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    The warm autumn wind blew through Hogsmeade, danced around the students who loitered in a line outside of Madam Puddifoots. The Marauders side by side decided that the line wasn't worth it and headed to the Custard Creamery for a healthy dose of ice cream, Prongs' treat this round due to a prank gone awry and the Head Boy feeling guilty. Now, with ice cream cones, or a sundae like Peter had, in hand they meandered in and out of shops. They had been walking in silence until Sirius lapping at a chocolate ice cream cone, broke it. “I just don’t understand it.”


    “I do, for the most part,” said Remus with a shrug when Sirius glowered. “Try me on it, Padfoot.”


    “I can’t,” muttered Sirius, casting his gray eyes to the sky in exasperation. “Then you deal with her.” 


    “You’re the one who decided you want to try to get her to date you--it’s your turn.”


    “Maybe I regret it.”


    “Careful,” Remus warned. “There’s more than just Lily trusting you with our friend.” 


    “Why is it everyone assumes I’m a ladies man and a cheater?” Sirius whined. 


    Remus looked straight ahead of him, speaking plainly. “Some teenagers with nothing better to do I’m sure.” 


    “We’re teenagers,” muttered James. 


    “Teenagers that have to look ahead to what will come, Prongs,” said Sirius with a bitter taste in his mouth. When did he become an adult? “If the Order Ripley is talking about becomes more solidified, they’ll need people.” 


    “I have a feeling it isn’t like asking to join a club, Padfoot,” remarked Remus with a wry smile. “They come to you.”


    “Ah…” Sirius seemed to ponder that. “Well, fuck then.” 


    “Does Ripley know more of it?” asked James as the idea swirled around in his mind.


    “I’m not sure, only that her mother and father recently joined.” Sirius kicked at a loose rock, sent it tumbling away. “This war...it’ll change everything won’t it?”


    James slung an arm around Sirius and Remus’ shoulders. “Here now, this is what we have, lads.” He gestured toward Hogsmeade. “Let’s live this year like it’s our last.”


    Sirius grunted. “We graduate this year, you dolt, it is our last.” He perked up as he saw a flash of Ripley and Lily dashing into the hair shop. “Now what are they up to?”


    James wrinkled his nose. “Probably getting some potions. Girls are weird.”


    “You’re weird,” Remus shot back. As a group they turned into the Three Broomsticks and weaved their way to their usual corner booth. The first round of Butterbeer, bought by Sirius for losing a bet, was laid in front of them while Sirius contemplated ordering a light snack of fish and chips. 


    “Sirius Black.” At the sound of his full name the Gryffindor lifted his head, already cocked to the side with a somewhat dangerous smile on his lips.


    His gray eyes roved over the trio of Ravenclaw girls.  “Ladies?”


    “Mind if we join you?” Florence--Merlin, he couldn’t remember her last name--but a pretty little Ravenclaw asked sweetly. James grinned wickedly, leaned back against the leather booth, and chose to let his best mate navigate the waters--especially since Ripley and Lily had entered the pub and were picking their way carefully through the crowd.


    “Not today ladies,” Sirius said with a feigned smile.  "We're waiting on the rest of our party."


    “Tomorrow then?” Florence offered with a little pout. “By the greenhouses?”


    Sirius looked beyond her to scan the crowded pub for an out--a waitress, a fight--anything. “Tempting, but--


    “But what?” 


    “I’m occupied.”


    Florence pouted her pink lips, placed her hand over his on the table, stroked those same fingers softly. “When will you have time for me?”


    “Yes Sirius,” Ripley’s voice came out casually  where she stood hip-shot behind Florence, her arms crossed over her black sweater, her chocolate brown eyes sparkling with fury. “When might you have time for the slag?” 


    “That would be on the twelfth of never, love,” grinned Sirius as he took in the sassy cut that Ripley had acquired at the hair shop. 


    “And a fine answer that is, too.” Ripley slid past the Ravenclaws and into the booth beside Sirius, who tugged affectionately at a curl that ended at the top of her shoulders.  


    “Jason slept with me, just thought you’d want to add another name to the list.” Florence snarled, she managed a step back as Ripley began to rise, with the urging of her friends Florence faded back into the crowd. 

      “Sticks and stones Toddy,” Sirius told her softly as she remained on her feet. “Sticks and stones.”  The Gryffindor tugged his friend's arm gently, and she thumped onto the padded bench with a small grunt. “She knows what will get a rise out of you.”


    “It isn’t hard these days to do that,” commented Lily with a wry smile. Ripley offered a slight smile in return, and lifted a shoulder in a shrug. “But with a cute haircut.”


    “I like it,” Sirius twirled his fingers around one the curls that brushed the top of Ripley’s collarbone. “So, Lily we’ll be drinking tonight in the Common Room.”


    Lily pursed her lips in disapproval. “Will we?”


    “Please?” asked Ripley after a moment of consideration, and wondered if her tolerance would be any better than the summer in Ireland. “We need to let loose. It’s our seventh year.”


    “I’m not on duty,” James lent his input. “And neither are you, love. The Hufflepuffs are it for the weekend.” 


    “You don’t have to drink,” interjected Ripley. “You can supervise.”


