A/N: (I'm alive! Further details on my profile). Gosh, a long time ago this was supposed to be a simple, quickly-written story... that didn't happen. But here it is finally moving towards where it was always intended to go (next chapter, a little less conversation, a little more action). (An in-fic sort of "previously on" provided ;D)

Saturday marks the first Hogsmeade trip and the first Quidditch match of the year. They've never fallen on the same date in all of Lily's years at school. Students have speculated about the possibility before, swapped stories of it happening in a parent or sibling's year—but no one ever thought it really would.

Lily can't get to sleep the night before. Not because she cares about the trip or the match. Not because Remus is a werewolf and Marlene's father ended his own life, and she's seen them day in and out for years oblivious to the hard truths they lived with. Not because the whole reason Sirius Black switched into Divination and became her class partner is that he nearly got her oldest-but-also-former friend killed at Remus' unwilling hands…

Or should that be unwilling paws… jaws?

…Maybe that is a little bit why she can't sleep.

It's certainly not because an entire deck of unnervingly-revealing Tarot cards turned into The Lovers card after she essentially tug-of-warred over them with Potter. She might be taking Divination, but that doesn't mean she believes in it.

The main reason she can't sleep is the other girls in her dorms won't shut up.

"It has to be because of the riots after last year's match," says Gladys Gudgeon, sitting up in bed and patting her curlers. There's charms for perfect hair, but all the girls have seen them go wrong often enough that when it comes to beauty products and cosmetics, the preferred means are very Muggle. Lily has always taken a certain satisfaction from that.

"A few duels and detentions do not riots make," Annabeth Inglebee corrects impatiently from under her covers. "And while I'd suppose House tensions are even higher this year, seeing as we don't have a set of Prewett brothers to start trouble after losing their last Slytherin match—"

"Slytherin asked for it." Marlene, who's been sulking and silent since the Divination class incident, rises like a sheet-strewn banshee from her bed. "Been spending a lot of time over at the eagles' nest, Ann. Starting to forget which House you call home?"

"Whoever said I call this home?" Ann says.

"Please don't fight," says Felicia, from her perch on the end of Gladys' bed. Gladys is doing up Felicia's fine hair in a complicated crown braid, the kind Lily wouldn't know how to begin. "Not when tomorrow's such a happy day."

"Jumping things a bit, to already call it happy," Ann says. "I don't see why everyone's acting like this is such a great thing, cramming two perfectly good Saturdays together. It'll cut down on post-match celebrations, and it'll cut down on time in Hogsmeade—one or the other, if not both, must be the intention. I don't like it."

"But you never like much of anything," Marlene says, so sweetly that Lily props herself up on her elbows and moves her canopy drape. She wants an unobstructed view should mayhem ensue. "And you wouldn't know a good time if it smacked you on your stopped-up bung-hole—"

"Oh for Merlin's sake," Ann interrupts, unfazed, "at least when I'm over at Ravenclaw the insults follow a logical pattern. Therein is their sting—"

Marlene hops off her bed. "You want logic, Inglebee? I got myself three O.W.L.s more than you, how 'bout that, you sour feck, so even if you'd begged the Sorting Hat—"

Lily would usually interfere at a point like this. But Marlene's clearly spoiling for a fight, and of everyone in the room, Lily's the most likely to really give her one. She's too tired to set herself up as target. Ann has the prefect's badge; she ought to be able to use it.

"Gladys. How does she know how many O.W.L.s I got?" Ann asks, uncharacteristically shaken.

"Happy day," Felicia repeats, fluttering her hands at Marlene.

Gladys tugs on Fee's half-done braid to keep her still so she can finish. "Are you meeting up with Sirius at all tomorrow, Fee?" Gladys asks, in a clear ploy to change the topic.

"You actually starting in with that again?" Marlene says, turning her roar on Gladys. "Black can go to Hades, and don't you put on your schoolmarm face and say otherwise, Lils."

"I'm half-asleep over here," Lily protests. Schoolmarm face? she thinks.

"That your way of telling me to shove it?" Marlene says.

"What's that?" Lily rubs her eyes and yawns as convincingly as she can.

"Marlene, you're really waking her up," Felicia says concernedly, "and Ann's in bed too, and what about your match tomorrow?"

Marlene scoffs, narrowed eyes still on Lily. "Potter's got me back on reserve what with Slytherin playing Regulus Black at Seeker. Those Blacks," she says ominously, "I swear."

Felicia gasps. "I can't believe James would do that to you! After last year!"

"What was last year?" Gladys presses. Lily assumes it's some Quidditch politics.

"Twenty Galleons," Marlene says, warming to her topic, "no, fifty, that Potter doesn't even trust little Kiely against Black at Seeker and takes the spot himself. Then I'll have a right laugh when he tries to call me back to fill Chaser. I've got Gideon Prewett coming up from London to meet me in Hogsmeade, so hang Potter and his match."

"Yes," Felicia says, with a bounce on the bed that upsets her hair, "and hang Black right along with Potter. Stupid boys who'd snog a girl and then forget about it."

