Sirius is standing now, facing James from across the common room.
“Perhaps a bit, but can you imagine how utterly sensational this will be?” James looks like a madman, clutching his parchment in hand, and his wand held out for no apparent reason.
“This is insane, Prongs. Even for you,” Sirius says, turning to me for a look of agreement.
“Yeah James,” I start carefully. “I’m not sure this is possible…How are we going to get there and back unseen?”
“Easy. We sneak into the Shack,” he answers simply.
Sirius and I give him incredulous looks.
“But how will we get into the Shack?” I prod further. To be honest, I’m becoming less and less keen on this idea. “Do you even know how?”
“We’ve got wands for a reason,” James says simply.
“James, this is a disaster waiting to happen,“ Sirius says seriously, shaking his head.
“Padfoot, you of all people should know it’s actually not.” James says pointedly. There is a split second where Sirius and James exchange a look, and suddenly I am under the impression they are having a silent conversation. I narrow my eyes, curious.
“But James, that’s not possible with this many people,” Sirius says pointedly.
“What’s that?” I interject skeptically. I sense they are keeping something from me.
But they are still facing each other, as if completely unaware of me standing two feet beside them.
“Of course I know that. But you’re overlooking a key step.” James says, his eyes large and bright with excitement.
“What? Surely not…the passage?” Sirius asks, his eyes widening.
“Of course the passage, Pads.”
“But…Prongs we’re not supposed to. We can’t.”
“Dumbledore. We’ll be expelled for sure.” Sirius is running his hand through his hair, only mussing it further. A nervous habit of his.
I myself am thoroughly lost. “Mind filling me in please?” I say, annoyed. I’ve heard them mention passages before, but had never actually thought they knew how to get into any.
“This is will end badly, James.” Sirius goes on regardless of my questioning
“Not if I have anything to do with it. It will be fine!” James says, suavely confident.
“I don’t know Prongs…” Sirius says slowly. His hair has not reached a level of disarray I have never witnessed.
“Trust me, it’ll go without a hitch. My plan is foolproof,” James says self-assuredly.
“But-” Sirius starts.
Now I have had enough. “Can you two gits please stop ignoring me and explain what the hell you’re going on about?” I screech, standing now and looking between the pair of them with an angered expression.
This seems to break them from their chat. Sirius turns towards me and explains, “Sorry love. I’m just trying to convince James here that he’s being absolutely insane.”
He called me love?
“I know, but what’s this about a passage?” I have an unnerving feeling of being left out of a large secret. Though I was quite used to this kind of behavior with these boys, this was approaching the last straw of my patience.
James and Sirius exchange a look for a moment before turning back to face me.
“Well Rora…” James starts, handing me the piece of parchment he'd been holding. “We’ve got something to explain.”
Sirius look at James incredulously. “You’re sure we can show her?”
“Of course Padfoot, it’s fine. We trust her.”
“What in the bloody hell is going on?” I ask again.
Sirius just smirks and gestures to the old parchment James was still holding out.
I take the parchment, confused, and survey it. It’s blank.
“What? There’s nothing here?” I raise one eyebrow. “If you lot are pranking me right now I swear…” I warn.
“We’re not,” Sirius assures, and slowly takes out his wand.
“Rora, as a trusted friend of the Marauders…we confess we have not been completely honest with you.” James says, mirroring the motion with his own wand.
I stare at the both of them in utter bewilderment and silence, as they both reach out their wands, hold them to the blank parchment and mutter in unison,
“I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”
Suddenly the parchment, blank mere seconds before, is alive with lines, shapes and words. My eyes widen in awe. The shapes form what appear to be blueprints, with names of rooms and corridors popping up all around. In the center, the words Messers Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs proudly present…the Marauder’s Map appears in fancy text spread out across the page. I stare disbelieving at what my eyes are beholding.
“You didn’t…” I start slowly. “You made this?”
I look up at them, and they are both smiling proudly now.
“That’s right, took us ages to get it right.“ Sirius says, coming over to stand closer to me so he can look at the map.
