Alice’s funeral was beautiful. Lily and I gave ourselves over fully to organizing it. It was our way of saying goodbye and thank you to Alice. We knew her best, and we wanted her farewell to reflect who she was. After the funeral, I cancelled the rest of the plans we had for the summer and went home alone. I had made James and Sirius promise they would look after Lily and Remus. Peter who’d come back as soon as he’d heard of the attack, had also promised me he’d do everything he could to help them get over Alice’s untimely death. They tried to persuade me to stay with them, they said grieving together made it easier, but I couldn’t.
The first couple of days I numbed the pain with insane workout drills. I ran until my legs gave up, I did James’ craziest conditioning circuits over and over again until I passed out or threw up. I smashed a bludger so hard I splintered my bat.
It soon became clear that exercising only worked while I was doing it, and my body couldn’t keep up with the rhythm. I needed another way to numb the pain, to forget. So, on my birthday, I headed to the Oaks Inn clad in a little black dress and enough eyeliner for an entire emo band.
“Hey” I smiled at Jax my most seductive smile.
“I thought you were traveling” he said, sitting on the stool next to mine.
“I was. Last leg got cancelled” I informed him, emptying my glass and signaling to the bartender I wanted a refill.
“Are you okay?”
“Peachy” I smirked at him and leaned closer. “Have a drink with me?”
“Isn’t it your birthday today?”
“You are right, it is” the bartender poured me my drink and I saluted him. Jax was watching me with a mix of fascination and concern.
“Why are you on your own?”
“Waiting for the right company” I gave him my best seductive look.
“You’re a bit wild tonight, aren’t you?”
“You don’t know the half of it” I purred. Fascination was clearly winning the battle over Jax’s emotions. He moved closer.
“Want to show me?” he said suggestively.
I spent the rest of the summer in Jax’s bed. Well, not all of it, but for the most part. I also spent that time either severely hungover or drunk. Jax had figured out pretty quickly that this was some sort of self-destructive spiral I was going through but he was a horny 20 year old who had been, according to his friends, unable to stop thinking about me all year, so he was very happy to oblige and help me forget. Even if he had no idea what it was I needed forgetting so desperately.
The hours of the day I wasn’t having sex with Jax or getting drunk with Jax and his friends I was researching. Despite my head-splitting hangovers, I had collected an impressive folder of information on murders, disappearances and tortures by Lord Voldemort and his followers. I had also used my good relationship with my house elves to tap into their information network and heard rumours of a resistance movement called The Order of Phoenix. I didn’t know who they were yet, but I pretty much considered myself a member of their team already.
I had also gone through every book my parents had about DADA and dark arts in general, without the ‘defense against’ part, too. I practiced spell after spell, curse after curse, until my arms were hurting and my hangover receding. Those were usually my cues to put on some of my new slutty clothes and make up and head out to meet Jax.
By the time September 1st arrived I had a) acquired enough magical prowess to be a dangerous witch, b) learnt all there was to know about Lord Voldemort and c) successfully ignored every single letter my friends had sent me. I considered all these things great accomplishments.
“I wish you could just not go to school” Jax said. I looked at him and ran my finger across his naked chest. He’d got a lot of new tattoos in the year we’d been apart. I kind of liked it, I thought. Maybe I just liked everything dark and mysterious now. Who knew.
“Yeah, not feeling it this year” I said, rolling over and staring at the ceiling. We were in bed, it was early in the morning still but I should probably be home packing.
“Well, there’s always Christmas to look forward to” he leaned over me and kissed me. I kissed him back. Jax had been like a drug, a very effective drug. He’d kept me distracted and occupied so much I was now able to just numb the pain in my heart and operate as if it wasn’t there. The pain or just the heart altogether, I wasn’t sure.
“I suppose you’re right” I sighed and got out of his bed. I got dressed and waved goodbye to him. “See you in a few months”
I wasn’t sure I was ready to go back to school, but time waits for no one. I had spent most of the summer at the Potters’ with James, Sirius, Remus and Peter. Remus and I had spent close to two full weeks in the darkness of one room, leaving it only to use the bathroom. After that, we started feeling a bit better. We all knew it was going to take time to heal, but we were on the way. We also reminded ourselves that Alice, who was bright like the sun and loved life with a romanticism very few possessed, would have been outraged at us moping around all day. So, in her memory, we had agreed to making seventh year the best of our lives.
The only problem was Jo. She had not replied to any of our letters. Not even Sirius, who had been the only one who managed to coax words out of her after we found her by Alice’s body, got a response. Her parents had said the house elves kept a close eye on her and she was okay, but that was all we knew.
