Character(s): Sirius Black, James Potter, Marlene McKinnon, Lily, Remus, Peter, random members of the Order of the Phoenix, and some OCs
Warnings: Character death, misuse of Polyjuice Potion, some (Sirius) innuendo.
Author's Notes: See inside. Beta'd by the lovely yatsuka. All remaining mistakes are my own.
I hope to Merlin that everyone's collective wisdom was very wrong and that neither Sirius Black nor James Potter has been the death of me – try though they may have to have been so. However, should everyone else have gotten straight to the heart of it, Dorcas, you know what to do (because the act of recording it would be far too incriminating) and Sirius, you owe 100 Galleons to my estate. Also, you can transfer that ride you owe me on your motorcycle to my younger brother, who'd certainly enjoy such activities more than I would. And James, as promised, I've taken the secret of who made off with Mad-eye's supply of Polyjuice Potion to the grave…Good to have the dubious honor of working with you both.
And, just so you know, Lily, Remus, Peter – you are saints for putting up with that lot. Endeavor not to become martyrs…otherwise Black will have to learn to be productive like the rest of society, as he'll have bookmakers everywhere after him.
Good-bye, all of you. I know, despite the countless headaches and anxiety attacks caused on your accounts, that you will see the rest of these letters safely to their recipients, especially my family, who was under the impression that the Department of Magical Transportation was a particularly stressful and dangerous job.
And, of course, both James and Sirius owe me their entire Muggle fashion sense. Next time they try to broker international peace treaties in a Muggle pub, raise a pint in my honor.
We'll Meet Again Beyond the Veil,
"Ever think when we left Hogwarts we'd be here – " he made a lazy gesture to his surroundings with one hand before clasping them both at the back of his head "-saving the world through delicate international negotiations, Prongs?"
"You mean, in Dublin, looking for a Muggle Pub because the representatives for the Irish Ministry don't quite trust our motives? I used to imagine myself playing Quidditch for Puddlemere United, Padfoot…"
They turned down a cobblestone street, trying in vain to try to find a street sign so that they could say where, in fact, they were at the moment.
Sirius frowned and futilely produced a map, swearing under his breath, "Didn't Marlene say the damned place was only a few blocks from the Portkey point? The twat's probably laughing hysterically that we're about to create some sort of international incident for skiving off a meeting Dumbledore's been arranging for months."
James put his hand out for the map, and Sirius, mumbling "I solemnly swear this rubbish is no good," to himself, pressed it impatiently into his hand, crunching it violently as he did so.
"Always the tourist office," James said, opening the map and then rotating it, all the while, looking at the street corner attempting to find a street sign.
"Why yes," said Sirius irritably, walking down a cobblestone street that he swore they must've been down at least three times already in the last half-hour. "Let's stroll into it and go 'Cheers! We're from that country over there that subjugated you for a tiny duration because some crazy Muggle had a mind to and we're looking to get pissed in one of your fine establishments. Do you want to blow us up now or later after we've had a bit of a row over politics?' Moreover, you are going in dressed like you should have been placed on a respirator four decades ago and I – well, let's just say they might just blow us up to remove the blemish of re-introducing such Muggle clothing into the outside world again."
James frowned, looking down at something of Lily's father's that he was wearing and over at Sirius' own catastrophe of argyle and oddly colored slacks that he was now picking at, as if he half could not believe he was actually wearing it.
"We look like we're intentionally trying to be suspicious."
Sirius swore again at his friend's comment, tugging at his jumper with a vengeance.
"And you'd think, Prongs, that sending us to a place called 'The Cloak and Dagger' would have been a clue to someone...It's almost like loading Zonko's Everlasting Fire Fountains into the Christmas pudding at the Great Hall…and we would have experience with that…"
Used to the extremes of Sirius' moods, James swerved right onto an offshoot from the main street they had been on, thinking that they might not have been there yet. Examining the sides of the buildings, he found something of interest.
Sirius, meanwhile, continued to rant, "At least he could have sent us off to France like Gideon and Fabian – that snobbery I've been accustomed to handle since childhood – 'course perhaps Dumbledore didn't appreciate my little display of French…forgot the man understands everything. Even Moony got to go off to Romania…although I suppose there's not much to be jealous about there. Peter and Lily are doing Merlin knows wha -"
"Druid's Close," said James suddenly, pointing to the street, and, several meters down its dingy and narrow expanse he saw a pub with windows that looked in a good need of washing and a sign that hung creaking on its hinges. Ominously, it showed a peeling skull lying atop of and equally shabby cloak next to a bloody dagger.
The magnitude of actually finding the meeting place hit them both when they realized what they had to do: convince a group of people who, besides their proximity to their problems, had nothing to do with Voldemort and wanted nothing to do with them.
Letting out a nervous laugh and all the while thinking that only three months out of Hogwarts hadn't at all prepared him for such a job, James said nervously, "Lily just said I should be my normal charming self."
Sirius pretended to gag at the idiotic smile that lit up James' features at the thought and remarked, "No one felt the need to tell me to be charming…"
Steadying himself and walking forward, James looked back and grinned, "That's because everyone knows you'll be a right prat if you have a mind to and there's not much telling that they could do to stop you. That, my dear Padfoot, is your irresistible charm."
Finally arriving at the pub, Sirius shook his head and mumbled, "bugger" before they entered through an ancient door whose lacquered paint had gathered in rolls - just ready to fall off.
The inside of the bar wasn't in much better condition. Eclectic combinations of bar stools were arranged haphazardly around slightly off-kilter tables marked with ancient coasters advertising faded pictures of Muggle beers. In the main room of the bar sat only one or two patrons, slumped around tables near the windows, their bleary attention on a game of hurling* on an ancient television.
As the tinny bell rang, announcing the arrival of new guests, the bartender – ancient like the rest of the place - looked up with the barest hint of surprise that anyone else would be coming in, let alone the tourists who were probably all off at the more fashionable Temple Bar anyways.
The bartender nodded – albeit a little suspiciously when he saw how his new patrons looked - and greeted them with a nonchalant "You well?"
James and Sirius nodded at him and, looking around for the two wizards they were supposed to meet, went to order themselves a pint before continuing down the dingy staircase to the lower room of the pub. The lower bar area was empty except for two men, leaning in over their own pint glasses in deep discussion near a sputtering fireplace. Both James and Sirius knew to immediately take them for wizards as one had on a violently green waistcoat and, as they approached, their conversation concerning the recent government restrictions on cursing tablets grew more audible.
