Game day. To say I was nervous was the understatement of the year. Potter had been training us to exhaustion every session, and Black and I had been working on our new strategy really hard. It was a one-time wonder, if we messed it up we wouldn’t be able to do it again and it would all have been for nothing. After all, we only had the element of surprise on our side once. We were going all-out with it, it would either win the game for us or end catastrophically. Nerve-racking as it was, it made be a bit giddy to know there was something that only he and I knew, that we had our own secret code of sorts. I just hoped I wouldn’t make a fool of myself by screwing it up today.
As I worked through my equipment, I reflected on the past two months. Turns out that being on the Quidditch team automatically meant Potter, Lupin, Pettigrew and Black kept you safe from their pranks and general people-hexing tendencies, which was a nice surprise. Potter was also increasingly friendly towards me, and he had not yet asked Lily out this year. I was beginning to think they had actually matured a bit. Of course, that didn’t mean they stopped getting into fights with Slytherins, Snape in particular, but I couldn’t really blame them for that. The snakes deserved everything they got.
“You’ll be great, trust me” Lily said, bringing me out of my own mind.
“Shouldn’t you be wishing Cal good luck?” I asked. The Halloween party had been a hit, and Lily and Cal were now an item. I worried briefly Potter would kick him off the team, but as I had already noticed, he seemed to be over his obsession with Lily.
“He’s waiting in the common room, but just because I have a new boyfriend doesn’t mean I won’t look after my friends” she gave me a pointed look.
“Thank you” I hugged her quickly. “I just don’t want to let the team down”
“You won’t. You’ve been working so hard. You’ll be great” Alice chimed in. I nodded, took a deep breath and readied myself.
"It's just... well, Black is a good Seeker" the Slytherin team had just appointed Sirius' little brother, Regulus, as their new seeker and word had it he was actually rather good. I was worried he'd beat us.
"You are a great beater, you'll distract him long enough for Cal to catch the snitch. I'm sure of it" said Lily.
“Okay, let’s go. Potter will freak out if we’re late” I took a deep breath and walked out of the room.
A little later I said bye to my friends who headed towards the gradstands, and took another deep breath to calm myself. It didn't work very well. I walked into the changing rooms gripping my broom so hard my knuckles were white.
“Hey” Black approached me. “You okay?”he murmured. I nodded curtly.
“Sirius, Silverway, come here” Potter ordered.
“Aye, aye captain!” I muttered, making my way over to where the rest of the team was gathered. I heard Black chuckle lightly behind me.
“Right, I don’t have to tell you that today’s game is the most important game of the entire year. We must crush those Slytherin snakes” he looked a lot more menacing than I ever thought possible. It was kind of sexy, I thought, which took me completely by surprise. I wasn't in the habit of noticing how sexy Potter was (except that day during tryouts, and that time during Defence, and that time he was hexing Snape... my brain supplied). I hoped I wasn't blushing as I turned my attention back to our captain, hoping my little day dream had gonne unnoticed.
“We have an advantage, our secret weapon” he continued, nodding in my direction. “Nobody has seen you play before; nobody expects you to be much of a threat as a beater. You look too small to have much upper body strength”
“Gee, thanks Cap”
“You know what I mean. They will focus all their energy into neutralizing Sirius, not you. That’s our advantage” he smiled openly at me and my knees got a little weak. This was so not the time for Potter to turn on his charm!
“They’re in for a treat!” Black said, smirking. Right, yes, focus Jocelyn, focus I told myself.
With a few more words of encouragement, we got ready to go. Black stood next to me, bat in one hand, broom in the other.
“Let’s show them what a killer team we make” he whispered.
I looked up at him in surprise. It was true that we’d become a bit closer during our secret practice sessions. However, I still wasn’t used to it. The fact that Sirius Black and I had managed to get to a point where we kept frostiness and insults to a minimum, and even had a bit of banter together, was still awe-inspiring. I think he was also a bit shocked himself.
“They won’t know what hit them” I replied, smiling back.
I don’t know if it was the fact that our captain had shown so much faith in me, or that Black truly believed we were a good team. Whatever the reason, by the time I kicked the ground and soared up in the air all my nerves, anxiety and doubts had disappeared, and I was ready to show them all what I could do.
And so I did.
