of their lungs. Both students had to be restrained after firing hexes at one another.”
A wave of heat washed over my face. Without saying a word, Professor Spore pointed to the second square. I looked down at my robes and grimaced when I heard the next professor’s voice: “Lily Potter is a good student. I was shocked to learn that she was the one who set fire to the stack of graded papers on my desk. We were lucky no one was hurt.” I wiped my palms on my robe and bit down on my bottom lip as I caught the note of disappointment in Professor Longbottom’s voice.
“You’re veering onto a dangerous path, Miss Potter,” Professor Spore said as he closed my file. “Wander too far and you may just find that you’re unable to find your way back.”
I contemplated whether finding the way back was the same for those who willingly wandered as it was for those of us who were thrown off the path without warning. “I’m sorry for my behaviour, sir,” I said softly. I looked up at him out of the corner of my eye. “It won’t happen again.” I was sorry. I didn’t want to be causing trouble and fighting. I just hoped that I could keep the promise that I was making.
“You had better learn to get that temper of yours under control, Miss Potter,” he said. He dipped his quill into the ink to his right and began writing. “Detention. For the rest of this month.”
“A month? But - ”
“Would you care to make it longer?”
Another question that wasn’t really a question. No, I didn’t want to make it longer. Obviously. I bit my tongue.
“Please try to remove the look of shock and outrage from your face, Lily Potter. This is the third time you’ve been sent to my office this week. You’re fortunate that it’s only detention.” He placed his quill down on his desk and placed the parchment into my file. “Consider it an early Christmas present.”
I swallowed the sarcastic comments that were were bubbling to the surface. “Thank you, Professor Spore,” I said and closed the door behind me. It slammed shut with a bang and I winced. Would he think I did that on purpose? I began to turn back to offer a quick apology when I noticed Hugo slouched against the stone wall directly in front of the office. His bright blue eyes were frantically searching for the source of the sudden wake up call until they landed on me. His face relaxed, but he made no move to get up off the floor.
“Well blimey, Lily, that was quick,” he whispered. "You didn’t kill him, did you?” Hugo raised his right eyebrow and gestured toward the closed door.
“No, but you may not be so lucky!” My hand landed with a thud on top of his head and I ruffled his perfectly styled red spikes. Ever since Aldonra Cabello had complimented him on his hair three months ago, Hugo had undertaken an intense hair styling regime every morning.
“Ok Ok,” Hugo said getting up. “Just watch the hair, Lily!” I stepped back and his hair bounced back perfectly in place. It was like I hadn’t even touched it.
“Ugh. Come on,” I said grabbing the sleeve of his robe. I quickened my pace as I led us to the staircase, only briefly glancing up at the high vaulted ceilings. I felt my grip on Hugo’s sleeve tighten as I tried to shake the image of the ceiling slowly lowering down on us.
“Where’s the fire, Lily?” Hugo said, wrenching his robe from my grasp. I stopped and turned around to face him, my eyes flashing at his question. How much did he know? I looked at Hugo, searching for any clue that his question held a deeper meaning. Standing in front of me with his permanently rosy cheeks, Hugo rearranged his robe before meeting my gaze. He looked up at me with concern.
“A normal pace feels like rushing to you, Hugo. Grandmas move faster than you do,” I said. My smile widened when I saw Hugo grin. I slowed down to match Hugo’s pace and we continued down the long corridor.
“Have you seen Nana Molly chase James?” Hugo asked. “That is - ” Laughter and loud voices surrounded us as we rounded the corner. Hugo let the end of the sentence fade into silence as we surveyed the crowd gathered around the top of the staircase.
I cursed silently at the line of slow moving first years. They were walking so timidly and carefully that you’d think they were walking across a tightrope rather than down a perfectly normal moving staircase. The loud hoots from the students milling around only seemed to slow the movement of the first years even more. I would have felt bad for them if they weren’t causing such a huge inconvenience. I tapped my fingers against the railing and took in the new Christmas decorations that had appeared this morning. Large pine trees were placed beside the floor to ceiling windows that overlooked the grounds and wreaths with cranberries and gold ribbon were hung on the stone walls. I scanned the faces in the crowd and was surprised that not a single prefect was trying to put an end to this. This was the type of situation Rose lived for: righting wrongs and punishing the offenders. Well, it wouldn’t be long before they arrived, and I surely wasn’t going to get lumped into yet another punishment.
