Chapter 1: A Dangerous Game

The warm glow of the firelight flickered off the brilliant ruby and golden furniture of the Gryffindor common room. Outside the sun was just beginning to touch the topmost limbs of the Forbidden Forest, turning the trees a fiery orange as the last few minutes of the day came to a close. Pacing back and forth, a tall, lanky boy with large round-rimmed glasses looked nervously at his watch. He raked a hand through his mussed hair and shot an annoyed look up at the boys' quarters again before resuming his pacing. It'd been going on for a good half hour, and Remus thought he could see the trail of matted carpet under James' feet.

"Um, maybe he got stuck?" an anxious little boy squeaked from the couch on the other side of the room. His wide eyes followed the taller boy nervously, his brow furrowed with worry. As James had gotten progressively angrier, Peter had moved farther away from him as though preparing for an explosion

James glared at him. "I've never known him to take this long to get ready."

"Well, it is entirely possible," Remus cleared his throat. "I mean you remember what he wore last year. It took the two of us to help him get out of it, the damn thing was so tight."

"Yes, but he said it'd be different this time." Peter frowned.

"Where the hell is he?" James ruffled his hair in exasperation, "I swear if he takes five more minutes I'm going to drag him out here even if he's in nothing but his skivvies!" He looked down at his watch again, grunting in agitation when he realized they were already half an hour late.

Remus gave a heavy sigh, deciding that it was probably best to let them sort this out on their own. If he'd learned anything over the past few years, it was that Sirius and James had bad enough fights without anyone getting in the middle. He leaned down again to a mirror on the table, trying to figure out exactly how large his incisors should be.

Peter's eyes darted swiftly between the two boys; he never could stand it when any of them fought, but Sirius and James were always the worst. "You know how Sirius is," he laughed nervously. "He always likes to make an entrance."

James resumed his pacing, more vigorously this time as though he thought that moving faster would make Sirius do the same. The sun had slipped almost halfway down the horizon. The sky was becoming much darker, and a few stars were slowly appearing in the twilight. Remus smiled proudly as he fixed the final tooth. In a way he was rather glad to have had the extra time to get ready. A vampire had to have two fangs after all and they had to be proportional. He heard James start muttering on the other side of the room, and rolled his eyes in annoyance. Peter shifted uncomfortably, his eyes darting up to the closed and silent door to their shared bedroom.

"Well, Peter, you certainly look great." Remus smiled. "Your mane's a bit tremendous though." He flicked his wand and reduced the size of his lion mane down to where it wouldn't impede eating. "There you go."

"Thanks, Remus. You know I actually wasn't dressing up for Gryffindor. That's the funny part. Really I'm the Cowardly –"

"Thanks a lot, Sirius!" James roared up the stairway, causing them both to jump. "The entire year, this is all I asked for out of you: just to help me out so I could see Lily at the dance." He pointed an accusatory finger at the sinister bedroom door. "For all I know, Lily could be dancing with Snivellus right now!"

"Honestly, James." Remus sighed stretching out on one of the loveseats, "He wouldn't listen to you even if he did hear you. Best save your breath."

"Remus is right, James. We could always head out and let him catch up with us?"

"No, that's not part of the deal! He said he'd get me a kiss with Lily tonight!"

Remus tried to choke back a chuckle, "And you bought that?"

"Well—I didn't—I thought my own friend wouldn't outright lie to me!"

Remus sighed, clasping his hands. This simply wasn't a battle he could win.

"It's alright, really James," Peter hopped up. "Want me to check up on him?"

James sighed, placing a hand on his forehead and flopping down onto the couch. "I don't give a damn, just make it quick." Peter nodded happily and hurried up the steps to the boys rooms.

"Calm down, James," Remus turned to look at his friend. "Tell me, how do they look?" He opened his mouth in a toothy lopsided grin.

James snickered, "They look fine, Moony. But honestly I think you'd be better off going as a werewolf." James smiled as Remus' grin melted into a glare almost reminiscent of Snape. "You'd hardly have to change much!"

"Well, at least I'm dressing up as something frightening for the All Hallow's Ball. What are you supposed to be, Prongs? A waiter?"

"Haha – I'm glad you asked that, Moony! Glad indeed!" James stood up, coming to attention before bowing deeply, swinging his feathered hat out with flourish. "I am the famed Lancelot, my dear friend." He came up from the bow, a red rose clutched in his opposite hand. "And with this getup Lily won't be able to resist me!"

"Lancelot? Seriously?" Remus smiled, "Wasn't he a bit of a prick, James?"

"Nonsense! He was one of the greatest minds of his time! Greater even than King Arthur – hence he gets the lady, if you get what I mean?"

Remus laughed, "Whatever you say…" Remus' voice broke off as the fireplace started to dim down to an ember, the light slowly leaving the room. "… Prongs?"

