New Year's Eve
James started to whistle a merry tune, picked up the bucket and walked straight off the platform without another word, pausing only when none of the others were following him. He turned back to look at their gobsmacked faces. “D’you guys want to see that dragon or not?”
After a rather long and staggering silence, Remus hesitantly cleared his throat. “You’re positively joking, right?” he asked hoarsely.
“Absolutely Moony. In fact, that sound you just heard? That’s just the Hogwarts Express engineer undergoing the after-effects of eating a rather spicy burrito.”
Mary laughed as she imagined their rather chubby train driver feasting on a burrito, but she was one of the few that did. “Oh, come on you guys,” she said cheerfully and plunked her trunk against the wall of the train driver’s house next to the station. “Lets go and have a look.”
The others shrugged and also put their trunks near the house before following James and Mary, who were walking a little ahead of them. “Where’s Lily?” Mary asked.
“Back at school trying to work out things with the band. She flat out refuses to have anything to do with Jackie.”
“Hang on,” Sirius said as he was catching up with them. “Lily knows about this?”
“Of course she does!” an indignant James replied. “I’m not hiding anything and even if I wanted to… I wouldn’t know how.”
“How did she take it?” Remus asked.
“She was furious at first, of course. Especially when we visited Jackie and Lily’s new robes almost caught on fire because the dragon didn’t seem to like her a lot. Apparently, Antipodean Opaleye dragons get vexed when they’re confronted with the color auburn. Who knew, right? However, after I promised Lil there will be several experts at the party to keep an eye on Jackie and that it is on me if something bad does happen, she gave in. Although I reckon she’s still not too happy about it. Neither is McGonagall, but Dumbledore seems to be okay with it.”
“Who are those experts you keep mentioning?” Peter asked.
“Dragon experts from all over the country. Besides Hagrid of course.”
“Hagrid? Why doesn’t that surprise me?” Brice said sarcastically.
“Yeah, he even volunteered to stay out with Jackie all night.” James chuckled. “Rather him than me, to be honest. But he is rather close to her. Which makes sense, since he’s the one who got hold of her.”
“How in the name of Merlin did he catch an Antipodean Opaleye dragon?” Sirius asked incredulously. “They’re native only to New Zealand and Australia.”
James shrugged. “He says he won her over a game of cards down at the pub. Hey there, Angus.”
They had just arrived at Jackie’s meadow and it was obvious there was a dragon inhabiting this piece of land. There was hardly any snow on the ground left and more than one of the surrounding trees and bushes was badly burnt. A short skinny and white-haired man with an extremely wrinkled face was leaning against the fence. “About time, Potter. She’s getting rather impatient.”
“I know, sorry, but I had to pick up my friends,” James said apologetically while handing Angus the bucket.
“No biggy,” Angus said in his raspy voice. “Now, I assume “Miss J” has already smelled this lovely sheep meat, so why don’t we-”
Angus’s words were drowned in an unmistakably loud roar, closely followed by a jet of vivid red flames that set a tall tree near Brice and Mary on fire. They shrieked and jumped behind Sirius and Remus.
When a second wall of flames hit a nearby bush, Mary clamped her arms around Sirius’s waist and buried her head against the back of his neck. By the shaking of his stomach, she could tell he was laughing at her, but she could not care less. She glanced sideways and noticed that Brice had embraced Remus the same way. The only difference was that he was not laughing like Sirius, but looked rather uncomfortable.
“Alright,” Angus said calmly as soon as Jackie’s latest outburst came to an end. “The coast is clear, ladies. I gave her the food and that is going to keep her satisfied for the rest of the day.”
Mary dared to peek at Angus around Sirius’s shoulder, which made the old man laugh. “It’s alright to be scared of dragons, young lady, but it’s safe enough to come out of your… hiding place,” he said as his eyes darted at Sirius.
Sirius wrapped his arm his around Mary’s shoulder. “I didn’t know you were that scared of dragons. Or anything for that matter,” he added as an afterthought.
Mary shot him an incredulous look. “They breathe fire.”
