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Author's Note:  Well, like I said, quicker update and much longer chapter.  Hope you like it.





Let's rock, everybody, lets rock.
Everybody in the whole cell block
Was dancin' to the jailhouse rock. 

Elvis Presley: Jailhouse Rock 

She slowly stepped up to the door, and knocked quietly. Soon enough, she heard the footsteps getting louder, the chain rattling, and the click of the lock as the door opened.

“Can I help you…holy sweet potato, about time!” Dev exclaimed as he caught Alex in a giant hug, and pulled her inside the house before she even had a chance to say a word.

“Hi, Dev. Missed you,” Alex said, her voice muffled and sounding rather lacking of air.

Dev seemed to have noticed her strained voice and loosened his hold on her. “So good to see you, Alex! Hey, Adrian! Get your arse down here!”

Adrian came down the stairs with a bucket of ice cream and a spoon in his mouth, mumbling something incomprehensible until he saw who was standing next to his brother. Leaping down the stairs two at a time, he gave her a warm hug.

“About bloody time! You’ve been in London for a whole 12 hours and you only come see us now?” Adrian joked quite seriously after finally releasing her from his death grip.

“And is there no such thing as a phone where you go to school?” Dev added.

“Er, no not quite. The nearest one is down in the village but even then I couldn’t find it,” she muttered. “Anyways, what’re you two up to?”

“Nothing much. Watching ‘Jaws’ and eating ice cream,” Dev said.

“You’re watching ‘Jaws’ without me?” Alex asked in mock offense.

“Hey, at least it's not ‘My Fair Lady’ or ‘Gone with the Wind’ or ‘Casablanca’ or some other rubbish that we would never watch without you,” Dev defended, holding up his hands innocently.

“And he really does mean never,” Adrian added solemnly with a nod.

Alex laughed, “Fine, you’re forgiven. Have you gotten to the part with the legs yet?”

"No, but we've just passed the part with the head," Adrian replied casually, digging into his ice cream again, as if he didn't just comment on vicious shark attacks and half eaten people.

"Ooooh! That’s like, just the beginning!" Alex practically squealed in glee. "Let's finish watching it then!"

“Good idea, and in the meantime, we can catch up and make Plans,” Dev said, as they started to walk up the stairs.

“How do you do it?” Alex asked with a smile. “You say ‘plans’ and you just know you’re capitalizing the P.”

“I’m talented,” he said with a shrug. “Now tell us, Dria, truthfully—is there anybody at that school of yours who matches up to us in wit and charm, not to mention our astoundingly handsome features?”

She grinned back at them, “Well, there are a couple contenders, but you know you two are number one. Anyways, you can decide for yourselves—they’re coming over in a couple of days.”

Their jaws dropped, almost synchronized. “They’re coming over?”

“As in…staying over?” Adrian amended.

She nodded.

“But that’s…impossible,” Dev said slowly. “I mean…”

“I know exactly what you mean,” she replied with a sigh. “But they’re coming over nonetheless, so be nice, alright?”

He ran a hand through her hair and ruffled it up, as Adrian said in a tone implying the complete opposite, “Of course we will.”

“But till then, the night is young,” Dev put in, starting to waggle his eyebrows.

“It’s not even dark yet,” Alex pointed out with a smile.

“My point exactly.”

Just then, the telephone rang, and Adrian ran to answer it very enthusiastically, practically tripping up the rest of the stairs. She gave Dev a questioning look, and he only replied with another shrug. Then, deciding to grace Alex with an actual answer, said, “Marilyn.”

“Ohhh, is she the airhead?”

“The one and only; though she’s not too bad, I guess, seeing as Adrian hasn’t gotten bored of her yet so…”

“So we should all go out tonight,” Alex finished.

“What? Are you insane?!” Dev asked looking as if he had just been sentenced to death row. “Do you want to die from excessive giggling and too many displays of affection?”

“I thought you said she wasn’t that bad?” Alex asked, and when she received a look along with a crazy smirk in return, she slapped him on the arm, and said as he recoiled in mock pain, “You sicko!” 

“Hey! That was uncalled for!”

“You’re uncalled for!” she shot back, but didn’t feel as stupid as she should have saying it. Petty quarrels like these always resorted to childish techniques and she loved it.

“Am not!” Dev yelled back right on cue.

“Are too!” she yelled, sticking her tongue out.

“Am n—“

“Uh, guys?” Adrian called from somewhere like an omnipotent being, “Hate to break it up, but would you maybe prefer to go out somewhere? Marilyn says she’s in the mood for some dancing…”

“Well if Marilyn says so,” Dev said, crossing his arms over his chest, “Wouldn’t want to disappoint her.”

“Sure, Adrian. But you might want to drop a hint that I’ll be there,” Alex said.

“Why?” Adrian asked, his eyebrows furrowed with confusion, and looking at Alex as if she had gone completely insane.

“Oh, I dunno, maybe because apparently I’m the princess, would be one. And two, showing up for a date with another girl in tow generally decreases your chances of getting some,” she replied with a smirk. Teasing Adrian about his many dates was just one of her (and Dev's) jobs.

“Right,” he replied, ignoring Dev’s spasms of laughter. “So we’re on, yeah?”

They both nodded, and Adrian ran back to the phone, as Dev said, “Looks like you’re stuck dancing with me all night, Dria.”

She looked positively abashed at such an idea, and if they hadn’t known each other for such a long time, he would have taken offense. “I guess I can live with that, though I would like to steal at least one dance from Adrian.”

“Ah yes, and endure the never-ending pain of Her razor sharp talons slicing through you while deafening you with her loud squeals and squawks and tearing you apart from limb to limb with her chiseled beak,” Dev agreed sarcastically, nodding his head as if in deep thought, “Who wouldn’t want such a wonderful death? In fact, now I think I might even line up for some.”

Alex laughed, “I’d endure it somehow…Adrian just has a different style of dance…which can be quite entertaining in low doses.”

“If by ‘style’ you mean epileptic seizure-like movements, then you got it bang on.”

