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A Different Kind of Magic by unjellify

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Chapter Notes: Sorry for the wait, everyone! As always, I don't own the Potter-verse. Thanks to Soraya for her excellent beta work.



Lily took a break from her painstaking work on everlasting icicles to examine the tinsel garland she had conjured, which now adorned one of the Christmas trees in the Great Hall. Suddenly, as though the long strand of tinsel had developed a mind of its own, it peeled back from the wall and wrapped itself tightly around Regulus Black, one of the sixth-year Slytherin prefects, who had been grumpily loitering behind the others. Regulus now resembled nothing so much as a glittering mummy.

Lily and Remus, who had been working next to her, spun around. Sirius”always quick on the draw, and adroit with non-verbal spells, for that matter”was in the entrance to the Great Hall, his wand nowhere in sight. He was innocently brushing nonexistent dust from his robes while Peter shook with suppressed laughter next to him, trying valiantly to keep a straight face. “Black!” Lily yelled. Both Sirius and his tinsel-wrapped brother stood involuntarily to attention.

“Lily! I didn’t see you there!” If anyone was better at spouting guileless falsehoods than James, it was Sirius, who looked up with an expression of sincere pleasure before bestowing his cocksure grin upon her.

She rolled her eyes and turned around again, knowing that since she hadn’t actually caught Sirius with his wand out, she had no firm grounds on which to dock points. “Relashio,” she muttered, pointing her wand at Regulus. Upon release, the boy turned furiously to face Sirius, one hand plunging into his robes and the other massaging his recently constricted larynx.

“Regulus Black!” Lily said sharply. “It is against the rules to attack another student.”

Regulus looked back at her, his ire at Sirius grappling with his prefect status for a moment. “He attacked me first. This doesn’t concern you, Mudblood,” he hissed, pulling his wand from his robes.

Expelliarmus!” Lily and Remus shouted in unison, and Regulus’s wand clattered to the floor, its owner looking dazed. From the ugly look on Remus’ face, Lily was sure he had wanted to do more than that, and she had to remind herself to keep her temper; both the insult and the dismissive, careless tone with which Regulus had pronounced it rankled with her.

Noticing the commotion, Professor Flitwick temporarily abandoned the fairies he had been organizing into fairy lights on the other side of the Great Hall. He approached them ostensibly to inspect the seventh-year prefects’ work on the everlasting icicles, the spell for which he had taught them during their lesson the day before.

Even in anger, Regulus wasn’t stupid”he retrieved his wand, quietly fuming, under Flitwick’s watchful eye. The Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw prefects had turned to watch this altercation, and Lily told them civilly but firmly to return to decorating. They moved away, the Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors festooning the House tables with red and green streamers, while the Ravenclaws, aided by the Slytherins, created ivy garlands and holly wreaths for the walls.

Lily had thought Sirius and Peter would sneak off to enchant snowballs, which was the Marauders’ usual Christmas pastime. Instead, they walked into the Great Hall, which Lily thought was pushing the dubious goodwill instilled in Regulus by Flitwick’s supervision.

“Is it time for another adventure, Moony?” Sirius asked He was barely audible from where Lily stood.

“Is now really the time or place, Padfoot?” Remus said, finishing another icicle with a gentle dip of his wand.

“Well, yes, because Wormy and I need to know how much trouble we can get into. Would two days’ worth of detentions be...inconvenient?”

“I’m a prefect!” Remus exclaimed in a hushed voice. “You can’t just go saying these things to me.”

“That’s why I’m not inviting you along at the moment, although we all know you’ll probably end up coming.”

Remus sighed, looking suddenly drawn.

“If you’re not going to be helpful, you can discuss this later,” Lily said to Sirius and Peter, her patience already worn short by her supervision duties.

Sirius frowned in concentration, thought for a few moments, and waved his wand in several complicated strokes. He produced a beautiful ice sculpture of a dog standing at attention with a wreath of holly around its neck.

Lily rolled her eyes as Remus and Peter inexplicably burst out laughing, and Sirius allowed himself a wicked grin. “What in Merlin’s name am I going to do with that?” she demanded.

