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Obscure by moony_
Chapter 13 : Paper Faces On Parade. Chapter Twelve.
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 11


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Lovely image of Mack and...secret person by Madooo @ TDA!
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I really don't know why Sirius was so obsessed with the idea that Remus and I get together. Maybe he thought that his playing matchmaker and getting us together was redemption for one of his past relationships that he completely ruined. Maybe he thought that messing with our love life would suddenly make what he did alright.

I certainly didn't know but it was really starting to get on my last nerve.

He was constantly telling me that I shouldn't worry about the ball because Remus would be there to rescue me if I got into any trouble. That my dress was going to look fine, as long as I stood next to Remus. And especially that this was the perfect night to ask for forgiveness for running away from him.

As always, I ignored Padfoot's crazy rantings and just went about my days normal as ever.

Apparently, Lily had decided that we were temporarily best friends and she'd taken the initiative to wake me up on the morning of the ball at nine o' clock. I usually slept until at least eleven or so during breaks, so this was a major set back on my beauty sleep. When she told me that we needed to start getting ready, I was really convinced that she was going mad. She made me go down to the kitchen with a huge bag to fill up for the day. When I asked why, she said that we would be up in our dorms all day and that we wouldn't be able to go to breakfast or lunch. So, I did as she told and got food from the kitchens, but I didn't go right back to her. I made a little stop.

"Your girlfriend is trying to kill me!" I yelled, hitting the sleeping James with a pillow. Well, he certainly wasn't sleeping anymore.

"Wha' de bloody hell — is she — doin'?!" he asked between hits.

Like me, the boys slept til around eleven, so, by waking up James, I woke up the lot of them, including a very upset Frank.

"Wha's goin' on?!" he mumbled loudly.

"Lily woke me up," hit, "thirty minutes ago," hit, "and said," hit, "that we have to start," hit, "getting ready," hit, "for the ball," hit, "NOW!"

Sirius sat up on his elbow, rubbing his eyes with the heel of his palm. "No wonder the girl always looks flawless. She never sleeps!"

Remus looked up and noticed me standing there. He immediately laid back down and pulled his blanket over his head. I just rolled my eyes.

My temporary moment of distraction gave James just the right amount of time to push me onto the floor, tear the pillow out of my grip, straddle my stomach and pin me to the floor with my arms under his knees. After fighting with him for a moment, I gave up and laid limp on the ground, while he sat triumphantly on top of me, wearing no shirt, like the rest of them. But I wasn't like the rest of the girl population at Hogwarts. I didn't fall at their feet just because they were half-naked. He sighed in relief and looked down at me.

"Now," he breathed. "What's the problem?"

"I want to sleep," I said bitterly. "That's the problem."

"And Lily won't let you?" Sirius asked.

"Exactly."

"Well, what are we supposed to do about it?" James shrugged.

"I dunno. Maybe control your girlfriend!" I shouted at him. If you couldn't tell, I was rather grumpy when I didn't get sleep. But I'm quite sure you were able to tell.

James let up on his hold of me and I took the chance to shove him off me and stand up. "Whatever," I groaned. "I'll just deal with it."

And by 'deal with it', I didn't know that it meant I would have to go through a whole day at 'Spa Evans'.

The moment I stepped back into the dorm, Lily all but forced me to go through with her beauty tips and methods. First, she made me take a thirty minute shower and she told me to wash my hair with her 'special' shampoo. Then, we wore one of those face masks that prevent you from moving your face at all. And you know all those movies where those divas where cucumbers on their eyes? Well, that's what we did. She then spent forever giving me a manicure and pedicure or whatever she called them, and then talked to me as she did her own nails. This all alone took us until one o' clock.

Merlin, it was ridiculous.

I was reminded exactly why I never spent time with girls. They make me want to rip my bloody hair out! Especially this girl. But I was trying to be nice, since she was James' love interest and blah, blah, blah.

Finally, though, it was about fifteen minutes til seven, when the ball started, and Lily stopped worrying so much about me. Now her primary concern was herself, which was understandable. She had a gorgeous reputation to uphold. I, on the other hand, had nothing to worry about. Lucky me.

"So, you're going with James, right?" I confirmed, not really able to accept the fact that she had finally fell for him.

She rolled her eyes for about the fourth time that day at me. "Yes, Mackenzie. And we're going to have a splendid time together."

"Alright, if you say so."