“I heard that!” Adrian yelled from the room across, as the other two settled onto the couch and watched the rest of ‘Jaws’, having one of those light chats while Adrian still talked to Marilyn…


The days at Buckingham passed same as always: stuff to do during the day, and then nights out with her best friends (and possibly Marilyn too). Now it was almost three in the morning. She stood in her room, in front of the fireplace, tapping her foot anxiously. It was the 22nd of December, two days before the big Christmas Eve ball, one and a half days before her parents returned home from wherever they were, and the day her friends would be arriving.

She hadn’t gone to bed at all yet, having spent the last couple of hours in her ‘secret lab’, trying to figure out the orb. It was her first time since talking with Dumbledore about it that she actually gave it some thought, and the first time since the accident with the Hell’s Fire that she was actually trying to do something about it. After setting the cauldron on the burner, she had stood up and went to her ingredient cupboard, staring at all the little vials, wondering how in the name of Merlin's underpants was it possible to ‘just brew’—as Dumbledore had put it—something of such magnitude and importance. He had told her to just close her eyes and let her hand pick out the ingredients, but she figured she would be more than a bit biased seeing as she knew exactly where every vial was.

Eventually, she had decided on some ingredients, and cranking up the music from her bedroom, started to brew. After about an hour, the fumes rising from the cauldron were less than endearing, and the colour was less than appetizing, but indeed something inside of her seemed to be squirming, almost like pulling her away from the cauldron as a sudden drowsiness rushed over her…

The fireplace suddenly burst with green flames, and a figure appeared, coughing sporadically, breaking her little reverie. She reached out to pull her friend from the fireplace, as the next person would be arriving soon.

“Sirius! You made it!” she yelled happily, giving him a big hug, forgetting about the orb and why she hadn’t been able to bring the potion to her lips in the end. The fireplace turned green again just as he stepped away rather reluctantly from her embrace.

“Bloody hell!” James exclaimed brushing himself off, stepping out of the fireplace and looking around. “This place…is…amazing…”

“Yeah, yeah, go stand in awe over there before you get crushed by Remus,” Alex said with a smile, giving him a brief hug. James did as he was told, muttering to Sirius about the décor as Sirius pretended to be in awe also. He had already seen her room, which made him feel rather smug, though he tried not to let it show.  Their midterm visit to Buckingham was still secret. 

Remus stepped out of the fireplace, giving Alex a warm hug. “You look thinner, Alex. Are you alright?”

“Gee, what I question. Let me think about that one…No.”

“Well what’s the matter?” he asked concernedly.

“Other than the fact that I barely have enough time for myself, running around from formal party to theatre premieres and charity dinners and parliament rubbish and whatnot…? Yeah, they’re starving me.”

“Who’s starving you?” A voice piped up from the fireplace, as Lily emerged from the green flames.

Alex smiled, and gave another hug. “I’ll show you guys your rooms—your stuff has already been moved there. Quietly though! I’ll give you a tour tomorrow—you can ooh and ah then.”

She led them from her room, across the large hall. Opening a door, she said, “Lily, this one’s yours. If you need anything, ask one of the maids or come get me or whatever. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Lily nodded and headed into her room slowly, taking in the magnificence as calmly as she could without jumping up and down and squee-ing like a little girl. Alex kept walking down the hall for a good minute before opening a door on the same side as hers, “Come on guys, you three get to share a room…sort of.”

She led them inside, and turning on the lights, they all withheld gasps as a large, beautifully furnished sitting room came into focus. She smiled at their reactions, and kept walking, pointing out the different doors. “Lavatory, room, room, room, room—you guys pick which you want—that’s a huge closet, though there are separate ones in each of the rooms, and that’s another toilet room.”

“And that door?” James asked through his shock, pointing at a door on the opposite wall.

“Will send you down a chute to the dungeons.”

“Really?” James asked in wonder, his eyes starting to twinkle mischievously.

“No—it’s a shortcut passage down to the kitchens.”

“Nice try, but you can’t fool me twice,” James replied upon seeing her smile. But as she just stared at him, he added, “You are joking, right?”

“Uh…no.”

“You’re not joking?” Remus asked. “That will actually get you to the kitchens?”

She laughed. “It will…amongst other places. Just keep walking down the stairs and straight, no turns anywhere, and you’ll get there.”

“Sweet!” James exclaimed gleefully.

“Does your room have a passage to the kitchens too?” Remus asked curiously.

“No…well, yes…this room and mine share that passage.”

Sirius smirked, “So, technically we can to your room?”

Alex smirked back, “Technically yes, but you’d have to find the right way to get there or else you might meet your doom, and… I’ll be locking all of my doors.”

“So will we,” Remus replied.

“Hey, wait…question,” James said, actually raising his hand. “Where’s Darcy’s room? Or your parents?”

“My parent’s are on West side…you’ll see tomorrow…um, today I mean…Darcy’s room is on the east façade too, but about twelve doors down. Closer to the stairs, my rooms are at the end.”

“Façade?” Sirius repeated in semi-shock-confusion.

“Rooms?” Remus asked.

“Yeah, my room, this room, the room Lily’s in, and three more are mine.”

“Does everybody have 6 rooms to themselves?” James asked incredulously.

“Well…actually Darcy has like 9 and they have 17 at least… I think…but most of them are guest rooms, like this one. There’s also a bunch of empty rooms, like the ones in between mine and Darcy’s, and the downstairs ones which are mostly used for formal parliament rubbish.” She smiled again at their looks of disbelief. “Don’t worry, you’ll see tomorrow.”

“I thought you never have guests,” Sirius said with a grin.

“Never…theoretically of course—I’m not saying these rooms weren’t ever used,” Alex replied just as smoothly with a small wink, and for the first time, Sirius hoped she was actually referring to Dev and Adrian. “Good night, and again, if you need anything, I’m a door down.”

And with that, she left the three boys to their room. They exchanged a couple silent glances, before running into their rooms to see what wonders lay there.

The next morning Alex was awoken by somebody pounding on her door. She quickly stood up and ran to the door, hoping something had not gone horribly wrong. As soon as she opened it and saw Lily standing in front of her, still in her pajamas and smiling widely, she breathed a sigh of relief.

