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AN: This chapter will take place in Sirius’s point of view

Sirius moved up the spiral staircase leading to the third floor corridor. Students ran passed him, dressed in colorful costumes, rushing down to the Great Hall where the dance was about to begin. Sirius was somewhat grateful that none of them could see him; it would have been awkward explaining that he was heading to their professor’s classroom to ask her to join him at the dance.

Speaking of not being able to be seen, Sirius remembered that he’d run into Elle before back on the Hogwarts Express with James. Obviously she hadn’t been able to see him then so why could she see him now? As he walked, musing over this, a card suddenly appeared in front of him. A light glow shined around its perimeter. Sirius snatched the card out of the air.

The background was a simple white with a swirling border of golden leaves. Printed in neat handwriting in the center were these simple words: It wasn’t time yet. H.U.

Sirius half-smiled, silently amused. Normally the Higher Ups didn’t answer a spirit’s questions automatically like this but apparently they wanted him to know this detail. It certainly cleared his mind but it left him to wonder why when he’d first seen Elle that it hadn’t been time for them to actually meet. He pondered over this for a good minute before realizing that he had walked past the D.A.D.A. classroom.

Backtracking, he came to a halt in front of the door and took a deep breath. He’d never been this nervous over asking a girl out. He’d also never been rendered speechless at the sight of a woman either. Sirius rubbed the back of his neck, confused. What was it about Elle that was causing him to wonder if such an amazing woman even deserved to be with a pitiful man like him? What if she opened the door and told him she’d changed her mind? What if she told him he wasn’t good enough to be her date and that she’d rather go with someone who was alive like she was?

He shook his head. Standing tall, fighting these insecurities, he knocked three times on the classroom door. Elle answered immediately. It took every ounce of Sirius’s mind not to allow himself to stand there gawking at her like an utter moron.

She was positively stunning! Her curly hair had been dyed black, her eyes changed from their usual dark brown to the color of sunshine yellow, large cat ears poked out of the curls, and a bushy tail swished back and forth behind her legs which were a wonderful eye catcher for Sirius. They were long and sexy, exposed from the middle of her thighs all the way down to her feet which were strapped into a pair of black stilettos. She wore a black plaited skirt with a silver studded belt, a black tank top exposed her perfect hourglass figure, and her arms were covered in black gloves that extended to her elbows. Little glittering black bats glistened from a choker around her thin throat. Sirius silently noted that she had a small explosion of freckles along the tops of her shoulders.

Elle grinned, exposing a pair of small, sharper canines than the ones Sirius remembered from her earlier smile. “The Grim Reaper, huh? Nice!”

Sirius tried to regain his composure. “Thanks. You look fantastic yourself. A black cat, right?”

Elle nodded enthusiastically. “Yep! I wore this outfit to the Halloween Auror’s Party last year and got first place in the costume contest.”

“I can’t imagine why,” Sirius muttered under his breath, eyeing her legs again. “Well, are you ready to go?”

Elle nodded, taking his outstretched arm. “Lead the way, Grim Reaper.”

Sirius smiled, feeling like the luckiest man in the world. They met up with James and Lily and Remus and Tonks at the base of the steps to the Entrance Hall. James looked fantastic, his hair somehow slicked back (Sirius suspected he’d used five bottles of gel), his face looked ghostly white, and he was wearing the classic ‘tuxedo and cape look’ like the traditions of the muggle vampires. Lily appeared to be one of his victims; a trail of fake blood fell down her neck from a pair of black dots, disappearing into her clothes. She was wearing a fancy deep blue dress and black boots and she’d made her skin look like a corpse’s.

Remus had somehow made his body look transparent like a ghost and had put on some shredded clothing to make his appearance more sinister. Tonks had decided to dress up as a rag doll, her clothes shredded and patched with different quilt squares, her skin revealing several fake sewn up cuts. She’d also exercised her metamorphmagus abilities to make her hair long and tomato red. All of them smiled at Sirius and Elle as they descended the stairs.

Tonks leapt for joy, her smile as wide as the Nile River. She let go of Remus’s hand and attacked Elle in a hug. “Ellie!” She cried happily, twisting around with Elle in her arms. “I’ve missed you!”

“Dora!” Elle shouted, laughing happily. “I can’t believe it!”

The two friends pulled apart so they could look into each other’s eyes.

“You look great,” Tonks complimented.

“You too,” said Elle, looking her up and down.

Sirius took Elle’s arm again and introduced James and Lily.

Elle breathed deeply. “Your son is great,” she said, shaking both of their hands. “It’s an honor to meet you both.”

Lily smiled. “Likewise. I love your costume.”

“Thanks,” said Elle, “I love yours. You and James look really great.”