Potter had been right. The Slytherins did not think for a second that I was a threat to them and their beaters (nasty bullies both of them) went straight for Black, leaving me alone. This was what we had been practicing for every Friday and Sunday evening on the edge of the grounds for the past three weeks. I saw Black nod almost imperceptibly and I got ready. The bat felt like an extension of my arm as I gripped it hard with just one hand. I circled above the players, waiting for the right time. And then, my opening came.
Black was being chased by the two beaters from Slytherin, who shot the bludgers (and sometimes their bats, too) his way furiously. He skillfully dodged them, and hit them with strength sending them flying towards the green Keeper and a chaser, and buying us the time we needed. As soon as the bludgers were hurtling towards the Slytherin goalposts I dived.
It was a very dangerous move, one that we had practiced time and time again to perfect, and that had seen us both crashing to the ground in a heap of limbs more than once. I put everything I had into it; every single thought and every single cell in my body was wired towards making this work. The two beaters didn’t know what was happening as I dropped vertically from the sky, shooting through them and Black like an arrow. It was all very precise - the opening was a small one, and I felt my Quidditch robes graze the three brooms as I went past them with deadly precision. Then, I took a deep breath, tensed my arms and, with all the strength I could muster, pulled my broom, twirling around as I changed direction and flew back up, facing the goalposts. I allowed myself a confident smirk as I stood up on my broom and saw the two furious bludgers now coming straight towards me. I even had a second to twirl Black’s bat, which I had grabbed during my dive, playfully teasing the dangerous enchanted balls coming my way.
The crowd went wild. I smashed both bludgers, one with each bat, and sent them straight to the two beaters who, too distracted by my maneuver, had failed to notice Black soaring to position himself safely above them. They had no time to react and were both hit badly. I didn’t pause to evaluate the extent of the damage as I hurried over to Black’s side and returned his bat. Now, we needed to stop the bludgers from harassing our team members.
“I told you it would work” he winked at me. I looked around quickly and saw both our opponents on the ground being tended to.
“Worth every minute I had to endure alone with you” I said, smashing away a rogue bludger and smiling widely. He chuckled and winked at me.
That both our beater opponents were down didn’t mean we could relax. Bludgers were still dangerous and went after our players, so we divided the field and got to work. With no one to protect the Slytherin team from the bludgers we kept sending their way, the players struggled to score.
I have to say that, despite how proud I was of the stunt I had just pulled, Sirius Black was a spectacle to watch. He seemed to anticipate the bludgers naturally and moved with such grace and strength at the same time he was a dangerous distraction. I had to put all my effort into focusing on the game, instead of watching him fly.
“That was INSANE” I shouted as soon as I hit the ground. Cal was still holding the snitch, and the commentator hadn’t even finished announcing our win, but all I could think of was the crazy stunt my beaters had just pulled. “You guys are MENTAL. I loved it, that dive – Jocelyn, oh my Godric, I’m in love!”
“I knew you’d like it” Padfoot landed with a thud, smiling like a maniac. Jocelyn jumped off her broom and ran towards me.
“OH MY GOD, WE WON” she shouted, throwing her arms up in victory. “Thank you for giving me a spot in the team”
“Are you kidding me? I didn’t give you anything, you earned it. Sirius was right, you are magic” I said lifting her up in the air. Padfoot shot me a funny look that I promptly ignored.
“How on Earth did you guys do that?” Annie landed, followed by the rest of the team.
“We practiced it a bit”, Padfoot said, shrugging.
“It was his idea” Jocelyn said having climbed back down to the floor. “He came up with the whole thing. It was genius”
“Yeah, but we only pulled it off because you were brave enough to trust me” he replied, catching her with one arm, pulling her into a lose hug and slightly punching her on the shoulder with the other. Interesting.
“Ugh, there isn’t enough disinfectant in the world to wash your sweat off me, Black” she groaned, trying to escape from him. He laughed loudly but didn’t let her go. She didn't try very hard, either.
“Brave or suicidal, not sure” Cal chimed in, half joking. Padfoot’s attention was still on Jocelyn.
“It was the most liberating thing. I mean, I was nervous, we did crash a couple of times…” she looked at Padfoot and made a funny face at him. “But, oh my God, how awesome is it when the crowd gets loud?”
“It is glorious” I agreed. “Now, let’s go celebrate. We beat Slytherin and, believe me, this match will go down in Hogwarts history. Your move... wow, just wow! We made Quidditch history today! My children will hear about this, all five of them!”
“We should name it” said Annie with equal enthusiasm.
“What do you mean?” that got Padftoot’s interest. He finally let Jocelyn go and she casually moved away without anyone else noticing.
