“So what? You’ve, like, swapped professions or something? You’re a matchmaker now?” Leon asks, walking alongside me. He’d insisted on walking me to Arithmancy this morning, I assumed it was a kind of brotherly protection thing, considering I had new scary friends and possible unknown enemies. I hadn’t received retaliation from the Slytherins, namely Bellabitch, and that’s a little worse than a cause for concern. More accurately a run and hide situation.

“Not exactly,” I say, lugging my bag more comfortably onto my shoulder, “it’s more like I’m expanding my trade for some special clients.”

“Yeah, very special” Leon says with a wink and I laugh, nodding in agreement. They’re certainly one of a kind anyway, or four of a kind I suppose. “Are they good?” Leon asks, his whole demeanour changing in an instant. It shocks me enough into stopping.

In his question I know he means so much, he wants to know if they’re kind, if they deserve my trust, if they’ll look out for me and not hurt me. But before I answer I suddenly realise it’s more than just knowing I can trust them, he means that if I say they’re good, then he will look out for them too, that we all will. I lean forward and hold him tight before I think better of it.

“Yes,” I whisper, “they’re good.”

“Who’s good?”

“Oh for Merlin’s sake you don’t half make it hard do you?” I say, pulling away from Leon and looking towards a slightly bewildered Remus Lupin. Before he can say anything I sigh and just shake my head, pushing irritation away and letting light amusement take its place.

“How you doing, Remus?” Leon asks, throwing his arm over my shoulders.

“Good thanks, and you?”

“Yeah good, but if you’re both off to clever people class then I’ll leave Jem under your protection and see you at lunch,” Leon lifts his arm, giving me a playful nudge.

“With my life,” Lupin says and I push them both.

“I can handle a bunch of dopey Slytherins, like you said, I take clever people classes” I wink, only partially offended. “My life is safe in my own hands, thank you very much; now let’s go pretend to learn some stuff!”

I link arms with Lupin and saunter off with a happy wave to Leon who heads in the other direction. I also ignore Lupin’s mutterings that not everyone knows the syllabus by heart and simply assure him that he has more important things to learn; like my magnificent plan.

“Who would have guessed you’d be so happy first thing, and going to class too! You’ve changed” Lupin says, staring at our linked arms with a bewildered expression, no doubt wondering if I was up to something evil.

“This is first thing for you, not me” I reply, “I’ve technically been up since three setting up some stuff, you missed my grumpy morning phase you lucky duck.”

“Really lucky duck, knowing how bad you can be” he says laughing at a memory. And I know exactly which one.

“Look I never forced you to face my morning wrath, you brought that upon yourself and you’ll know better than to test me before breakfast in the future, right?”

“I can’t promise anything, I’m afraid.”

“You should be afraid, very afraid” I threaten, trying to hold a slap back as he laughs outright at me.

“You’re cute when you’re threatening” he says, still laughing.

“Oh shut up and get moving” I mutter. I didn’t know it was possible to be annoyed and happy at the same time, but I’m managing the balance for now. “We’ll be late.”

“No we won’t” he says, glancing at the time on his watch then back at me.

“We will if I’m forced to deck you! Then I’ll feel bad and drag your bruised ass to class.”

He tsks and laughs more, muttering cute again under his breath to annoy me. Before I move from threats to actual violence I fall back and push his annoying form through the door and get him sitting before taking a seat myself. We both take our books from our bags, his full of confusing scribbles, mine practically empty bar a few numbers dotting the page as answers. With a small amount of satisfaction I also notice considerably more ticks in my book; I turn to a new page before I start bragging.

“Good morning all…” the teacher starts up and I lift a pen; probably not for the right reasons.

“Okay” I whisper to Remus, “who do you want to take to the party?” His attention swaps from the lesson to me in a flash, a worried look on his face.

“About that..” he begins and I wait for him to start speaking again instead of interrupting. “I don’t think I want to take anyone, I’m not really a dating kind of guy.” He starts rubbing his wrists, and the scars that line his arms. Oh .

“You don’t have to date them you know” I start, trying to find the right words, ones that won’t throw him over any inner ledge he may be standing at. “It’s just a party, and I’ve kinda already found someone for you approval.”

