The next morning, I woke up feeling like I could take on the world. I loved my friends. Last night had been so awesome I was still vibrating with excitement. It all made sense, and it was wonderful. I was also mildly alarmed at the revelation that the boys could come up the girls’ staircase, contrary to what everyone thought, because animals didn’t trigger the slide mechanism. And I just had a horrible suspicion they’d used that cloak of Prongs’ a few times up here.
“You look like you ate a rotten nut” Peter informed me. That got my attention back to our breakfast.
“Disturbing thoughts sometimes plague my mind” I replied waving my arms around me in a silly impression of our Divination teacher. They laughed.
“It’s the last visit to Hogsmeade of the year today, how are going to make it memorable?” asked Sirius. I was still confused about the feelings that realizing he’d known about my animagus transformation produced in me. I didn’t feel the things I thought I should be feeling: embarrassed, creeped or weirded out. Instead, I felt strangely flattered and grateful that he’d watched over me and kept me company, even though I didn’t know it. It was confusing.
“I, as newly appointed marauder, would like to suggest you let me plan the end of year prank with you” I whispered. “For which I think a visit to Zonko’s is in order”
“We should have come clean to her ages ago,” Peter had been become a firm supporter of mine in the space of 12 hours.
“I think that sounds good. I also think that we should show you the Shack,” said Moony.
“Only if you show it to Alice too” he paled.
“No, no way”
“Remus” I gave him a pointed look.
“I can’t exactly tell her in there. It’s an awful place”
“Exactly. Ugh, men. Listen to me, you moron, Alice adores you. She’s going to be hurt you didn’t trust her enough to tell her. She’s going to realize I made you tell her, which isn’t going to help” I explained. “However, you’ve got a big chance she’ll overlook these things if you let her see how horrible this is for you”
“I think that sounds a bit like emotional blackmail” Padfoot commented.
“It is. Girls use it all the time. It works wonders” I informed him. Remus sighed.
“Are you absolutely sure this is going to work?”
“I am 90 per cent sure. Can’t guarantee it though, but all other ideas are on the 50 to 60%% will work range, so your choice” I shrugged. He groaned.
“Fine, we take Alice to the Shack”
“What are we going to do about Lily?” Sirius asked. I had noticed they’d got quite close recently. I hoped Lily wasn’t crushing on Sirius. The mental image of Sirius and Lily wasn’t one I liked in the slightest. He was too much of a player for her, that wouldn’t end well, I told myself.
“Lily has a date today. She’s not coming with us”
“Oh, who’s she going with?” Peter asked, always interested in gossip.
“Ken? Your Ken?” Sirius asked me. James made a face and an ugly noise at that.
“Excuse me, there’s no such thing as ‘her Ken’” I laughed and smiled at him. He winked at me.
Alice and Lily joined us at the table a bit after that. When breakfast was over, we went to get ready. Lily waved goodbye and went to meet Ken, a happy smile on her lips. Alice and I met the Marauders and decided to walk to Hogsmeade, since the weather was beautiful, and we weren’t in a hurry. If Alice wasn’t as innocent and oblivious to everything as she was, she would have known something was up. Remus couldn’t stop fidgeting.
We went to Zonko’s, bought some supplies, and left quickly. We stopped at Honeydunkes to get some chocolate, and then, we told Alice we had something to show her. She protested a little at not visiting the Three Broomsticks one last time before the year was over, but I promised her this was way more important. She trusted me, she always did.
“Where, exactly are we going?” she asked after a little while.
“Don’t freak out” I said.
“You saying that makes me freak out” she replied, looking at Remus for support. “Babe, what’s going on?”
“Trust me? Please?” he asked. She couldn’t say no to that.
A couple of minutes later, standing outside the Shrieking Shack, she was almost shaking with fear.
“Why are we here?” she whispered.
“There’s something you need to know” I told her. “But we have to go inside”
“No. No, no, no. No way. Absolutely not” she said, backing away.
“Alice. For Godric’s sake, do you really think I’d take you somewhere dangerous?” I asked her. She considered this for a moment.
“How do you know it’s not, though? Everyone says it’s haunted”
“I’ve been there before” I lied. It was a white lie, for a good cause.
“You have? Are you insane? Scratch that, you are insane, everyone knows that”
“But still perfectly fine. Seriously Alice, trust me” I grabbed her hand and walked towards the Shack. The boys followed us quietly.