"I'm just surprised that the lot of you are actually easing off a bit for this," she said, putting on a sparkly necklace.
I frowned. "Huh?"
"Oh, James never said anything about you all pulling a prank at the ball. And I just have to say that I'm pretty surprised. I was sure that you would take this advantage and plan something spectacular," she smiled, then shrugged. "Whatever."

On the outside, I nodded and shrugged as well, but on the inside, I was laughing myself silly.

"Can I ask you a question, Mackenzie?" Lily queried.

"If you stop calling 'Mackenzie', then sure."

"Oh, right. Mack. Well, I was just wondering... I mean, why is it that you choose to spend all of your time with the Marauders? Nobody understands why you never hang out with girls. So, I was curious—"

"I grew up with boys," I interrupted her. "I've always had Mason and I've known Remus since I was five. All the neighborhood boys would always come to our house to play and they would talk about how dumb all their sisters and cousins and other girls were. Of course, they hardly thought twice about me because I was a complete tom-boy. I would always lead all the pirate brigades and win in sword fights." I smiled, looking at the floor. "I even cut my hair short because I didn't like how it got in my way when I played." I glanced up at her and shrugged. "Then I got to school and I had to stay in the girls' dorm. I practically begged my dad to request for me to stay in the boys' dorm because I didn't know any better. Once I tried getting to know the girls, they were exactly like all the boys had always said. They were vicious. So, I just kept with my boys and never bothered with anybody else. Now the girls dislike me almost as much as I dislike them."

She just smiled. "Well, I'm gonna let you in on a little secret. Eighty percent of the girls who say they hate you, are all completely jealous of you."

I laughed, then realized she was serious. "You're kidding, right?"

"No, I'm not. They're always talking about how they wish they could fit in with the guys at this school. All of them wish they could understand them." She shrugged. "Lucky you, I guess."

I sighed. "Yeah, lucky me."

I had to admit that the day's worth of preparation had really paid off. Lily looked flawless. Her fierce red curls were pinned back in a messy sort of bun, with curls loose all around. Her dress seemed as though it was made for her. It was strapless and a gorgeous dark green that brought out her eyes. It was a bit poofy and reached to the middle of her thighs, showing off her tan legs. She wore dangerously high platform shoes, making her legs seem even longer than they really were. To top it all off, her mask was the exact color of her dress, with gold trimming around the edges and a black feather sticking out the top.

Like I said, she looked spectacular. James was going to go ga-ga.

I, on the other hand, couldn't even compare. She did my make-up just as she had when she was 'practicing', along with my hair. She wanted to lend me some of her pearl earrings, which I would've graciously accepted, had my ears been pierced. I really wasn't the earring type of person, usually. Instead, however, she leant me a gorgeous pearl necklace that would hang around my neck and cover my otherwise bare clavicles. It was the pearls that truly reminded me of my mother. Pearls were always her favorite. Along with the dress, I had white, silk gloves that went up to just above my elbows.

Standing in the WC, with the door closed, I changed into my dress, careful not to mess up my hair, as Lily had reminded me. I slipped it on my thin body and managed to zip it all by myself. As if by the magic that was so familiar to me, it fit perfectly, as though it had been made for me. I adjusted my glasses and gazed at the mirror at my bare shoulders and back. I practically felt naked. I bit my lip as I noticed the now-exposed scars on my shoulder and bruises on my arms.

Taking a deep breath, I shook my head and covered my mouth. I couldn't do this. The spell that I had looked up to cover these marks lasted exactly five hours. My scars would become visible at midnight and the book specifically stated that the spell could only be performed once every twenty-four hours. Just my luck, eh?

Sighing, I muttered the spell quietly, "Occulto vestigium." And they disappeared.

So, now I stood in front of the mirror for a moment, staring at my unfamiliar reflection. I genuinely looked like my mother. I swallowed hard and slipped off my glasses, laying them on the counter top.

Holding up my mask, I smirked. "Hide your face so the world will never find you," I muttered, tying it around my head.

Now, I was ready.

"C'mon, the boys said they'd meet us down in the Common Room," came Lily's voice from back in the dorm.

When I walked out, she just smiled. "Alright, time to go."

She rushed down the stairs, eager to see James, while I slowly made my way to the Common Room. First, because I was really and truly nervous. I was nervous of what the boys would think — what everyone would think. Second, being that I had been forced (by none other than Lily) to wear heels. A recipe for disaster.