“You have? Who?” I smirk at his obvious excitement and hope I’m right in my choice for him.

“The wonderful, glamorous girl I call my roommate; Carly.” I hold my breath for his reaction, hoping I haven’t misjudged the looks I’ve caught him throwing her way. He blushes and I grin. So much for ‘I’m not really a dating kind of guy’. He’s still a guy, and a teenage guy at that. Besides, Carly is hot.

“Acceptable?” I ask, eyebrows raised.

He coughs before he speaks, “acceptable.”

“Perfect!” I say, not hiding my excitement. Setting Carly up with someone would both make her happy and get her off my back about my dating life. Two birds with one stone. “All I need now to start planning is one more name,” I lower my voice to keep from being overheard mentioning the ‘p’ word. “Who do you want pranked?”

He smiles a devil’s smile and I feel my excitement double despite my best efforts. The name he gives me explains the smile and I love it .

“Excellent choice, I can work with that” I say, pleased that my mischievous brain has found a match.

I lean back in my chair, content to ignore the lesson and get to planning. My gaze drifts back to the teacher for a second and I try to focus briefly on what she’s talking about. Equations of time travel line the board and I resist the temptation to roll my eyes. This again . I sigh and return to my notebook, writing ideas down for the prank I owe Lupin. I note down a few things about Carly too, just odd things that might help in getting her to say yes to going to the party; her favourite food, her hobbies, places she likes.

The next time I glance up my page is full of notes and I accidentally planned what is probably the coolest way Carly will ever be asked out. I nudge Lupin, ready to let loose of the wave of smug bragging building up in my chest when I notice his much less impressive page of notes. Oh sweetie . He turns towards me and my smugness stutters, instead of ‘who’s the best’ I go with “You need a hand?”

He looks back at the now full board and back down at his tangled mess of a page and sighs. I take that as a pretty solid yes and slide closer to him. It takes me a while to locate question one and the jumbled numbers accompanying it but once I do I see the problem immediately.

“You’re using the hour formula instead of the minute one” I say, pointing towards a scribbled note in the top corner, “so long as that’s the only problem, and your numbers are all in the right place you just need to divide each of your answers by sixty to fix the formula.”

As he goes about that task I decide to start the questions myself and actually do some work. Look at me, being all Ravenclaw and stuff. I giggle at myself thinking about how Daniel would absolutely call me out on that and give a detailed presentation on what it really means to be a Ravenclaw, at which point I’d fall asleep and happily prove him right.

“Jem” I pull my head from my workbook and look round to find a sweaty looking Lupin. I look at his book again and start to wish Daniel actually was here to give that presentation, and then to help out my poor friend cause the notes I’m looking at now… scary.

“Well shit” I say, cause I feel like the tumbled together numbers and scribbles and what I swear looks like drawings of a watch absolutely deserve at least one swear word to properly convey its awfulness. I continue to stare at it, trying to decipher exactly what numbers belong to which questions. Then I just give up and say “new plan.”

Lupin just nods, accepting that I can’t work out the mess, and he probably wouldn’t be able to either, so I push his book away and pull mine closer to us both. Then I begin with question one.


“I’m bored.”

A pencil snaps in my hand. Not the first to have suffered that brutal death and not the last if I Peter continues to repeat and repeat those words. I swallow hateful words, pick up another pencil from the table, and rest it against my near empty page. I want to fill it with sketches of his death but refrain, barely.

“So am I, so just pick two names and we can stop talking to each other.” I’ve been trying to get a name to prank and a name for a date from Peter for what feels like an hour now, but that may just be my annoyance stretching minutes to hours in my mind. Either way, I don’t think I’ve ever spent this much time in the library before without trying to escape. “It’s really not that hard.”

“Yes it is” he grumbles, head hanging downwards, hands nervously wringing on his lap.

“Let’s just start basic” I suggest, knowing that shouting will only set us back. “Pranking, pick a house, Slytherin, Ravenclaw or Gryffindor?”

“Not Hufflepuff?” He asks, and I just shake my head, keeping ‘of course not you stupid prick’ from slipping out from my mouth. Like I’d hurt my own house for this ass. “Fine, then I want to prank a Slytherin.”