“Good morning!” Lily exclaimed way too happily for such an early hour.

“Any louder Lily and I think I might actually die,” Alex yelled back, still a bit groggily, but a slow smile overcoming her from Lily’s radiating and quite contagious glee. “What’s the matter?”

“Oh, nothing, I’m just excited,” Lily replied stepping into Alex’s room and once again marveling at the décor, which was a more than a tad extreme compared to her own room.

“And you couldn’t be excited about two hours from now?” Alex muttered back, falling onto her bed face first, as Lily explored her room silently. Her eyes were slowly drifting shut again, as Lily jumped onto her bed, making her bounce up and down.

“Where’re the boys?”

And… cue the brilliant idea. Alex grinned, now completely awake. She got up from her bed, and walking out of her room said, “Probably sleeping still, come on.”

She led Lily across the antechamber-ish room, to a door that almost completely blended in with the wall around it. She pulled it open to reveal a small lit corridor. Lily hesitantly followed her up the staircase, turning left and right, through at least two doors, before they finally emerged into a very similar looking anteroom.

“As I suspected, not up yet,” Alex whispered with a grin.

Lily seemed to understand they had just snuck into the boy’s room, but before she could ask if there were any secret passages from her own room, Alex put a finger to her lips, motioned towards the three doors on the opposite wall, and mouthed something almost unintelligible to her. Then, swiftly plopping down into the couch behind her, she started yelling and screaming nonsense syllables mixed in with threats and curses of all sorts, promptly knocking Lily off her balance and into a rather comfortable chair. After about thirty seconds of wide eyes and Alex’s yelling, Lily finally caught on and started yelling also, trying not to laugh. Another thirty seconds had not passed when the three boys came running out of their rooms, in shorts and half buttoned shirts, brandishing their wands offensively, ready to do battle with whoever was making their girls scream. They stopped short when they saw the two girls (who stopped screaming as soon as they were met with such a lovely sight) lounging in front of them, guffawing merrily with wide grins.

“I thought you said you’d be locking your doors?” Alex managed to say.

Slowly, looks of comprehension settled upon their barely awake features. Remus slumped against the wall crossing his arms over his chest, but grinning, and Sirius and James exchanged a look before walking back into their rooms. Alex glanced at them suspiciously as they disappeared without a word, before…

“Oh bloody hell!” she exclaimed as she jumped over the back of the couch looking for shelter and a possible weapon as James and Sirius came rushing at the two of them with two pillows each. She reached around just in time to grab a poof off the couch as Sirius jumped over it and started a fight. Remus watched lazily from the corner as James, Lily, Sirius and Alex all fought, before James started tickling Lily and Sirius and Alex just fell onto the floor laughing.

“Alright children, break it up,” he finally said walking towards them, “Let’s get this show on the road, huh?”

“Show?” Alex asked lazily. “What show? We’re not scheduled to be at the theatre until…six I think.”

“We…theatre…?” Lily repeated.

“Oh, yeah…you guys are so coming with me—there’s no way in hell I’m sitting through that boring shite all by myself. Don’t worry though, we’ll go party after.”

“Whatever you say. Let’s go eat though first,” James said helping Lily off the floor.

They each returned to their rooms to change and wash up, and met in the hallway. As they were walking down to breakfast, Sirius remarked, “So how many rooms does this place have?”

“Ah…about 775, I believe,” Alex replied though a bit absentmindedly.

“Well no wonder you get 6 rooms to yourself,” Remus said.

“Yeah but now it sounds like only 6,” Sirius joked.

“Damned right only 6—they don’t like me very much, remember?” Alex joked back.

“So what are all the other rooms for?” James asked.

“Well, most of them are staff bedrooms…188 I think, then there’s about 92 offices, 19 state rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms and 78 washrooms…” Alex rattled off.

“And the other 400?” Remus asked.

“Hell if I know!” Alex said laughing. “I suppose there’s all the music rooms, drawing rooms, galleries, pavilions, guard rooms, state apartments, private apartments, luncheon and dining rooms…ballroom and throne room. Somehow, that all adds up in the end. I never actually counted.”

“Have you ever gotten lost?” Lily asked quietly.

“Oh yeah, many moons ago. Though they kept telling me, it’s a square and it's impossible to get lost.”

They started walking down the main grand staircase, as Alex kept pointing out the different rooms, paintings and other useless information she had buried deep inside her that she just wasn’t able to completely forget no matter how much she wanted. It stuck with her as if imprinted in her soul.

Soon the day had passed over nothings, as Alex showed them around the whole Palace and its grounds, and after watching TV, playing cards and exploding snap, and eating a lot of food, it was time to get ready for the theatre. As the boys turned into their room, Alex took Lily to her own and headed for the wardrobe. She opened the double doors and entered it with a flourish, Lily trailing behind her.

“Alright, we need to pick outfits—one for the theatre, and one for after…unless you already have something you want to wear for the after?” Alex asked as she wandered through the rows of clothes.

Lily barely registered what Alex just said. She was shell-shocked, rooted in place, but soon started to follow, touching all the magnificent fabrics, her eyes darting from colour to colour. Alex grinned at her delight, though somewhere deep inside she felt slightly envious that she herself could not be so delighted.

“Well, I’m wearing this brown gown,” Alex said, pulling out a long, fitted brown dress with a sequined-corset-ish top and a long train. Putting it onto a chair not too far away, she continued to walk before pulling out another dress. “Personally, I think you’d look stunning in this.”

Lily gasped at the marvelous dress Alex had just picked from the rack. It was a flowing, olive-green with a rather low cut v-neck that tied at the back in an elegant knot, the ribonnesque satin hanging down across the open back. Fitted at the waist with a tiny, sparkling brooch in the middle, it flowed to the bottom slightly puffing out.

“Alex…it’s…gorgeous!”

“One of my favourites,” Alex agreed nodding her head. “But I couldn’t ever really pull it off. You on the other hand, your red hair and green eyes will go wonderfully with it.”

Lily reached out and touched the soft fabric.