“And if you’ll believe it, we didn’t even plan to be a matching pair,” said James heartily.

“James, did you remember the potion?” Sirius asked all of a sudden.

James grinned. “You’d think I’d forget? This is the first prank of the year!”

Elle raised an eyebrow, eyeing Sirius. “You’re going to prank someone?”

“Not someone, everyone,” clarified Remus.

“We’ve been planning it for months,” added Tonks.

Elle looked surprised. “You’re in on this too, Dora?”

Tonks laughed, placing a hand on Remus’s chest. “When you’re married to a marauder, pranking is part of the package.”

“What’s a marauder?” Elle asked.

James, Remus, and Sirius laughed.

“That was the name we were known by when going to Hogwarts,” Sirius explained. “There’s not a person our age that went to Hogwarts who wouldn’t forget us. The pranks we pulled are legendary.”

“Really?” asked Elle with an incredible amount of enthusiasm. “Like what?”

James grinned. “Ever heard the story of when the entire fourth floor had wet toilet paper stuck to the ceiling?”

Elle let out a peel of laughter like a bell. “Of course! Who hasn’t heard of that one?”

“Well, that was us,” James revealed proudly.

Elle’s eyes widened. “Get out! Seriously?”

Sirius nodded. “Yep! We’re really proud of that one too. Took us five hours in the dead of night to pull it off. We had to dodge Filch three times, lock his stupid cat in the closet so it wouldn’t run off and fetch him, and tie up Peeves so he wouldn’t go and get a teacher. But it was completely worth it! Everyone’s faces! And Filch having to clean everything off! Priceless!”

“Mind you, we only did it because he’d made all of us clean the trophy room without magic,” said Remus.

Lily looked exasperated. “That was because you were in detention for some other prank you’d pulled earlier on in the week.”

The three men laughed.

“Like I said, totally worth it,” repeated Sirius.

Lily did not appear to be amused. She grabbed James’ elbow. “Let’s go dance,” she said, steering him into the Great Hall where music from the Weird Sisters could be heard blaring from a set of loud speakers.

Sirius followed her example and offered his arm to Elle. She smiled at him warmly before threading her arm through his.

“So, what is this prank you’re going the do?”

Sirius grinned. “Do you want to be told or do you just want to find out?”

Elle looked up at the ceiling, thinking. “I’ll just wait and find out,” she said. “I like surprises.”

The Great Hall looked absolutely fantastic. Sirius was slightly envious that they hadn’t had a Halloween Ball in his day. The four house tables were gone, replaced with smaller circular tables lining the walls, their surfaces covered in cobwebs, an eerie purple light coming from a glittering black candle holder in the middle, with black plates and goblets indented with silver spiders scattered about their surface. A graveyard had been erected where the band stood playing amidst the tombstones while awesome green fog rolled around them from a giant cauldron sitting next to one of the larger grave markers. Live bats fluttered in small numbers across the ceiling, their screeches heard between the pauses of each song. The green fog coming from the cauldron had seeped onto the dance floor where all the students were located, immersing their legs from the knees down. Several professors could be spotted amidst the students, dancing and having a good time with other fellow professors.

Professor Dumbledore was dressed up as a court jester, his ridiculous hat jingling with his movements as he danced with Professor McGonagall who had decided to be a winter fairy, her robes snow white with glittering icicles and snowflakes.

Sirius managed to make out Ron and Hermione, the former being dressed up like one of the illustrations of wood elves that Sirius had seen in muggle paintings. Ron’s hair had grown down to his lower back and a pair of pointy ears could be seen sticking out of the bright red locks. Hermione had dressed up as a wood fairy, her bushy hair containing a few braids that had bright green leaves woven into the strands. Her green dress was short, exposing her legs, and spiraling wires of silver climbed up her arms and calves, stopping at the elbows and knees.

Ginny was also spotted sitting at a table with a bunch of friends, dressed up as a mummy. She seemed to be having a good time though Sirius immediately picked up that everyone around her had dates. Making a note to spend some time with her later, Sirius led Elle out onto the dance floor just as a new song was beginning to play.

It was a slow number, and immediately Sirius and Elle were surrounded by the people who had previously been sitting down at the tables along with those already on the dance floor. Sirius placed one hand on Elle’s tiny waist and the other in her hand and began to lead her in a slow, simple dance pattern.

“I didn’t think you would know how to dance,” Elle said as he twirled her around.

“My mother thought it important to learn,” said Sirius with slight distaste.

“I see. So she forced you to take dancing lessons, huh?”

“When you’re a pureblood you’re forced to learn a lot of things to keep alive traditions that are older than Dumbledore.”

Elle laughed. “I suppose that makes sense. If we stopped having traditions, we’d lose a lot of culture. What other things did you have to learn as a pureblood?”

