It had been two weeks since Marion's date with David Berkeley. Whatever had or hadn't happened was now irrelevant. Since then he had taken Marion on three other more successful dates, but still Marion couldn't help but wonder why he refused to kiss her. She had given him plenty of opportunity and yet he wouldn't take the hint.
On Halloween morning, she got up early and sat on her bed waiting for the others to get up. Lily didn't disappoint in being the first to wake. Before she could even get dressed, Marion descended onto the bed next to her and snuggled into her shoulder. Lily just laughed at her fondness.
“Okay, what is it you want?” she asked, smiling. Marion buried her face in Lily's arm.
“Mmmnnnh,” she moaned. “This whole thing with David is driving me crazy.”
“Ah,” Lily said. “So he still hasn't kissed you yet, I take it?”
“No.” Marion whined, sitting up and slumping her shoulders. “It's starting to bug me. I mean, what am I doing wrong?”
“I can safely assume that you are doing nothing wrong. That much I know with the utmost certainty.” Lily assured her. “There must be something bothering him about it.”
“Well, like what?” Marion asked despairingly. “It's not like I'm even being subtle any more. He's definitely got more confident about things, but as soon as the penny drops, he's back to shrugging and shifting about.”
Lily frowned sympathetically. “I don't know what to say. It's not exactly my area of expertise.”
Marion huffed impatiently and flopped on the side of the bed. Lily crawled over next to her and locked her arms around her shoulders, squeezing a little to reassure her friend that she was there. Giving a little grateful smile, Marion held Lily's clasped hands.
“You'll be okay. You're amazing. I'm sure soon enough he'll be so in love with you he won't be able to keep his hands off of you.” Lily whispered in her ear, resting her chin in the hallow between her neck and shoulder. Marion chuckled.
“One can only hope. I'd hate to have two failed relationships in as many months.” she said. Lily squeezed her again before letting go. She walked over to the end of Marion's bed where her robe was messily flung over the edge, and threw it at her.
“Come on, get dressed,” she laughed. “It's Hogsmeade today. I want to get some new tights from Gladrags.”
“Yeah sorry about the last pair you leant me.” Marion sighed, turning away to pull of her pyjama top and reaching blindly for her bra.
“Sorry? They were torn and laddered in 5 different places!” Lily exclaimed. Marion pulled a red knee-length dress over her head and twisted her hips to test its fit.
“It wasn't my fault Black tried to hex me with the Cornflake Skin spell. The tights protected my legs.” she protested.
“No, but it was your fault you put an Exploding Jinx in in his ink pot and splattered his face that caused him to retaliate with the Cornflake Skin spell.” Lily smirked. Marion was now looking through her clothes chest looking for something. Rolling her eyes, Lily threw a pair of black tights at her.
“Here. Try not to ruin those. It's my last pair.”
Marion smiled apologetically and nodded, sitting on her bed to pull them up her legs.
“Okay, I'll pay for your new ones, I promise.” she muttered. “What would I do without you, Red?”
“Run out of tights.” Lily retorted. Marion threw a pillow at her and giggled. “C'mon then. I don't want to be mean but I want to leave before Alice and Mary turn up. You know they'll drag us through Honeydukes for an hour and we'll have spent all our money on sweets.”
“I hear you.” Marion nodded, pulling on her furry snow boots and her purple wrap-around coat. “Well I'm ready to go.”
“It's getting a bit chilly, are you sure you'll be warm enough?” Lily asked as she wrapped her scarf around her neck three times.
“I'll be fine. Luckily for me my blood runs quite hot.” as she said it, she clicked her fingers and a flame lit at the end of her thumb like a lighter.
“Right, fire nymph. I know, I know. Now put that out, you walking fire hazard. You'll have the whole place in ashes.” Lily laughed as Marion extinguished the flame.
“Your faith in me is overwhelming.” Marion joked. Lily buttoned up her coat.
“Don't mention it.” she replied, “Now come on, let's go.”
Later on that day, the marauders sat at their usual table at the three broomsticks. They were partial to sitting in the booth at the far corner out of sight. It was easily 10 feet away from any other table so they could talk about anything safely knowing no one else was listening. At this moment, they were planning their annual Halloween prank, which was their most important prank. It set the bar for the rest of the year. Right now privacy was essential. They hadn't been caught since first year and they weren't about to break that impressive streak.
So far none of the ideas they had tossed around had stuck. James lifted his mug of butterbeer off the greasy table and brought it to his lips, taking a swig and gulping it down noisily. He frowned as he set it down again.
“We could burn a message into the grass down at the quidditch pitch.” he suggested. Sirius shook his head, his dark tresses dancing around his shoulders as he took a heavy sip of his own butterbeer. The liquid chilled as it crept down his throat.
