Bang, bang, bang. The sound of someone pounding on his bedroom door startled a teenage James Potter out of a sound sleep. Rubbing his eyes, the Potter boy sat up, confused. Given his family’s extensive wards, only a few people had access to the house and none of them was prone to knocking so loudly.
The female voice calling his name stumped him for a moment before recognition struck.
“Lyra? Is that you?”
“Oh, good, you’re awake. Can I come in?”
“Fine,” James agreed with a yawn as he scrambled for his spectacles.
What was his best friend doing at his house in the middle of the night? Shouldn’t she be at home in bed?
Before he could get them on, a disheveled body pushed through the door and came barging straight into the room. It collapsed on the bed where James had been sleeping with a huge sigh.
Eyeing his friend, James noticed that despite the traveling that she must have just done, Lyra was still dressed in sleeping robes. The robes were rumpled and coated with the sooty remnants of Floo powder. Meanwhile, bags under her eyes and a haunted expression on her face painted a haunting picture.
He hadn’t seen her looking so scared for a long time. Not since the night that Snivellus had cornered her in the passageway to the Shrieking Shack when she was on her way to join Moony on his run. If James hadn’t been right behind them, who knows what that greasy git would have done.
Shaking his head to drive the memory from his mind, James refocused himself on the present. He asked a simple question, one that he was certain his friend could answer.
“How did you get here? I thought you were staying at Grimmauld Place for the Holidays.”
“Snuck in through the Floo; Mum and Da Potter gave me permanent access, remember.”
Then, still not looking at her friend, Lyra continued. “You do realize it’s the middle of the night, right?”
“Sure, of course,” he said hurriedly, wanting to keep her talking.
“Riiight. Well, this was the first time I’ve managed to get access to the fireplace since the announcement.”
“Yeah, well, you know how my parents have not yet arranged a betrothal contract for me. We’ve been assuming that it was because most of the Black family allies were offended by my sorting and such, right?”
“Well, it turns out they’ve managed to find someone willing to overlook those little foibles.”
Lyra choked back a sob and then continued.
“A few days ago, I was summoned into my father’s study. There my parents informed me that they had finally found a use for me. I was to be betrothed to ‘the Dark Lord’. Mother bragged that the contract they’d negotiated would give him complete control over me. ‘You will no longer bring shame to the Black family by consorting with mudbloods and blood-traitors’, she told me. They went on to explain that the contract signing would occur on New Years Day.”
“If I sign with a blood quill as my parents plan, the magic of the contract would bind me to the terms of the contract even after I reach my majority. In other words, I would have to follow through with the bonding ceremony or lose my magic and probably my life.”
As she spoke, tears began to stream down Lyra’s face. Reaching out, James pulled her into his arms for a hug.
“Fortunately, even though we are not close anymore Regulus still doesn’t agree with what Mother and Father are doing. Or at least as far as forcing me to marry that monster is concerned. He helped me sneak out tonight.”
Having spoken her fill, Lyra finally allowed herself to break down into full sobs.
As he held his bawling friend, James said soothingly, “it’s okay. You’re safe now, Ly, they can’t get you here.”
“But don’t you see, James,” Lyra gasped out between sobs, “legally, they can. I’m still underage, so when they figure out where I am they can use that power against us. The Ministry will force your parents to hand me over or be arrested for kidnapping.” Her sobs increased in frequency, even as James patted her back.
In an effort to stop the tears, Lyra gave in to a new habit when her emotions grew too overwhelming for her mind to handle. She shifted into Padfoot.
A large black wolfhound bitch, Padfoot would have been mistaken for a grim if it weren’t for her eyes. Instead of the glowing red eyes of the grim, hers remained the same lustrous silver that they were in her human shape.
The simpler brain of Lyra’s Padfoot form served its purpose. It couldn’t become consumed with abstract worries in the same way that her human mind could. As an animal, she could finally relax enough to fall asleep. Sprawled across her best friend’s lap, she was at peace.
James looked down at his friend with a fond smile.
“Don’t you worry, Padfoot, Prongs will help you get through this,” he whispered as he pulled his glasses back off his face. Then, reaching an arm out fully, he shoved them back onto the nearby nightstand.
“May Morpheus grant you pleasant dreams, and may you find peace.”
James yawned, and with a sleepy smile, leaned back. He let himself drift off to sleep. Tomorrow they would figure out a solution to Pads’ problems. She would not be forced to marry anyone that she hadn’t chosen.