“The maneuver, give it a name, you know? Make it official” she explained.
“What, like the Wronski Feint?” Jocelyn asked. Padfoot looked impressed she knew it. I was.
“Yeah, exactly like that”
“Well, then it should be the Black Diversion” Jocelyn said. Everyone started giving their opinions all at once, but I did not miss Padfoot’s reaction to her selflessly naming the move after him, despite the fact that she had been the one to perform it and risk crashing.
The Quidditch match had catapulted me to stardom. It was actually scary. I didn’t feel ready to be the talk of the school, but here I was, being constantly stalked by adoring younger students and regularly congratulated by older ones. Lily and Alice were loving it. Everyone, and I mean everyone, wanted to be friends with us. Even McGonagall had commented on the Black Diversion, praising me for the daring dive and impressive standing-up batting. The Slytherins, however, were not happy. I'd been on the receiving end of a couple of hexes the past week, which had forced me to walk around with a Shield Charm around me whenever Black and Potter weren't around. Luckily for me, they'd picked up on it and we had started to walk to and from classes together, which made sense anyway, as we were all in the same lessons. I was mortified and ecstatic at the same time. Being popular, it turns out, was rather exhausting.
That Saturday morning, I walked into the common room after a morning jog and walked straight into the wall of solid muscle that was Sirius Black.
“Oumph” I groaned, blinking rapidly to get my bearings.
“Hey…” he paused and checked me out briefly, noticing my sporty outfit. “Were you running outside?”
“It’s like, two degrees. Are you alright?” he asked, visibly horrified.
“Fresh air is very good for you, you know”
“No thanks, I’ll pass”
“Suit yourself” I was going to head to my room, but he stopped me again.
“Wait, I got distracted, I actually wanted to talk to you” he said.
“Can’t it wait? I kind of need a shower” I gestured at my outfit, which consisted of black winter running leggings, long sleeve top and a running gillet.
“I can always join you in it” he said wiggling his eyebrows. Oh my God! I didn’t need this mental image at all distracting me for the rest of the day.
“Very funny Black” I brushed it off, ignoring the flutters in my stomach. I did not even want to imagine Black without a shirt on, let alone fully naked in a shower. I wasn’t sure any female was equipped to survive experiencing that level of hotness without passing out.
“Are you going to Hogsmeade today?”
“Yeah, we are. With Lily and Alice, I mean. Why?”
“Would you guys want to join us for a beer?” he said it so casually, like it wasn’t a big deal. I balked.
“Is this Potter’s lame way of trying to get Lily to go out with him? Because that will never happen, I’m telling you” I said, crossing my arms.
“James is over his little crush on Red”
“Why are you asking then?” I eyed him suspiciously.
“Just thought it’d be nice to spend some time with you girls, but suit yourself” he shrugged and turned around, leaving me there.
I was at a loss for words. Never in my wildest dreams had I even imagined Sirius Black would ever want to spend any more time than necessary around me. Lily and Alice probably yes. I had always been convinced it was only a matter of time before they became friends with the lot of them, but not me. I always pictured myself too guarded to open up to new people, to make new friendships. As I thought about it, I decided that I couldn’t continue being this way. I had already gone way out of my safety zone this year, and so far all that had happened had been positive. I was finally feeling confident, and meeting new people. I felt like I had outgrown the introverted little girl and become a young woman. Exploring new friendships, and that included boys too, was just the next natural step. Why couldn’t that be Sirius Black and his gang? Truth be told, if it was going to be anyone, they made the most sense. After all, they were in our same year group and in our house, and I was their teammate. I cursed myself silently and took a deep breath. Okay, here we go, leap of faith number two.
“Black, wait a second” I hurried after him. He took a moment, but turned back around. He was smirking. Oh for Merlin’s sake.
“You like playing hard to get, don’t you?” he moved closer to me. I wished he stopped doing that. Someone needed to have a conversation with him about personal space and boundaries.
“You’re hilarious. Not” I rolled my eyes at him. “You caught me off guard, that’s all. We’ll meet you at the Three Broomsticks later” I said. I hurried up the girls’ staircase before I could change my mind.
Lily and Alice were studying their wardrobes when I walked into the room.
“Come, we’re trying to decide what to wear to Hogsmeade” Lily had half her clothes on her bed and was rummaging through them.
“Yeah… about that… I need to tell you guys something”
“What’s up?” Lily turned to look at me whilst Alice went through her drawers.