Lily immediately props herself up in bed again, her stomach suddenly jerking, as Gladys goes, "Wait, Fee, what was that? You've been snogging James too? No fair!"

"Oh no," Fees says, blushing, "no, no, I meant—" She's trying not to look at Marlene.

"That was last year. Potter and I snogged once or twice after wins," Marlene says briskly. "It never left the locker room. Only till Gideon wised up to how he felt about me, of course."

"Oh, of course," Ann says from under her covers.

"No one told me!" Gladys shrills. "Once, or twice? We won three times last year!"

Marlene shrugs and side-eyes Lily. "That we did."

Lily distinctly remembers running into James on his way from the pitch to the castle after last year's Ravenclaw match. His hair had been completely flat for once, plastered down with sweat. She'd grudgingly given him a "Nice flying, Potter" and gotten back the half-expected reply, "Nice enough to go out with me, Evans?" And his smile had been cheeky enough that even as she'd rolled her eyes, she'd… thought about it, for half-a-minute or so, after she kept walking on by.

Surely he couldn't have been coming from kissing Marlene, of all girls, just then. Surely any girl snogging James Potter would muss up his hair.

"I didn't mean to—to…" Felicia blusters.

Lily, suddenly, realizes that it's her Felicia's doing a poor job of trying not to look at. The other girls are blatantly watching for her reaction. She quickly loosens her hand, which has somehow clenched her quilt.

"Oh come along," she crabs at them all. "As if I'd care!" When their wary expressions don't change, she adds, "What do you imagine Potter is to me?! A pest, that's all."

"For the record," Marlene says. All her angry sullenness has relaxed into satisfaction. "The pest knows how to use his tongue."

Lily, pointedly, lies back down and shoves a pillow over her ears. Just in time, too, to muffle the sounds of Gladys asking further questions.

She doesn't manage much sleep that night.

Sometime after dawn, Lily gives up and gets up. She got bits and pieces of sleep, enough to tease her with half-awake snatches of dark dreams. Not enough to feel at all rested.

She puts on her crispest black robe, to feel a little more together, brushes her hair, and quietly makes for the library. Madam Pince has the library doors open with the sun, though it's catacombs empty and silent so early on a Saturday. Lily actually gets an approving nod from Pince for her seeming studiousness, as she makes for the Divination section.

The library's dark, too, if not tomb-dark. The light from the windows is dim, promising a clouded-over day, and only a few of the lights are on yet. The Tarot section's at the deep, far end of the Divination shelves. Lily feels increasingly like she's walking into a tunnel.

"Lumos," she whispers to her wand, and it illuminates a body on the floor, mere feet from her shoes, its back propped against the shelves.

She should shout. She should scream. But her throat closes off and she finds her mouth moving like a fish's as she instead rushes headlong at the body, hurrying to see its face, if it's alive.

Sirius Black's head jerks upright at the squeak of her shoes, and he reflexively throws a book from his lap at her.

It thuds and bounces off Lily's shoulder, clattering to the floor. She stops in front of him.

"I thought you were a murder victim," she says, annoyed.

"At Hogwarts?" Sirius says, blinking blearily. "In the library?"

"With a candlestick," Lily adds automatically.

Sirius repositions himself so he's properly sitting up against the shelf again. "How do you murder someone with a candlestick?" he asks.

"Er," Lily says. "Conk them over the head with it. Further bludgeoning."

"Interesting," Sirius says. "It'd take some good candle-sticking to actually murder a wizard, then. My mother once dropped an entire cast-iron stove on my uncle Alphard's head, and he just came to asking if that meant dinner was ready."

"Thick heads must run in your family."

Sirius looks down and pages through one of the books on his lap. "There's a lot that runs in my family," he says, too lightly.

Lily picks up the book he'd thrown at her, this time—Cutting Cards: Cursed Decks, Truth, & Other Things That Can Kill You—and sits down against the bookshelf opposite him. "There's a lot that runs in every family. More importantly, that was me calling you thick."

"I did realize that," Sirius says. "I'm not that thick."

"Sending someone to get eaten by a werewolf is as thick as it gets."

Sirius doesn't so much as look up from his book at Lily's reveal of what she's puzzled out (she's not a little disappointed). "No, nearly getting eaten by a werewolf is as thick as it gets. He guessed what was there. What did he think was going to happen in that tunnel?"

"What did you think would happen? That he would get eaten?"

"Suppose so, yeah. Only a little eaten," Sirius adds hastily. "He's been following us for years. It was going to happen eventually. Figured, give him what he wanted on our terms, scare him off." He stops paging and looks up, not at her but the ceiling. "James called it a 'misuse of trust'. Yelled other things I shouldn't repeat to you, but somehow that was the sticking one. He didn't specify if he meant his trust, or Remus', and both—"

"He meant Remus'," Lily says automatically.

"Yeah he did," Sirius agrees, finally looking at her, with something like appraisal.

"Good luck getting that trust back," Lily says. She opens the Cutting Cards book. "Figured out your trick deck, then?" They had obviously come to the Tarot shelves with the same purpose.