“See these footprints? That’s someone walking through the 2nd floor corridor as we speak.” He gestures to one of the many small black dots slowly moving across the page. I am speechless.
“Wait,” I say now, inspecting the lines closer. “This…this is Hogwarts?”
“You bet your little nose it is,” James says proudly.
I examine the map closer, and see a whole network of lines that seem to represent each floor and room in the castle. Many I recognized, and many I didn’t. I scan it more, spotting the Great Hall, the dungeons and the green houses. Hundreds of the dots are moving around at varying speeds, some in groups, others alone. I am in shock at what I’m seeing.
“And it tracks everyone?” I ask, examining the many different labeled names. James nods.
“Really useful for sneaking around at night,” Sirius says with a laugh. “How did you ever think we pulled off all those pranks so well, Rora?”
“I…I don’t know,” I am in a state of awe. “I just can’t believe you gits have had this map for years and never told me!”
They laugh together. “Well, we couldn’t exactly have the whole school know, it would get confiscated immediately.” Sirius explains sheepishly.
“Oh, and I’m the whole school?” I raise an eyebrow at him.
“I wanted to tell you last year,” he confesses. “But I had to make sure your allegiance to the Marauders was true.”
“Oh please,” I scoff, but I’m laughing.
"And if you haven't noticed, those nicknames of ours really came in handy with this map." James says giddily, gesturing to the title.
"Hmm, and here I was thinking you were just overly affectionate," I say with a chortle.
"Ha-ha, good one Rora," Sirius says sarcastically. "But actually we did needed to have some degree of anonymity so they couldn't trace it back to us."
"Except that you still call each other the names all the time?" I point out, raising an eyebrow. "I hardly think no one has noticed."
"Well, we only really do that in front of you and a few others, actually," James says. "Only the most trustworthy Gryffindors who would never rat us out."
I roll my eyes. "You blokes take yourselves way too seriously,"
They laugh merrily before I press on, “So…where is this passage you were talking about before?” I scan the page, searching for a marker.
James points his finger to the Hogwarts grounds portion, on top of a little tree labeled Whomping Willow.
“You’ve got to be joking,” I say, looking back up at him incredulously.
“No, not joking in the slightest my dear Rora.” James gives a sly smile.
“But how are we supposed to get pass that god-awful tree?”
“We’ve got it covered, don’t you worry, love” Sirius says, mirroring James smirk as he takes the parchment from me. “But right now, we’ve got to meet everyone else in the library. I’ll explain the rest later, I promise.”
He takes out it wand mutters, “Mischief managed,” which wipes the map’s surface clean again.
I am skeptical, but I sigh and shake my head.
“The Marauders Map…you blokes really are brilliant,”
* * *
Later, we’ve met everyone in the library, books spread out over the tables. Rain beats down upon the windows behind us, and a distant clap of thunder can be heard. Our approaching N.E.W.T.S. though not until the end of spring, are ever looming and our professors are pressuring us more and more to begin our studies. My own area of study, Astronomy, is of particular technical difficulty and my workload for the next few months is looking quite disastrous.
I am beside Sirius and Remus, trying my best to stay focused on the Astronomy chart I’m supposed to be reviewing despite my thoughts reeling about the map. Across from us sits Peter and Marigold.
“You better explain tonight,” I whisper to my side in Sirius’s ear. He doesn’t look up from his essay, but instead smirks knowingly.
“I will, I did promise you,” he mutters in response.
“You had better,” I warn. I am partly impressed by the sheer skill it must have taken to make the thing, and partly irked that it took so long for him to divulge it to me.
“And I for one would also like to know how you did it, too,” I add. His grin deepens.
“All will be revealed, promise,” he whispers smoothly. I glance over at him, with his dark hair falling softly in his face as he pours over his book, his eyes downcast towards the words in a casual focus. His white shirt is unbuttoned slightly, his house tie abandoned somewhere, so that I can see a slight peaking of his neck and chest. I lick my lips as a strange sensation flows through my torso.