“The guys asked if we’d be up for having a drink with them, and I said yes”
“The guys? What guys?” Alice’s voice rose a couple of octanes.
“Mmm, you know… Lupin and them” I tried to sound casual and not-at-all bothered. I’m pretty sure I failed miserably.
“Those guys? Jo, are you insane? How do you know this isn’t some sort of prank?” Lily started pacing.
“Well… I don’t know. I mean, they seem to have calmed down a lot this year in general, and I do train with Potter and Black several times a week now. Plus, I'm getting along with them alright. They’re not that bad” I argued.
“Plus, since Jo’s on their team and pretty much the talk of the school after that crazy dive, they have kept us safe from their pranks. We even got a heads up before the Dungbombs last Thursday” said Alice. “And, I will admit I am surprised Potter hasn’t asked you out a single time this year, Lily”
“Of course he hasn’t, I’m dating Cal. Why would he?”
“He didn’t ask you even before Cal” I interjected. Alice nodded.
“Besides, people do change. Look at Jo!” she said.
“Erhm… thanks?” I shrugged. “I know we haven’t exactly got along with them in the past but, as much as I hate to admit it, it’s not like we made any effort. It’s not all on them”
“Excuse me, but their arrogance and general over-the-top attitude have been an issue for years!” Lily said making an outraged gesture.
“She’s got a point” Alice agreed.
“True that…” I sat on my bed. “I guess it comes down to whether we think they've grown out of it or not. I mean... teenagers are supposed to do stupid things like that, aren’t we? So, what if they have been arrogant and annoying? They might have changed. I think they have. Look at me, like Alice said, I was guarded and totally closed off from the world and now I'm not. I'm the freaking talk of the school!”
“Right, yeah... but why them, though? Didn’t you hate Black’s guts?” Lily proded.
“I think I still do” I sighed dramatically and they giggled, clearly aware that this wasn't so true anymore. “But, let’s face it, they are fun people. And quite cool, if we overlook their arrogance… which, you know, is annoying but not entirely unwarranted. They are smart, good-looking, funny, popular, win almost every Quidditch game… even the teachers love them. And, I guess I like them, too. I want to be friends”
“Hey, I get it. Okay? I really do. I just… I’m not sure I fully trust these guys”Alice said, sitting next to me.
“And you have made other new friends this year, Jo. Matt, for example, and Annie from the Quidditch team” Lily added. “And Cal, he might be my boyfriend but he’s also your friend”
“I know, and it makes me so happy. But all of these people are close to me now kind of by association. Matt always got along with you, Alice, really well so it was kind of safe for me to talk to him. And Annie and Cal are teammates, and they were friends with you Lily, even before you started dating Cal” I took a deep breath to steady myself.
“You guys know how I used to feel about Si... Black. For the longest time I used to imagine what it would be like if he ever saw me. And now he does, he sees me, and so does Potter. The two most popular, good looking guys in school are paying attention to me, genuine attention, not just ‘I want to get in your pants’ attention. They want to be friends with me, of all people” I explained.
“I don’t feel that way about Black anymore, but I am still kind of fascinated by them in general. They are letting me, us, in. Do you even realize how rare that is? Why wouldn’t we give it a go? They are fun people; we know that for a fact. And yes, they have been arrogant and insufferable, who knows, maybe they still are, but what if they’ve also grown up? All signs point to that, so I say we take it one day at a time and get to know them. We can always back off if we think it’s not working” I finished my little speech and felt oddly drained.
“All right, then. We’ll give them a chance. Any signs of trouble and we’re out” said Lily.
“I actually think Jo’s right, you know. This is going to be fun” Alice said, clapping.
That first trip to Hogsmeade was the official begining of our friendship with the guys. From that point on, we gradually started spending more time together: at mealtimes, sitting closer in classes and even, on occasion, hanging out in the common room together. My personal relationship with Black kept improving but we still had a strange habit of bickering just for fun.
“Do that again” demanded Black one random Transfigurations lesson sometime towards the middle of November.
“You forgot the magic word” I replied coldly.
“Aren't you supposed to show me stuff? Isn’t that why we’re partnered up?”
“We’re partnered up because McGonagall doesn’t trust you and needs me to make sure you don’t wreak havoc in her class”
“No. We are partners because I am the best in the class and you are second best, tie with James” he said. I snorted at that.
“You are the best?”
“I am” he wiggled his eyebrows at me.
