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Chapter 22 : Coming of age
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The morning in question revealed a larger pile of gifts at the end of my bed than I had expected. This probably had something to do with the fact it was my seventeenth birthday and I had therefore officially come of age, but it was still a pleasant surprise.
First up was a letter from my parents, which included the very welcome news – courtesy of Mum, of course – that Wales had defeated England the previous day in a rugby international, though Lily (the only English person present who even knew what rugby was) was less than pleased by this information. Anyway, that was the least of my concerns, because since I was coming of age, my parents also informed me that the owl that delivered the letter was in fact their gift to me. She was a lovely brown screech owl, and it took a tidy spell for me to find an appropriate spot for her cage. She would of course live in the school owlery, but I liked to think she could come and visit me in the dorm. After a lively debate with the other girls I decided to call her Cerridwyn.
After the excitement of Cerridwyn, I started going through the rest of the pile of gifts, gratified as I noticed that Dad’s family had sent me a few things to mark my seventeenth birthday. (Mum’s family, being Muggles, wouldn’t recognise my coming of age until I turned eighteen.) There were a few bottles of elderflower wine from my cousin Rhys, which thought I might donate to the party the following weekend, some perfume from my aunt and uncle, photo frames from my grandparents, and a gorgeous paisley shirt from my cousin Gwendolyn. Bea, who didn’t usually remember birthdays, had sent me a box of owl treats for Cerridwyn.
Mary, Lily, Martha and Charlotte had gotten together and bought me a selection of lacy lingerie, which they insinuated would be useful in the coming months with Bertram. James, Sirius, Remus and Peter surprised me by giving me a box of Honeydukes chocolates, probably only because I was sharing a party with Remus, which meant I would have to get him something too. As for Bertram, he outdid himself by giving me a full length cloak, red velvet and embroidered with phoenixes and other fabulous birds, with semiprecious stones dotted throughout. It was undoubtedly expensive and quite possibly a one-off, but it was also rather gaudy and ostentatious and I didn’t actually like it very much, which gave me a bit of a sinking feeling – he clearly liked me a lot, but he equally clearly didn’t understand me particularly well.
Finally there was one parcel left, which was small and delicately wrapped, and had no note. Part of me hesitated at this – in this day and age, packages with no card were potentially dangerous – so I asked the other girls what they thought I should do.
“Maybe it’s from Bertram,” suggested Charlotte, ever the romantic.
“I don’t think so,” I said. “This one was Bertram’s, look.” I pointed out the cloak he had bought me. “I wouldn’t think he could afford something else as well.”
Lily was looking at the parcel, her brow furrowed. “It’s probably okay,” she said, “but we might try this just in case. Specialis revelio,” she commanded, tapping it with her wand. Nothing happened. “Well,” she said, “that should have shown us if there are any spells on it. Do you want to try opening it?”
Trusting Lily’s judgement, I eagerly unwrapped the package. It contained a small box, which contained a golden clasp, elegantly engraved with daffodils. Looking at the workmanship, it had to be goblin-made, and was therefore probably expensive.
There were gasps from all around the room. “It’s beautiful!” exclaimed Martha, leaning over me to get a closer look. “Who’d give you that?”
“No idea,” I said, as baffled as the rest of them.
“Daffodils,” noted Mary, smiling. “Whoever it is knows ye.”
Lily looked confused. “Daffodils are th’ national floo’er o’ Wales,” Mary explained. “Laura loves them – as well she shoul’, bein’ Welsh.” Mary was a fine one to talk: she had never been overly fond of the thistle, Scotland’s floral emblem.
I turned it over, admiring it. Engraved in tiny writing were the words, Dear Laura, Congratulations on your coming of age, with a strange symbol below that I didn’t recognise. Probably it was the goblin mark, but I wasn’t sure as I’d never had anything goblin-made before.
After we had all admired the clasp, Charlotte took over. “Well, it’s all very nice,” she said, trying to wrest it from my grip, “but we should make doubly sure it isn’t jinxed. We’d best give it to McGonagall, just to be on the safe side. After all,” she went on, looking at me, “you are a half-blood, and your dad definitely meets the definition of a blood traitor, so you could be a target.”
