The warm rays of sunlight broke through the curtains forcing Sirius to wake. He still lay on his stomach, the last position he could remember from the night before. The late May temperature was already rising and he could feel the heat wafting across his bare back. He stretched lazily and could feel beads of sweat trickle across his body as he moved. He rolled onto his back and, unsurprisingly, saw James watching him sleep. “Morning.” Sirius propped himself up against the headboard, pulling the light weight sheet to cover himself. “Started your last Hogsmeade weekend a little early, didn’t you?” James asked from a nearby chair. “Is there a reason you’re just sitting there watching me sleep?” “I didn’t know how drunk you were and wasn’t going to take the chance on waking up an angry drunk.” “How’d you find me?” Sirius rubbed his face to try and wake-up, the new stubbly growth irritating him. “You run to Madame Alexandra’s whenever you need to cool off. That’s not much of a secret, Sirius.” “Her girls can take your mind off anything for a night.” “Indeed.” “Where is everyone?” Sirius grabbed his pants as James tossed them to him. Sliding to the side of the bed, he pulled them on. “Waiting outside.” James smiled. “Remus figured you’d want to add to your reputation by coming out of Alexandra’s in the middle of the afternoon.” “James...” Sirius turned on him. “I’m just kidding. It’s just Lily, Alier, and Calist. They already know you come here.” Sirius nodded, unwilling to say more. How could James understand things weren’t the same as before? He’d turned Lily away, dropped her at her door without so much as a kiss and then gone to have sex with a stranger in Hogsmeade. Sirius ran a hand through his hair. No, this wasn’t starting out to be such a great weekend. “You warned her,” James said quietly. “What?” “She knows who you are, Sirius. You’ve never pretended to be someone else.” “She talked to you, then?” “No.” James shook his head. “I could tell.” A soft smile lit up his face. “It’s a rare occasion when Lily dresses up, wears make-up and fixes her hair in something other than a ponytail. I knew something was up and since the two of you were both missing last night…” “Wait.” Sirius finished pulling on his shoes and stood to face James. “You like Lily?” “No, no.” “You don’t keep such close tabs on me, James. If you…” “No.” James said flatly. “Even for all the crap I give her, she doesn’t deserve to be hurt. That’s all I’m saying.” “I wouldn’t...” “No.” James shook his head. “Not you. Someone else. I know you wouldn’t.” Sirius watched James carefully for some hint that he was lying. The last thing he was willing to do was ruin his friendship with James over a girl. “You know, all you have to do is say the word.” “I have my hands full with Calist, but thanks. Lily Evans is just way to aggravating for me.” “Someone’s hassling her, then?” Sirius asked as nonchalantly as possible as he pulled on his shirt. “Just my own observations, Sirius. She hasn’t said a word. Most likely to keep you from dueling the guy.” Sirius chose to ignore him. “Did Remus turn me in for not coming back last night?” “No, he covered for you. Said you had a meeting with Lucius and your dad.” James answered as Sirius tossed money onto the bed and led them out. “What was Lucius doing at Hogwarts, anyway?” “Long story.” “We’ve got time.” James grabbed Sirius’ shoulder in concern. “What’s going on, Sirius?” “Later.” Sirius nodded toward the group that was waiting. “Family business they certainly don’t need to hear.” Remus stepped up to Sirius before he could speak. “Sirius, I didn’t...” Sirius brushed him off. “It’s over and done. Thanks for covering for me. Ladies, good afternoon.” Sirius kissed each one in turn, refusing to let himself linger on Lily. “Shall we go find some trouble to get in to?” “Haven’t you had enough trouble this week?” Remus countered. “Come on, Sirius. Fighting with Lucius Malfoy on school grounds?” “He shouldn’t have been at Hogwarts anyway.” James silenced Remus with a look. “What’s going on?” Lily’s keen eyes had picked up on the silent exchange between the marauders. “Nothing to worry your pretty little head about.” “Don’t be condescending to me, James Potter!” Lily’s words were cut off as James began to argue back. Sirius and Remus watched the two in amusement. As the argument escalated, Sirius leaned lazily against the building as he waiting for James and Lily to tire themselves out. Sirius was so intent on their fight, he jumped when Remus nudged him. “Trouble found us,” Remus murmured. Sirius turned his head to see