Chapter Sixteen

Such Stimulating Company

"Petrificus Totalus!!"

An expression of pure fury remained frozen onto Norway's face as his limbs all siezed, while the unaffected Snape continued to whack him with all the merry force of an evening's pent up frustration.

Lupin dodged to the side as Norway's other platform shoe went flying across the hallway with such force it rebounded off the wall at the other end.

"Someone – one of you boys – anyone - get hold of him please, before he destroys my entire house!" shrilled Lily exasperatedly.

Sharpe smiled - perhaps a little too happily - as he moved forward. "At yer service – Ma'am," he drawled in his worst American multiple-states accent.

At the sound of Sharpe's voice Snape froze, and backed away from Norway until he reached the wall furthest away from him, seemingly struck with a terror.

Lupin looked at Sharpe quizzically. "What on earth did you do?"

Sharpe raised his eyebrows innocently. "Unconscious innuendo?"

Black night, is not right,
I don't feel, so bright,
I don't care, to sit tight.

Maybe I'll find on the way down the line
that I'm free, free to be me.
Black night is a long way from home.

It could have been due to hunger, thirst, or the sound of music, but most of the Quidditch group had suddenly filtered out of the study into the kitchen and dining room. Andy Bell squeezed through the noisy crowd, shaking hands with people he hadn't had chance to meet so far that night. Reaching the other side of the kitchen, he reached to clap his new Ravenclaw friend on the shoulder. "Fancy coming to the dining room for some midnight munchies?"

"Not hungry," grumbled Rookley.

"The drink'll go to your head otherwise!" came the jest of a warning.

"Good. Let it."

Bell's smile faltered. "Well – okay. See you later then."

Rookley watched the smiley-eyed Gryffindor leave with no hint of remorse. He was having a crap night. He didn't like this sort of party, and he was determined that no one should, could or would make him enjoy it.

Black night, black night,
I don't need, black night...

"Well, at least this is better music than the other stuff," he muttered morosely to himself, trying in vain to stop his toe tapping to the infectious beat.

Black's eyes raked through the medicine cabinet. He needed a damn good Sobriety Potion right now. From what he could remember from previous drunken weekends, Lily always kept them in blue bottles on the left hand side, bottom shelf...

Ah – there was one. He grabbed for the first blue bottle he saw on the far left and slipped out of the door, and right past the still struggling crowd into the couple's bedroom.

"Prongs?" he growled. "Ere, Prongs!"

An inhumanely loud snore assaulted his ears. There was his mate, in the exact same position he'd been when he and Perks had brought Spencer up. "Merlin's balls, James Potter, you really can't take your drink, can you?"

James grunted slightly in response, but did not wake, his head still lolling back. There was nothing for it, Black concluded. He crossed the room, uncorked the bottle and poured the entire contents down his friend's throat.

The reaction was not unlike a violently erupting volcano. Firstly there was an ominous low gargling sound followed by a spatter of loud splutters, anda roll of coughs. One violent cough more and Potter jerked bolt upright, his bleary eyes squinting through lop-sided glasses.

"Oh fuck Merlin! W-what time is it Padfoot? Am I late for work?!" he exclaimed, before groaning, "Uh, I have got one Bludger of a headache!"

Black grinned at his static-haired friend. "Sorry to disturb your beauty sleep, but it's still your party night mate. And no time for headaches – Snivellus is still here, you need to tell Lily you want him kicked out now. She won't bloody listen to me!"

At the mention of the name the host's eyes narrowed. "Snivellus?"

"Yep, Prongs. Now come on – that stuff should be bloody working by now!"

James' face was flushing, and his eyes were dilating fast. "Snivellus, as in Snape?" he repeated.

Sirius frowned. "Yes, well done, you got it the first time – now let's move!"

James looked down at his hands to notice that they were trembling slightly. "What the hell did you just give me, Padfoot? I feel really sort of...shifty..."

"It was only one of those blue sobriety potions," replied Padfoot impatiently, pointing to the bedside table. "There's the bottle right there – to the left on the bottom shelf."

James picked it up, frowning. "But it didn't taste quite...and you gave me the whole lot, right?"

"Well," huffed his friend, "we had enough at school, it's not like you're allergic to it! Now – come on – he's right out in-"

"Wait – wait..." James gave up wrestling with his quivering hand, and put the bottle down on the bed so he could read its label clearly. He paled. "Shit Padfoot – that was Lily's caffeine potion – you gave me a WHOLE flipping bottle of Lily's caffeine potion?!"

Sirius simply shrugged off his mistake. "Well, it woke you up nice and quick, didn't it?"

"You could have bloody killed me! There's all sorts of funny stuff in that cabinet!"

"Yeah I know," retorted back Sirius, "but for your information – Snivellus is out there and if I hadn't been around he would have got in here and got you in your sleep!"

