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“Alright, that is it!” James yelled in frustration, leading Sirius and Alex away from the pitch. “You two are spending the rest of practice trying to find a solution—in the library!” 

“Library?” Sirius asked in surprise.

“But we’re banned, remember?” Alex added, recalling Mdm Pince’s proclamation after a particularly nasty spat between the two of them. “How are we going to get in? Besides, it closes in an hour.”

“There are other ways…” James trailed off, giving Sirius a knowing look.

Sirius seemed to have caught onto whatever unsaid message they had shared, and started to protest. “But…but James! She’s not a Marauder!”

James shrugged. “Desperate times call for desperate measures. The game is in a couple of days and I won’t have the two of you falling off your brooms. Oh, and check the restricted section while you’re at it.”

Alex blinked, totally confused but at the same time excited—was she finally going to discover one of the Marauder secrets that Sirius seemed keen on keeping secret?

“Fine. I’ll see you later then,” Sirius said with a glare at James, but as they started to walk back to the castle, it was soon replaced by a mischievous gleam that clearly told Alex she was in for some kind of adventure. He turned to her, “We need to stop by the boys’ dorm in Gryffindor tower and grab some supplies.”

And off they went, Alex unusually silent, as if careful not to wreck her odds of actually discovering some secrets and going on an adventure, especially as her last adventure had been months ago back in London. Although, she thought, I can’t exactly say life has been boring stuck to this freak. Though the weekend had started out very rough, they had laid down some ground rules and eventually settled into a sort of daily routine. At least now they weren’t arguing every minute… more like every hour, usually when some sort of sacrifice and/or compromise had to be made. Like when Slughorn ordered Snape to work with James so that Sirius and Alex could work together. Or when Alex had realized that this ‘punishment’ would only be prolonged if Sirius kept getting into fights with Snape, and so had regretfully came to the decision to avoid him as much as possible, which was difficult. And when McGonagall still hadn’t found a solution, and Sirius had finally and quite reluctantly complied with Alex’s requests to spend a bit more time in the library, though that didn’t exactly end up too well considering they were now banned. The biggest problem, relatively, that remained was quidditch, and the upcoming game against Slytherin in four days. Their tempers were high during practices (which is saying something) probably partly due to the fact that flying was no longer as easy it used to be; in fact it was more or less a battle to simply stay on the broom. It was no wonder that James couldn’t take anymore—he was practically short two of three chasers for the match on Saturday and there were no substitutes. They had to find a quick fix, because they needed to be at their best for a game against Slytherin, and nobody in Gryffindor would handle defeat very well, especially since it seemed to be at the hands of their own.

They stopped quickly in their room to drop off their brooms and change, and then headed toward Gryffindor tower. Soon enough, they were walking up the stairs to the 7th year room. Sirius slowly opened the door, and Alex withheld a gasp and disapproving remarks at the state their room was in. Though she was never a neat freak, this was just past the point of no return. He led her through the minefield to a trunk next to a bed. He opened it and rummaged through it until he pulled out a silvery cloak and a piece of parchment. Alex, a bit disappointed at the outcome of the big secret, opened her mouth to ask how a cloak and parchment would help them sneak into the library when Sirius put a finger to her mouth, and after an awkward pause in which they both wondered silently about his audacity to do such a thing, he quickly removed it, cleared his throat and spoke.

“Raise your right forefinger.”

“Why?” she asked suspiciously.

“Just do it, and no crossing fingers or toes or eyes or whatever else you can cross, and repeat after me—“

But she quickly interrupted. “And exactly what am I repeating?”

“The Marauders’ Code of Conduct.”

“No kidding, you guys actually have a code?” she asked, quite amused. “And you follow it?”

“Well, yeah. I mean, otherwise the whole school would know exactly what we’re up to all the time, and that wouldn’t be very Marauder-ish would it? Secrecy is key, so repeat after me. I solemnly swear that I am up to no good, and in so doing I swear on the pain of death that this excursion and mischief making, with all items, secret passages and other secrets, will remain secret, never to be discussed unless with another Marauder if and only if in the presence of only a marauder.”

Alex withheld her scoffs and snide remarks as she repeated it, and Sirius seemed content.

“Now can you tell me what—“ she started but was cut off by Sirius.

“I’m getting there! Merlin, you are impatient,” he chided. “Item number one, James’ prized possession: the invisibility cloak.”

