This time Grown Sirius didn’t stick around; his awareness dropped away even before his surroundings became clear and the rushing in his ears stopped. It was partly, as he himself knew all too well, because he really didn’t want to remember. It was sixth year, and James was lying in bed in the Hospital Wing with friends clustered all around him.
“Damn, Prongs,” Remus said. “You took quite a hit. You sure you’re okay?”
James tipped his head toward his left shoulder, which was covered with bandages and in a white sling to hold it in place as Madam Pomfrey’s healing potions worked their wonders. “Wasn’t nothing, just a Bludger to the shoulder blade,” James muttered modestly. He cocked a small smile in Lily’s direction, where she stood near the end of the bed. “It's all in a day’s work. I scored that goal, didn’t I?”
Lily, who had been regarding James with a surprisingly tender look on her face, smiled back at her new boyfriend. It wasn’t hard to remember that they were a couple now, however unlikely it seemed, because James had recently taken to walking the halls while singing obnoxiously, “I’m going with Evans…and you’re not!” in any unlucky passerby’s face. It wasn’t very mature, but after so many years of rejection, nobody, Lily included, could expect of him much more than that.
“Yeah, that was a great move, mate!” Sirius spoke for the first time. He felt slightly guilty because it had been his job as one of the Beaters to make sure none of the Gryffindor players were hit. But even after the Bludger had bashed his shoulder, James had pulled off a tight hairpin turn in midair, holding onto his broom with his legs and lobbing the Quaffle into the lowest hoop with his right hand while his left arm dangled at an awkward angle. Soon after, the Seeker had caught the Snitch and Gryffindor had won by 190 points. “When do you get out of here, anyway?”
“Madam Pomfrey says this works pretty fast, so I should be out late tonight or first thing tomorrow.” James grimaced. “I’m thinking of playing it up just so I can miss History of Magic tomorrow morning. I doubt Binns will even notice. That man is as good as a ghost.”
“More reason to get out tonight and party it up with us,” Sirius replied, eyes dancing with excitement. “We can stay in bed in the morning, it’ll be Friday anyway. We need to celebrate your great shot, right?”
James glanced apprehensively at Lily, expecting her to disapprove, but was met only with pride. “That was a very nice shot,” she said, laughing a little. “We’ll do something special!”
“Mr. Potter needs rest!” Madam Pomfrey exclaimed, walking through the door with a towel in her hands and looking dismayed to see the crowd around James’s bed. She started to shoo them all out one by one with difficulty. “You can celebrate and congratulate your star Chaser later, when he has a working left shoulder again!” she said, exasperated.
Sirius winked at James before leaving. “You bet we will,” he said. To the lingering Gryffindor team still congregated in the corridor, he said, “You’re invited too, common room at ten tonight.”
The remaining Marauders and Lily walked back to Gryffindor Tower to do some homework (or copy some, depending) before dinner. “Ten?” Remus asked, curious. “How’re you going to get everyone else out of the common room so early?”
“I’m not,” Sirius said, grinning. “That’s where you, dearest and best friends Remus and Lily, being the great prefects that you are, come in. All the older kids are invited, but if you could just order everyone else upstairs by then, that’d be great.” When the two prefects frowned, he added, “It’s all for James. You know, since we totally crushed Slytherin to pieces today. And it's the first big party of the year! Come on, it’ll be fun!”
“Yeah,” Peter chimed in, “sounds fun!”
Remus and Lily looked at each other, then shrugged and nodded. There was nothing they could do to stop Sirius, so they had might as well go along. “And you’re taking out the stash?” Remus asked.
Sirius rolled his eyes. “As if you even have to ask.”
After dinner in the Great Hall all the Gryffindors returned innocently to where they belonged. The Marauders paused briefly up the stairs only to stick their heads in the Hospital Wing door and mouth “Ten!” to James urgently.