    “Bollocks to that, I’ll have a drink or two,” Lily tossed her long hair over her shoulder and sent a smug smile toward James. “Not a stick in the mud.”


    “Maybe not Evans,” the Quidditch player grinned, kissed her temple. “Maybe not.” 



    It wasn’t uncommon for Seventh years to let loose in the Common Room in an organized and orderly fashion. If they weren’t the Marauders. The Prefects and with the pull of James and Lily it wasn’t hard to have the younger years disperse, or at the very least give up the couch and armchairs by the fireplace. Ripley contributed a bottle of white wine, smuggled in from Hogsmeade as she was of the legal age. Sirius and his never ending Fire Whisky supply was present as well. Peter procured snacks, Remus a supply of chocolate of all sorts. The girls had gone upstairs to shower off the day and change into other clothes. The Marauders had done the same, but as with most of the female species beat the women down stairs. 


    James lounged on the couch, the latest copy of Quidditch Weekly in his hands, Sirius lay in front of the fire on his back, lazily levitating a whiskey glass, sending it to do spirals. Peter watched a group of Fifth year girls through beady eyes as they strode past giggling. The last member of their friends sat in his armchair beside the fire, a book open on his lap, nibbling at his chocolate.  


    “Bloody Hell,” Sirius’ oath broke the silence, and he flopped onto his side. “What’s taking so long?”


    “I guarantee it isn’t Ripley,” said James with a sad smile. “Just my lady love taking her sweet time.”


    “Merlin's Beard, we’re only drinking, we’re not going to a party.” Sirius grumbled and cast his eyes toward the ceiling. He perked up at the sound of giggling and managed to swear loudly as Ripley pounced on him from across one of the maroon poufs.


    Lily slid onto the couch beside James, puckered her lips for a kiss. “Been into the sauce already, haven’t you?” James asked after a peck. 


    “Mhmm.” Lily stretched lazily out beside him her pink flannel pajamas pants riding low on thin hips. “Ripley’s idea.”


    “I do have them occasionally,” the Irishwoman defended herself even as she and Sirius tousled in a skirmish. 


    “What’s this I hear about you signing up for the Animagus course?” Remus interjected the conversation with his new bit of information

    Ripley stopped rough housing and swore as Sirius pinned her down. “Eh?”


    “Professor McGonagall said you were taking up the course.”


    “Since when do you talk to the ole bat?” Peter asked with a giggle as Lily poured a glass of wine for herself and Ripley. 


    “Not taking up, passed.” Ripley rolled up into a cross legged position and took the wine. “This summer when Ireland had that wicked lightning storm, that was my last step.”


    “So, you’re registered then?” Sirius cast a sly glance at James and Remus.


    “Aye,” she took a swallow of wine. “But, that was before my new markings.” 


    “Don’t you have to keep them updated?” Remus asked with a smile. Ripley grinned at him. “That’s what I thought, you little scamp.”


    “I am.” She admitted with a heavy sigh. 


    “What is said marking?” This came from Sirius and Lily let out a loud guffaw of a laugh that had James looking at Sirius with concern. 


    “I know what it is.” Evans sang out with a wicked smirk. 


    “You shut your mouth,” Ripley threatened with a pointed finger. “Drink your wine, you lush.” 


    “Drink yours first.”


    “Hold on a tick,” Sirius placed his hand over Ripley’s as she went to raise her glass. “You’re an animagus and you didn’t tell anyone?”


    She scowled at him. “I don’t go flashing every bloody thing I do to the entire world, Black.”


    “It’s a hell of an accomplishment.”


    “I’m aware.” She narrowed her gaze. “We all have our little secrets Sirius.”


    “That we do,” he murmured and let go of her arm so she could race Lily.  Remus slid from his chair down to beside Sirius, rested his back against the hearth. “What do we think, Moony?”


    “We think that she’s a capable witch, and a strong one to boot.” 


    “I wonder what her form is.” Sirius watched Ripley line up shots of whisky, and winced a little as Lily bounced from couch to soft carpeted floor. “This may have been a poor idea.”


    “How many more chances will we get though?” asked Remus quietly. “Times running out.”


    “That it is,” muttered Sirius as Ripley tossed back a shot. “That it is.” 


    “D’you think…” slurred Ripley an hour later, her head pillowed in Lily’s lap as the two attempted a thumb war game. “D’you think anyone ever sees anyone ever?”


    “What?” Lily giggled. “What the bloody hell does that mean?”


    “Y’know--after NEWTS and all.”


    “I think,” Sirius pointed a finger at one of the two Lily’s sitting before him. “I think she means after ‘gaduation’.”


    “Graduation.” Remus corrected and took a handful of crisps from the bag James handed over. “There’s definitely an ‘R’.” 


    “Feck off.”


    “Oooh, you speak my language,” Ripley wiggled her eyebrows at the black haired boy. He grinned at her. “But I’m serious.”


    “You are not.” 


    “I am!”


    “You’re not. I’m bloody Sirius. Sirius Orion Black, of the noble house--”


    “Shut up.” James hurled a pillow at his best friend and watched it be deflected onto Remus.  “Ripley, darling, I’ve a question for you?”


