Chapter One- The Gatecrasher
The party roared in the Gryffindor Common Room.
Euphoria rolled over them in waves, suffocating and freeing all at once. There were horns blowing, sirens blaring, music reverberating through their bones, filling their ribs with a hollowing beat and making their teeth chatter. Marlene had somehow smuggled in Firewhiskey, and it frothed from glasses borrowed from the House Elves, and bottles swinging low in sweaty grips.
The House of the Lions celebrated, victory ringing in their ears and eyes, shining from beams and flushed cheeks. They had already forgotten the sight of Slytherin's Seeker closing his hands around the Snitch, for that didn't negate the fact that James Potter existed to grasp victory in the firm hold of his Chaser's gloves, reigniting their reign every time he potted the Quaffle through the hoops. In the end, it had been a close match. Slytherin had caught the Snitch, but they were no adversary for the skill and ease of the Gryffindor Chasers, who had already scored more than enough goals to start the Quidditch season with a bang.
Though the crowds of people consisted predominantly of Gryffindors, there was still the flash of yellow, or smile of blue, as girls danced, their hair tickling their eyelashes or tucked into their skirts, and boys chanted, egging each other on to drink as much alcohol as was feasibly possible in the given time. James relished the sight. His Head Boy badge gleamed from the front of his robes, and he found he quite liked this display of inter-house companionship. Of course, one house was notably absent. He pretended this wasn't a big deal.
"Why are you sulking on the side-lines, Prongs? Don't tell me you've become a wallflower," Sirius Black appeared from the throng of people, two glasses of burning whiskey in hand. His grin was electric, and James felt his own lips split accordingly. There was something about the way Sirius grinned at you, with that fire in his eyes and ferocious glint of mischief. James knew it was more trouble than good… but he also supposed it was a good thing he didn't mind a bit of trouble every once in a while.
"I'm too pretty a flower to be stuck on a wall," he replied sincerely, accepting the drink and taking a sip. It was cold and scorching. He licked his lips, fighting off a grimace.
Sirius openly voiced his distaste. "Merlin, where did Marls steal this from? It tastes like my Mother's medicine cabinet. You'd think she'd have better taste, for a girl like that."
James shot him an amused look. Sirius' lips remained curled in disgust, and he was mindful not to take another drink. He knew what Sirius meant however.
Marlene was red lips and smoky eyes. She was brash blonde hair and Muggle cigarettes that rested unlit between gleaming teeth and a sharp tongue that she wouldn't hesitate to use if she thought you deserved it. Her nails were always a different colour, and she winked at everyone who dared stare for a moment longer than absolutely necessary.
If James hadn't known better, he would've pegged her as a wine person. Expensive wine, at that.
"You never answered my question," Sirius pointed out.
"I'm affronted you called me sulking. I'm not sulking."
"You look like you're sulking."
Sirius regarded his friend carefully. "Then why aren't you getting pissed off you head like Moony?"
"I just-" James sighed, then stopped short. His eyes grew wide behind his glasses, and a surprised huff left him. "Moony's drunk?"
"As a skunk," responded Sirius, and there was an amused tilt to the corner of his mouth. James felt himself grin.
As if on cue, their third friend wandered over.
James threw a hand up in exasperation. "Now, where the fuck did he get the hat?"
Remus Lupin, though taller than the pair of them, was a gangly specimen, all limbs and golden hair that fanned across his eyes, and faint freckles you could only see if you were looking close enough, like a dusting of stars under a telescope. Normally, his demeanour was quiet and reserved, though a smirk threatened to perpetually curl his thin lips and his eyebrows would speak volumes more than his actual mouth. Tonight, it seemed his reservations had slipped and he stumbled from person to person, sporting an overly large straw hat.
His amber eyes lit up when he saw them, and he ambled over, arms wide, neck of a bottle between his long fingers, slurring, "What's up, witches?"
"How much has he had to drink?" James demanded, torn between being amused and chastising.
Sirius shrugged, lowering his voice ever so slightly to say, "Amplified magical blood, hasn't he? He was drunk from the first glass."
"Lightweight," James shook his head disapprovingly. Then, he raised his voice, "You're pissed aren't you?"
Remus just tapped his head with the bottle of Firewhiskey and shouted, "I can't hear you! Music's too loud."
James narrowed his eyes. Surely, the werewolf hearing was capable of picking out his voice from the screams and blare of the music. Remus didn't seem to care, however, and was leaning against Sirius, who had an arm slung around his waist, and one hand splayed across his stomach, keeping him upright.
Sirius was watching him cautiously. He sucked in a breath through his teeth and said, "Maybe I shouldn't have spiked his drink."
James' head shot to look at him. "You did what?"
Sirius recoiled defensively and exclaimed, "Peter was passing me the drinks! I just passed them on!"
"To a werewolf with amplified magical blood who would be affected tenfold?"
