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By: Arithmancy_Wiz
Chapter Graphic: sauerkraut_poet
Beta Read By: PaMuggles and Bellas blanky
Title: With Stars in Their Eyes
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (mild language)
For the Staff: I always feel such pressure in Author’s Notes to be profound, but I’m feeling at the moment that a simple, hearty ‘Thank You Staffers’ really is the most appropriate. So thanks…for spending your precious free time locked in the queue…for keeping us up for days on end with nearly unsolvable riddles…for responding to unintelligible e-mail sent to you at four in the morning…for answering the same question for the billionth time (what do you mean I have a formatting problem!?)…and most of all, thank you for encouraging and inspiring us to do what we love—create, write and share. You all are wonderful.

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He leaned heavily against the parapet that ran along the outer edge of the Astronomy Tower. Resting against the cool stone, James stared out over the darkened grounds below. He really enjoyed coming up here, especially at night. It was rarely ever this peaceful outside during the day. Once spring arrived and the last of the snow finally melted away, he and his fellow students spent as much time as possible spread out on the lawns studying, or else wading in the shallows of the Great Lake. As vast as the grounds were, it was still hard to find a quiet spot. The high-pitched squeals of girls as they were tickled and teased by the giant squid; the boisterous commands of Quidditch captains calling out to their players to ‘ride higher’ or ‘dodge faster’; and even the occasional shouts of a Professor reprimanding a particularly troublesome pupil were hard to escape. Of course, James usually was that troublesome pupil, but still, it was nice to escape up here for a little peace and quiet every now and again.

The truth was he really ought not to be up here. Except for during class time, the Tower was off limits to students, particularly after hours, but tonight James just didn’t care. Since becoming Head Boy, James had abandoned a lot of his mischievous ways. Well, alright—perhaps not a lot, but he did try to be a bit more mindful of the rules. Even Lily had said he was a great deal more chary these days when it came to outright disobedience, and Sirius begrudgingly agreed, though he was quick to add with a wink and a smile that he didn’t necessarily think such changes constituted an improvement

But on this warm summer night—rules be damned, James thought to himself, grinning slightly as he watched the lights down in Hagrid’s windows flicker before the hut fell into darkness. After all, this was his last night as a student. Soon there would be no more rules to break. Tomorrow they would all pack up their trunks and brooms and board the Hogwarts Express for the last time. There would be no more trips to Hogsmeade, no more nights in the Shrieking Shack, and most importantly, no more chasing after Lily Evans. Of course there wasn’t a need to chase her any more, James thought as he reached into the left pocket of his jeans and rubbed the tiny velvet box that he resolutely decided to keep on his person at all times. He would ask her soon—but not yet. Perhaps in the Fall. Autumn was Lily’s favorite season, and James loved the way the leaves changed to match her beautiful auburn hair.

God, when did I become such a romantic schmuck, James wondered as he gave his forehead a mental slap. To be honest, he didn’t really know, but he also didn’t really care. If this was being a fool in love, he thought, then a fool I be!

He sighed as he leaned his elbows against the low wall. As happy as he was with Lily, it was hard for James not to feel a bit sad as his time at Hogwarts drew to an end. It was funny how attached one could get to a place. It was just a building after all—but what a building it was. Where else on the planet could a person find a hundred house-elves ready at a moment’s notice to supply those with a sweet tooth enough chocolate éclairs and apple tarts to make themselves sick upon, or else encounter a maze of moving staircases while trying to outrun a dungbomb-wielding poltergeist? James wondered if he would ever have occasion to return to Hogwarts. Maybe to attend his own kid’s graduation, like his parents had done for him early that day. James couldn’t help but laugh out loud at the thought. The idea of a James Jr. running around the castle—now that was a scary thought! Though he had to admit, the idea did have its appeal. It would be fun— teaching the next generation of miscreants about the secrets of Hogwarts, recounting the adventures he had with Sirius, Peter and Remus. In fact, now that he thought on it, having a family with Lily—would she have him—was just about the only idea for his future that actually made any sense at all. Sure there were other things that were important; times were changing and difficult decisions lie ahead, but when it came down to it, nothing else seemed as important as family.

Letting his imagination wander away from him, James wondered if his children would look more like himself or like Lily. Well, as long as they didn’t end up with a bunch of miniature Petunias, James supposed it didn’t really matter. Though he did sincerely hope that these hypothetical munchkins of his inherited Lily’s eyes. His eyes were alright, but hers…

A loud bang sounded behind him and James spun round just in time to see Peter peek out from behind the heavy tower door.

“Peter, what are you—” James started.

“We’ve been lookin’ all over for ya, James,” Peter interrupted before quickly ducking back inside. James heard him yell from behind the door, “Oy, he’s up here. I found him!”

The shout was quickly followed by the sound of heavy footsteps clambering up the steep tower stairs, and James heard a very familiar voice call out, “Hey, Wormtail, why don’t you shout that just a bit louder. Pretty sure they couldn’t hear you down in the dungeons.”

Peter reappeared, flustered but grinning broadly, followed immediately by Sirius and Remus.

“See, told you I found him,” Peter said, shutting the door behind Remus.

“Must have been that great rat sense of smell,” Sirius replied sarcastically.

Peter grinned hopefully at him. “You really think so?”

For a moment, Sirius looked as if he might like to give Peter a friendly knock upside the head, but instead he ignored the question and turned to James.

“What are you hiding from up here?” Sirius flashed him a look of mock concern. “Not us, I hope.”

“Hide from you lot?” James said, smiling. “As if I could. And I’m not hiding, just…stargazing.”

Sirius scoffed. “Stargazing?”

