A/N: You know those chapters that are so difficult to write that it's like pulling teeth? This is one of those chapters. It's taken me weeks to get this out and even then it's shorter than most of the chapters I've posted and not all that much happens. Sorry about that, hopefully future chapters will get easier. Blagh. My thanks to everyone who read and reviewed the last chapter, hopefully getting this out of the way will get the ball rolling and I can churn more stuff out. :)
"Hello, hello, sweet thang," Sirius piped up after a few minutes of silence. Hermione looked to him with a bemused smile and decided to play along, curious to see where this would bring her. Given the amount of alcohol her boyfriend had ingested in the past few hours in wake of his victory this would no doubt be interesting.
"Well hello yourself, handsome." She drawled, tilting her head, long hair tumbling over her shoulders and winking rather seductively if she did say so herself. "What's your name, big boy?"
Sirius' eyes widened and drool started pooling in his open jaw. Hermione fought with everything in her not to snicker and imagined what James would say (if he hadn't passed out on the floor half an hour earlier in Lily's lap). "I-I'm not sure."
Hermione laughed just as Remus made his way back downstairs, weaving through the crowd of still partying Gryffindors after having dumped a passed out Peter into his bed. "What's so funny?" he inquired, squeezing into the single chair Hermione was sitting in beside her; their sides pressing comfortably together.
"Sirius can't remember his name," Hermione replied simply with a smile.
Remus' eyes widened in amusement before snickering. Glancing over at his inebriated friend he asked, "Oi Sirius, what's your name?"
Sirius shuddered. "So many questions I don't know the answers to..."
Remus and Hermione looked at each other, laughed again and Sirius pouted.
"Hey! This is…this is serious!"
Remus and Hermione laughed harder.
In an absolutely brilliant match that afternoon Gryffindor had beaten Slytherin for the Quidditch Inter-House Championship. Truly, Hermione hadn't seen a game that exciting (and Hermione had watched Harry Potter play Seeker) since the World Cup in 1994 and Merlin knew how long ago that was. Mentioning the World Cup, the two games were eerily similar with Gryffindor winning despite Regulus in an incredible display of his prowess capturing the snitch; ending the game eerily with the score of Slytherin's 160 to Gryffindor's 170.
Gryffindor's spectacular win was something that would be talked for years and would especially be talked for more than just Gryffindor's amazing victory. James Potter in his euphoria after the match swooped over to Lily Evans, drew her into his arms whilst still on his broom and kissed her full on the lips to the backdrop of a resounding, earsplitting roar of approval from the Gryffindor, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw stands. Hermione shamelessly screamed as loud the rest and tears of joy sparkled in her eyes when Lily wrapped her arms around James' neck and reciprocated his kiss with equal ferocity; feeling absolutely honoured to watch the love story that had changed her life in so many amazing, beautiful, wonderful and heartbreaking ways unfold.
That night, Gryffindor celebrated. And by Merlin did they celebrate.
The day before the Marauders had snuck out to Hogsmeade to procure enough alcohol to knock out ten giants (they would've gotten blind drunk regardless of them winning or losing or so admitted Remus) and the house elves were only too happy to provide enough food to feed an army. Everybody was full of Quidditch Final spirit and Gryffindor memorabilia (even more than what could be normally be found) was emblazoned everywhere in the Gryffindor common room and naturally on the Gryffindors themselves. Most amazingly of all, for the first time in recent history and for one night only, Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws were allowed inside Gryffindor Tower to celebrate too (the Fat Lady having changed the password just for the night at the request of Head Boy Frank Longbottom) if brought up by a Gryffindor; their only requirement was that they wear some red and gold. Even Regulus, the proud Slytherin player who received many toasts and hugs from the party-goers despite it all had rocked up after his shower following the game with red ribbon braided into his shoulder length tresses.
And thus Gryffindor Tower had been packed with carousing people dancing, joking and laughing with one another until very late and students of all ages were either passed out in the common room or in their beds. Hermione and Remus had stopped drinking after two butterbeers each upon deciding that it would be more fun to watch their fellow students and so they both had had a great night of drunk watching.