The rest of the evening went by normally and McGonagall remained unsuspecting, although perhaps the fair trouncing of the Slytherins had put her in such a good mood that she chose not to suspect. After-game victory parties were a Gryffindor tradition, after all. Their plans remained uninterrupted, and by a quarter to ten Lily and Remus were making their rounds of the common room, ordering and bribing and bullying all students third year and under to go upstairs.
Sirius snatched the Invisibility Cloak out from the bottom of James’s trunk, where it was normally hidden, and put it on. He snuck out of the portrait door and down the corridors and staircases until he found a statue of a one-eyed humpbacked witch. Inside this poor witch’s hump the entire Marauder stash of smokes and liquor was kept safe year after year. Casting a Silencing Charm to keep the bottles from rattling, he set out again with his arms full of treasure.
Meanwhile, James was having a little trouble leaving the Hospital Wing. Madam Pomfrey had left her office a while ago, and was now nowhere to be seen. He couldn’t very well leave without checking with her first, as he had tried that once before and had nearly given her a heart attack. Plus, if she returned and got a whiff of the smell of potent salve still coming from his shoulder sling, there was no way that she would let him out of her sight. James sat down on his hospital bed, impatient for her return.
“Drink up, party animals!” Sirius crowed, brandishing his loot as soon as the portrait door swung shut behind him. There was a mad stampede as everyone rushed toward him, and Sirius basked in the pre-party excitement and the promise of the fun that this night held.
However, though everyone else partied without abandon, Sirius and Lily held back and waited for James to return. They sat side by side, taking occasional sips of their firewhiskeys and talking with the others, who were steadily getting drunker and drunker as it became later. Still, despite the fact that they had glanced at the portrait hole at least a dozen times, by the time the clock had inched its way to eleven o’clock James was still absent.
“Well, look at that,” Peter slurred, stumbling over. “He’s here! He’s been sitting here this whole time! I give you our hero, Prongs!” Peter waved his arms in Sirius’s face, sloshing some of his drink into Lily’s lap in the process. “Why didn’t you tell us you were here, James?” he asked the empty air beside Sirius, who was trying valiantly to keep a straight face. “Everyone’s been waiting for you. You’re holding up the party!”
Lily giggled. Peter had a tendency to get drunk fast and hard. She was getting a little tipsy herself, although she had only had a couple drinks. Worry over her boyfriend’s absence had started to worm its way into her gut, and her face burned in humiliation as she observed the occasional curious glance tossed her way. Was this another form of being stood up?
The more she thought about it, however, the less likely it seemed to her that James Potter would ever ditch Lily Evans, now that he had finally gotten her. Still, that could only mean that something more serious had happened. But she couldn't leave the common room in this state. Even if she did, there was no guarantee that she would find James--even if she wanted to. Lily raised her bottle to her lips and tried to drown out her anxiety.
“Well, looks like he’s not coming anytime soon,” said Sirius resignedly. “Give me a yell when he does, though. No need to let this perfectly good party go to waste, right, darling?” He winked, stood up, swaying a little, and launched himself into the nearest drinking game, where Remus was now reciting a strange soliloquy about monkeys flying on broomsticks.
Lily didn’t think twice about having Sirius next to her for the entire hour, but now that he was gone, she missed his presence. He had been someone to talk to, at least, someone who cared as much about James as she did. She curled up, lonely, in the corner of the couch.
Sirius soon got bored of Remus’s game and went to join the seventh-years, who were playing cards. The catch was whichever number card you drew, you had to drink for that amount of seconds. That way it was relatively easy to guess all the others’ hands, if only they were sober enough to count and keep track. The game was falling apart as it was, because some of the players were finding it increasingly difficult to juggle a hand of cards, a bottle of firewhiskey, and loose cigarettes all at once without revealing their cards to the others. Those who failed would be immediately pointed at and made fun of by their companions.
After a few rounds of high numbers, Sirius was finding it hard to get himself off the ground. Grabbing the arm of the nearest armchair, he hauled his upper body over it and clung on until he could get his feet back under him. He lifted a leg and clunked it back down onto the floor carefully.