“Lovely, intricate work, Mr. Black!” Professor Flitwick squeaked, looking over at Sirius’ ice sculpture. He turned back to decorating the nearest Christmas trees, saying things like, “Unforeseen talent in Charms and Conjuring!” and shaking his head.

“Fine, Sirius, since you are trying to interrupt this decorating session so doggedly...” Lily began reluctantly.

“Very doggedly indeed,” Remus said, grinning.

“Oh, come on, Lily, throw him a bone,” Peter exclaimed, extending a hand toward the ice sculpture. At that point, Remus lost his composure completely and doubled over.

Sirius waited patiently while Remus and Peter slapped each other on the back.

“What’s got into them?” Lily asked, forming another everlasting icicle with her wand in an attempt to look busy.

Sirius shrugged. “No idea.”

“Christmas...spirit...” Remus wheezed, trying to collect himself. After several deep gulps of air, he leaned toward Sirius and muttered something in his ear.

Lily only caught the word ‘tomorrow,’ and couldn’t make sense of it, as Christmas was still a week away. However, Sirius saluted him and walked off. Peter followed behind, his pale eyes streaming with tears of mirth.

*

After another few days of feverish holiday decorating, the prefects were starting to get on each other’s nerves. Regulus still cherished the thought of revenge for Sirius’ prank. He had been willing to take it out on Remus, who as Sirius’ friend was apparently his proxy for the purposes of vengeance. However, Remus was conspicuously absent from decorating, having fallen ill the day after the conversation in the Great Hall, so Regulus tormented Lily instead.

Thus far, Lily hadn’t really minded her duties heading up the decorating committee. It wasn’t interfering with her schoolwork too badly”she was used to rationing her time by now”and, more importantly, supervising twenty-four other people gave her little chance to think of anything else. When she wasn’t decorating, she was so preoccupied by her conscious effort not to think of James that she was ironically hard-put to concentrate on what she was doing.

Now, however, Regulus, Aubrey, Rookwood, and the rest of the Slytherin prefects took it in turns to use Severing Charms so that any decoration under which Lily was standing would fall on her head, although she took points from Kathleen Derrick when she heard her whisper, “Diffindo.” This elicited more mutterings of “Mudblood,” which provoked the Gryffindor prefects, especially Mary, to take offense on Lily’s behalf.

Altogether, tensions were running extremely high by the time the decorating team of prefects reached the seventh floor. It was something stupid”Lily didn’t even see what happened, but she heard that one of the Slytherins had spit at the portrait of the Fat Lady. When she shrieked all hell broke loose. Gryffindors who came out of the portrait hole rushed past, either ducking their heads or, in Sirius’ case, stopping to fire a hex into the fray. Only an occasional “”ridiculous!” or “”at once!” could be heard from Lily above the din as she tried to block as many spells as she could. Finally, Professor McGonagall entered the corridor and stood for a moment in shock. Most of the Gryffindors stopped at once, aware that she did not play favorites and did not take kindly to dueling.

Lily took a great breath and yelled, “STOP!” This quelled a few more, including Mary, who seemed to have realized that she was brandishing her wand in Kathleen Derrick’s face and stepped back quietly.

Professor McGonagall’s nostrils flared and her lips pressed into a tight, pale line. “This is disgraceful,” she hissed, and though a few errant jinxes had still been flying, the jets of light died out entirely. “Never in my twenty-two years as a teacher have I seen such a spectacle from prefects. You should all be ashamed.”

The severity in her voice alone was enough to make all but a few of the Slytherins hang their heads and scuff at the floor with the toes of their shoes. Lily briefly entertained the idea of casting a Disillusionment Charm over herself, and was immediately sorry. “I’ll take responsibility for this, Professor,” she said, stepping forward. “I’m in charge, and I didn’t defuse the situation as I should have.”

“Nonsense, Miss Evans,” Professor McGonagall said sharply. “Do not throw yourself to the metaphorical wolves. However, since you all are supposed to be pinnacles of responsibility, I shall take thirty points from each of you.

“Let me see, that’s one hundred eighty from Hufflepuff, one hundred eighty from Ravenclaw, one hundred eighty from Slytherin, and one hundred fifty from Gryffindor”” an undercurrent of whispering interrupted her at this point, but she continued smoothly “”because Mr. Lupin was absent tonight and Miss Evans was so ardently trying to stop this idiocy.”

