“I am too drunk to fight Death Eaters tonight,” James slurred, leaning heavily on Sirius' shoulder. His eyes narrowed. “What's the redhead doing here?”
Sirius chuckled. “She was just leaving. Weren't you, Lils?”
She nodded, cast a dirty look James' way and then stepped to Sirius' side. Ignoring the men surrounding her, she stretched to her tiptoes and planted a hard kiss on his lips. Before Sirius could react, she disappeared with a faint pop.
“Okay, I have had way too much to drink,” Remus mumbled and moved to lean against the nearest tree. “Did Lily Evans just kiss you?”
“Shrieking shack,” Sirius said, motioning them to move. “Staying in one place isn't safe right now.”
His words sobered the men immediately and they strode in silence toward the shack, all wielding their wands as if they expected to be ambushed at any moment. Slipping into the tattered remains of the abandoned building, Peter cast a quick protection spell over the threshold to prevent others from entering.
Before anyone could ask, Sirius yanked out the picture and tossed it onto the table, a cloud of dust billowing up as it clattered onto the worn wood.
“Sirius-” Remus started, staring at him with wide eyes that completely dismissed the photo on the table. “Lily Evans? Really?”
Sinking into the nearest dust covered chair, Peter chuckled. “I thought she was always after Remus, being the studious one and all. But damn, did you see the way she planted-”
“That’s really not the most interesting thing that’s happened this evening. Try to focus, would you?” Sirius cut them off, trying to couch the irritation in his tone - knowing the scorn was directed at himself, rather than his friends. Of any of them, he’d been the one making dangerous mistakes this evening.
James had a smart reply half-way out of his mouth but a strangling look from Sirius kept him quiet. His eyes dropped to the picture, immediate tension causing his back to straighten and the others to move to his side.
“Is that?” Peter managed, tilting his head to right the image.
“I…Where did you get this?” Remus asked, collecting himself.
“Where do you think?” Sirius shot back, pressing a hand to his throbbing temple.
Picking up the frame to scrutinize its contents, James glared at him. “You met with Death Eaters?” he asked, pronouncing each syllable distinctly for emphasis. “And you went without us?”
Laughing in spite of himself, Sirius shook his head. “Yes, that’s the proper perspective, James. Don’t get lost in the details of Severus Snape making eyes at Voldemort - just focus on the fact that you didn’t get to have a pissing match with Malfoy.”
The tension broken, the three of them gradually slumped into the rotting chairs and sofas that littered the room. Sirius remained where he was, perched against the moldy wall, scarcely paying attention to his friends.
All at once, the intensity of the last ten hours seemed to descend upon him and his eyes closed, allowing the sound of the conversation to drift into the background. Everything ached - from the tension between his shoulder blades to the very bones in his fingers - each tendon screaming out for sleep, each cry ignored individually. Black and white vignettes of Lucius, Regulus and Lily moved across his psyche, demanding notice. But he had nothing left and could only let them play over and over hoping some direction would manifest itself with no mental effort of his own.
“So what do we do?”
Peter’s words broke through the white noise, recalling Sirius to the conversation. “I don’t know,” he answered, surprised by his own words.
Their blank stares were infuriating. The advice he’d come here - come to them - to seek felt miles away, and the more time he spent in this moldy, decrepit house, the further away it seemed.
Sirius' eyes settled on Remus who was thumbing the carving on the frame absently. His eyes lifted slowly. “We have to tell Dumbledore.” The way he said the words, it was obvious that he knew the opinion wouldn't be popular but he said it anyway, bracing himself for the fallout
"Don't be an idiot," Sirius growled. "I'm not going to Dumbledore."
"Any particular reason?" Remus asked acerbically.
"Because this is personal."
"It's all personal," Peter pointed out.
Sirius rolled his eyes behind his hand, closing them again for the briefest moment. For all their muddled intelligence, he sometimes wondered if the Marauders understood him at all. Usually, they could predict each others moves but when it came to times like this – times when his own instinct went against their will- that he doubted he would ever fit in anywhere. Snape had been causing them grief since their first day at Hogwarts. His alliance with Death Eaters not only gave them an excuse to finally get even it was like a free pass to strangle the git with their bare hands. Even the Ministry couldn't fault them for that. Why the men before him were so willing to pass on such an opportunity was beyond him. Snape, of almost anyone, deserved more than whatever the Ministry would give him. He shook his head as memories of the years opposite Snape drifted through his mind. "I'm not going to Dumbledore," he repeated resolutely, dropping into a chair.
