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Author's Note:  Hello again!  So I know we're in February already, but hopefully you can put up with all the Christmas stuff in here (and to come).  
Thanks so much to everybody reading and reviewing!
Cheers!

ps--hooray for dialogue....?  Yes, no?  Too much?  Just right?  Please let me know what you think.  I get carried away sometimes, and I think more so in this chapter than anywhere before.  But I couldn't find a way to add more description in between....









Alex yawned as she stretched, still lying in her bed, her face basked in the warm and deceiving light of the sun. She stood up and wandered over to the window, looking out over the grounds. It was one of those December mornings where you look outside the window, and if it weren’t for the snow blanketing the ground, you’d have thought it was warm outside…Wait, what? SNOW! She turned back to exclaim to her dorm-mates that they finally had snow, only to discover that she was the last one in the room. Strange, I’m usually the first one up…She shrugged and made her way to the lavatory, thinking about her conversation with Dumbledore last night. It had started off simply enough, just making the last arrangements for her early leave to London, but she hadn’t been able to resist asking about the orb…

“Um…sir? I was wondering…well…” she started to say, but found the right words just wouldn’t come. What’s the matter with me anyways? Talking about a dark hidden blob inside of me shouldn’t be this difficult… “Well…about the orb.”

“Yes?”

“Say I decided to do something about it. What would I…I mean, where should I start? How would I even know if what I’m doing is right?”

He smiled at her, “I’m afraid I can’t really answer that, but from what I’ve learned there are two possible outcomes: one, you start to feel sedated and drowsy, and/or two, depending on how active it has been, it may actually feel as if something were trying to drag you away from the potion …” He looked at her warily, “…I’m not sure if this dragging is violent or passive.”

“I don’t understand…why would that happen?”

“Self-preservation?” he said, though the question mark at the end made her understand these were all theories. “I think it would be better for it to exist rather than not at all. But, taking all this into account, I’d suggest to…” 


She shook her head as she made her way down the stairs, noticing the particular rowdiness and fullness of the Gryffindor common room rather early on a Sunday morning. Sure, the restlessness and anticipation for the coming holidays had been growing, but this was over the top—everybody was already there, all chatting about something.

“Look I can’t ask her, alright?” Sirius whispered. “Besides, I’m pretty sure she’s gonna be in London by then.”

“But—"

“Good morning,” she said cheerily as she sat down on the chair opposite from the Marauders, Lily coming over as soon as she spotted her. “What’s all the noise about?”

“There’s going to be a Christmas Ball,” Lily explained immediately quite gleefully, and was shocked to find Alex sigh dejectedly. “What’s the matter?”

“Is it an actual ball? Like, all formal dresses and suits and whatnot, or just a dance? Because, well I thought you ought to know by now, but I really hate those formal ones.”

“Amazing,” James said with amusement, a twinkle of slight admiration in his eyes. “You’re the first girl I’ve met who has ever said that.”

“Yeah, but every other girl dreams about being a princess, at some point or another, so they take this kind of ball as their chance to try and make that dream come true,” Alex explained. “Me…not so much.”

“Well it is a formal ball. So are you going to come to it?” Lily asked.

Alex just barely managed to hold back the ‘No way’ that was begging to be said, and shifted in her seat under Lily’s scrutinizing glance. “Er…well, when is it?”

“December 19—that’s the last Friday before break,” Lily replied.

“I can’t, then. I’m leaving on the 17th.”

“What? Why?” Lily asked, aghast.

“I have things to do in London,” she gritted. She hadn’t told anyone except Sirius that she was leaving early—talking about it was painful and listening to whispers about her early departure would have been even worse.

“Don’t worry, Alex, when we proposed the dance to Dumbledore, he said we could do it on the 16th instead, so we’ll let him know,” Remus said with a wicked grin, as Alex glared at him.

“Well, that doesn’t mean I’ll go to it,” she said coldly.

“Oh come on, Alex. It won’t be that bad, I promise,” James said, a grin on his lips also. “Besides, we haven’t had a ball since ages ago, and this is our last year and it just won’t be the same without you there. Please come?”

Alex switched her glances between James and Remus, whose expressions suggested something was up, before settling on Sirius in between them, who hadn’t said anything yet, but was looking at her intently, waiting for her answer. For a second, a jolt ran through her and her stomach did a strange flopping motion as his blue-grey eyes pierced through her.

“Alright,” she finally decided to say, and stood up. “But just because you said please.”

Sirius looked a bit better, and also stood up. “Breakfast?”