"We should widen the restrictions, I say, not narrow them. The Blacksmiths have cornered the entire indust-"
Breaking off in mid-sentence, the man in the waistcoat looked up at the new arrivals and said accommodatingly, "You must be Dumbledore's men – a might young, but 'tis grand, 'tis grand."
Sirius felt a little as if he were being x-rayed as the man's companion looked up and down at him with such a look of utter disdain that even his mother would have been quite proud. He felt James shift his weight next to him, mirroring his own sense of discomfort at this non-verbal assessment.
The disagreeable man then pulled out his wand and cast a Silencing Charm on the doorway so that neither the bartender nor his drunken guests would know that delicate political conversations regarding a world they didn't very well know existed were going on within the confines of the pub. The man who had first spoken then mumbled "Accio stool" in quick repetition and invited them both to sit down.
"Now," began the more disgruntled man, pausing to take a swig from his pint glass, "Please to be introducing yerselves so we know you're who Dumbledore was supposed ter be sending."
The man with the green waistcoat interrupted the beginning of James' self-introduction and waved his companions off, "Now, Ó Crónín, don't stand on civilities, these gentlemen have come to discuss high level business with us," and then he extended a hand out to them, "Name's Dáibhí, Dáibhí Fitzgerald, I work for the Inter-Magical Relations Department here in the Irish Ministry, and that unpleasant fellow over there is Dermott Ó Crónín, who is involved in part of Magical Law Enforcement and –"
"I'll just make this plain and nice," interrupted Ó Crónín, all thought of introductions apparently forgotten, "You-Know-Who is an English problem, and we've about enough of yer English problems cropping up over here – what with the Muggle population constantly in turmoil and the Taoiseach** of Magic all the while waffling about tryin' ter decide what ter do about it, it's a wonder the Muggles haven't figured out that the Druid order has survived after the Christians came."
Sirius personally thought that there had been enough sightings by tourists to create a rumor…and he hadn't known any rumors in existence concerning an entire population, complete with their own government, running about Britain. However, rather than voice such thoughts, he let James begin the diplomacy.
"Now I understand your qualms about Voldemort – " Both Ó Crónín and Fitzgerald tried to hide a grimace " – But there's nothing stopping him from finishing off the Ministry in England and coming right on over here at the moment."
"We're essentially in the same position," remarked Sirius with warmth, "If Voldemort – " another collective flinch "- reveals us there, it won't be long before the Muggles connect two and two and figure out that there's far more of us than just in Britain."
Fitzgerald, throwing a look at his companion that was generally ignored, turned back to them and said, "Now, gentlemen, the Irish Ministry realizes that You-Know-Who has gained many a supporter over from your side, but the political ramifications of helping – and really, you don't seem to understand the extent to which we're just holding on ourselves without any other…issues and –"
Having about enough of it, Sirius pushed back his stool and stood up, and James hoped that he wasn't about to say something impulsive that they'd all regret later.
"Do you think Voldemort cares about what nationality or what form of government you have here?"
Fitzgerald squirmed in his chair uncomfortably and Ó Crónín steadily looked at them both with all the more hatred.
"If Britain falls because there's no one to help it, you'll have far more problems. If your Ministry is already at a breaking point here and now, do you think it is going to develop more resources to combat a far bigger menace with which there are no cease-fires or truces? Voldemort will just laugh and rain Unforgivables down on your heads and he won't bother to check if you're English or Irish or any other thing…because you'll be as good as dead."
"Now, my good man –" began Fitzgerald, whose cheeks were coloring from more than simply the beer. "I understand the possibilities but –"
"- Dáibhí, you're a damned fool if you think you're goin' ter win them over with politeness. Tell them exactly what we were told to without the gold embroidery – You-Know-Who is an English problem and the English are goin' ter hafta take care of –"
Ó Crónín wasn't allowed to finish as a Stunning Spell had hit him square in the chest and shot him backwards off of the high bar stool in a wavering arc. He landed with a groan half on the floor and half on the bricks of the fireplace.
Fitzgerald, too dazed at the sudden and quite literal breakdown in his diplomatic negotiations, was staring with wide-eyes at the place where, moments before, his companion had been. Sirius – already with his wand out - just had time to throw the diplomat aside as a jet of green light flew directly towards him.
Rushing down the stairs were the two men who had been watching television in the other room – now looking ferociously alert - and, running towards them, the blank expression that denoted he had been put under the Imperius curse, was the old bartender. James was so surprised that the old man actually managed to land a punch squarely on his jaw.
"Top o' the mornin' to you!" Shouted one jeeringly, tipping his hat mockingly and casting a Stunning Spell that went wide.
James ducked and mumbled, "I thought that was only one of those clichéd phrases they fooled tourists with…"
"See! Couldn't have been anyone other than the English wizarding scum!" Shouted the giant of the man – who had looked so harmless with his pint watching the television earlier – as he brandished his wand and let another curse fly.
One of the men – firing off a vicious hex at the place where Fitzgerald was whimpering under the table – bellowed, "The Dark Lord shall have ascendancy over Ireland as well! He'll restore the Druid and Wizard alike to their former prominence."
"Seems like you've already got a problem with Voldemort!" shouted Sirius back at Fitzgerald who, having been hit by a stray curse, was shaking uncontrollably. James managed to dodge a volley of hexes from the Death Eater's other companion and, landing a curse, bought himself a few free moments to release the Irish official from the effects of the hex, laying the raging bartender flat on his back with a stunning spell in the process.
"This is more like your form of negotiations, Padfoot!" He managed to shout while rolling away.
Sirius, busy dueling with the Death Eater who had originally spoken, didn't respond. Suddenly, a net flew out from the corner, tripping the burley man and sending him sprawling on the floor right in the path of one of Fitzgerald's feeble stunning spells that had gone off course.
"Nice one, James!' Sirius shouted.
"Wasn't –" there was a pause followed by a spectacular burst of light – "me!"
James jerked his head around towards the direction of the spell while keeping his eyes on the remaining Death Eater, who was now lobbing Killing Curses in every which direction, to see Ó Crónín, bleeding from one ear and looking murderous. Despite the Irish man's temporary incapacitation he was now dodging curses and throwing back rather nasty looking ones himself.
"NOT ON MY WATCH!" He roared and lobbed a purple jet of light towards the remaining combatant. It connected with the Death Eater's forehead and a slimy tentacle sprouted out and began wrapping itself menacingly around his neck.
Sirius' former sour mood was replaced by one of almost manic glee as two other men rushed into the room, one tripping over their comrade's prone form.
"Always could more than hold my own in a pub brawl!" He sent a jelly legs hex at the Death Eater that had just entered, "I'll take this over pretty diplomatic flattery any day!"