Lucius, Peter and Snape headed their way. “Now’s not the time. We can’t do this here. Not now.” The urgency is Sirius’ hushed voice took Remus off guard, but he refused to question Sirius’ words. “Well, Peter, we’ve been wondering where you were,” Remus said loudly and Lily and James immediately fell silent. “These two aren’t harassing you, are they?” Peter shook his head. “Got me out of a stupid mistake, actually.” “Really? How considerate.” Sirius’ words dripped with sarcasm. He draped an arm around Peter’s shoulders. “Well, thank you, but his friends can take it from here, I’m sure.” “Out of the safety of school, Sirius? What a brave boy, you are. And the irony of our meeting.” Lucius’ anger made the other marauders circle around Sirius. “Snivellus,” James hissed. “Couldn’t find someone your own age to befriend you?” James moved to step forward but a warning look from Remus held him back. He glanced to Sirius who had the same look of caution on his face. Whatever their reason, James knew better than to question their admonition and he returned to his place. “Severus...” Lily stepped toward him but Sirius reached out his arm to block her path. She stopped immediately. “What company you keep nowadays.” Lucius eyes roamed the group. “Mudbloods and muggle lovers.” “They have their uses,” Sirius said and could feel Lily bristle beside him. His eyes flashed. He could make up with Lily anytime. Right now, he had to concentrate on getting rid of these two. “Yes, I suppose even your father would have to agree with that.” Lucius nodded to the group. “Good day, Sirius.” As soon as Lucius and Snape had retreated, Lily’s tirade began. James, his emotions still charged from the encounter with Snape and Lucius, began firing back at her. Sirius closed his eyes as he tried to tune out her biting words. Did she know so little of him that she would think he was using her? James was defending him to her and Sirius had insulted him just as much. Unable to take anymore, he whirled on them. “Do you think, for one blasted day, you two could...” “Of course.” James cut Sirius’ off. “Lily, you don’t mind if we continue our little fight at a later time, do you?” James didn’t give her a chance to answer. “I thought not. Now, if we just go our separate ways…” “What?” Calist whirled on him and Sirius could feel Lily’s eyes burning in to him. Didn’t she understand? He’d love nothing more to spend the day with her, but Lucius’ presence now made that impossible. Sirius stepped forward to talk to her, but Remus stopped him. “Let me,” he murmured and pulled Lily aside. Sirius watched the conversation intently, expecting Lily’s temper to burst into a rage at any moment. Instead, she sent him a sympathetic look that made Sirius’ stomach churn. “Let’s go, ladies. We’ll meet you tonight okay?” Lily took the girls by the arm and pulled them away. “You do have a way to scare off the women.” Sirius grinned appreciatively to Remus. “Sirius.” The marauders circled around him. “What’s going on?” “Shrieking shack?” “I’m not going there again. That place gives me the creeps.” Peter said quietly. “Peter...” “You go ahead.” “This is important.” Remus argued. “It’s okay.” Sirius cut in. “Peter, watch over the girls, will you? Keep Lucius away from them. He seems to have taken a liking to you.” “Of course. I won’t let you down, Sirius.” Peter nodded and went to catch up with them. “Let’s go.” The trio walked in silence as they left the bustling town. Every few paces, Sirius would check to make sure they weren’t being followed. Each time he did, Remus and James would tense beside him. “You’ve made us bumbling, nervous gits, Sirius,” James said lightly as they reached the house. “This had better be good.” Once they got inside and settled down, Remus turned to Sirius. “Why is Lucius at Hogwarts?” “Recruiting.” “Recruiting what?” James asked. “An army for Voldemort,” Remus answered quietly. “That’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?” “But from Hogwarts?” “Slytherin is prime ground.” Remus nodded thoughtfully. “He has plans larger than any of us imagined.” “We have to tell Dumbledore.” “Dumbeldore wouldn’t exactly take my word for it, how would he, James?” Sirius muttered. “What about your dad?” James’ voice was soft. “My family has aligned itself with Voldemort.” With Sirius’ announcement, a deathly silence fell over the group. Sirius refused to look at the two. The Blacks would have no use for muggle lovers like the Potters or for werewolves like Remus. Under Voldemort, Sirius’ family would help try and eradicate them both. After several minutes, Remus