Sirius is tapping his foot in rhythm. Nervous energy. It’s right annoying, but I’m twisting my hands from nerves so I can’t much blame him. We’re waiting for the start of our first-ever Order of the Phoenix meeting, gathered in one of the musty rooms above the bar in the Hogs Head. Dorcas Meadows is giving Sirius a peculiar look, now, and Benjy Fenwick just reached round James to snap him on the shoulder in an effort to get him to stop tapping. Benjy doesn’t know Sirius that well yet; soon he’ll learn that it takes more than a hit to the shoulder to stop him when he’s stuck on something. I look over, into the cobwebby corner, and catch Remus’ eye. It’s three nights since the full moon, but he still looks peaky, and is sitting half in the shadows to keep the attention elsewhere, I know. Of course, with Sirius here, that’s no trouble. Sirius is a magnet for attention. People’s eyes just follow him, even when they don’t want to. Take Dorcas over there; with her blonde hair pulled back severely, her long (and I mean long) legs crossed delicately, she sits very straight and gazes at him disapprovingly, but her pale eyes never leave Sirius for more than a few seconds, flickering round the room and coming back to land on him. She can’t help herself. No one can.
The silence drags on, and I can feel it pressing on my chest, easing the air out of my lungs, and leaving me feeling trapped. Lily sits across from me, and she gives me a kind smile, noticing my discomfort. I’m not sure what I’m doing here. I’m not as effortlessly brave as James and Sirius, as steady and determined as Remus, or as unwavering as Lily. I want to be. I want to be so badly. But I realise that I’m not. I’m a rat in a maze, and it’s brought me here. I followed the cheese, without knowing where it would take me, and here I am.
I’m not made for war, the way the others are, but I think the wanting, the admiration, the desire to be better than I am is the Gryffindor in me. Even though I’m fucking terrified, I’m pushing myself out there with my friends. I’m joining Dumbledore’s Order. In truth, the people in this room scare me nearly as much as the Death Eaters. They’re better than me – all of them – and I keep waiting for them to catch on to that. For Dorcas to look down her long nose at me in disdain. For Benjy to flex his huge shoulders and toss me from their midst with his tree-trunk arms. Even for James and Sirius and Remus to grow tired of my contribution to the group; my contribution that is so much less than any of theirs. And yet I remain seated with them all, weathering my fear, keeping my arms crossed impassively over my thin chest. I level my gaze back at Lily and return her smile. I don’t like this silence. It leaves too much time for reflection, but I endure it because this is where I’m meant to be. If not here, where?
In two months it won’t be like this anymore. The tenseness will have left us, the formality flown from our midst in the face more important worries. We will have held each others’ lives in our hands, watched our fellows’ backs, lost some of our comrades. Our silences will be comfortable or respectful, our chatter full of camaraderie and life. After all, these people who were made for war, they’re also made for life, full of vibrancy and vitality.
I’m not sure what I was made for, but even as I sit here in the silence, there’s a bubble of fear in my gut, rising up in my throat and nearly obstructing my breathing: it’s telling me it wasn’t this.