The Sugar Quill
Author: Helen H (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Marauders' New Year  Chapter: The Marauders' New Year
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The Marauders' New Year

by Helen H

A/N Yeah, I know it's out of season, but I couldn't hold onto this for another nine months. First written as a Secret Santa for Vala as part of our Il Fluff Famiglia writing group, so special thanks to all my 'famiglia' for your positive comments and encouragement. I dedicate this little piece to you. Thanks also to PirateQueen for beta-ing.

In the dim, orange glow of the streetlight they emerged from the fog-laden darkness, each carrying a broomstick: James Potter, Lily Evans and Remus Lupin.

There was a noisy, well-lit pub on the corner opposite. They glanced uncertainly in its direction and drew a little closer together. Then, taking hold of Lily’s hand, James darted across the road, leading the trio down a narrow, cobbled side-street at the rear of the pub. Walking briskly to keep up with James and Lily, Remus peered through the darkness, drinking in every detail he could discern. A higgledy-piggledy terrace of mismatched houses lined this street, an odd juxtaposition of quaint and grand, elegance and decay. This, he decided, drawing on his rather limited experience, was quite typical of London, but he could understand why his friend had chosen to live here: London Muggles were famously incurious.

Finally, James stopped before a small, two-storey cottage which fronted directly onto the street. Loud rock music could be heard coming from within. Pink Floyd, Remus thought. Or maybe The Hobgoblins. James rapped a rhythm on the door with his wand. There followed a thunderous thumping noise as someone hurtled excitedly to the door, and then a series of clicks and clunks as the bolts were unfastened, and Sirius Black flung the door wide with a whoop of joy.

“Prongs! Moony!” he cried, seizing his friends’ arms and pulling them into the narrow hallway. “And Lily, too! Come in, come in! Leave your brooms here,” he said, indicating a broom-rack by the door. “Wormtail’s here already, he’s in the kitchen preparing some mulled wine.” He smirked wickedly at James.

“Wormtail and his mulled wine!” James snorted, as he pulled off his cloak and hung it on the back of the door. “Honestly, what is he like? Wine is for getting drunk, not for cooking! He's been at his mum's Witch Weeklys again, I'll bet--” His snigger died on his lips, though, as he met Lily’s reproachful stare.

With a little flourish, Sirius ushered his guests through the door to the lounge.

Immediately they walked into the lounge, they gave a collective gasp of delight. Sirius had certainly made an effort with his festive decorations. The room looked lovely. A brilliant, glittering, tinsel-covered tree occupied the corner of the room, enchanted snow crunched underfoot where the carpet should have been, sprigs of holly and mistletoe had been fastened to every ceiling beam, and little twinkling lanterns had been hung about the fireplace. Sirius was grinning broadly, clearly enjoying his friends’ reactions.

Hearing them come in, Peter poked his head round the door to the kitchen, and they exchanged greetings. Remus noted with a little dismay that Peter was wearing an apron over his robes; sometimes he made it too easy for Sirius.

On a table by the tree, Sirius had laid out an impressive selection of alcohol: Butterbeers and Fire-whiskey, mead and wine, and some lethal-looking green stuff which James greedily poured two glasses of. Warily, Lily accepted the glass he gave her.

This was Remus’s first visit to Sirius’s new home, and he took the opportunity now to look around. It was just a small two-up-two-down, and a very far cry from the Dark grandeur of Sirius’s family home, but that, Remus reflected, was probably its main appeal to Sirius. That and the garage, of course. Sirius had had to have a place with a garage for his beloved motorbike, and garages weren’t easy to come by in central London.

Sirius had bought the place last summer at a Muggle auction, but it had been in a terrible state of repair and it had taken a lot of magic to make it habitable again. James and his dad had helped Sirius fix it up, and they had made a fine job of it, Remus decided. The curtains were a little faded, and the sofas a bit threadbare, but with a log fire blazing in the grate, casting a warm glow across the red-painted walls, the place had a cosy, homely feel. Remus felt glad for his friend, glad that Sirius finally had a place he could call his home, a place of comfort to retreat to.

“So, what do you think, Moony?” Sirius asked, handing him a Butterbeer, and trying to disguise the hopeful, puppy-like gleam in his eyes.

“It’s great,” Remus said, grinning. “Very … red.”

“Yeah, thought it looked kind of Gryffindor-y, bit like the common room, y’know?”

Remus nodded, smiling. Yes, Sirius had definitely made the place a home-from-home, he thought, taking in the display of Hogwarts photos cluttering the mantelpiece. But one photo caught his eye. It was a picture of a pretty, dark-haired witch holding a bonny-looking baby with a headful of pale blonde curls. The baby was smiling and waving its chubby little hands at the camera, but every now and then it screwed up its little face and the pale curls turned a shocking shade of pink. Intrigued, Remus picked the photo up to take a closer look.

“Sirius, who’s this?” he asked.

“Oh, that’s my cousin Andromeda and her daughter, Nymphadora,” he answered.

Nympha-?” Remus began, biting down on a snigger. He put the picture back in its place on the mantelpiece.

