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The Way Things Fall Apart

Chapter Text

It was raining. It had been raining for the last two hours of the trip up to southwest Oregon and Sirius was completely over it. This was stupid. What were they even doing? Oh, he knew what they were doing. Satisfying some stupid crush James had. James Potter was a hopeless romantic and Sirius found strange and sort of appalling.

Everything was an adventure to James. Life often seemed like it was one big game to him. He wasn't exactly a thrill seeker but he had an impulsive and playful streak. The truth was, that was exactly what drew Sirius to James in the first place.

James had been kicked out of one private school and ended up in the same school as Sirius. Sirius had already figured out he was trans and after coming out to his best friend, Sarah, who subsequently abandoned him, so he was in the market for a new best friend. James Potter qualified perfectly.

Sirius was still forced to use his deadname back then. His school would've accepted his gender. They were never the problem. The problem were his bigoted family. The summer when he turned fourteen, he cut off all his hair. Sirius liked having long hair but he thought it was something easy he could do, the subtlest of clues.

The name Sirius had been obvious. Sirius was the brightest star in the sky and his family had a thing about star names. He couldn't use it officially but he could introduce himself as such to new people, like James Potter, which is exactly what he did on the day they met, the first day of high school.

James Potter was tall, charismatic and very handsome. He wore glasses but wasn't really the nerdy type. Sirius thought that if he were the sort of person to have interest in romance he probably would've fallen for James Potter on the spot. Damn good thing he didn't, seeing as James was straight.

They got detention that week. They got caught skipping class. It was the sort of thing Sirius had fantasized about many times before but had always been afraid to do. His parents didn't doll out punishments lightly. But James made it feel so easy and it felt good to misbehave. It felt good to do something he knew would piss off his parents, even if the consequences could be severe.

James Potter wasn't a wild child or anything. He smoked pot from time to time but didn't go to parties or get drunk. He liked playing video games and getting angry at trolls on the internet. He watched anime and rambled endlessly about them at lunchtime while Sirius sat there confused.

Sirius came out to James during one of those long rambles. James had been talking about some trans characters in anime and Sirius couldn't resist the opportunity. James had just smiled and thanked him for sharing. And that was that. James accepted him wholly and never misgendered him. And best of all: nothing changed between them.

The only thing James cared about in school was soccer… until his back injury. That had been physically and emotionally rough on him. Whatever drive he had to perform well in school ended, leading him to only putting in the bare minimum of effort.

In the meantime, Sirius's home life only grew more dreadful. Everything was falling apart. His brother, Regulus, kept disappearing. His mother resisted all his attempts to present himself in a more masculine way and called him names that still haunted his dreams.

His parents mostly kept their hands off his friendship with James Potter… at first. They knew who his parents were. They were well-to-do and his parents naturally assumed Sirius was dating James. But he still saw the way his mother sneered at James and James saw it too.

Sirius had apologized for his mother's racism but James said he was used to it. White people always treated him different, even if they weren't outright bigots like Sirius's mother. Sirius felt bad that he had never thought about it. All his friends had always been white, not because of choice but by circumstance. He learned a lot about privilege and the many angles of oppression thanks to James.

Christmas of 2010, one of Sirius's relatives outed him to his parents. He didn't know who. He didn't even know who knew. His cousin Andromeda knew but she would never do that to him. He suspected it was one of her sisters, Bellatrix or Narcissa, but he couldn't be sure.

That was the breaking point. His mother waged a war against his gender, wanting to destroy any clothing that could be seen as masculine. She threatened to toss him onto the street. Sirius had never been so scared. Something about her suggested that she would either burn the impurities from his soul or leave him to die.

Sirius cut and ran, taking what little he could to the Potters, who promised to protect him as best they could. His parents didn't fight for him. He just got nasty texts and emails from his mother condemning him. Eventually that stopped, though he got a new phone anyway.

The Potters promised to do whatever they could to protect him. They helped him get emancipated. They bought him clothes. They helped him get on hormones.

Sirius got a part-time job and tried to take school a bit more seriously. James… well, James had still wanted to have fun. He was graduating with Sirius but only barely. Sirius had felt embolden by separating himself, physically and legally from his parents.