I knew she was right and released the clasp reluctantly. It truly was beautiful, and I hoped sincerely that I could get it back soon as it would look perfect on my school robes. Or my winter cloak. Or the cloak Bertram had just given me (if I ever wore it). Or my dress robes … you get the idea. And I also hoped sincerely that whoever had bought it would one day let me know so I could thank them.
We took the clasp to Professor McGonagall at breakfast, explaining that it had arrived anonymously. I wasn’t sure if I was pleased or disappointed when she agreed that it should be examined – I was torn between wanting to keep it and wanting to feel verified in my concerns about it. She put it in her pocket and advised me that she would let me know once all testing had been completed.
Bertram made a big show of wanting to take me out for my birthday, but as we weren’t allowed to leave the school grounds he was somewhat impeded in his efforts. In the end he just sat with me at the Gryffindor table at dinner time, and took me up to the Astronomy Tower for a moonlight picnic. There were a couple of close calls with Flich’s cat (which was rather oddly named Mrs Clay and seemed to have a psychic connection with him) and with Peeves the poltergeist on the way there, but we managed to make it to the tower without getting caught.
In keeping with the spirit of the day I wore my new perfume and the fancy cloak he’d bought me – see, I did wear it! – and donated some of my Honeydukes chocolates and elderflower wine to the picnic hamper, which went very well with the supply of sandwiches and puddings he had managed to procure from the kitchens. I intended to ask how to get into the kitchens – I understood they weren’t far from the Hufflepuff common room – but before I could form the words he leaned over and kissed me, deeply, gently, passionately.
“Happy birthday, Laura,” he whispered, his hands reaching underneath my shirt and inching upwards.
“Thank you,” I responded as he started kissing my neck. This really was a most agreeable way to spend a birthday, I decided.
We snogged for a while, but eventually came to the conclusion that oxygen might be a good idea and broke apart, opting instead to sit together under the stars with a glass of wine and some treacle tart, my new cloak wrapped around both of us to keep the wind out.
“It’s been a lovely birthday, Bertram,” I said as he poured me another drink.
“A lovely day for a lovely girl,” he responded. “I did the best I could.”
“And I appreciate that,” I said with a smile. “But I’m a bit worried that if we don’t go soon we’ll fall asleep up here.”
He gave me a squeeze. “And that’s a bad thing? I think I’d like to wake up and have your face the first thing I see.”
I laughed. “Not if I’ve slept in my makeup, you won’t,” I pointed out. “Panda eyes aren’t much of a look on anyone. Besides, the floor up here isn’t really all that comfortable.”
“I can’t argue with that,” he admitted, changing position slightly and thereby illustrating my point. Beneath us, I could hear the Bloody Baron clunking away as he often did in the Astronomy Tower, so in any case it seemed we would most probably have to stay on the battlements for a little while longer at least.
“Besides,” I went on, shivering as I pulled the cloak closer around us, “it’s freezing up here, and it’s not going to get any warmer.”
He accepted defeat. “All right, my lady, can I escort you downstairs?”
“Once the Bloody Baron shuts up,” I said with a smile as I kissed his cheek. “Thanks, Bertram, I’d appreciate that.”
About twenty minutes later all sounds that might have been caused by the Baron seemed to have stopped, so we packed up our things and Bertram led me down to the seventh floor, my new cloak securely fastened around me.
It was so late that Fat Lady scolded me for waking her up and the common room looked deserted when I got inside. I almost didn’t see the lone figure on the couch in front of the fire, and it was only when he spoke that I realised he was there at all.
“Nice cloak,” he said with undisguised sarcasm. “Who are you supposed to be, Cliodna or Morgana?”
Going by the birds on the cloak – which of course I was only wearing to humour Bertram – this was clearly a reference to two well-known bird Animagi: Morgana, King Arthur’s half-sister, was a dark witch who used her powers for evil, whereas Cliodna had three fabulous birds she used to heal the sick. So the question was really, was I good or evil?
I turned to look at him, though I had recognised the voice immediately. “Oh, hi Sirius,” I said wearily, stifling a yawn. “I think at the moment I’m Morgana, because if you try to stop me going to bed I’m going to hex you into oblivion.”
“Why out so late, then?” he asked easily, putting down the magazine he was reading. Well, it looked like he was talking to me again, but then again his bad mood had (eventually) settled down as well so there was most probably a connection between the two.