“Andromeda …?Andromeda Black? I remember Andromeda!” cried Lily excitedly. “She was a prefect when we were in first year, and she ran the Charms Club. Very pretty. But didn’t she have a sister-?”

“She has two,” said Sirius with a bitter sneer. “Bellatrix and Narcissa-” he paused, seeing the look on Lily’s face. “Yeah, that Bellatrix. And Narcissa’s no better. They’re both Blacks through and through, ‘Toujours Pur’ and all that.”

“Oh,” said Lily uneasily.

“But Andromeda’s not part of that,” Sirius went on. “She married a Muggleborn wizard and got herself disowned--” he mimed a blast from a wand. “--Phutt! Like me.” The corners of his mouth twitched into a grim smile.

“Did you go round to see Andromeda on Boxing Day, then?” James asked, helping himself to a fistful of peanuts. Remus remembered that Sirius had spent Christmas Day with the Potters, like last year.

“Yeah,” Sirius replied, and Remus was amused to notice a bashful smile of rare tenderness forming across Sirius’s face. “My little cousin – she’s nearly three now, that picture’s a bit old – she’s so cute - and she runs everywhere, you gotta watch her all the time or she’ll have your wand and--” Sirius was positively glowing as he gushed about his baby cousin. Who’d have thought Sirius would go all soppy over a baby? This was almost disturbing, Remus thought, suppressing an urge to laugh.

Just then, there was a choking noise and Sirius and Remus looked round to see Lily collapsing into a violent coughing fit, still clutching her half-empty glass of green liquid. Quickly, Sirius conjured a glass of water while James flapped about her chair, tearing at his hair helplessly.

“Ugh! James! What the hell is that stuff?” Lily demanded, as soon as she managed to regain her breath.

Flanagan MacCool’s Old Irish DragonBrewe,” said Remus, reading from the bottle’s label.

DragonBrewe?” Lily repeated, glaring at her boyfriend.

James rubbed a hand through his hair. “I just thought – it was cold outside – you might – er – need warming up …”

Remus and Sirius shook their heads pityingly at him.

“Perhaps you’d rather have some of my mulled wine?” offered Peter, coming into the lounge from the kitchen carrying two steaming goblets.

“Yes, thank you, Peter,” said Lily, graciously taking the goblet he offered her and shooting James another fierce look.

James winced and retreated to the sofa to nurse his DragonBrewe.

“Did you have a good Christmas?” Remus asked Peter, dropping into the seat next to him on the sofa.

“Yes, yes, lovely, thank you. Just – just me and mother,” Peter mumbled, sipping at his wine. “And you?”

Remus took a swig of his Butterbeer and grimaced. “There was a full moon on Christmas Eve, remember?”

“Oh – oh, right, I – I’m sorry-” stammered Peter, colouring, and shrinking into the cushions.

Remus shrugged. “Don’t be. Gave me the perfect excuse to get out of going to the annual family reunion at my grandmother’s.” He gave Peter a crooked smile, and Peter looked slightly reassured.

“You still using that rusty old shed in the garden?” asked Sirius, dropping onto the arm of the sofa with a bowl of potato crisps.

Remus stared at him.

“What?” said Sirius, through a mouthful of crisps, managing to look both baffled and affronted, though he had no business to be either. “I just thought maybe your dad might have built you somewhere bigger to transform in, now that you’re – bigger. I mean, you have a whole house to yourself in Hogsmeade.” He flung his arms up in a gesture of exasperation at Remus’s humourless glare.

“Well, that really would have made my Christmas, wouldn’t it?” said Remus sourly. “If Father Christmas had brought me a new shack to transform in.” He glowered at Sirius from beneath his long fringe.

Lily nudged his foot gently with hers. “So, what did Father Christmas bring you, then?” she asked in a sweet voice.

And Remus found that his anger with Sirius had already faded, dispelled by Lily’s teasing smile and the mischievous glint in her pretty green eyes.

“Chocolate, of course,” laughed James, lobbing a chocolate cauldron at Remus’s head.

“Hey!” Remus cried, ducking to avoid another. But as he bent to scoop it up from the rug, he noticed James and Lily exchange a look which made him suddenly feel like he was intruding on a very private moment. Cheeks burning, he hastily averted his eyes and slunk over to the drinks table.

Behind him, Lily got up from her chair, crossed the room and slid onto James’s lap.

As Remus noisily sifted through the bottles, pretending to be absorbed in choosing a drink, his mind whirred on what he had glimpsed between Lily and James. He had seen it before, of course; they did a very bad job at hiding it sometimes. But each time, it evoked in him the same disquieting mixture of curiosity and envy. He longed to experience that intensity of feeling they shared for each other, that profound and innate understanding that existed between lovers. He longed to feel that way for somebody, and to know what it was to inspire those feelings in another. But fate had dealt him a cruel hand. He could not imagine anyone daring to fall in love with a werewolf.

Remus popped the cork of a Butterbeer and turned back to the room. Lily had draped her arms around James’s neck, her head resting on his shoulder, listening while James carried on a lively discussion with Sirius about the Wimbourne Wasps' chances in their upcoming match with the Kestrels. They looked so easy, so natural, with each other, though, of course, it hadn’t always been that way. It had taken a great deal of patience and determination, and in the end some maturity too, but James had finally won his girl. Was he jealous? He didn’t mind admitting that maybe he was, a little. Well, Lily Evans – who wouldn’t be?