“Funnily enough, dancing is the only one I can remember at the moment,” Sirius confessed. “That must sound really lame.”

Laughing, Elle nodded. “Yeah, that is a little pathetic.”

Sirius felt like someone had dropped a lead balloon into his stomach. That is, he did until he saw the mischievous glint in Elle’s eyes. “You’re messing with me!” He said with surprise.

Elle raised an eyebrow, trying to hide her smile. “Nope, I’m being totally serious, Sirius.”

Sirius pursed his lips. “Alright, since I’m so pathetic and can’t remember any other traditions of my family, why don’t you care to share some of yours?”

Elle thought for a moment. “Alright, I think I’ve got a couple. Mind you, I’m muggleborn so I didn’t find out about being a witch until I was eleven. My dad passed away when I was five. To help preserve his memory, my mother would always take me to the zoo. She would take me there the first Saturday of every month. I had so much fun going.”

“I’m sorry to hear about your dad,” said Sirius sympathetically.

“It’s alright,” Elle answered. “He was a great man and he lived his life to the fullest. I don’t think he had any regrets. He tried to save a kid from drowning and ended up drowning himself.”

Sirius listened attentively. “I’m terribly sorry.”

“It’s alright. He died a hero and people saw him as such. That’s what helped me get over his passing.”

Sirius nodded silently. “Why did your mum think that going to a zoo would preserve your memory of your dad?”

“The tradition of going to the zoo started with my parents,” she answered. “That’s where they met; bumped right into each other while following the emperor penguins gliding through the water. And it’s also where my dad proposed to my mum.”

“So I assume your favorite animal is a penguin?”

Elle chuckled. “Everyone draws to that conclusion probably because my parents often called me their little penguin. Actually, my favorite animal, believe it or not, is a dog.”

She had to be joking. Sirius eyed her, waiting to see if she would say something like ‘just kidding!’ but after searching her eyes, he detected no sense of jest. The fates were laughing at him. She loved dogs. Could there be any more ways for her to fit his missing puzzle piece?

“What are you staring at?” Elle asked.

Sirius blinked. “Nothing. I just think it’s odd that you don’t like an animal like a koala or a giraffe since you’ve practically grown up around a zoo.”

“Yeah, a lot of people seem surprised,” Elle admitted. “But to me, a dog is absolutely awesome! Their loyal, they protect you, they act like guardians when anything you own is in peril, and they are always there to comfort you when you need a hug. I love dogs.”

She blushed slightly, biting her lip.

“What’s wrong?” Sirius asked.

“I don’t usually ramble like that,” she said, giggling slightly.

Sirius raised an eyebrow. “Really? Why not?”

“Because people usually find it annoying whenever I do,” she answered. “Dora was the only one who enjoyed when I rambled off like an idiot. She found it highly entertaining and engaging.”

Sirius glanced over at Tonks who was in Remus’s arms, her head nuzzled into his neck. He smiled. “She’s a great girl.”

“Oh yes,” Elle agreed. “And Remus seems to have made her happier than I have ever known her to be.”

“Believe me, she’s made him happy too,” Sirius said, watching the couple. “Remus didn’t have a very great life after he left Hogwarts.”

“Because of his little furry problem?”

“How did you know about that?”

“I joined the Order shortly after Dumbledore died. Everyone in the Order knew about Remus’s condition.”

Sirius studied her intently. “And that doesn’t bother you; that your best friend married a werewolf?”

Elle looked slightly insulted. “Of course it doesn’t! Didn’t I just say how happy he’s made her? I wouldn’t care if he was a pureblood, raving, old codger as long as he made her happy. I’ve got nothing whatsoever against werewolves. In fact, I have several friends that have suffered from werewolf bites. I sometimes get together with them at the Three Broomsticks. I think they’re some of the coolest people in the wizarding world and I feel that they are definitely mistreated among witches and wizards. It isn’t fair for people to treat them like they’re lepers.” She paused and sighed, “There I go, rambling again. Sorry.”

Sirius was positively delighted. “I agree with you one hundred percent. I’m grateful to know there are other people out there who see Remus the way James and I see him: as a person.”

“Anyone who doesn’t must have had their head bludgeoned by a red cap.”

Sirius let out a bark of laughter. Elle laughed too.

They danced to four more numbers, two upbeat and the other two slow. By the time the second slow song started, Elle’s head had copied that of Tonks’s and was nestled against Sirius’s shoulder. James lifted his eyebrows up and down when Sirius caught his eye. Sirius grinned.

