"Change has to come for life to struggle forward." ― Helen Hollick, The Kingmaking
After arriving at Hogsmede Station and making our annual journey up to the school for the last time, we find refuge in the Great Hall among all of our old friends, candles burning low, a hum of excitement heard all around. As we make our way through the throng of students to find a seat, my hand clutched in Remus's, James stops abruptly, causing the rest of us to collide into each other.
"What is it?" Sirius asks, standing on tiptoe to see over James's shoulder. "Why did you stop? Oh, of course…"
I lean to my left and see James greeting Lily in the most polite way I've ever seen. He reaches out and grabs her pale hand, bringing it to his lips before muttering something. I can't quite hear their conversation from so far behind him, but I can get an idea since Sirius is snickering beyond control.
"Come on, we'll leave the lovebirds alone," he suddenly announces, side-stepping to get around the two. "We'll save a seat for you."
James nods, watching us continue down the isle before turning back to Lily, blushing and smiling uncontrollably.
"What a bunch of crap that is," Sirius mutters under his breath as he finds an empty bench and takes a seat.
"He's in love, Padfoot," Remus says, sitting opposite him. "Let him have his fun."
"Love," Sirius repeats, doing air quotes around the word. "As if-"
But he can't finish his sentence, for he's been knocked into from behind by a small figure in black robes.
"Hey, watch it!" he exclaims, twisting around in his seat to find a girl with dark brown hair and eyes, gazing sadly down at him. "Marlene?"
"Oh, I'm so sorry, Sirius!" she rushes, blushing. "I didn't mean… I just tripped… it's so crowded in here, I couldn't see where I was going… sorry."
"Don't worry about it," he waves her off, sighing. "Just watch it next time, okay?"
"Will do," she mutters, nodding her head and retreating quickly away to the Ravenclaw table.
"That was Marlene? Marlene McKinnon?" Remus asks in a shocked undertone as soon as she's out of earshot.
"Yeah!" Sirius replies excitedly.
"I didn't even recognize her!" I add, as surprised as they are. "She looks so incredibly different than the last time I saw her!"
"I mean, she's looking good," Sirius mutters, looking over his shoulder to where she scurried off. "If this was three years ago, I wouldn't have been as nice, but damn she looks good."
Remus rolls his eyes as James wanders over, still red-faced and beaming. "She went to find Lydia."
"Jamesie, have you seen Marlene McKinnon lately?" Sirius interrupts as James takes his seat next to him.
"Um, no, why?" James replies, confused.
"Just saw her, she ran into me," Sirius explains, still trying to sneak another peak. "She looks amazing, mate."
"Marlene McKinnon, as in stalker Marlene McKinnon?" James clarifies with a chuckle.
"Yeah! It's insane!" Sirius replies, looking to Remus for support. "You have to admit she looked good."
"She looked, um… better than before," Remus says, looking nervously over at me.
"Oh, shove off, you know she looked extremely fit," Sirius says, finally turning the whole way around in his seat.
"I said she looked better than before," Remus repeats. "That's all I'm saying."
"I don't mind, love," I add, chuckling.
"She looked pretty damn good," he says, kissing the back of my hand. "But not as good as you."
I blush, happy to be spared of the conversation by Dumbledore standing and attracting everyone's attention. After witnessing the sorting ceremony as real veterans, we sit and listen with rapt attention to the headmaster's speech. After the first year that he informed the student body about Lord Voldemort, every speech since has contained dark undertones and messages of being strong and keeping hope. I appreciate and respect it, yet it always gives me the chills when he starts on this topic. I know it probably isn't a very warm welcome to the first years, but at least they're hearing the truth and not being fed with lies.
As it would be logical, this year comes with the most foreboding speech that I can remember. Just as everyone thought the war was slowly coming to an end, it picked back up again, throwing the wizarding world back into chaos, death and destruction everywhere. I keep my eyes in my lap most of the time, not wanting to have to see the faces of people heavily affected by the war. Remus keeps my hand tightly clutched in his the entire time, rubbing his thumb against my knuckles in a comforting way. Just as Dumbledore finishes his speech and announces the beginning of the feast, I finally look up and see him giving me an encouraging smile. I break my emotionless stare and smile back, leaning up to give him a quick peck on the cheek.