When I finally came to the bottom of the stairs, I couldn't help but smile at the boys' masks. James wore a silver 'Phantom of the Opera' mask, which only covered half his face, but still disguised him fairly well. I just wondered how he was doing without his glasses. Sure, he could have the mask thing, but he still had a whole other eye.... What'd he do with that one? Sirius wore a black and red mask that resembled a devil's face, complete with a longish nose and horns. Both masks were silly, but still somehow looked elegant.

Wow, it seemed like all of us were looking elegant tonight.

I was surprised to see one last boy standing to the side, with his hands held behind his back. He wore a simple black mask to go along with his simple black and white dress robes.

Funny. We matched.

When I looked at him, his blue eyes locked on mine and I found myself unable to look away for a moment. His gaze was gentle, admirable. Nothing like what I had expected to see.

"Nightingale," Sirius' voice came, causing me to break our stare. "You ready to go?"

I took a breath and nodded quickly, as I slowly made my way down the last few steps.

He held out his arm and I gratefully took it, glad for the distraction. Was that really Remus? I glanced back as he followed close behind us. What was he doing?

"Told you you two'd match," Sirius whispered in my ear as we walked.

"Did you plan that?" I hissed back.

He just smiled. "Sort of funny, isn't is?" he motioned to everybody's masks. "It's like we're paper faces on parade."

Parades were happy, exciting and peppy. I felt anything but. "I don't know if I'd say 'parade'," I murmured too quietly for him to hear.

Just the sight of other people walking around us made my stomach feel queasy. “Remind me again why I’m going to this?” I mumbled to Sirius.

“The prank,” he whispered to me.

“Right.”

Unlike you'd think, the masquerade was not held in the Great Hall. Slughorn apparently wanted to try something new. The ball was to be held out of doors, in an invisible, gigantic dome. It sounded crazy to me, too, until I laid my eyes on it. As we walked out of the entrance doors, I could hardly believe my eyes. There was a clear, grassy pathway that led to a huge bubble next to the lake. Snow still fell from the dark sky, but it hit the top of the dome and slid right off, keeping the cold December air out. Sirius practically had to drag me along as I marveled at the sight.

The closer we got to the large bubble, we could hear music that sounded so familiar to my ears, but I couldn't quite place it. When we finally reached our destination and I saw exactly who was playing, my eyes became wide with excitement and I pulled on Sirius' robes, pointing to the large stage at the far end of the bubble.

"Sirius! Sirius! It's 'Fired From School'! That's 'Fired From School'!" I exclaimed, not able to believe that Slughorn had gotten them to play on New Year's Eve.

Sirius rolled his eyes and did a double take at the dance floor, which was laid with hard-wood flooring, instead of grass. I watched his eyes travel up and down four of the girls who danced to the upbeat song.

Smirking, I shoved him towards the dance floor. "Go get 'em, you devil. I'll be fine," I said.

He glanced back at me and I gave him a quick thumbs up. He smiled and made his way over to the girls.

I looked around and spotted a table that was almost empty. As I made my way over to it, people watched as I walked, shaking their heads and whispering.

"Who is she?"

"She's gorgeous!"

"I don't know who that is..."

Clenching my jaw in annoyance, I came to the almost empty table and pulled out a chair.

"This seat taken?" I asked Remus as I sat down.

He looked up at me for a moment. "No, go ahead."

I nodded. "Thanks."

I couldn't help but smile as I watched Sirius dance with the four girls at the same time. Only Padfoot. James and Lily were dancing and laughing together and I couldn't help but observe how perfect they were together. Dammit. Why did everyone else have to be happy? Why was I left to feel all alone?

Trying to find something to distract myself with, I admired the handy work of Slughorn. White candles floated all over the ceiling of the dome and spare masks were set out on all of the white clothed tables. We sat in black chairs and little touches of silver covered the place (the punch bowls, the lining of the stage, the plates). One huge silver clock hovered in the very middle of the dome, ticking and ticking. It was really amazing.

The music suddenly slowed and couples embraced and began slow dancing. James was with Lily and Sirius was with one of the girls he had been dancing with before.

I sighed and looked down at my lap, where I anxiously tore up a napkin with my silk covered fingers. Why did I even come here? It had only been three bloody minutes and I was already regretting it. That's definitely a record.

"Mack?"

I looked up and there Remus stood, his hand outstretched towards me.

I frowned. "What?"

"Dance?" he asked, innocently.

I almost laughed. "You're kidding, right?"

He smirked lightly. "C'mon, Mack. Be spontaneous. Do something new."

I quickly shook my head. "I can't dance, Moony," I hissed, looking around as people began to stare.

He seemed to be enjoying himself. "You're just attracting attention to yourself."