He chuckled and kissed her on the forehead. “Yes, but they’re also very pretty when they are at peace. Look,” he said, pointing to the centre of the meadow where Jackie was now contently feasting on the meat.
When she followed his finger, Mary had no choice but to agree: Jackie was a fine specimen of a dragon. She had seen pictures of Antipodean Opaleyes in books, but they were simply magnificent in real life. Jackie’s skin was iridescent, her scales a pearly white and even from this distance she could see the dragon’s eyes were multicolored and didn’t have pupils. “That’s eh… a very beautiful animal.”
“Which doesn’t mean that I’m ever getting any closer to it. Her, sorry,” she added when Angus shot her an amused look.
“Me neither,” Brice said quietly.
Mary turned around and noticed her friend had let go of Remus; the two of them were standing about five feet away from each other. There was an awkward, rather tense silence between them. Brice shot her a pleading look and Mary, understanding what this was about, reacted quickly. “Well, as much fun this has been, I think we should go to the castle. Lily will be wondering what’s keeping us.”
“You’re right,” James said after shooting another admiring look at the dragon. “D’you guys think you can Apparate to the school’s gates? I’m afraid there aren’t any horseless carriages waiting for us at the station today.”
“Apparate?” Peter said nervously. “What if I’ll splinch myself?”
James rolled his eyes and hit his friend playfully on the head. “You’re not going to splinch yourself, Wormtail. You passed the test, you can do it.”
Peter still looked unconvinced and Sirius rolled his eyes. “You know that? You Apparate first and if you do happen to splinch, we’ll bring along the pieces you left behind.”
Peter gulped but, after taking a deep breath, apparated without splinching himself.
“Crazy old booby,” James muttered darkly.
“Hey, you really should treat Peter with more respect,” Brice spoke up. “With the way you guys are always teasing him, it’s no wonder he’s having insecurities about his magical abilities.”
“We don’t tease Peter,” James replied indignantly. “He’s our friend. Why would we want to make him feel bad?”
Brice rolled her eyes. “Fine, apparently I am mistaken. Whatever. Can we go now?”
She was about to Disapparate when Mary held her back: “Wait, what about our luggage?”
“I can take care of that,” Angus said, while magically assembling a new piece of fence to replace the part that had been destroyed by one of Jackie’s previous attacks. “I’m stopping by Hagrid’s place later on anyway.”
“That’s settled then,” Remus said and he disapparated with a soft pop.
The others followed his example and they all walked to a still deserted Great Hall together. Lily and Allison were sitting at the Gryffindor table, surrounded by scattered pieces of parchment.
“Hey Lil,” James said as he sat down and gave her a kiss. “How did things turn out with the band?”
Lily smiled and waved at the others. “Hey everyone. Well, we finally came to an agreement. They’ll be playing for two hours, from-” she moved around some rustling pieces of parchment, “-eight till ten and then they have to Disapparate immediately, because they’re expected to be on stage in Paris at ten thirty PM.”
“Which band are we talking about?” Sirius asked.
“The Raving Rascals, a new rock band with raving reviews. I haven’t heard of them, but James loves their music and from looking at your faces, so do you.”
“Well yeah!” Sirius, Remus and Peter roared as one. “They’re awesome.”
Lily and Mary frowned at each other and Brice laughed. “Sirius is right. They are pretty amazing.”
“Well, you’re the music expert, so you should know. Mary, Sirius, did you bring the records?”
Mary nodded. “Yeah, Beatles, Jackson 5 and some others.”
“Great,” Lily nodded. “Half-wizard live band, half-commercial Muggle music, I think everyone is going to enjoy themselves.”
“And so what if they’re not?” Allison said, shrugging. “As long as we’re enjoying yourself... Did you guys get to meet Jackie?”
“Meet?” Mary huffed. “Almost getting turned into shish kekabs is more like it!”
Lily laughed. “I knew you wouldn’t be too happy about it, Mare. And me neither…” she said, her eyes glinting dangerously. “I can only imagine the amount of owls parents will be sending once they find out a dragon was part of the welcoming committee.”