“Hey, where you going, mate? It was just getting good!” one of the card-players protested loudly. People nearby turned to look at him. When he noticed them, a menacing scowl overtook his face and he shouted, “What’re you looking at? I'm the one who mows your lawn in the summer!”
Sirius smirked. He never had to mow anyone’s lawn at home. He usually stayed at the Potters’ over the summer, anyway. Poor bloke, Sirius thought. He himself hated the smell of freshly cut grass, which crept into his nose and made it itch horribly…
Lily downed her fifth bottle of firewhiskey. Where the hell was her effing boyfriend? They were throwing this goddamn party for him, and he couldn’t even show up? Or maybe he was here, and just couldn’t be bothered to say hello to her, even though she had been waiting for him for so long already. How long had it been? Lily got unsteadily to her feet to look for James in case she’d missed him the last time she looked, but now she found that she couldn’t read the clock. All the little numbers were sort of swimming together in a big pool of marshmallow fluff.
‘Oh, to hell with James,’ Lily thought for the first time that night. ‘He can go screw a cow…Imagine the children!' She giggled madly. She could have her own fun. She would have her own fun. She had managed for all these years without James Potter, so why should it matter now? But these were just excuses.
Lily snatched a half-smoked cigarette out of someone’s hand and sucked on it, hoping to calm her nerves. The mad shaking in her fingers ceased after a few drags. Carelessly she flicked the ashes onto the carpet, where they burned a small hole. Blowing smoke out of her nose like an angry bull, she marched off in search of her friends, and some more firewhiskey, rum, or even tequila and limes...it would get the bad taste out of her mouth, at any rate.
Madam Pomfrey was finally back from wherever the hell it was that Healers went at eleven-thirty on Thursday nights. Seeing that he was still up, she exclaimed, dismayed, “Oh, Mr. Potter, do go to sleep! It’s”—she checked the time—“goodness me, half past eleven? Already? I’m terribly sorry. You must have been waiting up for me…”
“Yeah,” James said. “I can’t sleep well in the Hospital Wing and I feel fine, so I was wondering if I could leave for the night. Where were you anyway, Madam Pomfrey?”
The Healer turned red. “None of your business, Mr. Potter,” she said sharply. “Now, let me take a look at that shoulder before you go.”
“Can you do something about the smell?” he asked.
“Yes, yes, it’s part of the salve in the bandages. I’ll just give you clean ones, it seems as though the bruises have healed well anyway,” she said absentmindedly, fumbling with the new roll of bandages. If anything, it seemed like she wanted him out the door as soon as possible, which was odd but worked for James’s purposes. He laughed to himself as he thought of Madam Pomfrey doing things she was ashamed to let him find out.
“You’re all done. Here’s a pass, and sleep well, Mr. Potter!”
Finally, at fifteen minutes to midnight, James was on his way to the party in the Gryffindor common room. He hoped he still had time to celebrate, though knowing Sirius, he was pretty sure the party would still be going strong.
Lily was on her way to the wastebasket to deposit yet another empty bottle when she crashed into something hard and flew to the floor. Vision blurry, she relied almost solely on touch to feel her way up the thing that had gotten in her way, and grabbed a handful of robes.
She was lifted almost off her feet, and the feeling made her giddy. “What do we have here? Evans…? Is that you groping all over me?” Sirius stuttered and mumbled and laughed harshly. He was altogether a right mess.
“Y-yeah,” Lily said loudly. “It’s me. Evans. Lily Evans.” She blew a lungful of smoke into Sirius’s face, who recognized the smell and grimaced.
“Ewwww,” he whined. “I don’t get…smoking people. What do the damn things do for you anyway? I have to play. Quidditch. You know. Need to breathe to play Quidditch.” Lily was listening to him so intently that she almost fell face-first into his chest.
“Whoa…” she said, trying to pull herself back up. “Let’s sit down now. Before I fall down again.”