Speak of the devil, Lily thought. At that moment, Remus came rushing down the corridor whence Professor McGonagall had come, still looking sickly but saying, “I’m sorry I’m late, but I’ve felt terrible missing the past few days as”” He broke off, noticing the cowed looks of the prefects and Lily’s lowered head.

“Surely, Professor, thirty points each is”” began Rookwood in his most placating, oily voice, the one he always used around professors.

“And detention, to be served at seven o’clock sharp tomorrow evening. Three hours exactly would do you all some good. It will not interfere with patrol duties, and I do not care about Quidditch practice for any team. No, Mr. Davies, I am well aware that you are the interim captain for the Gryffindor Quidditch team. You might have thought of that before you decided to duel with such enthusiasm.”

It would have been hard to say which of the prefects was most outraged.

*

That Friday, Lily left the girls’ dormitory at five till midnight for patrol. Normally, no one was out of bed at that hour, but she saw someone waiting by the portrait hole.

“Remus, what are you doing?” Lily asked, puzzled. “It’s far past curfew.”

“I know. I just thought that perhaps you could use some company. I don’t sleep much anyway.” He gave her an almost apologetic smile.

“Well, if you really don’t mind,” Lily said, noticing that Remus already had his robes on.

As they shut the portrait hole behind themselves, Lily said, “Is there any reason?”

“For what?”

“Your coming with me. I appreciate it, don’t get me wrong.”

“Honestly, you’ve just had a rough time lately. With what happened this week, and then...other things too.”

“James,” Lily said, breaking the taboo so that he wouldn’t have to.

“Yeah.”

“You don’t need to worry, Remus. Not about that, at least. The prefects’ duel was a disaster, but James...I’m done with him.” She said this while managing not to let any emotion slip into her voice.

“Done?” Remus repeated incredulously.

“It’s been almost a month. Not a word from him.”

“But there must be something seriously wrong”” Remus began to protest.

“No,” Lily said. “Remus, if you knew what I had told him the night he left...he could have just kept his distance and I would assume the same thing that you do. But he didn’t, and I don’t care about him anymore.”

Remus looked steadily into her face. “Don’t say things you don’t mean, Lily,” he said gently.

“I’m making it true,” she said firmly. “I do mean it.”

He said nothing, shaking back the sleeve of his robes to scratch an arm. Lily suspected this was a tasteful way of not pushing her to talk, but something made her turn back and look at him. Even by the dim glow of the lamps in the hall, she could see that his arms were crisscrossed with thin red scars, as though he’d recently fought his way through a briar patch.

“You said I’ve had a difficult week,” Lily said incredulously. “What happened to you?”

“I have no idea,” Remus said. There was an odd kind of truth about his tone. “Although I did have quite a tussle with one of the Greenhouse Three plants on Wednesday.”

“It looks as though you lost,” Lily said.

“I had it on the ropes,” Remus answered, grinning.

“Oh, and speaking of difficult weeks,” Lily said, “why has Sirius been taking every possible opportunity to hex his brother? I know there’s not much love lost between them, but honestly, it didn’t help when he started firing curses into the prefects’ fight .”

Remus hesitated. Finally, he said, “Regulus has the Mark.”

“You mean he’s working for Voldemort?” Lily said, outraged. “And he’s a prefect?”

“Godric, Lily, keep your voice down!” Remus implored. “Sirius didn’t know until he saw it a few weeks ago. They don’t talk at all. Anyway, Padfoot got”frightening. I don’t know how else to describe it. He was going on with all this ‘no brother of mine’ talk. If I were Regulus, I’d start looking around corners.”

“He expresses this anger by wrapping his brother in tinsel?” Lily asked skeptically.

“You know Padfoot. He’ll make anything into a joke. Maybe he wants us to see it that way; I don’t know. What I do know is that if Voldemort’s making sixteen-year-olds Death Eaters now, nothing good can come of it.”