"It is a very serious situation indeed, Sirius." Remus replied blandly, his lips twitching vainly in an attempt to maintain a sober expression all the while trying to ignore Hermione's giggling beside him.
"…Serious, serious," said Sirius in a sing-song voice before doubling over in laughter; Remus and Hermione quickly joining him.
"So what's this then?" came a voice from Hermione's right and the trio looked up to see an amused Regulus standing before them, his face now as well painted a vibrant Gryffindor red. "I'm missing out on something hilarious, aren't I? My brother is giggling like he's five years old and it's Christmas and you two here are giggling shamelessly yourselves more likely at my brother's expense. How much have you had to drink, Sirius?"
"REGGIE!" hollered Sirius, reaching out blindly to grab his brother's trouser leg. "REGGIE! I LOVE YOU, MY BROTHER! SIT! SIT, SIT, SIT BESIDE ME."
Regulus looked at the grinning faces of Hermione and Remus and the drunken desperation on Sirius' and nodded, smiling himself. "Of course, Sirius." He replied before sinking on the floor beside his brother and grinning at Sirius' smiling face.
"I like you wearing red, Regulus." Sirius spoke blandly, slinging an arm across Regulus' shoulders. "It suits you. I'm glad you're here."
"I'm glad I'm here too." Regulus said warmly, smiling at the room in general. "The Lions have been surprisingly welcoming."
"That's because you're one of us."
"And because you're related to me." Sirius voice was surprisingly clear and stern and he didn't appear intoxicated at all. That moment of clarity didn't last all that long however. "And I'm sexy."
Regulus rolled his eyes in amusement at his brother's statement. "Even still, I didn't expect it."
If the Gryffindors had been shocked at the lingering presence of Regulus Black in their Common Room come their return from their impromptu "break" after the attack at Hogsmeade none of them had the presence of mind to say anything. Despite the slight bruises that he hadn't bothered Madame Pomfrey to heal and the word "TRAITOR" permanently hacked into his arm by a cursed knife, the Slytherin fifth year had been as obnoxious as ever (even more so when he was with his older brother Sirius), or at least he was until the news of his betrayal got out in Slytherin house.
Needless to say many students donned in emerald and silver trimmed robes instantly loathed the once lauded Regulus Black. It was a rejection like none had seen at Hogwarts in many years and while normally much quieter and sneakier in their loathing, when it came to their dislike of Regulus the Slytherins were so very shameless that everybody knew it. Taunts and threats to the fifth year's well being were often uttered in his general direction as Regulus went about his daily routine and the youngest Black bore the nickname "traitor" with distinct pride. However that wasn't to suggest Regulus didn't give as good as he got when the taunts were thrown his way, oh no. The insults that Regulus tossed right back at times were downright nasty.
In an act of spite for the first few weeks Regulus still slept in the Slytherin dorm and ate at the Slytherin table, acting sickeningly sweet toward his fellow housemates (and was even nicer to the nastier ones who taunted Regulus the most) much to their repugnance. But after an untold incident however where one of his dorm mates attempted to smother him in his sleep one night Regulus began to spend more and more time in the Gryffindor Common Room with his brother or his mates from the Peter and the Babes get togethers (even spending several nights in a row awkwardly sprawled in one of the armchairs by the fireplace); so much so that one evening when he slipped into the sixth year boys dorm to have a power nap in Sirius' four poster while said brother was having Quidditch practice he found that there was an extra bed in the room; his bed with its delightful emerald green duvet and his sleek Hogwarts trunk on the floor in front. Regulus however still slipped under his brother's sheets and slept in his bed long until after Sirius came back from practice to piss his brother off further; not that Sirius minded all that much anyway. The older Black preferred knowing where Regulus was to keep him 'safe'.
And so in weeks Regulus Arcturus Black had been considered more a Lion than a Snake in everything but house points and Quidditch teams in Hogwarts, the youngest Black insisting that even though he'd been ousted from his own House that would not by any means suggest that he would ever stop playing Hogwarts Quidditch (he was the Slytherin Captain for Merlin's sake!). And even though his fellow Snakes hated him when it came to Quidditch they all stayed Mum about it; Regulus after all was the best Seeker that Slytherin House had seen in almost two decades and even if they loathed their Captain that still hadn't affected their desire to win the Quidditch Cup, much to James Potter's eternal disgust.