I yawned again. “Bertram wanted to take me out for my birthday.”
“Oh, right, that was today wasn’t it?” he said, his gaze seeming to sharpen a little. “Happy birthday.”
I smiled unenthusiastically. “Thanks.” I was about to turn towards the girls’ stairs again when he spoke yet again.
“That’s why you’re wearing that hideous cloak, isn’t it? Because he gave it to you?”
That was a bit perceptive for someone like him, but I wasn’t about to reward him by admitting it was true. “It’s not hideous,” I said defensively, wrapping it more closely around myself. “But yes, he did give it to me.”
He just raised an eyebrow. “No, not hideous at all,” he said. “You just keep telling yourself that.”
I turned again and tried to head for the stairs, but missed my footing and stumbled on my high heels. Sirius started laughing.
“Merlin’s beard, you’ve been drinking!” he said triumphantly.
I got all defensive again. “So what if I have?” I asked petulantly, leaning against a nearby armchair. “It’s my birthday, I’m allowed to.”
He kept chuckling. “I never thought I’d catch you, of all people, stumbling in here after curfew, drunk.”
“Well, if you went to bed at a normal time like a normal person, you’d never have seen it,” I pointed out. “Why are you up so late anyway, sitting here by yourself?”
“Waiting for James,” he said. “We had separate detentions tonight and he’s not back from his yet. Penrose can keep you pretty late sometimes.”
“Right.” I tried to collect my thoughts. “What was this one for?”
He grinned again. “Being out after curfew. Last night. And we weren’t even drinking. Let that be a lesson to you.”
“What a surprise,” I said dully. “You two out on a Saturday night.” Then I thought of something and it was my turn to feel a little triumphant. “But I didn’t get caught.”
He held up a finger. “This time.”
I yawned again. “Remember what I said about hexing you to oblivion if you stopped me from going to bed? I haven’t forgotten that.” And I pulled out my wand just in case, wondering what jinx I should use on him. How would he look with cow horns and a matching bell?
He laughed again, and it occurred to me that he was being way too chipper for that time of night. “You’re trying to work out what you should do to me, aren’t you? I liked that one where you gave Snivellus a peacock’s tail just after Christmas. You can always do that.”
I shook my head. “Too pretty. It’d just be reinforcing stereotypes. I’d need to do something that makes you ugly. Warthog horns, perhaps.”
He grinned. “Not a bad idea,” he acknowledged. “Or tentacles, that’d do the same job.”
“Spider’s legs,” I suggested.
“Antlers,” he threw back.
I groaned. “This is getting to be too much like hard work. It’s too late and I’m too tired. So I think I’ll just turn you into a teapot and be done with it.”
“Can it at least be a red and gold teapot? For Gryffindor, that is?” He looked at me hopefully.
I just shook my head. I was too sleepy for this sort of thing and my brain wasn’t really functioning. “You’re a nightmare, you know that?”
“Why, thank you,” he grinned. I raised my eyebrows. “Well, that was supposed to be a compliment, wasn’t it?”
I gave up. “I’ve had enough. I’m leaving. And just this once, because I’m stuffed and my bed is calling me, I’ll leave you in one piece. But if you push me again …”
He raised his hand in mock salute. “Yes, ma’am. I’ll remember that.”
I shook my head again in resignation and wandered up the stairs to our dorm, throwing the cloak into the bottom of my trunk and collapsing onto my bed, not even bothering with brushing my teeth or washing my face. T hat was what mornings were for, I thought exhaustedly, and promptly fell asleep.
Mary came running into the dorm late one night later that week almost bursting with laughter. “Oh, lasses, ye will ne’er believe this,” she giggled, collapsing onto her bed.
Lily looked at her. “What is it?”
“Well,” began Mary, starting to giggle again, “I was jus’ up i’ Marcus’ dorm –” she paused significantly, making sure she didn’t need to explain why – “an’ when I came back doon, I saw th’ sixth-year boys’ dorm door open. Nae much, jus’ a crack. Well, I stopped an’ had a peer through, bu’ nae lamps were on an’ they were clearly nae i’ there. So I though’ I’d, well, check it oot a bi’. I’m guessing tha’ wherever they are, they lef’ in a wee hurry – when I closed th’ door behin’ me after I’d done it squelched lik’ it’d bin Colloportused, so I’d say they hadna meant t’ leave it open.”