“Then how come you need me to repeat that? Shouldn’t you just be able to do it?” his face hardened a little and I stifled a giggle.
"You are evil, Silverway" he said.
"You do know how to bring out the best in me" I said batting my eyelashes at him. He laughed.
"Right" he gave me a smoldering look that turned my insides to jelly and said "now, Silverway, will you please do that again so I can learn it?"
There was no way I could deny him anything when he looked at me like that. He knew it. I knew it. It was a universal truth. A dangerous one, too.
Our developing relationship with the boys and, most importantly, my status as a Quidditch star had certain side-effects that I was not expecting. One of them was the outstanding fact that Slughorn, our potions teacher, came to talk to me during a lesson towards the end of November. Slughorn had tried to ignore the fact that a Silverway was in his class for the better part of five years, mostly because he’d unsuccessfully tried to recruit my father when he attended Hogwarts. They did not get along well at all, to the point my father had cautioned me against attending his ‘dinner parties’ should he invite me to one. I wasn’t really bothered by it, except for the fact that both Sirius and James were part of the Slug Club and I had heard some wild stories about these parties. I was curious.
“Excellent work, Miss Silverway” he said approvingly. I was so flabbergasted I dropped the knife I was holding. Lily stifled a giggle.
“It’s all thanks to Lily’s help” I said, trying to deflect attention.
“She’s being modest. Jocelyn is very good at potions, but she’s too shy to make a fuss about it” said the redhead. Slughorn gave her an understanding smile.
“Well, if Miss Evans speaks so highly of you, Silverway, I think it’s time I invited you to one of our little gatherings. We’re having a Christmas drink together in two weeks, I’d love it if you came” he told me.
“Oh, yes, okay, sure. I’ll come. Thank you, Professor” I stuttered a bit, but he didn’t seem to notice.
“I look forward to welcoming you” he said, visibly pleased with himself. It occurred to me that perhaps he felt he could get back at my dad by making me a loyal member of his elite group. Fat chance.
“Well, it’s official. You’re now part of the Slug Club” Lily laughed when Slughorn was out of earshot.
“I’m only coming to the Christmas thing because I’m curious. After that, I’m out. My dad would have a heart attack if he found out” I said, packing my potions kit.
“Found out what?” Black put his arm around my shoulders as we walked out of the classroom. I rolled my eyes.
“Have you ever heard of ‘personal space’? Are you familiar with it, you know, as a concept?”
“I am very familiar with it, in fact, I’m an expert at invading personal spaces” he said, wiggling his eyebrows.
I couldn’t help but to laugh. Potter, joining our little group (but standing to my other side so he wasn’t directly next to Lily) said “what was that about? I thought old Slughorn didn’t know you existed. No offense”
“None taken. He knows I exist – he and my dad hate each other. But he’s noticed I’m hanging out with you lot now, so he’s trying to recruit me instead of ignore me” I explained.
“Did it work?” Black asked.
“Well, I’m coming to the Christmas thing” I shrugged. “Just because I’m curious”
“What are you curious about, exactly?” Potter asked conversationally. I didn’t miss the twinkle in his eyes, though.
“What you two get up to” I replied. Sirius laughed.
“Well then, we’re going to have to put on a good show, aren’t we?” he said. I smiled.
Winter had come sometime during November, mildly at first but with more force as we approached the Christmas break. This always presented a problem when it came to Hogsmeade visits, because we had to use the carriages to make it to the village as walking was sure to give us frostbite. I was pondering whether I really, truly wanted to meet Lily and Alice that day as I looked out the window and saw the sleet and freezing wind awaiting outside, when I heard a voice call after me.
“Oi! Silverway, wait up” I turned around and saw Potter running towards me.
“What’s up?” I asked him as he caught up to me.
“Nothing much. Why are you not in Hogsmeade with everyone else?” it was a Hogsmeade weekend visit, early December. I had been working with McGonagall on my animagus task until lunch, so Lily and Alice had gone to town with the boys. Or so I thought.
“I had work to do. I might go now” I shrugged. “What about you?”
“I had a detention” he grinned. I laughed.
“Remember Thursday evening when all the portraits on the third floor corridor started singing ‘A pirates’ life’?” his smile had widened even more, and his eyes twinkled a little at the memory of his prank.
“I do, it was actually quite hilarious” I said, smiling too.
“You always know how to appreciate a good prank” he said cheerfully. Then, he threw his arm casually around my shoulders. “So, what do you say we take our butts to Hogsmeade?”