"We Lions are good people." replied Sirius, smiling. "Dumb as gnomes but as good as phoenixes. 'M tired." He suddenly stated, yawning widely. "'M going to sleep. Night." He instantly conked his head on Regulus' shoulder and was snoring within moments.
Regulus looked incredulously from Sirius snoring on his shoulder to a smiling Hermione and an amused Remus and blinked. "He does that often?"
"Oh yes," replied a grinning Remus. "When Sirius decides he's tired after a few drinks he tends to just drop."
"I see." Regulus spoke slowly before a wicked smile tugged at his lips. "…Let's draw on his face." The young Slytherin spoke eagerly, leaning forward slightly and Sirius almost slipped from his shoulder. "What do you think, unicorns or nargles?"
Remus' eyes glinted. "You know what a nargle looks like?"
"…I've got an idea."
"Oh, this should be fun."
"Don't make it anything too permanent, Regulus, Remus." said Hermione, "I want to be able to keep a straight face when I kiss him in the morning."
"You're able to kiss the ponce without laughing all ready?"
"…Good point. Let's add ribbons in his hair."
"I'm liking the sound of this."
"We should wax his eyebrows-"
"Merlin, no! You're not touching his eyebrows!"
"Aww, come on, Hermione, they'll grow back!"
"What kind of woman has an eyebrow fetish…?"
"You're nutter, Hermione."
"I said no!"
"Okay! Okay! We get it, the eyebrows are left well alone!"
"…What about his hair?"
"Don't even think about it."
"Don't think I won't hex you, Remus John Lupin. You too, Regulus Arcturus Black."
"Ohhh….the middle names! Hermione brought out the middle names, Remus!"
"You really want to push me, don't you?"
"I fucking hate all of you." Sirius sat at the Gryffindor table for breakfast the next morning and glared daggers at the red-faced Hermione and the sober expressions of Remus and Regulus. When their fellow housemates caught glimpses of Sirius' face many snorted into their drinks. "What is this fucking shit on my face, you prats?"
"A nargle." promptly replied Regulus, grinning shamelessly now. "Isn't he adorable?"
"I personally like how he changes colour," added Remus, eyeing the enchanted ink drawing on his friend's face that was presently moving across his nose and over his right eyebrow that Hermione had so fiercely demanded be left alone. "Who would've thought Sirius Orion Black the Third would look so fetching in puke green? Oh, look! He's going purple!"
"No thanks, I have Marlene for that,"
"Just because we're the products of incest doesn't make it okay for you to sleep with me, Sirius."
Sirius ignoring his best friend and his brother turned to Hermione. "If you love me, you'll take this off my face." He pleaded pathetically. "I've tried just about everything other than removing layers of skin!"
"Oh, poor Sirius," Hermione simpered, reaching out and patting her boyfriend's cheeks like one would a dog. "I still think you're pretty. Don't worry, it'll wear off in a couple of days."
"A couple of days!"
Hermione nodded and the other boys roared with laughter. "It should take about two days." She replied primly, taking a sip of pumpkin juice before piling some bacon and eggs on Sirius' plate. She narrowed her eyes at Sirius before smiling when he stabbed a strip of bacon and popped it in his mouth, chewing. "…But what's wrong with Galdalf the Grey? He's so precious!"
Sirius choked on his bacon. "You called it Galdalf?"
"Gandalf was a great wizard!" protested Remus and Hermione in unison while Regulus appeared to be struggling.
"He was a fictional character from a muggle fairytale!"
Remus crossed his arms. "Still a better wizard than you."
"Again, Remus, go fuck yourself."
"I still think you should've gone with Walburga," Regulus finally broke, laughing. "It had a lot more character. But eh, majority rules."
"You lot are not naming the drawing on my face after our mother." Sirius barked. "If it's going to have a name it's going to be Flo."
"I don't like it." said Remus bluntly, eyeing Sirius in distaste.
"So what? It's not your face it's living on!"
"She prefers Flo. See the way she's changing colours? I can tell. I can feel it."