She nodded, and they left the common room, the other three boys right behind them, Lily by her side and already starting a discussion about dresses. She made all the right comments in the right places, but nevertheless, when the mail came, she was glad for the brief interruption. When her owl dropped a rather large letter in front of her, she ripped the envelope open, anxious about Darcy’s reply.

…I did what you asked me to…you’ll never believe what he did… 

“He did what?!” Alex exclaimed, causing Lily to jump beside her, as she went on reading.

...which means he really wants you here…probably trying to get onto your good side (relatively)…

“I can’t believe him!” Alex said, putting the letter down.

“What’s the matter?” James asked.

“Nothing, technically…See, when I wrote back to Darcy last time, I told him to tell father that I would prefer to stay at school with my friends for the holidays. So Darcy did, and lo and behold, you are all cordially invited to The Christmas Eve Ball and a couple of days stay at Buckingham Palace—which is a miracle in itself because he never let any of my friends come over, let alone be invited to the ball.”

She started to hand out the small invites Darcy had included in his package, and then the pause that was building up was suddenly broken by Lily who actually squealed, “The Christmas Eve Ball? No way!”

“Yes way,” Alex said grinning at Lily’s excitement. “See James? Now you not only get to be at one ball, but two. Isn’t it just completely spiffy?”

“Pfft. Who cares about the ball,” he replied. “I’m liking the ‘couple days at Buckingham’ part.”

“So you guys accept?” Alex asked. They all nodded, except for Peter who mumbled something about having other plans. “Well, thanks guys—that might actually make Christmas a bit more tolerable.”

She looked at Sirius, who seemed to be deep in thought. He was in fact, thinking about the whole situation—what exactly was going on at Buckingham between Alex and her father. Then Lily squeaked again, “Oh my god! What am I going to wear?! I don’t have anything that’s suitable for that kind of occasion and goodness knows I can’t really affor—"

“Lily, calm down,” Alex said, grabbing her by the shoulders before the anxious redhead hyperventilated. “You can have one of my dresses.”

Lily stared at her with wide eyes, for a couple of seconds converting back to her Princess-Alexandria-fan girl mode and completely in shock that she would be wearing one of her dresses. When she recovered, she started to mumble, “Thanks Alex, but I don’t think—"

“Miss Evans you are wearing one of my dresses and that is final,” Alex cut her off, putting on a very good McGonagall impression. “Look, if it’s that big of a deal, think of it as my Christmas gift to you…or part of, at least.”

“Gift?” Lily repeated. “You mean…I could keep it?”

“Sure, I’ll even let you take your pick too, but can we please talk about something other than dresses for now?”

Lily nodded, said a quiet but heard thank you, and they all went back to finishing their breakfast.

The week and a half flew by uneventfully, except for the growing excitement about the Christmas Ball, the first whispers about the sudden change of date disregarded and replaced with an almost panic. All around, boys were starting to sneak girls furtive glances, and then look away quickly, before catching them after class to ask them to the ball. Lily had gotten a couple of offers, but turned them all down, much to Alex’s amusement. She knew she was waiting for James to ask her, and he was just buying as much time as he could, afraid of messing up. Alex, on the other hand, had only had one or two boys talk to her, most not even finishing their question. She suspected it was something to do with Sirius, but it wasn’t until one afternoon only a day before the ball that she found out what was going on.

“Is it true you were going to ask Alex to the ball?!” Sirius yelled at some 6th year Hufflepuff.

“N-no…No, of course not,” the frightened kid sputtered.

“Good. Because I’m taking her and if I even see you near her I’ll curse you to oblivion. Get it?”

“Got it.”

“Good man,” Sirius replied, patting him on the back, and letting him run away. Turning on his heel, he almost walked right into Alex, who looked less than pleased. Where did she come from…? I thought she was with Lily. Don’t worry, Sirius, there is no chance she heard you.

“What’s all the fuss about?” she asked.

“Nothing, just putting some lousy 6th year back in line,” he replied nonchalantly.

“Really?” she asked, raising an eyebrow. “Because I could have sworn you were threatening to hex him to oblivion if he even tried talking to me.”

“Me? Threaten somebody? Never,” Sirius said, hoping she didn’t hear his gulp.

“I’m warning you Black. Stop meddling or I’ll make you regret it!” she said angrily, before storming off, leaving Sirius alone. It really didn’t matter how much she enjoyed his company. Nor did the strange shivers that ran down her spine whenever she looked deep into his blue-grey eyes matter either. Some lines were just not meant to be crossed. And he seemed to like crossing them.

“Bloody hell. Maybe I should be more careful,” he said out loud, though mostly to himself.

“You got that right,” James piped up. “It’s horrible to be on her receiving end.”