“Unless you want something else…go right ahead and pick,” Alex said after a moment, moving to put the dress back on the rack.

“NO! This one is perfect! Thank you!” Lily said, clutching the dress protectively.

Alex smiled, and continued walking around the wardrobe. “Alright, so pick some shoes, a shawl—though I’d recommend one of the fur ones, it’s a bit cold tonight—and some jewelry if you want is over there in that cabinet. Now we also need to grab some clothes for later.”

Lily blinked, barely able to comprehend everything Alex had just said. “Later?”

“Well yeah! What, you think the theatre is the most exciting place in London?” Alex asked with a smile. “We’re going out. So we need something more interesting…possibly a bit shorter…”

Her voice trailed off as she entered between two racks of clothes (that Lily noticed, did contain dresses shorter than the rest). Something had caught her eye though, as she laid the green dress down and took a few steps towards it. She pulled it out, carefully, took a look at it and decided that though she wasn’t sure where she was going for the after-party, this would suffice. It was a halter neck short dress that flowed outwards to about the knees. It was pale beige, but over top was a lacy black material with different designs spreading over it. Alex appeared with a blue dress in hand, and looked at Lily.

“Can I wear this one?” Lily asked timidly.

“Sure! That suits you! What do you think about mine?”

Lily surveyed the dress. It was a pale blue, with a pleated top wrapping around the torso and up over the shoulders with tiny brooches holding it together. The skirt part was layered and cascading down to the knees, and Lily could already picture Alex twirling around in it across a dance floor. She nodded, “It’s great.”

“Good! Let’s get going than, shall we? Into the fancy ones first,” she said, as she grabbed her brown dress and headed toward a partitioning, as Lily headed towards the other.

“Hello?” a male voice said from somewhere in the wardrobe. Lily nearly screamed as she was half naked. “Miss Alex, are you ready for you hair to be done?”

“Just a second, Carmen. You go ahead, I’ll be right there,” Alex replied calmly, and Lily took heart that it wasn’t some stalker. The footsteps faded away, and Alex called out, “Lily you almost done?”

“Yeah, can you tie the back though?”

Alex headed over and tied the knot, admiring her friend. “Fits you perfectly, though it is a bit long…do you want to shorten it a bit?”

Lily shook her head, and Alex shrugged. “Alright then, let’s go get our hair and makeup done.”

She grabbed lily by the hand, and they made their way out of the closet and towards Alex’s lavatory, where a short man dressed all in black was waiting. Alex sat Lily down first, and said, “Alright Carmen, do your worst. I want her looking better than me, got it? Where’s Roger?”

“I’m here,” a voice muttered as he entered the room. He was a bit taller than Carmen, though also wearing all black. He took out a bunch of makeup and started to apply it for Alex. “The usual?”

Alex nodded, “Nothing too extreme, sorry.”

Roger sighed as he started to dab on some blush, while Carmen was working away at Lily’s hair. After about ten minutes, they switched places. After another ten and the two men left, leaving the girls looking at the mirror and at each other in wonder.

“Do you think I should have told them not to make us look drop dead sexy?” Alex said with a smirk. “After all, we do want the guys to be alive a little longer, no?”

Lily agreed as a faint blush started to creep up her neck. She wasn't used to such…blunt…comments with regards to her appearance. Alex pulled her back to the wardrobe, and they finished dressing up—shoes, jewelry (which for Alex included a small tiara), coats, clutches, and their other dresses stored in a dress bag. Slowly, they made their way out of Alex’s room, down the hallway and down the grand staircase where the three boys where waiting for them, looking very handsome indeed. But when they saw Alex and Lily coming down the stairs, they stopped chatting and looked at them incredulously. They had thought they were beautiful enough at the Hogwarts Christmas ball, but now they surpassed anything they could have ever imagined.

“Good evening, gentlemen,” Alex said dramatically, and they forced their jaws shut. “Ready to go?”

They nodded, just as the two girls reached the landing. But Alex didn’t even stop. She kept walking, clutch in one hand, lifting up her dress a bit, and dress bag in the other, draped over her shoulder. She kept walking, and the others followed her, straight out the doors and to the roundabout, where a big white Rolls Royce limo was waiting for them.

“Good evening, miss,” said the driver as he opened the door for her.

“Hello Jasper!” Alex said cheerily, handing him the dress bag, and getting into the car. The other four followed her lead. Jasper closed the door behind Remus, and walked over to the driver’s side. It was only then that Remus noticed the dress bag in the front passenger seat.

“What’s that for?” he asked, though practically knowing the response.

“Now Remus, did you honestly expect Lily and I to go dancing dressed like this?” she replied with a smirk.

“Well what about us?” James asked.

“Don’t worry, you’re coming too. All you have to do is take off your tux jacket and your set, us…not so much.”

“And where do you plan on changing?” Remus asked.

She smiled knowingly. “In the car, of course, while you three wait outside like the gentlemen you are.”

“Naturally…” Sirius spoke up for the first time, having been too distracted to form understandable syllables before. “And what a lovely tiara, might I add…”

She gave him an evil glare and didn’t spare one for James neither who guffawed heartily at Sirius’ oh-too-sarcastic comment.

“You know, I’ve always heard death by tiara is extremely painful because of the millions of sharp diamonds and jewels and pointy edges cutting into the flesh…would you care to find out?” Alex said, mockingly sweet and with a smirk, as the car jostled on its way.

“No, not really,” Sirius replied solemnly, taking a small gulp. “So what show are we seeing?”

Alex shrugged. “Some sort of symphony. It’s some orchestra from America and apparently they’re pretty good.”

“And we have to go to this…why?” James asked.

Alex shrugged again. “A good question, one which I’ve never gotten the complete answer to myself. Apparently by having me there England shows its ‘cultural refinement’ by being good hosts to the guests and appreciative of arts or some other rubbish like that.”

