Disclaimer: I don't own the characters (except for Venus, Anna and a couple of other exceptions), spells, places etc mentioned, they are all JK Rowling's. This is JK Rowling's universe. I am not making any money out of this story.
Genre: drama, general, romance (pairings: James/Lily, Sirius/OC)
Author's note: Please let me know your thoughts, that would be really appreciated. Thank you! The title of the story is taken from the great HP-themed song by Ministry of Magic.
Join like-minded pureblood wizards and witches for an evening of discussions this Saturday at 8pm. If you are new and interested in joining us, wear your scarf bearing your house colours tomorrow, and we will come to you to give you the location of the meeting. Because of the nature of the issues at stake, we require that all details regarding Puritas shall be kept in absolute secrecy by everyone.
We look forward to seeing many of you tomorrow.
The dark-haired boy finished writing the twenty-fourth note with a sigh of relief. He pulled his Slytherin scarf tightly around his neck and smiled. This was all going according to plan.
The Marauders' Map flew from the boys' hands and landed in the firm grip of Venusta Vance. In Latin, the word "venusta" meant beauty, charm and elegance, which was quite a good definition for the girl. She had long dark hair which she tamed with a straightening spell on most days, as she disliked its natural frizzy look. Her wide almond shaped eyes hovering between green and yellow distracted the eye from her long nose. She was taller than most boys her age, with an athletic built which she carefully maintained through regular exercise. But it had to be said that additionally to being one of the best-looking girls in Hogwarts, she was also among those with the strongest temper.
"What is this?" Venus wondered aloud, a curious smile lighting up her face as writing began to appear on the parchment.
Mr Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs are proud to present THE MARAUDERS' MAP
Mr Prongs and Mr Moony send their warm regards
Venus stared at the words appearing on the parchment, torn between suspicion and awe at what the boys had apparently created. She wondered if it was a map of Hogwarts and its secret passages, which they seemed to know much better than she did. She loved her friends dearly, but she had to admit that their risk-taking (or rather, risk-avoiding) approach of life at school was not really to her taste.
Mr Padfoot would like to invite Miss Vance to sod off and take care of her business
"Give that back to me, Venusta," Sirius Black snarled from his armchair near the fireplace.
Knowing her since they were children, he was perfectly aware of the fact that she didn't like her full name and preferred being called Venus. Which was exactly why Sirius often used her full name.
Both of them were pure bloods and therefore somehow related, although they didn't even know which distant relatives they had in common. Venus's family did not have anything to do with the Blacks anyway. In the Vances' house, they were only mentioned as examples of a noble family that had turned out horribly wrong.
Remus and James winced apologetically at Venus, while Peter avoided her eyes and pretended to find the fire particularly fascinating.
"Accio map!" Sirius said, raising his wand towards her. "What are you doing here in the middle of the night?"
It was indeed one o'clock, and the cold Gryffindor common room was empty except for the Marauders and Venus.
"I could ask you the same question!"
Venus looked outraged, but decided to answer anyway.
"I wasn't sleeping; I heard a loud noise so I came downstairs to see what had happened."
Sirius and James shot Peter a reproving look. He had dropped a big candelabra that decorated the fireplace, which had landed on the floor, breaking with a loud bang. Peter gave a weak squeak and looked away.
"And - how surprisingly," Venus said sarcastically, "I find you four here. What the hell are you doing? Going to lose points for Gryffindor again? And what is this… is it a map of Hogwarts? How did you do it?"
"This is none of your business," Sirius snapped.
"Oh, yes, Black, it is. Unfortunately, I happen to be in the same house as you. But if you do something - whatever, I'll go and wake Lily up, and we'll go straight to McGonagall tomorrow."
At the mention of Lily, James's eyes lit up; Lily Evans had been his dream girl for years. Usually, James could get a girl easily, but not Lily: she seemed to hate him, for some reason that was beyond James's comprehension, although he had questioned Venus, their common friend, countless times about it.
"But we haven't done anything, have we?" James said innocently, speaking for the first time. "We were just - talking."
Venus glared at them suspiciously, knowing that they were up to something. But her fondness for James and Remus prevented her from acting on her suspicions.
"Go back to bed, Venusta," Sirius said. "You wouldn't want to be sleeping during class tomorrow, now would you?"
But Venus stood still, staring at them severely.
"I will do whatever I want. "I will stay here until you go to bed."
"If you want, you can even follow me to my bed," Sirius said.
