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The next couple of weeks went by in a flash and the beginning of October was already upon Hogwarts, bringing with it the falling leaves and cool days that had the students wrapped tightly in their cloaks and scarves.

Within the first month, Alex had been quickly established as the most popular girl and the most eligible ‘bachelorette’ of Hogwarts. And on top of that, her grades were high enough to even make Lily work harder to keep her status as top of class. This automatically made her, just like before, either liked, hated or envied. But Alex paid no attention to it; she valued and respected her true friends, was polite to the other friends and was just as mean and spiteful to the rest as they were to her. This also led to her being labeled as a don’t-mess-with-me-if-you-want-to-live-out-the-remainder-of-your-pitiful-life-in-peace kind of girl, which kept most away (especially those who had learned their lesson), except for the Slytherins, and of course, Sirius Black. The only difference between the two was dealing with the situation—the Slytherins she could handle, Sirius Black was another story. A story that had no beginning, middle or end, and confused Alex day by day. Every time she thought she hated him, she would be surprised to find him completely charming and likeable the next day. Then he would openly disapprove of Bellatrix’s and Lucius’ behaviour, but would act no better himself. Thankfully, despite his snide comments about having a girl on the quidditch team, he was mature enough (or possibly smart enough) to know that they had to cooperate and work together if they were to have a chance at the cup. Though more often than not, they would just piss each other off even more during the practice, and as soon as they were off the pitch, they were at it again.

But worst of all, in Alex’s opinion, was his overbearing ‘natural’ tendency to be protective of her, to the point of restraint, which for someone as wild and independent as Alex, was impossible to deal with. And his disapproval of Snape and their semi-friendship drove her up the wall. So Snape had become a type of weapon of revenge against the other—Alex would spend her time with him to annoy Sirius, and Sirius would taunt, prank, or fight with him in return. Of course, Snape had a mind of his own, and being privy to the love-hate-revenge tactic between the two, was determined to stay away from them. The problem was that Alex was his potion’s partner, which made staying away from her difficult, not to mention his internal struggle to extinguish his growing need to be beside her.

So between Sirius and Snape, Alex was happily forced to spend time with either Lily or Remus, the former being more likely, since Remus came as a sort of ‘package deal’ with either James, Peter (whom Alex had gotten to know better, but was very suspicious of), Sirius or the lot of them. But when they were able to be together, Alex found herself growing more and more attached to him, and couldn’t help but think of him as more than a friend on more than one occasion. And though she constantly told herself not to, and tried to push her feelings aside (convinced it was only a crush), it was past her control to stop herself from looking deep into his warm eyes, searching for his secret- for his dark, hidden past. This temptation only increased when Remus, who looked increasingly sick during the past week, had disappeared all together one day. To make things worse, the rest of the Marauders seemed completely exhausted the day after Remus had left to visit his ill mother (or so she was told). Exhausted enough to not even bother her, and fall asleep in class. Though she enjoyed the much deserved peace and quiet, her imagination went wild trying to figure out the mystery of the Marauders- their secret. But she was soon at ease when Remus came back, looking rather worse for wear, but still fine.

Alex stopped, and went to sit on a log near the lake hidden behind some bushes and trees, so that she was hidden from view. She had spent this Sunday morning, as well as every other, taking a jog around the lake. Enjoying the tranquility of the Hogwarts grounds, she watched as the sun rose higher into the bright, cloudless blue sky and bathe her face in warm sunlight. She closed her eyes, and let her mind wander. A minute had not passed when the warm sunlight suddenly vanished from her face, replaced with a cold shadow. She did not need to open her eyes to know who stood before her.

“Go away Sirius.”

“Good morning to you too,” came the brisk reply.

Alex sighed as she realized he was not going to leave anytime soon. “At least move over then, you’re blocking my sunlight.” Sirius opened his mouth, but Alex beat him to it. “Just sit down already.”

She felt him sit down next to him, and was forced to open her eyes, since sitting beside a Marauder blind was never a good thing. Her eyes narrowed as she saw him smirk that infernal smirk of his.  “Well, Black, seeing as you’ve already ruined my morning, your task must be accomplished, so why are you still here?”

“Awww, come on Alex! Why do you always have to be so damned suspicious and cruel?” he asked, actually looking insulted. “I don’t always have an ulterior motive.”

“Is that right?”

“Yeah.”

She eyed him suspiciously and then turned back to face the sun. Soon enough, and completely surprisingly, a comfortable silence overcame them. A silence which previously Alex had only encountered in Remus’ presence: completely relaxed and calm. Though she hated to admit it, it became just as tranquil as before Sirius had arrived. After a couple of minutes, Alex couldn’t stand it any longer. It was just not right, considering it was Sirius Black sitting next to her. Because after all, anytime we 'talk' I either end up yelling at him, or have to keep a torrent of oncoming questions, replies, teases and insults...There's never a silence between us! One or the other always had something to say, and naturally, the other had to respond… It was creepy. She risked a glance at him, who looked deep in thought and very handsome in the sunlight. She had to do a double take as she realized that he was smiling—not smirking, grinning, or whatever else he usually did—just smiling. It was a smile one wears when amused, but it was happy, friendly and tranquil…not to mention adorable…a genuine smile.