“It's so cold though!"
"We'll get a carriage. I asked Hagrid to save me one" he grinned. I was impressed that he was on a frist name basis with the ground keeper.
"All right then, lead the way” I said.
The trip to Hogsmeade was very pleasant indeed, and Potter kept making me laugh telling me absurd prank ideas. He wanted my opinion on whether they would work or not, and I found that quite flattering. Before I knew it, we were outside the Three Broomsticks. Lily, Alice, Lupin, Pettigrew and Black were sharing a table and drinking butter beer together.
“What took you so long?” asked Black when we came into their view.
“Why are you together?” asked Alice at the same time.
“Ran into each other on the way here” I said, taking the empty seat next to her. Potter was nodding.
“Drink, Silverway?” he offered. I nodded.
“I’ll come help you” Black stood up and followed Potter to the bar.
“So, how come only Potter got in trouble for the portrait singing thing?” I asked his friends.
“We all did. We had detention last night, but he tried to talk himself out of it early and McGonagall gave him another one today” Lupin explained. I laughed.
“Typical Potter” everyone nodded their agreement. “Still, it was a funny prank” I said.
“It is extra nice when a girl appreciates a well played prank” said Pettigrew. “That’s why you’re our favourite!”
“Am I, now?” I asked. Lupin looked at Pettigrew with a funny face, but he didn’t notice.
“Oh, you most definitely are. No other girl has been called ‘friend’ by Sirius or James ever” he told me very solemnly.
“What’s interesting?” Black and Potter arrived with our drinks.
“Lots of things are interesting” I replied vaguely, just to annoy him. He raised an eyebrow, waiting for a better answer. I wasn’t going to give him one, so I turned to Lily.
“I asked you a question!”
“I don’t have to answer it. It’s none of your business”
“Why are you so bitchy?”
“I just can’t help myself around you, Black. You really bring out the best in people” I replied, grinning and fluttering my eyelashes at him. He smirked and sat down, finally dropping the subject. The rest of the evening was uneventful.
I joined Lily, Black, Potter and Alice (who was a member of the club because of her outstanding potions abilities) in the common room and we headed to the Slug Club Christmas dinner together. It was mid December, and Christmas decorations had been put up.
“Not this way, let’s walk though the passage instead” said Black as we rounded a corridor on the fifth floor.
“What’s wrong with the normal way?” asked Alice as we followed him and Potter, who seemed to know what passage Sirius had in mind.
“Mistletoe” Potter made a face as he said the word, as if he’d said something like ‘devil’s snare’ instead.
“What’s the matter with a bit of mistletoe? It’s almost Christmas!” Lily said.
“The problem is not the mistletoe itself. It’s the silly girls waiting underneath it” Black scoffed.
“Come again?” I asked him, not sure I understood what he meant.
It was James who explained “he’s been ambushed three times in the past week. Always under mistletoe”
I giggled “is Sirius Black having trouble escaping his groupies?”
“Not just me, though. Pr… James has also been under attack. What was it, twice yesterday alone?” Black said pushing aside a tapestry to let us into a hidden passage.
“Ah, nobody can resist the allure of a Quidditch captain” I said trying (and failing) not to laugh.
“It’s annoying” Potter said, making a face.
“Yeah, I’m sure it’s horrible that people want to snog you” Alice said giggling too.
“Well, only if the people who want to snog you are not the same people you want to snog” said Black casually.
“Ah, so it’s only a matter of time before we see you stuck under the mistletoe, then. You’ll only avoid it until it’s the right girl” Lily said. He gave us a half smile but was saved from giving an answer because he arrived at Slughorn’s office that moment.
The party was going well. The room was crowded already, even though we were only fifteen minutes late, and the air was quite stuffy. The room had been decorated in typical Christmas colours – red, gold and green – and everything was bathed in the red light cast by an ornate golden lamp dangling from the centre of the ceiling. I was led to a table that held several drinks by Potter and Black. Lily and Alice went to say hello to Slughorn straight away. They disappeared from sight and, to my dismay, didn’t come back at all.
Despite the loss of my girl friends, I was having a good time drinking and joking around with the guys. We’d been trying the different spirits available and ranking them on taste and strength of the alcohol when a beautiful seventh year girl approached Black. I recognized her even though we’d never really spoken before. She smiled at Potter but didn’t spare me a glance before engaging in what could only be described as shameless flirting with Sirius. I looked away feeling slightly uncomfortable and James caught my eye. He made a disgusted face to indicate he too was feeling awkward and leaned in closer to me.