And now they were pulling up to a rainy seaside restaurant to meet up with a friend James made online, who happened to live in the same town as a girl he met online. They'd be meeting her the next day.

"Here we go," James said, with a sideways grin at Sirius.

"Yeah," Sirius said, trying not to sound too unhappy.

Sirius thought this was all ridiculous. They could go anywhere. They could attend a proper university on the other side of the country. He was fully in favor of getting away from his parents but moving to some resort town on the Oregon coast seemed so random.

But it didn't to James Potter. James liked the idea that it was so damned random. He liked that they wouldn't be near a major city. Mostly… it was probably the girl. Women were James Potter's greatest weakness. He was pretty shameless when he liked a girl, willing to do the most ridiculous things to impress them… like moving to a town they lived to attend some random community college.

Sirius remembered Obi-wan's words to Han Solo in Star Wars: Who's the bigger fool? The fool or the fool who follows him? Sirius was pretty sure he was the bigger fool, in that case.

They walked into the restaurant. A short and slightly chubby blond-haired man, waved at them. Peter Pettigrew was his name. His name sounded like something out of Jane Austen story, though he appeared nothing of the sort. He was a fan of one of the video games James loved, Sirius couldn't keep track of which one. He had looked at Peter's DeviantArt profile and thought he did some good work.

"Hi, I'm Peter," Peter said, shaking both their hands.

"Nice to meet you, Pete. Can I call you, Pete?" James asked.

"Sure. No one ever does, but I don't suppose I'd mind," Peter said.

A waitress came by and they ordered. Sirius got prawns, James got lobster and Peter got salmon. Over dinner they discussed the layout of the town, what things were like and what people had said about the school. They would need to apply soon if they were going to attend and move up there. The townhouse Pete lived in was soon going to have a couple of vacancies and he had already arranged for them to possibly take their places.

"It's mostly students… aside from me. I just moved in. Mom's place is kind of small. But I think I want a year off school before I start college," Peter said.

"That's fair," James said.

Sirius didn't exactly feel the same way. He wanted to get his life going as fast as he could. His real passion was photography but this community college certainly wouldn't help with that. Besides, he knew his art was never going to make him much money. But he didn't really know what the hell else he wanted to do with his life.

James wanted to design video games and was talking about majoring in computer science, at least for the two years they would be at this college before transferring credits to a proper university… hopefully.

After dinner, they shuffled off to a movie. Men in Black 3. It was that or Piranha 3DD, and while James seemed keen, Sirius and Peter protested. James couldn't believe Peter and Sirius had sided against him. Sirius sort of couldn't believe it either but found that he liked Peter.

From what Sirius had gathered, Peter didn't really have many friends. He seemed both quiet and desperate for approval. He could rotate from self-deprecation to self-promotion very quickly. Sirius did make sure to praise his art, even if he didn't really get any of the context.

After the movie he and James headed to their hotel. Sirius wasn't really looking forward to meeting James's new girlfriend or whatever she was, but he supposed he would manage. The weather said it would be a nice day. Maybe that would help.


 

Charity Burbage was insufferable, as far as Sirius was concerned. Oh, there was nothing wrong with her. She was adorable in fact. She was very short, with short curly brown hair, a bright smile and an infectious laugh. She seemed very smitten with James. But none of that stopped him from being irritated with her.

All day long she fawned over James, admired his every word, laughed at every other thing he said and… she was just so damn nice! What gave her the right to be so nice? No one was that nice. Not really.

She showed them around and took them to the beach. She was disappointed that they hadn't brought swim clothes and it turned out she was wearing her swimsuit underneath her clothes. She loved the beach and the sun. She explained how valuable it was to be ready to wear shorts on a sunny day, even if it was cool, which seemed ridiculous to Sirius who hated being cold.

"So what do you think?" James said, while Charity was in the restroom of the diner that they stopped in for lunch.

"The town is nice, I'll admit. Doesn't seem a bad place to live," Sirius admitted.

"No. Charity. What do you think about her?" James said.

Sirius considered his best friend's face. He looked pensive. His hazel eyes were giving him a hard stare, as if Sirius's answer really mattered.

