Chapter 8 : The Shrieking Shack
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Among the seventh years at dinner that night, there is buzzing of excitement for those who were lucky enough to receive an invitation to the exclusive Marauders party. It seemed that James had succeeded in keeping the group small, with the Gryffindor upperclassmen making up the majority, but I still had the distinct feeling that the party would manage to grow out of hand as they were wont to do.
“Rora! Look here!” Remus calls to me from across the table as we eat. He is feasting on a chicken leg and a large bar of chocolate simultaneously. I noticed the general pallor that had plagued him last week had subsided, and he looked comparatively glowing. He holds out a piece of parchment to me. It has a time and location scrawled across it.
“This is our meeting place, pass it down,” he whispers with a giddy look.
I glance at it. It is labeled 9 pm, Whomping Willow, only for those who have pledged allegiance to the Marauders. No additional guests allowed.
I laugh to myself and pass it on to Dorcas Meadowes, wšseated on my right, who takes it with excitement.
“So you decided to show everyone the secret passage, then?” I ask Sirius and James as they watch with giddiness as the note gets passed furtively around the group of seventh years. I notice Frank Longbottom making an effort to copy down the note in his planner, as if he might forget it.
“Actually….no.” James said.
“What do you mean? Why did you have us meet at the Willow then?” I inquire under my breath, with a confused look.
“Well we figured we’d just…walk.” James answered sheepishly.
“After all that talk about the brilliance of your plan and showing me the map?” I give them an incredulous look.
“Well, after I convinced James that it was idiotic to expose our brilliance, I decided that we could just as well walk to the village under cover of darkness and fog,” Sirius explains.
I raised my eyebrows. “You lot are more indecisive and inconsistent then Marigold trying to pick out a dressing gown for a ball.”
“Well you can’t be too careful,” James defended himself.
“I’m just glad I got to see the map at any rate,” I say with a devilish smile.
“And you’ll do well not to share, right, my dear Aurora?” James says warningly, with a forced smile plastered on his face. I laugh and nearly choke on my apple cider.
“Of course, of course,” I say in a mock serious voice. “I would never reveal your secrets,”
James narrows his eyes at me. “Though I don’t appreciate your sarcastic tone, I will hold you to that,” he says, grabbing the chicken leg from Sirius just as he is about to take a bite. James takes a large bite from the chicken and puts it back in his hand hardly before Sirius has time to react.
“Now,” James says, mouth full. “Let’s talk about laying wagers on who will end up shagging who tonight,”
It’s Sirius’s turn to snort into his apple cider. Remus, who had been sitting across from us and had been attempting to ignore our conversation, interjects, “Always the picture of subtlety, you are,”
James looks insulted. “Hardly! I’m just bein’ me, Moony. Can’t fault me for that,”
Sirius lets out a bark of a laugh. “Oh Prongs, this is why you’re my best mate,”
“My moneys on Marlene and Ricky, if we’re serious about the wager,” Peter says to my side. I glance down the table to see Marlene and Ricky, indeed, are sharing a passionate conversation. Marlene is giggling a lot and Ricky is flashing his pearly white smile even more often than was usual.
Sirius seems perturbed at the thought. “Nah, he’s too shallow for her,”
“Too shallow? Ricky?” James says sarcastically. To be honest, any lack of intellectualism in Ricky was made up for by his astonishingly good looks.
“Marlene wouldn’t go for him,” Sirius says, shaking his head as he loads his fork with mashed potato.
“I suppose you are the expert,” James says with a small drop of disdain in his voice.
Sirius just smirks. “She likes blokes with a bit more substance, that’s all,”
“Meaning you?” Emmeline jabs, rolling her eyes.
If Sirius is uncomfortable, he doesn’t show it. “I didn’t say that, you lot read into everything,”
“Well I personally think Goldie and that Ravenclaw Quidditch player are two stops away,” Sirius continues, causing Marigold’s cheeks to flush.
“Alexander? Please,” but I see her steal a glance to the next table, where the statuesque blonde Ravenclaw Seeker was sitting looking more like a model than anyone has any right to.
“Have you been talking to him? God he’s fit,” Dorcas interjects, following Marigold’s gaze.
“Perhaps,” she answers coyly.
“And here I thought your heart was solely saved for Lancaster?” Sirius teases. “My mistake,”
Marigold shoots him a steely glare. “I don’t fancy Lancaster, I just think he’s fit,”
“Ew,” is all I care to add to the conversation.
There is a reverberating tapping sound and we look to the staff table to see Dumbledore has risen, no doubt to give his usual Halloween speech.
“Good evening students and Happy Halloween!” his voice booms across the Hall. “I hope that your nights are filled with frivolity and cheer, and that your stomachs will be full of candy and butterbeer!”
“That, and whiskey and more whiskey,” Sirius mutters and we all stifle laughs.
“Although All Hollows Eve is a night meant for mischief and fun, I urge you all to remain vigilant, for our world is no longer as safe as it perhaps once was, and our school is not infallible. Our Aurors will be on high alert tonight, so please do not do anything to aggravate their surveillance,”
Perhaps I was imagining it, but I could have sworn Dumbledore’s eyes flashed to our spot at the table.
“Is he looking at me?” James hisses to us, looking paranoid.