James shuffled uneasily. “Then how do you propose we deal with Snape?"
“For chrissakes, James - don't try to handle me.” His fury was rising and he knew it but he couldn't seem to help himself, leaping back to his feet and gesturing toward the nearest door. The floorboards creaked under him, settling as his weight shifted. "If you don't want to be involved then get the hell out."
"Don't be dramatic,” James chuckled. “None of us are going anywhere, we just don't know what it is that you think we can accomplish without Dumbledore."
"What exactly do you think he's going to do, James?" he asked, feeling his blood pressure rise. "Give him a few detentions and a stern talking to? He's rubbing elbows with Voldemort. We should be locking him in a room full of dementors."
"While we're at it, why don't we just throw them in the Black family dungeon?" Remus interjected. "Since you seem to be intent on punishing him without even knowing if this photo is even real or not."
"The Blacks have a dungeon?" Peter queried.
There was a collective rolling of eyes before defeat set in, Sirius dropping back into his chair in a heap. He let his hands run through his hair, unwilling to agree to their plan but knowing he was too emotionally drained to debate the topic with them any longer. He had brought them here. Summoned them not only to help him get away from Lily but for answers to his dilemma as well. Instead, they seemed to want to take everything out of his control and leave everything up to what he saw as misplaced hope in Dumbledore and his blasted Order. He stood up abruptly, causing all eyes to jerk toward him.
“You do what you have to do. Me? I'm going to drink until this whole damn night is just a memory. A fuzzy one at that.”
“Look,” Remus intercepted him before he could get out the door. “I'll talk to Dumbledore. I can set up a meeting so you two can discuss this because we all know you don't intend on standing this fight out.”
“Peter and I can head back to the bar with you and Remus can catch up to give us details,” James tried. “Come on, Sirius, stop being an ass and work with us here, all right?”
“Again,” he shrugged, “do what you have to do. A bar full of willing new Hogwarts graduates is calling my name.”
James and Peter had drifted away immediately upon arrival but for all his bravado, Sirius had steered clear of all the girls swarming the place. Instead, he’d claimed a dark corner at the edge of the bar and was working diligently to finish off the bottle of whiskey the barkeep had kindly placed in front of him. He managed to get down half of it and almost drown out the Lily portion of his evening before Remus appeared to give him the grand news that a meeting with Dumbledore had been scheduled.
Sirius nodded with disinterest as Remus continued to provide details of where and when he was to meet their former headmaster, hearing but still not giving a damn. Instead, it was the trio of girls that had just entered that drew his attention. Shoving Remus a double strength drink, he nodded toward the doorway. “Something seem off about that?”
Remus turned, eying the girls that had just entered. Lily, Mary and some girl he couldn't place a name for...he'd seen them together at school a hundred times. Dressed the same as they had been hours ago before Sirius' interruption, they seemed fine to him. He glanced at Sirius, shrugging. “Nothing out of place to me, mate.”
“You don't see-” Sirius trailed off. No, Remus would not notice that Lily had changed shirts. He hadn't, after all, been caressing it hours ago. He'd have no reason to notice the difference. Sirius cursed himself for paying such close attention, knowing he really had no right to. “Nevermind.”
“Getting obsessed there, Sirius?” he asked, laughing as the whiskey began to take hold of his senses. “Lily weaving her web?”
“On who?” the guy next to them interrupted.
Sirius tried to wave him off but Remus was already babbling. Cursing him for not being able to hold his liquor better, Sirius decided it was time to track down James and Peter and have them escort Remus out before everyone in the whole place knew about he and Lily. A few steps toward the corner where they were hiding, though, and Lily had intercepted him.
“You came back.”
“Temporary stop only,” he grimaced, glancing around for a way out.
She placed a hand on his arm. “Sirius-”
“Don't,” he murmured, extricating her from him. “This isn't safe.”