    Ripley dug her hand into the bag of crisps that were making the rounds, and shoved a handful into her mouth. “Shoot.”


    “Fuck, marry, kill.”


    “Ooooh I love this game,” Lily sandwiched herself between James and Peter, facing Ripley. “Go on.” 


    “Sirius, Remus, Snape.”


    “Oy!” Sirius threw a pillow at James now. “Not people in the room!”


    “The gauntlet has been thrown,” interrupted Lily, her hands held up for peace. 


    Ripley pondered her choices, weighed her options. “Marry Remus--”


    “Bollocks to that!” roared Sirius with a barking laugh. Remus merely sent him a baleful smile.


    “Fuck Sirius. Kill Snape. No offense Lily.”


    Lily lifted her shoulders. “None taken. My turn. Sirius.”


    “Oh Merlin…”


    “Fuck one, marry one, kill one,” Lily tapped her nose in thought. “Ripley, Florence, or Sephie.”


    Ripley arched a brow at Sirius’ red face. “Embarrassed now Black?”


    “Kill Florence….fuck Sephie….marry Todd.”


    “There’s a wedding I’d like to see!” James hooted with laughter even as Sirius’ gray eyes latched and held Ripley’s brown. “Imagine! Padfoot and Toddy married!” 


    “Yes...imagine,” Lily murmured looking from one to the other.  “I think we need a different game, James.”


    “Truth or dare.”


    “Are we feckin’ ten years old again?” asked Ripley as she poured herself a glass of whisky, though the room spun, and her words were slurred, she wanted the memory of Sirius’ hot gaze out of her mind. 


    “I mean we could spin the bottle,” suggested Lily. 


    Ripley gaped at her. “There’s only two females…”


    “All the more fun,” grinned the redhead innocently. 


    “I bow out at the thought of kissing Wormtail,” groused Sirius with a shiver. “No offense Peter.”


    “None taken.” 


    “Let’s do it,” decided Ripley suddenly, she bounced to her feet and then quickly staggered, caught herself on the arm of the couch, crossed her legs as if nothing happened. “After I go pee.”


    I’ll accompany you.” Lily rose with the help of Sirius and James' heads as she boosted herself up. She linked arms with Ripley and the two stumbled giggling toward the stairs. Sirius waited until they were out of earshot and threw himself down on the carpet. 


    “What have we done?” He lamented. 


    “Paved the way for you to snog Ripley and see if that’s what you want.”


    “Not to be the--wet blanket,” Remus began slowly. “But the ratio of male to female is not in our favor.”


    “I may go to bed anyways,” said Peter, flushing hard. “I don’t know if I have anymore in me.” 


    “Well, we can’t just do it with five.” 


    “I could bow out gracefully,” volunteered Remus quickly. “It’s near to midnight already.”


    “Lightweight,” groused Sirius with an arm over his face. 


    James spoke finally. “Well, I know I don’t want to kiss Ripley, and I hope to the Gods you don’t want to kiss Evans.” He kicked his foot out at Sirius who had grinned wickedly at him.


    “Especially not now,” Ripley stumbled back into the room, balanced herself with arms thrown out to the side--she took a moment to gather herself amid the snickers. She held her hands in front of herself, then dragged them through her loose curls. “Miss Evans,” she announced snootily, “Is vomiting, quite profusely in the ladies lavatory.” 


    “Ew,” was Peter’s only comment before staggering toward the boys stairwell. “Just ew.”


    “And on that note,” Remus brushed his hands against his legs, dusting off salt and oil from crisps. “I think we’ll call it a successful evening.” 


    “Agreed,” moaned James as he forced himself to get to his feet. “Ugh, I’ll hate myself in the morning. Take care of Evans for me, Todders.”


    “Too easy,” replied Ripley with a cocky smirk. “I gots this.” She watched the trio disperse, and focused on the two Sirius’ in front of her. “Now which one of you is the real one?”


    Sirius snorted out a laugh as he moved closer. “Better?”


    She held up her thumb and forefinger, held them an inch a part. “A wee bit.” 


    “How drunk are you, Rip?”


    “There’s two of you, and I feel like I’m in a rowboat on the lake.”


    “Pretty drunk then,” he muttered, and cupped the back of her head, drew her in. “Don’t punch me.” His lips brushed her, testing. She had stiffened, but wasn’t fighting. “Was that so bad?”


    “Tolerable at best,” the Irishwoman quipped. “My turn.” He barely had time to register her words before her mouth was on his, burning hot as a fever, her fingers dove into his black hair, her tongue flicked out, testing, teasing. Sirius moaned into the kiss, opened his mouth to her seeking tongue. Gods, he thought stunned, had this been in front of him the whole time, this fire?  When she pulled back, her lips dangerously close to his, her breath short, her dark brown eyes nearly black in the firelight. “Now we’re done.” She straightened her oversized tee shirt, turned on her heel and marched, a little unsteadily, upstairs. Sirius, mouth gaping, could only stare at the red and black checked pajama pants that disappeared around the bend. “Bloody hell.” He sat on the arm of a chair. “Bloody buggering hell.”

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