“Where did you come from?”

“Just over there,” James said with a shrug, pointing to nowhere in particular.

“That helps,” Sirius responded with a not so subtle eye roll, “Any luck with Evans?”

“I haven’t asked her yet, but I really think she will actually say yes,” he said gleefully for the millionth time that week, a wide grin stretching over his face. “I reckon we should probably ask soon, it is tomorrow you know.”

“Yeah,” Sirius said a bit absentmindedly, “I wonder how she’ll take it, now that she’s heard that.”

James shrugged again, “Who knows. But either way, I say we do it by tonight.”

Sirius nodded, and they headed off towards Charms.

A couple of hours later, throughout their last class Arithmancy (which only Lily and Alex took out of the 7th year Gryffindors) Alex was having her own chat with Lily, having thought up of a brilliant plan to get at least a bit of revenge (mostly just a couple laughs) at Sirius.

“Come on Lily! I need your help with this!” she pleaded as they were walking towards their dorm. It wasn’t every day that such a perfect opportunity to play a prank came along.

“I can’t, Alex.”

“But it’s not even going to get you into trouble!”

“It’s not that,” Lily replied, a slight blush rising in her cheeks.

“Let me guess,” Alex said, deciding this was the perfect opportunity to bring up the Potter-Situation which they hadn’t discussed since she had gotten unstuck. “You actually really want to go with him, don’t you?”

Lily nodded ever so slightly, and Alex just grinned. “Gotten to like him?”

“He’s…well, he’s not as bad as I thought he was, and I mean it this time,” Lily said, choosing her words carefully. “And I would want to go with him to this ball…that’s why I’ve—"

“Been turning the other blokes down?” Alex finished, earning another slight nod from her friend. “About time. Good for you.”

Lily smiled, and quickened her step a bit, but Alex caught her by the arm, her plan recalled to life. “Well you can still go with him! But after they figure it out.”

“But what if he won’t ask me anyways?”

“Lily, this is James we’re talking about. I promise you he will ask you, so can you please help?”

She looked thoughtful for a moment, before replying, “I’m sorry, Alex, but I’m not getting involved. It’s a mean trick you have in mind, and do you have to include me anyways?”

“Yes!” Alex almost shouted. “Don’t you see it’s the only way? It’s all in good fun anyways and—"

“I have to go, Alex. Sorry. See you later,” Lily interrupted before waving goodbye and rushing off.

“But Lily!” she shouted after her, but it was no use. Great. Plan B I guess…which is….? 

It was right then that James (who was walking down towards the common room also), without any of his friends by his side, took his opportunity to talk to Alex, having seen Lily practically run away looking quite agitated, wanting to make sure she was alright before he popped the question. But it didn’t help to see Alex worked up either. “What’s got your wand in a knot?”

There was a small pause, in which Alex looked up at James and inwardly smirked. Plan B initiated. “Sirius. Where is that git anyways?”

“Uh…I don’t know,” James said slowly, wondering if this was about Sirius threatening half the male population of Hogwarts and beating up the other half. “Why?”

“I have a few things to say to that bugger,” Alex replied, folding her arms over her chest.

“Such as…?”

“Er…I don’t think you want to hear this…” she said, giving him a quick shifty eyed glance.

“Sure I do. What’s the matter?”

“Um…well, alright. Lily just told me that he asked her to the ball,” she said rather quickly, as if hoping the quicker it was done, the less it would sting.

James blanched, before yelling out, “WHAT?!”

“I know!”

“What…what did she say?” James asked, some colour regaining its place.

“She said yes.”

She said yes?” James repeated.

Alex gave him a sympathetic look, before hurrying on, “Well personally I don’t blame her. The ball is tomorrow, and she kept turning everyone down, waiting for you to ask her…which you have been taking your sweet time doing, by the way…so I reckon she panicked or something…”

James looked completely dumbstruck, and kept repeating disjoint phrases, “He asked…she said yes…waiting for me…”

Alex smirked, and continued in a frustrated tone, “Well of course that puts me on the spot too. I mean, he was threatening everybody, so now I’m dateless and I can’t show up alone—not when I told a few other guys I was already going with someone…you know, as an easy let down…Urgh, is he gonna get it. This time he just crossed the line—“

“Alex?” James interrupted.

“Yeah?” she asked, crossing her fingers behind her back.

“Do you want to come with me?”

She smiled, “Why not.”

“Perfect. I’ll see you later then,” he said rather dejectedly and stormed off somewhere. Alex only grinned evilly and skipped towards the common room. As soon as she entered it, she was ambushed by Sirius.