“Nah,” Sirius shrugs. “There’s no way he’d know,”
“I can rest easy, however, knowing our Head Boy and Girl to be outstanding students who will undoubtedly guide you all the having a joyful and safe evening,”
“Okay he’s definitely looking at me,”
Many of the seventh years look round to James and the rest of us. James’ face is nervous, though Remus and Sirius are exchanging devious expressions.
“Now, please enjoy the rest of your feast, and a very Happy Halloween to you all!"
* * *
Later, an hour before we were meant to meet at the Willow, Marigold and I were busy getting ready in our dormitory.
Marigold was mulling over her selection of dresses, while I was busy making my wavy hair look acceptable.
“Rora, blue or green?” Marigold asks, holding out her two dress options to me. I survey them, cocking my head slightly to the side. One was a tiny little blue dress with a plunging neckline, and the other was fitted at the waist with a soft silky emerald finish.
“You wear the blue, so I can borrow that green one,” I offer.
Marigold grins and without wasting another second, throws the green one towards me excitedly.
“Deal! Oh I love to get dressed up with you Rora, you never do this!”
I laugh guiltily. “Well, I just thought it’d be nice to look…nice tonight.” I say awkwardly.
“Well, I’m your girl for that,” Marigold says, coming over to my desk where I’m still brushing out my tangled mess of hair. “Mind if I put a little makeup on you?” she asks, taking out her little bag full of no doubt the finest witches beauty products.
“I can do it myself, Marigold. I have worn makeup before,” I mutter, not looking up from my mirror. But she grabs a handful of products from her bag and plops down next to me.
“Hold still,” she says, and I roll my eyes and close my eyes and let her have her way with my face.
“Just don’t put on too much, I don’t fancy looking like a clown tonight,” I say stubbornly.
“Don’t you worry,” she says absently, immediately becoming focused.
Emmeline, already dressed in a black lace dress under a dark indigo shawl that matched her raven locks perfectly, comes over to us to watch.
“Rors, you’re a babe,” she reassures me.
“I’m a master,” Marigold smiles as she puts something on my eyebrows. “And you will be the envy of every girl tonight,” She does something with a brush that tickles my eye and I bat her hand away for a moment, sending a rain of powder into my nostrils.
I scoff. “Hardly possible,” I cough.
“Very possible,” Emmeline chimes.
“Since when?” I ask sarcastically.
“Since you and Sirius have become so buddy-buddy,”
“What do you mean ‘buddy-buddy’?”
“Please, Rora. Don’t try to deny that you and him have been spending more time alone together this term,” Marigold says with a skeptical expression.
“I had to calm James down the other night, he was convinced you and Sirius had gone off to snog,” Emmeline said. “He was acting like a jealous boyfriend,”
I laugh. “Funny, that’s the exact thing I’ve been having to do with Sirius about James and Lily,”
“But were you really snogging?” Emmeline asks. Her dark eyes are intense with curiosity.
“You can tell us, we’re your best friends after all,” Marigold says.
I shoot them both a glare. “No. It’s just Sirius has felt a bit…lost…lately. I think he’s finding it hard not having James around as much, what with all his Head duties,”
“And his preoccupation with Lily,” Marigold adds.
I sigh. “I suppose,”
“So there really isn’t anything between you two?” Emmeline continues.
I pause. Was there?
“I really can’t say anything other than we’re god friends and I care about him a lot,” I say, hoping that wouldn’t incite any more speculation. Luckily, Marigold seems satisfied with this answer, but Emmeline remains unconvinced.
“Whatever you say, Rora…”
“Alright, I think w’re done,” Marigold drops her hand from my face.
I gaze at myself in the mirror. My brown eyes have been topped with a delicate lining and my cheeks have been smoothed over with a soft coral blush. Though I had experimented with makeup every once and again throughout the years, I never had achieved the classic sophistication these simple touches had. Something about the way they transformed my face by doing so little surprised me. I was still me, yet now different somehow.
“Wow, Marigold…” I say, turning my head to one side and then the other slowly. “Thank you, it actually looks really nice.”
Marigold simply beams and gives my shoulders a quick yet soft pat. “Told you I’m a master…now let’s finish getting ready, we’ve only got twenty minutes!”
* * *
We sneak out the portrait hole, careful not to attract attention from the lingering younger students still up in the Common Room. Our dresses are covered in thick black cloaks, and our heads covered in scarves and woolen hats. We could be simply going out for an innocent (though still against the rules) evening walk. No one would suspect much beyond that.
Once we get out into the corridor and down to the ground floor, we spot Sirius, Peter and Remus waiting near the large wooden doors. They too are wearing thick cloaks. Sirius’s is bulged out on one side, undoubtedly smuggling our supply of firewhiskey.
They look up when they hear us approach. “Rora! Goldy!” Sirius exclaims in a half whisper, half yell.
I smile and nearly bounce over to greet them. Peter gives a squeak of a hello and a wave and Remus nods.
“You lovely ladies prepared for the supreme night of debauchery ahead?” Sirius asks with a devilish grin.
“Naturally,” I smile, though I am slightly nervous. I still am at a loss of how the night will pan out. But my trust in Marauders’ cleverness and planning genius has extended quite far up until now.
“Where’s James?” Marigold asks, peering around her.
“Already out there waiting,” Remus answers dryly. He still looks quite nervous and his face is whiter than yesterday.