We arrived at platform 9 and ¾ with about half an hour to spare. I was not as excited as I usually was, but having made Head Girl did lift my spirits a little. I had almost fallen out of my chair at finding out that James was Head Boy, despite not having been a prefect, but Dumbledore knew what he was doing. And, I had to admit that sixth year had been radically different to the previous five. James was smart and had a very noble heart. So what if he was a little arrogant? He was good looking enough to justify most of his ego, anyway.
The boys took my luggage and went to find a compartment to share with them whilst I looked around the platform for our brunette friend. I couldn’t find her anywhere. They jumped back off the train and I joined them, shaking my head.
“Haven’t found her?” asked James.
“No, maybe she’s already on the train?” I shrugged.
“She’s not” Sirius looked like he had seen a ghost. We all turned and I understood full well why he looked like he was about to pass out.
Jocelyn, or someone who looked at lot like Jocelyn but at the same time didn’t, swaggered across the platform in a pair of extremely tight black jeans and a top with a deeper cleavage than some of my bras. Her hair was down, framing her face, and she wore black eyeliner and lip gloss. I had to admit she looked hotter than I had ever seen her, but it was just very odd. Jo didn’t bother with make up most days, and whilst she had a very good sense of fashion, she’d never been provocative before.
She saw us and waved a hand, coming over to us. “Hey” she said casually. I quickly realized the boys were too shocked to respond, so I did.
“I’ve been so worried about you” I hugged her. She returned the hug. I hadn’t noticed that I was worried she wouldn’t until she did. Thank Godric.
“I’m fine” she said. “Hey boys” she smiled at them. “We’re going to miss the train, hurry up”
And, with that, she jumped on the train. I had to snap my fingers a few times to break the boys out of their reverie. “You need to wipe your faces, you’re drooling” I said with irritation.
“What the fuck was that?” James’ face was a poem.
“That is Jo’s way of coping with what happened to Alice” I sighed. “If I’d known it’d be like this I wouldn’t have let her leave”
“Explain to me how showing her boobs to all of Hogwarts helps her cope with what happened to Alice, please. I don’t get it” Peter said. Sirius looked like he wanted to choke him.
“I’m guessing she’s been spending time with Jax” I replied, jumping onto the train. “And she was right, you know? The train is moving”
They scrambled to jump on. Jo acted more or less normal during the journey back to school, which I thought was a magnificent feat considering not even Remus could stop staring. And not precisely at her face. She pretended she didn’t notice.
Anyone would have been forgiven for thinking this was just a radical change to Jo’s sense of fashion but I knew better. She had shut herself down, put her heart in a proverbial box and thrown the key away. This was her version of a ‘femme fatale’ or an ice queen and I had a horrible feeling she wasn’t just dressing as one.
“I really want to know what you’ve been doing the past three weeks” I whispered as we walked up the stairs and into the castle. Now that our robes were on, the boys had finally managed to show some self-control and were currently plotting a prank to celebrate the start of their final year.
“Jax” she said, shrugging.
“What do… oh”
“Yeah, ‘oh’ pretty much sums it up” she joked. I turned bright red. Jo wasn’t one to comment on her sexual experiences very much. She had given us progress updates in terms of ‘I got to second base’ or ‘second base and a half’. She told us when she did it for the first time (with James) and that it had been very nice. But that was it. Jo didn’t make sexual jokes, or turned innocent comments into innuendos.
“Right, well, and the rest of the time? Surely you weren’t… ehm… ‘oh-ing’ 24/7?”
“I was also getting drunk with Jax and his mates” she sat down. The boys joined us and I decided to drop this conversation until we were in private. I knew Sirius would be sulking for a week if he knew what Jo had been up to.
Dumbledore stood up and we all quieted down. He gave a touching speech about Alice that made me spill a few tears, and then he made the announcement that we had several new students joining various years. This was unexpected and out of the ordinary.
“I heard my parents discuss it. Everyone seems to think Hogwarts is one of the safest places to be. Apparently, Lord Voldemort is scared of Dumbledore” James whispered. That made Jo, who had been idly playing with her fork, finally pay attention.
“Yeah, a lot of parents petitioned Dumbledore to let their kids join Hogwarts and he couldn’t say no” Remus added. We had to be quiet because the Headmaster started talking again about sorting them in reverse order. New seventh years would go first. There were four or five.
We watched with curiosity as the first one was sorted into Ravenclaw and the second into Hufflepuff. Then, a tall, dark and handsome guy stood up and walked over to the hat. I had missed his name. Jo was eyeing him with interest. He reminded me of Jax a little. And of Sirius, of course. I wondered, not for the first time, if Jo knew she’d basically spent the month of August in bed with a clone of Sirius Black.