“Ah, just the woman I was looking for.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. I’ve been meaning to ask you…” he started, but stopped short at the strange look on her face. “What’s up with you in the first place?”

“Me?” Alex asked innocently. “Nothing.”

“Yes, something is.”

“Maybe it’s the fact that you have been threatening half the male population of Hogwarts?” she quipped, before uttering a dramatic sigh, “Or maybe it’s because James just asked me to the ball.”

“He did what?!

“Calm down Sirius. This is James after all, so naturally I said—"

“No,” he put in, but Alex only grimaced.

“Er…actually I said yes,” she said, looking down at the floor like a properly embarrassed school girl.

“YOU SAID YES?” he repeated, just as James had done, though admittedly much louder.

“Well the ball is tomorrow, and thanks to you, I didn’t have a date. So I took the chance.”

He looked completely flabbergasted. “But…I…what? I was going to ask you!”

“Sorry, Sirius, but you should have asked me sooner, I guess. If you hadn’t been so busy threatening people you might have found some time,” she quipped again, before walking past him and up the stairs to the girls’ dorm, while Sirius stood in the middle of the common room shell-shocked. It wasn’t until a familiar red head walked by him towards the exit that he jerked back to life. This meant war, and all is fair in love and war.

“Lily!” he called after her. She stopped and turned to face him. “Have a date for tomorrow yet?”

She looked shocked at his question, not expecting it to come from the best friend of the guy who’s been pitching after her since forever and one who was supposed to be going with her friend. “No, but I was sorta—“

“Wanna come with me?” he blurted, and when Lily looked absolutely ready to either faint or fall to the ground laughing, he quickly added, “I mean, James is going with Alex, so—“

“James is going with Alex?” she repeated, completely crestfallen and feeling very betrayed, not even thinking about the possibility of Alex rearranging her plan like this. Tears started to build up in her eyes. “But I thought…”

“I know,” Sirius replied, feeling sorry for her. “But in any case, we’re both dateless, so what do you say?”

“I…I guess I could.”

“Great. So—“

“Sorry Sirius, but I need to get going—prefect duty,” Lily said, before turning away and practically running out the room, trying to hold back her tears.

“Right,” he said, before turning back to his place on the couch by the fireplace, trying to completely comprehend what had just happened in the past three minutes, and why. Why would James ask Alex? He stared at the flickering flames, and didn’t even notice Alex come back down the stairs and take up a seat on the opposite side of the room. But then James’ angry voice spoke out from behind him, and he suddenly snapped back to reality.

“OI! Sirius! I have a bone to pick with you!”

Sirius stood up to face him, “With me?”

“Yeah with you. What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing?!” he yelled, and whoever had not gone down to dinner yet turned to look at why the two friends were yelling at each other as it was a rare occurrence.

“I could ask you the very same question! What were you thinking going after my girl?!”

Alex’s sharp ears picked up the emphasis on ‘my girl’ and she felt the familiar swooping sensation in her stomach once again, but quickly dismissed it as she went back to focusing on the scene enfolding before her.

“And you? Everyone knows I like Lily, Sirius! How could you do this to me? It could have been my last chance.”

“Traitor!” Sirius yelled, inching closer to him.

“Back stabber!” James yelled back.

“Lousy fruit!”

“Git!”

“Bugger!” they both yelled as they quickly drew their wands and started a duel, though after about a minute they resorted to the old technique of brawling on the floor, Alex looking on with amusement as a few people started to cheer them on. They finally stopped, looking a little worse for wear, but still just as cute as ever all fired up. Sitting on the floor, they stared at each other; both gasping but on the brink of laughter, before Sirius spoke, “Sorry, mate.”

“Me too,” James replied with a small grin. “Look, I only asked Alex because you asked Lily.”

Sirius’ brows furrowed as he said, “What? How, when I asked Lily after you asked Alex.”

At this point, Alex began to discretely inch towards the portrait hole.

“That doesn’t make any sense! Alex said you asked Lily and then I asked her,” James said, very confused.

“When was that?”

He shrugged, “Maybe a half hour ago?”

“But I asked Lily only about 10 minutes ago,” Sirius stated dumbfounded. A pause followed as they both tried to figure it out, and Alex took a couple more silent steps towards the exit. The problem was they were sitting on the floor only about a couple feet away from the hole almost blocking direct access entirely, meaning a discrete escape would be difficult. Then Sirius said, “Wait, you never actually talked to Lily after you talked to Alex, did you?”

He shook his head, “I only talked to Alex and then tried to find you.”

“And Alex told me after she talked to you…”

Screw it, Alex thought as she made a leap for the exit, as Sirius and James both exclaimed her name at the same time.