His grey eyes blink up to me and catch me staring, and I hurried avert my glance back to my chart. I blush, but he just smirks again. My stomach feels light and fluttery. I can’t recall feeling so adolescent since 5th year, when I had a boyfriend (a Hufflepuff, set up largely by Marigold) for all of a month.
“I feel like I am going mad!” Marigold exclaims suddenly, pushing her book away from her. “I can’t read another line. I’m spent!”
“Marigold, you’ve only been here for twenty minutes,” Emmeline says, clearly annoyed. Her head is bent low over her parchment, her dark locks falling down in cascades. She has said scarcely two words this entire session. Judging by this and knowing Em, her stress is only beginning to build more and more. She generally prefers to suffer in silence.
“Hang in there Goldy, we’ve only got two more days until Saturday and then we can have all the fun we want,” Sirius says, still not looking up from his book.
“I am so excited!” Marigold exclaims, her eyes alight with energy. “I cannot wait to get out of the castle.”
“I can,” Remus says darkly, his face looking white with stress.
“Well why don’t you stay all alone in Gryffindor Tower all by your lonesome this weekend then, hmm Remus?” she teases with a giggle.
“Yeah Remus, Merlin you are quite a downer lately, “ Sirius says with apparent annoyance in his voice.
“Well, maybe it’s that time of the month for you, eh?” Peter jokes with a devious smile. Sirius and Remus both give him a sharp, death glare. I wonder why. It was just a playful joke.
“It’s alright boys, we know Remus is a male,” I say with a laugh. “And lucky he is, or else Merlin knows how much of a joy he would be with mood swings,”
Sirius and Remus look back at me, their expressions lightening in relief, almost.
“Oh. Right.” Sirius says slowly, laughing though still giving Peter a dirty glare. Peter looks a little scared as he quickly averts eye contact and goes back to studying.
I wonder why they are being so sensitive. It was just a lame joke. But I just shrug and settle myself back into examining constellations.
Later, the library doors open loudly and James strides through, carrying a few books in his hands. His robe collars are disheveled and his tie loosened.
“Hello my merry gang,” he says as he comes to sit down with us.
“Oh James, how is the planning coming along?” Remus asks dryly, not looking up from his essay.
“Rather well thank you,” James says curtly. “I was just on my way to invite some lucky guests.”
“Who?” I inquire.
James smirks and gestures to our left. I look over to see Lily Evans sitting alone, quietly reading in a chair in the corner.
“Oh don’t,” Remus warns. “You’ll only make her hate you more. She won’t be impressed.”
“Oh please, Moony,” James says with a confident smile. “You worry too much.”
“Go for it, mate” Sirius slaps a hand on his fellow Marauder’s back, with a gloating smile. “I believe in you.”
“Thank you, Padfoot. At least someone has my back around here,” James stares pointedly at the rest of us before getting up to stride confidently in Lily’s direction.
“This’ll be good,” Sirius mutters to me, trying to hold in his laughter. “Five galleons he gets rejected before even opening his mouth,”
“You’re on!” Emmeline replies.
I laugh quietly and brace myself for the explosion.
But none comes. I gaze furtively over at them to find James chatting apparently amiably with Lily. He is standing over her and she’s gazing up at him, a puzzled but no altogether unpleasant expression on her face.
“Well, they actually look quite…civil.” Remus observes, looking just as surprised as I feel.
“Any minute now, she’ll explode,” Sirius says, but his eyes are narrowed and his mouth shaped into a frown.
There are a few more words exchanged before James gets up, smiles back at Lily, and comes nonchalantly walking back over to us.
A haughty smile is plastered over his face.
“So she shall indeed be attending, as I expected,” he says smugly, positively beaming as he sits back down onto the bench beside all of us.
“Really? She agreed…really?” Peter prods, his plump face in awe.
“Of course, Peter,” James says, already settling down into a book. “I don’t know why any of you ever doubted my superb skill with dealing with Evans.”