“Now that’s just you and me, we should make the most of it. Let’s dance” he whispered in my ear. I felt a small shiver run down my spine. It was rather pleasant.
“Sure” I walked with him to the dancefloor and let him lead as we swayed to the rhythm.
“You’re a good dancer” he complimented me.
“You sound surprised”
“You were terrible when… well, when we were little” he said. I gave him a small smile.
“So, Black and Marlene McKinnon, huh?” I asked desperate to change the topic of conversation. Too late, I remembered that the topic of Sirius and Marlene, or Sirius with anybody, really, was not one I particularly enjoyed. I focused on James, hoping his dashing good looks would distract me. It seemed to work.
“They’ve hooked up a couple times, I think. Not sure, I don’t really keep track of Sirius’ love life” he shrugged. I chuckled.
“It’d be hard if you tried” I said. He smiled.
“He’s not that bad. He hasn’t found the right girl yet, that’s all”
“I don’t think he believes in love, Potter” I said.
“I’m sure he does… how could he not?”
I rolled my eyes before replying. “You two couldn’t be more different if you tried. You’re still pining for Lily, aren’t you?”
“I… well, I won’t pretend I don’t fancy her, but I think I’m getting over it. One can only take so many rejections” he said. This was a surprise.
“Now that’s a surprise! Do you actually mean it?”
“Yeah, I am. I think I just have to accept she’s just not into me and she’ll never be. I can’t compete with the Giant Squid, can I?” he joked.
“Well, there’s lots of girls who’ll be happy to hear they’ve got a chance with you now” I smiled.
“Ah, maybe I have already set my sights on somebody” he said with a mischievous grin.
“Ooooh, tell me”
He leaned in closer to me as if he was about to tell me a secret but, instead he said “nope. Where’s the fun in that?”
“But I thought we were friends!” I pretended to be outraged to hide the fact that I was suddenly feeling a bit flustered.
He twirled me around and held me closer when I was facing him again. He was a superb dancer, I had to admit.
“So, tell me” I batted my eyelashes at him, and he chuckled, shaking his head. I was about to protest again when we were interrupted.
“There you are, I’ve been looking for you all over” Black grabbed my arm and James’ and pulled us away from the dance floor.
“We thought you’d be busy with McKinnon” I said when we released us in the vicinity of the drinks’ table.
“I’m meeting her later, after the party” he said, pouring us drinks. Potter high-fived him. This time, it didn’t bother me as much as it had before. I wondered, as I glanced over at James, if a pair of hazel eyes had anything to do with it. Surely not.
We were going home. How had this happened? Time had gone so fast this first term it was actually a bit dizzying. One minute I was complaining about being paired with Black for the first N.E.W.T. level transfiguration lesson, the next I was sat in the Express carriage on the way home for Christmas break. I looked out the window to buy some time to process everything that had happened in the past four months: I was beater for Gryffindor’s Quidditch team, I was on the way to becoming an animagus, Lily was still going strong with Cal, and we were now officially on friendly terms with Potter and his gang. I looked up to the crowded carriage. Friendly terms apparently meant we shared a carriage all the way to London. Thank Merlin Lily was with Cal, or else someone would have had to sit on someone else’s lap.
“You’ll make yourself sick” I said. Pettigrew rolled his eyes at me, winked and popped yet another chocolate frog into his mouth.
“Speaking of, are you feeling better Remus?” Alice asked him sweetly.
“Yeah, I think it was one of those funny 24h bugs” he smiled at her. I had to look away to hide my knowing smile.
Alice and Remus had hit it off approximately five minutes into that first time we met for drinks at the Three Broomsticks. Turns out they are both really into plants and their curative properties. Every time we’d hung out with the boys after that, which had become a more regular occurrence as we’d approached Christmas, they’d always end up in a corner together discussing one thing or other rather enthusiastically. By now, it was totally obvious to everyone that they fancied each other but, for some mysterious reason, Remus was yet to make a move. Alice, however, had assured Lily and I she wasn’t in a rush. For the first time ever she was happy to wait and let things run their course. I was happy for her, but also a bit concerned. Any normal guy would have said something by now, so I was worried Remus would never make the first move. That said, and even though we actually hung out with them more often, these guys did not qualify as normal by any stretch of the imagination.