"You'll be feeling my boot going up your arse…" Remus said darkly while the other two both bemoaned, "You cannot be serious."
"Since when have I been anyone else? I'm always Sirius." Hermione, Remus and Regulus all groaned in pain and Sirius smirked.
When James wandered down to the table with an arm slung across Lily's shoulders while her arm was around his waist (the two looking surprisingly comfortable despite becoming a couple not even twenty-four hours earlier) his first words were "What's with the face squiggle crawling up your nose, Pads?" He looked at his other friends, Regulus currently slapping his hand against the table in hilarity before promptly burst into tears of laughter himself, an amused Lily having to keep him upright.
This in turn set the entire Gryffindor table off and Sirius banged his head against the wood in his despair, upending Remus' breakfast and causing the werewolf to shout out.
"THAT WAS FUCKING HAZELNUT SPREAD, YOU TWAT! LICK IT OFF THE FLOOR RIGHT NOW! HOW DARE YOU WASTE DELICIOUSNESS!"
"Is it wise to have a girls night on a Sunday?" Hermione voiced politely as she relaxed into Lily's embrace, loving the attention she was receiving as the redhead dragged a brush through her wild hair.
"It's always wise to have a girls night whenever possible, Hermione." replied Dorcas from across the room, the dark haired witch painting Alice's nails a lurid shade of purple.
"Yeah, it's good to let our hair down," added Alice with a smile.
"And catch up,"
"And talk sex-"
"What? It's true!"
"And just act like the girly girls we are at the heart of things," ended Alice with a sense of finality in her voice, the five girls quickly erupting in laughter.
"Also," continued Lily, tugging on a particularly stubborn curl and apologetically wincing in unison with Hermione when the hair caught. "You need your rubies."
Alice shook her head. "I'm surprised we haven't given them to you already,"
"We should've months ago!"
"But it's not as if we all haven't been busy with school," mused Marlene.
"…And rubies always have been rather expensive…"
"That's beside the point! Hermione should've had these last year at least!" barked Dorcas, eyeing Hermione sadly. "If anyone deserves rubies it's Hermione Potter!"
"The bravest of us all!"
"I'll drink to that!"
"But we don't even have anything to drink, Marlene."
"We can pretend!" retorted Marlene, lifting an imaginary glass in the air and downing the 'liquid' that was inside, grinning at her friends' amusement.
"Well you keep on pretending Marlene while we tell Hermione about the rubies." said Dorcas and the other girls nodded.
Marlene raised her 'glass' again and nodded. "Right on."
"So as Lily was saying," began Alice, "you need your rubies. And now that we have the time and we're all together-"
"We're together pretty much all of the time, Alice-"
"Yes, yes, we know that Hermione, but nonetheless we're together and we have your rubies so it's going to be done tonight." Alice turned to Dorcas and smiled. "Dorcas, would you do the honours?"
The dark haired witch nodded in response and quickly wandered over to her bedside table, rummaging around through the drawers before pulling out a little gold box. "Ah-ha!"
Hermione eyed the box from across the room before staring at the remaining girls who were all openly beaming.
"…What have you four done?" She asked quietly, "What's in that box there?"
Dorcas' smile widened and she moved to kneel beside Hermione, presenting the small gift. "Your rubies, have a look!"
Looking at her friends eager faces once more, Hermione slowly opened the beautifully decorated box and gasped at its contents.
Beautiful ruby stud earrings glimmered at her from inside the box, their bold red colour very similar to the Potter ring she bore proudly on her finger. Hermione stared at the earrings a moment longer before looking up to her friends, disbelief evident on her features. "These are for me?"
Marlene snorted. "Of course! Why else would we hand you a box with earrings inside if they weren't for you?"
It was Hermione this time who snorted.
"So I'm not sure if you've noticed," said Alice quietly, "but that the four of us have ruby earrings."
"…I did notice," Hermione's voice was equally as soft. "The first day I met you all together I saw you had matching earrings. I didn't think it was my place to say anything; they looked like friendship earrings."
"That's because they are." answered Lily, reaching up to finger her own jewels glittering in her ears. "But they're more than just earrings that we bought together to symbolise our friendship and our ties to Gryffindor House."