"Thank God," Sirius moans as the plates in front of us magically fill with more food than you can imagine. "I'm starving."
"When aren't you starving?" I chuckle, releasing Remus's hand to pick up my knife and fork. "All of you."
"We're growing men, Tonks, you wouldn't understand," James waves me off, heaping a whole turkey leg onto his plate. I sigh, rolling my eyes as I myself begin to fill my plate.
I don't know if it's the fact that this is the last Welcoming Feast we'll ever attend, or just the fact that the house elves outdid themselves this year, but the feast was fantastic. As I'm finishing off my pudding, I realize that I can't think of another year that it was better, making this the best the feast had ever been. When I announce this thought out loud, all my friends agree that they were just thinking the same thing.
"I could go for some seconds," Sirius says, placing his hands on his bulging belly.
"You had seconds," Remus says, placing his spoon down. "And thirds."
"Okay," Sirius says, raising an eyebrow. "I could go for some fourths then."
"Only you would say that you could go for fourths," I laugh, reclaiming Remus's hand in mine. Sirius is spared having to answer by Dumbledore standing and announcing that it's time for bed. With a loud scraping of benches on stone, and a new burst of chatter breaking out, students begin filing out of the Hall. James stands, looking nervous.
"What's up?" I ask, noticing this weird behavior.
"The Heads are supposed to meet with McGonagall after the feast," he explains, accompanied with an eye roll from Sirius.
"Go find her then," I say, logically solving the problem. He nods and mutters a quick thank you before pushing against the flow of the crowd toward the front of the Hall. "He's just nervous, Sirius."
"I know," Sirius mutters, blowing out a breath before continuing. "I just don't know if I like the new James. I hope he's still fun."
"Of course he'll still be fun," I say, scoffing. "He didn't exchange souls with a goody-two-shoes, he's still James Potter."
"I suppose you're right," he mutters, pushing past a little red-haired first year. "Shouldn't you be herding them up like cattle, Remus?"
"Not this year," he explains, following close behind. "I'm what they call a 'Senior Prefect.' Pretty much they didn't choose me for Head Boy, so they elect new prefects from the 5th years and put me and all the old ones in charge of them. But we really don't do anything except keep them in line and show them the ropes."
"That's strange," I admit, finally crossing the threshold into the Entrance Hall and beginning our ascent up the marble stairs.
"Yeah," he agrees, nodding. "I guess it's just a way to train the new generation without completely stripping us of our powers."
"So, I can do as much shit in front of you as I want, and not have to worry about it anymore?" Sirius questions, smirking.
"No, I can still report you," Remus replies, returning the smirk.
"Damn," Sirius chuckles, accidentally ramming into a boy in front of him. "Sorry, mate."
"Sirius?!" the boy exclaims, turning around with an excited smile on his face. "I've been looking all over for you guys!"
"Wormtail?" Sirius questions, surprised. "Where in the hell have you been?!"
"I got caught on the train!" he explains, more than excited that he'd found his group. "And when I got off, I still couldn't find you guys! And now I have! Thank God, I was getting so worried!"
"Calm down, Wormtail," Sirius chuckles. "It's all good now."
As we continue our trek up to Gryffindor tower, we fill Peter in with all that happened on the train and at dinner. He's astounded like the rest of us when we tell him James got Head Boy, claiming that he would be the last person he would choose for that position. This caused the three of us to experience a laughing fit so violent, we all doubled over in stitches before reaching the Fat Lady, where indeed, a new prefect is stationed.
"Mason," Remus says, nodding his head at the fifteen year old. "Everything going okay?"
"Yes, sir," he says, standing a little straighter as we pass.
"You know him?" Sirius questions once we're safely inside.
"Yeah, he's one of the new prefects," Remus explains. At that moment, Sirius suddenly ushers us over to the fire then goes and brings a chair to stand on in front of the entrance to the dormitories.
"Welcome all!" he exclaims. "You think you're going to bed right away? Well, you're wrong. It's time for the third annual Welcoming Party!"
