Weeks had passed since Lily had talked to the Marauders, and Alcyone seemed as in love as ever. Lily noticed it with growing concern. Her uneasiness about Regulus hadn’t abated at all, but nothing seemed to have happened that would give conviction to her feelings.
“Lily?” Alcyone hurried up the steps to come to walk by her friend. “I didn’t see you in Transfiguration.”
“Flitwick let me out late, he wanted to ask me about tutoring a couple second-years.”
“Ah…” Alcyone smiled. “Are you adding something else to your already overflowing schedule?”
“It’s not much,” Lily protested. “And it’s only until their Charms test in three weeks.”
“Lily…” Alcyone groaned. “You’re too generous for your own good.”
“Come off it,” Lily smiled as they made their way into the sunshine. “Race you to the lake?”
Laughing and squealing, they ran, bags bumping along until they sat by the edge of the cool water, letting their feet soak.
“So…how are things with Regulus?” Lily watched her friend’s face carefully.
“Not so good,” Alcyone sighed. “I mean – it’s very on and off. Sometimes, he shows up, sometimes he doesn’t. It isn’t very consistent.”
“He stood you up?” Lily asked, shocked. “How often?”
“A couple times…it isn’t anything major, and he always apologises, but,”
“That’s horrible! You’ve got to break it off with him-” Lily exclaimed.
“Lily, we aren’t even in a relationship…it’s not as bad as you think…”
“It doesn’t matter…you’ve dated him a lot!”
Lily shook her head and held her friend’s shoulders, stemming the protest. Her eyes were serious.
“I think he’s playing you, Alcyone.”
“Playing?” she frowned, and sighed. “I won’t lie…the idea occurred to me once but that’s not what it is. He’s a really sweet guy…he wouldn’t do that. I think it’s something else. Lily…I think he feels guilty.”
“Guilty?” Lily asked blankly.
“Yeah…it’s just an occasional feeling I get, as if he feels bad about dating me. Like he has second thoughts or something. I dunno…but he’s really worried about something just now, even though he won’t tell me what it is. Maybe that has to do with it?” She picked a large pebble loose from the ground, playing with it.
“Oh.” Lily was quickly revising her assumptions.
Alcyone skipped the stone across the lake, then turned to look at her friend.
“Please don’t judge him by just his relationship with me, Lil…” she swallowed. “I know most people think I’m crazy for dating a Slytherin when I’m a Gryffindor, the Marauders included, but you’re different, you’re friends with Severus, you know what it’s like…” she broke off.
Alcyone heard the pleading in her voice, the note in it that begged Lily to accept what she said, to do what none of her friends had yet done.
The brown eyes met the green in mutual understanding and they got up, heading toward the castle in the face of the setting sun.
“Ready, Prongs?” Sirius grinned as he followed the other Marauders down the tunnel into Hogsmeade.
They had planned to visit The Three Broomsticks again, the Gryffindor common room being too crowded.
“Ouch, Wormtail, you stepped on my toe!”
The ensuing silence was filled only by rapid breathing and a few, quiet chuckles, then:
“Padfoot, are we there yet?”
“No…we’re almost there.”
“It gets longer each time,” Peter said mournfully.
“And here I was thinking that it got shorter each time,” James muttered as he pushed open the trapdoor into Honeydukes’ cellar.
Coming into the warm bar, they chose a side table and ordered.
“So Prongs…how’s our infamous Lily doing?” Sirius smirked at Remus, who rolled his eyes and looked over at James, who was beaming.
“Great! She accepted me for another date on Sunday!”
“Good for you mate.” Remus said, and Sirius smiled, all mirth forgotten in his pleasure at James’ happiness.
“What’re you planning?” Peter asked.
“I was thinking a picnic…stuff from the kitchens to eat in the grounds. What do you think?” He looked anxiously from one face to another.
“I think Lily will be fine with it,” Remus reassured him. “Alcyone was telling me how she was after the last one…all bubbly and happy…”
Peter added something that made Remus and James laugh, but Sirius had tuned out after he heard Alcyone’s name.
It triggered a flood of thoughts, most of them so clearly meant for when he was alone that Sirius pushed them away and downed his drink, joining in the discussion again.
He would think about it later.
Unknown to him, the front page of the next day’s Daily Prophet ensured that he would think about it very soon.
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