Once again, I shook my head. "Sit down," I implored, glancing around nervously. "Please."

"Just dance. It's easy," he said, grabbing my hand and pulling me out of my chair, dropping the napkin bits on the floor.

I glanced around just to see that people were still watching to see whether or not the strange beauty would actually dance. Snooty kids. Too preoccupied with other people's lives, they can't focus on their own.

Groaning, I allowed Remus to pull me out onto the dance floor. Sirius caught my eye for a moment and winked, just causing me to groan louder.

"Okay," Rem said, smiling. He was obviously enjoying himself with this little scene. "Do you know how you're supposed to stand?"

"No," I said, bitterly. I wasn't going to forgive him that easily.

He chuckled. "Alright, well, you hold my hand here..." He gripped my right hand in his left. "And you put your hand on my shoulder..." He gently placed my other hand on his shoulder. "And I put my hand here." He carefully placed his hand on my waist, glancing up as if to see my reaction.

Even though the feeling of his hand against my back sent shivers down my spine, I gave no indication of this. He wasn't going to enchant me that easily. Actually... He wasn't going to enchant me at all. I refused to let him.

"That easy enough?" he asked.

I just shrugged in response.

"'Kay, now, you just do what I do. Follow my lead. When I step back, you step forward. When I step left, you step right. Get it?"

I frowned at him. "No. I don't get it. At all."

He smiled. "Just do what I do." He took a step back and somehow managed to do the same. "Good. Keep doing that." He took a step to the side and I tried to do the same, but ended up stepping on his foot.

"Sorry!"

He shook his head, without wincing. "I'm fine. Just keep going."

He tried stepping forward and caught me off guard, causing me to stumble.

Remus chuckled. "How about we just sway back and forth in one place?"

I nodded eagerly. That sounded way easier.

He pulled me close and slowly we swayed as the slow song changed to another slow song. Of course.

"You look beautiful," he whispered down to me. "Just like your mum did."

I looked up, my eyes wide. "Really? You think so?"

He smiled and nodded. "Yeah, I do."

Coming from one of the few people who actually knew my mum, that meant a lot. She truly was a beautiful woman. And, slowly, I was turning into her. Well, not the beautiful woman part. I'm not beautiful. But the other part about... Oh, whatever.

I noticed Remus' gaze wander to my shoulder. "So, how'd you cover them up?" he asked, quietly.

I avoided his eyes. "A spell," I muttered.

He put a finger under my chin and raised my face. "And why didn't you cover these?"

I quickly pulled away from his touch and swallowed hard. "Lily did my make-up and knew they were there. I didn't want to fix them and have her wonder." I knew he still blamed himself for what happened that night. "Moony, you can't keep thinking that it was your fault. It wasn't. You've been avoiding me for what? Five days? That's a whole load of time to be away from your best mate." I paused for a moment. "And what about our deal?"

"What deal?"
"The deal where we made an agreement that we'll both try to be the best mates that we are. When we were in..." I trailed off. The words sounded too weird. When we were in the bath together. Yeah, way too weird.

"Yeah, well, I'm upholding my side of the deal by protecting you."

"You can't protect me if you're never around me, Remus!"

At that, he was silent. He knew I was right.

"I'm sorry," he whispered, after a moment.

I looked up at him, my brow furrowed in question. "Whatever for?"

"For hurting you. I'm so, so sorry."

I pursed my lips, not quite sure how to respond. It was obvious that he felt horrible about this. I just didn't know how to reassure him that it was alright.

Taking a deep breath, I gently intertwined my fingers in his and leaned my head against his chest. "It's okay. I'm fine, see? I'm fine," I whispered to him.

And for the rest of the song, we swayed slowly in silence, my head rising and falling with his deep breaths.

When 'Fired From School' played the last chord of the song, I made sure to be the first one to pull away. "Thanks — erm, for the dance," I mumbled, not really sure what to do or say.

He smiled slightly and gave a gracious bow.

"Oh." I returned with my best curtsy, which really didn't look like a curtsy at all, but more of a stumble of sorts.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

After dancing with Remus, Sirius was the only one of my mates who I would let convince me to get onto the dance floor again. He almost forced me to accompany him for one slow dance.

"How has your evening been so far, Oh Majestic Beauty?" he smirked. He'd been calling me that all bloody night. What a stupid name.

"Well, due to the fact it's been two hours and I've danced twice and been stared at for the rest of the time, I'd say I'm having a rather awful night, Padfoot. I'll admit it," I sighed.