finally broke the stillness. “You will be expected to join him?” Sirius could feel Remus watching him and he raised his eyes to meet Remus’. “Yes.” “So pretend to!” James was yelling. “This is crazy.” He began pacing the floor. “You can’t pretend.” Sirius said quietly. “Of course you can!” “Be reasonable, James.” Remus low voice broke in. “Voldemort will mark his loyal followers. Those who don’t take the mark…” “So take the stupid thing! Let him brand you, for goodness’ sake! It’s just a mark.” James was furious. “It doesn’t make a difference to me. I’ll know the truth. Who cares what anyone else thinks?” “I care,” Sirius whispered. “I won’t deny what I believe just to…” “Keep yourself safe? Stay alive?” James argued. “That’s just stupid. How thick can you be? Remus tell him.” When Remus didn’t answer, James whirled to face him. “Remus?” “I’m not the best person to be asking for impartial advice about this,” he answered finally. “I’ve been hiding who I am for most of my life.” “And you’re safe!” “Yes, but I’m a coward. Sirius’ is not.” “You are not a coward.” “I hide to avoid the persecution and stigma that werewolves receive. I choose to be accepted rather than ostracized. I dare say Sirius’ cares little about being accepted.” “But...” "James, you’re being irrational.” Remus said quietly. “Do you think the mark will be merely that? Have you not considered the magic Voldemort would use with it? He could make it flare when someone was disloyal or use it to summon his followers at any moment. The possibilities and the subsequent dangers to Sirius are many.” James was silent as he digested what Remus was telling him. When the reality of Remus’ words finally sank in, James voice held a tone of incredulity. “If that’s true, then Sirius is right.” James’ eyes flickered with doubt, hoping someone would tell him he was wrong. “He has to choose.” “Remus, can we have just a moment?” Sirius finally broke into their argument, his voice heavy. “Of course. Shall I bring the girls back here? Or shall I see if Dahlia’s back room is available?” “Dahlia’s,” James answered his voice still edgy. “I’ll need dinner and a strong drink after this.” “Done.” Remus nodded and squeezed Sirius’ shoulder as he passed. “I don’t envy you, my friend,” he murmured then left the two alone. “James, please. Your pacing is rattling my nerves. Will you please just take a seat?” James pulled a seat close to Sirius, his agitation beginning to wane now that the two were alone. “You can’t be serious about this.” “Hiding isn’t going to solve anything, either. It’s not as if my family doesn’t know my feelings on the matter, James.” “They’re convinced you will come to believe as they do. Your dad has always said that.” “My dad is wrong. But you,” Sirius said quietly. “You’re wrong too. You’re asking me to be someone I’m not.” “So that you live through this, Sirius.” “Dumbledore always says, there are fates worse than death.” “What, you chose now to listen to him?” James asked tiredly. “You are my closest friend, Sirius. If Remus is right and this war comes, it will come between us as well. There’s no stopping that.” “I will always be on your side, James. Don’t question that.” “I don’t. For you, though, choosing my side means choosing death.” James eyes flashed. “That’s not a choice you should have the right to make.” “I am the only one with the right to make it.” Sirius returned. “And you’d do well to remember that.” “I won’t let you pick a fight in order to change the subject.” “Then we have reached a standstill.” Sirius’ words hung in the air and he could see James searching for some additional reason to change Sirius’ mind. “My decision is made, James. Please respect it.” “Lily? Does Lily know?” Sirius’ eyes locked with James. He was unwilling to let anyone, including James, know how deep his feelings for Lily ran. Any hint of his involvement with Lily would make her an even bigger target for his father and Voldemort. “I don’t normally discuss Voldemort with Lily, James. I find it rather dampens the mood.” “She deserves to know,” James whispered. “She’s a good friend to us all. She deserves to hear it from you. You owe her that.” Sirius nodded slowly, trying but finding it impossible to imagine how the conversation with Lily might go. “I’ll talk to her tonight.” A/N: Just wanted to offer a word of thanks to Noblevyne for her constant help and moral support on the first two chapters. And for those still with me, don’t despair…Sirius and Lily are back in the next chapter! I hope you stay tuned!
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