James, obviously having discussed this matter about a dozen times before, rolled his eyes and changed the subject. “So Allison, wanna tell us who’s going to be your date at the party?”
Everyone shot Allison a curious look, but she smiled mysteriously and was about to reply when Peter accidentally knocked over Lily’s goblet, flooding their end of the table with pumpkin juice.
“Careful there Pete,” Mary said, pointing her wand at the table while thinking scourgify membrana and the pumpkin juice disappeared at once, leaving the pieces of parchment unscathed.
“Like I was about to say,” Allison said, shooting Peter a look before she continued to calmly study her nails. “It’ll have to remain a surprise for now. Let’s just say that my date isn’t someone you would expect.”
“Well, just as long as it’s not Snivellus…” Sirius joked.
“Actually,” Allison replied coolly. “To me, Severus is a charming and handsome young man. Not that it matters much… He’s already taking someone else.”
“Who?” Mary and Brice asked eagerly at the same time. They had been gossiping about Severus’s mysterious date back on the train.
Sirius glared at Mary. “Since when do you care?”
Mary glared back. “I don’t. I’m just curious.”
He glowered at her for another moment before shrugging moodily. “Sure, whatever.”
Mary grinded her teeth at his misplaced jealousy. As if she would ever want to go out with someone like Severus Snape. For one, he wasn’t her type and two, he hated her Muggleborn guts. She sighed and smiled at Allison. “So, who’s his date?”
“A fifth year Slytherin called Joanna Whyle. She’s pretty, but also a bit arrogant. Oh well, maybe she’ll act differently around Severus.”
Mary didn’t know Joanna very well, but she had spotted her and her gang of friends walking around the corridors like they owned the place. Somehow she was having trouble to picture Severus and Joanna together. Then again, Mary thought while joining the others to walk to the Common Room, she hadn’t been able to picture herself and Sirius for years and look where they had ended up.
New Year’s Eve and the day of their big party came quicker than expected. However, every last minute preparation was completed right in time.
Jackie the dragon had been placed in a large cage near the Entrance Doors. Hagrid, Angus and five other dragon experts were lined up near the entrance to keep an eye on the dragon and occasionally toss large chops of sheep meat into the cage. Contrary to the tiny bucket that James had been carrying yesterday, there was a giant cart parked next to the cage, filled to the brim.
Lily and James had asked Professor Kettleburn to multiply the lanterns on the lane from the gates to the school and fill them with a dozen fairy lights. This produced a wonderful lighting effect on the snow, which seemed to glitter like gold.
Not that any of them would be walking across that lane tonight. They were already inside to prepare themselves for the party.
“So,” Lily told Mary for the twentieth time that night as she was checking something on her magically party time table. “Don’t forget: you and Sirius will be patrolling the courtyard at eleven.”
Mary sighed. “No, I won’t, just like I told you ten minutes ago, and an hour ago, and two hours ago and this morning.”
She got up from putting on a pair of strappy sandals and walked over to her friend. “You’ve done everything you can. Tonight is going to be awesome and if it’s not, you are not to blame. Let. It. Go,” she said calmly, gently tugging the party time table out of her hands and placing it on the table.
Lily closed her eyes for a moment. “It’s just… I’m still a little nervous. I’ve never organized a party like this before and you know people are going to expect “the biggest party Hogwarts has seen in years”. James and his big mouth,” she muttered while tiredly rubbing her forehead.
Mary kneeled down next to Lily’s chair and arched an eyebrow at her friend. “But it is the biggest party Hogwarts has seen in years! It’s New Year’s Eve. You have the Raging Rasclas! You… You have a dragon for crying out loud!”
“Don’t even get me started on that.”
Mary’s mouth twisted slightly under Lily’s stern glare. “Well, you know dragons scare me, but to have an Antipodean Opaleye on show at a school party… Come on, you’ve got to admit, that’s pretty awesome.”
Lily giggle. “I’ll transfigure you into a shrimp should you ever mention this to James, but I happen to agree. This so beats that parade of Porlocks at the finale of the Thestral derby back in 1923.”