Alex gaped as he threw it over himself and disappeared from sight. She reached out tentatively and felt the soft material under her fingertips. She grabbed a fistful and pulled it off of him, and he reappeared before her. “Alright, self explanatory—no more ban. Now what does that do?” she asked, pointing to the parchment in his hand with an avid curiosity. He handed it over, and her curious eyes examined every corner of it, but to no avail, for all she saw was a blank parchment. She looked at it, and then at Sirius, irked by his crooked grin and the strange sparkle in his eyes. There was some secret to this, and not finding it frustrated her.

“And this is supposed to help us into the library…how?” she asked.

He seemed to hesitate, as if debating whether revealing the secret was in fact the best thing to do.

“Oh come on, Sirius! I already took your silly oath, and it’s not like I’m going to yell whatever it is from the rooftops.”

Slowly, he brought his wand to the parchment in her hands, and tapping it once, whispered, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”

In an instant, ink began to leak through the blank parchment stretching in every direction. Alex stared at it in fascination, and her excitement rose when she noticed the lettering it was forming, and she read it out loud.

“Messrs Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs—“ Padfoot and Prongs? Where have I heard that before? “—Purveyors of Aids to Mischief Makers are proud to present the Marauder’s Map.”

She stopped short, and Sirius looked at her expectantly.

“The Marauder’s Map?” she repeated.

“Just open it and stop asking so many questions,” Sirius said amusedly.

Cautiously, she opened the folds of the parchment and her eyes widened. Spread in front of her was a map of Hogwarts, with many little dots moving around. As she brought the page closer to her to examine it, she drew a little gasp as she realized the moving dots were teachers and students, all labeled and showing their exact position on the grounds.

“You mean…” she started, still staring at the page.

“Yup. That map is Hogwarts, complete with the whereabouts of everybody, every minute of everyday. You see,” he stepped closer as he pointed to a spot on the map, “there’s Dumbledore pacing in his study, and of course, us, in Gryffindor tower.”

She continued to stare at it, and she couldn’t withhold her praise, “This is amazing. Where did you get it?”

“Get it?” Sirius asked incredulously with a short laugh. “We made it, love.”

Sirius stopped short in shock, but Alex didn’t even notice the endearment bestowed upon her as she struggled to comprehend the three preceding words. They made it? But of course, it is ‘The Marauders’ Map. And in a second she remembered the four names presented on the front of the map, and she quickly flipped to it and stared at that. Sirius did not miss the gesture, and he could just imagine the cogs turning in her head. He gulped. This is what he had feared—her finding out too much.

“Then…” she started again. “Moony, Padfoot and all of them. They’re the Marauders? I mean, it’s you guys?” She took Sirius’ slight paling and no response as a yes, and continued. “Strange names though. How on earth did you come up with them?”

Sirius breathed a sigh of relief. Perhaps she hadn’t found out too much after all. If she didn’t know how the names came about, or what they meant, then she could not possibly know the greatest and best kept secret of the Marauders.

“Hmm, Peter must be Wormtail, right?”

Her question snapped him out of his thoughts. “How…?”

She waved her hand dismissively. “I don’t know. Peter just always seems a little…well, wormy-rodent-like to me.”

“Yeah…” Sirius answered uncertainly.

“And Prongs, well that’ll be either you or James, which makes Remus Moony.”

“He could be Padfoot,” he stated, trying to lead her astray.

“No…” she answered slowly, “no, Remus wouldn’t have such a silly name.”

“It’s not silly!” he exclaimed, and it wasn’t until Alex smirked that he realized he had been tricked—his defensiveness about the name gave it away.

“Well then, Padfoot, should we get going?” she asked, still smirking.

Sirius grabbed the cloak from the floor and stuffed it into his robes, and snatching the map from Alex’s hand, hastily whispered “Mischief managed” before also hiding that into his robes—they needed to get out of Gryffindor tower first.

They walked silently, only interrupted by a few escaped chuckles from Alex, until finally Sirius couldn’t take it anymore. “Just so you know, princess, now that you’ve been inadvertently drawn into the world and secrets of the Marauders, you’ll be getting a name too.”

“Can I pick it?”

“No. But don’t worry, we’ll spare you no embarrassment or trouble in picking it.” He took a couple of glances around him. “Alright, coast is clear.”

In a second he had pulled Alex into a nearby niche and taken out the cloak and map. Wrapping the cloak tightly around them, he smirked as they had to hunch a bit, and huddle together for fear of their feet showing. “Cozy, ain’t it?”

Any other girl would have blushed and started giggling uncontrollably, but not Alex. Nothing he said or insinuated ever made her blush, probably because everything paled when compared with the fact that she shared a bed with him. In fact, most things guys said never had any effect on her except awaken the desire to play along and beat them at their own game (and she usually did). Remus was the exception to that rule…Had been, she told herself, recalling the couple of random blushes on her part, and then the sudden end of that.