"Lily's right. We also wove enchantments into them." continued Dorcas, smiling. "It look a really long time to work out what spells would compliment each other the best but once we worked that out and got them perfect we've found that they've been quite useful over the years."
Hermione pulled out one of the rubies and eyed the glimmering stone, strangely enough feeling the magic of her four friends resonating within the glittering gem. "What can they do?"
"We've enchanted them to work like trackers." replied Marlene, grinning. "Say we want to find…Dorcas. She's been gone all day and we're a little worried 'coz we don't know where she is."
"Basically," continued Alice, "We grab one of our earrings, think of Dorcas and for a moment we'll get like…a flash of sorts as to where they are."
Hermione's eyes widened in both surprise and interest. "Do the earrings give exact locations?" She asked eagerly, turning the small gem in the palm of her hand over to look for any sort of marking on them and finding nothing.
"Not quite." Lily paused momentarily. "It's kinda like…you're in Dorcas' shoes for a moment."
"A perception spell?" Hermione was quick to ask and Lily and Dorcas both nodded sharply, grinning.
"You're a quick one!" laughed Marlene, leaning back. "I always knew you were bright but it's great seeing your mind at work."
Hermione flushed and the four girls grinned warmly. "So how far does the spell perception extend?"
"Over a great distance, we're sure, but we've never really been like…across the world from each other to test the efficiency of the spell work." Lily replied with a smile. "We've all been able to find Alice when she was visiting Frank in Wales and we all live all over the UK ourselves and we've had no trouble 'finding' each other while we're at home, so for the most part its very useful."
"Thanks! And as well as them being an excellent homing device, Lily found this nifty little charm where the earrings can also work as a sort of distress symbol."
"A distress symbol…?"
"Yep!" Alice grinned at Hermione's amazed expression. "All you have to do is send some magic to them and we'll know that something is happening and we should be able to apparate right to you!"
"Amazing…" Hermione breathed before raising her head to look at her friends in wide-eyed appreciation. "That is some brilliant magic, you guys!"
It really was quite impressive. The earrings could be extended to help more than just the Gryffindor girls, most definitely. The Order could use them while on missions, parents could keep an eye on their young children with them…it was truly amazing magic!
Lily and Dorcas both blushed prettily and Marlene grinned, waving a hand. "Mahh, it was really all Lily and Dorcas who did all the work with crafting the charms and such. Alice and I just provided the spell power."
"Yes, Charms was never mine nor Marlene's strong points." Alice added with a laugh.
"So yes, please accept these, Hermione. You're one of us and we always want to know when you're safe." Dorcas spoke earnestly and Hermione's smile was wobbly.
"Us Gryffindor girls have gotta stick together!" crowed Marlene.
"Through thick and thin!" added Dorcas,
Alice laughed. "Sunny and rainy weather!"
"And through life with the Marauders." There was a slightly wicked glint in Lily's eyes that reminded Hermione so much of her son that she couldn't help but grin back.
Hermione had never really been friends with girls; Ginny and Luna were her best female friends in the nineties but Hermione had Harry and Ron back then and they were all she really needed. Never before had she realised how wonderful it was to have such close girlfriends; how amazing it felt to be open and honest with (almost) everything and to have time just to be a girl even if Hermione wasn't all that fond of it. Hermione had never known girls like the four in front of her and she doubted that there would ever be anyone who could compare to them; each girl amazing in their own way.
Beautiful Dorcas Meadowes with eyes like the summer sky, flirtatious as she was flighty with a big secret to hide; Marlene McKinnon, bold and brash and so very Scottish, a lover and a fighter all rolled in one. Alice Pupp, sweet and kind and head over heels in love with Frank Longbottom, pixie-like in more than just looks and a smile that could light up the room. And finally Lily Evans. There was no woman like Lily Evans nor would there ever be again. A girl as passionate as her fire red hair, fierce and loyal and loving and so very, very brave.
These four amazing people, war heroes, mothers, champions and friends considered Hermione one of them.
What an absolute honour.
"Thank you." Hermione spoke quietly, a small smile tugging at her lips as she again eyed the beautiful earrings in her palm. "Thank you all so much."