“Nah, too much hassle. It's a bit of a risk for getting caught, and we won't possibly be able to top that next year for the big finale. But hey, keep that in mind, Prongs.” he sighed. The others nodded in agreement.
“So what do we do?” Remus asked to no one in particular. James looked expectantly at his brothers, but surveying their faces told him they couldn't think of anything either. Sirius locked eyes with him and shrugged his shoulders, sighing in annoyance and taking another swig of his drink.
A loud noise from the other side of the pub then caught his attention. James, Remus and Peter didn't seem to hear it but Sirius looked over at the door. He saw Marion entering with Lily on one side and David Berkeley on the other. He rolled his eyes at them, but couldn't help looking at them as they sat at a booth by the window. David sat opposite Marion. He was holding her hand over the table.
As he drank again, Marion looked over and caught his eye. He tilted his drink in her direction and gave her a small smile that she returned before redirecting her attention to David. At that point Sirius had never felt more pathetic. He winced at his actions as he put his now empty mug back on the table.
“This is impossible!” James exclaimed as quietly as he could. “How can we – we – be out of ideas?”
“I know, right.” Remus sighed. “We've pulled so many good pranks since we've been here we might as well start writing Filch notices letting him know what supplies he'll need to clean it up in advance.”
The boys chuckled. “Yeah and afterwards write a cheque for the damages.” James added as young Madame Rosmerta, daughter of the pub's landlady, came over and refilled their mugs. When she left they toasted their memories and drank.
It was true they tended to leave a mess for the pleasure of watching poor Mr Filch grumble to himself as he cleaned it up. It was an added perk to pulling the prank itself.
“God, that bloke must love us.” Peter put in sarcastically. Sirius' head then snapped up. A glint in the corner of his eye told the others he had an idea forming.
“What if we did something to Filch? I mean especially for him. You know, for all the times he's confiscated our stuff and put us in detention.” he suggested. The others all erupted in smirks.
“The floor's yours, Padfoot.” James encouraged. “Expand.”
“Well his weak spot is definitely that ruddy cat of his. If we could separate him for her, maybe we could use her. He won't know what to do running around after her like a headless chicken.” he said excitedly. Peter's brow creased.
“We're not going to really hurt her are we?” he asked, his voice strained in concern, “I know she's a pain and she threw me around like a chew toy that one time but-”
“Don't be stupid, Wormy, we don't need to hurt her to pull off a good prank.” Sirius hushed him, too enthusiastic about his idea to pay him much attention. “Right, so Mrs Norris. Who else do we owe a little pay back to?”
James clicked his fingers. “Peeves! Remember he gave us up to McGonagall when he saw us blow up the girl's toilets last year? Smug bastard saw as round the corner before we could get under the cloak.”
“I remember that.” Remus agreed. “We got three days detention cleaning the soggy toilet roll off the floor.”
“Yeah, that stuff swelled right up and went everywhere.” Sirius sneered at the memory. “So yeah, Peeves and Mrs Norris. That sounds fair.”
His face strained a little as he welded the pieces together in his head to think up the perfect scheme. His face suddenly washed with a smug enlightenment, causing his friends to grin at him. Sirius beckoned for them to lean closer to him over the table.
“C'mere.” he whispered. “I know what we need to do.”
As he explained his plan, excited grins spread like wildfire across their faces. He had thought of everything right down to where they had to be to get the best and biggest reaction. When he was finished and they leaned back in their seats, each slumping slightly with the amazement at his idea, they toasted again. Gulping down the remainder of their butterbeers and enjoying the pleasurable cool they caused they looked at each other excitedly.
“In light of that brilliant idea, Pads, the next round is on me.” James cheered, thumping Sirius on the back and waving Rosmerta over again. Sitting back in triumph and watching and watching the rather lovely lady pour him another cold one, he was suddenly blinded my a light that assaulted his left eye from the other side of the pub.
As he winced away, shielding his eyes and looking around for the source of the light, he saw it was sunlight reflecting off a fork being toyed with between the fingers of Marion Preston. She was laughing loud and cheerily like the sound of bells tolling on Christmas morning. The angle of the sun coming through the window and hitting her irises illuminated every shade of blue and green in them.
Sirius realised, much to his own annoyance, that he was staring at her. A strange and unpleasant feeling was forming in his gut. He couldn't quite describe it. He couldn't help subconsciously cataloguing every moment as she twisted a lock of her hair or picked at her nails.
Rosmerta then moved towards the next table with her pitcher and blocked his view. He took the butterbeer in front of him and slouched his back against the seat. His silence was soon noticed by Remus, who put down his drink and kicked him under the table.