“GRYFFINDOR” everyone cheered and clapped. Not Jo. She was just watching him calmly. When he turned to walk towards our table, he noticed her. He came straight towards us.
“Mind if I sit here?” he asked. He had an accent that I couldn’t place.
“Welcome to Gryffindor, mate” said Sirius. “The best house in Hogwarts”
“Thanks. I’m Hardin, by the way” even though it had been Sirius who had welcomed him, he said this looking at Jocelyn.
“Jo” she replied, smiling at him.
“Lily!” I chimed in before any of the boys realized what was happening between these two. I was scandalized and they’d only looked at each other. I did not want to know what would happen if they were left alone.
I knew Lily disapproved of what I was doing. She disapproved of my clothes, my hair, my make up and, above all, she disapproved of my attitude. I wanted to care, I really did, but I couldn’t. If I cared about one thing, I’d care about them all. I wasn’t ready.
The first few days of school were boring and painful. I was forced to stay sober, go to classes and hang out in the common room. Everyone seemed to be totally fine with the fact that Alice wasn’t there. They didn’t see her everywhere they looked, or hear her voice only to realize it had been in their head. By the time Saturday rolled around the choices were to drown myself in whiskey or jump out the Gryffindor Tower. I couldn’t disrespect Alice’s sacrifice by putting myself in mortal danger, so I opted for the first option.
Fortunately for me, it was tradition to have a start of the year party. I was almost done with my make up when Lily arrived in our room. She did a double take at my choice of attire but didn’t comment. I was wearing a short black dress and high heeled boots. The dress was tight but it was straight-cut so she couldn’t tell me of for excessive cleavage. I had put my hair up in a messy bun.
“What is that?” I turned to her and saw her eyes on my right shoulder.
“It’s for Alice” I said. Her eyes opened very wide and she rushed over to get a better look. I had got it with Jax, because Jax knew tattoos and tattoo artists. It was actually quite beautiful. I had got a small air nymph, because that’s what Alice reminded me of. Airy, happy, free, all things life should be but wasn’t because she was no longer in it.
“It is beautiful. I think she would have loved it” she said, looking away.
“I think so too” in a rare moment of weakness, I gave Lily a quick hug. Then, I realized what I was doing and pulled away. “Right, time to party”
She rolled her eyes and followed me out of the room. Dumbledore had been kind and allowed us to keep it to ourselves. He didn’t think we should be forced to share it with anyone for the last year. It would have been like replacing Alice, like she had never mattered, and both Lily and I had written to him to ask him not to make us go through that.
I went straight for the bar and poured myself a firewhiskey. Lily said something about checking in on some second years and disappeared. She was taking this Head Girl business rather seriously. I leaned on the bar and looked around. I saw the marauders walk in and waved at them. I found it hilarious that they were still shocked at my new style. Sirius in particular seemed to struggle with it a lot and I took sinister pleasure on the fact that after all these years, I could make Sirius Black nervous. Finally.
“Hey, Jo” said Peter. The poor boy wasn’t able to talk to me without blushing furiously. I wanted to feel bad, but then again, I was currently firmly on the ‘no feelings’ wagon so that was that.
“Hey boys, how’s it going?”
“Great party!” Hardin materialized behind the marauders that moment.
“Hey, Hardin” I smiled at him. He smiled back. He was so hot. I had been worried I’d find it difficult to replace Jax once I was back in school, but unless things went very wrong, I had a feeling Hardin would do just as well, if not better, than Jax as a distraction.
“So, what do you usually do at these parties?” he asked.
“Drink, play games, that sort of thing” Remus said casually.
“I like the sound of that. Let’s play a game” Hardin suggested.
“Lead the way” I said, grabbing a firewhiskey bottle.
“Yes, ma’am” he pretended to bow and I giggled a little. Sirius grabbed my elbow and pulled me back.
“Jocelyn, what are you doing?”
“What does it look like?” ugh, just because he was my best friend didn’t give him the right to lecture me on choices. It’s not like he was a saint himself.
“I don’t think this is healthy”
“It’s a good thing I am not asking you, then” I said, twisting out of his hold and strutting after the boys.
A small crew gathered to play. There was some debate between ‘Truth or Dare’ and ‘Spin the bottle’. In the end, because nobody was in a couple anymore and we were all hormonal teenagers, ‘Spin the bottle’ won.
‘This should be interesting’ I thought.
Things started out hilarious when Remus had to kiss Sirius. They took it in a very manly way and did an ultra-quick, barely-there peck on the lips. I almost wet myself laughing. Then, Peter had to kiss a sixth year girl. Boring. Then, James’ turn was up and the bottle landed on me. He shrugged and walked over.