As the final slow song came to an end, Elle decided she needed to rest her feet. She seemed reluctant to leave Sirius’s embrace but he could tell her feet were beginning to hurt. He told Remus and James that they were going to sit down and the two agreed that a break was in order. Lily and Tonks looked relieved to hear this. The six of them managed to secure a table farther away from the loud speakers.

They’d been relaxing for a few minutes when Dumbledore came over and greeted them enthusiastically. “It appears as if the dead have managed to capture the living,” he commented with a smile, looking to Elle.

She grinned. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you can see them, Professor Dumbledore.”

“Of course I can,” Dumbledore said cheerfully. “Tell me, am I to expect a prank tonight?”

James smiled evilly. “Any moment now and you’ll see the fruit of our labors, Albus, of that I can assure you.”

Dumbledore looked pleased. “Excellent! I’ve been wondering when the pranking would begin. You’ve all been rather quiet since the beginning of the year.”

“We were letting the students settle in,” Remus explained.

“Ahhh, yes, they’ll be less expectant then for something to happen,” Dumbledore surmised. “An excellent decision, I would have to agree.”

Elle looked slightly surprised that Dumbledore knew that the marauders were planning to prank his students and even more so that he was okay with it.

“Don’t worry,” Sirius assured her, “we don’t do anything life altering. We just stir things up enough to make people laugh.”

“I’m not worried,” said Elle. “If Dumbledore is okay with all of this then I might as well sit back and enjoy the show too.”

Suddenly several people screamed. Elle looked around.

“Looks like our evil plan is working,” James said cheerfully as the screaming turned into rounds of laughter.

“What happened?” Elle asked, standing up to get a better look at the students crowding around the dance floor. She didn’t have to wonder for very long.

Sirius grinned evilly as he watched a student freeze up in mid-step. His skin seemed to harden and then the boy stepped forward leaving a scaly figure of himself behind that looked like a snake’s skin. The snake skin-like figure dissolved as it withered to the floor.

James apparently had been watching the same person. “Looks like we got ourselves a Slytherin,” he laughed.

Sirius nodded before turning his eyes on a group of Gryffindors. He could tell they were from Gryffindor house because their hair had burst forth into ridiculous tangles, forming a lion’s mane, which lasted for five seconds before shedding off their skin, returning their hair to normal. Like the snake skin, the remains of mane dissolved before hitting the floor.

Remus nodded in approval, “Good idea for Gryffindor, Sirius. I like it.”

Sirius grinned. “Thanks. I can’t wait to see how yours and Tonks’s idea for Ravenclaw turned out.”

Sure enough, a couple of Ravenclaw boys sprouted bronze feathers all over their body before shuddering and having the feathers molt off of them, the plumage disappearing in the same fashion as the snake skin and lion hair.

James, Sirius, and Remus roared with laughter, each congratulating the other for their success.

“And now Lily’s Hufflepuff idea!” James said enthusiastically, looking around until he spotted three Hufflepuff students whose skin was rapidly developing long gray hairs all over their bodies. Once they were covered in deep gray fur, the hair on their heads turned black with white stripes. The effect lasted five seconds before all the hair fell loose. The hair disappeared before it could touch the ground. “Excellent!” James shouted, patting his wife on the back. “Good idea, Lils!”

Lily grinned. “Thanks for going with my idea.” She kissed him lightly.

Soon students were bursting forth lion manes, sprouting feathers, shedding skin, and shrugging off mounds of gray hair, all of them laughing heartily. Dumbledore chuckled pleasantly after he’d shed his own mane of lion hair.

“What an excellent prank,” he complimented. “Quite a bit of magic; I suppose of your own invention?”

James nodded. “Naturally. Sirius and I have been saving that one for years. Remus helped come up with the concept though. It was his idea to have the potion be able to identify what house you belong to, no matter what age you are, and then have the effect have something to do with your house. Sirius and I just made the magic happen while Lily provided the necessary potion skills to put everything into liquid form.”

“I see,” said Dumbledore, his eyes twinkling with understanding, “you spiked the pumpkin juice.”

“Sure did!” James laughed.

Dumbledore tapped his chin. “Impressive. When did you do it? I’ve kept my eye on you the whole time and all of you were dancing.”

“When Lily and I danced passed the refreshments, I thought it a good opportunity,” James answered.

“How long does it last?” Elle asked as another group of Slytherins shed their skin.

“Four hours, on the hour, after the first occurrence,” Lily responded.

“Ingenious,” Dumbledore laughed. “Are the six of you not going to participate?”

Sirius grinned. “Are you kidding? I’m on my way to get pumpkin juice right now.” And he stood up to prove it.

James and Remus joined him.

“There’s no way we’re not participating in our own prank,” said James. “That would be ludicrous.”

“We’ll be right back with drinks for you girls too,” Remus promised before the three of them disappeared into the crowd.