She smirked right back at him as she whispered into his ear, “That’s not quite the word I would use.”

Sirius stifled a laugh. Though he enjoyed the effect he had on countless females, he enjoyed a more worthy adversary, and Alex was just that. And even though they still argued and made each other’s lives miserable whenever the opportunity presented itself, it wasn’t beyond him to observe the beginning of some sort of relationship between the two of them. Relationship, he thought wryly, for all of this, what we’re going though, is past friendship, and I doubt we would have been very good ‘friends’ anyways. So it wasn’t friendship, but it wasn’t a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship either. Nevertheless, something was there, and each day he discovered more and more how similar they were, much to his chagrin.

As they kept walking, he glanced down at the map, and felt Alex suddenly pull him to her. Though first surprised at her gesture, he realized she had prevented him from walking through Sir Nick. His thoughts then turned to why she had done that. Surely, it would have been much more amusing to see me walk through a ghost. I wonder if she’s noticed something weird going on too, he vaguely thought as he decided to keep his eyes in front of him and not give Alex another chance to possibly rectify her act of thoughtfulness.

Alex had noticed, though not to the same extent as Sirius. Perhaps it was because she had never been in need of a ‘worthy adversary’ with whom to exchange snide remarks laced with implications or innuendo—she had always had Dev and Adrian, and later the many acquaintances and friends associated with her night-time meanderings and at the expense of her ‘rebel’ title. Of course, if she had thought about it, she would have discovered that joking around with Sirius was a completely different matter, for it lacked the brotherly teasing of Dev and Adrian, but was more than a couple of notches above the friendly banter of other people. But the fact still remained that, though she hated to admit it, she and Sirius got along grandly (when they were both in a good mood), which she had also discovered was because they were alike. And when they didn’t get along and argued instead, it was also because they were alike—stubborn, proud and determined. Though, she told herself in an effort to deny the truth, I may be proud, but he’s just arrogant.

They were soon at the library doors, and they unlocked with a flick of Sirius’ wand. Opening the doors just a bit to sneak in, they crept inside and whispered ‘lumos’ while Sirius shut the giant doors behind them and took off the cloak, stowing it inside his robes. Slowly, they made their way towards the restricted section, grabbing a couple of random books from the shelves as they went and dropping them into a bag Alex had conjured from thin air. Standing in front of the lock on the restricted section, they looked at each other, and each saw a sparkle of excitement in the other’s eyes. It clicked open with another flick of Sirius’ wand. Alex reached out, and slowly pushed open the gate-like door, and they entered noiselessly.

Within a couple of minutes, they managed to find a couple of books they deemed useful, but had to end their search early, as Sirius exclaimed, “Damn it. Flich and Mrs. Norris are on the way. We need to go.”

He grabbed her hand quickly led them towards the doors of the library, and then stopped abruptly. They both stared at the map—Filch was standing on the other side of the doors.

“Alright, now what, mastermind?” Alex asked, feeling the excitement rising.

“Shhh, I’m thinking.”

She obliged, but after a couple of minutes, and Filch still standing outside the doors, she had to intervene. “Does he know we’re in here?”

“I don’t think so,” Sirius replied in hushed tones. “Probably just suspicious or something.”

“You don’t think there was some sort of, er...alarm or something that went off when we sneaked into the restricted section, do you?”

He shook his head, and Alex assumed he had done this enough times to know if there was an alarm or not. She looked at her watch. Curfew was 45 minutes ago.

“Sirius…did you lock the door after we came in?”

He nodded.

“And…and the library doors don’t open with Alohomora, right?” She saw him nod again. “And er, have you ever been caught sneaking into or out of the library before?”

“No.” He glanced at her, and his eyes narrowed suspiciously at the thoughtful grin on her lips and twinkle in her eyes. With a wave of her wand, she conjured two school bags, gave one to him and bade him to hide the books covered with the cloak in there.

“Just trust me, and don’t say anything.”

He seemed to debate for a second, before giving her a nod.

At that moment, they heard Filch say something to his cat, and Alex took the opportunity to act.

“Hello?” she called quietly, but determined. “Is anybody there?”

They heard Filch give a short, harsh laugh.

“Mr. Filch?” she called, her voice taking on a desperate note. “Mr. Filch if that’s you, please open the door. If I have to stay another second in this library I shall scream.”

They heard a rattling of keys, and a click of a lock. He opened the door, and with a look of triumph exclaimed, “Edwards and Black! Caught red handed, out of the dormitories past curfew, sneaking into the library. Oh there’ll be a detention for this.”