Remus gives a snort of laughter. “I don’t know what you managed to say, but whatever it was, good work,”
“But…how?” Sirius asks faintly, as Emmeline happily holds out her hand expectedly. Sirius shakes his head slowly as he fishes out the coins from his pocket and reluctantly hands them over to her.
“I’m telling you Sirius, patience is a virtue,” James gives Sirius a knowing expression before returning to his book.
“What did you say?” I ask.
“I just politely asked her and Marlene to join our little gathering,”
“Little gathering?” Remus interjects. “You didn’t tell her it was a party?”
James’s ears redden. “No. But it doesn’t matter. She’ll have a blast, it’s fine.”
“You do realize she’s Head Girl and thus actually takes the responsibilities of that position seriously unlike someone we all know?” Remus says.
James narrows his eyes.” Your point, Moony?”
“She may not appreciate it when she comes to find out that this little gathering is actually a full blown party being held outside school bounds.”
James just presses his lips together firmly. “Look, I can see that you all are doubtful of my judgment with this party, but I can tell you that everything will be great. Okay?”
“Fine. But don’t come crying to me when she flies off the handle again,” Remus replies simply, returning his light eyes to his book.
I have zoned out of the conversation by now. Instead, I have directed my focus back to Lily, who is now sitting over with Mary and Frank and Marlene a few tables down.
“James…” I start. “What did you do to her?”
James snaps his glance back to me. “What? What do you mean?”
I just mean…well…she looks quite sad to be honest,” I gesture towards her. “She doesn’t look too happy at the prospect of a gathering. Or….life, really.”
I see them all look over at her now. She is not talking to her friends, instead she is sitting quite glumly with her textbook set out in front of her. Though her eyes are staring out the large paned windows, in quite a melancholy way.
“Well, it’s probably because she broke up with Snivellus this morning,” James says offhandedly, but with an unmistakable sneer in his voice.
“Severus? What do you mean broke up?” Marigold asks, rejoining the conversation now.
James’ voice is strained when he says, “It seems she’s stopped associating with that slimey git now that he’s around those thickhead Death Eaters all hours of the day,”
We’re all quiet, as we take in the gravity of what James has said.
“You don’t know that for sure,” Marigold says nervously. “That they’re really Death Eaters…do you?”
“They’re Slytherins for Merlin’s sake Goldy, of course they are,” Sirius interjects, looking agitated. “And Snape’s ripe to become one of them,”
“Well then I don’t blame Lily in the slightest,” Marigold says with a raise of her eyebrow. “That Snape was a bit of a git anyway. She could do better.”
This seems to placate James and the conversation moves onto the coming party among other things, but I can’t seem to keep up. I stare at Lily, watching his downcast face skim her textbook. There is an unmistakable hurt in her expression. I feel a twinge of guilt in my insides. I don’t know why, but somehow being friends with James makes me feel responsible for her hurt. Maybe I should have stopped him all those times they had taunted Snape, or bugged Lily about being friends with him.
But soon James himself snaps me out of my reverie.
“Let’s retire to the Common room for the night, shall we lads and ladies?”
The group begins to get up and collect their things and I do the same. As we make our way out of the library and towards Gryffindor Tower, I slow down and turn towards the staircase to the Astronomy Tower.
But before I get up even one step, Sirius calls me to stop.
“Hey Rora! You coming?”
I turn, and hold out my overflowing arms full of astronomy material in explanation.
“I’ve really got to go up to the Astronomy Tower and study the sky more. I need to memorize this star system,” I explain, indiating my large handful of rolled up charts.
“Well mind if I join you?” he offers with hopeful eyes, making his way towards me. “I don’t really fancy sitting around the Common room tonight. It’s getting quite boring,”
I shrug, “Sure Sirius. But I have to warn you it’s not going to be exciting up there tonight, just me peering into telescopes,”
He only smiles. “I’ve known you long enough to know about your obsession with stars, Rora. You can’t hide your giddiness.”