“Speaking of which, we better get going,” Sirius said, gesturing for us to follow him. He bows his back slightly and takes out his map, careful to keep it in his view only, I assume because of Marigold and Emmeline’s presence.
“Coast is clear,” he whispers and leads us out the great wooden doors. The wind chill of the night immediately hits us. I wrap my scarf tighter around me.
The mist hangs low on the ground as we descend the slopes towards the Whomping Willow. There is a slight scattering of stars, but most are consumed by the clouds above. The moon is a waning gibbous, approaching closer and closer to full and its silvery light sheds all around the ground, creating a lit path for our stumbling feet.
The silhouette of the tree looms closer as we walk down. Its branches are stagnant and barren of leaves, but they twitch every so often. I look up at it nervously as we approach. I never did like that tree much.
When we finally reach it, we see a group of people already waiting, careful to give it a wide berth. I spot James, standing proudly at the forefront of the group with a tall walking stick planted in the dirt below him. Next to him is a skeptical looking Lily, Marlene, Alice and Dorcas, with at least a dozen or more fellow seventh years.
“Hello, mates,” James says to us, beaming as he surveys the group. Just then, a small group of Ravenclaw seventh years come up behind us, looking skeptical but excited. I am shocked at the turnout.
“Well, this is everyone I believe, let’s head out my fellow comrades!” James declares, holding up his walking staff and pointing it eastward towards the village.
And the group makes to follow him, shuffling our feet as we go. I walk alongside Sirius, making sure not to trip over the uneven, muddy ground. Marigold is clutching onto Remus for dear life, clearly a bit nervous at the impending dark path. Lily and Marlene are cautiously beside them, looking more and more skeptical with each step.
“So, this shall we interesting,” I mutter out of the corner of my mouth to Sirius. His mouth breaks into a smirk.
“Indeed. But I think we’ll pull it off,” he says.
I cock my head back and forth, “We’ll see,”
After walking for what feels like quite awhile, we finally reach the outskirts of the village. Through the mist, we make out barely the outline of the Shrieking Shack. I hear Marigold audibly gulp in fear behind me.
“Alright everyone!” James yells to the group. “We’re going to have to shimmy underneath the gate,”
“We’re not going in there?” a Ravenclaw bloke shouts incredulously. “It’s haunted!”
“Have you not told them about the location?” I ask Sirius. He just shrugs. “It was a surprise,”
James sigh exasperatedly. “It’s fine, I’ve been in before. It’s perfectly safe,”
But many of the other kids look skeptical. James plunges forward, however, and we have no choice but to follow.
We approach the tall, dilapidated fencing that surrounds the Shack’s grounds and, not without difficulty, pries up a bit at the bottom.
“He’s got to be kidding,” Marigold mutters, agitated. Lily too agrees, looking more and more annoyed.
But James simply gestures to us and we one by one we are forced to crawl through the hole, the frozen dirt beneath us catching on our coats.
Once we are all through, James guides us to the Shack’s door. He pries it open and rushes us through, urges us to keep quiet. “Quietly everyone, don’t want to disturb the ghouuuuls and ghooosts!” and gives a maniacal laugh matched by Sirius, Peter and Remus. Marigold looks frightened to death and she practically pushes one of the Ravenclaw boys out of the way to get inside first.
As we step into the dark room, the floor creaks under our many shuffling footsteps.
“Make yourself at home, my good friends,” James announces as he uses his wand to conjure up little orbs of light that set the whole room up in a soft warm glow.
The room, which looks to be a sort of drawing room, isn’t large. The wallpaper is peeling and faded, and what is left of the furniture looks hacked away, as though attacked by some wild beast. There is a staircase to the right and a nook just below it, and over on the opposite end is a grand fireplace, which is covered in a thick layer of long-neglected ash and soot.
“Hm…well I suppose this could be worse,” Marigold offers as she steps inside, removes her jacket and sets it on the destroyed and tattered sofa.
The rest of the group of us, slightly nervous at first, begins to break up as we group off. Lily and Marlene stand at one end of the room with a pair of blonde Ravenclaws girls. Peter sits with Remus on the edge of the large broken sofa, which has large gashes torn from it as if from some large horrible beast. Remus looks at it uneasily.
As I walk farther into the room, I cough as the dusty air films my lungs up and Marigold has to pat me hard on the back until I am able to breathe properly.
“Thanks, I croak weakly, stepping over to survey the large cracked fireplace.
“Looks like you could use a drink,” Sirius murmurs to me with a grin. He takes out a large rucksack from beneath his cloack and empties the firewhiskey bottles onto a crooked dusty table in the corner. Peter saunters over with the stacks of cups and places them beside the bottles, looking positively upbeat.
Sirius hands me a cup, fills it with the burning liquid and offers it to me. I take it, surveying its odd golden quality. Sirius fills a cup of his own, just as James calls out, “And music, Sirius?”
Sirius grins and pulls a large wireless from his bag next, and prods it with his wand until streams of loud rock music echoes off the vaulted ceilings of the shack. This seems to put most of the group at ease, as people remove their cloaks and jackets and begin to help themselves to drinks.
James is busy handing out drinks with Peter and Sirius. Sirius is chatting with a few of the Ravenclaws as he does.