Alex only smiled as she stepped out of the library with Sirius behind her. “Thank you so much Mr. Filch. We’ve been stuck in there for Merlin knows how many hours.”

A look of confusion splashed across his face, and Filch spluttered, “Stuck?”

“Yes, stuck sir. Mdm. Pince locked and left the library while we were still inside.”

“But, that’s impossible!” he yelled in indignation. “The library cannot be closed down while there are students inside.

Alex batted her eyelashes at him, and instantly a look of despair overcame her, but somehow it accented her stunning features rather than destroy them. When she spoke, Sirius marveled at the transformation of her voice. “Oh but it did! You see, sir, we were just about to leave the library, but there were some Slytherins standing right in front of the doors, blocking our way, and surely you must know, well you being so clever and all, how they like to pick on me…”

“Slytherins?” Filch asked, his voice softened, and Sirius gaped. Has she struck a soft spot? But looking at her, he realized any man would have reacted in the same way, and gave her credit for inconspicuously complementing him. A tang of sudden jealously swept through him as he saw her act so flirtatiously, with Filch, no less.

“Yes, Slytherins. And I didn’t want to walk by them, I just couldn’t…” she stuttered, taking deep breaths, and Sirius noticed tears starting to well up in her eyes. “We’d get into some kind of fight for certain, and Professor McGonagall had said that if we got into any more fights, we’d…we’d...b-be kicked off the quidditch team!”

“How… how awful…” Filch said.

“And I so love to fly,” she said, looking right at him, her teary eyes dancing with joy. “I couldn’t possibly give that up, not when it’s the last thing keeping me sane and happy. But nobody understands me!” she wailed, unleashing her tears.

“There now,” Filch started, looking both empathetic and a little startled at the crying Alex.

“It’s just so hard! Oh, surely you can understand though! What it’s like to have so much responsibility and nobody appreciates all the hard work you do.” Again with the complements—Pfft, hard work and responsibility my arse, Sirius thought, withholding his laughter as Alex continued her monologue. “Quidditch has become like…like…like my refuge! My rock. I simply couldn’t give it up! So what choice did we have but to wait until they had left. But Sirius didn’t like that idea at all! I had to argue with him to let us wait till they left. And then, as if things weren’t bad enough, the library closed before we got a chance to leave!”

Sirius stared at her with shock and amusement. Damn, he thought, she’s a good liar. He was so wrapped up in his thoughts he didn’t hear what Alex kept saying, but whatever it was, she was winning Filch over. The next thing he knew, Alex had fallen to her knees, her face in her hands, sobbing quietly. He looked at Filch, and saw him completely flabbergasted, trying to say something. He took that as his cue. Slowly, he sank to his knees and put his arm around the quavering girl beside him, and started whispering words of comfort. Looking up at Filch, he began to speak, hoping to Merlin he did not wreck what Alex had worked so hard and convincingly for. “I think she’s just really tired, sir, what with quidditch and schoolwork and everything. She should be alright with a goodnight’s rest.”

Filch opened and closed his mouth like a fish, and then gave a stiff nod.

“Between you and me, sir,” Sirius said, trying to stand Alex up, “she’s really delicate and takes so much of everything to heart, even though she acts tough. A real lady, you know? Like Ashley Wilkes in ‘Gone with the Wind’.”

He did not answer, but only gave a stiff nod and looked at Alex with big, round, empathetic eyes, suddenly taking a quick step backwards when Alex erupted into louder wails as she struggled to keep her act up and not stand up and shout out in a fit of laughter that Ashley Wilkes was a man. Though I have to give him credit for even knowing the book, and thank Merlin Filch hasn’t got enough brains to figure out Sirius’ blunder. 

“Thank you so much, sir, for letting us out of there. I had feared only a couple of more minutes and she was going to faint. She was really afraid of something back there.” He mentally scowled at himself, disgusted for referring to Filch as ‘sir’ for the third time already within the past two minutes when he had spent his entire seven years doing nothing but insulting him and making his life miserable. Nah, not miserable. Exciting! Still, if it weren’t for Alex, there would have been no way Filch could have just forgotten that when he had spent the last seven years putting me in detention.

“Take her to back to your room,” Filch commanded. “And don’t upset her anymore.”

“Of course,” Sirius replied. He turned to Alex and tried again to stand her up, but unfortunately for him, she was playing her part well and would not stand. He sighed, as he scooped her up into his arms, and she wrapped her arms around his neck, openly sobbing into his shoulder. “It’s alright now, Alex. Thanks again, sir.”

