"Better be..." The sorting hat began. The hall was deathly silent, all Lily could hear was the blood pulsing in her ears. Her entire career at Hogwarts depended on this moment. She squeezed her eyes shut, barely breathing.
"GRYFFINDOR!" The sorting hat shouted. Lily nearly fell off the spindly stool in relief. The sorting hat was pulled off her head by Professor McGonagall, and Lily opened her eyes to see the great hall cheering. She ran down the steps to the Gryffindor table, scooting in between Harry and another Weasley.
"Congrats!" Harry yelled over the din, patting her shoulder. Lily grinned. Harry's eyes drifted up to the teacher's table, and Lily followed his gaze. Professor Dumbledore was fixing them with his ice blue stare, smiling warmly. The elderly man got up to speak.
"Welcome!" He said. "Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. Here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak! Thank you!"
He sat, and Harry looked at Lily, an amused expression on his face as the other students cheered. Lily shrugged, flipping her hair over her shoulder and digging into the platter of mashed potatoes that had appeared in front of her. Obviously Harry hadn't seen the food, so she tapped his shoulder and brandished the serving spoon to the mashed potatoes. His jaw dropped.
Lily looked around at the feast. Roast beef and chicken, pork and lamb chops, sausages, bacon and steak, all kinds of potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, peas, carrots, gravy... Everything that you could wish for was on the table.
Out of the corner of her eye, Lily could see Harry piling his plate with everything. The poor boy must have been practically starved by the muggles he lived with. He had told stories on the train about his Aunt and Uncle and their fat son Dudley.
It was hard to believe this was THE Harry Potter. He was scrawny, though not particularly unattractive... But truthfully he looked like there wasn't a drop of magical blood in him.
"Hey, hey! Lily, look at this!" Harry tossed a peppermint humbug into her pile of mashed potatoes, turning bright scarlet.
"Ooops, Sorry. I didn't mean..."
Lily picked the potato-covered humbug up, taking a bite.
"Potato-mint humbugs, my favorite Harry! How did you know?" She laughed. Harry grinned, then picked up a humbug and dropped it in his potatoes as well, taking a bite and making a face.
"My favorite too..." He grimaced, trying not to gag. Lily laughed harder, clutching her sides.
"Goodness... that looks good" A ghost said, drifting over Harry and Lily's heads as they tried peppermints with other odd dishes.
"Can't you eat?" Harry asked, watching Lily try to convince herself to take a bite of a ketchup dipped humbug.
"I haven't eaten for four hundred years" The ghost said mournfully, tugging at the ruff around his neck. "I don't need to, of course... but one does miss things. I'm sorry, I don't think i've introduced myself? Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington at your service. Resident ghost of Gryffindor Tower."
"I know who you are!" Ron said suddenly from a few seats down. "My brothers- (He gestured at the Weasleys around him) -they told me about you. You're Nearly Headless Nick!"
"I would prefer you to call me Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-" The ghost began stiffly, but Hermione interrupted him.
"Nearly headless? How can you be NEARLY headless?" She asked in the bossy tone that seemed to always be present in her voice. Sir Nicholas looked incredibly miffed.
"Like THIS" He said irritably. He seized his left ear and pulled. His whole head swung off his neck and flopped onto his shoulder. Someone had obviously tried to behead him and failed. He glided off, smirking at the appetites he ruined as he went.
"That bloke reminds me of someone..." Lily said, staring after the ghost.
"Oh?" Percy Weasley asked from the other side of Harry.
"Must have been some actor on a muggle comedy show..." Lily said, shrugging. "I got to watch them from time to time."
Soon all the food was cleared from the gold plates, and dessert appeared. Lily took more time to look around at her fellow Gryffindors.
Hermione and Ron sat across from her and Harry, with Ron's three brothers to the right of Harry and Ron. There was a set of twins, and Percy the prefect. To Lily's left was a sandy haired boy she had heard referred to as Seamus, and across from him was Neville Longbottom with the toad Trevor.
Conversation turned to families, and Lily shifted uncomfortably in her seat.
Seamus was half and half, with a witch for a mother and a muggle father. Hermione was from a family of muggles. Neville told funny stories about his uncle Algie trying to scare some magic out of him.
"What about you two?" Seamus asked, twisting in his seat to look at Lily and Harry intently. Lily compulsively rubbed her forearm, an action that did not go unnoticed by Harry.
"Gosh, i'm starting to feel a bit sleepy Harry, what about you?" Lily said, feigning exhaustion. Harry agreed, faking a yawn. Luckily, Percy Weasley's prefect instincts kicked in, and he saved them from the uncomfortable conversation with a long ramble about the dormitories.
Harry shot Lily a questioning glance, but she ignored him, looking up to the teacher's table instead. She recognized most of the teachers from her time at the ministry, most of them having visited one time or another.
She watched an unfamiliar teacher with interest. A short, nervous little man, his head swathed in a giant turban was talking to the potions master, Severus Snape.
Lily turned around to ask Harry if he knew the teacher, but paused midsentence as Harry clapped a hand to his scar. At the same time, Lily felt a burning pain in her forearm, coming from her tattoo.
"You all right, Harry? Lily?" Percy asked.
"It's nothing" They replied at the same time, earning odd looks from their dining companions. Harry quickly turned to talk to Percy in a hushed tone, leaving Lily to look back up to the teachers. To her surprise, Snape was watching her with an odd expression on his face, which she returned with a flat stare. Soon, he looked away.
Presently, the desserts were cleared from the table, and Professor Dumbledore began to make announcements. Lily tuned out, thinking about her tattoo. It had never twinged before... What did it mean?
"... Finally, I must tell you that this year, the third-floor corridor on the right-hand side is out of bounds to everyone who does not wish to die a very painful death." Dumbledore finished.
Lily frowned. She hadn't heard anything about this at the ministry...
The school song began, but Lily only sang half-heartedly. Her instincts told her that something odd was happening, and the overwhelming urge to be alone with her thoughts was crashing over her.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the Weasley twins had finished their slow funeral march and the applause ended. Lily jumped out of her seat, practically dancing in anticipation as Percy slowly got up and began to lead them to their dormitory.