“Well, it is the Astronomy Tower, isn’t it?” Remus said, stepping up beside James and looking up into the night sky.

James noticed his friend’s eyes shift automatically toward the moon, which was thankfully just entering its second phase.

“Don’t mind the company, do you?” Remus asked, still staring upward.

“Not at all.”

“You know you’re missing one hell of a party, don’t you?” Sirius asked as he leaned carelessly over one of the sunken ledges of the crenellated wall. “And it was just getting good when Moony over here insisted we leave and come find you. Wouldn’t take no for an answer. Said it just wasn’t a party without you.”

“Oh, did he?” James asked, knowing full well that it was Sirius who had insisted to the others that they find him and drag him back to the common room.

“Yep,” Sirius said. “If it were me, I’d have left you in peace, but you know Remus. Once he sets his mind on something…”

Remus cast James an exasperated glance.

“So,” Peter said, he too now staring up into space, “see anything interesting up there?”

“Sirius,” James replied simply.

Sirius turned toward James, “What?”

“No,” James laughed. “Not you, Sirius. That Sirius.” He pointed up toward a particularly bright star just off to their left. “Your namesake.”

“Oh, that,” Sirius said unimpressed. “Yes, thank you mum and dad. And what a wonderful tradition, naming your children after bloody constellations. Honestly.”

His tone was genial, but James knew him well enough to detect the hint of bitterness that always crept into Sirius’s voice during those rare occasions when he mentioned his family.

“That’s right,” said Peter, “I forgot about that. So, if Sirius has got that star up there, and Moony has the moon…”

“I don’t have the moon, Peter,” Remus interrupted.

“Yea, well, you’re named after it—sort of—right? So what about me? Which one am I?”

The three glared at Peter.

“Which are you…what?” Sirius asked, trying to keep a straight face.

“If I were a star, which one would I be?” Peter replied as if this was the only obvious conclusion.

“Wormtail, you’d be a black hole,” James said, thumping Peter on the back.

Sirius and Remus laughed, but Peter persisted, “No, come on, seriously. Which one would I be?”

They all glanced upward again.

“How about that one right there?” Sirius pointed to a star just to the right of and slightly above the one with which he shared his name.

“Why that one?” Peter asked, squinting as he concentrated intently on the faintly glowing mass.

“Because that’s the one they say the Dog Star chases across the night sky. So…you best watch your back, Peter. One of these days I might just catch you.” Sirius grabbed on to his shoulders and shook him gently.

“Hey!” Peter cried out, ducking out from under Sirius’s arms. “That’s not funny!”

“I’m only messing with you.”

Peter shrugged, clearly not finding the joke funny. “What about you, James? Which star do you want?”

“Don’t need a star,” James replied.

“Why’s that?”

“Cause he’s in love, Peter,” Sirius said, walking over and grabbing James’s arms, trying unsuccessfully to get James to waltz with him. “Can’t you see the stars dancing in his eyes?”

James pushed Sirius away, laughing as he watched his best friend flail about, two-stepping himself around the tower.

“I think you’re right, Padfoot,” Remus said, wrapping an arm around James. “This one’s got it bad. He’s a lost cause.”

“True, true,” Sirius sighed once he had danced himself back toward the group. “I only hope he doesn’t forget about us.”

James reached for Sirius’s chin. “Forget this ugly mug? I wish!”

“Come off it,” Sirius said as he knocked away James’s arm.

“It’ll be weird,” Peter muttered quietly. The others stopped fooling around and turned toward their friend. “I mean…not seeing each other everyday. It’ll be odd, you know?”

“Yes, it will be,” replied Remus, “but it’s not as if we won’t still see quite a lot of each other.”

“Yea, like this summer, at Sirius’s place. And at the Quidditch finals,” said James, trying not to sound bothered by the prospect that, after seven years together, he would no longer be seeing his best mates everyday.

“True…and on holidays and birthdays,” added Sirius.

“And other special occasions.” Remus elbowed James gently in the ribs, careful to not let the others see the gesture.

James instinctively felt in his pocket for the small box. He hadn’t told his friends about it yet, wanting to hold on to the secret for just a bit longer, but Remus always seemed to have an instinct about things left unsaid. He just smiled at James, who smiled back.

“Gentlemen,” Sirius said loudly, reaching his arms out around his friends, “the end is upon us. And I must say, it has been one interesting ride.”

“Here, here!” they replied enthusiastically.

“And whatever may come,” Sirius continued, “let it never be said that the Marauders didn’t know how to have a good time.”

They stood in silence for a moment, all four of them gazing up once more into the heavens.

“Well, boys,” Sirius said as he took a few steps back, “there’s still a lot of unopened butterbeers hidden behind that portrait in the common room and not many hours left to get through them. What do you say we get out of here and go celebrate like real men?” The others nodded in agreement. “Come on, Peter, we might still have enough time to find you a girl.”

“Really?” Peter said, his moment of reverence clearly passed.

“Yea, we’ll just ask around and see who doesn’t mind snogging a boy with cheese breath.” Sirius laughed as he pulled open the tower door and pushed the smallest of the companions inside.

Remus strolled after them, pausing when he reached the door. “Coming?” he asked, looking at James, who hadn’t yet moved.

“Yea, in a minute.”

Remus nodded and disappeared out of sight.

James turned back towards the grounds, running his fingers through his untidy dark hair. What a ride indeed, he thought. And who could say what would happen next? Things were hard to predict these days. What with…everything. But at least he had his friends—and Lily. With a sigh he turned toward the door. And as he made his way back to the common room, the sounds of cheering Gryffindors growing ever louder, he wondered how long it would be before his own child walked through those great double doors and started what he hoped would some of the best years of their life.

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