I decide to get comfortable. So I slowly remove my jacket to reveal my tight green dress beneath it. Sirius catches sight of me from the corner of his eye and for a moment pauses in talking and serving drinks and I see him look my body up and down. My heart skips a beat and I try to ignore my blush and stare back, a smirk playing at the corners of my mouth.
“Dance with me?” Emmeline’s voice comes from my side. She holds out her arm and I smile and take it, and we do a few spins in the center of the room. Many of the other seventh years seem hesitant to join.
“Marigold! You!” Emmeline shouts and Marigold, drink in hand, saunters over and joins our little circle. Somehow, this seems to incite the rest f the crowd to join and I am pleased to see many of them beginning to dance alongside us. Marlene and Ricky couple up to our left while Dorcas and a Ravenclaw boy start an exuberant display.
Remus and Peter join, though I see Sirius and James still busy pouring drinks on the side by the table.
After several minutes of dancing, I start to get a little winded so I slip out from the grasp of my friends and go over to refill my cup.
“Please mu, may I have some more?” I joke, holding my cup out to Sirius. He looks at me blankly, but amused.
“Oh right, sorry, Muggle reference,” I say, laughing. My mother had never shied away from exposing me to Muggle literature and pop culture.
He just grins and shakes his head as he slowly pours more whiskey into my cup.
“Are you going to join the dancing or just stay here and work like a House Elf?” I ask over the bass of the music.
“Soon enough, just have to make sure everyone is well and pissed first,” he says. “Drink up, lass,”
I smirk and take a long gulp from my cup. Was it me, or where the orb lights James had conjured blurring…? I notice my lipstick has smudged all over the lip of the cup.
“Marigold is going to kill me for ruining her masterpiece,” I laugh to myself.
“Speaking of Goldy,” Sirius says, his eyes now surveying something behind me. “Look’s like we’ve got a train headed down the path of wreckage already,”
I hear Marigold give a loud giggle and turn to see her dancing with Peter, her drink ikely to spill any moment. She sips it to prevent this and takes a hearty gulp. I swear her cheeks have already begun to flush with intoxication.
I laugh and shake my head. “Oh dear, here we go,”
“Three galleons she ends up back at Ravenclaw tower with Alexander the Great,” Sirius wagers, pointing to the huddle of Ravenclaw boys that Marigold was now working to enter.
“No, I refuse to bet on my best friends shagging habits,” I say laughing. He matches my laugh and takes another long swig from his drink. I can smell the strong scent as he breaths after his swallow, mulled together with his own scent (whether cologne or something else, I couldn’t tell).
“Why? I do it all the time with mine,” he jokes, though I see his expression falter slightly when he looks round to find James and Lily talking in the corner. He takes another sip of his drink.
“So let’s talk about the map, yes?” I suggest suddenly, changing the subject. “You still haven’t given me my full explanation you promised!” and I knew this was the perfect place to corner him.
The corner of his mouth becomes upturned for a moment before he takes his cup in one hand, and with the other guides me over by the small of my back to another less occupied corner of the room, near a bent old brass colored lamp that has long since lost its bulb.
“Automative, dimension and tracking charms mostly, among other enchantments,” Sirius says. “It took several trials and errors though, believe me,”
“Hmm, interesting,” I say, pondering this. “And why couldn’t you tell anyone? Namely, me?”
Sirius smiles, “We’ve got to keep an air of mystery, you know,” he explains. “Otherwise the mystique of the Marauders is ruined,”
“What about the Marauder’s mystiguqe?”
Remus has joined us now, having extricatd himself from the dancing. His sandy hair is mussed and his face relaxed.
“Just explaining to dear Rora about the finer workings of our map,” Sirius explains.
“Ah yes, of course,” Remus nods faux-seriously, like an old Professor.
“But why keep it so under wraps? Is it really that big of a deal, besides potentially being against the rules?” I press.
“Well, it’s dangerous to let people know,” Remus explains, with an almost sheepishly apologetic look on his face. “I was fuming when Sirius and James told me that you knew, but I realized you’re you and aren’t a risk. But we still can’t go around telling everyone, no matter how much James and Sirius like to show off,”
“Hey-“ Sirius starts to object, but I interrupt him.
“But really, how dangerous could it be?” I say with a humorless laugh, raising an eyebrow and taking another sip. “It’s just a map,”
Remus stares at me for a moment, looking slightly confused, before continuing, “Wait, how much did they tell you?”
“Enough, we told her enough,” Sirius says hurriedly, and puts his arm across my shoulder.
“What do you mean, enough?” I ask as I take a long gulp from my cup. I wobble slightly, whether from the drink or the weight of Sirius’s arm, it’s hard to say.
But before I can inquire further, there comes a screech from across the room.
Marigold’s giggle distracts me as she pulls me away and exclaims, “Rora, I love this song! Dance with me!”
I burst out laughing, “No, not now, I’m taking a break-“ but she’s taken hold of me and doesn’t seem like she’ll let go anytime soon.
“Come have a dance with me, please!” she pleads again, as I struggle to get back to my conversation.
“But Sirius-“ I try to explain but Marigold has me swaying with her to the blasting music, and as much as I had wanted to continue my conversation about the map, I suddenly am laughing along side her.
“Oh Rora, you look positively drunk!” she announces with a giggle. “Look at your flushed cheeks!”