Okay, progress. Now we’re only looking at a quarter of the school. “Great, boy or girl?”

“Umm, boy.” And now an 8th of the school.

“Any Slytherin boys been a dick to you recently?” At that question Peters hand wringing increases pace and I know I’ve hit a rather soft spot. He may be a pain but I start to tread carefully. “This would be a good way to get payback you know.”

“They’d know it was me” he says at a whisper and I can hear the pain in his voice, even though I know he’s trying to hide it. Because of that, and because I think I can also here a bit of embarrassment in there too I don’t ask what happened. Slytherins can be cruel, but I can be crueller.

“He’ll know it’s me, don’t worry, just give me the name. He won’t come after you, I promise.” There were plenty of ways to through a victim off the scent.

The first time Peter says the name I don’t hear it. The second time is louder, and because of the crack of fear in his voice when I write his name down I underline it. And when I see his eyes tearing up I add another line. This one will pay.

I smile at Peter, pretending I can’t see the silver lining his eyes, and ask for the second name.

This time he doesn’t stutter, his voice doesn’t break, and I see trust in his eyes where tears were a second ago.

“Perfect, thank you Peter. I’ll let you know what’s happening when I’ve planned it all and you’ll get a front row seat when I make that asshole pay, publicly.”

Peter just smiles, nods, and walks away, leaving me alone with my thoughts and more anger than I expected to feel on Peter’s behalf. I wasn’t just angry that a Slytherin prick hurt someone who didn’t deserve it, it was the fact that I just knew that Peter hadn’t told his friends. That he’d just taken the pain from being picked on and kept it to himself. I could only guess, but some part of me had figured out that he didn’t want his friends to know because he already knew he didn’t quite fit in with them and was scared that this was proof of that and they’d ditch him. Even I knew they wouldn’t do that and I didn’t even like Peter. But I suppose, when he wasn’t trying so hard to fit in, when he was just himself, he was probably a decent person; it was enough of a realisation that I made a note in my book to make damn sure the girl he liked said yes and meant it.

Once I’d made my last few scribbles into my book, vague plans of spells and places best to cast them to their full potential, I pushed my chair back and lifted my stuff ready to escape this massive room of learning. Not the place where I most fit in I’ll admit. After standing though I realised I wasn’t quite sure where to go. I could go into full planning mode; visit Peeves and get most things sorted out for Lupin and Peter before I moved onto what I imagine with be a way more extensive plot for the other two. I could go and hang out with my friends, relax with them in front of the fire, maybe slip in some praise of Lupin for Carly. Or I could seek out Potter and… well I could just start with Potter. Think about the rest later.

My mind made up I head off to the Gryffindor tower, trying very hard not to appear like a scared little chicken walking into the foxes lair. I consider turning, I have a lot of work to be getting on with, the number of components for Lupin’s prank alone will take time. There was the space; getting a hold of the class room I wanted would be tough, getting the professor to not only agree but also participate would be particularly impossible, but the affect it’ll have getting her involved… unforgettable, people would speak of it for months, maybe even years. There was so much that could go wrong in it, maybe keeping a clearer schedule until the foundations for that were put in place would be the safer idea. Or maybe I really am a scared little chicken walking into the foxes lair . I want to kick myself for the fear. I should be damn well used to being stared at by now, a prankster Hufflepuff that made emenies of the Marauders, had a freaking mental breakdown and then was suddenly friends with the Marauders! That amount of gossip attached to one person in such a short time frame is unheard of. And yet, here I am, standing at the painting of the fat lady, about to make it all a lot worse for myself, very fast.

Not giving myself a chance to second guess my stupid ass decision I look the lady in the eye and say ‘Angelico’. She smiles at me as the picture swings open for me. I let a swagger come to my hips and tilt my lips to a smirk. Why be confident when you can just pretend to be until you actually are?

“Pst” I stop, turn and raise my eyebrow at her, too scared to risk losing my smug persona in asking what she wants aloud. With real words.

“They’re all in their dorm; take the left stair well, four floors up and the last door.” I only manage a surprised blink and a nod at her before I take swaggering step into the common room and grin like a fox.

