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"I hate to point this out while the three of you are so obviously enjoying your slip into insanity, but you do realize we're going to get expelled for this," Remus pointed out, shifting the weight of the crate he was carrying.

In the few months the house had been abandoned, vines had encroached on the property, creeping up the brick walls and embedding themselves in every crevice. Sirius had to yank them back by the handful to expose the door, but the lungful of stale air and dust he took when he pushed it open made him wonder, briefly, if the place hadn't been vacant much longer. "Oy, Peter, get up here," he ordered, gesturing with his free hand for the lighted tip of Peter's wand. "And when did you get so fatalistic, Remus?"

"It's not fatalism - it's realism," he said with a wink, his words echoing off the walls.

Beneath their feet, the floorboards creaked in that way floorboards only do when you're somewhere you're not supposed to be doing something you shouldn't be doing - an eerie, melancholy kind of sound - but Sirius paid them no mind, crossing through the untouched kitchen and into the sitting room before dropping his overstuffed schoolbag - full of LP's rather than books.

In the background, James and Remus were discussing what charm could best be used to conceal the light and noise. They hadn't reached an agreement when Sirius turned around again, searching for a light switch. "If we're going to do this," Remus sighed, doing his level best to pretend he wasn't looking forward to any evening he might have a chance to spend in the company of Erin Brooks. "We might as well do it properly. You handle the concealment, I'll handle the visitors?" he suggested. With a flourish, a strip of barely visible blue light raced around the house, whizzing past the windows as it wound itself through the property before returning to Remus' wand.

"Now what did you go and do that for?" James asked, affronted. "Why not save the showy bit for when there are girls around to appreciate it?"

Sirius' eyes wandered across the myriad of bottles - stacked from one end of the tiny kitchen to the other. Across the counter was strewn a handful of glasses, all half-filled with a congealed, purple substance but, between them, the subject of his current attentions could be found.

This was precisely the kind of distraction he'd been looking for, so it bothered him when his meandering gaze kept making it's way back to Lily. What had seemed vaguely irritating two hours before bordered on maddening now as he caught himself glancing over his shoulder, back into the living room where she was.

She'd been drinking and, of a party goer, he expected no less, but there seemed to be a much more manic motivation in the way she flitted from one cluster of boys to the next, far and away too short of drunk to explain her behavior. As she repeated the sequence - a disingenuous giggle followed by a slight wavering on her feet and an altruistic rescue by whomever was closest - Sirius found his legs attempting to move of their own accord. Instead, he focused the extra energy on unscrewing the whiskey bottle.

"Enjoying yourself?" a voice asked from behind him.

Sirius started, knocking the bottle lamely against his teeth before forming his features into the look of loathing Remus so richly deserved. Remus merely smirked, gathering up an arm load of glasses and dumping them into the sink.

"In a mind to meddle, are you?" Sirius asked rhetorically, taking another swig.

Before Remus could return an unsolicited smart remark of his own, there was a screeching hiss from the sitting room followed by a combination of complaints, groans and laughter - the telltale sounds of vinyl in distress.

"Oy, hands off of it!" Sirius shouted, slamming the nearly empty bottle back down on the counter and pushing his way through the crowd. When he peered over the few remaining heads to isolate the vandal before they could escape, it was Lily's eyes that met his.

"I told you he would be mad," she teased, the sing-song sentence slurring into a single word. "Sirius takes his music very seriously."

She leaned heavily on the shoulder of a Ravenclaw seventh-year - someone he knew but whose name he couldn't, in the moment, place. The boy ventured a sarcastic reply but Sirius didn't hear it, his attention too consumed as his eyes raked across her frame. At a distance, her listing movements and the way her sweater fell off of her shoulder - jeans slung too low on her hips - had all seemed intentional and flirtatious, On closer inspection, she was less pressing herself against him as lolling from side to side, coming to fall on the nearest steady object, less deliberately allowing her clothes to allude to what they covered than too devoid of the fine motor skills required to control them any longer.

Nevertheless, she paid neither thing any mind, too inebriated to force her pupils to focus on any one thing for more than a few seconds. Instead, she permitted the boy to drape his arm around her waist and pull her in the direction of one of the empty rooms at the end of the hall.

Sirius' reaction was decisive and immediate, grabbing the boy by his shirt collar and yanking him back as if by the scruff of his neck. "She's a bit too far gone for that, don't you think?" he asked acidly.

"Wus it o you?" the boy asked. If his enunciation was to be trusted, he wasn't much better off than she was - nearly ready to walk the very same plank. That, or he would prove to be from the East End, but either way, really.

"I'll make you a deal," Sirius offered, groping for the nearest body and snatching the drink out of their hands. "You take the beer, I'll take the girl."

The boy surveyed him for a moment, teetering on the balls of his feet, but Sirius had already taken Lily by the waist, guiding her toward the front door.

This, he thought, propping her up against the brick wall outside, was entirely his fault.

From the kitchen, she looked like she'd enjoyed a few too many friendly libations, but his closer inspection in the living room had painted a much grimmer picture. Now, in the moonlight, he could see clearly what it sickened him even to suspect before - she wasn't drunk or even merely stoned. Her pupils were dilated to the point of saucers, completely unable to focus on anything. Her feet dragged along behind her legs like an afterthought.

"D-d-don't," she whined, three seconds behind the scene, snaking her fingers inside of his jacket. Her palms felt like fire, even through the fabric of his shirt, but she shivered anyway, teeth chattering wildly.

"Evans....Evans, look at me," he ordered, putting a hand to her cheek. "Did you take anything?"

