Two Days Ago
"So here we are, on the eve of the end of our reign at Hogwarts—"
"Sirius, you do realize it's only October?" Remus pointed out. "Early October. We have about seven months or something until we finish here."
Sirius pressed a bottle of Firewhiskey into his hands. "If you can sit there and think that clearly, you obviously have not had enough. Drink more." He ordered, in a no-nonsense tone.
Remus raised an eyebrow at him, holding the bottle uncertainly. "I don't think this is the best use of our time. Drinking at the Astronomy Tower is pretty forbidden—there is a rule about it I swear—especially since I am a Prefect and Lily and James are Head Boy and Girl respectively."
"We will have none of this 'rules' and 'responsibility' nonsense. We will have drinking and revelry. Go on now. I'm watching you." Sirius prompted, glowering at him until Remus raised the bottle to his lips. "Good. Now that Moony has abandoned his pretense and joined us in the realm of the decently intoxicated, we can commence—"
Lily sighed, leaning back against the stone barrier running around the periphery of the Astronomy Tower. "Is this going to take forever?"
"It's going to take as long as it takes. Moony, pass our lady-friend here, the bottle. It looks like she needs it even more than you, if that is possible."
Lily rolled her eyes, muttering something about 'lady-friend' and 'mental' under her breath. Aloud she added, "Then hurry up with it; I have an extra credit essay on Concealment Charms to edit—"
"No! I call blasphemy! There will be no talk of schoolwork here and now. The word is henceforth forbidden. This is hereby a Historic Moment in the Life of The Marauders. We're gathered here atop the Astro— What? Why the derisive snort, Miss Evans?"
Lily ran her fingers idly through James' already messy hair. "I just don't understand why whenever you get a little alcohol in your system, you start speaking to us with this overblown pomp and grandeur."
"Oh, you poor, misguided girl, 'Pomp and Grandeur' is my middle name." Off of everyone's skeptical looks, he amended, "One of my many, many middle names. Just after 'Irresistibly Debonair' and right before 'Eternal Ladies' Man.' And furthermore, at least when I indulge in the Firewhiskey, I don't spill secrets about my best friend's run—"
"OK, OK, never mind! Go on, Sirius, we're all right with you."
"What was that?" Miranda asked suspiciously, leaning forward from her position resting against Remus' shoulder. "What secrets did you spill about me?"
"Nothing. None. I am the best Secret Keeper, ever. I swear."
Miranda leaned back into Remus, with a look which plainly said, We'll talk about this later.
Sirius smirked. "Yes, Dumbledore himself couldn't be a better Secret Keeper."
"I'm not afraid to hit you—"
"When are we actually gonna get on with this?" Peter wondered, sitting cross-legged, elbows on his knees, chin in his hands. "I want to hear what Padfoot was saying. It sounded like it was actually getting somewhere."
"Thank you, Wormtail. Take note, everyone: here is a stalwart and loyal compatriot."
"This time at least." Miranda joked, leaning her head on Remus' shoulder.
"I will choose to take that as a complement."
"Stalwart? Are you sure that's what you mean?" James sniggered, lifting his head up from Lily's lap. "I don't know if that would be the right adjective for him."
"Fine, he is a noble and loyal comrade. Nobeler and loyaler than you lot."
"Much better." James approved, sitting up a little and taking snatching the bottle.
"Is it trendy now to bastardize the English language?" Lily muttered. "Was there a owl about it that I somehow missed?"
"I have been wondering the same thing." Remus said softly from her left, grinning at her. "For several years. Ever since I met those two."
"Why am I not surprised?"
"Because you have become jaded and unfun during the course of your boring and unfun childhood." Sirius retorted. "And I know 'unfun' isn't a word in the stricter sense, but who cares about stricter senses anyway? I mean no one even knows what a 'stricter sense' really is. Ah hah! Language holds no restraints on Sirius Black!"
"Apparently nothing does." Lily remarked dryly.
"Exactly. Which is why I am always fun and you are tragically, often unfun." Sirius paused to remove a lighter and cigarette from the pocket of his brand new leather jacket. "See how I did that?" He bragged. "I made the word my own and now it's a real word." He lit the cigarette and took a long drag. Any outsider would have been able to see the quintessential Sirius in that instant, stretched out in muggle clothes, clothes he had never been allowed to wear while living at home, a cigarette in one hand and bottle of Firewhiskey in the other, hair long, unshorn and tousled by the night breeze, a roguish grin and sparkling grey eyes adding animation to a handsome yet haughty face.