For a moment James contemplated reminding him to be serious, but that inevitably had incredibly poor results. Rather, Ó Crónín, growling and looking positively frightening with blood running down the side of his head, shouted a warning of "Less talk, more wand!"
Sirius was all too happy to oblige him and James had the diplomatic mandate he needed.
Somewhere, Fitzgerald was temporarily incapacitated as one of the new arrivals had transfigured the top of the bar stool into a bird's head and it was now pecking him on the back viciously.
From the top of the stairs came the shout "Sounds like they've all gotten into a savage row! Someone call the Gardaí!***"
Ó Crónín was obviously displeased and, with a Stunning Spell, took down one of their opponents before exasperatedly bellowing, "Muggles! Had ter get knocked out and the Silencing Charm along with me, so here they come running in. Right grand day I'm having!"
Another burst of misdirected light from his wand caused several amber colored bottles of liquor to explode and shower the general vicinity with bits of glass.
However, the last of their adversaries proved fairly formidable. He was wiry and limber, dodging each one of the curses and hexes thrown at him with a raucous laugh and an ever-widening smile.
Firing off another Stunning Spell that again went wide of its mark, James shouted, "Sirius! We're going to have to get out of here before the entire Muggle government is called on our heads for this little brawl of ours."
His only answer was a loud curse as a hex burned through Sirius' argyle catastrophe and scorched the shoulder of his wand arm. Then, adding to the state at which things were deteriorating, James saw Ó Crónín go down with a groan and a hollow thump, out of the corner of his eye and hoped that it hadn't been more than a Stunning Spell. Still, however, the Death Eater laughed.
Then Sirius Black did something truly unexpected and, with the barest flick of his wand, levitated a candlestick that had fallen off one of the tables in the general uproar and yelled commandingly, "Catch!"
The Death Eater, utterly perplexed at this change in tactics, unwittingly complied and, seizing the object, began whirling around violently and vanished, leaving silence only filled by exhausted panting and Fitzgerald's wheezing whimpers. A moment passed and when the much harassed Irish diplomat saw nothing else of immediate danger, he emerged from behind the upturned table where he had taken cover under throughout the duration of the battle and hazarded a "W-w-w-where did the fellow go…?"
Sirius, cast a new silencing charm on the door before leaning back behind the bar, pouring himself another pint of ale and, gulping the whole thing down, said nonchalantly, "Tahiti…probably."
"Tahiti," Fitzgerald repeated absently, looking faint.
"Now, more importantly," said James, surveying the general destruction and trying not to concentrate very much on the trouble the use of an unauthorized Portkey was liable to get them into, "What do we do with all of this prior to your Muggle police coming?"
Fitzgerald suddenly seemed to be sensible of the massive carnage about him and all it implied.
"Your…You-Know-Who…in Ireland…" he said to himself, shaking his head.
James and Sirius both nodded, both trying to look solemn and not let out the exasperated I told you so they were both holding back.
"Just as your Dumbledore said."
Another solemn nod.
"I – Well, I shall certainly inform Taioseach at once and act, for my part, in a great hurry. Now, however, I think picking up these lads before the authorities arrive - the, erm, Muggle authorities - should suffice."
He turned to the bar mirror and, after tapping it with his wand, a face emerged on the other end, "Ah, Dáibhí! You well?"
"Well enough, however, we need some help here at the Cloak and Dagger."
"English get violent?"
"The English," he replied, "have a fair point. But the Irish got violent…bit of a pub brawl, really…no drink even involved."
The face in the mirror looked nothing short of incredulous.
"And," continued Fitzgerald, "I'm going to need four Hit Wizards and a Ministry connection to call off the Muggle Gardaí. Oh and," he cast a look behind him, "Bring a healer for Ó Crónín…fellow tried to relive his glory days again without much luck…you might want to tell a few Obliviators that they should have been here an hour ago, too, in case the Hit Wizards are lost in the drink at their locals already…"
Fitzgerald's subordinate's face now looked nothing less than baffled, even though he was nodding his compliance.
"Gentleman," he said, turning to James and Sirius after issuing a few more orders, "I'll have you know your point is well made and we'll be contacting your people in a few days. Thanks to you I'm still alive and Ó Crónín there, too, although a little worse for the wear…"
The two Englishmen exchanged a look but didn't dare comment.
Turning back to the mirror and avoiding looking at the bodies on the floor for any more time than he had, to, Fitzgerald muttered, "'Tis grand, 'tis grand" and left Sirius and James to find their own way out and back to the small alley in which a Portkey back was awaiting.
When the world stopped its dizzying spinning and dissolved into the current headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix - namely the cozily furnished living room of a house at Godric's Hollow – the first person whom James and Sirius saw was Lily, who rushed out to see them with part of a sandwich still in hand.
Instantly, she had her wand out and demanded of her fiancé, "You, how did you lose your map?"
James smirked and answered, "Sirius was a bit of a prat and thought we might be able to transfigure Mrs. Norris into something more interesting. Filch caught us, map in hand."
She nodded and, not relaxing a bit, turned her wand on Sirius and commanded – a glint in her eye – "Who was the only girl to ever humiliate you?"
"This is pretty humiliating at the moment," he responded sarcastically, only to have Lily raise an eyebrow at him and flick her wand in a menacing gesture. Knowing what she was capable of he muttered, "Catherine Pennington – sixth year, you know the sordid details."
After this necessary exchange, Lily's demeanor relaxed utterly and she rushed to hug a starry-eyed James - amidst Sirius' immature puckering noises - before she stepped back and said, half-scoldingly, "You're late!"
James, intimately aware that this wasn't a demand for punctuality, spread his arms out and turned, saying, "But in one piece, as you can see," which allowed her to relax seeing that nothing had been nastily cursed off. The night Mad-Eye Moody had lost his leg had, unfortunately, been the younger members of the Order's first introduction to what they might have to face and a scene that was, evidently, still imbedded sharply in Lily's mind.
Hearing the voices of the new arrivals, Gideon Prewett poked his sandy-haired head around the door leading from the kitchen and, looking around the room, James and Sirius noticed his brother Fabian had obviously been lightly dozing by the fire prior to their noisy entrance. With his normal fastidious politeness, he had merely been observing the scene.
"How did it go with the Irish?" Gideon asked at length, stepping into the room and slumping into a chair opposite his brother.
Sirius and James exchanged a look that immediately had Lily raising her eyebrows. She had seen that very same expression far too many times when they both were trying to get their stories straight prior to McGonagall's questioning them over one illicit activity or other.