The conversation continued in friendly banter all the long ten minute drive to the Theatre of London, where a Red Carpet had been set up for arriving guests, with crowds of photographers, attendees, fans and civilians were standing on either side. As the white Rolls Royce pulled up, the cameras started to flash their way. Somebody opened the door, but nobody in the car moved. “Remus, you first.” Alex finally said. They all stared at her with anxious faces, and she gave them a warm smile in return. “It’ll be fine. Just wait till I get out and then we’ll all go in together. Oh, and don’t answer any of their questions. Just smile and say hi or something.”

Remus took a gulp and stepped out of the car, followed by James, Sirius, Lily and finally Alex. The four were in shock as cameras flashed at them and reporters asked questions. Alex pushed her way through the small crowd surrounding her to get to her friends. Linking arms with Remus on one side, and Sirius on the other, Lily took the hint and linked arms with him also, and James on the other. They all took a few steps forward, stopping for a few pictures on the way.

“Alexandria, why the return for Christmas?”

“Somebody needs to do the dirty work around here,” she said with a grin.

“Who are they? Does His Highness know about them staying at the palace?”

“These are friends from school and it was my father who invited them over in the first place.”

Another reporter asked, “Where are the Wheeler twins? How come they’re not here with you?”

“Because unlike some of us, they have a choice,” she snapped icily, the reporters greedily taking it down.

“And who here doesn’t have the choice?”

“You try figuring that one out,” Sirius replied for her. She gave him a wink—that was almost exactly what she had been planning on answering.

“What he said,” she affirmed.

They were all bombarded by questions, but Alex replied to them in short statements not disclosing any information, and soon enough they were walking up the steps and through the glass doors to the marvelous hall of the theatre. They checked their coats and shawls, and were led up the stairs by an usher who showed them to the Royal Box.

“Pretty nifty,” Remus said, plopping down onto the seat. “These are the best seats in the house.”

“Won’t stop you from falling asleep, though,” Alex said. “And please don’t, or I’ll never hear the end of it. Just keep thinking about something that’ll keep you awake, and it’ll be over before you know it.”

Before James or Sirius could make a witty reply, the first violinist played it’s long, solemn note to which the rest of the orchestra soon joined in, and the conductor walked onto the stage…

                                                         *  *  *

The fog was getting thicker. They were standing at the corner of a street by a lamp, all looking rather conspicuous in their nice clothes, though Lily and Alex had already changed (and practically gave the guys another heart attack, all of whom appreciatively noticed the shorter length of dress). The Rolls Royce had long since left their side.

“We actually get to meet them?” James asked in shock at Alex's declaration, looking rather excited, though Sirius drew in another breath of semi-worry. He was starting to get anxious. What if he didn’t measure up to her best friends? What if she realized she liked them better than him? What if—

“Well yeah,” Alex said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, “Couldn’t very well deprive you of their presence could I?”

“Damned right,” a voice said from behind them, and she twirled around right into the arms of Dev who came out of the darkness as if from nowhere, hugging him tightly. “That feels good, Dria, you really have no idea how much I’ve missed you.”

“Pfft, you saw me two days ago,” Alex replied, but still in his embrace, Sirius noted with jealousy. Though he had seen the two best friends on a picture in Alex’s room before, tonight he hadn’t failed to manfully notice that the twins were in fact slightly taller than himself, uniquely handsome and possessed a definite charm and reserved cool. His ego couldn’t help but take a hit as he looked at the two of them, before glancing quickly at Remus and James who seemed to be experiencing the same sort of threat. And they weren’t even the ones vying for the girl in question.

“Yeah but you know what I mean…”

Sirius started to burn up at the twinkling in Dev’s eyes and tried to block the sentence he just said from replaying in his mind. It was just ridiculous; he practically knew their entire story, knew there was nothing between them, knew she fancied him (or at least, very strongly suspected), and yet it was all he could do to restrain himself from running over there and splitting them up. She muttered something into Dev’s ear, to which he guffawed and nodded, before she turned to Adrian and gave him a hug too. “What, no Marilyn?”

He shook his head with a laugh, “No, tonight is just for us, love… and your friends, of course.”

This time, Remus put a steadying hand on Sirius, having sensed his growing discomfort.

“Right then, let’s get to it then, shall we?” Alex said, bringing them closer to the others. “Dev and Adrian, meet Sirius, James, Remus and Lily.”

They each shook hands, and Dev gave Lily such a charming smile that she blushed even worse than she had when she met Darcy. James moved closer to Lily instinctively, protectively, and his gesture did not go unnoticed by Dev, who just smiled some more and said, “I don’t care who’s your guy, Lily, but you must grace me with one dance…at least.”

If it was at all possible, she blushed even more as she nodded her head. Alex nudged her friend in the ribs. “Alright, let's get going, shall we?”

Then both Dev and James extended their arms towards Lily, who for a second looked stunned, before taking both their arms, and letting Dev lead the way. The other four just walked all together, as Adrian bitterly whispered something about a shortage of girls.

“Where exactly are we going?” Sirius asked.

“Er…I dunno,” Alex replied, looking to Adrian, “Where are we going?”

He thought about it for a while, before answering, “Let’s go to 42 Wallaby Way, Sherman’s actually built a new place and it’s pretty savvy.”

“What ever you say, Maestro,” Alex said. “Hear that Dev? Sherman’s!”

She registered a subtle nod of his head, even through the darkening surroundings…

Sirius sat on the stool, downing another drink as he watched Alex twist with Dev on the dance floor to that song that he vaguely remembered hearing during their own outing…Twist and Shout by those bugs…er…Beatles? Sirius thought (recalling the time when they twisted) with a grimace as she twisted even closer to him, just as the lyrics suggested. He was surprised when she suddenly connected eyes with him, and smiled before twirling into Dev’s arms again, laughing. They just looked so…perfect, dancing together, and completely loose and relaxed. Every move they made seemed perfectly synchronized and almost as if expected by the other party. He wondered if they looked just as good when he danced with her.

“Don’t take it so hard, mate,” somebody said from beside him, as a new song started to blast from the stage, which to his great dismay, made Alex squeal with delight before starting to quickstep and twirl, making her skirt fly up in round waves of fabric. “Ah, yes…Jailhouse Rock…Classic, that one.”