Some people in the crowd whoop after this statement, others roll their eyes and complain to their friends about wanting to get to bed. Many bright-eyed first years break into a huge smile and look excited at the prospect of their first party. After a few minutes of waiting for the common room to fill up with Gryffindors, Sirius stands up to make the official announcement.
"All right, is this everybody?" he says, looking out over the sea of heads below him. "Excellent. Well, you veterans know how these parties usually go. New comers, don't say we didn't warn you."
As he finishes his last sentence, the portrait hole opens and James and Lily scurry in, finding a place to stand along the back wall.
"If you are not willing to participate in the festivities, please take the walk of shame and go to bed. We don't need downers here tonight," he says, jumping off his chair and pulling it aside. "Come on, I'm serious. And I'm also Sirius."
This produces a few chuckles from the crowd as a dozen people huff and stalk past him up the stairs to the dormitories. He certainly makes it a 'walk of shame,' causing them all to blush and become embarrassed as the crowd sarcastically claps for them.
"All right, now that we have that out of the way, let the festivities commence!"
He runs over and turns on the radio as some boys who are usual party-goers push the furniture out of the way to create a make-shift dance floor. People flood it, already swaying in time to the music, ready to have a good time. Remus smiles embarrassedly over at me, offering his hand. I take it and let him lead me onto the crowded dance floor. Dancing with him is like a riding a bike; you never forget how to do it and how it feels. We turn into one person when we start dancing, each knowing what the other is going to do before they do. His heartbeat, his warmth, his soft kisses. It's as if we were never apart for two months, and immediately pick back up from where we left off in June.
"Future Mrs. Lupin," he croons in my ear as the fourth song comes to an end. "Are you having a good time?"
"More than," I admit, smiling and blushing up at him. He leans down and kisses me, my heartbeat racing even faster. "You?"
"Of course," he replies, dipping me so low I almost touch the floor. "I always have a good time when I'm with you."
I giggle as he pulls me back up so tight against his body I feel as if we'll never be separated, his warm, strong arms wrapped around my waist.
"I love you," he mutters, kissing my forehead.
"Love you more," I insist, closing my eyes in pure bliss.
Several hours later, the boys and I climb the stairs, exhausted and ready for a good night's sleep. After bidding them goodnight, I turn and take the girl's staircase, traveling down the hallway all the way to the last door marked 7th Year Girls. I push it open and find Lily, Lydia, and May already inside, unpacking their trunks and carrying on a conversation.
"Tonks!" Lily exclaims, rushing over to me, the biggest smile plastered on her gorgeous, pale face. "How've you been?!"
"Great, how about you?" I ask as we pull apart.
"Perfect," she blushes as Lydia comes over for a hug.
"And you, Lydia," I say as I give her a hug. "I've missed you both so much!"
"We've missed you, too!" Lydia exclaims, beaming.
"Um, Tonks?" I hear a voice. We all whip around to see May standing awkwardly at the foot of her bed, looking over at us with a nervous expression. "All of you, actually."
"Yeah?" I answer, knitting my eyebrows together.
"I just wanted to say I'm sorry for anything I've ever done to you," she says, eyes looking fixedly on the floor, twiddling her thumbs. "I know I've been a horrible person to you in the past, and I just wanted to try to have a clean slate this year, no hard feelings?"
I take a moment to answer, considering her shaking form. She finally looks up and we meet eyes, her pale brown ones filled with anxiety.
"Of course," I say, and she lets out a massive breath, relaxing. "No hard feelings."
"Thank you, so so much," she says, beaming. "I was really worried about asking."
"You're welcome," I reply, cracking a smile. With that, we all break and turn to our own trunks to begin the daunting task of unpacking. Although this year brings such hope and excitement, the past comes barreling right back into my thoughts; for try as I might, I can't ignore the fifth empty bed in the corner.
Hey guys! I'm busting my ass to get these chapters up for you, but my reviews have been really down lately! I know it's because I took a hiatus, but if you faithful, lovely people could help me get some of my reviewers back, that would be so amazing! I just need some loving, okay? ^.^
I hope you're all lovely! I love you so much! :*
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