"Well," began James rather solemnly, "We have their provisional support…but-" he trailed off. Gideon continued to look at him rather intently while Fabian cocked his head to the side in interest. Lily just looked rather annoyed at this sort of dramatic delivery, "Our diplomatic efforts probably cost us the life of one great wizard in the process."
This set off a round of soft cursing and tense apprehension around the room.
"Who is, of course," James continued with flourish, "Our very own Sirius Black."
A slightly confused silence followed in the wake of his words. Sirius mumbled "And me without so much as an epitaph…"
The darker mood that lingered did not so much as deter James from carrying off the rest of his speech and, barely managing to keep the smirk off if his face, he finished, "Yes, poor young Sirius Black will be at the receiving end of several inordinately dodgy – entirely not Ministry approved, I'll have you know – hexes when Marlene finds out he's given an Irish Death Eater a one-way holiday to Tahiti with an illegal Portkey."
The room's occupants seemed, for a moment, at a loss as to what to do with this information. Gideon, letting out a nervous sounding chuckle, tried to lighten the mood by quipping, "Always knew you were a mite suicidal there, Sirius."
On the verge of responding to James' joke, Sirius was about to open his mouth when Lily, who had exchanged several dark looks with Fabian Prewett, interrupted him.
"…Irish Death Eaters…? You fought…? That's why…you were late?"
Sirius, who had by now leaned against the walls, the adrenaline from the previous battle not quite dissipated, explained, "Well, negotiations went rather poorly at first…awful rows over Muggle politics and Druids being dissatisfied…"
With a greater degree of seriousness – most likely due to the look in his fiancé's eyes and her disapproval of Sirius' very nonchalant manner - James picked up the thread, "They refused to believe Voldemort was their problem."
His tone growing graver, Sirius continued on, "Luckily, Death Eaters appeared to illustrate our point quite conveniently and nicely – that's what all these negotiations need, really, strategic near death experiences at the hands of the blokes from the other side…Nothing that a little threat of bodily harm won't do to resolve the finer points of verbal conflict."
Pessimistic though the sentiment was, no one could think of anything to contradict it and silence reigned for a few moments while everyone mulled over exactly what they had been hearing. Finally, with an air of thoughtfulness, Fabian commented – almost to himself – "Wish we had a couple of Death Eaters for the French negotiations. They wouldn't hear of talking to anyone but Dumbledore."
Gideon nodded his support prior to screwing up his face and, assuming a haughty air, he mimicked, "'Zis iz not our prob-a-lem. 'Zis You-Know-Who - let you English solve your own prob-a-lems and your Dumbleydore can come here 'imself next time to waste our time."
Glumly, Fabian nodded back, "A would have welcomed a couple of Death Eaters to heat up those negotiations."
Lily sighed and, chewing pensively on a corner of her sandwich, commented, "Shows how desperate things have gotten when we actively wish for Death Eater intervention."
As the evening wore on, more of the members of the Order slowly trickled in bringing news of more political defeats. Remus, looking more serious than usual, came in very late and with an uncharacteristic frazzled air, sat down with a book whose words his eyes glided over but never really took in. Peter also returned, at a length, from a Muggle neighborhood in Surrey where he had been sent to help Caradoc Dearborn and Benjy Fenwick stave off a rumored attack on the Head of the Muggle Relations Department and a nearby Muggle neighborhood. With the exception of Peter, this new group joined with the Prewetts and they all sat exchanging news and sipping Firewhiskey until all of their heads had drooped closer and their discussions of strategy had grown intimate and were carried on in hushed voices.
McGonagall swept in once, hurriedly, quickly announcing that Dumbledore would hold a full meeting within two days, pausing only to give instructions to Lily and tell them that Edgar Bones would be returning from Germany the following day with news of any aid they could expect from them…she, however, didn't look very hopeful on that point. The lines of her face were taunt and there were shadows under her eyes.
Sirius sat playing a game of Wizard Chess with Peter – which he was, much to his frustration and James' amusement, losing rather badly. The chessmen were now threatening him with mutiny as James egged them on. After a particularly bad move, the Knight decided to quit and rode clear off of the board.
However, both Peter's triumph and Sirius' cursing at this last of indignities were lost amidst the flashing of the fireplace as someone emerged out of it and into the room with a shout of "SIRIUS BLACK!"
The dull noise of the room subsided and the harried and much-harassed looking form of Marlene McKinnon strode by, her Ministry robes with their Department of Magical Transportation emblem half askew.
Finding him in unexpectedly plain sight, she began sputtering, "Y-y-y-y-you!"
In an inarticulate gesture, she whipped the long plait of her hair – usually immaculately neat, but at the present moment full of loose strands.
"As long as we were doing identifications, McKinnon, you could call me by my proper name."
Infuriated by the manners she was faced with, the color rose to her cheeks and she shouted, all the more violently, "Black! I don't have enough time to be dealing with unauthorized Portkeys! Perhaps you with all of your heaps of gold can afford to be skiving off and making work for everyone else, but some people need to work and get their hands dirty to eat as well as make sure Voldemort isn't going to place his little minions in our midst."
Spotting James in the corner, who had tried to slink over to Remus, who Marlene had a much better relationship with, she hurtled on, "Do either of you have any concept in your pigeon brains of how hard it is to think of a reason for two barely of age wizards to take an international Portkey?!"
"You do realize," quipped Sirius pointedly, amidst cheers from his chessmen, who were all rather delighted to see him being harangued after he had led them to such a route, "That you were only a year before us, dearest Marlene."
Ignoring this, she stabbed a finger in the direction of James, "And you! You're supposed to curb Black's excesses!"
Probably unwisely considering her temper at the moment, James could do nothing but laugh at this sentiment, which led her to get all the more angry.
"Moreover…do you know how much paperwork is involved in explaining why those same bloody prats felt the need to whip up a Portkey to Tahiti…? Do you know how many jokes and accusations I received about engineering myself a Ministry paid holiday in an hour? And with the Ministry already as leaky as a sieve you're just asking for Order business to be leaked to Voldemort."
"You know, McKinnon," drawled Sirius in far too condescending a manner to be at all placating, "You probably could do with a holiday soon…all that shrieking you've been doing would make a banshee positively hoarse."
Remus murmured something about Sirius being about to try the patience of a saint, and in a gesture of pity and admiration for trying to squeeze an apology out of Sirius Black, Caradoc went into the kitchen to get her a glass of water.
"Always irresponsible! I told Dumbledore you two would somehow manage to create mass havoc together and today I went through four quills trying to repair your damage."
