Constellation

Chapter 22

The four House tables were gone. Instead, there were more than a hundred smaller tables, all facing the same way, at each of which sat a student, head bent low, scribbling on a roll of parchment. The only sound was the scratching of quills and the occasional rustle as somebody adjusted their parchment. Sunshine was streaming through the high windows onto the bent heads, which shone chestnut and copper and gold in the bright light. Ines was hardly looking at her paper anymore, Defense Against the Dark Arts being one of her best subjects, she finished quite early. Sirius was lounging in his chair at his ease next to her, tilting it back on two legs. James yawned hugely and rumpled up his hair, making it even messier than it had been. Then, with a glance toward Professor Flitwick, he turned in his seat and grinned at the two of them. They had all, without doubt, passed that test with flying colors. Flitwick, who was proctoring the exam called that there were only five minutes remaining. Ines looked behind her at Remus who was absorbed in the exam: As he reread his answers he scratched his chin with the end of his quill, frowning slightly. A few seats away she watched as Peter chewed his fingernails, staring down at his paper, scuffing the ground with his toes. Every now and then he glanced hopefully at Emmeline's paper.

It was not Ines' first choice to be sat with Sirius, but she had been studying last minute with Gavin. Not that she truly needed it, but he had offered to help and she didn't want to deny his requests to be with her again. When she strode in only a minute before the exam started she found Sirius staring at her from his seat. He had done this on purpose.

"Quills down, please!" squeaked Professor Flitwick. "That means you too, Stebbins! Please remain seated while I collect your parchment! Accio!". More than a hundred rolls of parchment zoomed into the air and into Professor Flitwick's outstretched arms, knocking him backward off his feet. Several people laughed. A couple of students at the front desks got up, Lily included, took hold of Professor Flitwick beneath the elbows, and lifted him onto his feet again. "Thank you, thank you," panted Professor Flitwick. "Very well, everybody, you're free to go!". Ines stood from her seat and to Sirius surprise, she waited for him.

"Did you like question ten, Moony?" asked Sirius as they emerged into the entrance hall. "Loved it," said Lupin briskly. " 'Give five signs that identify the werewolf.' Excellent question." "D'you think you managed to get all the signs?" said James in tones of mock concern. "Think I did," said Lupin seriously, as they joined the crowd throwing around the front doors eager to get out into the sunlit grounds. "One: He's sitting on my chair. Two: He's wearing my clothes. Three: His name's Remus Lupin" Peter was the only one who didn't laugh. "I got the snout shape, the pupils of the eyes, and the tufted tail," he said anxiously, "but I couldn't think what else" "How thick are you, Peter?" said Ines impatiently. "You run around with a werewolf once a month" "Keep your voice down," implored Lupin.

They walked down the lawn towards the lake, and to their surprise, Ines joined them. Sirius slowed down to join Ines in the back. "Hey," he whispered, "How do you think the exam went?". They both knew neither of them cared to know how their exam went, but was glad to be talking all the same and went along with it. "Fine, you?". He grinned, glad she was speaking to him "I thought that paper was a piece of cake, I'll be surprised if I don't get Outstanding on it at least.". Ines giggled, she was glad to have her Sirius back. All this time of ignoring him was so difficult, she missed talking to him like this.

"Me too," James yelled from the front. He put his hand in his pocket and took out a struggling Golden Snitch. "Where'd you get that?" Ines asked. "Nicked it," said James casually. He started playing with the Snitch, allowing it to fly as much as a foot away and seizing it again; his reflexes were excellent. Peter watched him in awe. They settled at the tree a little ways from the lake where Ines and Sirius had flown on that night they were 'practicing their beater skills'. Lupin had pulled out a book and was reading. James was still playing with the Snitch, letting it zoom farther and farther away, almost escaping but always grabbed at the last second. Peter was watching him with his mouth open. Every time James made a particularly difficult catch, he gasped and applauded. Ines sat with Sirius, leaning against the tree and watching the people mill about around them. Many stared, them having not been seen together for a while caused mass confusion. Sirius nudged her arm and directed her to James, he was staring at Lily again, fixing his hair. Ines rolled her eyes and they silently laughed. It was a simple gesture, something they used to do quite often, but it was comforting.

"Put that away, will you?" said Sirius finally, as James made a fine catch and Peter let out a cheer. "Before Peter wets himself from excitement.". He turned to Ines, and she caught on that he was trying to show off, to her. Peter turned slightly pink but James grinned. "If it bothers you," he said, stuffing the Snitch back in his pocket. "I'm bored," said Sirius. "Wish it was a full moon." "You might," said Lupin darkly from behind his book. "We've still got Transfiguration if you're bored you could test ." He held out his book. Sirius snorted. "I don't need to look at that rubbish, I know it all.". Ines took the book from Remus outstretched hand and began to quiz him. After a few minutes, she heard James from behind her. "This'll liven you up, mate," said James quietly. "Look who it is.". Sirius's head turned. He had become very still, like a dog that has scented a rabbit. "Excellent," he said softly. "Snivellus." Ines turned to see what Sirius was looking at. Snape was on his feet and was stowing the O.W.L. paper in his bag. As he emerged from the shadows of the bushes and set off across the grass, Sirius and James stood up. Remus stayed at the foot of the tree, book in hand "I'll be right back Remus, I'm going to go see Lily. He nodded and looked up "They've been doing this more often recently, much more reckless." Ines let out a sigh. "I've heard, Lily's complained about it".