It wasn't like I had been expecting a good time. I was here for one reason and one reason alone. The prank. That was it.

"Doesn't all the attention make you feel a bit good, though?" he asked, knowing the answer he would receive.

"Of course not! You know that I detest attention. Especially lustful attention."

He chuckled. "To most girls, love, that's the only sort of attention they seek."

"I'm definitely not 'most girls', though, am I?"

"No, I've gotta say, you're not. But I think that might be what's getting you all the stares. You're different. And us blokes always need a bit of variety."

"Oh, fabulous," I sighed, looking past him for a moment.

Quite unexpectedly, someone caught my eye. Wearing traditional black and white dress robes, along with a loosely-done black tie, stood a boy whom I had never seen before. Or at least, a boy I hardly recognized. With shaggy brown hair and a smart gold mask, he stood with his hands in his pockets and a wide smile across his face, talking to some other boy I honestly didn't care about. Merlin, this boy was gorgeous.

"Padfoot," I breathed, my eyes wide and my mouth agape. "Who is that?"

He turned us a bit and glanced in the direction I was staring. Looking back at me, he just smiled. "I dunno. Do you know?"

I shook my head, captivated by this enchanting young man.

Sirius chuckled. "I could go talk to him for you, if you wanted."

My head whipped back to him. "No," I responded, quickly. "Don't."

"Okaaaay. You're the one that asked."

I hardly heard what he said. Who the hell was that bloke?

"He looks a bit shady, though. Mysterious. Strange. I don't really know."

I frowned. "What are you going on about?"

"Well, I dunno. This is a masquerade, what you see may not be all of reality, if you get my drift."

"I don't really care, but I definitely want to see all of his reality, if you get my drift.

He just rolled his eyes. "Let's just hope he asks you to dance. Otherwise, you'll just be staring at him all night."

The boy's eyes locked with mine for a moment and I quickly returned my gaze to Sirius.

The song ended without my knowing and Sirius led a quite dazed version of me back to the table. Pulling out the chair for me, he smirked and walked away to get us some drinks, of which I was certain he had already spiked. That was why I hadn't drank anything all night. Not going to risk it.

I looked back at the dance floor, where there was now playing one of my favorite songs from 'Fired From School', a catchy, up-beat sort of song. As expected, Lily and James were dancing with each other and Remus was...dancing and laughing with some girl in a yellow dress and mask. Yuck. I hated yellow. She looked like a bloomin' banana.

When Sirius came back with two drinks in his hands, he handed me one and took the seat next to me. I looked into the silver cup and swished around the pinkish liquid.

"Did you spike it?" I asked him, just as he took a long chug from his glass.

"Yep," he answered simply, standing up to get a refill.

Sighing, I took a little swig and looked up in the direction of the mystery man, only to see that, dammit, he was gone. I looked around, but had no success in locating him. Well, that sucks.

Sirius returned about two minutes later, just as a slow song started playing. Smiling, he immediately stood up and asked some girl in a short dress if she'd like to dance.

Wow. Alone again. I really think that I held the record.

"Excuse me, Miss?" came a deep voice, with the lightest hint of a Scottish accent.

I glanced up, just as I raised my glass to my mouth for another drink.

There, standing right in front of me, was him. The gorgeous, sexy guy with the gold mask.

I almost choked.

"May I have this dance?" he asked, holding his hand out and smiling at me. His chocolately hazel eyes locked on mine and I couldn't look away.

I stared at him for a moment, before nodding and giving him my hand. He gripped it gently and swept down to lay a soft kiss on my glove. I really couldn't believe that he was real. He had to be a figment of my imagination. Oh, please don't let him be a figment of my imagination.

Keeping my hand in his, he slowly led me to the dance floor, stopping only when he came to the very middle. He gently placed his hand against my waist, a bit further down than Remus and Sirius' hands had been, but it wasn't like I cared.

Suddenly, by hell, I remembered something.

"I'm sorry, I completely forgot that I can't dance," I said slowly, the heat rising to my pale face. "But, we can sway, if you'd like. You wouldn't want to risk a toe."

He laughed. Oh, God. Even his laugh was sexy. "No worries, love. Swaying is just alright by me."

For some reason, I got the impression that he was as flustered as I was. Ha, no way. Why would he be flustered by me? Ridiculous observation.

"So, what brings a beauty like you to a dance like this?" he asked, looking down at me. Like Remus, he was about a head taller than me. Great.

I chuckled. "Grave circumstances, I'm afraid," I told him, in mock seriousness.

