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Dumbledore's limitless creativity seemed to have met it's match in the abilities of James, Peter, Remus and Sirius to generate a need for detentions. It seemed to Sirius, when he was sent off to the hospital wing after dinner that Dumbledore had given up all together. Madame Pomfrey, on the other hand, hadn't run out of new and uniquely unpleasant forms of penance. It wasn't until he got back to the dormitory ad found it empty that he realized he'd gotten off easy.

He'd spent the better part of the evening trying to make conversation with a partially lucid Alfred to keep him awake so the quiet of the empty room was a relief. Leaning back against the stack of pillows on his bed, he rummaged in his nightstand for this morning's post. Andromeda's letters no longer came with wax seals as they once had. Now, she dropped her notes into flimsy paper envelopes, her ornate handwriting lacking it's usual flourish in the thin, straight lines only achieved with a pen.

He read it twice without really grasping it's contents, not because his mind was teeming with other thoughts but rather because his mind was entirely blank - devoid of anything substantive. By the time anyone came in, he'd abandoned the letter in favor of meditative silence somewhere between waking and sleep. Opening his eyes, he expected to find Remus or Peter, up to their elbows in silver polish.

Lily was, as always, a surprise.

"Can I help you?" he asked, sitting up and raising an eyebrow. The words came out colder than he'd intended them to but she seemed to be prepared for that, unfazed by his rudeness.

She had a stack of albums pressed to her chest and she gestured to them sheepishly, taking a few more steps into the room. "You left these in the common room," she managed, trying to be aloof rather than embarrassed and failing at both.

Sirius smirked in spite of himself and got up to take them from her - his 'thank you' sounding far more genuine than his earlier rebuke. "Making up excuses to see me are you?"

"No, I... Where is everyone?" she asked after an awkward pause, idly fidgeting with the cuff of her sweater again.

"Detention," he answered blithely, trying to make his smile seem gentle. He'd felt guilty for what his flirtation with her might do to James but the impact it was so obviously having on her was comical. Lily was neither shy nor unsure of herself and it was amusing to watch how dramatically a change in his mood could influence her. "I got stuck in the hospital wing but I think Madame Pomfrey just sent me away because I was annoying her."

"Imagine that," she teased, permitting herself the tiniest of smiles before starting in on a rambling excuse for her presence. "I only came to bring those up...I should let you get back to whatever criminal activity you're planning for this weekend."

She hesitated for a fraction of a second and, before he could stop himself, he was speaking on impulse again. "Do you want to come along? Nothing exceptionally criminal, I promise."

The odds that either James or Remus would kill him for this were about ten to one, he mused. The odds that he'd be serving detentions for the entire term if someone caught him sneaking her out of the castle were at least twice as bad. Nevertheless, he couldn't bring himself to care when he caught a glimpse of her in the common room at almost midnight, in her jeans and t-shirt, looking entirely the part of the uncorrupted youth.

"Where are we going?" she asked when he pulled her into a passage way she'd never been down before.

"At the moment or in general?" he inquired, glancing over his shoulder automatically even though it was too dark to see her face.

"I'd settle for either piece of information, really," she whined, following along with petulantly heavy footsteps.

Her feeble complaints persisted throughout their trip out of the castle and off of the grounds but she quieted down momentarily when he hailed the Knight Bus. Its, some might say, seedy operator gave her a once over, clearly aware that she was a student out of bounds but never said a word, Sirius dropping a few extra coins into the box.

"What is this?" she asked as they passed a half-dozen bolted down beds in pursuit of the stairwell to the upper deck.

"It's the Knight Bus," he replied, temporarily dumbfounded. It was easy to forget, he supposed, that she wasn't, like him, raised in the wizarding world and that things as mundane as the Knight Bus would be entirely foreign to her.

"And how do you know one of them wont say that they saw us?" she asked imperiously, her gait slowing as she inspected the hanging chandelier and the half dozen beds bolted firmly to the floor.

Sirius rolled his eyes, answering her question with an air of superiority he knew would infuriate her. "Because I bribe him on a semi-regular basis."

It had the intended impact and she swatted at the back of his shoulder, coming up the stairs behind him by a few steps. "Sirius Black! How could you?!"

"Evans!" he barked, rounding on her at the top of the stairs, his brow furrowed with irritation. "Girl Scout."

"Fine," she grumbled, taking the last few steps a second too slowly. Before she could slide onto the bench seat next to him, the driver was taking off - the bus lurching forward without warning. The force was enough to set her off her balance and she clutched at the nearest solid object to stop herself from falling over completely.

When she righted herself, he was laughing unabashedly.

"You're a git," she grumbled seconds later, sliding into the bench seat next to him.

"I didn't realize I was dealing with someone who doesn't have a cursory grasp of physics," he teased, resting an arm across the back of the seat.

She glowered at him instead of answering, kicking the seat in front of them as if it had run over her cat. "Will you at least tell me where we're going?" she asked acerbically, unable to come up with anything else to say.

"Don't pout. Not knowing where you're going is supposed to be half of the fun."

"Well that was unpleasant," she announced twenty minutes later, stepping gingerly onto the curb.

"You seem to say that a lot in my company," he remarked, guiding her down the sidewalk.