“Evening all” I chirp, winking at a group of gaping boys, mouths hanging open. One of them snaps their mouth closed at the blatant arrogance of the gesture and I just laugh heartily, keeping my fear well hidden behind the swing of my hips and the boasting of my smirk. I take a quick stock of my surroundings. The common room is full; like I expected of this time of day with the exception of four. Couches are full to spilling and people stand and sit in small groups. Some had clearly been working on homework; others were avoiding it with equal obviousness. No matter what they had been doing though, they weren’t doing it now. Trusting the fat lady’s word, I head in the direction of the left stairwell and ignore the majority if the room. I keep my act in place like armour, deflecting fear as people openly stare at me, allowing me to grin back. I am a wolf. I can take a room of foxes.

I take the steps slowly at first, letting peoples stares track my movement. More than a few eyes, I knew, were watching my swinging hips, and slightly lower than that, and I refused to stiffen my walk. Eyes I could take so long as they stayed away. As I make the fourth floor landing I finally allow a sigh to escape my lips. That was… a new experience. I shake my head, trying not to think about the rumours I’ve probably inflicted upon myself in acting that way. Still, probably better to the alternative of looking weak and people thinking I’m an easy target. If I’m honest, I’m probably one of the worst targets a person could pick. I’ve said it once I’ll say it again; born to be a spy.

I walk forward on silent feet and knock softly on the wooden door at the end of the hall. Please let the fat lady be telling the truth. If some random person opens the door I’m not sure whether I’d freeze or run. When the door opens I realise two things. One, the fat lady was telling the truth. Sirius stood holding the door open, shirt unbuttoned halfway, hair mussed like he’d been lying in bed and eyes alight upon finding me at his door. The second thing I realise is that the fat lady is also a big fat liar. As I peak over Sirius’s shoulder I see no other boys present. That woman and I are gonna have words about what ‘they’re all’ means.

“Jem, how may I be of service?” Sirius asks, sketching me a gallant bow as he opens the door to let me into the room. Before I answer he’s already crossed the space and fallen onto what I assume is his bed. The room is cosy, the large four poster beds taking up most of the space. Trunks lay at the end of each bed, all flung open with mess spilling out onto the floor. I have to step over discarded robes and jeans in order to reach the bed closest to Sirius to sit opposite him.

Finally sitting, in what I assume is James’s bed due to the framed photo of what can only be his parents smiling and waving on the bedside table, I look back to Sirius. He’s staring at me intently, waiting for me to answer his question.

“It’s actually a matter of how I can be of service to you,” I say and resist the urge to blush when he raises a suggestive eyebrow at me. “I need your names for your present.” Sirius was last on my list to talk to. I hadn’t wanted to admit it to myself but I was scared of hearing the name of who he wanted to take to the party. I was split between wanting him to say my name, to be wanted by the guy I’d somehow become attracted to in the past few weeks, and being terrified that he would say my name. I hadn’t gotten a chance to see who I wanted to go to the party with; I’d been too busy trying to actually plan the damn thing, never mind think about a date. But I didn’t know if I did want to go with Sirius, that is if he’d even want to go with me. I’m not exactly used to being seen as desirable; hell I’m not used to being seen at all!

“Easy,” he says, grinning and my breathing falters a little. “Bellatrix.” My breathing stops entirely.

“What?” I ask, slowly enough for his grin to stretch.

“Bellatrix, I want us to prank her.”

“Yeah, I thought that’s what you meant” I say, trying to make my voice sound normal but it comes out with more of a threatening, crazy vibe. “Are you insane ?”

I’m stood up now, looking down at him. He is insane. Totally insane . To take on Bellatrix unprovoked… it would be like poking the devil with a big stick with a knife strapped to the end of it. That’s what Bellatrix was, evil. Rumours had been flying around her for months now; people said she was in with the Death Eaters. That she was Voldemort’s faithful servant. People said she had killed . Now, I don’t normally trust rumours but this… Bellatrix had known about my brother. If the rumours had any speck of truth behind them, well, let’s just say I’ll keep that big stick pointing in the opposite direction.