As they walked, they heard people commenting on how awesome the prank was and inquiries of who had done the magic. Sirius grinned. “We’re definitely leaving our mark on this generation, aren’t we?”

Remus laughed. “They’ll be talking about this one for years.”

“Cheers,” said James happily.

The three of them reached the refreshment table. While Remus filled up several cups of spiked pumpkin juice, James joined Sirius who was silently watching Elle interact and laugh with Lily and Tonks. Sirius felt strange, like something was tugging deep inside him, a strange longing he’d never felt before. He’d dated girls in the past, more than any of his friends, and most of them he couldn’t even remember. He supposed they were just passing fads; a means to satisfy his desire of having someone admire his good looks and lift his self esteem so he wouldn’t get depressed.

He felt horrible for admitting it but Sirius had never really liked any of the girls he had dated while in school. Life at home in the Black house had always been a living nightmare for him; everyone hated him, spurned him because of his differences, and despised him for his choices of rejecting the pureblood ways. When he’d gotten to Hogwarts, he’d discovered that girls seemed to find him attractive, always giving him compliments, smiling up at him, going out of their way to make sure he noticed how much they liked him. Sirius supposed that was why he’d dated so many different women: he wanted and enjoyed the positive outlook they always had when looking at him. He’d never truly cared when he’d found his current girlfriend’s eyes wandering to some other boy. Instead he took that as a sign to dump her and move on to the next girl in line.

But Elle was different. There was something about her; some draw that pulled Sirius towards her no matter if she was on the opposite side of the room. He was overcome with a desire to spend every waking moment with her, to learn everything about her, and to hold her in his arms. Dancing with her had left him thirsting for more opportunities to touch her; feeling her small hands in his own, having her head rest against his shoulder, being completely aware of her body against his own.

These new emotions scared Sirius. He’d never felt this way before. How was he supposed to deal with this kind of thing? He was an expert at ditching a girl but winning her hand? He’d never done that before. And then there was one other major problem: he was dead and she was alive. How could he be with her when they existed in two different realms?

But he couldn’t deny his feelings. He had it bad. And he’d only just met the woman earlier this morning! How could someone fall in love in just a few short hours? Was it love or was it lust he was experiencing? He didn’t know and it both scared and annoyed him to no end.

He looked at Elle, her beautiful curly hair flipping out of her face as she ran her small hands through it, her almond shaped eyes that sparkled in the candlelight, her gorgeous figure that distracted Sirius every time she moved, her long, sexy legs, and her beautiful personality that radiated with every movement she made and every word she spoke. She was undeniably, positively beautiful.

Sirius was so preoccupied watching how well she got along with Lily and Tonks that he didn’t realize James and Remus were smirking at him.

“So,” James said loudly, slapping his hand on Sirius’s shoulder, “pretty great party, wouldn’t you say, Padfoot?”

Sirius blinked, tearing his eyes away from Elle who was laughing lightly as Tonks changed her nose into different shapes. “Yeah, everything’s really well done,” Sirius muttered, trying to focus on the decorations and failing as his eyes fell back to Elle.

James grinned for a split second but remembered his promise to Harry. They weren’t allowed to tease Sirius. But there wasn’t any harm in asking him what he thought of her.

“So, Sirius, do you like her?” James asked sincerely.

Sirius sighed, turning around so he wasn’t constantly watching her like some overbearing stalker. He noticed Remus and James faces; both knew very well that he liked her. They just wanted to hear him admit it.

“It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?”

Remus nodded. “Almost blindingly so.”

Sirius bit his lip, unsure if he should tell them his thoughts.

James immediately realized he was hiding something. “Hey, what’s up?”

Sirius sighed again. “You’re going to laugh.”

“No we won’t,” Remus promised sincerely. “What’s wrong, Sirius?”

“I’m…scared.”

James and Remus shared looks of surprise.

“Do you want to go for a walk?” James suggested. “The girls look like they’re having fun.”

“But wouldn’t it be rude to leave them? This is a date after all,” Sirius pointed out.

Remus smiled. “They’re having such a good time I don’t think they’d realize we were gone.”

“I’ll tell Lily we needed to get some air,” James said before disappearing into the crowd of kids dancing in the middle of the room. He took three of the filled cups of pumpkin juice with him to give to the girls.

Touched by the concern of his friends and their willingness to leave their wives to listen to his concerns, Sirius turned to Remus and thanked him.

“No problem,” Remus replied, smiling kindly before taking a sip of his drink. “You’ve done the same for us in the past. It’s the least we can do.”

James came back. “They said it was fine. In fact, Tonks even said we could probably be gone for an hour and they wouldn’t notice our absence.”

Sirius picked up the remaining cups and handed one to James before taking a sip from his own. “Then let’s go out onto the grounds.”