Down at the water's edge, Lily sat with Marlene, Emmeline, Dorcas, and Mary. Lily and Emmeline were going over their notes for Transfiguration and Dorcas, Marlene, and Mary was talking jovially. They greeted her when she approached with bright smiles, she had become so secluded in the past few weeks she hardly talked to them at all. Ines sat down in front of Lily, facing her and the Black Lake behind her. They spoke of how the exam went, their previous exams, and excitement towards the upcoming summer. Emmeline was talking about her Divination exam when something caught Lily's attention. She jumped up from her spot and began striding back up the lawn, Ines watched for a moment to see where she was going.

Snape's wand flew twelve feet into the air and fell with a little thud in the grass behind him. Sirius let out a bark of laughter. "Impedimenta!" he said, pointing his wand at Snape, who was knocked off his feet, halfway through a dive toward his own fallen wand. Students all around had turned to watch. Some of them had gotten to their feet and were edging nearer to watch. Some looked apprehensive, others entertained. Snape lay panting on the ground. James and Sirius advanced on him, wands up, James glancing over his shoulder at the girls at the water's edge as he went. Snape was trying to get up, but the jinx was still operating on him; he was struggling, as though bound by invisible ropes. "Wash out your mouth," said James coldly. "Scourgify!" Pink soap bubbles streamed from Snape's mouth at once; the froth was covering his lips, making him gag, choking him

"Leave him ALONE!" James and Sirius looked around. James's free hand jumped to his hair again. Lily had reached the boys, and Ines wasn't far behind. "All right, Evans?" said James, and the tone of his voice was suddenly pleasant, deeper, more mature. "Leave him alone," Lily repeated. She was looking at James with every sign of great dislike. "What's he done to you?" "Well," said James, appearing to deliberate the point, "it's more the fact that he exists if you know what I mean." Many of the surrounding watchers laughed, Sirius and Peter included, but Lupin, still apparently intent on his book, didn't, and neither did Lily. "You think you're funny," she said coldly. "But you're just an arrogant, bullying toerag, Potter. Leave him alone.". "I will if you go out with me, Evans," said James quickly. "James!" Ines gasped, appalled at his lack of manners but he ignored her. "Go on, Go out with me, and I'll never lay a wand on old Snivelly again."

Behind him, the Impediment Jinx was wearing off. Snape was beginning to inch toward his fallen wand, spitting out soap suds as he crawled. "I wouldn't go out with you if it was a choice between you and the giant squid," said Lily, now gripping Ines who stood right behind her in solidarity. "Bad luck, James," said Sirius briskly, turning back to Snape. "OY!". But too late; Snape had directed his wand straight at James; there was a flash of light and a gash appeared on the side of James's face, spattering his robes with blood. Ines gasped, along with the rest of the crowd. James whirled about; a second flash of light later, Snape was hanging upside down in the air, his robes falling over his head to reveal skinny, pallid legs and a pair of graying underpants. Many people in the small crowd watching cheered. Sirius, James, and Peter roared with laughter. Ines, whose furious expression had twitched for an instant as though she was going to smile, said, "Let him down!". Sirius looked to her in confusion but Ines stood strong. "Now" Lily groaned. "Certainly," said James and he jerked his wand upward. Snape fell into a crumpled heap on the ground. Disentangling himself from his robes, he got quickly to his feet, wand up, but Sirius said, "Petrificus Totalus!" and Snape keeled over again at once, rigid as a board.

"LEAVE HIM ALONE!" Lily shouted. She had her own wand out now. James and Sirius eyed it warily. "Ah, Evans, don't make me hex you," said James earnestly. "Take the curse off him, then!" James sighed deeply, then turned to Snape and muttered the countercurse. "There you go," he said, as Snape struggled to his feet again, "you're lucky Evans was here, Snivellus". "I don't need help from filthy little Mudbloods like her! Or the blood traitor Avery" Lily blinked. The name didn't bother Ines, but she knew it would hurt Lily beyond belief. "Fine," she said coolly. "I won't bother in future. And I'd wash your pants if I were you, Snivellus." "Apologize to Evans!" James roared at Snape, his wand pointed threateningly at him. "I don't want you to make him apologize," Lily shouted, rounding on James. "You're as bad as he is." "What?" yelped James. "I'd NEVER call you a — you-know-what!"

"Messing up your hair because you think it looks cool to look like you've just got off your broomstick, showing off with that stupid Snitch, walking down corridors and hexing anyone who annoys you just because you can, I'm surprised your broomstick can get off the ground with that fat head on it. You make me SICK." She turned on her heel and hurried away, tears brimming in her eyes. "Evans!" James shouted after her, "Hey, EVANS!" But she didn't look back. "What is it with her?" said James, trying and failing to look as though this was a throwaway question of no real importance to him. "Reading between the lines, I'd say she thinks you're a bit conceited, mate," said Sirius.

Ines could hardly believe what she had witnessed. Her friends mercilessly messed with Snape, and as deserving as it was, they did it purely out of boredom. Like children. Sirius stepped forwards, whispering her name, with an outstretched hand. Behind him, James was absolutely furious and seething. When Sirius reached her arm she stepped away. "No, you can't do that. You can't ... all four of you can't just act like children and expect to get away with it!". "Ines please!" Sirius yelled as Ines left to catch up with Lily. "Right," said James, who looked furious now, "right —" There was another flash of light, and Snape was once again hanging upside down in the air. "Who wants to see me take off Snivelly's pants?".