"James," Sirius called, being patently unrepentant and causing Lily to bury her head in shame, "I think McKinnon still has her knickers in a twist over that time we enchanted her bra to expand at inopportune moments in her sixth year."
Marlene's fury rose to such an unspeakable degree that, rather than trying to further appeal to Sirius verbally, she hauled off and punched him directly in the shoulder, causing him to yelp in pain. She had unwittingly managed to hit him right on the spot where a minor hex from earlier had burnt him during the course of his diplomatic battle. During the evening's events, he had decided to endure it until he could return to his own flat and apply his store of potions to the wound.
For a moment, thinking his exclamation a product of her physical assault, her eyes blazed with triumph as she quietly said, "You deserved that, you reckless inbred idiot."
However, noticing the sharp intake of breath and a lack of retort – particularly against the inbred comment – that followed, she looked over her shoulder to see that he was looking at a singed hole in the argyle catastrophe he was wearing under his robe.
She stopped for a moment.
"You weren't just talking, were you, Potter?" she said in a strange voice, turning to James.
"They had Death Eaters to help their negotiations," replied Fabian, almost bitterly.
James, leaned forward and continued, "They didn't seem to have a grasp of fine diplomatic niceties and we had to figure out what to do with a particularly troublesome one before Muggles got involved…Sirius was just a bit – "
"- Creative -" came his strained growl.
"Yes, creative in getting rid of them. With the Portkey and all."
From his place in the corner, Remus mumbled something about Sirius' normal brand of inconvenient creativity that Lily quickly assented to.
"Well, he might have at least let go of his masculinity and called Dorcas for the dodgy shoulder of his I just punched."
Sirius tried to protest that it was unnecessary, but with a quip of "You attract trouble and there's no good in you getting killed because you're stubborn," she had out her wand and, with a gesture, had sent a silvery raven off with a message that Dorcas' healing skills would be useful to the Order at that moment.
Anger spent, she drifted into a chair and contented herself with looking rather surly as everyone's activities slowly resumed. Sirius merely contented himself with looking moodily about as James was deep in conversation with Lily about some subject or another and Remus had replaced him – much to the approbation of the chessman – and was now beating Peter handily.
Unfortunately, Marlene McKinnon – who was merely awaiting Dorcas' arrival – was the only person not occupied with some activity or another. At a length, feeling extremely bored, Sirius nominally tried to catch her interest, "Well, at least other governments are as leaky as ours."
Marlene fixed him with a look of utter contempt and said testily, "I have been thinking about that finer point. You see, Black, that explains how they knew the date and location of the meeting. But, it wasn't as if the Death Eaters knew your faces."
Sirius opened his mouth to protest and was cut firmly off, "- and don't start that old rubbish about your family probably being half of Voldemort's troops – no one knew who was going anywhere by design."
Having accomplished the very rare feat of silencing Sirius Black, she looked his entire ensemble over. James, by this time had seen the danger of an imminent row and decided to come over and put off whoever was in need of rescuing when Marlene turned to him and snapped exasperatedly, "Were you both trying to look suspicious? You make the worst Muggles I have ever seen."
"Had an idea that our diplomatic facilities would have required an avant-garde sense of fashion, did you Prongs?"
"Obviously, McKinnon didn't get a look at the Irish diplomats…who weren't exactly subtle. Might as well have charmed leprechauns to follow them."
"Next, we're going to have to pass out fashionable shirts and the lot to have people battle against Voldemort."
"Order of the Phoenix," said James with a grin, "Come for the war, stay for the trendy uniform."
Fists balled and knuckles whitening, Marlene's face had taken on such a severe image that McGonagall on her best day might have been proud. From beside James, Lily shook her head, knowing that talking sense to both of them at the same time was tantamount to putting a Hungarian Horntail into a petting zoo.
"Really, purebloods!" Marlene gritted out at a length.
Puffing out his chest in an effort to make him look all the more sanctimonious, Sirius pantomimed extreme outrage. "Really! Reverse discrimination by the Muggle-borns! James, we'll have to tell Dumbledore that we've found inadvertently found Voldemort's secret plan –"
"- Sowing discord and destruction throughout the world through Muggle fashion…it's so ingenious that the Order hasn't even considered such a nefarious motive!"
"Yes, and the Order's supposed experts at disguise will be caught hands down every time they go into a Muggle area," replied Marlene coldly, planting her hands on her hips. "I bet you won't be laughing so much when the Death Eaters have found you again and are using the Cruciatus Curse on you."
"And you think you're going to mend our ways?" asked Sirius, flinging his legs over the arm of the chair with impunity.
"I would put several Galleons on you failing miserably – Potter has a sensible influence on him, something might eventually get through his thick skull."
"Not worth my money," replied Sirius, faking a yawn and stretching luxuriously before closing his eyes.
James merely looked at her and shrugged.
"Fine," said Marlene, suddenly affecting a cool tone, "I'll just tell Moody you're deficient in espionage. He'll reform you and – no matter how many detentions you talked yourself out of at Hogwarts – I bet you couldn't sweet talk your way out of his….constant vigilance."
Her goading was rewarded with the glimpse she got of Sirius' eyes opening wide again and James temporarily sputtering on a sip of his Butterbeer.
"We'll…" began Sirius at a length, when he had exchanged a look with James, "Take your bet. We have a month to look like bloody Muggles."
The triumphant look had not faded from her face in the slightest when Dorcas dropped by and, while she poured some potions on Sirius' injured shoulder, had to deal with both parties giving her half reports of the day's events.
"I don't know," she said wearily, raising her wand to do one last perfunctory swish before she was finished, "Who will be the death of whom…but Marlene, you do realized you've picked a battle with the most troublesome pair in Hogwarts history, don't you?"
At this consideration, her victory faded a bit. But something else – something that both James Potter and Sirius Black had long ago seen in the flashing eyes of Lily Evans their first year at Hogwarts – lingered in her expression, letting them know that this was not a woman to be trifled with.
"Well," said Peter scratching his head, "You kinda look like my Dad."
Sirius growled in frustration and tugged at the tweed…thing he had donned.
"Which is not in the least what we want to achieve," replied James, looking doubtfully at his own supply of clothing. "Where exactly did you get this stuff, Moony?"
"Lily kindly led me to the attic of her father's house."
Frowning deeply, James grumbled, "She said that she wasn't allowed to help me."
Remus smiled as mischievously as he was liable to and said, "She was helping me, you know…"
Normally, Sirius would have made some slur on lovey dovey romance, but he was far too involved with pacing frantically from one side of his flat to another.