I laugh and humor her as she flails around, he hair becoming steadily more frizzed as the night goes on.
Sirius and the others join in on the dance crowd now. Sirius uses his wand to amplify the music, turns down the lights to a soft blue that ignite a spectrum of cascading sparks above our heads that illuminate the room in a rainbow of color and light. To my right, I spot a very drunk looking Lily dancing with James, who looks more thrilled than I’ve ever seen him at his situation. He has his hands on her waist and she is giggling like mad.
Sirius moves close until our bodies are pressed together, whether on purpose or from the pressure of the moving bodies around us, I don’t know or care. He wraps his arms around my waist and brings me even closer. I hesitantly reach out my hands to wrap them around his neck. I can smell his cologne, feel his torso against mine. The alcohol has made me clumsy, and he ends up half holding me up as we move to the music. I look up at him and he’s looking intently at me, with a twinkle in his eyes. My legs feel like they’re on fire with tingles and my stomach won’t sit still.
When the song finally ends, some of us break apart form the crowd. I let go of Sirius and give him another smile. We say nothing, just smirk at one another. I feel like I’m on fire and doused in the most comfortable liquid all at once. I just turn around to make my way back over to the table with the drinks. I’ve finished two now. I grab a bottle and pour myself some more.
I gulp my drink down as I make my way back over to Remus, who is now laughing and chatting with Emmeline and Marigold.
His bright expression falters for a moment and he looks concerned when he catches sight of me. “Rora, how many drinks you had?”
I laugh again, “Who could say?” I sway on my heels. “Say…what were you saying about how much they told me earlier?”
Remus looks uncomfortable again. “I…it doesn’t matter.”
“No, no Remus” I say. “I remember, you were going to say something…” But I trail off as I catch sight of Sirius, who is now across the room laughing and talking to Marlene and a few other Gryffindors. Sirius is the tallest in the group, and he is very much the center of attention. They all stare admiringly up at him as he recounts a story or joke for them. Marlene is slowly biting her lip as she stares intently at him, one of her hands grasped around his forearm. Evidently she has forgotten all about Ricky.
“Rora, you okay?”
I snap back to where I am and mutter, “Yes, nevermind.”
I make my way across the floor towards him. I feel positively invincible. I am simultaneously weightless and heavy, my face is hot and my mouth is dry but I don’t care.
When I reach the group, I smile silently at Sirius and he stops and stares back for a moment before saying, “Excuse me, mates.” Marlene looks around at sees me, and gives me an unmistakably snotty expression. But Sirius, not taking his eyes off me, pulls away from the group and leads me to the alcove to the left, underneath the stairs
I cling to his shoulder as I walk, for my legs feel like jelly and my face is still hot.
“Enjoying yourself, hmm?” Sirius mocks, but he too slurs and stumbles. I notice he has one of the bottles of firewhiskey in his hand all to himself, now nearly empty.
“Oh yes, quite!” I say with a hiccup. I barely am able to stand straight up anymore.
“You are positively wasted, Rora,” he laughs, looking me up and down as I rest haphazardly against the corner of the wall.
“You aren’t too better off yourself,” I giggle as I poke his chest playfully.
He laughs and looks down for a moment before placing his arms on my shoulder. “Take it easy though, eh? Don’t overdo it,”
“Okay Professor, okay Mum,” I tease.
“Where’s your drink gone?” he asks, now noticing my empty hands.
“I finished off three…four? Now…” I try to explain.
“Oh Rora, you delicate one,” he teases as he takes a large swig from the bottle.
“Oh, delicate am I?” I say as I raise an eyebrow. I smirk and grab his bottle, take a long hard gulp and try to suppress my wince of pain as the liquid sears my throat.
That was probably a bad idea.
Sirius’ eyes widen as he laughs in surprise. “My mistake. This is the first time I believe I have ever seen you this drunk, Rora.”
“Me too,” I laugh, my head starting to spin a bit. But my belly feels delightfully warm.
He looks down at me and I just grin up at him. He quickly, before I have time to process it, gives my lips a sloppy yet light kiss. My body surges with energy. I am frozen. My hands fall limp to my sides and my body surges with sensations I hadn’t quite experienced before.
But he just smiles again as he parts his lips from mine, as cool as ever. And before I can respond, there is a loud whistle from behind us. We peak back over into the main room to see James and Peter standing up on a table, unidentified objects in hand. Their faces are filled with mischievous glee.
“Oi! Partygoers! Friends! Fellow students!” James shouts above the noise of music and chatter. The people quiet down and turn their attention towards the two.
“You didn’t really think we, the Marauders as it were, would throw a party with no…sparkle and bang, shall we say?”
And with that Peter and him release the foreign objects from their hands and there is an eruption of light, sparks, noise and smoke above our heads.
Everyone cheers as bouncing spikes or fire and color multiply beneath the ceiling and whistle in all directions. I laugh as several girls shriek with glee and bend down in surprise.
When the smoke clears, James and Peter give a bow and saunter off the table with gleeful looks on their faces.
“Oi Prongs!” Sirius dashes away from me now to join James and Peter, laughing. “Way to let a mate know about a trick!”
“Apologies, dear Padfoot, from the bottom of my heart.” James says in mock apology.
But Sirius isn’t angry. Instead he high fives his friends and talks energetically with them for a few moments about what I assume to be firecracker logistics.