He turned to see Adrian sitting beside him with yet another drink in hand, though still sounding sober. He blinked, and said dumbly, “What are you talking about?”

Adrian laughed, “About you staring a hole the size of Mars through my brother.”

Sirius was completely dumbfounded. Was he really being that obvious?

“Look, I know my brother, and I know Alex, very very well—they’re just comfortable with each other…and the fact that they took dancing lessons together only helps making them look so good.”

“They took dancing lessons?” Sirius asked in shock, and Adrian only grinned back at him.

“Well it was like this: Alex needed to learn, for some party or other, and was screaming bloody murder, yelled at the instructor and her previous partner…eh, Michael I think?... and Dev—being chivalrous—decided to help out before her father murdered her…metaphorically speaking of course,” Adrian added at the serious look of apprehension on Sirius’s face. “Though that was quite some time ago, and they only learned the ballroom stuff. This is simply because of all the night time meanderings. Besides, there’s more than some history between them and these songs—”

“Er…thanks, Adrian…but I’m not completely sure you’re helping…” Sirius managed to say before Adrian could recount more.

He sighed, “Alright, look. She's never really been in an actual relationship so don't mind her if sometimes she seems indifferent—she probably doesn't even know she's doing it. But that doesn't mean she doesn't like you." 

Sirius didn't say anything, but Adrian correctly interpreted the 'how' off his expression.

“All I’m saying is, what you see there is nothing compared to the way you two looked only a couple minutes ago,” Adrian continued, still trying his best, but Sirius only looked up at him confused. He took a swig of whatever was in his glass, and then started again. "Between you two, you can tell there’s this…I dunno…electricity…heat…gives off a totally different vibe. I’ll say it again, what you see there is pure friendship.

“But while we’re on the topic,” Adrian kept going, upon seeing a smirk flicker across his new-found friends’ face, “You do realize that if you ever hurt her, you’ll be wishing you never met The Wheeler twins. After all, hell hath no fury like the Wheeler’s unleashed because some jerk broke their best friend’s heart.”

He clapped him a couple times on the back, smiling wickedly, before downing the rest of his drink and leaving Sirius to his thoughts…again, though not for long, as Alex came up to sit beside him as the music changed once again. Wow, is the band of a bunch of seers or something? Or is it just coincidence? Sirius thought sardonically, as he listened to the slurred words of the Rolling Stones' She's so Cold.

“What’re you doing?” she asked gleefully before taking a sip of another rather colourful drink. He noticed it looked like whatever it was Adrian was drinking.

“Watching James and Lily,” he spat out the first thing that came to mind. “And I must admit, you really worked wonders.”

“Nah, Lily was coming over to the dark side either way. I just proffered the whole process along…”

“Ah yes, the dark side.”

“We have cookies,” she said with a smile.

“So why’d you stop dancing?” Sirius asked, not bothering to hide his curiousity.

Alex grinned, taking another sip of her drink. “Dev noticed some girl that was, how'd he put it, devouring him with her eyes. So I couldn't take away his happiness, especially with this song playing, which I quote "will make her hot for me"."

He blinked. He wasn't sure what that was supposed to mean—was she being serious or joking…? He sneaked some glances around the club to see if what she was saying were true. Finding Dev wasn't hard, and some part of him was surprised to see it was true. Turning to Alex, he said, "Doesn't that bother you?"

"Huh?"

"Well he practically ditched you…" It felt weird, him explaining this to Alex when usually girls were the ones who noticed stuff like that.

Alex blinked, looking at him from her drink, seeming slightly dazed but grinning widely in amusement at Sirius' apparent worry. "No. It's what we do, and we're used to it. Besides, he didn't ditch me. We ditched each other."

Am I just drunk, or was that supposed to make sense?  "You ditched him?"

She looked at him knowingly, her dazzling smile making him feel stupid, and then continued. "I had noticed Adrian talking with you, and just wanted to make sure he wasn’t bothering you with rubbish about me and Dev taking dancing lessons or summat.”

Creepy. Either they just know each other that well, or Adrian's done it before, he thought. A smile started to stretch onto his glum face as he pictured it, and finally decided to ignore the weird 'ditching'-incident, especially as she didn't seem bothered by it. Alex just sat there in front of him, radiating a sense of relaxed cool and a contagious glee that finally seemed to affect him. Sirius chuckled, “Actually, he was.”

“BAH! I’m gonna kill him! Why he insists on telling the entire world about that is beyond me,” she stood up looking very ready to kill, but Sirius held her back as he stood up. She gave him a questioning glance.

“Don’t kill him. Dance with me instead,” he said just as Heart’s Crazy on You started to creep from the stage.

She smiled, shrugged and said, “I suppose it’s a fair alternative…but just because it’s one of my fav—”

“—Favourite songs,” Sirius finished for her, smiling and taking her hand, “I know.”

                                                          *  *  *

He was walking toward the kitchen, quite aware of the early hour and the fact that he was rather quite tired for someone supposedly on their Christmas holidays. He shook his head, regretful that he couldn’t sleep when everybody else was getting their beauty rest, stocking up on hours of sleep they had already lost within a day and would lose the next night. He didn’t know what it was, but something about this place and all these new experiences was keeping him tossing and turning in his bed. If it wasn’t thoughts about Dev and Adrian and their unique relationship with Alex, it was his own relationship with her. Starting to question what exactly she thought of him, he started to see himself as just another best friend (despite Alex’s declamation at the Christmas Ball and Adrian’s reassurances). After all, she acted with him almost exactly as with them—a different level from a normal friendship, but nothing else either.

And every minute he spent with her, especially in the palace, she seemed to be giving off a vibe of pessimism and moroseness such that he had never expected from her, especially given her normally happy and exuberant behaviour. Moreover, the whole time it seemed as if she was undergoing some sort of transformation; getting ready for something that was to come, and he didn’t like it at all. Her far off looks into the distance and glazed over expressions when she thought nobody was looking made him wonder what exactly was going on at Buckingham. He worried for her, especially as being at Buckingham now with her, he was partially able to understand just what she had been talking about all this time. In fact, the entire atmosphere of Buckingham seemed to be cold and empty, devoid of any emotion but rather rich in history, both recent and antique. It made him slightly uncomfortable, and he could not picture growing up in such a house, though his own childhood had never been awesome either.