He smiled and played along. "Oh? And what would these grave circumstances be?"

"My best mates," I sighed, "they forced to come. Bought me a mask and everything. Seems I had no choice in the matter."

“Merlin, that is grave.”

“Indeed.”

"For the record, I'm glad you came, even if you were forced under such horrid circumstances."

I blushed and looked down at my feet for a moment. "Yes, well, how does a handsome chap like yourself end up in such a place as this?" I mimicked his question.

"Same as you, I'm afraid. Good friend told me that they'd better see me here, or I'd be in a load of trouble."

"Ooh, good idea to come. I'd avoid 'a load of trouble' if at all possible. Besides, I'm sure it hasn't been all bad."

He shrugged. "Some drunk girl spilled punch in my lap, a mad bloke accidentally stomped on my foot and my mask is kinda tight. Not the best night of my life."

"Well, you met me. That's got to count for something," I flirted. Woah. I flirted? Really? And I didn't sound completely stupid?

He smiled, revealing straight, sparkling teeth. "Yeah, I met you. That definitely goes on the 'Great Things That Happened Tonight' List." And for once, I got a compliment that wasn't the least bit sarcastic.

"I mean, that would depend on who 'me' is, wouldn't it?" I asked.

He shrugged. "I dunno. If you prove yourself worthy, it won't matter who 'me' is," he said, humorously. "Of course, a few hints wouldn't hurt. How about the first letter of your name?"

I shook my head. "No, that would make it too easy."

"Last name?"

"Definitely not."

"House?"

"Of course not.”

He nodded. "Fair enough. How about your favorite food?"

I grinned. "Pumpkin Pastries."

"Now, you see, that tells a lot about you right there. A sweet being your favorite food tells me that you're not afraid to eat, like most girls. And Pumpkin Pastries in particular are delicious, so I know you have good taste."

"Very good. And you're certainly right on both points. Now, do I get a turn to ask you something?"

He shrugged. "If you really want to," he joked.

"Hmm... Your favorite season?"

He chuckled. "Random, much? I guess, I'd have to say autumn. Something about the color of the leaves that attracts me."

I raised my eyebrows. He was...great. "Let's see, autumn means that you don't like either the hot or the cold, just the in between?"

He nodded. "Right, you are, my dear. Anything else?"

"And it just says that you're different. Most people would say the spring or summer. Everyone revolts against the winter and autumn. Quite sad, actually."

We laughed together.

"Alright, my turn... I don't think we can really avoid this question because it's sure to come eventually. Why not just take the inevitable head on, eh? Anyways, how's your love life?" He snickered. "I won't lie, though, 'please be single' is running along my brain faster than I can really comprehend."

I just smiled. "I'll have you know, then, that I am quite single," I smirked, just as the slow song ended.

A broad grin covered his face. "Well, you wouldn't mind if I asked to sit with you, would you?" he queried, following me off the dance floor, my hand still in his.

"Of course not, but first, are you available? It would put quite a damper on our relationship if you weren't."

"I'll have you know, then, that I am quite single," he mocked my tone.

"Wonderful," I just couldn't seem to stop smiling.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

For the next two and a half hours, this guy and I sat and talked and talked and talked.

Merlin, I think I was in love.

I couldn't even recollect on all of the things we talked about, there were so many. He was probably one of the most captivating blokes I'd ever met. And I didn't even know his name.

For some reason, though, I felt this really strange attraction towards him. I felt like I'd known him for a long time. Being with him... Well, it just felt right. I felt like nothing bad could ever happen when we were with each other.

So, there we sat, our chairs facing and our knees touching as we talked and laughed. It was amazing.

"—And I swear, she looked exactly like a banshee!"

I burst out laughing as he described a certain experience with one of his ex-girlfriends. Of course, he wouldn't tell me her name, but the scenario was still funny, nonetheless.

"Now, are you two behaving?" came a slurred voice from behind me. Of course, it had to be none other than Sirius.

"Yeah, and you can leave now," I mumbled, really not wanting him to ruin this.

"Why do you treat me so rudely, Oh Majestic Beauty?" he joked, a bit tipsy. He squatted down next to my chair and wrapped his arm around my shoulder.

My gorgeous friend frowned at him. "Do you know this guy?" he asked.

I rolled my eyes. "Yeah, this is one of my best mates. Now you can get out of here, Padfoot," I said to Sirius, then froze. Damn. 'Conceal your identity' had been completely blown from my mind. I stared at my buddy, as a grin began to form its way across his cheeks. "I mean... Sirius, what was that nickname you have again? Oh, yeah, Padfoot. Can I call you that? I mean, even though I'm not a Marauder, that would be kinda neat. To call you. By your nickname. Even though I'm not..."

