Seven Things


1/7. Someone taps her on the shoulder while in line for drinks. She doesn't turn, as this has happened numerous times in the last ten minutes, and every single instance hasn't been anyone who wants her attention, just someone who wants her to get out of the way.

It's a riot. Loud. Crowded. Warm. And it shouldn't be, she thinks, not only because there are finally newly installed air-conditioning units in this pit, but also because she's fairly certain the last three years' first days haven't been anything like this. They have been loud, crowded, and warm. But not this loud, crowded, and warm.

The situation is not, however, without explanation. Apparently the admissions committee decided to be more lenient this year, so now the freshmen population is twice (possibly thrice) the number when Lily was a first year. As for the loitering upperclassmen (herself included) who should by now have a number of nooks all over the school to hang out in: the org rooms are closed until mandatory orientation this afternoon, and hallway watchers are always extra strict and pompous on the first week back. Classrooms and corridors are out of the question. Filch will be itching to kick someone out, especially now that the students have doubled. Today, there's only this, the quadrangle, and the bridge.

Mary's gone out to wait for her on the last one. It's not so much a proper bridge as a covered walkway connecting the campus's two main buildings. It's not much, but it's got a view of the lake and the grounds, and Mary's secured a decent corner, and there are way less chatty people up there. Mary said she didn't know she was claustrophobic until today. Lily's starting to think the same. It's only the first day's morning break and her brain's already brewing a half-year's worth of headaches.

Some people have brought their instruments along, most of them first years who have yet to be shown their lockers. Dratted orientation. They should have held it over the summer, like the past years. Already these "progressive changes" are going backwards... She finds herself absently tapping a beat on her thigh, and realizes she's picking up Sirius's distinctly insane drumming on the table across the hall. She resists the urge to look around. She knows it's Sirius. There's no need to check. She's gone this long without seeing them, and she really doesn't need an extra headache—

"Oi, Evans."

Oh, goddamn it.

"Are you ignoring me on purpose?"

She turns around. "Hi."

James is standing on the other side of the makeshift queue partitions, shoulder to shoulder with irate students, his hair a reflection of the chaos around them. His glasses have slid down his nose a bit. The people around him aren't happy with the guitar case slung on his shoulder. Either he's oblivious to this, or he doesn't care. Lily's willing to bet it's the latter. When their eyes meet, he grins—that pathetic, boyish, pleased-with-himself grin. His puppy grin. James is like a puppy. He is a puppy. Honestly.

"Yes?" Lily asks. The line moves. With effort and some muttered apologies, he moves forward with her.

"How long've you been stuck here?"

"Like, ten minutes," she says. "If you've come to mock—"

He raises his eyebrows. "I'd say you really shouldn't expect the worst from people, but I know you only reserve that for me."

Lily purses her lips.

"Anyway," he holds out his hands—and with them, in each, a bottle of ice-cold pumpkin juice.

Lily stares at them; the condensation has wet his palms, his knuckles pale at holding them for too long. She drags the staring up at him. The line moves again, and the girl behind Lily has to clear her throat for Lily to step forward.

"They're really cold, you know," he says, when she won't say anything. "I can't feel my hands."

She frowns at him.

"Just numbing pain," he says, shaking his head theatrically. "That's all I feel."

"What's this?"

"Er, did I get them wrong?"

"No, I mean—"

"Oh. Well." His hand comes up, presumably to rake through his hair or fix his glasses or rub the back of his neck like he does, but he has the pumpkin juice, so it comes right back down. "There's barely fifteen minutes left till break's over."

"Twenty."

"We have McGonagall after this."

"Oh, hell."

"Yeah. Come on."

After some more feeble silent deliberation, she does.

When they reach the edge of the throng, she follows his wandering line of vision, gaze landing on the table nearest the cafeteria doors. She was right; Sirius has his drum sticks with him. Beside him, Peter's humming a melody she can't hear, head bobbing to the beat. Across them, his back to her, Remus is hunched over something. Lily thinks he might be scribbling. It's not just them at the table though. There's a fourth person beside Remus. A girl. Lily knows who it is. She doesn't linger on her very long. She doesn't look at her at all.

She turns to James. "Mary's waiting for me on the bridge."

He hands her the bottles and smiles. "I know. I saw her."

"Thanks for these."

"No problem."

No one leaves. They just sort of stare at each other on the threshold of the crowd, and Lily wonders if she's standing too close, if the staring's been too long, if her heart's slid down her sleeve again, pull it back, pull it back

"Evans—" he starts to say, the same time Lily says, "Well, go on now, your girlfriend's waiting for you."

He looks pained at that. Or maybe she's just imagining it. She's done a lot of that with him, as it turns out.

"Okay."

She's already backing away. "Thanks again."

"Yeah."

She's the first to turn and leave.

It's all so embarrassingly short and insignificant to leave any lasting... anything, really. It doesn't matter. It's barely five minutes; just two bottled drinks and his cold hands and his connections with the staff. Nothing new.

She doesn't see him watch her go.

It's—it's whatever, really, you know? It's stupid. It's so, so, so small, so unbelievably microscopic compared to the grand scheme of things. And Lily likes to believe she's the sort of person to think about that. The grand scheme of things.

But she'll remember this later all the same. The feeling. The noise. The last first day. Sirius's fleeting side-glance as she passes by their table, the drumbeats not stopping, even getting more frantic over the poor table's edge. Her fingers going numb over the bottles, but not from the cold.

She'll remember this later as the first thing.