Lily grinned maniacally, and Charlotte came in from the bathroom so quickly she tripped over her shoes, which were lying next to her trunk. This was big – even Martha, when she’d gone out with Sirius in fifth year, had never been inside their dorm, with Sirius always finding one excuse or another for why it wasn’t appropriate. The revelation that they locked their door as a matter of course didn’t surprise us at all.
“Well?” Lily demanded. “What’s it like?”
“Mostly th’ usual gunk,” said Mary. “Ye know, clothes all o’er th’ floor, a couple o’ Gryffindor Quidditch flags on th’ wall, a handful o’ Quidditch posters, some pictures o’ bikini babes, some pictures from a Muggle magazine o’ those – wha’ dae ye call them, things wi’ two wheels tha’ go really fas’?”
“Motorbikes?” I suggested.
“Aye, tha’s it, motorbikes,” Mary agreed. “I thin’ those are Sirius’, bu’ I’m nae sure. No family photos by tha’ bed so I canna be certain, an’ th’ trunk wa’ closed so I couldna tell by th’ clothes, though it seems more lik’ him than Peter. There’s a bi’ o’ a shrine t’ ye, Lily, by wha’ mus’ be James’ bed –”
Martha guffawed very inelegantly. “What sort of shrine?” she finally got out.
“A few pictures, I thin’ he mus’ hae taken them wi’oot ye knowing, ye’re nae lookin’ a’ th’ camera,” Mary explained, directing this at Lily. “I didna check under his pillow, though – maybe I shoul’ hae.” She grinned mischievously and Lily looked rather embarrassed. “An’ he’s copied doon yer class schedule an’ written tha’ next t’ his own. It’s kind o’ cute, really. Oh, an’ there’s tha’ stupid Snitch he used t’ play wi’, tha’s stuck behin’ a wad o’ netting so it canna escape.”
Lily rolled her eyes. “Good old James, always predictable,” she said, though her cheeks had gone rather pink and her mouth was twitching, trying to stop a smile.
“What else?” asked Charlotte.
“Nae much by Remus’ bed,” Mary said, winking at her, “jus’ wha’ looks lik' a family photo – him an’ wha’ I’m assuming are his parents – th’ book he’s reading, an ol’ lunascope an’ some ither junk. He’s pretty nea’ bu’ some o' his ol’ robes were lying on top o’ his trunk an’ they’ve go’ huge tears i’ them, ye coul’ notice tha’ i’ jus’ a secon’ or two.” Mary paused. “By wha’ I’m assuming wa’ Peter’s bed, nae much a’ all. A few schoolbooks, a broken quill or two, tha’ sort o’ thing. He wa' pretty messy, his trunk was open an’ his school robes were spilling oot th’ top. Actually, there were so many clothes on th’ floor in all, I’m surprised they can work oot whose are whose.”
“Anything else?” I asked, knowing her well enough to guess she was saving the best till last.
Mary grinned broadly. “This was th’ best bi’,” she said, starting to laugh again. “There’s this huge banner on th’ wall, positioned so ye canna see it from th’ stairwell, bu’ absolutely ruddy enormous. An’ it says ‘Th’ Marauders’ Den’. ‘Th’ Marauders’. Can ye believe it? They call themselves th’ bloody Marauders!!!”
Martha actually whooped with laughter. Mary, Lily and Charlotte were laughing so hard they had tears coming out of their eyes, and I had almost fallen off my bed.
“‘The Marauders’,” gasped Lily. “Only they would come up with that. What are they, plundering the castle or something?”
“Raiding it for contraband,” I giggled.
“I thought they were the contraband,” Martha retorted.
“Well,” said Charlotte, trying to take control but not succeeding very well, “do we tell them we know, or not?”
“I say tell them,” I said, recovering my composure. “Not outright, though. Just let it slip one day.”
Martha was grinning wickedly. “I’m sure we can manage that,” she said. “Just wait for the best time. But whoever does it,” she added, looking pointedly at all of us in turn, “has to do it when we’re all there, so we can see the reaction.”
“Deal,” said Lily, sticking out her hand for Martha to shake it. We all followed suit and went back to bed, laughing quietly to ourselves.