"She's nice," Sirius answered honestly.

"Yeah. She's cute, isn't she?" James said.

"As a button," Sirius replied.

"The college looks all right, doesn't it?" James said.

"Yeah. I guess. I'm not exactly an expert," Sirius said.

"I don't know. Maybe this is stupid," James said.

Sirius did think it was sort of stupid but as the day had gone on he really was becoming enamored with the idea.

"I don't know. I think I'm becoming sold on it. It's not like I know what the fuck I'm planning on doing with my future. Maybe I'll major in history. It's pretty much the only subject I enjoy," Sirius said.

"What the hell would you do with a history degree?" James said with a sneer.

Sirius shrugged.

"I can do photography on the side," Sirius said.

"How can you photograph history? What are you going to go do?Go off and photograph archaeologists having an adventure in a mummy's tomb or something?" James said with a chuckle.

"Archaeology doesn't work like that! And no. I'm an artist," Sirius said firmly.

Charity returned from the restroom and sat back down.

"What's up? Do you guys like the town? It's gonna be like this all summer. Might get a little hotter, I guess. But I love lounging around the beach. Nothing like an ocean breeze on a hot day," Charity said rapid-fire, with an enthusiasm Sirius knew he could never match.

"Sirius likes the town. I think I do too," James said with a grin.

Charity wore a golden cross necklace that hung down to her cleavage. Sirius found himself distracted by how shiny it was but worried Charity would get the wrong idea. She was the upbeat sort of Christian, all about peace, love and acceptance, just like James. Sirius's family had been the darker sort of Christianity, fueled by bigotry and a fear of hell. It had put Sirius off religion in a big way. He supposed he was an atheist, though mostly he just didn't care.

"Cool," Charity said, her brown eyes wide with obvious attraction for James Potter.

"I guess we should look at Peter's place," James said and pulled out his phone, presumably to text Peter.

A short time later they pulled up to the townhouse. It was two-story and both sides were quite large and had their own driveways. It didn't seem terribly nice but Sirius couldn't afford much even if James could.

"I wish I could move you guys in. My roommate has been saying she'll move out for two years but it never happens," Charity complained.

Charity was twenty-one and starting college in the fall. After dropping out of high school she had only gotten her GED the year before. Sirius wondered if James was going to fall in love with her and eventually follow her off to whatever university she wanted to go to. Sirius wondered if he would follow or chose his own path. The idea of being away from James made him sad, and he banished these thoughts.

"Hey," Peter said as he went outside.

An older woman followed behind him. She was blonde and middle aged with a big smile. There were a lot of big smiles around there.

"Hello, there. I hear you're in the market for a couple of rooms," she said, looking between the three of them.

"Just me and Sirius," James said, gesturing at Sirius.

"That's fine. I don't rent to couples, though it's OK if someone spends the night here and there. I'm Olivia," she said, shaking everyone's hands.

Olivia and Peter showed them the place. The place had been built in the eighties, though it had seen significant renovations since then. Sirius counted seven people who lived there, four college students, Peter, Olivia and her teenaged daughter. Two of the college students were moving out in a few days. James brought Sirius outside to talk.

"Do we want to do this?" James said.

"Do you want to do this?" Sirius countered.

"Yeah. I think it could be fun. It's a resort town. It'll be like being on vacation all the time. And we've already got some friends. Peter and Charity seem all right," James said.

"I'd wager Charity thinks you're more than all right," Sirius said with a sideways glance.

"Really? I barely know her. I mean… we've chatted a little online but she's three years older than me. What does she need with a guy who just got out of high school?" James said.

"You're a babe," Sirius said with a grin.

James laughed and shook his head.

"Thanks? Anyhow… I don't know how I feel about her. I'm not doing this for her. I just think… I don't know. It's different. Away from the city. A quieter life. Furthering our education but not too intense. We can have some fun and you won't have to worry about your family," James said.

"You make some good points. OK. Fuck it. Let's do this," Sirius said.

"God. We haven't even applied to this college," James said.

"It's just a community college. Not like we're going to get rejected," Sirius said.

"True," James said, and pulled out his wallet, rifling through bills.