“Oi Pads, you alright?” he inquired. Sirius frowned and leaned forward to rub his shin.
“Yes, I'm fine, jeez! Leave me alone.” he grumbled. Remus chuckled.
Over on the other side of the room by the window, Marion was having a brilliant day with her best friend and her boyfriend. She was hoping at some point Lily might think of some reason to leave and let the two of them be alone, which she knew she would do for her. She was going to get David to kiss her if it was the last thing she did. He was so sweet and such a gentleman she couldn't help wanting this to work out. He was so... not Kyle. But perhaps he was a little too different. Kyle wanted to kiss every girl within a five mile radius, David didn't even want to kiss her.
“You know, you play so amazingly, Marion.” David said as he continued to fiddle with her fingers on the tabletop. “That last match we had against Gryffindor was tough. But then, I still can't believe you won when you were the only chaser doing anything.”
“You got that right.” Marion agreed. “I can't rely on Black to do anything more on the pitch than piss me off.”
David laughed. “He does seem a little larger than life.”
“Ha!” Marion burst out. “The only thing larger than his life is his ego and-”
“Shh!” Lily suddenly cut across her.
“What?” Marion questioned. Lily pointed to the marauder's booth.
“It seems when you speak of the devil, he appears.” she muttered. She then picked up her bags from Gladrags Wizardwear and stood up. “Well I don't want to intrude on your alone time any more. I'd better go before James realises I'm here and decides on another witty come-on.”
“Oh no, don't leave on my account.” David said, picking his bag up and placing it on the bench beside him. “You two enjoy your day. I'll see you later, Marion.”
He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it before slinging his bag over his shoulder and striding out of the pub. Marion and Lily sat there in the same state of bewilderment. Lily watched as Marion bit her lip and tapped the table with the hand he had kissed.
“Okay, now I see what you mean.” she whispered. “That is ridiculous.”
“Well I got a kiss of some sorts, didn't I?” Marion sneered through gritted teeth. She pushed the head out of her face and held her head in her hands. Lily patted her shoulder.
“I'm thinking this might be that point in the crossroads where you either tell him, or end it.” It was the only suggestion she had to offer. Marion nodded and managed to smile at her, but to add insult to injury, the marauders had spotted the two of them sitting together and came striding over. James and Sirius slid into the seats opposite the girls, the adrenaline that came from their new plan fuelling their confidence. Peter and Remus pulled up two chairs at sat at the end with the same self-assured grins on their faces.
“You two look glum.” Sirius jeered. “Where's Balls-out Berkeley? I thought I saw him loitering around earlier.”
Marion glared at him. “Piss off, Black you arrogant troll.”
“Ooh! That one stung a little, Preston.” Sirius put a hand to his heart and feigned pain. “In all seriousness though, are you still not getting any action?”
“Black, leave well enough out of it.” Lily snapped. “Anything to do with Marion's 'action' is none of your business. Any of you.”
“Ah, so still nothing, eh?” his lips stretched out into an unpleasant smile that bared all his brilliant teeth. “In all honesty I can't see what the hold up is.”
“No?” Marion inquired, to puzzled to sound annoyed.
“No. I mean nice girl, nice face, nice boobs...” he pretended to eye her up and down and winked. The marauders howled with laughter. Marion rolled her eyes and kicked him under the table but couldn't help but smile. Even Lily looked like she'd cheered up.
“Here tell you what, how would you ladies like a round of free drinks?” Sirius asked, waving over Madame Rosmerta again and holding up two fingers before using them to point at Marion and Lily. She came over and placed two frosty mugs in front of the girls.
“You're buying them drinks?” James inquired, brow furrowed.
“'Course not, you are.” he smirked as he brandished James' coin wallet, taking three sickles and five knuts out and handing them to Rosmerta. “Consider them a gift, and I won't even ask for a kiss thank you.”
“Good, because you would be sorely disappointed.” Marion raised her eyebrows at him over her mug as she took a sip. Sirius put his hands up in surrender.
“Okay, I can take a hint. C'mon lads, let's go. Enjoy the drinks.” He and James stood up and left followed by Peter and Remus after they put back the chairs they had moved.
“You know just because James paid for it doesn't mean it's a date.” Marion murmured to Lily when she noticed her refusal to drink her butterbeer.
“I know.” he muttered back, though she still didn't touch it.
“It's not poisoned, Red.” Marion nudged her, and Lily took a small, polite sip to shut her up.
“You know, you're going to have to talk to David eventually.” she threw back at her to change the subject. In retaliation, Marion downed her entire pint.
“I'm perfectly aware. Now come on, let's get back. I don't want to be late for the Halloween feast.” She pushed Lily out of the booth and linked arms with her, and they walked out together.