Saturday March twelfth was a cold, clear day, with the grey clouds we’d been subjected to all week dissipating and the sun coming out, making it look lovely outside. Some brave souls thought it actually was and wandered out during the afternoon but they soon came back inside, teeth chattering, arms wrapped around themselves in an attempt to warm up – they hadn’t taken the blistering March wind into account. We stayed indoors and tried to put our efforts into helping get the common room ready for the party that night.
Of course Remus had been right, and the boys didn’t need our help at all. James and Sirius disappeared for a spell and came back with several cases of butterbeer and a few bottles of Firewhisky, along with copious supplies from Honeydukes. None of us could work out how they had managed to smuggle them back from Hogsmeade when we were there a couple of weeks previously, with Filch’s Secrecy Sensors and the like looking for illicit goods, but we were pleased they’d done so all the same. Peter also disappeared and returned with a huge basket of food from the kitchens, mostly pudding items but also some things like chicken legs and sandwiches, which should be able to get a large number of revellers through the night.
Since we weren’t needed in Gryffindor Tower, and no one was in the mood to do any homework, Mary and I elected to spend the afternoon with our respective beaus. I found Bertram at lunch time and suggested a lazy afternoon in a secluded corner somewhere, and I suspected Mary and Marcus were doing the same thing. I can’t say we achieved much but it was certainly a very pleasant way of whiling away the hours.
When we emerged for supper we found James, Sirius, Remus and Peter already in the Great Hall, wolfing down pork chops and chicken legs and talking over what other arrangements still needed to be made for that evening. They looked up and waved cheerfully at me as we sat down at the adjacent Hufflepuff table.
Bertram eyed them doubtfully. “I don’t know, Laura, they’ve got a bit of a bad reputation,” he said. “Are you sure you want to be on the same bill as one of them for your party tonight?”
“Why wouldn’t I?” I asked in surprise. “It’s only because Remus and I were born four days apart, it seemed stupid to hold two separate parties.”
“Yeah, but Potter and Black? I wouldn’t trust them as far as I could throw them,” he muttered into his beef casserole. “Particularly Black, with that harem of his.”
I was rather taken aback by this – I hadn’t realised he disliked them so much. And if he did, why hadn’t he raised any objections before? “I trust them,” I said staunchly. “James was incredible last year after Mary got attacked, and while Sirius is a bit of a berk sometimes I don’t have any reason not to trust him. And as for his harem, as you call it, if you knew anything about him you’d know what he thinks of them.”
Bertram looked unconvinced. “Let’s just say I’m glad I’ll be there to protect you,” he said. I raised my eyebrows – I needed protecting from them? That was news to me. “I’ve heard what their parties can be like,” he went on, “and I don’t want either of them getting their grubby mitts on you.”
This time I laughed. “You’re joking, aren’t you?” I asked. “For one thing, there’s no way known James Potter would come near me considering, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, I’m not Lily Evans. And really, Sirius Black? And me? Stupid rumours aside, like that would ever happen in a million years.”
“Why not? You’re beautiful. If he can’t see that he needs his eyes checked.” Whatever else he was, Bertram was certainly loyal. And, unless I was mistaken, just a little bit jealous of people he had no need to be jealous of. I looked at him fondly.
“Then he needs his eyes checked,” I said. “Maybe you should be grateful.” I tried to look solemn, failing a little as an image of Sirius and me came unbidden into my mind. And I liked it. No, Laura, focus, I thought to myself. Boyfriend, remember? Right next to you? With some difficulty I forced the image out of my head. Maybe he was right to be jealous after all.
“What about that Lupin?” Bertram was asking. “I doubt he’s any better.”
“Then you don’t know him,” I responded, grateful for the excuse to push any remaining thoughts of Sirius to the back of my mind where they belonged. “I don’t think Remus Lupin has had a girlfriend in the whole time he’s been here, and that’s not from lack of opportunity. He’s the least likely out of the lot of them to get wandering hands when he’s drunk.” I smiled briefly as I thought of Charlotte and what she would say if she heard Bertram’s insinuations about Remus.
“I’m still glad I’ll be there,” he insisted, and it crossed my mind, not for the first time, how everyone just seemed to disregard Peter. Something which, if I was completely honest with myself, I was sometimes guilty of as well. Bertram was continuing. “Remind me how to get to the tower again?” And he listened intently while I gave explicit directions of the route from the Entrance Hall to Gryffindor Tower, promising to wait by the Fat Lady until I came to get him.