The three of them wandered out of the room, away from the noise of the Great Hall, and slipped out of the castle. The moonlight from above bathed the grass in a bluish hue while the chill of October settled a light frost over the grass. The three marauders made their way down the path towards the lake where their favorite beech tree stood. They hadn’t even really decided to go there; their feet seemed to take them there of their own accord.

The cold didn’t bother them as they sat down on the cool grass, enjoying the night’s breeze and the beauty of the Hogwarts landscape. The giant squid had decided to come to the surface to allow its tentacles to stretch and wave through the chill while owls glided through the sky, cutting across the magnificent starry night spread out above them.

“So what’s really going on, Padfoot,” asked James while pulling up a bit of grass.

Sirius didn’t really know where to begin. “I don’t know where to start.”

“How about at the beginning?” suggested Remus.

James snickered.

Sirius scowled. “Alright, fine. The beginning…I guess that’s when we were back in school.”

James and Remus were good listeners. They didn’t interrupt Sirius as he explained the reasoning behind dating so many girls and the way he’d never really harbored any feelings for them. Then he went into detail of the way he felt about Elle, how he was scared because he had never felt this way about a girl before, and if he was experiencing love or lust, and if it was love, how would it ever work out since he was already dead.

James whistled before placing a comforting hand on Sirius’s shoulder. “You’ve been completely smitten my friend.”

“So it is love?” Sirius asked like a child would to a parent.

Remus nodded. “Everything you described was the same way I felt when I was dating Tonks.”

“Looks like you finally found your soul mate, Padfoot!” James said happily.

It was hard for Sirius to be happy about this. There was still one obvious problem. “But I’m dead.”

Remus scratched his head. “But you love her, right?”

“I want to say yes but I don’t even know what love feels like,” Sirius admitted. “I haven’t experienced anything like this before.”

James looked up at the starry night before thumping his fist into his hand. “I got it! Sirius, if Elle was about to be killed by the killing curse and you were the only one to jump in front of the curse to save her, would you?”

Sirius looked at him like he was the biggest idiot on the planet for asking such a stupid question. “Of course I would.”

“Would you hesitate at all?”

“NO!”

“And if she did die and left you alive, how would you feel?” Remus asked, catching on to what James was getting at.

Sirius looked at them both as if they were nuts. “But I’m already dead.”

James hit him over the head. “This is a hypothetical situation, you git. Just answer the question.”

“Alright, geez,” Sirius muttered, rubbing his injury. He thought for a few minutes before answering. “I’d feel like I’d just experienced the Dementor’s Kiss. There would be no happiness, no light, nothing to look forward to.”

James and Remus smiled warmly. Remus put an arm around Sirius and shook him gently. “That, Sirius, is love.”

Sirius looked up at them. “Really?”

James laughed heartily. “Yep! Congratulations, Padfoot! You finally found her!”

As James said these words, Sirius felt a calming peace enter his soul almost as if someone were confirming to him that he had indeed found the missing piece to his life puzzle. It was Elle. Overcome with emotion that he’d been harboring deep within his heart his whole life, Sirius felt tears come to his eyes.

“So there really was someone out there,” he muttered, “meant for me.”

Remus patted his back. “Of course there was, Sirius. Did you think you wouldn’t be included in the eternal plan of Paradise? Everyone will have an eternal companion in Paradise even if they have to search for a while before being able to find them. And now you have.”

James grinned. “We’re happy for you, mate! You deserve it!”

“This is really great and I do feel really happy to know I’ve finally found the one,” Sirius said sincerely, “but there still remains the problem that Elle’s alive and I’m dead. What am I supposed to do, wait for her until she dies? The only reason we’ve even been able to meet is because Harry has the Gate Frame and she just happened to be his teacher.”

“Everything happens for a reason, Padfoot,” said James consolingly. “Harry got the Gate Frame, allowing him to see us, because he saved thousands of people from death, he went back to school to finish his education so he could become an auror, and Elle became the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher so she could meet you. Everything happens for a reason; you of all people should understand this now that you’ve lived a mortal life.”

Sirius sighed, staring at the lake’s silvery surface. “I guess you’re right James. But I need to know if I’ll have to wait until she’s dead or if I can continue seeing her while she’s still alive.”

“I’d ask the H.U.s about it when we go home,” Remus suggested. “It’s no use wondering over things we don’t yet understand. We’ll get an answer in time but we need to be patient.”

James nodded. “Come on, let’s go back up to the castle and enjoy the rest of the evening with the girls we love. That is, if you’re up for going back, Sirius. We can stay out here for the rest of the night and have Lily tell Elle that you didn’t want to say goodnight.”