"You do know it's not my—"

"You've never been one not to take credit for a prank," Lily interrupted. Except for maybe that Davy Gudgeon dare with the Whomping Willow last year, but it was only speculation that was Sirius. "I know. What've you got?"

He flipped his book over on his lap and held a picture in her direction. "I'd say it's a Trionfi deck," he says. "Fifteenth-century Italy. Supposed to only be pulled out on occasions like marriages, battles, peace treaties, because of the heavy Cheiro enchantment."

"Cheiro as in chiromancy?" Lily asks sharply, connecting the name for palmistry to how the cards had changed under Remus' touch, under her and James' small tug-of-war for them.

"Better believe it," Sirius says. "I heard you have the thing. Hand it over, will you?"

"Er, it's not with me now," Lily says. The bits of the remaining cards are somewhere up the flue of the Gryffindor chimney.

Sirius lazily raises his eyebrow. "Somewhere safe, is it? Because as a rare heirloom deck, it's worth a small fortune."

"How small a fortune?"

"Couple hundred Galleons. Thousand and some to the right buyer."

"…Is that all," Lily says weakly.

Sirius' eyebrow arches a little higher. "Wrecked it, did you?"

She thinks of the deck, molten and peeling apart in the fire. "…I might have a little."

"How wonderfully impetuous of you," Sirius says, in so laidback a tone she can't tell if he was being sarcastic or not.

"I thought it was some throwaway prank deck!" Lily pauses at thought at her own protest. "Not just anyone would use a fancy deck to mess with Marlene McKinnon. A deck rare enough we don't study it—probably handed down through a family?—and someone careless enough to use it—throw it in with class decks, throw it away into Auriga's hands really—"

"If you hadn't taken it first," Sirius interjects, but Lily waves that aside.

"—all for the sake of being, well—mean, or maybe, trying to be funny…" She looks down hard at the book in her hand, making a conscious effort from keeping her eyes from flicking to Sirius. In the end she fails.

"I know," Sirius says grimly. Even his eyebrow looks subdued. "All points to me, doesn't it?"

Lily studies him. "Or it points to a frame-up," she says. She feels very Miss Marple saying that.

"Snape," Sirius says automatically, then shakes the thought away before Lily can. "Nah, even I know he doesn't have that kind of money to throw away on hating me. And for what? If I sicced a werewolf on Snivellus and am still here, I'm not about to get expelled over Divination class. Auriga didn't even give me much of a telling off, listened to my protests and said something about innocent until proven guilty, then went to try to catch McKinnon."

"Curious Auriga didn't go back for the deck, presuming she recognized what it was."

"I don't suppose she expected you to take it," Sirius says, grinning. "Lily Evans, not-so-petty thief. Somehow I can't see past that. Wait till I tell—"

"Tell Potter, yes, very predictable, Black, I'm sure you two will have a good chuckle over me, assuming you ever get back on speaking terms," Lily says. Then she sighs. "Sorry. It's early. Was that school-marmish? Do I have a schoolmarm face?"

"What? Your face stays nice enough, even when you get— erm, tetchy. …Why are we talking about your face?"

"It was brought to my attention," Lily says. "I don't try to be a stick-in-the-mud, you know."

Sirius stares at her, looking genuinely taken aback, always rare for him. "Lily," he says slowly, "over the years you've locked broom closets James and I were hiding in a good seven times and knocked our heads together a good few more, dueled with a Ravenclaw prefect who wouldn't take points off Slytherins bullying Mary Macdonald, dealt with said bullies yourself more times than I'm comfortable thinking about, made more people like you than you seem to even realize, and yesterday stole and destroyed a six-century-old magical artifact. You may get away scot-free when it comes to detentions, but that doesn't make you a stick in anything."

"Well," Lily says. She's trying not to blush and failing. "Well, Sirius, I…"

"That's observation, not compliment, so don't go fancying me or anything," he says, rolling his eyes. "Honestly, I can't say anything halfway nice to a girl without her hovering around and hinting about taking her to Hogsmeade—"

"Felicia," Lily says, a thought clicking.

"Exactly, like Felicia—"

"She normally works with Marlene," Lily interrupts. "They split up to see if you'd choose to sit with her, remember? Wait, what exactly does a heavy Cheiro enchanment do?"

"Lays out your soul or fate, or something," Sirius says. "Special occasions only, like I said. The enchantment gets, well, blunter with overuse, much less age, hence all the cards showing up the same—that's why it took me most of the night to figure out what it was, it wasn't working like a Trionfi deck is really supposed to, but I know my way around a prank set, and that was no prank set. For one, they usually turn up dirtier pictures—"

"It is the sort of deck a girl might use to see what's on a boy's mind, then," Lily says. "And Fortescue's an old wizarding family, aren't they?"

"Not by my family's 'sacred' standards, but they're hardly upstarts," Sirius agrees. "There have been Fortescues at Hogwarts since the seventeenth-century easy, and it wouldn't be a shock if some branch reached further back." He runs his hand through his hair in thought, almost Potter-like, except that Sirius' hair falls perfectly back in place. "They don't care a fig for old ideas, the Fortescues," he says carefully. "Fee's mom's a Muggle, lives right in Diagon and helps right at her in-law's shop. For years now, and it's still something of a to-do. My mother writes regular letters to the Prophet editor on it."