I laugh, “Well I only meant you may be bored,”
“I think I’ll risk it,” he holds out his hand, turning now towards the staircase. “And besides, I’ve been up there plenty of times and I’ve been able to occupy myself.” His smile at this was oddly devious. “You coming?”
I shrug with a reluctant smile and take his hand and ascend the stairs at his side.
Once we reach the top, I open the door and lead him out onto the large expanse.
The ceiling of the tower is transparent, allowing a full panoramic view of the night sky. The rain from earlier has altogether subsided, the grouping of clouds moving off into the west, leaving a perfectly clear patch of sky. The stars are bright and clear, perfect viewing conditions that only the aftermath of a rainstorm could bring. Though we seem to be the only students taking advantage of it tonight.
“Blimey, this is incredible,” Sirius murmurs, his face directed upwards in awe as he walks across the deck. “I can’t remember the last time I was up here where the stars were so clear.
“You were probably preoccupied with other things,” I say teasingly.
He smirks, “True,”
I walk over to one of the large devices and tap it with my light willow wand.
“But anyway, this should be perfect for my observing tonight.” I say, as I watch the telescope’s core light up in a fiery orb as it starts up. I put one eye into the viewing piece.
I hear him say from behind me. “You’ve always been so good at this star stuff, Rora. I don’t know how you do it,”
“I just really enjoy it, mostly. The skill just follows, I suppose,” I say lightly, as I position the telescope’s lens to the correct position in the sky.
“Saturn is gorgeous tonight. So clear,” I observe quietly, mostly to myself, as I spread out my star chart. I redirect my telescope to a distant patch of stars, zoom in and begin to take note of their positions. Sirius is now slumped down behind me, against the wall, surveying the night sky with awe.
“I wish I was talented at something,” I hear him say quietly after awhile.
I abruptly stop my observing and turn back to him with an incredulous expression on my face.
“What are you talking about?” I say in disbelief. “You’re good at everything you try, Sirius.”
He rise now, and strides over to the railing, eyes still cast upwards. “Maybe so, but I don’t have one thing that sets me apart, like you,”
“I hardly think that’s true,” I scoff. “You wrote that bloody map, for Merlin’s sake! Half the population of adult wizards in Britain couldn’t do that!”
He shrugs. “I dunno. I sometimes think I’d like to have one thing…”
I raise an eyebrow. “Well I think you’re completely mad because you’re one of the most brilliant in our year. And you’re studying to become an Auror. Not many could do that,”
But he doesn’t seem pacified by this. He stares pensively out over the grounds, a slight frown across his face.
I silently continue charting constellations for several moments.
“It’s not exactly pleasing my parents, you know,” he says quietly.
I stop. Though I had shared many conversations with Sirius, I had never heard him talk about his parents or family. Even his younger brother Regulus, who was at Hogwarts in Slytherin, was rarely mentioned or acknowledged in conversation. I had never pursued or questioned him about it.
“They’re Death Eater sympathizers you know,” he whispered. “You don’t have to pretend to not know. Everyone knows.”
I was frozen still, unsure of how to respond.
“Even me just being in Gryffindor is a shame to the family,” he says, voice barely above a whisper.
“You’re lucky you have normal wizard parents, Rora. They’ll always be proud, whatever you do.”
I looked away form my telescopes now to face him. His brow was furrowed as he stared into space above the grounds. His arms were tensely clutching the railing, his veins popping.
“Sirius,” I whisper, taking his hands in mine. “Don’t talk like that,”
He looks to me now, his grey eyes sad. I had never quite seen them without that familiar playful and sultry edge.
“And my parents are hardly normal wizards,” I say. “My father is a genius wizard whom has many important friends, yes. But he’s also an unorganized mess at home who starts too many projects to finish. And my mother is a muggle who couldn’t tell you wolfsbane from chocolate frogs, but she is tickled by the whole world of magic, so I guess she tries. But she still is skeptical of every magical being or object she encounters. So that of course present problems. And I just…get overwhelmed by it sometimes. ” I blurt. I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone this much about my family, really. Ever.