“I don’t think so, but who can really be sure?” Sirius says, still in good spirits.

“I can be sure, you think I’m going after Bellatrix Lestrange with you then you are insane. Completely insane. She knows how my brother died! She knew before anyone else in this school did! Sirius,” I say, taking in a deep breath to control my growing hysteria, “Sirius, she turned up at his funeral.”

“She did what?” he asks, voice stone cold where it was light and warm a minute ago.

“She- she-” I tried, again and again to get out what I’d kept in for a long while.

It was cold when they buried my brother. I could remember standing with my father, holding his hand and standing over the grave as dirt was shovelled on top of the coffin, then I’d seen her. She’d stepped into the graveyard like she owned the very ground. Her strut stood out against the unmoving grass as she paraded herself towards the mourners surrounding the grave. It was only when she got close that I recognised her. She’d grinned when she saw me reach for my wand and push my father behind me ever so slightly. I’d already heard the rumours about her back then, and I also knew who had ordered the death of the boy being covered in earth. I was scared. I’d seen what the Death Eaters could do and if they’d sent her as one… I wouldn’t lose anyone else.

She stopped two steps away from me, ignoring me and looking to my dad, still standing behind me. Sorry for your loss she’d said. My hands shook at my sides at that, at the tone that didn’t match the words. My dad missed it in his grief and smiled at her pushing forward to shake her hand. He asked how she knew Daniel and she’d scoffed. Oh, I didn’t know him. No. I make a point not to associate with his kind. My father frowned at her then, obviously confused. I wasn’t confused, I wasn’t sad either, I was angry.

Why are you here then I’d asked. She just smiled at me and I gripped my wand tighter in response. She tipped her head back towards my father and gave him a surveying glance.

You’re a muggle, aren’t you she’d said instead of answering me. It didn’t sound like a question.

You need to leave, Bellatrix I said before my dad could ask what a muggle. Our family had an… odd arrangement. One I didn’t feel Bellatrix had a right to know about. She had plenty ammunition as it was, what with my brother lying still only feet away from our conversation. Now .

She just grinned and asked but don’t you want to know what I came here for?

At that point I didn’t care if she’d come just to laugh in my face, she needed to leave, so I just said no and took a step forward, trying to intimidate her into leaving. She shrugged at the threat and turned to leave. That had been bad enough. But I wasn’t given the privilege of not knowing why she’d come. She told me why over her shoulder as she walked away.

I turn back to Sirius, letting the graveyard fall away from my memory but holding on to Bellatrix’s parting statement. “She said she came to deliver a message. She said… ‘The Dark Lord sends his regards’.”

“That’s who killed your brother?” Sirius asks in a very low voice. I realise that Lupin hadn’t shared our talk with his friends, and a distant part of me is quietly grateful for that, that he left the choice to me.

I nod to Sirius and he drags in a ragged breath. My eyes fill up at the sound and I find his standing opposite me when the tears clear enough for me to see again. “I’m so sorry” he says, and a sob manages to get out. “We’ll prank someone else.” I nod and he just pulls me into his arms, folding me to his chest to let his shirt muffle the sobs now wracking my body. I let myself cry. I know he won’t judge me for it. We stay there for a while, until I can think again.

“How about the Slytherin quidditch team?” I ask finally. He just mumbles a confused what and I explain. “Prank the quidditch team, see how well they can fly with their broomsticks bright pink for the first game of the season?”

“Perfect” he says, pulling back to look at me. I smile. “Will you go that party with me, Jem?”

I pull back further, shocked out of crying. “What?” I ask, stunned.

“Will you go to the party with me, Jem?” he repeats, slowly, like he’s talking to a child. I slap his arm.

“No” I say, his turn to be shocked. I savour the expression before I finish my sentence. “The other girls are getting extravagant ways to be asked, you can be sure as hell you’ll ask me with equal effort, and then we’ll see.”

I wink at him and he grins, sketching me another eloquent bow. “Of course, my lady.”

I grin back and laugh as three confused boys finally arrive to see their friend bowing before me.

“James! I say, sitting down on Sirius’s bed next to him, leaving James’s bed for him. “I need your last name.”

He obliges and we plot into the night.

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