A/N: This chapter was never written to be a part of this story but after numerous requests to give Sirius a happy moment by some readers, I plugged this in just for a bit of fun before things starts going completely downhill for Sirius and the rest of the group. Hope you enjoy the angst break (for a chapter at least)!
The noise in Sirius’ London flat was deafening. James’ party was apparently in full swing by the time he arrived. Sirius surveyed the crowd of his fellow classmates – many of whom were now considered full fledged wizards like himself. Sirius had though leaving Hogwarts would have been a defining moment but, somehow, it had paled in comparison to the rest of the week’s events. Sirius greeted everyone jovially, determined that he would not be the one to put a damper on such a happy event.
Pulling off his cloak, Sirius rolled up the sleeves of his crisp white shirt as James’ passed him a drink.
“You’ve outdone yourself, James.”
“Turned out well, don’t you think?”
“I’m rather partial to the fireflies floating about.” Sirius watched the little lights twinkling among the party-goers and darting in and out from among the myriad of floating silver trays filled with food and drink.
“Don’t worry. They won’t make a mess in your place.”
Sirius nodded distractedly. “Where’s Peter?”
“Occupied with a Hufflepuff over in the corner,” James said grinning.
“Drooling over your collection of book, I’d imagine. He was giving Lily the grand tour the last I checked.”
Sirius could feel James watching him intently. Sirius finished off his drink quickly then took James’ and downed it as well. “Thanks for the drink, my friend. It’s an excellent party.”
“Are you all right?”
Sirius winked. “Top of the world, James.” Sirius tried to step away but James caught his arm.
“Are you expecting trouble?” he asked softly. “Where have you been?”
Sirius paused momentarily but then offered James the widest smile he could. “Only trouble of my own making. You just stick to keeping the drunks away from the Black family crystal.”
Sirius sauntered through the ever growing, asking vague questions about people’s future plans and commiserating with those who had none. A cordial smile never left Sirius’ face, a talent he had learned from years of dinner parties at the Black house. Feigning interest and concern had become second nature for him and Sirius loved the idea that those around him were oblivious to his indifference.
It was only when a group of rather tipsy Ravenclaws tried to pull him onto James’ makeshift dance floor and started unbuttoning his shirt that Sirius finally decided he’d had enough. Determined to find the always melancholy Remus, Sirius retreated to his library. Taking two glasses of what appeared to be champagne; Sirius stepped toward the room and was surprised to find Remus and Lily in deep conversation.
“I guess I just didn’t expect him t live so luxuriously. His being on his own, I mean.” Lily fingered a painting hung on the library wall. “Fine art, crystal, imported leather sofas and hand carved furniture?” She shook her head disbelieving.
“He is a Black, Lily. A change of address doesn’t change that,” Remus returned, pulling a book off the shelf. “Sirius has an insatiable taste for the finer things, no matter how roguish he may appear.”
“The dark knight,” Lily mused.
“A knight,” Remus laughed, “not our Sirius. You are mistaking him for someone much more noble.”
“And you are jaded because you’ve heard him tell too many stories that are probably only half truths,” Lily countered smiling. “You don’t entrust your life to him for no reason, after all.”
“Sirius has earned my trust and respect, Lily.” Remus sank into a chair with his newly acquired book. “That doesn’t mean I feel comfortable in a world of fine china and crystal goblets.”
“You envy him…” Lily said lightly, “…his upbringing, his willingness to break the rules. They are the things you want to do but always rationalize against.”
“You, my dear, have had one too many drinks,” Remus said softly, but Sirius noticed how he refused to look at her. The uncomfortable silence between the two made Sirius feel for Remus and he cleared his throat.
“Perhaps one more won’t hurt, then?” Sirius leaned against the doorway as nonchalantly as he could. “If we’re lucky, Remus, she just may drink enough that she passes out and her incessant rambling will be no more.”
“Indeed.” Remus nodded.
Sirius could see the defiance in Lily’s eyes as she approached him. He had avoided her all week… only catching brief glimpses of her in the hallways since the night they met in the room of requirement.