Merlin, it was no use.

"You're Mackenzie?" the masked man asked. Well, technically, we were all masked, so that wouldn't be such a great name...

I sighed. "Would it even be worth it if I denied?"

He shook his head. "Nope, sorry. But, really, you're Mackenzie Hathaway?"

"No, I'm Mack Hathaway," I corrected. "Why are you so amazed?"

"No reason, honest. You just don't look like yourself at all," he scratched his head.

"Gee, thanks."

"No! No, I didn't mean it like that. I just meant... Well, I don't really know what I meant, but please don't be upset with me," he pleaded, honestly sounding sincere.

I shrugged. "It's alright, I forgive you," I told him, as Sirius stalked off.

We watched him go for a moment, then Mr. Beautiful looked back at me. "Hey, do you... I mean, not to sound weird or anything, but do you want to go somewhere quieter to talk? I mean, I think there are some chairs in the walkway going back to the castle. We can sit there and talk."

I bit my lip. Part of me really wanted to, but the other part... "I dunno, I mean, the last time a bloke wanted to 'talk' he ended up trying to—"

He interrupted me, shaking his head. "Oh, Merlin. I really don't mean anything like that. If it's any reassurance, in the walkway, everyone here would still be able to see us, since the wall’s invisible. And I bet people will be walking in and out, so we won't be completely alone." Wow. He really just wanted to talk.

I smiled. "Alright, let's ditch this popsicle joint."

He laughed and began to lead me through the large crowd of people and toward the walkway. When Mr. Irresistible realized that I was having trouble keeping up, due to all the people, he intertwined his fingers in mine and pulled me along with him.

Suddenly, I really wanted to take my gloves off. I realized that I hadn't yet had skin-on-skin contact with him at all. When we danced, he had his hand on my dress and my hands were gloved. Oh, Merlin. His touch tantalized me even now, imagining what it would feel like without my gloves sent shivers down my spine.

When we reached a fairly secluded part of the walkway, where you could still barely hear the music, we stopped and grabbed a couple of the chairs that sat along the 'wall'. Facing them so we could see the lake, we sat close, chairs right next to one another.

He sighed, relaxing a bit. "Now, this is great. As if sitting next to this gorgeous girl and talking to her for hours wasn't enough, we had to add a view of the lake," he smiled at me. "I don't think this night could really get any better for me." We still held hands and his thumb gently stroked mine.

"Ha, it could get a bit better for me. You know, if I knew who you were," I said, gazing out over the lake.

He chortled. "Maybe you'll figure it out soon. You never know."

We sat in silence for a few minutes, just staring out at the lake. But it wasn't an awkward, strained kind of silence. It was a comfortable, simple silence. We felt no need to speak and I loved that we could do that. It always annoyed me when people felt like they always had to be saying something, like silence was a bad thing.

It was him that spoke first.

"It's weird, you know," he said, keeping his gaze on the lake.

"What is?"

"I don't really know how to explain it. It'll just sound strange. For some reason, I... I feel like I have this connection with you." He ruffled his hair. "I know it sounds cheesy, but I feel like we have this...attraction." He looked at me. "Is it just me?"

I stared into his hazel eyes and slowly shook my head. "No, I feel the same way... It's weird, isn't it?"

"Really weird," he confirmed, his eyes not straying from mine.

"You know, maybe if I knew who you were, I wouldn't have to wonder if we've met before."

"Oh, I promise. We've never met before. I doubt you even know who I am."

I shrugged. "You're probably right. Outside of the Marauders, I seriously have no life at all." I sighed. "They are my life."

"So, you all are really close?"

I nodded. "Closer than close. We're best mates. All five of us. It's always been like that. Ever since first year."

"Do you get into a lot of fights?"

"Oh, yeah. Loads. But I really think they make us stronger. We tell each other practically everything. There're no secrets with the Marauders."

"Excuse me for asking, but, I mean, how would you know that?"

I frowned. "What do you mean?"

"I'm not saying that there is, but I'm just wondering how you would know that there are no secrets. Maybe you tell them everything. But how do you know they tell you everything?"

"Because I trust them," I answered, honestly, knowing that he was just curious. "And most of them are horrible at lying to me," I smirked.

"Ha, well, I can't argue with that."

"Yeah, good idea."