"I think I knew that," Lily says carefully. She doesn't bring up how every time Sirius' mother has a new letter published in the paper, often mentioning 'the corruption of youth' or otherwise obliquely referencing Sirius, some Slytherins plaster the whole school with copies. She's pretty sure last year she saw Regulus Black tacking one up himself. She definitely saw Potter dragging Pettigrew with him to pull leaflets down.

Sirius seems to be wrestling with his wording. "It's a fair guess, if it's hers, Felicia might not know what the deck's worth or care much besides what it could show her…"

"A fair guess, her family being what it is," Lily says, gathering as much, and when Sirius opens his mouth to protest, hurries to add, "I'm not saying you're stereotyping, it is fair. There's things about your world I don't know, or care, about, being Muggle-born."

"Our world," Sirius corrects, grinning a little. "True enough. You did destroy a Trionfi deck before bothering to find out—"

"It bothered me," Lily says, exasperated. "And I did come here to find out what it was—"

"Past tense being very apt—"

Lily decides drowning him out is the best option. "So Felicia has motive, potential means, and, since she was in class before us, opportunity—"

"McKinnon didn't know, though," Sirius counters, back to business. He closes the book on his lap. "She never saw the card change coming, that was clear, so Fee would have had to get the deck past her. Don't you girls always tell each other all your plans and secrets?"

"Now you're stereotyping." Against her will, Lily thinks, sourly, of Marlene and Potter and locker rooms, and it's on the tip of her tongue to ask Sirius about it, but she clamps down on the words, because there's nothing she wants to know and asking him will only end with her curiosity eventually reaching Potter's ears. "Any other theories?"

"Rosier, for chaos' sake," Sirius says. "That, and he's my cousins' cousin and generally dislikes me. Or we're barking up the wrong tree—" He smiles suddenly, as if something's funny. "—and someone thought you'd sit with McKinnon, meaning the deck was intended for you, to scare you or show your secrets. Which, again, makes me think Snape, despite us ruling that out."

"He knows all my secrets," Lily says, grumpily.

"Really," Sirius says. "You're brewing Amortentia in NEWT Potions, what's that smell like to you?"

"Tarot cards hardly show smells, Sirius Black, and I could ask you the same—"

"Petrol," he answers promptly. "There's obviously no petrol at Hogwarts; that's how I knew you're brewing Amortentia. And I've also seen you watching everything you drink damn close, because while you'd never admit it and probably hate thinking it, the idea of Sn—someone slipping you some has crossed your mind." He shrugs, his shoulders bumping shelved books. "I watch it myself. Mary-Susan Perks keeps trying to hand me glasses of pumpkin juice. She's not too subtle, and like I was telling you, I'm not that thick."

Lily, reeling, shakes her head. "This is observation, not a compliment," she warns. "But, Sirius, you actually are a bit brilliant."

"A bit," he scoffs. "Watch me do the crossword sometime." He thumbs through the pages of the book one last time and jumps to his feet. "Nothing more to find here, anyhow. It's down to asking Felicia, I suppose."

"And then what?" Lily gets up too. "If it is her, have her tell McKinnon and Auriga it was her? Why? You're not even in trouble—"

"I don't mind when I've given people a reason to be mad at me, which I do, plenty," Sirius say, re-shelving his pile of books, one shove at a time . "I don't like people taking against me when I've done nothing." He looks over at her. "You'd know something about that, I guess, people disliking you for no reason."

"They've got a reason," Lily reminds him. "They're pretty fixated on that reason."

"Pfft," Sirius says at once. "Blood. Idiot reason."

It occurs to Lily that with one onomatopoeia the boy in front of her has dismissed centuries of prejudice, ingrained in him since birth, as easily and thoughtlessly as he might blow away the wisps on a dandelion. Obviously, Sirius, who in the past month nearly ruined two lives, is deeply, deeply flawed. But in that one breath, more than anything he's said before or would maybe say in time to come, he's made himself impossible for Lily to dislike, ever again.

"Later, then, I suppose," Sirius says, lifting a hand. "I'll let you know what Felicia says. This whole thing might be ridiculous, and small, but the cards were still a cruel trick, in their small way. And I like to know who's turning tricks in this castle."

Lily's busy thinking, but she looks up at that, startled.

Already a few steps down the bookshelf tunnel, Sirius looks like he's startled himself. His still-lifted hand moves in the air, as if trying to strike out the words or physically reshape them, before he drops it to his side. "You know what I meant," he says, taking for granted she understands him in a way he never, ever would have before the past few weeks, and gets going again without further ado.

"Sirius," calls Lily. She can't really believe the words are coming out of her mouth, but she can't seem to stop them either, and her feet are rushing to catch up to him. "Don't take this the wrong way—"

"I always take everything the wrong way," says Sirius, reassuringly. "I have a talent for it."

She rolls her eyes—damn it, she thinks, she's really trying to break that habit—and picks up her pace to pass him. "It's fine, forget it, it's a lousy idea, anyway."