As he neared the kitchen (having not gotten lost on the way as he thought he would have) he noticed a dim light escaping from under the door. Pushing the door open silently, he breathed a small sigh of relief when he saw her sitting at the counter. Taking a few steps towards her, he waited until the last moment to say, “What’re you eating?”

“Merlin Sirius!” Alex yelled, practically dropping her spoon onto the floor. “You scared me! What are you doing wandering my house at this time of night?”

“One—you did say the kitchens were down this way and we’re free to go and take what we want, and two—house? I thought this was just a place you ‘reside’ in?”

She stared at him through the semi-dark. “Right. Cake.”

“Sorry?”

“Cake—I’m eating cake.”

“Why?” he asked incredulously.

“Because I couldn’t sleep and I really, really need my sugar fix. The past couple of days have been torture. Want some?”

“What kind of a question is that?” he asked in very well played mock indignation. “Have you ever met a guy to pass up food? Of course I want some.”

She smiled and cut him a large slice, and they ate in silence, before Sirius broke it, “Why can’t you sleep?”

Alex shrugged, “I dunno. I guess I’m a little nervous for tomorrow. You know, with meeting my parents and the ball…”

“Don’t worry though; I’m sure it will be fine.”

“Are you going back to bed anytime soon?” she asked after a moment.

“No. Wait…are you planning on going out again tonight?”

“Well…out, but not really. Not dancing, at least,” she replied, smiling at his sudden apprehension. “I want to show you something.”

“Alright, lead the way.”

She smiled, took his hand, and leaving their cake half-eaten on the counter, made their way through the dark halls. “Alright, this is sort of your Christmas gift, and I’d give it to you tomorrow or actually on Christmas day, but since we have time now…”

She rambled in hushed tones all the way, through halls and doors, and down stairs, and Sirius really wondered why she was so nervous. Finally she stopped in a rather cold room, and flicked on the light. In front of them stood five motorbikes. Really nice, leather covered, shiny and colourful motorbikes.

“These three are mine,” she said pointing to the blue, red, and yellow Harley Davidsons—two of which were sport bikes while the third was a rather luxurious looking ride. “The other two are Darcy’s, though he doesn’t really use them.”

“Why do you have three bikes?” was all that Sirius managed to say.

She shrugged, “Three was convenient once…before Dev and Adrian got their own…I’m never around to use them anyways….So I’ll be quite glad to be left with only two, really.”

She smiled at him, and it took him a moment before he realized what she was telling him.

“Wait…No…Alex, I can’t accept…I mean…”

“Stop making noise, Sirius. I’m giving you one of these and that’s that. Merry Christmas. Besides, I want to see this flying motorbike of yours.”

Sirius was speechless, but he finally wandered over to where Alex was standing to give her a bone crushing hug, before whispering. “Thank you. Which one’s mine?”

Alex grinned, “Take your pick.”

He sauntered around the three bikes, before stopping at the sporty blue one. He stared at it with a lopsided grin, running his fingers over the seat and handles, before something hit him in the face. Catching it as it bounced down, he stretched it out and realized it was a thick leather jacket. He looked up in time to see a helmet flying his way also.

“Suit up, Sirius…We’re going for a ride!”

“What?! Are you insane?” Sirius yelled after he found his voice.

“Well yeah!” she replied with a grin. “I thought you knew the answer to that one?”

“But it's like 2 in the morning! And it’s cold and dark and I don’t know how to ride a bike and…”

“Honestly Sirius, if I didn’t see you standing there and moving your mouth, I wouldn’t believe the things you’re saying. So what if it’s early and dark and you don’t know how to ride a bike? Obviously I do, and I’m gonna teach you as soon as we get out of town. As for the cold, well we do have a little thing called magic. Nothing a few warming spells can’t handle, right?”

He gaped at her as she pulled open a large door leading outside. A cool breeze drifted in and made him shiver, and seeing her look of amusement and determination, decided it be best if he did indeed put on his jacket and helmet. She laughed as she made her way over to her—his—bike. Throwing a leg over it, Alex said, “You get to sit in the back, but just wait a second. Watch, this is how you kick start it.”

He watched as she held back the handles and put a small lever down with her foot, and started to push it down, like a downward kick. The engine roared to life and she rotated her right wrist quickly to rev it. She slowly rode out of the garage and he followed her, closing the door behind him as she told him to, before getting on behind her. He hesitated as to where he should put his hands, before Alex said, “Unless you plan on falling off and dying, you better hold on…around the waist if you wouldn’t mind.”

Sirius did as he was told, interlocking his fingers on her stomach.

“Ready?” she said, her voice ringing softly, as if in tune with the purr of the engine.

“Yeah,” he answered, but he wasn’t prepared to be suddenly jerked backwards as the bike sprang forward, cold wind biting into his half covered face. Alex drove through the Buckingham grounds, and Sirius noticed she was taking a back route out instead of the main gates. Around the fountains and gardens he had seen from his own window and all the way to the back, before she made a sharp turn. She slowed down as they clambered over a few bumps and through an unnoticeable narrow gap in the wall covered by vines and flowers. They were soon on a gravel road through the Royal Gardens park behind the palace, and Sirius noticed a tennis court and a rather large lake—though he remembered Alex saying something about it being artificial—before merging onto a main road. She sped up, faster than before. He could feel her heart pounding, and could hear the gears clicking as the scenes zoomed by them. Though he was excited, he couldn’t help but think about an imminent death as Alex sped through the roads quite recklessly. When five minutes had passed and they still hadn’t crashed, he started to relax, and finally the exhilaration and adrenaline rush took effect. And really, he didn’t feel that cold anymore.

Within what felt to Sirius about a half hour, they were out of main London, and into a slightly more rural area, or at least a less dense area. They had ridden past Hyde Park, past rows and rows of houses and buildings. Now the houses were more spaced out, and pretty trees and yards lined the winding road they were on. But Alex just kept going, right until they made it up a large hill. Stopping under a large willow tree not too far from a small cozy looking house, she turned off the bike, took off her helmet and turned to face him.