The party was due to start at eight, and as one of the guests of honour I dressed with great care, selecting some of the clothes I’d received for my birthday and borrowing a necklace from Lily to complete the outfit. At eight on the dot I went down the staircase into the common room, smiling at Remus and crossing to the portrait hole to let Bertram in.
He looked around curiously as he entered – it seemed he’d not been in any other House common rooms before. I’d spent so much of my first five years going in and out of Ravenclaw Tower that I hadn’t even thought about it, but I supposed that it was a bit different. After a short time to get his bearings, he squared his shoulders and moved towards Remus.
“Hi, I’m Bertram Aubrey,” he said politely.
“Nice to meet you. Remus Lupin,” replied Remus, looking a little surprised. Of course he knew who Bertram was, and had told me to invite him, but he went along with something Bertram had obviously felt was necessary.
Bertram didn’t introduce himself to anyone else, and threw a bit of a dirty look at James and Sirius as we joined Mary and Marcus. James kept his expression neutral, but I noticed that Sirius’ eyes had narrowed slightly and followed Bertram as he crossed the common room. Maybe the dislike was mutual. I resolved to try to be more observant about these things in future.
The boys all seemed to have roles for the party, something I’d never paid enough attention to to notice before. James was the host who brought people together, introduced everyone and got things moving. Remus was the conversation starter, the one who went from group to group and if there was a bit of an awkward silence he was able to fill it with his pleasant and inoffensive chatter to get things going again. Sirius was responsible for keeping the bar supplied with food and drink and regularly spiked the drinks of unsuspecting younger students, and Peter was charged with ensuring the gramophone kept playing, changing records whenever one finished. They had obviously done this many times before and were well versed in it.
Aside from the initial awkwardness, the night was a success. James thought I was wonderful because I made sure Lily attended, though that hadn’t exactly been a challenge since it was my party as well. Bertram insisted on waiting on me hand and foot which, while it took a bit of getting used to, was very flattering and quite nice, really. The music played all night and the food and drink flowed easily, and by two in the morning the nine sixth-years and Bertram and Marcus were all happily gathered in a circle finishing off the remaining food, Hector having left a couple of hours previously. Sirius was measuring out Firewhisky shots and handing them around.
“Here you go, Ogden,” he said easily, giving Marcus a shot glass. “One for the family.” Marcus, whose great-grandfather had started the company that made the Firewhisky, just smiled. Mary reached out automatically for the next glass in Sirius’ hand but he held up a finger warningly.
“Uh uh uh, you’re still under age,” he said, clearly suppressing a smile. He was obviously playing with her as he’d been unashamedly spiking people’s drinks all night, regardless of how old they were.
Mary just raised her eyebrows and pointed at James, who wouldn’t be seventeen for another fortnight and was downing his shot in one gulp. “So’s he.”
Sirius pretended to think about that. “Yep, okay, fair point,” he conceded. “Only remember, if anyone finds out, I didn’t give it to you.” He smiled broadly, all attempts at suppression failing miserably. Mary smiled conspiratorially and nodded her agreement, taking the glass.
The next one came to me. “You ever had this before, Laura?” he asked, handing the subsequent glass to Bertram.
“You tell me,” I said, looking up at him half-accusingly as I too tried not to smile. “Have I?”
He grinned. “No, I haven’t put this in any of yours tonight.”
“Then no,” I admitted. “Only elderflower wine, like we drank earlier, and some mead at Christmas.”
“Be careful, then,” he said, pouring shots for Charlotte and Peter. “It can get to your head pretty quickly, this stuff.” I grinned and downed it quickly, before I could pull a face at the taste. The strange fiery aftertaste had faded before I realised he’d called me Laura instead of Cauldwell.
Three shots and half an hour later Bertram was getting tired. “I think I’d better head back downstairs now,” he said to me, his arm around me. “Don’t want to get caught out of bed too late. Unless you wanted me to stay?” He looked at me almost expectantly.