James guided us to the side that was furthest away from the path and completely concealed from the village. Then, he expertly pulled aside a bunch of wooden planks to reveal a small space. I went in first, hoping Alice would follow. Thankfully, she did.
“What is this place?” she asked. I had no answer to that, so I let Remus take over.
“This is an abandoned house like any other. Except I come here, because it’s best for everyone” he said. Alice looked at him in confusion. “Alice, there’s something I need to tell you. But please, please know that I am still me. I am still Remus. I still love you”
“Please tell me you don’t come here to cheat on me” she whispered in horror. I actually face-palmed myself.
“ALICE! Listen to him, please” I said. Sirius and James gave me a bit of a funny look.
“I have never, and would never, cheat on you, Alice. I come here because… well… when I was a boy, when I was four years old, I was bitten by Fenrir Greyback” he whispered. The silence that followed was the most awkward and horrible of my life.
“I know” Alice said.
“I promis… what?” we all stared at her.
“I know, Remus. I’m not the smartest witch in school, but I pay attention to you. To everything you do, and to when you do it. I wasn’t one hundred percent sure, but when you broke up with me and I heard Sirius was in the infirmary severely injured following an ‘animal attack in the forest’ I realized what it was” she took his face in her hands. “I just wanted to give you time to tell me on your own”
“You have nothing to be sorry about. I can’t imagine how awful it must be for you, alone every full moon. I had no idea you came here, by the way, that part I was totally confused about…”
“He’s not alone” said James. I smiled at him. “We come with him”
“Actually, I have been dying to ask all this time” Alice said. “Why are you not also a werewolf now, Sirius? After he… well… you know what happened”
“Because animals don’t get lycanthropy” he replied, smiling.
“Animals?” and, just because they couldn’t help themselves, all three of them transformed at once. Alice let out a shriek and they transformed back, laughing loudly.
I never really liked summer. Leaving Hogwarts made me sad. Except this year, I was actually looking forward to it. We had planned it to perfection, meaning we were only going to be away from the boys for a grand total of four days (minus Peter, who had to spend some time with his aging mother and would miss part of the fun). It was day two of our holiday, and I had Lily and Alice staying over at my place in London before we all headed to my parents’ villa in the south of France.
Lily, Alice and I were enjoying a cool drink in the Oaks Inn after a long day of intense shopping in London. We had bought bikinis, beach dresses and what Alice referred to as ‘going out clothes’ to last us a decade. It had felt good.
“Jo?” I recognized his voice immediately. I turned to find Jax with two of his mates.
“Hi” I said a bit shyly. He walked over to the table and smiled at Lily and Alice.
“I don’t think we’ve met”
“We go to school with Jo” said Alice. “Nice to meet you, I’m Alice”
“Oh, we know” I was going to murder Lily. Slowly and painfully.
“You do?” he smiled his cheeky smile and turned to me. “We should catch up, when you’re free”
“I… that would be nice, but I’m actually going to be travelling for most of the summer. Lils and Alice are here because we’re travelling together” I said. He shrugged and nodded, obviously disappointed.
“Okay, well, enjoy your summer. It was good to see you”
“It was good to see you, too” I waved at him and I saw him and his mates leave the pub. He probably didn’t want to be around me.
“He is even better looking in person” said Alice. I rolled my eyes.
“Doesn’t he remind you of someone?” Lily asked me, a strange look in her eyes.
“Of course he does, he looks…”
“Not you, Alice. I meant Jo” Lily butted in before Alice could finish her sentence.
“Dark and handsome? There’s a bunch of Hollywood actors he reminds me of,” I said. Lily chuckled.
“Anyway, talking about boyfriends, how are you feeling about James?” Alice asked me.
“Same” I said, truthfully. “Still great, but not…”
“Epic” they both said at the same time. I smiled sheepishly.
“I think you need to let him know, Jo. You deserve epic” Alice said solemnly. This had become her thing. She said this exact line to me every time she got a chance.
“I don’t want to ruin his summer. I think I will tell him when we’re back in school. He’ll be a seventh year, newly single and heartbroken. I bet there’ll be queues of girls dying to help him forget” I said.
“The fact that you can say that and not feel jealous about it just proves you don’t really see him that way” Lily informed me.