I tugged on Hugo’s sleeve gently and inclined my head for him to follow me. I weaved through the tiny first years, smiling and throwing quick waves to my classmates that I passed. When I reached the bottom, I glanced up at Hugo and saw him not even half way down the stairs, moving slowly as usual and murmuring quick apologies and words of encouragement to the first years that he passed. I contained my frustration at his ever-present politeness and decided that I’d just meet him in the courtyard.
I walked away from the building, my feet crunching the frozen grass underneath and looked up at the grey sky. I tilted my head up wondered if we would see the first snowfall today. I felt my shoulders relax. I took in a deep breath of icy air and welcomed the slight pain in my chest. When I heard the large wooden doors slam shut behind me, I knew Hugo had finally made it. “Detention for a month,” I yelled over my shoulder.
“That’s...it,” I heard Hugo’s voice ask between huge gasps for breath. I tore my eyes from the sky and focused on Hugo huffing and puffing in front of me.
“What do you mean, ‘that’s it’?” I took Hugo’s arm and slowly guided him to the wooden bench in front of us. His eyes were watering and his face was bright red. I made a mental note not to rush Hugo anymore.
“Well... it’s just that... Kenna McCormack was sent to the infirmary...and there was that guy from Slytherin... not to mention everyone’s talking about the small fire you set - ”
“Hugo Weasley,” I said, cutting him off. “I was there, remember? There’s no need to rattle off a list... ” I knew exactly what the list of my transgressions looked like. And as my list of secrets grew by the day, so too did my list of offences. I sat down beside my cousin and exhaled loudly as I ran my hands over my face. In such a short amount of time my normal life had turned completely upside down. How was I ever going to get myself out of this mess? I could hear Hugo’s breathing start to slow and a surge of guilt rushed through me. I reached over and patted him twice on the shoulder. After a moment that felt longer than it actually was, Hugo tapped me back. I looked up and gave him a small smile. I was forgiven.
“What’s going on, Lil? If you tell me, I can help you.” He spoke so softly, yet I could easily detect the hurt behind those words. Hugo was easily my best friend. Throughout my life whenever I had a problem, or a bad day, Hugo had always been there to make everything right. And although I didn’t want to drag Hugo into my mess, I felt awful keeping things from him.
“It started five days ago,” I said slowly. “It gets complicated so I’ll start with the first secret.”
“Yeah. It’s complicated.” I tucked my leg up under me focused on the breathtaking scenery in front of me. From up here, I could see the rolling hills and the long dirt path that led to the forest. To the left, I could see the beginning of the line of ash trees that lined the lake: their bare branches curved up to the sky. A quick look up at Hugo confirmed that his gaze was fixed exactly where I knew it would be. To the right, just slightly behind the Owlery, was a small wooden gazebo. For reasons we never really discussed, Hugo loved that place more than any other on the Hogwarts grounds. Me? I’d rather be in an open space, with only the sky above me.
“It’s ok, Lily. Everything will seem much less scary once you get it out in the open.”
I doubted that very much, but it was too late to stop now. Besides, telling Hugo was the only thing that seemed right in this whole mad situation. “My first secret is that I’m in love with Lorcan.” I closed my eyes and waited for the reaction that I knew was coming.
“Yes, Hugo,” I said, letting out a deep sigh.
“Well bloody hell, Lily, I can’t say that I saw one coming, but that’s not so bad.” Hugo let out a relieved laugh, but let it dissolve into silence when he saw the look on my face. “Does he know?”
“No.” I felt the pit in my stomach tighten just a little. Although I had never spoken about my feelings for Lorcan before, fancying him wasn’t something new. For as long as I could remember, Lorcan had been in my heart; my feelings for him had always just been there. But it wasn’t until five days ago that I learned the extent of those feelings. It could be that realizing I was in love with Lorcan was what started off this series of mad events in the first place…or maybe it was the mysteries and misunderstandings that led me to realize my feelings. It wasn’t exactly clear.
“So is that what all this fighting is about? Kenna knows?” Hugo’s questions pulled me from the swirling thoughts in my head.
“Not exactly.” I tapped my fingers against the cool wood beside me. It was now or never.
“Oh come on, Lily. What do you mean not exactly?”