Filch picked up his cat and watched the two of them make their way slowly towards their room. And when they were out of sight, he turned and went his own way, still hearing the quiet sobs of the frightened girl and the hushed voice of the boy carrying her.

Sirius kept carrying her, all the way up to their room, to keep the act up just in case Filch had followed them or they ran into some patrolling prefects or professors. And Alex still had her face buried in his shoulder, arms wrapped tightly around his neck and the muffled sounds of her laughter producing the effect of the quiet sobs Filch had heard as they left. Wow, she is a really good liar. And she’s not even that heavy…actually she seems rather fragile…and her body seems to fit perfectly against mine…and…WHAT?! What the hell am I thinking?! 

Once inside their room, Sirius dropped her, and she swiftly landed onto her feet. They took one look at each other, and the door behind them barely closed when they exploded with laughter.

“Well, what a debut—Quite a show you put on back there,” Sirius managed to say through his laughter. “Not at all dramatic.”

“Dramatic?” she asked with a smirk. “No, dramatic would have been the next phase if you hadn’t so graciously decided to carry me all the way home.”

“That was a low trick,” he said, but smiling nevertheless.

“You know, I think I would have killed you if you screwed up.”

“And ruin all your hard work? Never.”

Alex started to laugh again, “Ashley Wilkes is male, Sirius.”

“Is that right?” He shrugged, “Well I didn’t notice, either way though, it makes no difference—both Melanie and Scarlett had more balls than him.” Alex was astounded, because one, that meant he had actually read the book or seen the movie, and two, that was exactly what she had thought when reading the book. He continued, snapping her out of her thoughts, “If I were you I’d be careful though now, Filch looked ready to eat you up. What were you thinking batting your eyelashes like that?” he asked, some of his former jealousy returning.

“Now, Sirius, what kind of a gentleman are you? That’s no way to talk to a lady,” she joked politely with a smile.

He shrugged again, “I see myself as more of a Rhett Butler than a fancy pants gentleman. And besides…” Then putting on a very good imitation of Clark Gable’s Rhett continued, “you miss, are no lady.”

“I’m Scarlett now?”

“Yes, exactly,” he said, dropping his act. “You’re just like her—tricking the old man like that. Which brings me back to my last question: What were you thinking batting your eyelashes like that?!”

“I didn’t do it purposefully. I guess when I act like that it comes naturally,” she replied shrugging, but seeing he did not ease up continued. “Oh calm down, Sirius. It’s not as if I kissed him.”

A short pause followed her last remark, before they both burst into more laughter imagining old Filch’s reaction if she had been more like her usual devilish self instead of acting the damsel in distress.

A good half hour had passed when they remembered about the forgotten ‘borrowed’ books they had gone to such great lengths to retrieve. Alex summoned them to her, and took them out one by one, carefully examining each book. “Well, get to work Black. I can’t find a solution all by myself.”

Sirius picked up a random book and started to flip through it mindlessly, before throwing it away and picking up another. A slap on the upside of the head clearly told him to stop messing around and actually read. He sighed as he plopped down onto the couch by the fire and started to read Horrors of Advanced Human Transfiguration. He glanced at Alex, who was still sitting on the floor, staring at the cover of a book. He focused on the faded title and could just barely make out Most Potente Potions out of the long string of words. He scoffed. Of course she was going to go for the potions book. But why stare at it like that? As if in some sort of transfixed state. He shrugged it off, for he had already learned that there was a lot more to Alex Edwards than met the eye. In fact, he often ventured to believe she had more secrets and some darker mysterious past than he himself. He flipped a page, and was surprised to see a whole page of gruesome diagrams detailing the horrors of animagi transformations gone wrong. So that’s why this book looked familiar. Well I already know exactly what’s in here, so it’ll make no difference if I actually read it or not. Maybe I’ll just take a quick nap instead…

Alex stared at the book for a bit longer, tracing her fingers over the worn cover. She was sure she had never seen or read this book before, yet an incredible feeling of déjà vu washed over her as soon as she had picked it up. She opened it, and slowly started to flip through the pages, so completely absorbed in it, she didn’t even notice Sirius’ soft snoring. 





Author's Note:  Hello!  So, what did you think?  I hope you all enjoyed this chapter because it was super fun to write.
Thanks to Dead's cooler than Holey for the awesome beta work
Please review!

ps--Gone with the Wind.  Margaret Mitchell.  The movie is great, but the book...it's just beyond words.
pps--if you're looking for a short Dramione, you're welcome to check out my new story price to pay.

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