"Shit. Did you get that money out ahead of time?" Sirius said.

"Yeah. Just in case. I asked Pete how much the rent was for the two rooms," James said.

"I've got money. You don't have to pay for me," Sirius protested.

"You can pay me back," James said, though Sirius knew James well enough that he wasn't exactly going to be begging for the money back.

The two of them walked back into the house, Sirius too excited at that moment to allow himself to wonder if this was a mistake.


 Even though they had paid rent for a full month, they still didn't move north until after graduation. Before they could move there was one lingering thread that Sirius didn't want to leave hanging: his brother, Regulus.

He wasn't even sure how Regs had got his new number, but however he did, Sirius got a couple of texts from him asking to meet up. Regulus had apparently also moved out of home, living with a couple of older guys in Haight-Ashbury.

He found Regs sitting on park bench, smoking a cigarette. He looked like shit. His pale skin looked sickly and he looked impossibly thin.

"Regs… are you all right?" Sirius asked.

"Sure," Regulus answered, looking away.

His dark hair had really grown out, now quite long though it looked like it needed a good washing and brushing. Sirius sat down next to him. He wondered why he had wanted to meet in public and not at wherever he was living. Did he think Sirius wouldn't approve?

"So… how are things?" Sirius asked.

Regulus shrugged. He smelled of tobacco, marijuana and uncleanliness. It broke Sirius's heart.

"Fine. I just… I heard you were moving," Regulus said.

"How?" Sirius inquired.

"Andromeda. I begged her. I figured you would be taking off. To get away from mom and dad," Regulus said.

"How are they… mom and dad?" Sirius said, immediately regretting it.

"Mom's a bitch and dad's a dick. What else is there to know?" Regs sneered, taking a puff off his cigarette.

"Andromeda said dad isn't well," Sirius said.

"I guess. They can both rot," Regs said.

Sirius wondered what had happened to the sweet, polite boy he had once known. Regs had seemed the perfect son. It was like everything he had held in had finally exploded and this bitter shell was all that was left, not that Sirius disagreed when it came to their parents.

"So you're still… a boy or whatever?" Regulus asked.

"Yes," Sirius replied sharply.

"That's cool, I guess. Sirius is a cool name," Regulus said.

Regs grey eyes darted around. Everything about him seemed wrong.

"Regs… can I take your photograph? I… never really took that many of you before. I thought it might be nice to get one before I leave San Francisco."

Regulus nodded.

"Right here?" Regulus asked.

Sirius glanced behind them. The windows behind them said Drugstore in big letters. It wasn't open anymore but it seemed disturbingly appropriate given his brother's obvious poor condition. He knew his brother was on drugs. He wanted to ask but couldn't bring himself to.

"Stand against that window," Sirius suggested, pulling the camera out of its pouch, hanging from his neck.

"OK," Regs said and leaned against the window, beneath the words Drugstore.

Regs stared down the long hilly road, seeming genuinely lost as if he had instantly forgot he was posing for a photograph. He puffed on his cigarette and Sirius took the single photograph.

"Got it," Sirius said with a smile.

"Cool," Regs said.

"Listen… let me buy you lunch," Sirius said.

"Nah, that's OK. I just… wanted to say goodbye," Regulus said, sounding sad.

"I'm sure I'll be back to see you and Andromeda," Sirius said, patting his brother on the shoulder, not knowing if he would be comfortable with a hug.

"That'd be cool," Regulus said then turned and gave Sirius a hug.

Sirius pulled him tight, feeling crushed by the weakness of his brother's body. He wasn't OK.

"You should eat more, little brother. Stay in touch," Sirius said.

"I will, I will," Regs said, sounding more like he was telling himself than Sirius.

Sirius released Regulus. He took a few steps back then puffed on his cigarette. He nodded at Sirius while not really looking at Sirius and said, "See ya."

Regulus walked away and Sirius wondered when he would see him again.


Their first two weeks in the new town had not been all that fun. They hadn't been terrible but there were lots of things to take care in a short time, though James still found time for a date with Miss. Charity Burbage, who Sirius found more tolerable by the day, almost embarrassed by his previous dislike of her.