Arms wrapped around each other for balance, they stumbled to a couch near the portrait hole, tripping over arms and legs that could have been (but most likely were not) their own.
“You know,” Lily grumbled, “I wouldn’t even be smoking now if it weren’t for that effing idiotic boyfriend of yours.” Sirius’s eyes widened, but Lily plowed on. “You know the one. James. He’s your…wait, did I say yours? I think he’s mine today. But tomorrow, he can be yours…” She laughed, trying to make a joke out of her mistake.
“No,” Sirius said emphatically, seeming to sober up a little, “you have to stop smoking. If you don’t, I’ll…I’ll…” He looked around and picked up a bottle cap. “I’ll…” He chucked it at her.
The cap hit her chin and bounced weirdly under her jaw before falling straight into her shirt. “Owwww!!!” Lily squealed, jumping up and down in her seat. “Get it out! Get it out! Quick! It’s biting me!”
Sirius panicked: if it bit her, it would be his fault. So instead, without thinking, he plunged his hand right into Lily’s shirt. He felt the bottle cap right away with his fingers before realizing suddenly that this human he was all tangled up with was a girl. A real, live girl. Quite forgetting about the cap, he grinned. “Nice going, Padfoot,” he congratulated himself aloud.
“Hmm?” Lily looked at Sirius. She could barely remember who he was, except that he was attached to a hand still in her shirt.
“Um…nothing.” Suddenly all Sirius could think about was how comfortable and sleepy he was, and how well his arms seemed to fit around this strange new girl. He would’ve been the happiest big black dog in the world if he could just lay here and fall asleep with her.
But Lily had other ideas. Poking him repeatedly in the nose and giggling wildly, she said, “You know what? You’re really cute. You get the job. Yay!” She grabbed Sirius’s arms from where they were clutching her and waved them around.
“I got a job?” Sirius asked, surprised.
“Mmhmm…my real boyfriend is sick and can’t come to work today,” Lily said gravely. She took a swig from the random half-empty bottle on the table in front of her. “You’re his replacement. A...substitute boyfriend. And do you know what boyfriends do?” she asked, eyes wide.
Sirius thought for a while, but didn’t know the answer. “They…snog?” he asked hopefully.
Lily nodded her approval. “Yes, they snog.” And without further ado she pulled down the head of her substitute boyfriend to commence boyfriend-like actions with him. It all made sense to her now. Life was good.
Sirius couldn’t believe his luck. A girl he had never met before was now snogging the life out of him, and it felt really good. This could lead anywhere. He and the girl were leaning dangerously far off the couch, but that was okay with him. Risk made life fun. People around him were cheering and gasping and pouring yet more liquor on their heads, but that was okay with him, too. He welcomed the attention.
He didn’t even know what she looked like, but the girl was making him so happy, he needed to tell someone. Where was his buddy, Prongs?
Sirius climbed to a standing position on the couch, dragging the girl up with him. “Hey! Every…everyone! I want to propose a toast,” he burbled, and lifted his bottle high in the air. “To snogging!”
“To snogging!” the room echoed, boys and girls alike. Lily was a little late and her words sounded louder than everyone else’s. The portrait door swung open.
“And…to this girl right here,” Sirius said, wrapping an arm tightly around her shoulders. “Um…Lilac. I think. Some sort of flower.”
“Sirius!” Sirius turned around to meet who was calling his name, swaying precariously on the couch. He grinned broadly, though his head was swimming and all he wanted to do was get back down to it on the couch.
“Ah, Prongs, mate, it’s about time! You know, y-you were right. When you meet the girl…the girl that’s for you, you know. And I got her right here!” Sirius chugged the rest of the bottle’s contents, tossed it into the fireplace, and smashed lips with Lily Evans once more, high above the crowd, while James Potter looked on, unable to speak.
Author's Note: Edited December 2nd, 2008. Well, I hope you all had as much fun reading it as I did writing it...Please review, and tell me if you liked it!