Sirius punched him lightly in the arm. “Are you kidding? There’s no way I’m not going to spend the rest of my night without my little black cat.”

“Yes, because dogs and cats get along so well,” Remus teased quietly as the three of them stood up.

James elbowed him in the ribs. “Remember our promise to Harry, Remus?” he whispered as Sirius stretched. “No teasing!”

Luckily for Remus, Sirius didn’t appear to have heard his comment or James’s quiet warning.

“Thanks for listening to me, guys,” said Sirius gratefully as they cut their way up the path back to the school. “It really means a lot.”

“Anytime Padfoot, old friend,” said Remus sincerely.

“Let’s go back and party!” James said, jumping between his two best friends and putting an arm around each of their shoulders.

The second they entered the Great Hall they could tell that the crowd had thinned; it appeared as though the younger students had gone to bed. Sixth and Seventh year students were still hopping up and down to a loud jamming song, enjoying the music, and shouting the words right back at the musicians. Sirius immediately noticed that Elle, Tonks, and Lily were part of the crowd, acting the same way as the teenagers.

This didn’t bother Sirius in the slightest. In fact, he felt like he was a teenager himself again; he assumed that it was the euphoria of being back at Hogwarts. Catching the excited gleams in James and Remus’s expressions, Sirius could tell they too had been infected by the spell. The three friends grinned widely before joining in with the riotous teens, dancing with their girls, and enjoying the remainder of an unforgettable evening.

The dance lasted another hour (til midnight) before Professor McGonagall put her foot down and ordered that it was time for everyone to go to bed. The students complained but did as they were told. The Weird Sisters looked grateful that the concert was over but that was probably only because they’d been singing for almost three hours with only a few short breaks throughout the night.

Sirius, James, Lily, Remus, and Tonks decided that they would stay to help the teachers clean up the Great Hall. They tried to have their magic go unnoticed so the teachers beside Elle wouldn’t think that objects were floating around or disappearing by themselves without a castor behind the magic. It took about half an hour to transform the Great Hall back to the way it normally was. The teachers looked extremely tired as they trudged out of the hall to go to bed.

Elle began to head over to where Sirius and the others stood waiting for her when she was joined by Professor McGonagall.

“Elle, I didn’t even see you here,” she said, slightly surprised. “Have you been here this whole time?”

Elle nodded. “I guess we’ve just missed each other all night, Minerva. I like your costume.”

“I like yours,” she said. “Mind you, I could never wear it.”

The two of them shared a laugh before Elle said she’d left something behind so as to excuse herself. Professor McGonagall said she would wait for her but Elle told her to go on ahead. Bidding goodnight to the Transfiguration Professor, Elle walked back over to where the Marauders and their wives stood silently waiting.

“It was a pleasure to meet you, Elle,” said Lily, hugging her tightly. “We’ll have to have some other time where we can talk some more.”

Elle agreed. “That would be great!”

“When you want to hang out just find Harry and ask him to call us,” said Tonks, giving her a hug. “I’m very glad I got to see you again and in much happier times.”

Elle nodded. “I’m glad too. I had a great time.” She turned to Remus and gave him a hug. “Thank you for making her so happy,” she whispered in his ear. “It means a lot to me.”

Remus looked a little surprised but he hugged her back. “It means a lot to hear you say that,” he said.

Elle turned to James who grinned and extended a hand. Elle ignored the handshake, instead enveloping James in a hug. “It was nice to meet you,” she said.

James, somewhat shocked, returned the embrace. “You too, Elle. I hope I get to see you again sometime soon.”

Sirius extended an arm, saying, “Shall we?”

Elle smiled, taking it. “Good night everyone!” she said cheerfully before both she and Sirius exited the Great Hall.

They walked in silence, enjoying each other’s company. Sirius was very aware of how close she was to him; he could practically feel her body heat seeping through his clothes. It was incredible that he could feel her this way; the H.U.s had said the only person he and the others would be able to physically feel was Harry. They could touch the Weasleys, Hermione, and Professor Dumbledore when giving handshakes or hugs but they could never feel the others physically touching them. And yet Sirius could physically feel Elle just like he could feel Harry. It was a precious gift and he was going to treat is as such.

“I wonder why Minerva said that she couldn’t see me earlier,” said Elle, breaking Sirius’s silent thoughts. “I was standing right next to her a couple of times.”

Sirius scratched his head. “I’m not really sure why she didn’t either. Maybe it was because you were with us. People can’t see us except the Weasley family, Hermione, Dumbledore, Harry, and now, you.”

“I guess it would have been weird to see me dancing by myself,” Elle laughed. “Maybe I was concealed while standing with you guys.”