Sirius did get sucked into playing some video games with Peter which he found oddly exhilarating, if not utterly confusing. He found the lack of air conditioning maddening, even with numerous fans and the window open in his bedroom. He supposed it didn't make sense to have a/c in a place that spends a great deal of the year being fairly cool. On a hot day, he decided to take a walk. Even if it was hot outside, it still wasn't as awful as getting cooked in a stuffy room and there was that ocean breeze after all.

It was on that walk that he got the call. He didn't think much when he saw that it was Andromeda.

"Hey, Andromeda," Sirius answered.

"Sirius. Are you at home?" Andromeda asked.

She sounded upset. Something was wrong.

"No. I'm out for a walk. It's very sunny here," Sirius replied, nervous.

He heard Andromeda sigh.

"Sirius… It's your brother. It's Regulus," Andromeda said, sounding regretful.

Sirius felt himself go cold, like all the sunshine had suddenly been drained from the world.

"What happened?" Sirius said.

"He's had an overdose. Heroin," Andromeda said.

No, Sirius thought. This is bullshit. This isn't real.

"Sirius?" Andromeda said.

Sirius didn't know what to say. He felt like he was folding in on himself. He needed to sit down but he was on a sidewalk. He wasn't even sure where he was or how far from home he had gone. His eyes felt hot and he wanted to puke.

"Is he OK?" Sirius whimpered, feeling himself losing control.

"No, honey. I'm sorry. He's not OK," Andromeda said, starting to cry.

"Oh god," Sirius said, falling to his knees, clutching his phone in his hands.

A woman was jogging with her dog across the street. She glanced over at him momentarily, a casual observer to the breaking of his heart as he began to sob. He must've hung up at some point because his phone rang again.

"Hello," Sirius said.

"Are you OK? You should call James and have him pick you up," Andromeda said.

"I'll text him. Hang on," Sirius said.

He texted James, not bothering with correct grammar or punctuation.

"So… when is the funeral?" Sirius asked.

"Sirius… I'm so sorry. They already had the funeral," Andromeda apologized.

"What?" Sirius growled, suddenly filled with a mixture of pain and anger.

"I'm… I'm sorry. I only just found out today. They kept it out of the papers and didn't invite me. Even told my sisters not to tell me. But Narcissa finally caved in and confessed. They didn't tell me so that I wouldn't tell you. I'm… I'm so sorry," Andromeda said.

"So when the fuck did he die?" Sirius snarled, hot tears pouring down his cheeks.

Andromeda sighed again.

"The eighteenth," Andromeda said.

"The eighteenth but… I left town on the sixteenth," Sirius said.

Sirius felt ravaged in pain, feeling like his soul was being burned from his body. He remembered that day right before he left. How sickly his brother felt. He should've done something. He could've saved him. Made him get help. He could've insisted on seeing where he lived. He could've done… something.

"Sirius?" Andromeda said.

"I'm here," Sirius said.

A car door opened near him.

"Sirius," James said walking over to him.

"James," Sirius sobbed, wrapping his arms around his best friend's legs.

"What's the matter?" James said lowering himself, forcing Sirius to let go.

"My brother. My brother's… dead," Sirius said, hating how revolting that word sounded.

"God… Sirius," James said, his voice deep and soothing, clutching Sirius and letting him cry on his shoulder.

Eventually James helped Sirius get to his feet. Sirius said goodbye to Andromeda and promised to call her later once he was feeling less… whatever it was he was feeling now.

James drove him home in silence, Sirius feeling detached from reality, like everything was just a dream that he would wake up from. They went inside the townhouse. Peter was playing a game on the big screen TV while the teenager chatted with her friends at the dining table. Everything smelled like pot and it was hot as hell.

"Hey, Sirius," Peter said.

"Pete," Sirius said faintly, waving at him, just wanting to get to his room.

Sirius wanted everything and everyone just to go away. He wanted everything to be quiet so that he could be alone with his pain. But reality didn't bend to your will. The universe didn't care about your pain. Somewhere there was someone who was having the best day of their life while Sirius was having the worst day of his. But the universe didn't care. His pain was all just part of the natural order.