*

Most of the Gryffindor students had gone home for the holidays. Among the seventh-years, Sirius, Remus, and Lily were the only ones who remained. Sirius, who was excellent at wizard’s chess, settled Remus’ and Lily’s tournaments by playing the winner. Though Lily often saw him staring moodily into the fire or out of the window, whenever he knew she or Remus was watching him, he would have his wonted easy grin on his face, as though it had been there all along. They ate with the teachers and the other students who had remained for Christmas at one long table, where Professor Dumbledore pulled crackers regularly.

Many of the other teachers were in a particularly festive mood as well. Professor Flitwick had been more tolerant than usual of Sirius and his antics ever since the everlasting ice sculpture, which still held its tail proudly aloft in the Great Hall. Even when Sirius bombarded each of the teachers’ office windows with enchanted snowballs that exploded and multiplied like fireworks upon reaching their target, Flitwick merely leaned out of his office to pronounce the accuracy of the charm amazing. He also suggested astutely that Sirius would at least earn an ‘Exceeds Expectations’ on his Charms N.E.W.T. if he put as much effort into his work during lessons.

At breakfast on New Year’s Day, Lily received another letter from her mother, expressing anxiety over Lily’s lack of a response to her first correspondence. There was an almost conciliatory tone to it with which Lily did not sympathize. Mrs. Evans closed with a well-timed ‘Happy New Year,’ though it contained just as much true feeling behind it as the ‘Happy Christmas’ from the previous letter.

Lily was folding up her letter again, creasing its folds angrily, when she heard a chair knock back from the table and fall over with a clatter.

Sirius was sprinting away from the table, already halfway out of the Great Hall. Remus looked up in alarm and got up as well. Lily followed both of them after a moment’s hesitation, while the teachers stared.

She and Remus only caught up with Sirius at the portrait hole. He seemed to be having trouble articulating the password, and it took them a few moments to figure out why. “Gladius,” Lily said quickly, as Remus helped his friend into the common room.

Sirius was sobbing. Even when he was brooding over Regulus, Lily had never seen him without the ghost of the customary smirk on his face until now, and judging from the frightened look on Remus’ face, he hadn’t either. Sirius sank down into one of the armchairs and buried his face in his hands, the anguish racking his entire body. His sobs were soundless, and each breath he took rasped, slow and rattling like that of a Dementor, as though he were barely keeping himself alive. This was more frightening, somehow, than if he had been wailing.

“What’s wrong?” Remus said. “Come on, Padfoot, talk to us.”

But Sirius only shook his head, either unable or unwilling to speak, and refused to yield the letter still clenched in his fist. Lily quickly handed him her handkerchief, and she and Remus took it in turns to rub his back gently as he continued to cry and convulse with his sobs. It was as though his heart had been broken, but to the best of Lily’s knowledge Sirius had never acted this way over any girl.

After Sirius made a feeble attempt at what might have been shooing them away, Remus and Lily decided to give him space in hopes that that would ameliorate his current condition. “Have you ever seen him like this?” Lily whispered.

Remus shook his head. “Not even after his hag of a mother blasted him off that stupid tapestry and told him she never wanted to see him again,” he said, his eyes still on Sirius. He seemed barely to know what he was saying.

Lily wasn’t sure what Remus was talking about”a tapestry?”although she knew that Sirius had lived with James for a time, and suspected that Sirius’ relationship with his family was at least as much of a mess as hers was.

As if hearing her thoughts, Sirius stood up and spun around.

“I probably shouldn’t have told you that,” Remus said guiltily.

“How could he?” Sirius yelled, his face contorted. “No”mention”what right does he”knew I would’ve given anything””

Lily and Remus tried to decode this without success. “Well, I don’t think he’s mad at you,” Lily said.

After a longer period of weeping than Lily had previously thought possible from anyone, Sirius blew his nose loudly into the already sodden handkerchief and stuffed it into his pocket.

“I have to go and see Professor McGonagall,” he said in a voice that sounded like someone had rubbed his throat down with sandpaper.

“Do you want me to”” Remus said.

At the same time, Lily suggested, “I could””

“No,” Sirius said, in the same quiet, painful voice. “I have to. Alone.”

They let him go, as the look in his gray eyes brooked no argument. By dinner that evening, Sirius Black was nowhere to be found.
Chapter Endnotes: Thanks for reading! (And waiting through the queue drama, of course.) Next chapter will be from James' viewpoint. Please review; I love feedback!