"Damned twat," Sirius sunk down onto the floor, "Thought of everything. Every Muggle-born in the Order is under 'strict orders' not to help either of us."
"I think she actually said 'on pain of death'," Peter thoughtfully supplied.
"Moreover, her thoroughness speaks volumes for her abilities, I might say," offered Remus. "And everyone else in the Order knows Marlene's temper is something to be reckoned with."
"Less talk about that tart, more awful Muggle garments!" stated Sirius impatiently, seizing another glossy magazine and looking at the pictures of the models in them with an expression of wariness.
Following suit, James picked up another of the issues and leafed through it without paying much attention. Remus just watched the entire production, shaking his head and immediately putting Marlene McKinnon nearer to the top of the list of people whom he would avoid ever angering.
"Moony, you're no help with your nose stuck in that book and here I am looking perfectly wizard-like – which, as I happen to be a wizard, I haven't quite figured out the problem with."
Not even looking up from his book, he responded, "Pain of death sounded rather serious, I think I have risked my skin enough without covering for you because you've shot your mouth off again."
This was answered by accusations of betrayal and exclamations of corruption by that woman on every side of him.
"Anyone here," asked James, looking at him with amusement, "Think Padfoot here is just reacting to the fact that he has finally found a woman – other than Lily, of course – that is not susceptible to his previously unconquerable charms?"
Peter and Remus both nodded their assent emphatically. Scowling, Sirius merely reacted by throwing the thickest magazine he could at James' head, which he caught handily and opened.
"That's like an admission of guilt from Sirius," laughed Peter.
Utterly ignoring the succeeding tussle and angling his head sideways at one of the more interesting images - forgetting that, as in a wizard picture, he couldn't just prod the picture's occupants to get a better glimpse at some of the others - James said, "Padfoot, I thought you said you knew Muggle fashion."
Flinging a magazine against the wall he responded irritably, "I know what Muggle girls wear. I wasn't looking too hard at what the blokes were dressed like."
"Perhaps, Marlene will do the impossible and manage to teach you prudence yet, Sirius," responded Remus at a length, giving his friend a significant look which was, of course, ignored.
"Can't teach an old dog new tricks," said James, "You can, however, neglect to include me in your little bets from now on."
"This is rubbish!" Sirius declared after more fruitless searching and standing up purposefully, "James and I are going Muggle-watching…let's see how the other half lives…"
There was a mutinous murmur from his companion, but out the door they went.
Working on exploring the wide realm of Muggle fashion was put on hold as James and Marlene were assigned to watch over the Ministry – James under his Invisibility Cloak and Marlene as the Order's insider contact - for a possible spy sent by Voldemort to use the Imperius Curse on minor officials in an attempt to get to the Minister.
Sirius, glad that he wasn't the one on that particular mission, was working with Lily and Remus patrolling the grounds of Hogsmeade covertly during one of Hogwarts' scheduled trips for its older students.
While Lily was having a quick meeting with Aberforth Dumbledore as to the day-to-day security measures and Remus was watching the far end of town under the guise of examining Scrivenshaft's new shipment of quills, Sirius had, with gusto, pulled up a chair and a drink in The Three Broomsticks and was diligently observing the area from there.
Surreptitiously, while still keeping an eye on the milling crowds of third year students with their first ever rounds of Butterbeers, Sirius pulled out his old two-way mirror and set it upon the table, muttering "James Potter."
A moment later, his friend's face – his normally unruly black hair sticking up at ever more chaotic angles – came into view and he hissed, "Not now!" while looking rather alarmed at something or other.
Looking darkly at the piece of glass as it cleared itself moments later, Sirius took a moody sip of his Firewhiskey. He happened to give a third-year Hufflepuff a look so unpleasant when she happened near his table that, upon seeing it, the girl headed - seizing the wrist of her friend suddenly - to the farthest away table possible.
Irritation and apprehension fading into boredom, some minutes later, he could hear James' voice once again hissing from his pocket.
"Padfoot – coast clear!"
Slipping the mirror onto the table again, Sirius saw James' face wearing its familiar smirk, as if he had just been scolded by McGonagall for an act of illicit transfiguration – perhaps turning Snivellus' robes into a pink tutu again. He shook off the image…being in Hogsmeade made him too nostalgic.
"Sorry," James said, mussing his hair self-consciously, "I was, erm, detained…guess you could call it a false alarm…"
Sirius waved this comment off, "How did my bit of wandwork go off?"
"Well, McKinnon's spent half her morning chasing after her quills and the other half trying to figure out where her robe has transported itself now…But, seriously, Padfoot, you might as well have marked your territory with a giant sign that says 'This prank sponsored by Sirius Black' – "
"Marking my territory! Ha!" Sirius said with an enthusiastic whisper, "Now there's a brilliant misuse of the Animagus transformation. Old Padfoot would be delighted to – "
"Sirius," interrupted James, with a more serious air, "You probably shouldn't get her all brassed off –" his eyes quickly darted to the side at he said this.
"That's a load of duff, Prongs. Love must be making you prudent and sensible and that lot of nonsense…you can't seriously be intimidated by that –"
Suddenly the whole of James's face disappeared from the gleaming surface of the mirror and after a moment, rematerialized with a hasty, "I'll see you when you come round Godric's Hollow tonight. Anything more here, there will be trouble."
His mood darkening again, Sirius slipped the mirror back into the pocket of his robe and finished his watch, feeling that there was something not altogether right about that exchange.
James Potter was denying risky activities and pranks.
…This could only mean that that tart had finally gotten to him as well. He hoped against hope he was wrong.
The Muggle pub that Marlene had chosen for the great trial of Muggle clothing was in the busiest area – both with tourists and British people – that London had to offer. Stepping out of the nearest Wizarding Pub – The Orb and Merlin, situated under a sign that proclaimed "James of New Row – Clock and Watch Repairs" that had been inexplicably closed for years - Sirius made his way over to The Lamb and Flag quite alone.
Citing a mission for the Order that Dumbledore had just given him and Lily, James had said he would meet both him and Marlene there slightly after the original time. However, setbacks like that aside, Sirius was quite proud of the ensemble he had put together and thought that it might even meet that slave driving wench McKinnon's standards. Luckily, Lily Potter had taken pity on him and put a helpful image on her living room table for both James and him to find.
If such behavior kept up, he might someday even be forced to publicly admit that he wouldn't be able to see his best mate with anyone else.
He adjusted his leather jacket around him – a fashion staple from some long dead American cinema star – and actually found it surprisingly warm and comfortable. Certainly it wasn't dragon skin, but he was quite handsome in it if he did say so himself. He was wearing a shirt of some band from the Muggle equivalent of WWN called the Ramones…and once again he found himself thinking that the Muggles definitely had something despite their inability to magically do anything.