Lily slipped the glass out of Sirius’ hand. “What a terrible thing to say to your guest.”
“My guest?” Sirius raised an eyebrow. “I don’t recall inviting you here. You must be thinking of James.”
“Hm, perhaps.” Lily slipped her arm through Sirius’ and pulled him into the room to sit with her and Remus.
Remus peered at Sirius over the top of his book. “Do you realize your shirt is half undone?”
“Yes, well, things are getting a little heated in the other room.” Sirius said as he began buttoning up his shirt.
“Too much excitement for you?” Lily asked grinning.
“Not nearly as interesting as trying to corrupt the school’s top two students.”
Lily and Remus both caught the glint in Sirius’ eyes. Lily tucked her feet up underneath her and Remus leaned forward.
“And just what did you have in mind?” Remus asked smiling.
Sirius stretched his arms along the back of the couch.” A going away present for everyone at Hogwarts. A class gift, if you will.”
“You want to sneak into Hogwarts?” Lily let out a little shriek but Sirius could see her eyes shining with mischief.
“Exactly what kind of gift, Sirius?” Remus asked leery.
“I haven’t quite decided that part yet.” Sirius grinned. “This is why I sit with the brains of the group in a library filled with misty old books rather than indulging in my many bad habits in the next room.”
Remus took Sirius’ glass out of his hand and swallowed a drink. “I’m game.”
“Excellent. Summon the others, will you?”
Remus nodded and went to retrieve his wand from his cloak.
Sirius let his fingers graze Lily’s shoulder to get her attention. “You sure you’re up for this? You have a perfect record, you know.”
“You only live once, right?” Lily sucked in a breath of nervousness and Sirius smiled.
“Well said,” he whispered and kissed her lightly on the cheek.
“They can’t revoke our wizarding status, right?” Lily asked, twisting her shirt nervously.
“Bit late for questions like that, don’t you think?” James asked and he and Peter appeared at the doorway.
“I wondered the same thing,” Peter said, tossing Sirius his cloak. “They can’t, right?”
“Oh, geez.” James shook his head. “Sirius, we’re surrounded by old ninnies.”
“They just haven’t had enough drink to steel their nerves yet.” Sirius grinned and waved his wand in the air.
Sirius watched as the group circled around the table, each taking a glass that he had conjured. They stood around him… his brothers, his friends… each dressed in their dark woolen cloaks in preparation of what might perhaps be their last adventure together. Sirius felt comfortable, almost happy, but could see the dark emotions that were starting to fall across the others as they thought about what might lie ahead. Sirius looked to James for some sense of direction and James winked. Sirius slid an arm around Lily, who had remained a pace outside their circle, and pulled her into the group.
“Any last words, gentlemen?” Remus asked and immediately noticed Lily ruffle. “And lady?” he corrected smiling.
“To a last adventure,” Peter offered.
“Too damn depressing,” Sirius said flatly.
“To the future?” Remus offered but all eyes looked at him sternly. “Perhaps not, then.” He laughed.
“Oh, to hell with this.” James lifted his glass. “To the Marauders…may we live long enough to be useful but die young enough to still piss off those we leave behind.”
The group downed their drinks in unison and, as promised, Sirius’ concoction strengthened all of their resolves. After a brief moment of dizziness, a warm laughter spread among them, making Sirius’ heart feel more alive than it had in weeks.
Sirius’ deep laugh echoed through the room. “Now, let’s see just how much trouble we can get Lily and Peter in to.”
“We could release James’ fireflies everywhere.”
“We could put an invisibility spell on the paintings.”
“We did that third year, remember?”
“We could disenchant the ceiling in the Great Hall.”
“No.” Sirius’ voice was firm and cut into the banter. “First years love that.” He surveyed the darkened and silent hallways of Hogwarts. “Anything on the map, Peter?”
“No, Sirius. I’ll let you know.”
Sirius nodded and began pacing the hall, his eyes roaming the area for things they could wreck havoc with. “Doesn’t anyone have anything monumental? Think big.”