Sirius seems amused by this. “But see Rora, that may be so but that’s endearing. There are much worse things to have as parents, believe me…”
I shrug. “I know, I’m not saying I hate my parents. But just don’t think I have it so easy…"
“Well you do, Rora. At least compared to me,” he mutters, not meeting my eyes. “I can’t please my anyone, no matter what I do…”
“If only you knew how everyone else views you Sirius,” I start carefully. “You’d have nothing to worry about,”
“I don’t care what people think of me,” he says simply. He walks back over the wall and sits down again, leaning casually against it with his back.
I turn around to follow him and take a seat next to him on the floor. My arm is leaning against his, and I slowly rest my head on his shoulder.
“Well obviously you do, if you’re scared of disappointing your parents,” I say lightly.
“It’s not that simple,” he replies, shifting slightly.
“Sure it is,” I say.
“I’ve gone through it so many times with them, I’ve tried to please them, then I’ve been the rebellious son, I’ve tried it all.” he whispers.
“Screw them, Sirius,” I whisper back. “If they can’t see what an amazing son they’ve got, they clearly don’t deserve you,”
I hear him give a gentle laugh, almost no more than a breath. “You seem to be the only one who understands me sometimes, Rora…” he trails off. His voice is flat.
I am silent, pondering his words. Do I understand him?
“Surely James understands you just as well as I,” I offer, looking. “He’s your best mate after all.”
“Yes, I suppose…” he trails off again “But sometimes he gets wrapped up in his own world.”
“Mmm…he does indeed.” I agree with a smirk. “…I still can’t believe Lily was willing to come to the party...”
Sirius chuckles softly. “No one’s more shocked than I am, trust me…”
I laugh and snuggle myself closer to him. His long hair is falling on my cheek slightly. I can feel the gentle rise and fall of his chest as he breathes. My legs begin to tingle slightly.
“But I guess sometimes, people just need a little push in the right direction,” he says lightly with a yawn. “You’ve just got to let it all out…”
I slowly look up at him. His eyes are closed now, almost falling asleep as we sit here together. For a moment he looks younger, almost childlike. The haughty exterior has disappeared for a fleeting instant. I have a desire to stroke his cheek. But I stop myself.
“We should get back,” I whisper, as I start to get up. “Or we’ll both fall asleep up here and suffer a whipping from Professor Sinistra.”
“Mmm,” he says, though his eyes are still closed.
“Come on, “ I say, rising and this time it’s me who holds out my hand.
He opens his eyes to look up at me. There is the lightest trace of a smile as he takes my hand.
Once we are back to the common room, Sirius stops and turns to face me at the foot of the dormitory stairs. All the lights are down now, and it appears everyone has gone to sleep.
“By the way, you still owe me a complete explanation of your map,” I point out as I yawn widely.
“I’m a wizard of my word,” he says with a smirk. “You can hold me to that,”
I smile at him, and he simply smiles back for a moment. We are silent, but the fluttering in my stomach has annoyingly returned.
“Well, goodnight Rora,” he whispers after a moment, and leans down slightly to kiss my forehead. I bite my lip softly, a bundle of nerves seems to have erupted within me. He smiles, staring me down until turning to go up the stairs. I turn as well, climbing slowly up and up until I reach my door.
I open it and nearly float to my bed, dropping my things lazily in my trunk at the foot of my bed.
Marigold is on her bed next to mine and stares at me, looking slightly bewildered. Emmeline has already turned out her beside light and is apparently sound asleep,
“What’s up with you?” she asks, surveying my face.
“Oh nothing,” I say with a half smile, barely taking the time to properly get into my nightclothes. I collapse into bed and turn out my light.
“I don’t believe you!” she sits up and scurries over to my bedside. “You look different…”
I just give her the best nonchalant expression I can muster and mutter, “It’s nothing. Goodnight Marigold.”
* * *
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