Of course, he almost missed the swishing of his robe for dramatic effect, but the fact that the jacket he was wearing made him feel pretty smashing didn't make him lament this loss too much.
He got caught in a mob of French tourists and only managed to free himself when he began to loudly direct rather risqué bits of their language at the female members of the crowd and thus arrived at the pub only a few minutes before McKinnon's specified deadline. Ordering himself a pint of ale, he sat down at the dark wooden counter and watched a football match, all the while contemplating how people could get so worked up about a game in which everyone stayed on the ground and there were no blunt objects to beat the opposing teams with (Beater battles, of course, being his especial favorite in Quidditch matches).
Bored after only a few minutes of observing the white ball being kicked every which way and bumped off of people's heads, Sirius gave up on it and instead decided to covertly watch the other patrons. Only having been in a true Muggle pub twice before in his life – once in seventh year when he, James, and Peter (Remus, with his unfortunate love for the pesky rules had flatly refused) had "gone to Hogsmeade," and once after leaving Hogwarts where he had gone hunting for girls only to eventually have an entire pint of his own beer dumped over his head – he was again struck by how, for all they pretended to be different, Wizarding and Muggle establishments alike were very much the same.
Sure, perhaps the close conversations would be over the Chudley Canons' amazing losing streak rather than something called Manchester United, and the wizards would complain about the current idiocy of the Ministry rather than the Muggle fellow in charge…but for the most part they had the same function of snug communication and relaxation.
As far as Sirius was concerned, Muggles were just Squibs with electricity.
His musings, however, were interrupted as someone pulled the stool next to him out and a gratingly familiar voice ordered a pint of Blackthorn's Cider. Of course…she would drink something girly like that. The bugger.
"Hello, Black," she said primly, "I see you've not managed to make any international incidents in an entire five minutes."
Sirius scowled and, strangely, Marlene McKinnon smirked.
With excruciating slowness - that made something in Sirius squirm - she looked him over, that eerie smirk that wasn't quite like her at all still plastered on her face.
"That's almost passable, Black, I'm impressed that such a nutter as you could possibly have pulled it off."
Ignoring this and assuming an air of haughty arrogance, Sirius asked with cold politeness, "I suppose James already told you he'd be along after he's done with whatever Dumbledore had set out for him so you can also put him through this dodgy bit of fashion show you have going here."
For a barely noticeable moment, Marlene McKinnon hesitated. Sirius caught this out of the corner of his eye and, finding it slightly suspect, wondered if this woman was driving him mad…although if she was, he would never give her the satisfaction of knowing it.
Smiling and looking at him strangely, she took another sip of her cider.
Trying not to look nonplussed and through pure dint of training, mostly succeeding, Sirius demanded, "I believe you owe me 50 Galleons for this little dress up adventure. Not a single Muggle has noticed that they have an intruder."
Then Marlene McKinnon leaned in and the entire world as Sirius Black knew it went to Hades.
She whispered sensuously, "You know, oh-brightest-star, I could pay you…differently" before drawing back and – horrifically – giving him a sultry wink.
A number of possible explanations ran through his head including inebriation, a strong Confundus Charm, and…then it hit him. Polyjuice Potion. Suddenly he wished James would conveniently walk in with a team of Obliviators in tow.
In one gesture, he had drawn his wand and, placed it where "Marlene McKinnon" - but none of the other patrons - could see it. The part of his mind not imminently concerned with dying rather nastily and taking a fair score of Muggles with him privately decided that it was time to swear off Muggle pubs…and perhaps drinking altogether. At least for a while.
"What was the only time you landed yourself in detention at Hogwarts?"
Arching one eyebrow at him she responded, in that same horrible tone of voice, "You," she touched him playfully on the nose with her index finger, "got me caught for hexing you over that…incident…with my brassiere. Luckily you were throwing up sea urchins in the hospital wing for a day after that…"
Sirius narrowed his eyes…correct down to the sea urchins. She lowered her voice and drew closer again, "I am correct, I assume?"
Utterly perplexed that something this horrific could be happening to him – and privately wishing for James or Death Eaters or even Voldemort himself – Sirius tried desperately to think of a question that only Marlene could know.
He finally happened upon one. It was risky considering his current precarious situation, but it was something he had never felt the need to share with anyone else and he was fairly certain that the real McKinnon would have rather swallowed a Dungbomb herself than spread that piece of information.
"Who did you unwisely snog after Gryffindor won the Quidditch match against Slytherin – and you also happened to imbibe a lot of Firewhiskey - in your forth year?"
"Marlene's" sultry aura collapsed into utter confusion. Sirius was on the verge of stunning the imposter – Ministry be damned – when another familiar voice, coming from directly behind him, answered with revulsion, "Sirius Black, tragically – that utter prat."
It was, in fact, the same familiar voice that his companion shared. Looking back, Marlene McKinnon, her hair slightly altered with appearance charms, stood wearing a look of utter triumph mixed with a bit of disgust at having to recollect one of the more unpleasant incidents of her youth.
For a moment, Sirius could do nothing back but stare from one to the other. As there were two of them, he decided he must really be in Hell.
Looking smugger than old Snivellus when he had learned a new hex, she nodded at her doppelganger and said, "Thank you, James, your secret is now safe with me forever."
The Other Marlene took on an expression of strained embarrassment that looked very wrong on her face.
"Wait…" began Sirius, "James as in James Potter? The utter tosh pot who is supposed to be my best mate?"
Running his fingers through Marlene's dark hair, the imposter smirked and said, "One and the same."
Looking at Marlene McKinnon with a look of mixed admiration and revulsion he asked, "Are you really Morgan le Fey in disguise or," then turning to the Marlene wearing the James look, demanded, "et tu Potter?"
Waving them both over to a more secluded area of the pub – that a group of American tourists had just conveniently vacated with the help of a non-verbal Persuasion Charm - Marlene sat down in and, stretching out luxuriously in a mockery of Sirius' usual insolence, she asked, "Care to explain my evil genius, Potter?"
Scratching his head in a very un-Marlene-like gesture he began, with gravity, "Well, Padfoot, the thing is…I value my life."
Sirius did is best to remain incredulous against the net of treachery that was closing in about him. The fake Marlene, meanwhile, continued.
"Do you remember your first mission with the Order?"
James received a blank look from his rather irate friend.
"Rather, do you remember what was supposed to be your first mission?"
Comprehension slowly dawned on him.