James led him to his bedroom. Sirius ran in and locked his door, not that anyone would ever barge in. He pulled off his shirt then removed his binder, just wanting to relieve the pressure. His window was still open. He pulled his shirt back on and fell onto his bed, turning away from the sunlight as he cried. He wished it was dark and cool. It felt like the sun and heat was mocking him, not wanting him to have his pain.

He cried and cried and cried. Even when it hurt he continued to cry. There were no thoughts, only pain. Eventually sunset came and his room began to cool, allowing him to drift off to sleep.

When he awoke the house was dark and silent. He closed his blinds but not his window. After rushing to the bathroom and back, he opened up his laptop. For reasons he didn't understand he opened up the photo he took of Regulus standing in front of the drugstore. He had chosen to post it online in black and white, just calling it Drugstore.

This is my fault, Sirius told himself. I could've done something. My fault. I saw it and I did nothing.

He knew those things weren't true but they felt true. It felt like somehow he had even killed him with the photograph. It was all that remained, like a tortured echo of a ghost. Regs was just a kid for fucks sake. This was bullshit. It wasn't fair.

Sirius closed his eyes. The universe doesn't care about fair. That's not how this works, Sirius. But how was he supposed to carry on? He didn't have the luxury of indifference. He had to live with this. He had to live with the memories, the regrets and the longing.

Sirius closed his laptop and stared up at the darkness of his ceiling. Perhaps, he deserved this. Maybe he did something and this was just payback. Or maybe it was something he would do. Maybe it was just who he was. Maybe he was a bad person. Don't be a selfish prick, Sirius. This isn't about you!

Sirius sighed. No… it was about Regs. But Regs didn't have to live with the pain of his death. Maybe he never knew. Sirius hoped his brother hadn't suffered. If nothing else, maybe he was spared the suffering. But he remembered the way his brother looked, forever captured in a photograph. No. He wasn't spared the suffering. His little brother hadn't done that to himself to make himself suffer but to escape the suffering. Trying to escape the suffering had killed him.

Sirius could feel himself growing tired. He wondered if he would feel better in the morning. Perhaps, he thought but he didn't think he deserved it. He deserved all of the pain and so much more. He swore that he would never stand idly by and let someone he loved destroy themselves again. But nothing would make up for Regs. Nothing.

Chapter Text

"What do you think?" Lily said, gesturing at the purple curtains that now hung in front of their living room window.

"They're purple," Remus observed.

Lily frowned.

"Yes, but do you like them?" Lily pressed.

"Sure. It won't be so bright, I guess," Remus replied, knowing that Lily would leave them open most of the time anyway.

"You hate them," Lily insisted.

"I do not! I am indifferent at worst," Remus said.

"Good thing, 'cause I am not taking them down," Lily said, plopping down on the couch.

Lily looked hot, her light-brown skin shining with sweat. She had spent all day cleaning and arranging things in their new apartment. Remus had helped but he always felt sort of confused and useless. He was perfectly happy to help out but he always felt like he just did things wrong, though Lily never gave him a hard time for anything.

"You want some ice water?" Remus asked his miserable-looking best friend.

Lily threw her head back and closed her eyes.

"That would be a-ma-zing," Lily groaned.

Remus dashed off to the kitchen, tossing three large ice cubes in a tall glass then filling it tap water. He brought it to Lily whose face lit up, taking it from him with glee.

"Thank you," she said, sipping it then setting it aside.

"No problem. You worked your ass off today," Remus said.

Remus sat down next to her, not feeling tired but not sure what else to do.

"Remus… Sev is coming over," Lily admitted and Remus's stomach suddenly felt tied up in knots.

Severus Snape was not Remus's favorite person, not by a long shot. He had never done anything to him personally, but Remus didn't like the way he sneered at him, the way he threw around slurs and insults and the way he acted almost proprietary over Lily. Everything about Severus screamed that he was bad news but Remus had never been able to point to any one instance of him stepping over the line.

And besides, Remus always opted to respect Lily's choices and autonomy. If she wanted to give time to the creep, it was her business.

"I figured Mary and Dorcas would be over," Remus said.

"They will… later. Sev wanted to come by before them," Lily said, setting her water down on the end table next to the couch.