“And…?” she asked, her eyes twinkling in the moonlight.

“Well, after my heart restarted and acclimatized to the fear of crashing into every lamppost and car, it wasn’t too bad,” he said, taking off his helmet also. “Where are we?”

“Er…somewhere around Elstree I think. There’s a bunch of green space here that’s good for learning to ride…softer landings,” she said with a smile.

“And are we allowed to be using this green space?”

Alex shrugged and slid off the bike. “It’s good for night though because the park down there actually has lamps.”

“Hey, wait…where are you going?” Sirius asked.

“Obviously it’s your turn,” she replied with another smile. “Don’t worry; I’m just switching places with you.”

She pushed him forward and sat behind him, putting on her helmet once again. “Alright. On the left side of the handles is the clutch; on the right is the brake and throttle. There’s also a back brake with your left foot, but don’t worry about that one for now. Hold the clutch and brake both down and steady yourself with your feet on the ground, and kick start the bike. Good. You use your foot to change gears, we go to one first so that’s down.” She waited until she heard the familiar click and then continued. “Using your left hand you slowly release the clutch, and with your right, you slowly release the break and slowly add some gas,” she explained as the bike started to inch forward very slowly.

Note to self—emphasis on slowly, Sirius thought wryly, I wonder what would happen if I just let g—
They both yelled as the bike jerked forward and did a wheelie, causing Alex to slide off and hit the ground while Sirius just barely manage to stay on. But as soon as the bike hit the ground again, the engine shut off, Sirius lost his balance and jumped off just in time before the bike toppled over onto its side.

Alex stood up, and walked over to Sirius who looked almost catatonic. “I said SLOWLY!” she yelled, though quite playfully, and giving him a punch on the arm. “Well what are you waiting for? Pick the thing up again, we don’t have all night you know!”

He bent down to lift up the bike and silently marveled at its weight, though Alex seemed to have noticed. “Not exactly a feather, huh?”

Sirius didn’t reply, but restarted the bike again. She sat down behind him, and this time held him around the waist. “Right, do it again…slowly!”

He nodded, and started to release the brake and clutch, and the bike rolled forward. “When you get to the end of the release, add some more gas. When you hear the engine starting to get louder, in other words the RPM going up to about 2500—that’s that display there—press the clutch and change gears to second with your foot. That’ll be two up.”

She waited until he did it, and smiled as the bike jerked forward again when he released the clutch again.

“Stay on two for a bit, make some turns and stuff, get a better idea of how the bike moves. Then do the same thing and go up to three.”

They zoomed around the park, and after a few engine stalls, a couple falls and some near-death experiences, Sirius finally felt comfortable riding the motorbike. They stopped in the middle of the park near a swing set, and leaving the bike at the side, they started to swing back and forth. And soon he was feeling her undergo that changing phase again, and courageously decided this was as good a time as any to get some answers.

“Alex?” Sirius’ voice finally broke the silence of the eerie swing screeches.

“Hmmm?” she managed to get out, her head resting on the chain of the swing and her eyes closed.

“Why are you so nervous about tomorrow?” he asked. She opened her eyes and looked at him. “I mean, I know you’re going to have to face your parents but…I don’t know, it just doesn’t seem to me like you’d be so anxious about that…”

His voice trailed off into a pause where only the swings echoed in the night again. Alex licked her lips, hesitating whether or not she should tell him. She drew a breath and finally replied. “Well, the thing is…Darcy and I suspect that he might be…er…trying to marry me off again…”

Sirius stuck his legs out and stopped swinging, looking at her in shock. “Marry you off? What do you mean again? You’re only 18!”

“To him, more like already 18,” she said gingerly. “He tried doing it last year too.”

He thought about it for a couple of seconds, and suddenly everything made sense—why she was in 7th year but a year older, the meaning behind the letters, how she nearly said ‘married’ a couple of times…

“Do…do you know to who?” he asked, his voice barely audible.

“Nope. Probably some random person from a country far away,” she replied, but though she seemed upset about it, it sounded like she had already made up her mind. That much he could definitely decipher of her mysterious behaviour.

“Why…?”

Alex sighed, and pushed herself off the ground a bit more, “My guess is he wants me to actually start acting like a princess, and by marrying me I’m sort of not his problem anymore, you know?”

“But that’s horrible!”

She laughed wryly. “Believe me, I know. That’s partly why I ran away this past summer—I think he wanted me to meet the person the next day. I guess me not turning up caused a bit of a ruckus.”

“Is that why Evans was so…angry when she first saw you on the train?” he asked, remembering Lily’s reaction to Alex sitting calmly in the compartment.

“Probably.”

Another pause overcame them, but Sirius ploughed on. “What are you going to do?”

“Play along for now, see what he’s actually up to. And then talk to him I suppose, though I don’t know how much good that’ll do.”

Sirius deemed she had enough of the question/answer period, and standing up, led her back to the bike. “Maybe we should get back.”

She nodded, and put on her helmet. Getting back onto the bike, she was just about to start it up when a voice cut through the silent night.

“HEY! What are you doing here?”

“Oh no bloody way,” Alex muttered under her breath, “Which bloody constable patrols this park at this bloody hour?”

The constable walked closer to them, as they subtly positioned themselves, Alex’s foot resting above the gears.

“Wait there!” he yelled as he neared. “This park is not open to the public at this time of night, nor are any vehicles allowed in it.”

“Look, officer, I can explain…” Alex started. Sirius noticed her gripping the clutch and brake, and immediately tightened his hold on her.

The constable shook his head and took out a writing pad, “That’ll be a fine miss, no matter what happened. Now to what name shall I make the ticket out to?”

“Name?” Alex repeated. “Alexandria Edwards.”

The officer looked up from his writing in shock, and Alex smiled at him before starting the bike, and letting go of the clutch and brake, the wheels burned out on the dusty path before they rocketed out of there, both laughing insanely.

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