"You seem to be getting on better, mate." James observed. "Since you bought a flat."
"Yeah. Why wouldn't I be? I'm my own man." Sirius replied, though the smile he shot to his best friend was strained around the edges, his tone was more subdued, and his eyes darkened for an instant. "A lone wolf." He added, with a more natural grin to Remus, tapping his friend in the side with the bottle. "Eh, Moony?"
"Something of the sort. An energetic, attention-craving dog who doesn't want to be 'lone', more like."
"Oh, Moony, you always had a way with words. We are truly two of a kind."
"Hey! Your best friend is right here, you know." James protested.
"We noble creatures are three of a kind, of three very different kinds." Sirius amended.
"I don't believe that made much logical sense."
"Why need logic and sense when you have feeling?" Sirius proclaimed.
"It might be the Firewhiskey talking, but that seems like it made some sense…I mean, er, made some feeling?"
Sirius chuckled. "Ah, Prongs, my only true drinking buddy. You are smashed."
"Are you feeling that or logical-ing it?"
Both boys dissolved into laugher as if it were the wittiest reply of all time. Lily put her head in her hands, losing all faith in humanity. Miranda snorted, laughing amused more by their antics then by the statement. Peter looked from James to Sirius, smiling slightly, not sure whether he was supposed to laugh or not. He settled for a half-chuckle.
Remus shook his head. "I think a part of my language-loving soul just died."
Peter gazed round the group uneasily, not liking the fact that he was left out on the joke, and wanting to be a part of the conversation again. "Do you talk to anyone in your family?" Peter blurted, curiously, giving Sirius his undivided attention.
Sirius' lightheartedness ended abruptly. "Do you talk to anyone in yours?" Sirius retorted nastily, clearly as an automatic reflex.
Peter looked taken aback. "W-well, y-yeah, of course!" Peter stammered. "I-I mean, I talk to my mom, you know, not my d—I just meant—you know with your parents—it wasn't a very c-clean break. Right?"
Sirius took a deep breath and seemed to regain his composure, though his eyes seemed somewhat dark and haunted…although perhaps that was just a trick of light. "No, I get it. I'm fine. Really." He affirmed, not liking the mixture of surprise and worry he found on the faces of his friends, rubbing a hand across his face anxiously, almost burning himself with the lit end of his cigarette. "I get an owl from Andromeda, sometimes—she's busy, taking care of her kid, that sort of thing—and Uncle Alphard owled me all the time until he—until he couldn't anymore. And whenever I go in Dumbledore's office—which is fairly often, I guess—Phineas gets cheeky with me, but that's it. And I'm happy about that. Really happy. I like my solitude. Who wouldn't? Not me." He quickly took a large gulp of Firewhiskey in order to once again not see the concern pass over his friends' faces. "See? I'm fine."
Remus crossed his arms and gazed shrewdly at Sirius, remaining unconvinced. To him it appeared that those who made declarative statements affirming how fine they were, were not fine in the least. Remus wondered why it was so hard for Sirius to just be genuine.
"Oh, come now, Pads, you have a great future as a free man in front of you!" James cheered him, appealing to his true Sirius nature, along with the alcohol coursing through him. "No restraints, all feelings, remember?"
"Yeah! Yeah, Prongs, you're right!" Sirius did appear considerably cheered. It was always shocking just how quickly Sirius could vacillate from one emotion to another in mere seconds. "Certainly, my equally unrestrained comrade-in-arms!"
"Yes, we have a free future, a life that knows no bounds!"
Remus sighed. "Don't mean to bring the revelry down, but at least you have a future. More than I have, anyway."
"What are you talking about?" Sirius demanded. "You have a lot of future. You have plenty of future. You have future to spare. You have future spewing from you in little invisible rays, like some kind of future radiation waves."
"I'm not entirely sure that made sense, but I understand the sentiment behind the words. And that's good of you to…feel?"
"I'm just surprised Sirius knows what radiation is." Lily remarked, peering over at him. "After all, he did use it in a sentence. Correctly."
"Which is a feat unto itself." Miranda added.
"Moony, Prongs, please inform your girlfriends that I am not above hexing a lady."
"Lady?" Peter repeated.
Sirius grinned at him. "And I am less above hexing abominations to the title of 'lady'."