The more we got to know them, the more we realized that they were still rather arrogant, just a lot less childish about it. They were also fun, brave – sometimes borderline stupid – and smart. We all knew they were talented, their school results had always been up there, but they were also what I liked to call ‘street smart’. I had found myself gravitating towards James and Sirius a bit more. Potter and I just clicked. Just like we had when we were small children, I felt like we got along naturally. He was easy to talk to, funny and he had a lot of respect for me as a beater, which was extra nice since he was my team captain. Black… well, let’s just say that we had evolved from being rude to each other out of spite to being rude to each other just for fun. It was like a game of explosive snap, or a time bomb. I could tell everyone else was always worried one of us would push it too far and a real fight would follow, but so far that hadn’t happened.
“Are you deaf?” Pettigrew threw a Bertie Bott bean at me.
“Sorry, what were you saying?”
“I asked if you’re excited to see your boyfriend again” Alice said.
“I am, but I am not sure how it’s going to work. This year it’s my parents’ turn to host the New Year’s Eve Crystal Ball, and my mother will want help. She’ll keep me busy”
“And you’ll have to keep up with your training, no getting out of shape during the holidays!” Potter chimed in.
“And I’ll have to stay in shape” I said, rolling my eyes at him. “Plus, we always have family and friends coming over during the holidays, so I’m not sure how much free time I’ll actually have”
“Why can’t he just spend some time at your place? Are you like embarrassed of him?” asked Black. I looked at him. He’d been quite quiet since we left the school, now that I thought about it.
“He’s a muggle” I said. I had never really told them much about Jax, despite their efforts to find out as much about him as they could. They found it fascinating that I was dating someone who didn’t attend Hogwarts. Something Black said would make his balls explode if he tried [cringe]. But, I had avoided telling them the full truth until now.
“He’s a muggle? How did you forget to mention that? It’s not a small detail like ‘he’s blond’, or ‘he has a scar on his arm’” James said.
“It really wasn’t, and still isn’t, any of your business” I said defensively.
“He’s not blond” said Alice. Nobody paid attention to her.
“Some friend you are…” muttered Black.
“Oh, come on, don’t pull the ‘friend’ card on me now. It hasn’t even been long enough, at best we are acquaintances” I retorted. He held his chest pretending to be hurt and Potter laughed.
“You are hurting my feelings” how dramatic.
“That’s impossible, Black. I know for a fact you have none” I smiled sweetly at him. He looked even more outraged at that.
“How dare you!”
“Anyway,” said Lupin “how did you explain your four months long absence to your muggle boyfriend?”
“He thinks I go to a girls only boarding school somewhere in the Scottish countryside. It was actually harder to explain the lack of phones”
“So you haven’t spoken to him at all?” Pettigrew asked me.
“I wrote to him, he wrote to me. It was a pain though, I had to get the owl drop the letters home and then my house elf would put them in his mailbox”
“How did he write to you?”
“I told him to put the letters in my mailbox at home and that my parents would get them to me. He thought it was weird, but I convinced him it was a security measure” I shrugged.
“And you still have feelings for him?” Lupin asked me.
“What kind of question is that?”
“Well… you haven’t seen him or spoken to him in a long time. Letters don’t count. I don’t think anyone would judge you if you were over him by now” he said.
“Hmm… I’m excited to see him” was all I said.
The truth was that I wasn’t sure at all. But I didn’t want to admit it to them. A part of me was confused. I hadn’t missed him nearly as much as I thought I would. I was even a little bit ashamed to admit that I’d sometimes wondered what it would be like if I was single. I was also aware of the fact that I was attracted to some of the boys in school, two of whom were actually in the carriage with me. Did that mean I didn’t like Jax enough? Was it normal to feel confused because of the distance? I wasn’t sure and I was a bit nervous about seeing Jax again.
Another reason I was having doubts about Jax was that I’d started to think of him more as a safety blanket than an actual boyfriend. I knew a bit part of the reason I felt so comfortable joking and hanging out so much with the guys was that it always felt safe. There were no questions or misunderstandings because, well, I had a boyfriend. For instance, I would have felt very awkward dancing with Potter during Slughorn’s Christmas party if I had been single. I would have wondered if it meant anything, or not, and if it did what. My lack of experience would have probably meant I’d made a fool of myself. So, I was terrified of what removing that safety net could mean. I was even more terrified that it wouldn’t mean anything, and that none of them would even consider pursuing a romantic relationship with me if I was available.
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