"Accusing me of things again, are you?" she slurred, trying to step toward him but thinking better of it and collapsing back against the wall. "I won't have it. It isn't my fault you forgot to consider James' feelings."

"Lily, I need you to listen to me," he soothed, futilely trying to make eye contact. "Did you take anything? Did anyone give you anything? Pills or a potion or..." His words trailed off long before he finished the question, her eyes closing, head suddenly falling to the side, heavy in his hand.

Oh yeah, definitely his fault.

Finding a place to take her would have been difficult on any night. Finding a way to get her there only complicated things. Doing all of this while keeping her conscious proved nearly impossible.

There was the Shack - it had proximity and solitude on its side, but this wasn't James on a bender. Taking her there meant either endangering her life or betraying Remus' secret. There were a dozen hidey holes within Hogwarts, but that meant getting her back on the grounds. The passage under Honeydukes was perhaps large enough to accommodate them for a few hours, but getting inside would require far more stealth than she was capable of, even under the best of circumstances. Her temperature was fluctuating too significantly to wait things out in the forest and there were too many students about to consider staying in the village. It left only one reasonable alternative - London.

Stale pipe smoke hit him like a mallet when he pushed open the front door, assaulting his sinuses like an invading army, but there was scarcely time to take notice. At his side, Lily still murmured and swayed, but her pulse was quickening, body temperature rising quickly. "Where are we going?" she asked for the umpteenth time as he helped her onto the sofa.

"We're already there," he answered absently, leaning over her as he tried to extricate her arms from the sleeves of her sweater.

Whatever she'd taken - or been given - it seemed not to be of magical origin and taking a predictable course. So long as he could keep her from overheating or falling down a flight of stairs, there was really nothing for her to fear. For him, on the other hand, a series of entirely new regrets was taking up residence, dusting off old wounds and unpacking in the recesses of his mind. Where to begin the flagellation? There was the knowledge that Lily Evans wouldn't have stepped within 100 meters of a place she might be drugged if it hadn't been for his influence. Or the fact that they never should have thrown the party in the first place? Perhaps he should be focusing on the fact that she might not have been so vulnerable were it not for their argument the day before.

She interrupted him before the morose musings could drag him under too deeply, her voice still uncontrollably staccato when she spoke. "I'm c-cold," she complained, reaching up, once again, to weave her arms under his clothes.

Again, he pushed her off - this time, more gently than the last. "I know. You'll warm up now that we're inside," he lied, kissing the top of her head.

"Sirius," she whispered, catching his shirt in her fingers as he tried to pull away. The look in her eyes weighed more than any he'd ever imagined her capable of and it was difficult to tear himself away, his only compulsion - to take her in his arms - the last thing he could do.

He took her hand instead, untwining her fingers from the fabric, and setting it back on her lap. "You'll warm up," he repeated, crossing the room to the nearest window and wrenching the glass open. A frigid breeze whistled around the room, raising goosebumps even on his skin. Lily flinched. "Trust me."

"I do trust you."

The words were half of a sleepy sigh but they stung as if she'd shouted them - salt ground into the wounds he so richly deserved. There was a time, he mused, when the thing he feared most for her had been his father. It seemed poetic, somehow, that the thing destroying her now was him. The best thing for her - the decent thing for him to do - should have been to walk away and never look back. Instead, he'd maneuvered them into the only circumstance where he couldn't possibly leave her.


Yet again, his brooding was deferred, this time by her fingertips, slipping themselves underneath his unbuttoned cuffs. He grimaced, forcing himself to face her but he needn't have dreaded the moment. Almost as quickly as he could turn around, she was losing her battle with gravity, her expression shifting from wicked to frightened in a second. "You need to lie back down," he instructed, half-carrying her back to the couch.

"I don't think I f-f-feel so g-good," she managed, the shivers becoming first shudders and then more violent shaking.

Doing his best to turn her on her side, he pinned her where she lay to control the worst of it, but it was to little effect. The seconds it lasted seemed like hours, each convulsion cutting a fresh gash in his psyche but it was a lashing he deserved and he forced himself to absorb every ounce of it, knowing all the while how much it would displease his father to discover what pains his eldest son suffered over an inconsequential, muggleborn girl.

He didn't risk moving until the trembling had, for the most part, ceased. When he did, her eyes were closed, face gone slack, limbs completely listless - she'd fallen asleep. It cost him something to wake her - to coax her back into a sitting position - more still when she didn't seem to understand why he wouldn't simply let her sleep. Still, it wasn't long before she was stretched out again, her feet dangling over the ornately carved arm, her head resting in his lap. "Tell me a story," she demanded eventually, apparently tired of counting the specks on the ceiling.

Sirius smirked, letting his fingers fall into her hair. "Once upon a time," he started, forcing his voice into a low, raspy whisper. "There was a boy and a girl who lived in a mundane land. The boy decided to host a ball for all the townspeople to enjoy but the girl, knowing it wasn't her thing but being a nosey little girl scout anyway, decided to gate crash...."

She slapped him. Or, rather, she tried to slap him. Strictly speaking, she grazed his knee with the back of her hand, jamming her pinkie finger in the process, but it was a valiant effort nonetheless. "Tell me a real story," she whined, popping the injured appendage in her mouth dramatically.

"This may come as a shock to you, but I don't exactly have a lot of bedtime story worthy material in my personal history," he teased, regretting it at once when an impish little grin flitted across her face again, her fingers suddenly occupied in the very different pursuit of unbuttoning his shirt. "Evans," he warned, chuckling darkly and hooking her wrists in his own fingers to push them away. "You would never forgive me for making tonight unforgettable."

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