“What are you smiling at?” Alex queried, unable to resist.

“Oh, I was just thinking.”

“About….?”

“About how awesome it is that we’re not yelling at each other. You know, our shouting matches are almost enough to top Lily’s and James’. Almost.”

It was in fact true. More than once had a few frightened first years scurried away from the common room as soon as Sirius and Alex were there at the same time.

“Well, it’s not my fault. You are always behind them,” Alex scoffed.

“Yeah, I guess I am…” came the response.

Alex gaped, her jaw dropping a few inches. He admitted to it? Something is definitely not right, he has to be up to something...   “Why are you here, Sirius? Honestly?”

“Honestly, why are you?”

“I’m always here,” Alex replied, starting to feel slightly annoyed.

“So am I,” he said.

“What the bloody hell are you talking about? I’m here almost every day,” she said, her voice along with her anger starting to rise. “This is my spot.”

But Sirius had said the exact same statement, at the exact same time. Their eyes met and it was silent as they both studied the other’s expression. Finally, they couldn’t hold it in any longer, and they both burst out laughing…and they couldn’t stop. It was one of those contagious laughing fits, where if you thought you were calm, the slightest thing would make you start up again. Or hearing the other laugh was enough to make you’re face hurt.

After they were both calm enough, Alex continued, “So this is your spot?”

“Yeah, it has been, ever since year one I think,” Sirius said, taking deep breaths, trying not to erupt into another fit of laughter. “So technically, this is my spot and not yours since I’ve been here longer.”

“Well too bad. It’s mine too now.”

“So its ‘our spot’ now?” Sirius asked wiggling his eyebrows, his voice full of implications.

Alex frowned, but decided not to start an argument now that they were actually getting along better than ever before, with the exception of the first day on the train. Instead she answered, “No, that might send the wrong message.”

Sirius grinned, “Exactly.”

“How about, ‘RIP Sirius’,” Alex retorted, not backing down now that he initiated the verbal duel of wits. “Or rather, ‘BIH’-”

“Both in Heaven?”

“Burn in Hell.”

“Only if you join me, you’re hot enough to.”

“Dammit Sirius!” Alex exclaimed, standing up. “Can’t you just be normal and not hit on any female within a five foot radius?!”

He looked amused as he answered, “But that’s exactly what I’m doing.”

“Forget it. I tried being civil, but that is clearly not the answer,” she huffed and stormed off, but was caught at the arm before she could take more than three steps.

“Alex…You don’t understand. I can’t help myself. Please, don’t be mad. I’m trying to be good. Honestly,” he pleaded, giving her the most adorable and beseeching puppy-eyed face he could muster, and after another pause, Alex caved.

“Try harder, then.” She shrugged her arm out of his grip. “I’m going to get some breakfast.”

“GREAT! Food! Allow me.” He offered her his arm, which though it reminded her of her life in London and brought up a whole stack of mixed emotions she had tried to hide away for the past month, she smiled and took it.

“I never knew you were such a gentleman,” Alex said. “But I’ve decided to give you another chance. Maybe you’re not as bad as I thought you are.”

“Maybe,” was all that he whispered, before starting an animated discussion on the best types of breakfasts, and he seemed to walk faster the closer they got to the great hall…

Soon, it was already lunch, and Alex and Sirius were still in the great hall. Having ate their breakfast and chatted animatedly for almost two hours, they had engaged in an enthralling game of wizard’s chess, and before they knew it, students were coming in for lunch. So as the food popped up in front of them, they randomly grabbed some while continuing their game. Not much time had passed before the rest of the Marauders joined them. James sat down next to Sirius, grinning stupidly and immediately stuffing his face with food. Remus sat down beside Alex, and Peter was…

“Where’s Pete?” Sirius asked, without taking his eyes off the chess board. The game was dangerously close, and one wrong move could result in a checkmate. James shrugged, and grinned some more.

“What’s gotten into you? You’re acting stranger that usual, and believe me, that’s saying something,” Alex commented.

“Let me guess,” Sirius said, his tone implying that this was not the first time a situation like this has come up. “The Hogsmeade notice has been posted and you’re all excited because you’re going to ask Evans…again.”

“She’ll say yes this time. I know it.”

Remus and Sirius shook their heads, but Alex did not refrain from breaking him the truth. “No, she won’t.”

All three heads perked up at her statement, all with different expressions ranging from shocked, surprised, curious, amused and depressed.

“James, remember what I told you on the first day?”

“Ye..ea..ah…” he replied slowly, which of course meant he had forgotten.

“She’s expecting you to do just that. Surprise her. Don’t ask her.”

“Why?”

“Why not?” she answered with a smile that turned into a triumphant smirk. “Knight to E5… and checkmate.”