"Oh, go on then," he encourages. "I love lousy ideas." He's on her right side and looking over at her expectantly. It's a familiar pose from him, though she feels like she usually sees it at a distance.

"You're not going to Hogsmeade with Potter this weekend, are you." It's not a question.

He falls a step behind her. "Hasn't come up."

"You could—oh, hell," Lily says irritably, to the library at large, and with Sirius at her back, she says, "You could go along with me. If you liked."

There's a resounding silence behind her, not even footsteps. She glances over her shoulder, almost timidly.

Sirius is looking at her like she's smacked him over the head with a trophy shield (having in fact conked him a shield, way back in third year when interrupting a 'formal duel' between Severus and James to which Sirius stood a determined-to-prevent-interruption second, she's familiar with that particular expression: slightly pained, mostly dumbstruck).

"Well?" she says. "I told you not to take it the wrong way. As—company, Black. Not a date."

"To be perfectly clear," Sirius says, "while I might have mentioned you have a nice face, I meant, generally nice, like a painting, not like I fancy you. Which I don't—"

"I should hope n—"

"—Obviously you're, well, something, for Hogwarts, but—"

"You can stop talki—"

"—you don't really have, er, sex appeal—"

Lily can't keep trying to desperately interrupt him. Her mouth's too busy hanging open.

"For me, that is," Sirius adds, suddenly a little desperate. "James seems to think you've got plenty, or at least that you're pretty enough to make up for the lack of it—"

"Where did you pick up that phrase? That's a very Muggle phrase." Wizards seemed to refer to the equivalent as 'oomph'.

"I read Muggle magazines and—"

"What sort of Muggle maga—no-never-mind, I don't want to know, and as long as we're being clear, I don't fancy you either."

And it's true, but still, hearing she lacks 'sex appeal' from an undeniably handsome— if somewhat off-puttingly so, not to mention slightly-off-kilter— boy her age, is still not exactly making Lily's morning.

"Well, then," Sirius says, sounding pleased.

(James Potter thinks she has sex appeal, a voice in the back of Lily's head says, but she shushes that. She basically knew that already).

"We can get a good view of the pitch from this one patch off by the woods, if you want to get a head start on the crowd for Hogsmeade," Sirius adds. "Or I can meet you in town, if you're skipping the match—" He breaks off. "Or have you changed your mind?"

"Nah," Lily says, imitating his easy dismissal. "We're going."

James Potter's first-ever match as Quidditch Captain goes like this:

The weather's awful, the cold and wind of November coming in weeks early with the rain. Potter does not put himself back in at Seeker, the position of his early years. He stays in at Chaser and sets up two assists by McKenzie on Mulciber at Keeper within the first three minutes of play. Potter then spends the better part of the next half-hour dodging a full-fledged assault by Beaters Burke and Slytherin Captain Rabastan Lestrange. Sykes, refereeing, calls foul but then can't manage to cite from memory the name of the foul against Bludger-targeting against one player. She lets it drop. McKenzie, meanwhile, a fourth-year, gets called for blagging, blatching, blurting, and then haver-sacking. Potter tries arguing with Sykes on the last one—it wasn't McKenzie's fault a Bludger knocked him, while holding the Quaffle, through the goal hoop. Twice. But still, neither score counts.

Something like an incredible quack rises from the Gryffindor sidelines a while later. Although McKinnon's not playing, some fan puts together that between McKenzie, McLaggen, and MacDougal, about half the Gryffindor side is "Mack"s and starts a chant of sorts. It's certainly easier than yelling a three-syllable House name, some of the Gryffindor crowd starts pointing at McGonagall as they cheer, and it absolutely drowns out Slytherin's attempt to shout "SHA-FIQ," their star Chaser.

Regulus Black, a spindly dark-haired blur in green, takes up the time-tested Seeker position of flying high above the field and circling like a particularly graceful buzzard. Gryffindor's Seeker Kiely, sparrow-quick and light, darts all around, completely exhausting himself in his excitement.

Another hour into the match, the score ekes upwards to 120-20, in favor of Gryffindor, largely because the third-year James had put in as Keeper, Barry Ryan, is actually a genius on the broom.

"Late addition," Sirius tells Lily as they watch from afar while Ryan drops and swings like a monkey from his broom to kick a Quaffle away. "Tibby McLaggen's played Keeper, but James moved him since he was, ah, short a Beater."

"He had you in as Beater," Lily says, because she vaguely remembers hearing grumblings back around September tryouts. "Potter kicked you off the Quidditch team?!"

"James should have never put me on the Quidditch team," Sirius mutters. "He only did it because he could now, but he didn't kick me off. Dumbledore said something like—" He shuffles his feet on the grass. "Detention was too small, for what I'd done, and no doubt I didn't want to draw any more attention to the incident than it already… Then he made this gentle comment about me playing games and how I need to learn better, and I sort of agreed, and next thing I knew he was telling McGonagall I had resigned from the Quidditch team and she was looking very, very relieved." Sirius pauses. "James was pretty busy being upset with me about all the other stuff, but he's relieved too."