Just as I was formulating the words, something hard smashed into the back of my head and knocked the words clear out of my mind.
“What the - ” I turned around and saw Kenna, with her left arm in a dark blue sling, standing on top of the small hill directly behind us. Tiny snowflakes began floating down from the sky leaving traces of white dust in her golden blonde hair. She let out her high pitched giggle and I cringed. If there was one sound that got under my skin, it was that laugh.
I ran my fingers over the spot where the object had struck and let out a small sigh of relief when I didn’t feel any blood. I then searched the ground for what she had thrown at me. I knew exactly how I’d be sending that back to her.
“Seems you’re not as hurt as you’d like everyone to believe,” Hugo shouted at Kenna.
“You keep out of this, Huge-o,” Kenna said as she slowly walked down the hill. “Lily nearly cost us the Quidditch Cup with her savage attack on me this morning.”
My heart stopped when I saw a clear cube out of the corner of my eye. That evil witch! I scrambled over to the large evergreen tree and picked up the box just peaking out from under the thick branches. Keeping my back to Hugo and Kenna, I gently tucked it into the inside pocket of my robe.
“You’re lucky it will be healed in time for our next game, Potter,” Kenna hissed, “or should I say my next game? In case you haven’t guessed, you’re off the team!” Kenna smirked and waved a letter above my head.
The pit burrowed deeper into my stomach. “What? I barely touched you,” I said as I reached for the letter. “You pulled me off my broom!” Kenna ignored my words, and laughed louder as she held the letter higher above my head. Losing Quidditch was like losing the air I breathed. Her dark blue eyes sparkled when she saw the pain written all over my face. I stumbled back into Hugo when she pushed passed me.
“There’s a good boy, Huge-O,” Kenna said in a baby voice. “Always Lily’s protector. It really is too bad that Lily has replaced you.” Kenna looked from my pale face to Hugo’s confused expression and let out another cackle.
“Well, well, seems like Lily hasn’t told you about her new best friend, huh, Hugo? That’s ok. Pretty soon everyone will be talking about it.” Kenna moved to pat Hugo on the head and let out a tiny giggle when he dodged her hand.
We stood there in silence, the tiny snowflakes clinging to my eyelashes and blurring my vision. I felt the pit in my stomach warm with the anger swirling inside of me. My fists were clenched at my sides and I didn’t even feel Hugo’s hand on my shoulder, pulling me back towards the bench.
I turned around to see Kenna race down the rest of the hill, eager to catch up with a group of girls at the bottom. She threw the letter down behind her and I watched it slowly float to the ground.
Hugo and I sat on the bench in silence until we could no longer hear her laugh on the wind. I stared at the unopened envelope that Hugo handed to me. I dreaded reading the words that would prove Kenna right.
“Incendio,” I whispered as I pointed my wand at the corner of the white envelope. I watched as tiny flames licked the edge, leaving a small black edge in its wake.
“You know,” Hugo said breaking the silence. “She’s lovely. I can’t imagine why you have such a problem with her.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “Yeah. I guess it’ll remain a mystery.” I let Hugo take the envelope from my hand and blow out the flames. It probably wasn’t the smartest idea to burn a letter you haven’t read. A read letter is fair game though.
I slowly took out the clear cube from my pocket and held it up at eye-level so I could make sure no damage was done. Once I was happy that everything was as it should be, I turned to Hugo.
“I lunged at Kenna during Quidditch practice because she was threatening to reveal my secret.”
“About you being in love with Lorcan?”
“No. If only that was the secret...” I raised the hood on my robe to block out the wind whistling in my ears and placed the small clear cube onto the palm of my hand. I held it out to Hugo. “The secret Kenna knows about is right here,” I said lightly tapping the cube with my finger. “I keep an ant in a box under my bed.”
As I pulled the covers up under my chin and closed my eyes that night, I felt better than I had in days. I, Lily Potter, wasn’t going to let some silly misunderstandings get the best of me. All I had to do was go back the beginning - to the moment I veered off the path - and sort out the secrets that started this all in the first place. It was time for me to find a way out of this series of crazy events. It was time to find my way back.
A/N: Thank you so much for reading! A special thank you to Erised for her wonderful feedback on this chapter as well as Patronus_Charm, MissesWeasley123 and Book Dinosaur for their title help and suggestions. The story title is credited to Patronus_Charm.
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