After an amount of time that in my drunken state I could not possible guess at, I make my way back over to the fireplace where the drinks are set up and spot Marigold. She is hanging off the side of the fireplace’s mantle, drink in one hand. She’s staring up at Alexander, who is recounting a hilarious story to the group. When I join them, he gets pulled away by one of his teammates who have started a drinking game involving cups and a stolen quaffle.
“Rora,” she slurs when I join her, with a determined tone of urgency in her voice. “You have to see Alexander play this…Isn’t he’s gorgeous?” She points over to him, as he swings and dunks the quaffle in a large pot of alcohol. Everyone cheers.
“He’s completely mad for me, I can tell,” she says with a look of glee on her face.
I laugh. “I think someone owes Sirius two galleons…” I mutter, stifling a laugh.
Marigold’s shiny round face cocks to the side for a moment, “What do you mean?”
“Oh nothing!” I say with a laugh. “Did I thank you for making me pretty tonight?”
Marigold claps her hands together. “Oh yes, Rors, you look positively radiant!” she exclaims. “I don’t know if you saw, but I counted at least five boys who have been looking at you tonight. You’re a right looker now!” And with that she erupts in a fit of giggles. I blush and smile.
“Well, I‘ve only got one boy on my mind…” I whisper with a smirk. “Speaking of…” My eyes search the dark, smoky and crowded room for Sirius.
But I can’t find him. “Hang on one second, Marigold, I’ll be right back,” I tell her as I make my way back over across the room, searching.
I spot James and Lily, furiously snogging on the broken sofa. Remus and Peter and Emmeline are laughing about something together. A group of Gryffindors are still dancing in the middle of the room. There is a Ravenclaw girl slumped down against the wall, passed out.
I finally reach the stairway and peer behind it in the alcove. It’s empty. I suddenly hear a bark-like laugh from upstairs. I recognize it as Sirius’s and I smile.
“Found you,” I say to myself. I wonder if he had gone up there on purpose, waiting for me.
I ascend the steps as fast as my drunken stupor will allow. Once I reach the landing, all visibility is lost. There is a thicker coating of dust up here, and all the doors I can make out are closed. But suddenly I hear a thump in one room and voices. I am confused, wondering why he’s up here shut up in a room. I head over to the door and open it, peering inside.
My heart drops at what I see. Sirius is pressed up against a girl on the other side of the room, her back to me. She sloppily is clutching his back and straddling him, her skirt barely on and shirt unbuttoned. Sirius’s dark hair is blocking his face, but I can hear him laughing and whispering to her.
I am halfway through the door, but they haven’t so much as noticed me. I am struck and frozen.
Sirius grins and takes her waist in his arms and kisses her back, half giggling the entire time, still completely unaware of me watching them. His mouth meets her lips, her neck, her chest, as she erupts into a wild fit of laughter. It is with a rush of anger and embaarassment that I finally recognize her: It was Marlene.
My heartbeat grows fast and I turn, a hot flush seething through my face. Suddenly, I’m feeling light headed. I shut the door quietly behind me. I walk as best I can down the stairs and back towards where corner where Emmeline, Remus and a few others are still blissfully and drunkenly laughing together.
“What’s wrong Aurora?” Remus asks immediately when he spots me.
But I cannot form words. My embarrassment and confusion seems to have made a mute of me, as I stand there in the middle of the room.
“Are you sick? Do you need me to take you to the bathroom?” Emmeline asks. Her face, just seconds ago glowing and jubilant, is now hard and concerned.
“No, I’m…fine,” I say absently. I’m not sure what to say, where to go. My mind is reeling in confusion. I stare around me atht elaughing people, dancing and kissing and drinking. Now I felt sick.
“I...I think I have to go,” My voice cracks and I try to find my coat on the floor in the dark.
“Why? What happened?” Emmeline asks, coming over to help me. “Please talk to me,”
“I…I can’t.” I am a mess of strangled words and embarrassment as I try to choke back idiotic tears.
“Rora, what happened?” Remus asks more firmly now. “Are you alright? Did someone hurt you?”
“I just need to go back to the castle,” I make my way to the door.
“Remus, get Sirius, I need help,” I hear Emmeline’s voice form behind me, but I don’t stop.
As I enter the cool night, I realize it has started lighting snowing while we’ve been inside. I wrap my coat tighter and trudge through the mud and sleet.
I am an idiot. I can’t believe I’ve been acting like such a fool.
There are hot tears pooling in my eyes now, which only furthers my humiliation and anger at myself.
I should have seen this coming. I’ve known him long enough to realize his games. I’m no more special than the next girl.
I am surprised to hear his voice booming widely across the frosty slopes behind me.
I don’t turn around, knowing that if I do I will only embarrass myself further. I wonder how Remus was able to extricate him so quickly from Marlene.
But my intoxication stunts my ability to go much faster, and I stumble and slip, finally falling down onto my knees in a heap. My head is spinning and I try to right myself, but he’s already there, lifting me up to face him.
“Where do you think you’re going?” He’s smirking now, as if he’s caught a child in a game of hide-and-seek, haughty confidence still plastered across his face.
“I want to go to sleep. I’m over the party. Please let me go,” I struggle to continue, my lips locked into a hard line, my eyes avoiding contact with his. I don’t want him to see the evidence of my stupid tears.