"Well, when you put it like that," called Sirius over the din.
James' eyes surveyed the crowds, and a small frown laced his eyebrows together. "Where is Peter anyway?"
Sirius didn't seem as concerned, for his attention only flitted then returned to the werewolf who was nuzzling into the top of his head. "Last I saw him, he was plucking up the courage to ask Mary out-"
James' eyebrows raised at this development. "Did he?"
Sirius let out a bark of laughter. "-and then running in the opposite direction."
"Coward," James remarked fondly.
"Absolute chickenshit," he agreed.
"Black!" The two boys turned their heads in the direction of the voice. There looked to be some kind of game brewing in front of the fire. Frank Longbottom, a portly boy in the year below waved at them. "Do you want in?"
Sirius yelled back, "In what?"
"We're Gryffindors," Mary MacDonald laughed. Her tight black curls bounced around her shoulders. "What do you think?"
Sirius didn't reply, merely turned to raise his eyebrows at his brother. It could only be a game of dares, the dastardly kind that had you scaling the Gryffindor Tower because some Hufflepuff said you couldn't. James exhaled deeply. He didn't feel like risking his life tonight in favour of imminent death, but he had a reputation to uphold.
"We practically invented the game," he conceded. Sirius grinned, slapping him on the shoulder.
He left his full glass on the nearest table, and followed Sirius, and a still-stumbling Remus. There was something in his stomach, something fluttering just below his ribs. It was almost like the feeling he got when he was flying, that whirlwind of emotions, of the anxiety, thrill and freedom all at once, but this was… different, somehow. No matter how hard he tried, James couldn't shake this.
Sirius stopped suddenly, as if reading his mind, and turned to him.
"You didn't finish," he prompted, holding his arm so he couldn't escape.
James pressed his lips into a line, and his eyes flitted around the room. Almost absently, they found her. Red hair glinted in the golden light, and even though there was an ocean full to the brim with noise between them, he swore he could hear her laugh, and her laugh only. He murmured, "I feel like something is about to happen."
"Something bad?" his friend pressed, fingers squeezing his elbow reassuringly.
James met his eye. "Something big."
The party swallowed them once more, and the music came back booming, louder than before. Sirius didn't break the eye contact, until the throng of people surrounding them forced him to let go of James' arm and they were barrelled into the centre of the room.
The game commenced. They were mainly Gryffindors, although a few Ravenclaws had deemed themselves brave enough to take part. They didn't last long, however, and soon melted into the wall of spectators who watched with bated breath and anticipating eyes. Gryffindor games were renowned, but when the Marauders played, they were legendary.
Granted, James had to put his foot down to a few, flashing his Head Boy badge when Marlene was dared to levitate herself outside of the window for as long as she could, and again when William Walters was told to kiss the leader of the merpeople. Yes, it was fun but Merlin's Beard, nobody was going to die under his watch.
The scale of the game plummeted after that, and he took very little notice, until a Fifth Year with dark curls and arched brows, said, "I dare you, Sirius, to make someone fall for you. Show me what you've got, self-proclaimed Casanova of the school."
James refrained from rolling his eyes. Remus snorted with disdain, but he sat up a bit straighter, and the drunkenness seemed to slip from him. Sirius' ears turned red, and the blush spread down the expanse of his neck. He opened his mouth, reply ready to slither from his tongue with an easy smirk-
A blinding light disturbed the party. Everyone fell quiet.
It seemed like a storm had broken out inside the common room, and yet, whilst it was impossible, there was something darker to the magic that swirled on the ceiling. A streak of lightening shot down, and a few people nearby screamed, jumping out of the way.
A low, rumbling noise began building up, along with a roaring wind, snaking through the crowd of students who were rigid in their fright. Then, an abrupt ripping noise tore through the room, deafening and loud. People covered their ears with their hands, crouching to try and hide from the sound, but to no avail.
It sobered James up immediately, who got to his feet and looked around.
"It's okay! Just stay still! Nobody move! It will just be a prank, nothing mor-"
The ceiling of smoke opened up and a black hole appeared.
Then, a girl dropped through and landed on none other than Sirius Black's lap.
The storm cleared, and the wind stopped. James leaned over his friend's shoulder, blinking back his disbelief.
"You know Pads, when she said get someone to fall for you… I don't think she meant literally."
The Hospital Wing had been in disarray ever since Sirius Black, James Potter and Remus Lupin had burst through the doors, carrying an unconscious girl, who was covered in dirt and fresh blood. Madam Pomfrey had almost had a fit, and had bustled about, ushering Sirius (who was carrying her bridal style) to lay her on a bed.
That was about thirty minutes ago.