"That's one way for Dumbledore to secretly favor Gryffindor, I suppose," Lily says at last, after a long moment of debating how to answer this confidence. "You must be awful."

Sirius throws back his head and laughs, much, much harder than her comment warrants. "I am," he almost gasps, and his laughter's so contagious she starts laughing too. And then high up near the Gryffindor goal post, Scabior and Shafiq collide hard with Potter and Knight, and out of the blur of bodies against the blue, Potter comes up with the Snitch.

Sirius and Lily could hear Sykes' whistle blowing, calling Snitchnip, and the entire game halts so the Snitch could be re-released. The game had been grueling along, full of fouls and little exciting, breakaway play, for two hours, and Hogsmeade's beckoning; a stream of students start leaving the match, heading with permission slips in hand for where Flitwick guards the Hogsmeade path.

Sirius and Lily finally stop laughing about the time game play returns.

"Radio in Hogsmeade does pick up the game broadcast," Lily mentions.

Sirius stands with his hands in robes pockets, watching James bend his broomstick around quick corners and roll away from Burke, passing the Quaffle off to McKenzie. Lily watches, too, not quite remembering James ever playing so much as part of a team before. The role of Captain sits surprisingly well on him.

"Yeah, why not," Sirius says. "I can see James fly any old time." And they leave their standing spot, on the grass, with a good view of the pitch, behind.

(If Sirius Black was really any good at Divination, he'd see that in seventeen years, he'd be back in the same spot, watching another dark-haired boy fly the same pitch with the same skill, feeling with every shred left in his heart the déjà vu of this day among so many others. But despite that Outstanding O.W.L., he's really not. It's only a Saturday in 1976, and even if it's raining and miserable, today is a happy day.)

Lily and Sirius walk away to Hogsmeade, while the game bruises and shudders its way along for another three hours, with no sign of the Snitch reappearing. The stands thin and quiet, still a good showing, but no chance of riot. Everyone, even some of the players, are more concerned with how soon they can get to the butterbeer, rather than who wins at this point. And the contest for the Snitch might not matter at all. Gryffindor's ahead by 140 points, mostly thanks to James Potter's maneuvering, even though his crowd's still shouting "Mack-Mack-Mack," and occasionally, when McLaggen does something really profound with a Bludger, "Mack Attack!" It's a sharp change from the adulation thrown Potter's way since late third year, and even in the air he feels it, but he's more concerned with the actual game.

One more goal, and even if Slytherin catches the Snitch, but Gryffindor wins the cup. One more goal.

Regulus Black sees a glimmer behind Kiely's head; he dives like a falcon and everyone in the crowd sees exactly what he's after, except poor exhausted Kiely, who turns and pivots but manages to keep missing the Snitch dancing behind him. James cannot will the Snitch into Kiely's hand, so he ignores the crowd and barrels towards the Slytherin goal with his fellow Chasers. The younger Black brother, within arms' length of the Snitch, takes a few embarrassing circles around the golden ball—

But he comes up with it in the end, finishing the game even as the Gryffindor Chasers set up one last play.

Gryffindor loses the match by ten points.

The radio, turned up loud, announces as much to the patrons of the Three Broomsticks. Rosmerta, walking up to Sirius and Lily's table to drop off more butterbeers, swears sharply under her breath.

"We in the Lion House appreciate the sentiment," Sirius says, grinning at Rosmerta despite the sudden gloom descending over the Gryffindor contingent.

"A consolatory one on the house for your better half when he gets off the pitch," Rosmerta mock-whispers, with a nod over to the radio.

"It'll need to be some strong consolation," Sirius says. Grinning like an absolute idiot, Lily thinks, amused.

Rosmerta snort-laughs and somehow manages to make even that sound sexy. "Sure thing, as soon as you're out of school."

"I'm seventeen next month," Sirius says cheekily.

"Doesn't do you any good, boy-o," Rosmerta says. "Nothing stronger than butterbeer for students here." Then she lowers her voice. "'Leastways, not on proper school Saturdays."

"Not even under the table?" Sirius says, dropping a wink.

"Ooh, this one's trouble," Rosmerta says to Lily, even more sotto voce. "It's the Hog's Head for the likes of him."

Rosmerta must be thirty or near it, but the way she winks back and sashays as she turns away makes Sirius' head whip around like Lily has never seen. Lily takes mental notes from Rosmerta, though she's not sure when she'll use them. Most of the really fanciable boys are gone from school, from the Prewett brothers to idiotic-but-gorgeous Quidditch star Ludovic Bagman to brilliant-and-gorgeous-and-nice Damocles Belby from Slug Club who was apparently too distracted with real life to reply to her letter. Some of them, Bagman for one over by the bar, are around Hogsmeade today, grouping together as close to school as allowed to cheer on their old glories.

"Secretly, her heart yearns for me," Sirius says to Lily, inclining his head towards Rosmerta and downing his butterbeer.

"So much she's trying to send you elsewhere," Lily says, watching Rosmerta lean laughingly over a table of older warlocks.