Of course, he does, Remus thought. Severus didn't like Lily's girlfriend's much. Remus felt like Severus just wanted them to get out of his way. Hell, he probably wanted Remus out of the way too, and he was only her best friend.

"If you don't need anything else… I'll be in my room," Remus said, anxiety settling in.

"I'm fine. I'm gonna take a shower," Lily said, pulling herself off the couch and removing her dark-red hair from its ponytail.

"Have fun," Remus said with a small smile, then shuffled off to his room.

Remus's room was the only dark space in the house, as Lily preferred keeping all the windows open elsewhere. On warmer New Hampshire summer days, Remus was forced to open the blinds but he liked the dark and he didn't like people looking in on him as they walked by the apartment. It made him feel like a caged animal. It made him feel exposed. It made him feel anxious.

Remus hadn't always been so shy. As a small child he had been very outgoing, even if he was a little awkward and confused by social expectations. Even still, he often played by himself, dreaming up stories in his head, not because his reality was bad but because it was just how he was naturally wired. He didn't have imaginary friends, he had his stories and that was all that mattered.

His shyness and anxiety set in around puberty. Things got harder to cope with. The social pressures he struggled with when he was younger became exponentially worse and his grades suffered. When his parents moved to a new town, they were convinced things would get better for him, assuming he was being bullied, even though that wasn't really the case.

His new high school didn't feel any better than the old one and almost everyone was white, making a Korean kid like him only feel more out of place. But then there was Lily. Lily welcomed and befriended him. She introduced him to her girlfriends… and Severus Snape, a friend she had grown up with. Lily was mixed race too, Puerto Rican in her case. She was openly pansexual and polyamorous and Remus thought she was pretty cool.

Somehow, they became best friends, despite very different personalities. Sometimes Remus thought that Severus Snape didn't like him just because of that. He had considered other possibilities… he considered that Severus looked down on him because of his race or because he thought Remus was gay. Remus wasn't sure that he was gay, but it was fair to say he wasn't straight and he had made that obvious from time to time.

Remus sat down at his desk and opened his laptop. It was new, an eighteenth birthday gift from his parents just a few months back. He never would be able to afford such a thing by himself. The only reason he was able to help pay rent on this apartment was because of being on SSI for his anxiety.

Once it became obvious that Remus's anxiety was going to prevent him from holding down a job, his parents worked to get him approved. It hadn't been easy and the process had taken nearly two years. He'd been forced to stand in front of a judge. It had all felt so demoralizing. But it was good having some security, even if Remus hoped he wouldn't need the help forever.

Remus opened up iTunes and put on his headphones. Severus would be here soon and he didn't want to hear anything he had to say. He could just pretend he wasn't there. He supposed at some point he would have to get used to having Severus spending a lot of time in the place he lived but this was not that day.


"Seems small," Severus said, his dark eyes roaming around.

"Well, that's because it is. Remus and I don't exactly make a lot of money," Lily said.

"He's not living here for free?" Sev asked with a smirk.

"No. He insisted on splitting the rent, even though I know he's just going to stay in his room most of the time," Lily said.

Severus furrowed his brow.

"You shouldn't enable his laziness," Severus said.

"I'm not. I asked him to move in with me, knowing that he doesn't make a lot on SSI. I'm more than willing to sacrifice some of what I make for a friend," Lily declared, hoping her tone ended the subject.

"Fair enough," Severus said, though he didn't sound convinced.

Severus sat down the couch.

"This from your parents's house?" Severus asked, his hands exploring the upholstery.

"Yeah. It was my dad's actually. It's from the seventies, I think. Mom said it just made her sad so I went ahead and took it off her hands. I like it," Lily said, sitting down next to him.

Severus shrugged but didn't comment further, to Lily's great relief. She hated when he got judgmental like that. Lily turned on the TV then signed into Netflix on her Wii.

"You need to get something with HD. I bet I could get you a bargain on a Playstation 3," Severus said proudly, gracefully swiping his black hair out of his eyes as he leaned back on the sofa.

Severus was manager at a Gamestop, a position he was very proud of. Lily liked games, though the Wii and her DS were the only systems she had ever owned or really played. Mostly she played Pokemon and Animal Crossing on her DS. The Wii she used mostly for Netflix.