Suddenly, Sirius turned to him. “Hey, Moony, what d’you think of the music, then, eh?”

“Er … Good, good … yeah … Pink Floyd, is it?”

No,” Sirius scoffed, giving him a look of disgust. “Too much time spent with your head in books, Professor Moony - this is The Skreaming Skulls. Pretty wild, eh?”

“Er, yes, wild,” Remus agreed, a tinge of amusement in his voice.

“I got the new Hobgoblins album the other day,” Sirius said with a grin. “Wanna hear it?” Without waiting for a reply, he flicked his wand, and The Skreaming Skulls came off the gramophone. Then, with another flick of his wand, a wooden crate filled with records shot out from behind the sofa and into the centre of the room. Excitedly, Sirius pounced on the crate and began pulling out his favourite records, tipping them out of their sleeves and demanding everyone listen.

Remus indulged him; he never could deny Sirius when he got himself in this kind of mood, all animated and passionate and … puppyish. Smiling fondly at his friend, Remus settled back into an armchair and nodded in time with the music, making appropriate noises of appreciation whenever they were called for. Peter took on the role of filing-clerk, tucking the records neatly back into their sleeves as soon as Sirius flung them aside to put on a new one. And even if James was rather preoccupied with Lily from time to time, Sirius revelled in his role as host and music aficionado, lapping up his friends’ attention with infectious glee.

Suddenly, there was a loud bang from the street and then a series of shouts and shrieks. Alarmed, they all leapt up and rushed to the window to see what was happening.

Remus sighed with relief. It was just Muggles – Muggles and their fireworks. A rowdy bunch of them were spilling out of the pub on the corner, reeling about drunkenly and embracing each other with cries of “Happy New Year!”

“Oh! Did we miss it?” gasped Lily sadly.

“Looks like it,” said Remus mildly.

“How did we lose track of the time?” asked Sirius. “Prongs, I specifically remember telling you--” But he stopped at the unmistakeable, wet, breathy sounds of James and Lily snogging coming from behind them. Over Peter’s head, he caught Remus’s eye. They shared a smile and shook their heads.

Another volley of fireworks exploded somewhere in the distance and then a tuneless refrain of Auld Lang Syne went up among the street-revellers, although nobody seemed to know the words beyond the first line.

“Strange to think,” said Sirius, “that we’re in the middle of the fiercest, Darkest wizarding war for centuries and all these people--” he cast a glance at the drunken Muggles, “--they don’t even know.”

“Happy New Year, Sirius.”

“Yeah, Happy New Year, Moony, Wormtail. I won’t bother wishing Prongs and Lily one as - well, they seem quite happy enough already.” He wagged his eyebrows at Remus.

“We leave Hogwarts this year,” said Peter, in a wistful voice.

“Yeah, but we’ll still see each other,” said Sirius cheerfully. “You know you’re always welcome at my place.”

They watched the Muggles silently for a while, before turning back to the room. James and Lily had finally disengaged their lips but were still wrapped in each other’s arms, rapt in each other’s gaze. Sirius rolled his eyes at Remus good-humouredly.

“What will you do, when we leave?” Remus asked him.

Sirius took a swig of his Butterbeer and fixed Remus with a look of defiance. “I want to fight, with Dumbledore’s secret army. Soon as I leave school, I’m going to join. Prongs is too. What about you, Moony?”

Remus shrugged and stared solemnly at his Butterbeer. “I want to join too – if they’ll have me.”

“Of course they’ll have you, mate!” cried Sirius. “I mean – you’re a werewolf! They’re gonna need some werewolves on their side--” He had the good sense, mercifully, to stop at that point, covering his embarrassment by taking another hearty swig of his Butterbeer.

Remus stared into his beer with renewed concentration.

Sirius clapped him firmly on the back. “Let’s drink to us all joining the good fight, then,” he said, grinning. “Let’s drink to the end of Voldemort!”

Grabbing the bottle of Fire-whiskey, Sirius hastily poured five generous measures and handed a glass to each of his friends. Then he raised his glass to lead the toast.

“Happy New Year, everyone!” he cried. “This is the year we join the fight to destroy Voldemort! And what chance does he stand against the infamous, redoubtable Messrs. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs--?” He paused and tipped his head in a little bow to Lily. “And of course, our lovely Head Girl, Miss Lily Evans?”

With a hearty cheer, they clashed their glasses together and drank the toast.

But as he looked around at the smiling faces of his best friends, Remus could not stop the tide of dark thoughts from swelling within his mind. They were in a war now, a terrible, vicious war, and soon they would be on the front line, risking it all. People – good, brave people – were dying every day. Who was to say this war would not take them too? It would be something of a miracle if they all survived to the end. As he gulped down the last of his Fire-whiskey, he offered a silent prayer – to whoever was listening – that his friends would remain safe from harm this year, and that they’d all be here again to welcome in another New Year.

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