"That wasn't dismissal, that was a tip," Sirius says. "Rosmerta doesn't know you're about as likely to drink in the Hog's Head as—"

"I'd drink in the Hog's Head," Lily says.

Sirius studies her eyes for a moment and shakes his head. "Nah, you wouldn't."

Lily tips back her butterbeer, staring him down, and finishes it. She sets it down like a challenge.

"Hog's Head it is," Sirius says.

She's never been in the Hog's Head. She suggested it to Snape, more than once, but he said it was a bad idea, for her; she shocked the heck out of Damocles Belby when she suggested it on their one-and-only Hogsmeade date before he graduated. Somehow, Sirius seems just the person to go with; he's half-laughing in surprise and making faces at Rosmerta as he grabs the door of the pub for her.

"You don't seem too devastated by our loss," she says as they walk up Shop Street. Lily wonders if Sirius is secretly proud of Regulus.

"It's points that matter, when it comes to the Quidditch Cup," he says. "We'll beat Hufflepuff, and so will Slytherin, but Ravenclaw's going to massacre both Slytherin and Hufflepuff. It's all down to whether we beat Ravenclaw, or more how much we lose to them by. What with Blythe."

Blythe Parkin, the seventh-year Ravenclaw Seeker, is from what Lily understood practically Quidditch royalty, with a spot on the Wigtown Wanderers already waiting for her. She'd cinched the Cup for Ravenclaw every year since she was fifteen and won nearly every match before that.

Lily's opening her mouth to ask further questions. The thing is, she secretly loves Quidditch, though it was almost more fun, this once, to watch from a distance and listen to the play-by-play from radio. Severus used to answer her Quidditch questions, but never at a match, since they sat on opposite sides, and the answer usually only mattered in the moment. Only once or twice did Sirius not know and say, "You'd have to ask James," so distractedly it was as if he really forgot that she and James didn't get along.

She forgets what she's about to say when Marlene McKinnon comes slamming out Madam Puddifoot's and stamping out into the street some distance ahead of them.

"Marlene?" calls Lily, but not loudly enough.

Sirius glances down at Lily, then cups his hand around his mouth. "Oi, Mack!"

A few Gryffindors late from the match take it up as they stroll by: "Mack-Mack-Mack!", the original intention lost.

Still, McKinnon whirls, face glowing in the early twilight, all ease and eagerness. Her hair shine and her makeup's perfect, if a little over-applied. Regardless of what she thinks of her, it makes Lily sad to watch Marlene's face fall as her eyes find their faces. Gideon Prewett calls Marlene that sometimes, too, she knows, and Lily looks for his bright hair inside the dim lighting of Madam Puddifoot's. Nary a ginger Hit Patrolman in sight.

"Ah, Black," Marlene says. "It's only you."

Sirius looks a bit unnerved by her bitter tone. Last time they spoke was over cards, Lily supposes, and Marlene knocking over him and his chair. "And Lily," he says, gesturing.

Lily bumps him with her elbow. "Not what she meant," she mutters, then to Marlene, "Where you heading?"

"To get sloshed," says Marlene curtly. "I'd ask you along, but— "

"We're off to the Hog's Head, actually," Lily replies. "You too?"

Marlene's eyes crinkle. "You're not going to drink there, Lils," she says. "You're going there to look around and feel a tiny bit dangerous so, later—"

"No, I think drinking was specifically invoked in the plan," Lily says flatly.

"That is true," Sirius says, looking between them a little uneasily.

"Have a start on me, then," Marlene says, coming closer and reaching into her robe pocket. Lily briefly sees a fiercely-crumpled envelope and then suddenly a flask is being thrust at her.

"Oh, come on, McKinnon," Sirius starts, but Lily meets Marlene's dark eyes evenly, takes the flask with a small smile, and takes a sip.

She took too much of a sip, she realizes immediately; the liquid's sweet, with a hint of cinnamon, but burning and it's all she can do not to choke. She hands it back, unable to speak, but forcing the small smile back on her face.

Marlene then hands it to Sirius, who, despite his wide eyes, shrugs and takes more of a gulp than Lily deems wise.

"Ogden's," he says. "Nice."

They've somehow formed a little circle, hiding the flask with their backs. The sun hasn't even set yet, Lily thinks wildly, though it's on its way there. They're supposed to be back within the castle gates by 8:30 or… she isn't really sure what comes after 'or,' since she's always been back well in advance. She's known Hogwarts students who've lost privileges coming back drunk, and others who've giggled about faking sobriety on their way past the teachers, but she's never spent much time with that bunch. Marlene takes a dangerously long swing and passes it back to Lily.

"Were you putting this in your tea in Puddifoot's?" Lily asks.

"Let's leave it at, it's been a long day," Marlene says, watching as Lily takes another sip. There isn't much left, and it doesn't burn quite as much the second time. She tried drinking exactly one time this past summer, in trying to reconnect with some of the Muggle girls in her neighborhood, but regular liquor didn't make her feel as flushed as this. If butterbeer's immediately warming, firewhiskey's like standing too close to a furnace with no way to back away.

"Did you finish that?" Sirius says, pointing at Lily. Marlene bats his hand down, and he rears away at the action, annoyed.