"Abomination?" Lily demanded.
Miranda reached for her wand. "Oh, you will take that back."
"I won't. I can say what I want."
"Honestly, Moony, is this about your—your furry little problem?" James suddenly burst out. "Is that the cause of your weird downer mood? Because you know that's not a big deal—"
Remus sighed. "To the contrary: lycanthropy is quite a big deal. To everyone besides all of you, apparently. In the real world, the world beyond here," Remus gestured grandly to the Hogwarts grounds all around them, "to them it's a big problem. I probably won't even get a job."
"Piffle." Sirius waved away his concerns. "You're the smartest guy I know. You've got an entire library stored up in that massive head of yours. You'll get a job like that." Sirius informed him, snapping his fingers for emphasis, not noticing Remus touching his forehead gingerly, in an unconscious gesture of insecurity.
"Unless the legislation that Umbridge woman is pushing goes through." Peter supplied. "The one about mandatory registering of beast and being 'half-breed' status when applying for jobs. I read about it in the Prophet. It has that 'Dangerous Creatures Occupational Restrictions' clause."
"That isn't helping matters, Wormtail." James hissed.
Remus sighed once more, clearly dejected and miserable, and held out a hand. "Give me the Firewhiskey."
"Nuh-uh, because that would be drinking to drown out a problem, not drinking to have fun, which I don't support, and I am not about to be your—your enabler!" Sirius exclaimed, snatching the bottle from James and hugging it tightly to his chest, all in typical overly dramatic faction, yet with a great deal of logic to his avowal.
Remus stared his brazenly in the face, light brown eyes sternly fixed on stormy grey, and wiggled his fingers impatiently. "Sirius, the Firewhiskey."
He looked so unmovable in his position that Sirius reluctantly handed over the bottle, surprised at himself for attempting to arrest the alcohol consumption of anyone, least of all Moony I-Never-Drink-Firewhiskey-Because-It's-Irresponsible Lupin. "Drink up, mate." Sirius added lamely.
"Speaking of futures…" Lily remarked, removing a crumpled letter edged in gold from her robes.
"What's that?" Peter asked, leaning in eagerly.
"It's a letter from the Ministry. I got it a few days ago."
"And?" Sirius prompted.
Lily took a deep breath before responding. "It is a request for me to apply to the Auror Training Program."
"No!" Sirius gaped, snatching the paper from Lily's fingers and reading it hurriedly. His eyes widened. "It is! You've been holding out on us!"
"Where did you—how did you—what?" James demanded, baffled.
Lily brushed a lock of hair from her face. "I know. I mean, I'm not going to take it, obviously, but it surprising, and fairly flattering."
"Why?" Miranda questioned. "It seems like a good opportunity."
"Wait, wait, wait, wait!" Sirius exclaimed, brandishing the letter. "You get offered—practically begged—to become an Auror, and you're not going to take it? What is wrong with you? Prongs, you must get sense into your girlfriend at once!"
"No, it's futile, don't even try. The whole Auror thing might be perfect for you guys, but I've been thinking about it…and it just really isn't for me."
"But—why—this doesn't make any sense!"
Sirius put his hand to his chest. "I think I'm having a heart attack from shock and—and disapproval!"
"Lily, it's one of the most prestigious, hard-to-get-into Ministry positions. You're mad not to take it." Miranda shook her head in dismay. "It's like I don't even know my best friend anymore."
Sirius seized Peter practically around the neck, drawing him close enough for Peter to smell the mingled scents of Firewhiskey, cigarettes, and pie on his breath. "This just proves that Wormtail is the only real friend here. He never changes, never gets mad notions into his head, never horribly shocks and disappoints the rest of us. Unlike some other redheaded female who is now DEAD TO ME! DEAD!"
Peter shifted slightly, trying to get into a position where he would be better able to breathe. Instead, he only succeeded in being drawn in more viciously by the irascible Sirius. Peter wondered idly at the fact that Sirius' breath always carried a faint trace of pie, even if he had not actually been witnessed eating any in days.
"Frankly, it is too dangerous. Especially with this Voldemort situation—"
"Which is precisely why we need more qualified Aurors! To kill all the—the bad wizards. It's for the good of wizardkind. And we can get a piece of the action!"