“But wait!” He’s in front of me again, blocking me. “I was thinking, you know…maybe we could..” he trails off in a slur, in an almost suggestive manner. He’s smirking.
I can’t believe what he’s saying, a mere few minutes after me just seeing him with Marlene.
“Could what?” I say, anger and cold causing my hands to tremble. “Snog? Shag? What exactly were you planning?” He looks taken aback at this, though he’s still got that stupid drunken grin on his face.
“Well maybe, I was just planning on-“ He tried to say but I cut him off.
“Planning on it, were you?” I spit at him. “And was I planned for before or after you snogged the oh, second or third girl tonight?”
This wipes the grin off his face. His face is riddled with confusion now. “Rora, I don’t know what you mean, I-“ but he falters. “Please, why are you so upset?”
“I think Marlene might know,” I hiss darkly. His face falls at this and he says nothing.
I take a deep breath for a moment, trying to collect myself. “Look Sirius,” I say firmly. “Go back to the party. I’m done with it.”
But he won’t give up that easily. “Please, I’m sorry Rora. I don’t know why you’re getting so upset…”
And now my firmness fails me and I am at a loss for words. I am stuck in a trap. What can I even say to him?
That I had a stupid schoolgirl crush and now I’m mad that some other girl got to him first? Or that he obviously wanted someone else? Even though I had gone through years of watching him snog other girls, without giving it another thought.
Instead, I just look at him, staying intently into my eyes, awaiting my explanation.
“I am confused. I thought…” I look at the ground again. I have lost my firm footing in this argument. The hot tears have returned. I hurriedly wipe them away, willing him not to notice.
“What?” Sirius pleads. “Rora, you’re my friend. I don’t want to see you upset,”
“I thought we…” I can’t finish. I feel like an idiot.
“You gotta give me something here, love.” He says softly with almost a smile, and puts his hands on my shoulders gently.
I furrow my brow. I am suddenly angry again. “See…that. Don’t do that.” My voice cracks, barely above a whisper.
He looks bewildered. “What do you mean? What are you talking about?”
I shake his hands from my shoulders and step back. “Don’t call me ‘love’. Don’t smile at me like I’m yours. Don’t hold my hand. Don’t hint at things. Don’t make me want you. Don’t do any of it, Sirius,” I say, my voice starting to shake again. “Unless you intend to do something about it.”
His face, whether effected by the whiskey or not, looks bewildered and taking my chance, I quickly turn around and make my way back towards the castle, willing my feet not to slip.
This time he doesn’t follow. And I don’t look back.
As I stumbled up the slopes to the castle, I trip and stumble on a rocky ledge. I call out in pain, and when I lift myself back up, I find myself staring into a bright light.
I stumble backwards in fear, and I can just make out the form of a man. Terrified, and thinking of the nameless intruder from two weeks ago, I let out a shriek. The man moves his wand to my face, illuminating it in all of its doubtless terror.
“Aurora Mockinglow? What on earth are you doing out here in the middle of the night?”
I stare wide-eyed at the faceless man, who evidently knows my name, until he lifts the wand to his face so I can see him.
Like a deer caught in the proverbial headlights, I realize that it is not a Death Eater, but is the good-humored Auror Clarke.
“Mr. Clarke!” I say. “Oh thank god, it’s just you,”
“Don’t count your lucky stars just yet,” he says warningly. “Explain yourself,”
“I-I-I,” I stutter, my mind reeling, grasping for some logical excuse. I try to right myself, lifting myself back up. “I was going for a walk,”
“Yes,” I say, giggling nervously as if this was a perfectly innocuous activity for a girl to be partaking in past midnight in the freezing cold.
“The grounds are off limits, you should know that,” he says, surveying me curiously.
“I know, I’m sorry, I was heading back, I promise, honest,” I say.
But he is still staring at me with measured suspicion and he shines the light closer to my face. I wince and blink, the light was so very bright.
“Miss Mockinglow, are you inebriated?”
“Oh no, no, not me,” I hiccup unhelpfully. He is about to open his mouth, no doubt the condemn me, when a strangled voice comes shouting from behind us.
“Aurora! Aurora! Don’t hurt her!”
Sirius comes bounding up to the pair of us, his arms flailing wildly.
“Ah, Black, what a surprise,” Clarke says with sarcasm. Sirius stops in his tracks, recognizing him.
“Are you drunk as well?”
Sirius narrows his eyes, looking between me and the Auror. “No,” he says.
Clarke gives a short, unconvinced laugh.
“Are you alright, Rora?” Sirius asks, looking to me in confusion. “I heard you scream,”
“I’m fine, he just startled me,” I say curtly. “I don’t need your help,”
“Right, well, I suppose I’ll just be off then,” Sirius says, his eyes looking hurt, as he turns to leave.
“Not so fast,” Clarke reaches out his arm and grabs Sirius by the shoulder. “I need an explanation of what you two are doing piss drunk in the middle of the grounds,”
“We were taking a walk, as I said,” I try to lie. But I never was much good at lying.
“Are there more of you? Having a nocturnal party?” Clarke looks around as if expecting to find a gaggle of students behind a bush.
“No, sir, just us, that’s all,” Sirius said in feigned earnest.
“Come on lad, I was a Hogwarts students once too. I know you lot were partying out here,” he smirks.
