“What is this?” Sydney inquired slowly, holding up a red mask before her, blue eyes locked on Sirius’ gray ones. Her face had gone pale and thoughts were racing through her mind. Silence lingered throughout the room; only James’ breathing from the bed beside her could be heard. Peter, Remus, and Sirius looked at her, stunned and unable to answer. “Someone tell me,” she insisted. “Before I bring this to Lily.”
“That’s, um, James’,” Sirius managed to say.
“I assumed so,” Sydney informed him, her mouth thinned, opposed to the bright smile she almost always carried.
“That James is into some pretty kinky stuff,” Sirius explained nervously, Peter nodding enthusiastically in agreement. “Ol’ Florence Merryweather ought to be able to account for that. I heard her calling him Zorro one night. Pretty disturbing if you ask me.”
“Zorro, is it?” Sydney asked once more, looking down at James from where she was standing. “I suppose this has nothing to do with the dance that occurred last month? It has nothing to do with why Lily doesn’t know the identity of her dance partner? I should tell Lily right now.”
“Come on, Syd,” Sirius pleaded. “Give the boy a break. I mean, he may not be the brightest candle in the chandelier, but his heart’s in the right place.”
“Treachery, is what this is,” Sydney cried out. James stirred slightly, but managed to roll over and forget the sound of a shouting seventeen-year-old girl beside his bed.
“Let James do it himself,” Remus reasoned softly. “He’s in love with her. We all know it. This is the only way she’s been able to tolerate him and for some reason, that brings him some sort of comfort. Let him be the one to tell her.”
“I suppose it is a bit romantic,” Sydney added reluctantly. She set the red mask down upon the messy floor and walked over towards Sirius.
“That’s the spirit, love,” Sirius commented merrily. “Now, let’s go take a walk. We can talk about it if you’d like.”
“I’d rather not,” she told him. “I just don’t like keeping things from her.”
“Well,” Sirius sighed, leading her down the steps. “Not all of us are truly comfortable with taking a leap of faith. Especially James when it comes down to Lily.”
The month of December was upon Hogwarts and James still hadn’t broken the news to Lily about his secret identity, even with Sydney’s threat at hand. Yet, there had been no visits from the mysterious red masked stranger. James had continued tutoring Lily and had grown even fonder of her. Somehow, he enjoyed the person inside of her more than any other person he had ever met, including his friends. He felt a connection with her unlike anyone else.
One night, after dinner, the dark sky was glistening with a crescent moon and stars gleamed in the night sky. Sydney found every single one of them intriguing and every night she sat upon the window ledge and gazed up at the sky. Some nights she would slip away to the Astronomy Tower, where Sirius was sure to sit with her.
That particular night, she smiled as her ocean-like eyes darted up at the sky once more. She was still sitting on the ledge, an oversized sweatshirt covering her knees and her deep red toenails peaking out from beneath. Her attention was straying elsewhere, but the fact that the night was calm gave her a serene, almost peace-like, feeling.
“Frank and I are taking things slow,” Alice explained to Lily, her blonde hair in a loose ponytail and her eyes gleaming at the mention of her boyfriend of over a month. “We had our first kiss last night.”
“Where was it?” Sydney inquired from the ledge.
Alice smiled and blushed. “We were taking a walk and all of a sudden, he just leaned in and kissed me. It was perfect.”
Lily grinned as she listened to her friend. Alice George had always been shy and reserved, but through the past couple of months, Lily and Sydney had grown extremely close with her. It was interesting and refreshing to have a new person, an entirely new perspective, to speak with. She was kind and sensitive. Lily had never seen her so radiant as she was when she was speaking of Frank Longbottom though. Her face glowed and Lily was fairly sure these were the first signs of love.
“That sounds wonderful,” Lily agreed. She, herself, was almost craving the romantic stories her friends shared with her. She had given up hope on the mysterious stranger whom she had reserved a spot in her heart. For almost a month she had heard no word.
“Last night, Sirius made it official,” Sydney informed her friends. Her voice was soft and happy, but the look on her face told Lily otherwise.
“Is that a problem?” Lily questioned.
“No,” her friend answered. “It’s just that I am afraid of what will happen if we break up. I love spending time with him, but once you’ve made a commitment, things go downhill.”
“Syd, is Sirius like every other guy?” Lily asked, locking her emerald green eyes onto her friends’.
"No,” Sydney replied. “I feel different when I’m with him. I know I’m not being used. I know he cares about me, thinks I’m special, and is completely satisfied by the mere company I provide him.”
“Then I think you know that your relationship with him won’t be like every other one you’ve had,” Lily explained. “Give it a chance. You never know how great it can be until you’ve tried.”
Sydney nodded, taking in the words, although a curious expression crossed her face.
“I never took you as a hypocrite, Lily,” Sydney mused, shaking her hair out of her ponytail and letting it sit free.
“How is Lily a hypocrite?” Alice asked, seeing her friend’s shocked face.