“Hey, maybe you can date him” I joked. She laughed.
“Yeah, thanks but no thanks. A friend’s ex is just that, a friend’s ex”
“I wouldn’t mind” I shrugged but didn’t say anything else. Lily had had years to go out with James if she wanted to. It was clear she wasn’t interested.
Jo’s parents’ place in the south of France was a dream. The villa was huge. It had six rooms, two swimming pools, more bathrooms than anyone would ever need and a huge garden. It was also surrounded by a very convenient, very high wall. We arrived via the floo network and a house elf greeted us. He took us to our rooms – I was sharing with Jo, Remus with Alice, and everyone else had one to themselves – and we changed into our swimming trunks. The elf informed us the girls were by the main pool, and we were in a hurry to join them.
I walked out on the wooden deck and immediately spotted Lily’s fiery red hair. I wondered if Jo would think badly of me if she knew my eyes still went to her automatically every time I walked into the same space. I just couldn’t help it, I guess years of habit are hard to break. Peter was already running madly towards the pool, getting ready to jump in and splash them all. Moony was hot on his heels. I laughed, expecting Padfoot to join in, but looked around when he didn’t. He was still standing by the glass door we’d come through.
“You alright, mate?”
“Yeah, just taking it all in. It’s quite an impressive villa” this sounded strange coming from him. He wasn’t an ‘admiring the view’ type of guy. He was a ‘live in the moment and do a mad rush for the pool’ kind of person. Plus, he was a Black. He’d seen bigger houses, I was sure of it.
“Are you sure?” I walked over to where he was standing.
“Yes, yes. Let’s go” he smiled and ran towards the pool. Confused, I turned to follow him and noticed that from where he had been standing Jocelyn was directly in his line of sight.
I hurried over to her and gave her a quick kiss on the lips.
“Hello! Want to join us in the pool?” I asked. She shook her head, smiling.
“You guys go on, I’ve already been in twice”
“That is the worst excuse I ever heard in my life” Moony jumped out of the pool and ran over to us. Before I had time to react, he scooped Jocelyn up in his arms and ran back to the water, jumping in with a protesting Jo.
I laughed, hard. Jo, once she emerged, started laughing too. The rest of the week went on pretty much like that. We played quidditch, lounged by the pool, ate amazing food and just had fun together. Even though we were sharing a bed and a room, Jo and I didn’t find much time to be alone, but I didn’t mind and it seemed as if Jo didn’t either. We loved being with our friends. When the time came to say goodbye to the amazing villa, we wanted to be sad about it but, since it was the Quidditch World Cup we were going to, we couldn’t really find it in ourselves. Plus, Jo promised we could come back all together next summer after graduation again.
We flooed to my parent’s flat in Paris and the house elves helped us swap stuff out of our luggage (swimming trunks and t-shirts weren’t that useful in the forest). We got the portkey to the arena they had built for this year’s cup and landed right outside our allocated tent spaces. My parents had really, really gone all out for me, and I loved them for it. They had secured us a fantastic spot and two majestic tents. After some discussion, it was decided that Jo and I would take the biggest one to share with Peter and Lily, and Sirius would share with Remus and Alice.
The quidditch world cup was mad. Jo and Sirius ran around like crazy people asking players for autographs and taking photos non-stop. They bought about a million mementos and got so worked up over the games it took ages to calm them down after every single one. Lily even had to brew Jo an emergency potion to help her recover her voice after she pretty much ripped apart her vocal cords shouting indecencies during the game against Poland.
When England won the match that put us in the final, Jocelyn literally jumped on Padfoot, locking her legs around his waist, and they both started dancing and celebrating in joy. It occurred to me, not for the first time, that they made the perfect couple. For some reason, that made me glance at Lily and found, to my utter surprise, that she was looking at me, too. She quickly glanced away, but I knew what I’d seen. Was it possible that Lily Evans was interested in me after all the years I spent futilely chasing after her?
England lost the Quidditch World Cup, and my soul hurt. Luckily for me, Sirius had a bottle of that muggle whiskey we liked so much. We all gathered in the bigger tent and decided to drown our sorrows in alcohol.
“Jo, isn’t your birthday in a couple of weeks?” asked Peter.
“It is. In two and a half weeks. 14th of August” I told them.