We are both silent. I cross my arms in frustration. This was the last place I wanted to be.
“Look, there’s a serious security situation going on, and I can’t have Dumbledore finding out I let a party continue under my command,” Clarke presses, though he seems torn.
I knew he was just trying to make sure we were safe, but suddenly James’s face pops into my head. If he was caught orchestrating a party off school grounds, he was sure to be stripped of his Head Boy position, or worse, expelled.
Knowing the pain that would cause our friend group, I find my mouth is moving before I know what I’m saying. “No, believe me Mr. Clarke. It was Sirius and I…fooling around. I’m sorry. It’s my fault, it was my idea to come for a walk and bring a bottle of whiskey,”
Sirius looks to me in surprise. “Yes, sir, we were being stupid,”
I’m not sure Clarke believes us, but something in his eyes resembling pity seems to convince him.
“Alright, I’m willing to believe you, but I’m still going to have to turn you into your Head of House,”
Relief courses through me. I could handle this, as my track record was fairly unmarked. McGonagall would be mad, undoubtedly, but reasonable to me.
Sirius, however, looks panicked. “Please Clarke, if McGonagall finds out, I’ll be done for,”
I look at Sirius. He was usually on good terms with the professor, and indeed even could charm her into letting him off if he wanted, so I am curious at his fear.
“Can’t you administer detentions? I’ll surrender to detention for two nights!” Sirius almost begs.
Clarke considers this, looking uncomfortable. “I’m not sure, I should really report this,”
“Detention for a week?” Sirius continues helpfully.
Clarke sighs. “Fine, detention with me every night for the week, starting Monday at 6 pm. In the Auror office, fourth floor.”
Sirius looks relieved, and his eyes move to mine, but I am determined to ignore him Though I am grateful for his talking us out of more punishment, it doesn’t erase the prior events of the night.
“You cannot breathe a word of this to any of the staff, I don’t fancy losing my job,” he warns. “I’m doing you two a great favor, by the way,”
“Yes, we are very grateful,” Sirius says. He turns to me and gesturing towards the castle, as if we would walk on our merry way back.
“Wait, Black. You two are following me, I’m going to have to escort you to your Common Room,” Clarke says, and takes both of us by our arms and guides us up the slopes towards the castle.
We walk in silence, me trying my best not to trip and trying even harder not to look at Sirius. With the threat of serious punishment off the table, the hurt and embarrassment of earlier begins to seep back into my mind.
One we make it to the Portrait Hole, Clarke drops us off with a stern reminder of our detention dates, and we continue in without another word to each other, with only the prospect of a week’s worth of glorified confinement with Sirius to look forward to..
Could this night be any worse?
“Rora…” Sirius tries to talk to me when we reach the forking dormitory stairs, but I don’t so much as acknowledge his presence. I can’t bear to look at him. I let my footsteps on the marble stairs be the only sound he hears as I leave.
When I enter my room, I see there’s a small fire crackling in the corner for warmth from the chilly air outside, but my face is flushed still and I feel hot. Emmeline and Marigold are still gone, and I hope that they make it without intercepting any other Aurors. I feel like we should have warned the rest of the party-goers, but it occurs to me that James still has the Marauder's Map, and that they should be able to navigate back unseen.
Feeling quite overwhelmed, I dash over to the window as quickly as my drunken state will allow and throw it open, and let myself lean against the windowsill. I remove my coat and throw it angrily over the edge of bed. The clock above my bed chimes one a.m. I close my eyes for a moment, letting the cool air calm my reeling head.
After a while, I gently open my eyes to survey the grounds below. The mist, still low hanging over the grounds, does not reach up farther than that, and I can clearly see the stars and moon above the highest turret of the castle.
I sigh, as I identify my favorite constellations. I outline them in my head. I recite all of the names of the stars. This calms me for a moment, as I am comforted by the familiar patterns in the sky. This is what I always would do when I was younger, in times of great fear or anxiety. I’d just recite the stars, just like my father taught me on winter night with telescopes. Nothing else had ever quite calmed me in the same way.
My eyes scan further, searching for new star systems to identify until finally I come upon one of the brightest stars in the sky: the Dog Star. Sirius.
And suddenly I feel sick to my stomach. I bend over double, clutching myself. I desperately grab for the washing bowl near my bedside table but it’s too late; I am sick all over the floor.
I groan and fall back on my bed, my head spinning faster and faster. I take out my wand and weakly point it to the flour “Scourgify,” I mutter, hoping it does the trick because all my energy is gone to the point that I can’t bring myself to check.
As I lay there, eyes closed, my mind drifts back to the party. How Sirius had kissed me, how he had looked at me all night. The way his eyes eagerly scanned my body as I removed my jacket. Like he wanted me.
The hot tears are back again as my mind flashes to what I saw upstairs; the Marlene pressed against him, how they were drunkenly kissing. How he clearly wanted and chose her over me. How the shock and envy pulsed through me when I saw them together.
And I had all but ruined any chances of being Sirius’s friend anymore, no less his girlfriend. He knew my foolish feelings for him now. He is probably laughing at me, for being so presumptuous and immature.
I want nothing more than to disappear. To erase this night from my memory.
As I finally drift off to sleep, I curl up into the fetal position, clutching my knees inwards to my chest, the sharp feeling of humiliation still fresh.
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