“Absolutely,” Mary nodded, grinning. “Now, we are supposed to meet the guys downstairs in about twenty minutes, so I suggest you’ll get dressed.”
“Oh my, is that the time already?” Lily said, jumping up quickly. It was only then that she spotted Mary’s dress robes, who was wearing a stunningly long cobalt-coloured dress. It had a silver lining and dark blue straps on her back.
Lily gasped when she admired the dress by touching the soft fabric of satin and tule. “Wow Mare, this is extraordinary. It makes the colour of your eyes come out even more than usual. Where did you get it?”
“Madam Malkins,” Mary beamed. “I was actually looking for a green robe, but then she spotted the colour of my eyes and practically forced this dress on me. Not that I minded much, this was love at first sight.”
“Sirius won’t know where to look,” Lily grinned. “I need to get changed now.”
When she had changed into her own beautiful dress robes (light beige tule with pink and red traces), Mary walked over to the tall mirror next to their closet and thought about what she was going to do with her hair.
After a few attempts to put it up, she twisted it half up and let the remains of her hair fall over her back. Right when she was about to check whether this looked alright, Brice – who was wearing a magnificent orange and brown dress robe made from tule – walked out of the bathroom and said: “Are you done?”
“Almost. What do you think of my hair?” Mary said as she showed Brice the back of her head.
“Looks good to me. Not that anyone is going to notice your hair with that gorgeous robe you're wearing.”
“Thanks,” Mary grinned. “Your dress looks great, too.”
Brice smiled. “Thanks. It’s nearly seven thirty and I have to meet up with Timothy in a minute, so…”
Mary shot her a look. “Are you sure you still want to…”
She shrugged. “Yeah, it’s fine. It doesn’t look like anything is happening between me and Remus and Timothy and I are still good friends. Besides, I’m probably hanging out with you guys most of the time. Now where is Lily?”
“Right here,” their friend replied as she hurried out of the bathroom. “I have my robes on, my shoes, my make up, but my hair is still a complete disaster.”
“Well, hurry up, then,” Brice said, tapping her foot on the floor impatiently.
“It just won’t stay put,” Lily said nervously as she desperately tried to pin up her thick auburn hair.
Brice - starting to look slightly annoyed - opened her mouth, and Mary reasoned it would be wise to step in right about now. “Look, why don’t you go ahead to meet up with Timothy and inform James and Sirius on the way about this eh… little hair crisis. I’ll fix Lily’s hair and we’ll join you guys as soon as possible.”
Brice nodded. “Right, okay. Well, ehm… good luck with that,” she said, shooting a final look at Lily’s hair before leaving the dormitory.
Lily shot her an anxious look. “Is it really that bad?”
“No, it’s not,” Mary laughed. “You have the most beautiful hair and I’ll put it up in a second. Watch the master at work,” she said, smirking slightly as she reached for her wand and tapped Lily’s hair. Her hair rolled up at once and twisted itself into a sophisticated and complicated-looking knot. “Wow…” Lily said, shooting her an admiring look. “You are good at this.”
“I know,” Mary agreed. “You know, if Healing won’t work out for me in the end, I could always become a professional hairdresser.”
“So it’s Healing again?” Lily asked as she folded the timetable and put it in her purse.
“Hmmm… I haven’t given the whole Auror possibility a second thought to tell you the truth.”
“Well, there’s still time to decide,” Lily smiled. “Let’s go.”
The two of them shot one last glance in the mirror and walked out of the dormitory. When they were standing at the top of the stairs, Lily stopped. “Mare, are you feeling nervous? I mean, having to walk down those stairs like this... What if I trip?”
“I wasn’t nervous before, but I am now. Thanks a bunch, Lil.”
Her friend laughed and held out her hand. “Together?” she asked with twinkling eyes.
Mary looked down at Lily’s hand for a moment, took it and smiled. “Together,” she replied and the girls solemnly made their way down the stairs together.
~*~ End of Chapter ~*~