Somehow, she resisted the urge to ask where they were going, but her curiosity was sated soon enough, Sirius jumping a railing ahead of her and flinging open the heavy wooden door. A cacophony of sound and light streamed onto the sidewalk when he did - the burst of air that followed it thick with smoke of several varieties.

Sirius watched her from the corner of his eye, gauging her reaction as they walked into the pub. She seemed fairly nonplussed, her focus turned to the tiny raised stage that was responsible for the uneven noise. He had to call her name twice to get her attention long enough to hand her a drink.

"Sirius, I'm not sure I should be dri-"

"It's club soda," he replied without further explanation, inhaling his own somewhat less innocuous beverage and replacing it on the bar to be refilled.

She hung back a bit when someone she didn't know emerged from behind the drum kit and leapt over an amp to say hello, clapping Sirius on the back with an unmistakable familiarity. "Haven't seen you 'round in a while, ya tosser."

"I haven't been around in a while," Sirius replied.

They chatted for a few minutes more, forgetting Lily almost entirely until she cleared her throat.

"Oy, who's this?" he asked, scratching the inside of his elbow absently while he surveyed her.

"This," Sirius answered, snaking the hand that wasn't occupied with his glass around her waist. "Is a Girl Scout."

"She does rather look it..." he remarked. Lily flushed predictably, eliciting a smirk from Sirius and an apology from his friend. "Don't sulk, love. It's a good look on you."

Lily clung to his side after that, uncomfortable in her surroundings until he directed his full attention back to her. If he were to endeavor to describe her expression, the only word he could think to use would be grimace. She looked tense and unhappy. "You're scowling, are you aware of that?"

"Vaguely," she replied tersely, rotating her empty glass in her hands.

Sirius observed her for a few seconds, considering whether or not he should offer to take her back to Hogwarts but she answered the question for him, snatching the glass out of his hand and emptying it with a similar gusto. His grin widened. "Can I get you another?"

Coming up with a magical means of transportation that was at least passably comfortable when inebriated was a task worth dedicating a lifetime to but surely he could cross the Knight Bus off of the list. It was nearly four am when they made their way out of the pub. By then, the majority of the crowd had dispersed but there were still a few stragglers, several of whom had passed out leaning against the building.

The crunch of dried leaves was noisy beneath their feet when he glanced in her direction again, her usually pale cheeks flushed, not with the embarrassment he was becoming so accustomed to but with nervous energy, excitement and alcohol. "Wasn't that a little fun?" he asked, elbowing her gently.

"It was," she answered, qualifying the statement before he could get a word in. "I might have enjoyed the prospect a bit more if I'd known where we were going."

Sirius scoffed, grinning nonetheless. There was a sort of pleasure in knowing that she'd enjoyed herself - something unfamiliar and difficult to place. Either that or the slight buzz was making him wax contemplative. "Really then? You'd have preferred it if I told you I was taking you to a seedy pub in London to see a band no one has ever heard of practice the same six songs in a constant rotation that would quickly degrade into an excuse for gratuitous drug and alcohol abuse by a bunch of degenerates like myself?" he inquired.

They walked a while longer in companionable silence before she spoke again, leaning heavily against his arm. In the distance, Gryffindor Tower was just visible, all of it's windows dark and she gestured toward it lamely. "I don't want to go back to the dorm..." she whispered, letting her head fall to rest on his shoulder.

"Not to be pedantic, but it's four in the morning."

"I doubt that's ever been a problem for you before," she pointed out, straightening herself back up again in an effort not to look tired.

"Of course not, but you're an amateur. By my math, you'll be completely knackered until dinner," he teased, only half-kidding.

"Why don't you let me worry about that?" she suggested, stopping where she stood to feign a great affront.

"And what would you propose I do with you in the meantime?" he asked, pulling her around to face him.

The question was loaded and they both knew it but when she didn't stop to consider her answer before issuing it, he caught himself trying to count the number of drinks she'd had against the number of hours they'd been gone. Was it five or six? Had she eaten something? Before he could weigh the averages, she was entwining her fingers with his and pulling him along a different path.

"Lily," he whispered, the words sounding gravel when she stopped just short of Madame Hooch's broom shed. "Do you have any idea what you're getting yourself into?"

"Don't you?"

"Good," he rumbled, pushing her roughly through the unlocked door and kicking it closed behind them.

There was a crash as a dozen or more ancient broomsticks clattered to the floor under the weight of her discarded jacket but neither of them paid them any mind. Under his fingertips, the cold of the evening disappeared from her skin, replaced with a feverish warmth. Her breaths, coming in fits and spurts - mere gulps of air when her lips weren't otherwise entangled with his, rose into wisps and curls above them, mingling with chinks of moonlight and upset dust.

It was a practiced hand that pulled her t-shirt over her head but he might have hesitated - might have stopped all together - had she not immediately returned her clumsy, frozen fingers to his belt buckle.

For this, James would kill him.

Over the years, there had been any number of times when Sirius was sure that James might kill him but, for this, there was no question - he was a dead man.

Remarkably, none of that seemed to matter much.

The tiny giggle when she backed into the work bench and the subsequent whimper when he pressed against her, the cold metal of his belt buckle shocking against the warmth of her skin - they were all consuming sounds, drowning out everything else.  It was a problem only compounded when she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him closer still.

"I'm only asking this once," he murmured, his fingers poised over the button on her jeans.  "Are you sure?"

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