“Why that little conniving…” James started.

“Mad, evil, completely twisted, but brilliant all the same,” Sirius said, starting to laugh. “Sorry I doubted you, mate.”

“Me too, but what do we do now? Lily thinks you’re going with Alex, and I’m—“

“We have to go find Alex and talk to her. She did this, she can undo it. Where did she go anyways, I thought I just saw…” he trailed off, all of the sudden recalling the blurred figure that rushed past them only a couple seconds ago. “Damn, she’s quick. Let’s go before she gets too far ahead.”

They stood up and ran through the portrait hole and down the corridor, footsteps echoing off the walls from ahead of them. When she was within sight, Sirius pointed his wand at her, and a resounding yell filled the hallway as Alex was now hanging upside down, frantically trying to hold up her skirt.

James started to clap as they neared her, “Well done, missy. Now I really see why you’re an honorary Marauder.”

“Let me down!” she yelled.

“No, I don’t think I will,” Sirius said lazily, a grin stretching across his face. “There’s always a chance you might let your skirt loose and—“

“Why you little—“

“Hey, you can’t say you don’t deserve this,” James said. “You could have ruined our friendship.”

“As if. Oh just go already James! Go find Lily and talk to her, and tell her it was my fault, and actually ask her to the ball,” Alex said. “Go! She’s patrolling somewhere completely depressed.”

James smiled and nodded, before giving Sirius a pat on the back and running in the opposite direction, pulling out the Marauder’s map from his pocket. Meanwhile, Sirius stared at Alex.

“Will you let me down already?”

“Only if you’ll agree to come to the ball with me,” he said with a smirk.

“Agreed,” she replied, and though she had known he was going to ask her, it felt strange in a good way to actually hear him say it.

He thought, Liberacorpus, and caught her as she came crashing down. She landed in his arms perfectly, able to look him straight in the eyes. That strange shiver ran down her spine, and her heart seemed to start beating twice as fast. No! No Alex, stop it! Get a grip on yourself—this is Sirius. Just Sirius. Just completely wonderful and handsome and caring and funny and NO! She quickly looked away, breaking their gaze before her thoughts ran away with her…again. It seemed to be happening a lot more often, because even though she tried to forget her amortentia and what she had smelled in it, it was always reappearing in her thoughts. She was starting to notice different things about him, and it was becoming inescapably clear that she always felt better with him around, which he almost always was.

Alex quickly stood up, and brushed herself off, muttering under her breath, before saying, “Thanks for catching me.”

He smiled, and replied, “Well I couldn’t very well let you crash into the ground and break your neck…How would we be able to dance?”

She laughed, and they continued on their way towards the Great Hall. They were soon joined at the table by James and Lily, who both looked rather pleased. Lily sat down beside Alex, and right away began to lecture her about the wrongness of her actions, before merging into a recount of what James told her and how.

“That is impossible! Give it up, Sirius!” James suddenly exclaimed from beside Alex. He turned to her and said, “Tell him it’s impossible, Alex.”

“It’s not impossible!” Sirius half-yelled. “I tell you it will work.”

“What will?” Alex asked.

“A flying motorbike,” Remus replied as neither James nor Sirius seemed to be able to reply as they were still arguing.

“Where will you get one anyways? And where are you going to learn how to ride it, let alone make it fly?” James asked in between forkfuls of some kind of meat.

Sirius shrugged, “I’ll buy one, and then learn to ride it myself.”

“That’ll get you killed,” James stated. “And what do you know about motorbikes to actually go out and buy one. It’s completely impossible, and how—“

“I could teach you,” Alex interrupted, causing everybody to stare at her. She grinned, “What? Don’t you know that rebels have bikes?”

“You know how to ride a motorbike?” Sirius asked, and when she nodded, he continued, pointing a finger at James’ face. “HA! See it is possible! Alex’ll teach me and I’ll figure out the flying bit later.”

“Er…but why exactly do you want to make it fly?” Lily asked.

Sirius gave Alex a glance and a smile as he replied, “Why not?”

She smiled back, again feeling her pulse slightly quicken. “You have learned well, grasshopper.”

“Uh…grasshopper?” Sirius asked.

Lily and Alex laughed. “Sorry, muggle thing.”

He nodded once, trying to ignore their laughter. Giggling girls should be illegal, he thought wryly, cringing at their growing laughter, before going back to his conversation about the motorbike. Now that James’ points were half-disproved, James himself took to suggesting a number of ideas for making the contraption fly, quite eagerly indeed, while Remus looked on with a grin. 

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