Sirius gave her his fake flirtatious smile. But to his disappointment, Venus happened not to blush at that comment. Actually, she showed no reaction at all as she made her way towards them, took the seat next to Remus, and waited. The boys couldn't do anything while Venus was there, so they had to come up with a new plan soon, and this wasn't very difficult. James yawned hugely and stood up.
"I'm so tired," James said. "I'm off to bed. Are you coming, guys?"
James winked at Sirius and Remus, who immediately understood what James was up to and stood up as well. Peter, however, looked clueless as usual, but he just did what his friends did.
"Why do I have the impression that it's just a plan of yours?" Venus said suspiciously.
James turned to her and gave her a condescending smile.
"You're paranoid, Venus dear," James said, winking.
Venus rolled her eyes and watched as the four boys made their way up to their dormitory. She sighed and, guessing that she'd better go back to bed and try to sleep, climbed up the stairs leading to the girls' dormitories.
A few minutes later, the four boys made their way back towards the common room, this time under James's Invisibility Cloak.
"She's gone," James whispered. "Now, how about a walk near the lake? I don't feel like sleeping at all."
His friends nodded, and the four of them made their slow and cautious way out of the castle.
When Venus woke up on the next day and drew the curtains of her four-poster bed open, she immediately informed Lily about her meeting with the Marauders the previous night. Lily listened to her with a look of dismay on her pretty face, her bright green eyes widening. She unconsciously ran a hair through her thick, dark red hair, mimicking the usual gesture of the very boy she disliked.
"They were up to something again, I'm sure," Lily replied, sighing. "But what can we possibly do to stop them? Nothing, I'm afraid."
But Venus looked thoughtful.
"Maybe we can - I mean we can't have tried everything, can we? I'll think about it in History of Magic."
As she had expected, Lily looked revolted. She was the best student in their class and always paid attention to the lesson, more than everyone else Venus had ever met.
"Venus, you can't do that," spoke a sleepy but amused voice from behind the curtains of the nearest bed.
A few seconds later, Anna Ripperton's blonde head appeared as she drew the curtains open. Anna was Muggle-born, like Lily; she had light brown hair cut in a bob, and a playful pointed nose. She had always been the one to calm down Lily and Venus when arguments got heated.
"Anyway, come on, girls or we'll be late," Lily urged and the three friends made their way down towards the Great Hall.
"What are we doing tonight?" Sirius asked, his mouth full of food.
"I thought we could explore that tunnel we discovered last night, behind the Blind Wizard's statue," James replied excitedly.
"Oh, guys, couldn't we just rest for once? If we continue like that, you'll have to drag me you-know-where tomorrow."
Remus kept his voice was low, as he was still afraid that someone would discover his secret. Thanks to James, most of his classmates believed he just had a problem with a badly-behaved rabbit.
"Fine," James said, sighing. "We'll go without you."
"Hum, we're forgetting something, Prongs," Sirius said. "Quidditch practise."
"Oh, right," James said. "By the way, I have to tell Venus about the new tactic I came up with."
"Couldn't you just tell her to go to hell and send us a postcard?" Sirius suggested hopefully.
"Sirius, she's the best Chaser in the team. After me, of course."
"I know," Sirius said, scowling.
Venus was one of the only girls in the school that didn't seem to be affected by his charm, and that just pissed him off. Which was ironic, since the other girls' attentions, when he did notice them, never kept him interested for very long.
"And try to be nicer to her," James said. "She's Lily's best friend after all. And my friend as well."
Sirius growled and spilt his pumpkin juice on James's plate, but James didn't seem to mind as the object of his affection had just sat down a few seats away.
"Hi, Lily!" James said.
James had turned his full attention to her and, as usual when Lilly was around, his whole face had changed imperceptibly, becoming softer somehow.
"Potter," Lily replied quite stiffly. "I'd just like to let you know that I'm waiting for anything that you four do wrong to go straight to McGonagall. Understand?"
James smiled sheepishly and nodded. Sirius knew that Lily was still upset at James for hexing Snape a week before, which was a shame, as during the previous weeks, Lily's levels of dislike for James had seemed to decrease. As James opened his mouth to say something, Lilly spoke again.
"I happen to be in a hurry, so please don't bother me today, for God's sake."
"Right, if I can't even be nice to you, I don't know what I can do," James snapped.
"Perfect, then don't say anything."
With that, Lily turned and began filling her plate.
"Let it go, Prongs," Sirius said.