Sirius chuckled from the mental image of the look of concern on students faces as Elle danced gracefully without a dance partner. “Yeah, that would have been weird. My only suggestion is either Dumbledore did something or it was the Higher Ups.”

“I’ve heard you use that term a lot. Who are the Higher Ups?”

“I’d tell you who they are except we’re not allowed to say anything pertaining to the next life,” Sirius explained.

“Oh, gottcha,” said Elle, completely fine with him keeping a secret from her concerning this particular subject. She understood that the afterlife was something that one was supposed to experience only after death.

Happy and grateful that she seemed completely nonchalant about the subject, Sirius smiled before changing the conversation. “Did you have a good time?”

“Are kidding?” Elle asked luridly. “I had the time of my life! I haven’t been this happy since…” She paused, her eyes suddenly growing very sad. “Since my mum died,” she finished.

Sirius looked at her, concerned. “When did it happen?”

“This summer,” Elle muttered, trying not to get emotional. “She was the only family I had left besides Tonks – and she ended up dying during the Final Battle. I thought I’d have my mum to fall back on but then she got into a car accident and didn’t survive from her injuries.” Elle’s eyes blurred. “I’m sorry,” she sniffed. “This probably isn’t something I should be loading on you on the first date. I guess I just feel so comfortable around you; I haven’t been able to talk about her passing with anyone yet.”

They’d stopped in front of her classroom. Several torches illuminated the hallway, the fiery images reflecting in Elle’s cat-like yellow eyes. Sirius wanted to grab and hold her tightly but experience stopped him. Taking it slow was the best thing to do on the first few dates. Even so it took everything he had not to pull her into a tight embrace and snog her. Curbing this desire, he pulled her into a brief hug.

“There’s nothing to be ashamed about crying over lost loved ones,” he soothed, pulling away. “I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried the whole night after James and Lily died. It was the worst night of my life.”

Elle wiped her eyes away. “It must have been great to see both of them again.”

Sirius nodded. “Reuniting with them was one of the greatest experiences I have ever been fortunate to have. One day Elle, I can promise that you’ll see your parents again and both of them will be very proud of you.”

Elle laughed, trying to stop another flow of tears. “How do you know, Sirius? We don’t even really know each other.”

“So why don’t we set up a second date so I can get to know everything about you?” Sirius asked smoothly. Perfect delivery, he thought to himself. Now all he had to do was wait and see if she would accept the package.

Elle’s eyes danced mischievously. “I’ll have to check my schedule,” she said, tapping her chin. “Hmmm, schedule says I’m free next Saturday. It’s the first Hogsmeade weekend.”

Sirius took the opening with great enthusiasm. “Would you like to join me in Hogsmeade, Saturday next?”

Elle grinned. “It’s a date. Don’t be late.”

Sirius managed to contain punching the air in triumph. “I’ll be here to pick you up at eleven,” he promised.

The two searched each other’s eyes for a few moments. Sirius didn’t want the date to end but he knew that it was time to say goodnight. It wasn’t good to linger; women didn’t like someone who dragged a date on for hours when it was obviously time to say goodbye.

Sirius took Elle’s hand and lifted it to his lips, kissing it gently. He pulled away, letting go. He was pleased to see that her cheeks had completely flushed. He smiled.

“Good night, Elle.” 

Elle flashed him a knockout smile before saying, “Good night, Sirius. I’ll see you Saturday.”

Sirius nodded. “I’ll be looking forward to it.”

“Bye.”

Elle slipped inside her classroom, giving him one last chance to look into her beautiful face. Her thin lips were pulled into a wonderful smile, displaying her pearly whites, right up until the door closed. Sirius felt as if he were walking on air as he made his way down to Harry’s private chamber down on the ground floor.

She wanted to see him again. Making sure there was no one around, Sirius leapt in the air and shouted, “YES!” before speeding down the marble staircase into the entrance hall. Slipping behind the tapestry, he moved down the hallway until he stumbled upon Remus and Tonks who were sitting outside of the secret room.

“What’s up?” Sirius asked as he came closer.

Remus looked up and sighed. “Harry wanted some private time with his parents since today was their death day.”

Sirius stopped in his tracks, his smile fading. “I completely forgot about that.”

“No surprise,” said Remus. “We all forgot, seeing as things like death days are only something the living think about.”

“Harry wasn’t angry at spending the evening alone, was he?”

“Not in the slightest. Actually he was completely exhausted,” said Tonks.

“He must have been doing what he’s been doing for the past week. I really want to know what he’s up to,” said Sirius, sitting down. “I’m worried about him.”

“We all are,” said Remus. “I think James and Lily are going to talk to him about it tonight.”

“So, while we’re sitting out here, how did it go?” Tonks asked.

Sirius grinned. “Let me tell you all about it.”

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