“Is it okay?” he asked me. I didn’t bother replying. It’s not like we hadn’t done it before. I kissed him, and I kissed him well. His eyes were dark when we broke the kiss and I knew exactly what he was thinking, more like remembering. I winked at him and sat back down.
Next, a sixth-year boy got the same girl as Peter had. Boring. Then Remus got a different sixth year girl. They kissed, also boring. Sirius got one of the fifth years, and she practically fainted. More boring. But then, it was Hardin’s turn. I had a feeling he had cheated, but I didn’t mind it one bit when he stood up to kiss me.
I thought my kiss with James had been a bit over the top for this game, not that I cared, but Hardin took no prisoners. He kissed me with the confidence of someone who knows what they’re doing, and that you like it. I was a bit breathless when we broke the kiss. The bottle didn’t land on me again for a long time. I suspected this was also Hardin’s doing. It did, however, become very interesting when Lily’s turn came up and the bottle pointed straight at James.
Lily blushed furiously and walked over to James a bit timidly. He whispered something to her, and she shook her head lightly. Then, James bent his head and gently kissed her. I remembered the first time James had ever kissed me, and I saw the similarities immediately. James still liked Lily. He probably never stopped, he had just convinced himself he had because she kept rejecting him. That would go a long way towards explaining why he could never find a way to tell me he loved me. You can’t love someone when your heart belongs to another. It didn’t bother me in the slightest. I thought that, if Lily got over her prejudices, they would make a really good couple. I might play match-maker and get them together, I thought.
“You okay?” I turned to Remus, very surprised that he was asking me.
“You were staring” he said.
“Ah, yes, but not because of that. I was actually thinking they make a rather good couple” I informed him. He looked intently at me for a moment, then nodded with a half-smile.
“What do you say we help them realise it?”
“I like the way you think, Moony” the moment I let it slip I cursed myself. I didn’t want to use their nicknames anymore. I didn’t want to know their secret. I didn’t want that reminder of what only Alice and I knew, because now it was just me.
“It’ll get easier” he said. I looked at him wondering how he managed. He loved her even more than I did, if that was possible, yet he hadn’t turned into an emo slut.
“Will it, though?” I grabbed my bottle of firewhiskey and stood up. “I’ve had enough of this game” I said, walking away.
Hardin found me when I was halfway through the bottle. He sat with me and after a few flirty comments, we started snogging. I just really didn’t feel like talking to him or to anyone. As the party went on and more people either left of became very drunk, I grabbed Hardin’s hand and motioned for him to follow me. I found Lily with the boys.
“Lils, would you mind if I grab the room for a bit?” I whispered to her. She looked at my hand in Hardin’s and shrugged.
“Thanks” I waved at the boys and turned towards the staircase only to remember I couldn’t exactly take Hardin to my room. He couldn’t walk up the stairs. I came back to Lily.
“Never mind, I can’t get him up there” I whispered. I turned to Hardin; frustration obvious on my face.
“You can come to my room instead” Hardin told me.
“Who are you sharing it with?”
“No one, it’s a small spare room because I’m here for a year only” he smirked at me.
“And you didn’t say this earlier because…?”
“I wasn’t sure if you were up for it” for all his swagger and flirtiness, I liked that he was still respectful and hadn’t assumed anything about me. I walked up the boys’ staircase with Hardin’s hand in one of mine and the whiskey bottle in the other.
“Good morning!” I glared at Lily and made a noise in response. We’d fallen into this routine rather quickly, she’d say good morning, I’d grunt and we’d walk in silence to the Great Hall. It had been a week and so far, so good.
“You know, it would be a lot easier if you came back before 2 am on school nights” she said. We were on our way to breakfast and I was tired.
“Hello ladies” James and his entourage joined us when we reached the Great Hall. We sat together and I poured myself a huge cup of coffee.
“Are you not going to eat anything?” Sirius asked me. I glared at him.
“She won’t say a word until she’s finished that coffee” Lily informed him. “It’s her new thing”
I rolled my eyes. “What’s wrong with her?” James asked Lily. It was starting to annoy me that they were talking about me like this but I just couldn’t bring myself to interject.
“Lack of sleep” Lily said mater-of-factly.
“Are you having nightmares?” Sirius asked me.
“I’d need to be asleep for that, and Hardin is very good at keeping me awake” I spat, putting down the empty mug and standing up. Sirius looked hurt and angry, and I almost felt bad but I stopped myself. This is why I had to stay away from them, from him. He made me feel and I did not want to.
I walked out of the Great Hall alone and headed towards the classroom. The empty chairs and desks didn’t ask questions I didn’t want to answer.
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