There was a brief silence. Sirius looked down at his staring-eyed friend – now he thought about it he did look a bit twitchy... "I can go look for a calming potion, if you like?" he asked, concerned.

"Is Lily out there too?" James enquired suddenly, completely ignoring his friend's question.

"Yes, I came upstairs, and she was already-"

James turned pale. "Oh Merlin, why didn't I see it before? Why didn't I see it before, I'm such an idiot, why didn't I see it before?" He ranted, thumping the bed repeatedly with a fist, "Why, why, why, why, why, why, WHY?!"

The potion bottle went flying across the room and clunked into the wall.

Sirius blinked several times. "Woah, easy there, Prongs."

James whipped around to glare at his friend. "Don't tell me to "woah" Padfoot – I haven't seen this clearly in years! Lily's been acting funny for months! It's obvious, it's crystal clear!" He laughed oddly.

"Has she..?" Black was confused.

"Yes of course she has!" hissed James, looking rather frenzied. "And I reckon it's because she's hiding a secret. And Moony must be in on it too...yes...I'll bet you ten galleons she invited Snape tonight and didn't tell me!" James laughed again. "Who knows who else could be in on it – who else could be laughing behind my back right now!"

Black shuffled awkwardly and ran a hand through his hair. What sort of hellish trouble had he got his friend into now?

"Um, I don't think... Look," he sighed, "you're a little bit worked up, it's just the caffeine talking, okay? If I get you something to calm you down a little bit before we go out-"

James gave his friend an odd quirky smile as he stood up. "No you don't Padfoot – I don't trust you – who knows, you might poison me next time. And don't think it's not obvious you're just trying to stop me from seeing my wife!"

Sirius watched nervously as James quivered before virtually springing toward to the door. "Prongs, don't worry about Lily for the moment, we'll sort her out later. Just help me get Snape out first, okay?"

"Fine by me!" was the rather too flippant reply.

Snape's heart hammered nervously in his chest. He would be fine, as long as he kept his back to the wall and his body away from that voice...

It was difficult to talk, and his balance wasn't too good, but at least he wasn't seeing double vision like he remembered from his encounter with Butterbeer. He scowled - everyone was staring at him again like he was a pickled something in a jar –

Two dark-haired, unmistakeable shadows suddenly appeared at the back of the corridor. He tensed automatically; his recognition of them was instant even after half a bottle of spirits. Snape saw Potter's angry gaze go his way, but was rather surprised when it didn't linger on him for long.

Potter's hand flew to Lily's arm instead. Lily flinched.

"I think you've got something to say to me," he growled.

Lily paled slightly, but stayed her ground. "James – you look terrible. Go back to bed and sleep it off like I told you to, sweetie."

"Don't you sweetie me!" began James dangerously. Snape watched as a rather nervous Siriusgrabbed hold of his friend's arm, only to be roughly pushed away.

"Leave out of this Padfoot!" snarled James, looking a bit mad. "This is between me and my wife!"

Snape took the opportunity of the distraction to have a look around for means of escape. The whiskey was as good as lost now – it was in the airing cupboard, and Lupin had his back leaning against the door. He began to shuffle sideways as quietly as he could, until his hand came into contact with something cold.

He glanced down. It was a little silver bottle – his little silver bottle with the pepper up potion in. He must have lost it when fighting with the Muggle prat.

With another quick glance up to the squabble he pocketed the bottle and looked around for more lost things within his reach. There was a little jade stone, a small screw-capped pot, and over there a nail file. Snape hardly wanted a nail file, but he reached for it anyway. Who knew how it might come in useful?

James' face was pale and twisted, Lily's was stricken. "If you won't tell me, then that proves you're a cheat and a filthy liar!" he spat at her, his fingers like claws around her arm.

"Don't listen to him Lily – he's just paranoid, overdosed on caffiene!" That was Black's voice.

"What?" Lupin's voice.

"It's not that strong, Lily has it all the time when she's on night shifts to keep awake, don't you Lily?" returned James, his eyes flashing with anger. "And now I've said that, it makes me wonder what she gets up to on those shifts when I'm not around..."

"James! Listen to yourself – I won't listen to this – I won't!" quavered his wife. Lily was trying not to sound too bothered, but his spiteful words, caffeine induced or not, had deeply hurt her...

Mildly shocked at the proceedings (Whoever thought the saintly Potter pair could be capable of domestics?) but grateful for the diversion, Snape decided that now would be the best time to make his escape. But as he had trouble standing, there was the obvious hazard of the stairs.

His hand moved toward his robe pocket. Should he use his Pepper Up now?

A/N: Not such a funny chapter, this one – but I think the shit from all the earlier chapters had to hit the fan sometime. And for the record, messy medicine cabinets frighten me – they are a disaster waiting to happen.

Next chapter – It's getting to that time of night where Spin the Bottle seems like a good idea...and Why it is not wise to feed your dog hot chilli dip....

Please review, comment or say hi – I'd love to know what you think of the story!