For a couple of minutes, they all sat in comfortable silence, enjoying their food. At one point, Sirius noticed that Venus had come in and sat down a few seats away. Sirius thought about how annoying it was that Venus had interrupted them last night. He also thought how strange it was that he found her attitude towards him extraordinarily refreshing and equally annoying. Sirius's eyes travelled across Venus's face to her full and inviting mouth. He felt his pulse quicken as he suddenly wondered what it would be like to kiss her.
"I was wondering why you were so quiet this morning, but now I've got the answer," Remus whispered, leaning confidentially towards him.
Sirius startled; Remus was smiling kindly at him with just a hint of tease in his eyes. Sirius punched Remus lightly in the arm.
"No idea what you mean," Sirius said.
"Yeah, I would be suprised if you did," Remus said, laughing.
"You'd better stop this now, if you want to be OK for tonight. Why are so interested in Vance, anyway? Do you like her?" Sirius said, to try and direct the focus of the attention to Remus.
To Sirius's surprise, Remus blushed slightly. Remus looked around quickly to make sure no one outside their group was within earshot.
"It's not that I like her as such," Remus said. "It's just, well, you know - she is really beautiful."
"Foxy," James said.
"And she is really cool," James added.
"She is," Peter said.
"I mean, I am not saying I like her in the way you mean," Remus said. "She is too much of a drama queen for me. And high maintenance. Not to mention that she is miles out of my league. But I can't say that she doesn't have any effect on me."
Sirius looked surprised.
"Really? So I am the only one who finds her annoying? Prongs?"
Sirius turned to his best friend, but he already knew there would be no support there. James shrugged.
"I am not saying I would ever try anything with her," James said. "I think we work better as friends. But, that being said - in a world where Lily wouldn't exist and Venus and I wouldn't be friends since ages, yeah, I'd definitely go for it and shag her. Or at least, try to."
James laughed at Sirius's shocked face.
"Oh, come on, Padfoot, don't tell me you've never even thought about it."
Sirius leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest, like a sulking child.
"Never in a million years," Sirius said dramatically.
James and Peter sniggered and started talking about the upcoming Quidditch match. But Remus was still staring at Sirius, an amused smile lingering on his face. Sometimes Remus's perspicacity was a gift and sometimes, it was the most infuriating thing in the world.
During the next few weeks, Venus found herself often thinking about the mysterious map that she had snatched from the boys. She had a lot of questions and among those were: what did they use it for? She really hoped that they never used it to stalk anyone or check what everyone was up to. She was uncomfortable with the idea that they might be able to see where she was and who she was with, at any time. The most worrying part was that Sirius Black may have access to that information. During lessons, after class and during the weekends, Venus watched the Marauders, hoping to get another glimpse of the map, or maybe find out where they stored it - although they most likely kept it somewhere in their dormitories. But she did not see the map again, until the last weekend of March brought long-awaited sun. Most people were outside enjoying the sunshine, and Venus found Remus in the otherwise empty common room. Remus was on his way out and she walked towards him.
"Hello," Remus said. "Aren't you outside then?"
"No, actually I wanted to catch up on some homework," Venus lied.
Venus was going to do all she could to get in Remus's good books. She flashed him a smile and casually put her arm around his waist as they exited the common room. She felt Remus's back stiffen at her touch and saw his cheeks colouring slightly.
"I was wondering about that map," Venus whispered, leaning in towards Remus.
"What map?" Remus said weakly.
Venus shook her head.
"That's not gonna work, Remus."
"I cannot tell you about it," Remus said.
"Oh, come on," Venus said. "Please? It looks awesome!"
She squeezed his arm playfully.
"I can't, my mates would kill me," Remus said, smiling.
Venus smiled back and held up her hands in defeat.
"Alright, alright. But can I at least take a quick look at it? Just to see what you can see on it. I just want to make sure it is nothing illegal or immoral, you know."
Remus's eyes widened at her implied threat that she could go and report them. They were still walking together and had reached an empty corridor.
"OK, I guess, but then let's be really quick. I will show you, but then you promise you won't tell anyone, ever?"
Remus took out the map from his robes and tapped it with his wand.
"I solemnly swear that I am up to no good," Remus said.
Words began appearing. Remus put away the map for a moment as he entangled himself from Venus's arm, as he felt like he could not think completely clearly.
"Really?" Venus said, laughing. "That's your catch phrase?"
Just as Remus turned to her to reply, they heard quick steps behind them.
"Stop! What do we have here?"
It was Filch.
Remus froze in his tracks. The irony was not lost on him that if he had not been so distracted by Venus, he would have seen Filch coming on the map.