“I know. I didn't mean-” she lowered her voice. “Sirius-”
He chanced a glance down at her, knowing how compromising a situation this must look. But there was something off, something wrong about her and he couldn't quite fathom what it was. “Why did you change clothes?”
“Your clothes. Why have you changed clothes?”
She trembled, a shiver running straight up her spine. It only lasted an instant but it was enough for Sirius to know that she wasn't looking for romance this time around. The girls standing two steps behind her had the same look on their faces – not terror exactly but whatever had happened they definitely did not feel safe. Grabbing her forearm, he pulled her toward one of the darker, more secluded alcoves of the bar.
“You aren't safe,” he guessed, glancing from her to the other girls.
“No,” Mary was the first to shake her head. Shaking all over actually but it had taken Sirius a moment to notice.
“Lucius, Regulus, Avery, perhaps others,” Mary supplied.
Sirius' grip tightened on Lily's arm at the mention of his brother's name. Lily's eyes locked with his, noting the difference in him, and he fought to control himself better. His eyes roamed the bar – checking his hand – and realizing that their were far more Slytherins than any other house present. Why had he not noticed that before?
“Sirius? Hiding out with Lily? Man, sorry, didn't mean to disturb you two,” the boy that Sirius couldn't even name shuffled off as soon as he'd arrived.
“Sirius?” Lily asked, confused.
He held up a hand. Death Eaters bearing down, surrounded by Slytherins, he couldn't find James or Peter and a drunk Remus was apparently off gossiping about him and Lily. And he couldn't forget Snape whose greasy head was probably kissing up to Voldemort as he sat here waffling in his own indecision. He ran a hand through his hair. Lacking something more eloquent, he exhaled heavily. “Fuck.”
At the same moment the door creaked open, a stinging blow dropped Sirius nearly to his knees. His fist formed instinctively, his swing started unbidden and in a heartbeats time, he realized the fist had been Lily's. Displacing his own swing into the wall behind her, he whirled on her, ready to curse her into oblivion. Instead, the apologetic look in her eyes caught him off guard and over the din of the bar, he realized she was yelling at him. Spouting foul words he didn't even know she knew...and accusing him of being nothing but a lecherous Slytherin all along who only wanted to get up a girl's skirt.
It took everything he had not to laugh out loud – she had found a solution to Remus' damned gossiping when he could not – but the vision of Lucius in his periphery kept his amusement in check. Instead, he pushed Lily forcefully away, glancing at the other girls to make sure they were paying attention.
“James, Peter, Remus,” he hissed, “find them. Have them get you out of here. Now.”
Reaching for the nearest girl he could find, he tugged her close, pulling her to sway with the music in the background. She fought for only a moment – long enough for him to recognize her as a 6th year Slytherin- and then she tucked herself even closer into his body. Sending her the sexiest smile he could manage, he dropped his lips to her ear. “Evening.”
Already past drunk and surprisingly accommodating, he had her ensconced on his lap in minutes, his hand resting high on her bare thigh before Lucius even made a single round of the establishment. Were the situation not so dire, he would have swelled with arrogant pride at how quickly he managed to seduce her. As it was, her roaming hands and cola scented lips were so nauseating that he wasn't sure he could continue the charade long enough for Lucius and his crew to notice.
When the interruption finally came, it was in a single long hiss. “Sirius Black. Could we be so lucky to cross paths twice in one night?”
The girl didn't immediately scamper away, letting Sirius know exactly how drunk she really was, and he was forced to lift her off his lap to stand and face them. He tucked her behind him even though she was probably far safer than he was and straightened to face them. “Are your errand boy duties done, then?”
“Indeed. I'm here on my own accord. How unlucky for you.”
“Depends on your view,” he shrugged, still attempting to extricate the girl's hands from around his waist.
Lucius moved within inches of him and the girl finally had enough sense to back away. “Your little friends are nowhere to be found, Sirius, and you seem quite lacking in even lowly Gryffindors to come to your aid. Perhaps this is when your arrogance should take a back seat and you can hear what we have to say. The odds, I'm afraid, are not at all in your favor.”
Sirius grinned cockily. “That's just the way I like it.”
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