Now, the three seventh years were slumped in separate chairs around the bed in question. They had definitely never seen the girl before, even though she looked to be about their age. She had brown hair that had been shoved into a ponytail some time ago, and long tendrils matted with all sorts of dirt curled around her face. Her skin was browned by mud and grime, and there was a hard edge to the tension by her eyes and the grimace by her lips. Her clothes had been torn and ripped beyond recognition, but Madam Pomfrey had changed her into one of the customary Hospital dresses.
Remus was sat closest to her. His hand was massaging his head, and he was silently staring at the floor. Despite his previous intoxication, he was keenly aware, and the only indication he had been drunk at all was the banging headache he was trying to soothe.
Sirius was leaning back, his eyes glued to the girl's face. He didn't move.
James remained standing, biting his nails and pacing every now and then.
"James, stop it. You're giving me a migraine," Remus said quietly. He did stop, shooting his friend a worried glance. Sirius' eyes slid from the girl to his friend sharply.
"I'm fine," the prefect said, waving his hand in dismissal. "I can't believe you didn't stop me after the first drink. You, of all people, should know the effect it has on…" he broke off, coughing, "those like me."
Sirius' eyes lingered on him, before he looked back at the girl.
Remus frowned, reaching up to run his hand through his hair when he paused. Slowly, he pulled the straw hat from his head. He stared at it, then alternated his gaze to the two boys in front of him.
Incredulous, he asked, "Where did I get the hat?"
At this, and only because the whole thing was so absurd, and the fluttering in his stomach, at that point just below his ribs was going wild now, James began laughing. It was high and breathless, and maybe a bit more worried than he wanted it to be. Sirius' eyes darted to him in surprise, before his lips gave way to a grin. Even Remus, though he sighed through his nose, allowed a small smile.
And then the girl shot up in bed.
Sirius swore, clutching onto the nearest thing, which happened to be James. Remus stared in surprise at her. Their laughter dried on the lips.
"I-I-" she stuttered, looking around the room quickly, her eyes darting to and from every detail. They saw Sirius first and her mouth dropped. "Sirius," she breathed and tears filled her brown eyes. "I-you- oh my."
A shaking hand reached up to wipe away a stray tear, and she closed her eyes briefly.
"Are you quite alright?" Remus asked softly, leaning forward so that he wouldn't startle her by speaking loudly. She jolted, alarmed, and stared at him. It seemed his tiredness had slid from his slim frame, for he was much more careful now.
He blanched. "How do you know our names?"
But she hadn't heard him.
"We lost, Remus. We lost. I don't understand. Harry was doing so well, we thought we had them all but-! Oh God. We should've known. How could we not know? How could we not-"
"You need to calm down," James interrupted gently, stepping forward. The girl stopped speaking and looked at him with wide eyes. There was a moment where her breath audibly caught in the air.
His name was a breathless, wondrous whisper. The girl looked at him with wide, brown eyes, enraptured in a sort of disbelieving awe, as if she couldn't believe what she was seeing. "Oh my god. Harry, you're okay. You're alive! I thought- I thought-"
What she thought, they didn't hear, as she threw back the covers, swung her legs off of the bed and launched herself into James' arms.
James didn't know what else to do. He wrapped his arms around her and tried to make soothing noises. "It's okay, it's okay. I've got you. You're safe now."
"Oh, Harry," she sobbed.
She pulled away to smile and wipe her cheeks when she froze. Her face was the epitome of fading hope, and she recoiled, frowning deeply.
"You're not Harry," she whispered, her voice broken, her face red from the tears.
James blushed, scratching the back of his neck nervously. "Uh, no. I'm James. James Potter."
"James…" A flurry of emotions played across her face, conflicting ones that Sirius only caught in snippets; confusion, dread, fear, revelation and most prominent, a deep sadness. Then she frowned again. Her brain was whirring, too many cogs turning at once. "James…Sirius," at each boy's name, she spun around and looked at them. "Remus."
Sirius watched her curiously, bewildered by her actions. He moved forward, cringing when she bristled at his proximity. "What's your name?" He asked delicately, edging closer still.
"I-" the girl paused. Then she laughed weakly. "I don't know whether that's a good idea."
Sirius tried to smile. "Why not? Little unfair, don't you think? How you know our names, but we don't know yours. By the way, I'm Sirius Orion Black the Third."
"I know," she mumbled. She looked him in the eye then, and she looked so scared and innocent and fragile and Sirius just wanted to hold her.
"I'm Remus John Lupin," Remus spoke up from the other side of the bed, then he blushed when they all turned to look at him. Sirius cracked a smile, and he looked away. "If you wanted to know."
The girl smiled. "Professor R. J. Lupin," she whispered sadly, faltering. And she let out another small laugh.
Then she twirled around gingerly and curtsied. James glanced cautiously at Sirius who looked alarmed. Remus thought she looked a little delirious, if he was honest.
But still, she smiled slightly- it never reached her eyes- and said, "I'm Hermione. Hermione Granger."
AN: I've edited this first chapter so hopefully, it's better written now!