My mouth dropped open in shock. We’d been going out for less than four weeks – really we’d known each other for less than four weeks – and he was suggesting spending the night? I mean, I might have been tipsy but I certainly wasn’t that drunk. “I don’t think so,” I said as firmly as I could manage. “Besides, boys can’t get up the girls’ stairs, they turn into slides, so you couldn’t get up there anyway.” Meaning, don’t get any ideas that it’ll happen in the future, either. A nd with as much strength as I could muster, I helped him to his feet and escorted him back to the portrait hole.
I could hear Sirius’ voice carrying across the almost deserted room. “Is it just me or was that just a tad presumptuous?”
“No, not just you,” Lily agreed, and I didn’t need to be able to see her face imagine its expression.
“I thought that too,” said Remus, before quickly turning the conversation to something else as I returned to the circle.
I pretended I hadn’t heard them, but privately I agreed. To get my mind off it I downed another shot of Firewhisky, swishing it around in my mouth to get the fiery sensation before swallowing it.
“Where’d you get the whisky anyway?” asked Martha with a rather wicked grin on her face. “You haven’t been marauding for it, have you?” She caught my eye and winked, then went on to look at each of the other girls in turn.
James turned a little pale. “What did you say?” he asked, seeming much more sober all of a sudden.
“You heard me,” Martha said tartly, trying to suppress a giggle. The rest of us were similarly unsuccessful in our attempts not to laugh.
“How’d you find out?” asked Sirius. He too appeared to have sobered up significantly in about a millisecond, and abstractedly I wondered if they’d just had a shot of Sobering Solution instead of Firewhisky.
“Tha’ wa’ me,” admitted Mary. “I saw yer banner.”
“How?” Peter asked suspiciously, and I remembered that Mary had said that the banner was placed so that you couldn’t see it from the stairs.
“Snuck in one day,” she said cheerfully, her boldness most probably due to the alcohol. Marcus put a protective arm around her. “Ye’d lef’ th’ door ajar, so I though’ I’d take a wee peek.”
“That was private,” said Sirius, almost angrily. “What else did you see?”
“Nae much o’ note,” said Mary. “I dinna ken why it’s such a secret anyway, it’s nae tha’ big a deal.”
“Looks like the game’s up, boys,” James said heavily. “Look, that was a nickname we came up with in second year. Ages ago. We just never took the banner down, it was one of those things that only we knew, and it’s kind of nice having something about us that the rest of the school’s not aware of.”
He was looking at Lily as he said it, as though praying she wouldn’t think worse of him because of something he’d thought was cool when he was twelve. Behind him, however, I noticed Peter, Sirius and Remus were all struggling to keep a straight face. There was obviously a joke in there somewhere that I didn’t get.
Lily nodded. “I can understand that,” she said, and James’ face relaxed. “We won’t tell anyone, will we girls?” We all hastily agreed, not wanting to have the boys any angrier at us.
“The bigger issue,” Remus said gravely, “is you sneaking into our dorm. That’s not fair. We should be able to see yours now.”
Charlotte raised her eyebrows. “And how do you propose doing that? Seeing as if you put a foot on the staircase it will, as Laura pointed out earlier, turn into a slide.”
“Don’t think we haven’t tried to work out a way around that,” said Sirius, smiling mischievously.
“Why does that not surprise me?” Martha said dryly. “But you haven’t come up with anything yet, have you?”
“That’s what you think,” smiled James. And no matter how much we prodded and begged, none of them would say anything further than that, leaving us wondering if they actually had got up the stairs and, if so, how they could possibly have managed it.
Author’s note: Okay, a few things to cover here. First of all yes, I know, the anonymous gift is completely cliché but I wanted to do it, so I did. After all, it is my story. :D
Secondly, I’m conscious that this chapter is somewhat longer than usual, but I wanted to keep the all birthday and Marauder stuff together so that’s how it turned out. It occurred to me that the Marauder nickname has only ever come up in canon on the Map, so maybe the whole school didn’t call them that. Just a thought.
Thirdly, I hope I didn’t disappoint anyone with the party scene – I hadn’t expected it to get as much buildup as it did, and then when it did inspire that anticipation I didn’t know how to make it more dramatic without forcing a complete re-write of what’s to come, so I just left it as it was. I hope you think it turned out okay!
And finally, I know I wrote it but I just love that conversation with Sirius in the middle of the night on Laura’s birthday: as so often happens, I had a vague idea of what I wanted but once I started typing my fingers just went off on their own. I must remember to thank them. Manicure, do you think?
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