"Subtlety, Black," Marlene says. "Or is that not in your spellbook?"

"I didn't think it was in yours," he says.

"Don't arch your eyebrow at me," Marlene snaps, because that's exactly what he's doing.

"Because you can't make only one eyebrow do it, and that makes it hideously annoying?" Lily says, and when Marlene turns back towards her with a squint, she adds, "Me too!"

"Well," Marlene says, a little of the hardness in her expression falling away. She tucks the empty flask away and marches forward. "Hog's Head then. What's with the face, Black? Only now realizing you're living one of James Potter's fantasies, and that may not go over so well with him, seeing how it doesn't really seem to be his day?"

"Oh don't say that," Lily says, feeling the flush even more. She's uneasy with the words 'James Potter' and 'fantasy' in the same sentence, and, too, James seems to be the one spot it seems unfair to tease Sirius about.

Sirius scowls. "I got the sudden feeling this is going to end with me in Azkaban."

"Not a bad idea," Marlene says, "Gideon arrests people. Maybe then he'd actually show up." Marlene's doing an imitation of Rosmerta's sashay, Lily notices. It's decidedly an imitation, but not a terrible one. She looks at Sirius, who also seems to be noticing, in his more typical, casually bored way.

The Hog's Head is dingier up close than Lily remembers it looking from a distance. Sirius is looking up and down the street at passing students, obviously keeping an eye out for his semi-estranged friends, while Marlene, a few sashays ahead, has grabbed the door.

Lily's starting to feel the firewhiskey. "Full responsibility is mine," she says, linking arms with Sirius. His expression suggests she grew a second set of arms rather than simply grabbed his. "You won't get arrested on my watch."

"I'll hold you to that," he warns, and suddenly they're within, and it's getting dark without.

Sirius and Marlene elect to keep sending Lily up for drinks, because, Marlene admits, "No one is going to say no to you." This seems to be true, and also, Lily's not entirely sure who's paying for their drinks anymore, just that they keep coming, though she makes sure they're all in bottles and that she watches them as they're opened. Too many people are in hoods here, and she was friends with Snape long enough to know exactly how many emotions and dangers can be slipped into a drink. Marlene says it's a big crowd for here, even though the place is half-empty. There's a lot of weird-looking older folks, but a decent number of students, especially seventh-year boys. The Quidditch teams must have showed up in town, since a girl in Slytherin team robes is making out with a boy in Gryffindor's red. Lily thinks they're younger than she is. There's also a whole group of thick-accented boys about her age near the bar.

"If we miss the return curfew, I've got six and a half ways to get us back into the castle," Sirius says, head lolling a little, as Lily returns with their three bottles of dwarf-brewed beer.

"And say we were back all along?" Marlene mocks, then blinks and says, "Oh, actually, that could work. Felicia said you were talking to her about secret passages."

"Was I?" Sirius says, looking to Lily as if she has the answer. It's like he's forgotten that whole thing.

Marlene's crumpled letter from Gideon is spread out on the table, and she's already complained about how he apparently forgot about meeting her. It only came after she'd been waiting for hours; it's only a line or two about being busy and the whips—the Wizarding Hit Patrol both Prewett brothers are part of—preparing for some rumored trouble tonight. And, Marlene says, it's clearly in Fabian's handwriting, meaning Gideon himself couldn't be bothered or hadn't remembered and Fab was covering for him.

Lily wonders vaguely if all boys forget and dismiss kisses as airy nothings, a little fun, while girls count them up and remember and make them mean things they didn't. No, now that's stereotyping— she's sitting right next to Marlene, after all. Marlene seems willing to forget the whole card thing, and maybe Gideon too, since she's definitely giving Sirius the eye right over her letter. But who knows what Marlene really thinks? It's hard, right here, not to think about what she heard last night about last year and Marlene and James Potter and the locker room. And who Potter might be kissing in locker rooms this year. And why she even cares.

Lily's feeling suddenly a little ill. She keeps sipping her beer.

"Where is Felicia?" she asks Marlene.

"I don't know, Honeyduke's?" Marlene says. Wispy as she is, Felicia loves her sweets. "Gladys came in earlier to brag they were walking around with boys with accents."

"There's boys with accents at the bar," Lily says, remembering.

"Fee's from London, you're from Cokeworth, and this is Scotland," Marlene says. "To you the local boys have accents."

"No," Lily says, shaking her head, trying to place the accent. She's visited her Hufflepuff friend, Greta, whose mother is German, from another wizarding school. Durmstrang. The accents might not be quite German, but they did sound decidedly Germanic.

"James," Sirius says, sitting bolt upright, and Lily looks up. Sure enough Potter has just walked in, and without meaning to, she's met his eyes and it's a little bit electric. Unless he's making eye contact with Sirius right next to her, and she simply also happens to be looking at him. She's not entirely sure.

"Am I a bit drunk?" Lily asks Marlene nervously.

Marlene is the only one of them not staring at James, since she's busy lighting her letter on fire. "A bit?" she repeats, like it's hilarious.

And that's when the street very literally explodes.