"So much for 'being dead to you.' It's capture, not kill, Sirius." Lily corrected. "And that's just it! I would rather not live my life in fear of meeting some horrible end, like being maimed or—or murdered or something! No thank you. I would rather live out my life in peace and relative safety and solitude, away from the 'action'. I don't have the death wish you all seem to cultivate and cherish."
"Where is your sense of adventure?" Sirius demanded, scandalized.
"It has been supplanted by common sense and a desire to not get myself killed."
"Actually, I think those reasons are quite sound—" Remus began.
"No, Moony, they're not. They're mental and un-wizardly!"
"Sirius, honestly, I would rather not press this further. It was hard enough for me to comprehend turning down such a job offer—but I have received an offer for something much more true to who I am."
"What could possibly be better for all wizardkind than being an Auror?"
Lily smiled. "A fellowship with St. Mungo's. I'm going to be a Healer. Professor McGonagall called me into her office to tell me that they accepted my application."
"Were we supposed to have s-sent out job applications?" Peter questioned, finally disentangling himself from Sirius and suddenly nervous. "Have the rest of you? N-no one said we h-had to have them sent out already."
"No, that's just Lily being an overachiever again." James explained.
"Actually, that's 'just Lily being smart'." Lily corrected. "I applied at the end of last term because I know they always have a waiting list. So see Sirius, I will be doing 'something for the good of wizardkind' after all."
"Not as cool and exciting as catching bad wizards though."
"Yes, nothing so glamorous." She agreed. "But since when has my life ever been glamorous? Sirius, can I have your lighter?"
"Sure." Sirius replied, handing it over, a look of suspicion in his eyes.
"Thanks." Lily took Sirius' lighter and set the whole letter ablaze. "That's not going to be my life. I'll take the boring, unglamorous, safe, not-being-murdered life, thanks."
They all sat and watched the flames lick up the page, burning the gold embossed Ministry emblem at the letter's head.
Lily dropped the letter to the stone floor with a flourish. "To new beginnings and promising futures!"
"To action and excitement." Accentuated by a fresh plume of cigarette smoke spiraling into the air. "And lots of women! Ow!"
"To fame and glory!" A quick adjustment to glasses to keep them from sliding off of his nose. "And I'll have to add, to always being remembered!"
A toss of long brown hair over a shoulder. "To self-fulfillment and—hopefully—happy endings!"
Spoken softly and earnestly, "To knowledge and compassion."
"T-to success and—er, and—power! Right?"
They chorused, "Right!"
They watched the letter blacken and char until only ashes remained.
Dumbledore smiled, stepping back into the shadows and quietly descending the steps to the Astronomy Tower. He had heard a report of 'strange goings on' there, and gone to investigate, only to find there was no need to intervene at all. Why spoil a 'Historic Moment in the Life of The Marauders'? After all, there was certain to be another time where the group would be found with Firewhiskey on their persons. Best to let one live in the moment.
Dumbledore leaned back into his comfortable desk chair, file folder in his hand, allowing himself the reward to prop his feet on the desktop, as he had watched so many students do in his years at Hogwarts. It had taken quite a bit of searching, but he had finally found the document he was looking for, the document he felt might shed a good deal of light upon the strange goings on in the school lately. Something Severus had mentioned in the hospital wing earlier had resonated with Dumbledore, pulling at the back of his mind, consuming his thoughts like an itch which desperately needed to be scratched. And scratched it would be. He removed the document from its folder and began to read.
Perception and Illusion:
A Theory of Future Implications for Concealment Charms
Proposed by Lily Evans
13 October, 1976
The phrase 'hiding in plain sight' is assumed to only be true for invisibility cloaks or complex spells to enact invisibility. However, what if utter concealment was much more simple and affordable? The future of Concealment Charms could very likely rest on the interweaving of Acceptance and Ignorance Charms to create an effect of invisibility. To truly hide in plain sight one needs only to…
A grin slowly spread across Dumbledore's face as he read. Yes, it appeared this document was just the thing he was looking for…
A/N: I actually updated pretty quickly, yay! It is a chapter which came to me quite fast and is quite long compared to other chapters...don't get too used to it :). I hope you all like this chapter, as I really do, although it is more of a backstory, setting a contrast for the events which have happened thus far (and will happen in the future). I wanted to go for a sense of who the Marauders were before the time traveling happened, what they were like as a unit in their time. However, the plot of the story is moved forward in the second part. Please tell me what you think, as I would really value what you have to say about this digression of sorts. I am considering altering it into a one-shot as well.