He smiled. "So, have you kissed all the Marauders?"

My stomach clenched for a moment, as I thought about Remus. Did he know about that? Merlin, Sirius told somebody, didn’t he? Who told someone else, who told someone else, who told—

"I mean, back when you snogged Sirius in the middle of the courtyard. Now, that was great."

I smiled, almost sighing in relief. "It worked, didn't it? Got the whole female population off my back about being lesbian."

He chuckled wholeheartedly. "You know, I'm still not convinced," he smiled.

I laughed. "Oh, really? You're not?"
"Nope. It sort of seemed like you didn't know what you were doing. I mean, kissing a bloke and all. Maybe it's because you'd never kissed a bloke before. Just the ladies."

I elbowed him. "Or maybe, I'd never been kissed before and really had no idea what I was doing," I suggested.

"No," he denied, smiling. "Mack Hathaway? Never been kissed? Impossible."

I nodded. "It's possible because it's true."

"So, let me get this straight. You'd never been kissed before and you chose Sirius Black to be your first?"

"Ha, yeah, I guess that's right."

"And he's the only one you've ever kissed?"

I blushed a little. "No, not the only one."

"Oh? So, we've had a little practice since then? Way to go, Mack!" he cheered jokingly.

"Yes, I have had a bit of practice. And I must say that I'm pretty good at it," I smiled.

"Really? Well, I dunno about that. I mean, I've kissed about every good lady snogger there is and, well, you're not on my list," he raised his eyebrows suggestively.

Was he trying to get me to kiss him? Oh, woah.

"Do you want me to be on it?" I actually flirted back. Yes, I flirted!

"Do you want to be on it?" he asked, letting go of my hand and brushing a curl away from my eyes.

I shrugged. "I wouldn't mind. I'm already on one of your lists, aren't I? Another one...wouldn't...hurt," my voice gradually got softer until it was barely above a whisper.

He smiled and stroked my lips with his thumb, his touch taking my breath away.

He slowly leaned in and, as gentle as a feather, our lips brushed against each other, before I pressed my lips firmly against his.

That was about as far as we got, due to the fact that a couple blokes walked past us and gave a good dog whistle and a congrats to Mr. Great Kisser.

We pulled apart laughing, a bit embarrassed, but stayed close, our foreheads practically resting against each other.

"No going back now," he smiled. "You're on the list."

"Are you convinced now?"

"That you're straight? Ha, yeah, I'm pretty convinced, Miss Hathaway."

I smiled back, staring into his eyes. Biting my lip, I reached up to the corner of his mask, keeping my gaze locked solidly on his. When he made no movement to stop me, I gently lifted the mask up and off his face to reveal...

"Ty Reynolds?"

His smiled grew. "You know who I am."

I just smiled grandly, as well. "Of course, I do. You're in my year and you're in practically all of my classes. Ravenclaw, right?"

He nodded.

Ty nodded.

Like I'd said, Ty was in most of my classes and was known as an all-around great guy. He was a Chaser for Ravenclaw's Quidditch team and was probably considered one of the best. He was pretty smart and all the girls said he was incredibly sweet. For once, I couldn't help but agree with them.

I was just so happy he wasn't some creep or anything and that I really knew who he was. I laughed again and gently kissed him one more time.

"Merlin, if I'd have known this would be your reaction, I would've told you right when we met."

We laughed.

For a moment, I abashed myself for a moment for being so silly. The normal me would never kiss a guy she had met three hours ago at a ball. Then again, I had been talking to him almost nonstop since we'd met and I'd known of him since first year. Plus, this was a masquerade, you're supposed to be someone else. Not yourself.

"While I have you in such a happy mood, I was sort of wondering if you'd like to accompany me to Hogsmeade on our next trip," he asked, bravely, not the slightest bit hesitant.

I bit my lip, smiling, and nodded enthusiastically. "I'd love to."

He smiled brightly, but it quickly faded into a sad sort of look.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

He took a deep breath and took my hands in his. "Mack, I need to tell you something."

I shrugged, as if it were no big deal. "Alright, shoot."

He looked at me seriously. "It's important."

"Alright," I said, acting a bit more pensive.

He ran his fingers through his hair and swallowed hard. "Well, you know how you asked me if we'd ever met before and I assured you that we hadn't?"

I nodded. Where was this going?

"We kind of have."

I frowned. "Wha...?"

"Well, we haven't exactly met, but..."

"Ty, what are you talking about?"

This hit me like a blow from a wrecking ball.

"I'm Inconspicuous."



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