No one answered and the group began milling about throwing out ideas here and there.
“Sirius?” James’ soft voice beckoned him over. “You said think big. Just how big did you have in mind?”
Sirius followed James’ gaze to the floors above, the tiniest rays of moonlight casting an eerie glow through the staircases. Sirius’ eyes met James and his face lit into a grin. “You are a genius, James. Genius. Lily, come here,” Sirius called softly.
“Come up with something?” Lily asked tiredly and Sirius knew she was beginning to think the entire adventure had been for nothing.
“Do you remember when you and I got caught breaking curfew back in fourth year? We had Professor McGonagall on our tail and you moved the staircases so we could get away?”
“Of course. Poor Annabelle got detention for a month because McGonagall thought it was her.”
“Think you could do hat on a much, much bigger scale?” Sirius glanced up to the thousands of stone staircases rising above them and Lily followed his gaze.
“Are you kidding?” Lily hissed. “The Grand Staircases?”
“And can you make it permanent?” James interrupted.
“Absolutely not!” Lily’s voice rose sharply making Remus and Peter join them.
“We’ve got a plan, then?” Remus asked.
“Remus, they are crazy.” Lily folded her arms across her chest. “They want to enchant the Grand Staircases.”
“Oh, wonderful idea.” Remus rubbed his hands together. “Do you know how?”
“It’s not like anyone is getting hurt. The staircases will just move every once in awhile.” Sirius shrugged.
“Just tell us how to do it then and you can be on your merry way,” James barked. “There are thousands of them; we’ve got to get started. It’s going to take most of the night.”
Lily whirled to face James. Unlike usual, her voice was coaxing rather than demanding. “James, you are talking about something that’s been here for…”
“Then it’s about time it got a face lift,” Remus interrupted.
“You guys are serious,” Lily murmured as all eyes fell on her. She eyed them silently and Sirius could see her struggling with herself.
Sirius started to say something, but James stepped in first.
“Lily, come on,” James whispered, his hand falling gently to the small of her back. “Be a little reckless.”
Sirius winked at James causing James to immediately drift away from Lily’s side.
“Okay.” Lily nodded and pulled the group closer. “Here’s what we have to do.”
After being giving instructions from Lily and making a few practice runs, the group split up to begin casting their spells on each of the massive stone staircases. James had been right… even with all of them it took them hours to accomplish the goal. Sirius and James, who had taken the top floors, were last to finish. The maze of moving stairs were difficult to negotiate on their way back down, and by the time they arrived, they were laughing hysterically.
They dropped to the floor beside the others. Gasping for breath, they all took a brief few minutes to admire their handiwork as the staircases shifted and moved at random intervals.
“Shh.” Lily grabbed James’ hand. “Did you hear that?”
The group hushed immediately so they could hear better. Remus was the first to his feet. “It’s Dumbledore.”
“Time to go,” James said quietly and prodded the group to the passageway hidden underneath one of the marble tables in the hallway.
Dumbledore’s steps echoed closer, his voice soft as he spoke to someone else that was hidden from view. James hurried Lily through the opening then motioned for Peter to follow.
“Peter, the map!” James’ eyes flew to the bit of parchment which lay several feet away where the group had been sitting.
“It was in my pocket, James. It must have fallen out.”
“No.” Remus touched James’ arm lightly. “We don’t need it anymore, remember?”
James nodded but Sirius could see the look of misery on his face. Sirius put his hand on James’ shoulder and smiled. “It served us well. Perhaps it can help another ingenious student break some rules one day.”
James nodded and the Marauders each raised their wands and softly, in unison, they murmured “mischief managed,” before slipping out the doorway.
A/N: As you may have noticed, the rating on this story was raised to Mature. I tried to give a few chapters warning before this was necessary, but the new rating does come into play in the next chapter. Just thought I’d give a heads up! Thanks to everyone who’s so loyally followed this story… and, yes, raindrops (fka ruperts luver) that definitely includes you!!! :)
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