“I reckon that you’d never know what great things could come out of a relationship with James Potter until you’ve tried,” Sydney responded.
“Potter?” Lily inquired. “The very same Potter who I happen to have a remarkably horrible history with?”
“What was the last horrible thing he’s done to you?” Alice asked, raising a blonde eyebrow at her friend.
“Look, I know he’s changed,” Lily assured them. “I do. He’s much more responsible, he doesn’t indulge in his immature ways anymore, and he’s stopped badgering me about Hogsmeade. I just don’t think it would ever work.”
“If this is about that mask guy,” Alice started. “I want you to know that I don’t agree with it one bit. For all we know, that guy could be cheating on his girlfriend with you. He could be the vilest individual at this school. You deserve an honest guy, Lily. Someone who hides behind a mask is not willing to have a consistent relationship with you. You’re at his beck and call whenever he needs some downtime from his real life. It’s fraud.”
Lily had never looked at it that way. Fraud, scandal, lies. She was not a bad person. Yet, something about the mystery of it all intrigued her. She knew Alice had a point. She just couldn’t spare the thoughts and longing for someone who cared about her the way this person did. She liked feeling special and she didn’t want that feeling to go away.
“Prongs, you need to tell her,” Remus told his friend one day as he saw a red rose on James’ bed and a piece of parchment lying out. It suspiciously looked like a note to Lily.
“I know,” James sighed as he fell down on his bed. He shut his eyes momentarily and took in a breath of clarity. He knew he was being dishonest. He knew that each time he met with Lily in the library, her thoughts would be elsewhere. He only wished that there were some other way.
“If she doesn’t like you for who you are, Prongs, then I don’t think she’s worth it,” Peter informed his friend. “No girl is.”
“Peter, the entire time I’ve known Lily Evans, something about her caught my attention. Something inside of her seemed to scream out at me, ‘Don’t give up on me’. I’ve been living off of that feeling I get. My instinct tells me not to back off, but the evidence in front of me says otherwise. If she doesn’t like me after I tell her, I won’t forget her, but I’ll respect the fact that nothing I do will ever change her mind,” James informed Remus and Peter. “I’m going to tell her. This weekend.”
“I’m proud of you, mate,” Remus said, clapping his friend on the back. “Good luck.”
“I tutor her tomorrow,” James announced. “Hopefully, soon, she’ll forget about that mask.”
The Slytherin Common Room was dark and cold that evening. Five people stood before the fire, in silence with expectant looks upon their faces. It was a common known fact throughout their house that the Chamber of Secrets was not the only addition Salazar Slytherin has made without the other three founder’s consent. A private fireplace was also included.
The five people, Severus Snape being one of them, were willing to do anything and everything their master asked of them in order for his new plan to succeed. Although he wouldn’t be there personally, the Dark Lord was recruiting once more.
With a pop, the worn yet deceptive face of their master appeared within the fire. The fire in the Slytherin Common Room was the safest way of communicating without being intercepted. A feature that guaranteed this safety was the fact that it wasn’t traceable to the Ministry of Magic.
“My servants,” Tom Riddle greeted, his dark eyes scanning the five before the fire. “Severus, Lucius, Narcissa, Avery, and Rabastan. The loyalty in this room has not wavered for one moment, especially not now when I need you all the most.”
“Master,” they chanted in devoted whispers. He smiled once more, sending chills up each and every one of their spines.
“I have heard news of a new society Dumbledore has created in order to prevent my power from merging even more,” Lord Voldemort informed them. Nasty comments were muttered at the mention of the headmaster’s name. “The Order of the Phoenix has not yet been fully developed, but with the talent in this school, it is highly possible that Dumbledore will be welcoming students to join. Now, it is your job to track down and persuade the following people to join me. Bring them to me, however reluctant they are, and let them meet their master.”
“Yes, my Lord,” they murmured.
“Good,” he commented. “Now, I wish for you all to bring me the following people using whatever means necessary; Dorcas Meadows, Sirius Black, Frank Longbottom, and James Potter.”
Snape scowled as his master mentioned Potter’s name. He didn’t wish for Potter to join their side. He more than hoped he would have the opportunity of killing James himself one day. Yet, whatever his master asked, he received.
The five of them bowed as their master’s head popped out of view.
“Potter, hm,” Lucius Malfoy contemplated. “That should be a real treat. His entire family is devoted to stopping our cause. Severus, you’ll follow him, won’t you? Narcissa, follow your cousin. I’ll take care of Longbottom. Avery and Rabastan, you follow Meadowes. This Saturday night at midnight, we’ll bring them to our master.”
The others nodded, knowing not to talk back to Malfoy. He was highly respected by the Dark Lord and was a member of Voldemort’s Inner Circle.
Snape cringed at the idea of following Potter, but he would do what he must.
A/N: Ok, that chapter was basically setting up for the next. I’ll try and update soon. Please review.