“What do you want to do?” James asked me.
“Doesn’t really matter, I’m happy I get to spend it with all of you”
“What did you do last year?” Sirius was preparing a round of shots. The guy was a danger to be around. Bad influence.
“Jax and his friends threw me a party”
“I had forgotten Jax” James said.
“We met him” Lily volunteered. I rolled my eyes.
“Yeah, he walked into the pub where we were having drinks after our shopping spree” Alice said. James, Lily and Alice exchanged a very strange look. I had the feeling there was something I was missing but I didn’t have the energy to figure it out. Not today, at least. We had just lost the final, I was grieving.
“Shots!” I yelled. Everyone got excited at that. I took my glass and we got ready to down them. Sirius was looking at me, and I knew he remembered. I winked at him and we both tapped our glasses on the floor before drinking.
“You guys are so weird” said Peter.
“Crap, I totally forgot about that” James said at the same time.
“No big deal”
I didn’t think of the strange way Lily looked at Sirius, then at me. I was too busy pouring out some more shots.
James’ house was not a house. James’ house a manor. It was early in the morning and I knew everyone else was sleeping so I took the chance to go for a run. I didn’t even need to leave the manor, a few laps around the grounds would do the trick. That’s how big this house was.
I walked back into the kitchen feeling high on endorphins. James was leaning on the counter, lost in thought. I took a second to watch him before making my presence known to him. He was so handsome, so loyal, such a good person. He didn’t deserve to be in a relationship with someone who would much rather just be his friend.
“Hey” I said, approaching him.
“Yes, please” I grabbed the mug he was offering me and took a second to gather my courage. “James, I think we need to talk”
If he was surprised he didn’t show it. Instead, he smiled sweetly and said “I think we do”
“The thing is, and hear me out first, please, we are good together. We get along so well, and you are like the perfect boyfriend and I think you are super hot...”
“But this isn’t really working, is it?” I felt my mouth open and close in shock a few times. He felt it, too?
“You... you think so?”
“I do” I felt like a massive weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
“I was so worried, I didn’t want to hurt you. James, I do love you, you know that?”
“I do. And I love you, too. And the reason we can say it now, when we haven’t been able to in over six months of dating is because we mean it as friends” he grabbed my hand and pulled me into a hug.
“I don’t regret it, though. Any second of it. I did, and still do, fancy you. You are gorgeous and sexy and fun, and one half of my favorite beater team of all times” he continued. I smiled up at him from where I was snuggled against his chest. “But I think our relationship was never going to go anywhere else”
“I agree. And I don’t regret it, either. I won’t tell you again how awesome you are for fear of your head finally exploding unable to contain your ego, but you get me” I joked. He laughed deeply.
“Hell, yeah. I mean it Prongs” I loved using their nicknames, like I was indeed part of their secret cult. “You aren’t getting rid of me, we just aren’t romantically involved anymore. You and Padfoot are my bestest friends in the world”
“What about Lily and Alice?”
“I’ve promoted them to the sister category, so best friend spots were vacant” I winked at him and he laughed, giving me a hug.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way, Josie”
I untangled myself from James’ embrace and walked over to the fridge to make myself some breakfast. It was then that I saw the newspaper headline. ‘Dark Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters claim responsibility for terror’. I stopped dead.
“James” I whispered. “Have you seen this?”
“What?” he came over and I pointed at the headline, picking up the newspaper.
“They were right. McGonagall and Dumbledore were right”
“Explain” he said.
“Didn’t you wonder how I am still unregistered even though I became an animagus under McGonagall’s tutelage?”
“The thought did cross my mind, I just thought they waited until you graduated or something. I have no idea what the procedure is, you know” he smiled.
“She didn’t want me to register because she thought it might make me a target” I whispered.
“They knew about this… ehm… Lord Voldemort?”
“She said they were suspicious, that they though a dark wizard might be on the rise”
“What does the article say? What do they want?”
“Some blood purity bullshit. Someone should tell these guys that race supremacy movements don’t tend to end well. You can ask any muggle” I said with concern.
“I’m starting to think this is way more serious than any of us thought” James sighed.
“We just need to make sure we keep Lily safe. She’s the only muggle-born in our group” he nodded solemnly.
That was the first time we heard the name ‘Lord Voldemort’. It would not be the last.
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