"Or rather," said the Other Marlene with a touch of viciousness, "Do you remember getting hung-over and sending poor Remus Lupin to be you with some help from….oh, let's just say, Mad-Eye Moody's batch of Polyjuice Potion borrowed by none other than James Potter?"
Sirius opened his mouth and closed it several times, looking a bit like a struggling fish.
"She means to say," mumbled James, wearing a look that Sirius wished was plastered to the real McKinnon's face at that moment, "That Remus helped us out when you were a bit…ill."
"Thanks to your friend's sacrifice here, the secret will go to my grave," she said with mock-solemnity. "I think perhaps you might have learned a lesson…"
"Oh yes," responded Sirius, "I learned that James is an utter novice at the art of seduction. And with his chosen body he really would have needed to be far more creative than he was with his insinuations."
The color began to drain from both of the Marlenes's faces.
"Of course, McKinnon," The real one glared at him fiercely, "I did like the part where Potter made you sound like an absolute strumpet. Thought it was a nice touch. Didn't doubt the veracity for a moment."
James buried his face in his nicely manicured hands and muttered, "Sorry, mate. Death by Moody is one of the things that definitely made my list of Top 10 Unpleasant Things to Avoid."
James buried his head all the more when the real Marlene gave a short, haughty laugh, "It was worth being added to the growing list of women who have humiliated you, Black."
"She has a point," came a much more muffled version of Marlene's voice, "I did try to warn you off annoying her when she was already plotting your demise."
Not even thinking about that particular betrayal, Sirius was merely thought to combat the gloating face in front of him. Finally, he managed an irritated, "How did you find out about that…incident?"
Winking – a gesture that eerily reminded Sirius of his recent trauma – Marlene responded, "I'll just say you have a spy in your midst…by the way, I'm glad you took my strategically placed advice on that jacket, Black, it really suits you."
With that last nail being driven into his coffin of supreme embarrassment, Sirius decided that it was definitely time to swear off pubs for a long, long period and stick to life-threatening encounters where the enemies were clear. That, and he would avoid adding to the list of women who had humiliated him for a while.
Sighing, he leaned back and, taking a large swig from his pint, said, "James, I think you still owe Marlene 50 Galleons…dressing like a girl doesn't count. I mean, I could have done that…"
War always seemed to so thoroughly dash everyone's expectations that, as the events of it dragged on, the word blurred and absorbed several unforeseen definitions and snapshot images of only tangentially related associations.
Previously, "war" had meant being forced to cross-dress as Marlene McKinnon, Dorcas' assertion that he and Sirius could get anyone to laugh – even at a funeral, Benjy Fenwick being taught to perfect a shield charm by Remus…but recently "war" meant Lily's wide eyes as they had managed to capture and unmask a spy right in front of Voldemort himself, Sirius' fading laughter, Dumbledore's face seeming to grow older as it dragged on…
But at that very moment, for James Potter, "war" meant four phoenix feathers spread across the wide table at headquarters in an odd mix of the familiar and the unwelcome exotic. The table now had become an altar, and the feathers symbolic of what was being sacrificed and burnt to ashes so that hope might rise again…
Removing his glasses and rubbing the soot of his last encounter off of his forehead, James wearily asked no one in particular, "Who?"
Answering his own question, he took up the letter and noticed the straight, neat handwriting of "To the Order" on one of the many letters arranged before the four feathers. The envelope had already been opened and, winding down towards the end of the letter, he saw his own name.
I hope to Merlin that everyone's collected wisdom was very wrong and that neither Sirius Black nor James Potter has been the death of me –
Reading, he began fervently wishing that the lines hadn't become so blurred that the sight of almost priceless magical artifacts lying on his table was becoming more and more commonplace. But here they were, four phoenix feathers – one for Marlene and each member of her family – upon the table of Headquarters, waiting to be consecrated, and here was a letter in his hands only meant to be opened on a day when "war" meant an end, a termination, a death.
Right on time, a charm Moody had installed whirled around, warning of an approaching visitor. Looking outside, he saw Sirius in full Muggle clothing lean his motorcycle on the fence before proceeding to the door. He came in, his old Gryffindor scarf loosely bound over his worn leather jacket and dotted with small white flakes.
James watched from his position at the window as his friend's eyes traveled over to plumage on the table and he walked, pausing over the open letter for a moment.
"Marlene," he stated quietly.
James nodded, not immediately finding words that seemed appropriate for the occasion. "Noble" and "brave" danced somewhere around "war," but what lingered instead was an image of Marlene McKinnon, eyes flashing and hands on her hips, telling him that he and Sirius were worse than the Death Eaters and that they both were giving her prematurely grey hairs. There was war, and sometimes Muggle clothing, and sometimes…he wasn't exactly sure.
Next time you try to broker international peace treaties in a Muggle pub, raise a pint in my honor.
"Well," began James at a length, pulling off his wizarding robes and summoning a set of Muggle clothes with a flourish from his wand, "It'll be hours before the rest of the Order gets here for the ceremony."
Sirius nodded, his eyes going over the letter again.
"Shall we honor our tormenter – "
"And sometimes tormented."
"- In fitting style?"
Sirius nodded, readjusting his scarf and jacket before going out again, "Should be the Lamb and Flag so we can bask in the scorching glow of her greatest triumph."
Somehow managing a chuckle, James said ruefully, "Little does the world know it was over her own allies."
"Moreover, Prongs," Sirius responded, resurrecting the ghost of a tone of irritation, "You do realize she's gotten the last laugh and probably counted on your sentimentality to remind us of her triumph."
"Which will never cease to gall you, I well know, Padfoot…which is something to drink to in and of itself. What other woman has managed to achieve such lasting irritation from you?"
"Your wife?" quipped Sirius before pushing the door open. James followed him out into the swirling world outside, where they soon were lost amidst a world of Muggles hurrying about with their Christmas shopping.
It would be a fitting remembrance in many ways.
A/N: I hope it didn't get too angsty at the end there. But, as the recipient wanted to see James and Sirius working for the Order of the Phoenix, I wanted to concentrate on some of the members – Marlene in particular – and the workings of it that we haven't been given an opportunity to see as sort of a dramatic subplot, although you have the considerably sillier plot of how two pure-blood wizards learn to disguise themselves as Muggles despite a lot of education to the contrary. I hope this qualifies as the "whimsical drama" you were talking about! Merry Christmas!
* Hurling – A sport that is part of Ireland's native Gaelic Games.
** Taoiseach – Irish term for the equivalent of Prime Minister in their government.
*** Gardaí – Irish term for policemen.