James flicked out his wand, his eyes narrowed. "This has got to be the Slytherins doing! But how did they get past the Fat Lady?"

Remus was also on his feet, his wand at the ready as he backed toward the wall. Out of the corner of his eye he saw movement behind James. "Jamie, watch out!"

James turned to look in Remus' direction when a pale, clammy hand landed upon his shoulder with such force that it caused him to jump. The whisper was close enough that he could feel the breath on the back of his neck.

"Fear me, you fools!" The voice was raspy and thin, "For I am – the Dark Lord!"

James spun around at the sound, letting out a squeal of panic. Before him stood the tall, dark-haired man dressed in long, silky black robes. His eyes were a bright red and his pale skin glowed in the firelight.

"V-v-v-" Peter sputtered helplessly from his perch atop the stairway. Remus gasped, holding his wand shakily in front of him. James swallowed, his eyes narrowed as he took a tentative step forward.

"Sirius…?" He paused to keep his voice steady. "Is that you?"

The tall dark figure started to shake, the cloth of the black cloak rippling in waves. Then his penetrating gaze looked away as the hissing of laughter slowly melted into the familiar howls of Sirius Black. "You guys should've seen the look on your faces!" Sirius cawed.

James looked like a disheveled bird, his hair perking up in all directions. His eyes were fixed on his friend through thick round glasses in adamant adoration. "Sirius! That is absolutely the best Halloween costume I've ever seen!" He rushed over, picking up the long tendrils of cloth in amazement. "How the hell did you get the shadows to cling to it so well?"

Sirius wiped away a tear, "Aw no big deal, just borrowed it from my mom. She'll never miss it anyway; it's been locked up in one of those giant cabinets of hers. Took me weeks to break the charm on it! Don't know why the heck she wanted to keep a thing like this around anyway, it's so damn ugly!" James dragged Sirius over to the fireplace, flicking his wand to bring the flames to life again to examine the cloak closer. The firelight flicked across his hands, but the cloak seemed to soak up the light around it. Even when he placed the cloak as close to the flames as he could, he still couldn't see where the cloth ended and the shadows began.

"Must be from when Grindelwald was around…"

"Yea, must be." Sirius pulled the hood back over his head, drenching his face in shadow again. "So, who's ready to frighten some hapless first years?"

Peter crept forward slowly, poking his head through the stairway banister nervously. "So you're – you're not – You Know Who?" His lower lip trembled, his eyes wide in disbelief. Sirius shook his head as laughter swept through him again. This time James joined in too, a large, toothy grin plastered on his face. His eyes were wide, and although he was looking at Sirius, he wasn't seeing him as much as the possibilities at hand.

Lupin studied them both with obvious annoyance, watching James in particular with growing suspicion. "I'm sure there is some Hogwarts decree that prevents you from impersonating a Dark Lord…"

"Ha! Just you try and name it, Moony. If it's not on the books, it doesn't count now, does it?" Sirius smirked, "You think Dumbledore would really have the balls to make one?"

"Well, he might after tonight!"

"Aw, come on, Moony. I'm just going to the dance, not running around killing muggles or anything."

"Still, the professors won't like it." Remus looked him up and down, studying him. "I'd be surprised if they let you stay there ten minutes dressed like that."

Sirius blinked, looking down at his robes and wondering if Remus had a point. Even if Dumbledore wasn't out the dance, there would definitely be professors lurking about. Filch too would definitely be patrolling the halls.

"No sweat, Padfoot." James grinned, pushing his glasses up as his devious mind churned. "Leave it to me and I'll make sure you're able to get in. Wouldn't want you to waste an outfit like that!"

"You think we can, Jamie?"

"Of course we can! Come on, have I ever let you down?"

"Well I'm not getting involved with it," Remus sat down on the loveseat again. "We'll just end up getting detention with Slughorn again and I'm not about to sit around for two weekends trying to figure out ways to clean silver teapots again. That was bad enough the first time."

"But Moony, don't you want to see the look on their faces when they see the Dark Lord step onto the dance floor?" Sirius started dancing in place, his swirling black cape mingling with his moves making him appear almost like a moving shadow.

"Well, there's no way that Snape would ever try to jinx you with that on, Sirius." Peter chipped in, "In fact, you might have the Slytherins following your every word!"

Sirius' grin widened at the thought of it, his red eyes gleaming in the firelight. "Oh man, you really think so?"

James flung an arm around Sirius' shoulders and started leading him to the doorway. "Just leave it to me, Sirius. If you want to be the Dark Lord for a day, who the hell am I to stop you?" Peter ran after them, and after a moment Remus sighed and got to his feet, following them out. Somehow he knew this was going to lead to trouble. And if it did, he wanted to be there to at least try to keep things under control. After all, if anyone could turn a dance into a prank to be remembered, it was James Potter and Sirius Black.