“WHAT?!” Sirius exclaimed. “I lost? But that’s not fair! I demand a rematch! I was distracted, and-”

“ALEX!” James interrupted, sounding in distress, as if the matter at hand was life and death. “You have to help me! Why shouldn’t I ask her? Won’t that ruin things? I mean, what if she was going to say yes and I totally missed my chance?”

“Why would she have said yes? You haven’t given her any reason to—you’re still the same old annoying James Potter she knows and hates,” Alex explained. “Look at it this way, you don’t lose anything by not asking her since you know she’ll only reject you, but... you can gain everything. It will really make a difference, trust me.”

When she was met by three blank stares, she had to continue her explanation, “Have you ever thought that if you give her some space she might realize she likes you? Perhaps she may feel a bit…empty without you there to yell at, and then she’ll start to reconsider her feelings towards you. You know, kind of like distance is the true test of love, or if you love something, let it go. Or, in Lily’s case…you never know what you have until you lose it.”

“Oh,” was all James mumbled, before turning his attention back to his plate.

“How in Merlin’s name did you think of all that?” Sirius asked in amazement.

“It’s called reading. You should try it one day.”

“So since I’m not asking Lily, should I take a different girl to Hogsmeade? That’ll help right, since I'm trying to make her jealous, yeah?”

“NO!” they all chorused.

“You’re not trying to make her jealous, James. You’re trying to make her realize her life is nothing without you in it. And taking another girl would only spur the hate and prove her thoughts about you,” Alex said, recalling the numerous conversations in which Lily ranted about James.

“And what does she think, exactly?” he asked, a sparkle in his eye.

Luckily, she was saved from shattering his dream by Sirius, who spared no thought to his friend’s feelings. “If you don’t already know that, then you’re truly, really slow. I’m sure the whole school is aware of her strong feelings for you. Too bad they’re all on the negative side.”

Remus gave a small chuckle, and having not spoken in a while, decided to ask Alex if she was going to go to Hogsmeade or not.

“Oh for sure. I haven’t ever been to Hogsmeade, but I have read about it, and it sounds fascinating. I really want to see the shrieking shack too.” At this comment, Alex noticed a round of smirks go round the table, as if they were all sharing an inside joke. Note to self, add ‘suspicious behaviour at the mention of the shrieking shack’ to my list of clues about the Marauder Mystery. “When exactly is the trip?”

“This Saturday.”

“Cool. Yeah I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve heard there’s a pub called The Three Broomsticks and…”

But she never got to finish, because all at once, the three boys started to tell her about everything that Hogsmeade has to offer, and retelling some of their fondest adventures in the little village. Alex started to nibble at her cheesecake while trying to take in what they were all saying. 

                                                               * * *

They had spent the rest of the day inside and out, playing exploding snap and even a small chess tournament between the four of them. Sirius had been determined to beat Alex, but did not get to play her since he lost to Remus in the first round. Instead, he insisted on a single rematch after dinner, to which Alex agreed (the result being a stalemate). After that day, she was once again starting to find his company enjoyable. She smiled to herself, as she recalled the expressions of her housemates as the two of them entered the common room after lunch. All eyes shifted to them, watching them like a ticking bomb, and a collective sigh of relief was heard throughout the room, as they discovered that the ‘bomb’, was no where close to exploding.

Now, a couple of days later, Alex’s ‘friendship’ with Sirius had grown rapidly, and they were almost never out of the other’s sight. What’s more, they didn’t even argue, not once, over the past three days. And though Alex found it very peculiar, she didn’t think on it.

Alex was sitting with Lily by the fire in the common room, talking quietly to each other while Lily multi-tasked. But it was soon 9:30, and Lily had to leave for her nightly patrol of the corridors. So Alex was left to herself, and after about forty minutes of reading The Hound of the Baskervilles (one of her favourite Sherlock Holmes novels), she decided to see where Sirius was, since they were supposed to work on a Defense Against the Dark Arts essay together. She stepped up the stairs to the boys dormitories, and softly crept towards the 7th year room. As she approached, she noticed that the door was ajar, and she heard voices coming from within the room. Just as she was about to knock and enter, she heard what they were talking about: her. Naturally, she decided to listen in on their conversation.

“…I dunno, Padfoot,” James said.

Padfoot?

“Oho, but I do, Prongs,” Sirius replied sounding very confident, eager and pleased about something.

Her face scrunched up in thought. Prongs? Score another two for the mystery folder.
Sirius continued, “You’ll see. I mean, seriously, who can resist my charm?”

“Alex. Incase you haven’t noticed, she’s usually ready to punch your face in.”

“Nah, she’s completely falling for me. I mean yeah, just last week she would likely have killed me on the spot, but now we’re ‘best of friends’. Like I said, by Friday-”

“Which is tomorrow…” James reminded.

“- I’ll have a date to Hogsmeade, and be 15 galleons richer,” Sirius said gleefully.

Alex froze. His words rang in her ears. They made a bet?!

 




Author's Note:  mwahahahahah.  The evil cliffhanger #1 (oh yes, there will be more...eventually)
Any comments, thoughts?
Thanks for reading,
and thanks to Dead's Cooler than Holey for beta-ing this quickly.

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