"I don't think I could justify the money on something I would never play games on," Lily said.

"It plays blu-rays too, though," Severus said with a grin.

Lily shrugged.

"I've got tons of DVDs already and I get most of them cheap. My DVD player is kinda old but it works fine… mostly," Lily said, thinking of at least one occasion where she couldn't get a movie to play.

"I mean, I could help you. I could pay half and you could pay me back whenever," Severus said.

Lily chuckled.

"That's very generous, Sev, but I don't think I need it. Look how small my TV is. HD would be a waste on it," Lily said.

She wasn't sure how large the TV was. It was a flatscreen LCD and maybe twenty-four inches. It was technically an HDTV but Lily figured she didn't know what she was missing. Her mom still had a old square tube TV that wasn't much bigger that Lily had grown up watching.

"I mean… it's better on your eyes. I'm just saying… I think you'd be surprised," Severus said.

"I'm not really worried about it. But thanks," she said, giving her friend a smile.

Severus smiled and nodded. Lily knew her other friends didn't care for Severus but he really could be a nice guy. He could be very giving, even though she didn't always want the help he was offering and he sometimes had to be persuaded to take no for an answer. He had a judgmental streak but she was hopeful that with time he would grow out of it.

"So what have you been watching?" Severus asked.

"Fullmetal Alchemist. I'm on Brotherhood," Lily said.

"Brotherhood sucks," Severus said.

"Really? I like it. I mean… I was thrown off at first, since I thought it was a sequel but once it got going… it's got a lot of great characters and the story feels more complex. It's just bigger. So many female characters, too," Lily said.

"The original was more fresh. The animation was better and I liked that it just focused on Ed and Al. Brotherhood has more action but it's got too much silliness, like I'm watching a kids's cartoon," Severus said, with a scowl and dismissive gestures.

"What's wrong with kids's cartoons?" Lily said with a frown.

"They're for kids," Severus said flatly.

"If you say so," Lily said, putting on Death Note, which they had been watching together, though Severus had seen it before.

Lily tossed the Wii remote aside and scooted over to Severus, laying her body against his. Severus wrapped his arm around her shoulders, lightly squeezing. Lily made a happy sound and said, "It's so nice having friends who are comfortable cuddling like this."

"Yeah," Severus said tonelessly.

Lily had long suspected that Severus was romantically interested in her. They'd had a number of conversations over the years where he maintained it wasn't a big deal and that being friends was good enough for him. But sometimes she still worried. She wanted to believe she could trust him to be honest or not assume more than he should. She cuddled with him just like she cuddled with Remus.

Being polyamorous didn't mean that she had romantic feelings for everyone. She did have relaxed policy on sexual partners, she supposed. Severus wasn't exactly conventionally attractive but his face had strong character and she found that appealing. Yes, she was definitely interested in him sexually but lingering concerns on her part kept it from happening. Every now and then he would drop hints or joke about it and Lily just laughed it off.

Lily yawned.

"Tired?" Severus asked.

"Yeah. Long day. And the girls are still coming over after you leave. And then I've gotta work in the morning," Lily said.

Lily wasn't proud to admit that she was a manager at the local Wal-Mart. Working for them felt icky but she needed money.

"That sucks. About work, I mean," Severus said.

"Yeah," Lily said, finding it hard to keep her eyes open.


Remus looked at all the open tabs he had in Google Chrome. There were at least twenty. It was amazing how easy it was to fall into a rabbit hole on Wikipedia. He could hardly remember where it started but he was currently looking at the article on Victorian literature.

He wiped his eyes and paused iTunes, cutting Florence + the Machines off mid-song. He pulled his earbuds out and listened. The apartment seemed silent. He supposed Severus must've left. His bladder was painfully full, held in for fear of leaving the room and having to walk past the Severus's gaze. He stepped out of his room only to find Lily and Severus on the couch together. Lily was sleeping with her head on his lap and Severus was scrolling through his phone.

Severus glanced up at Remus, giving him a look of disapproval then looking back down at his phone. What a creep, Remus thought, going into the bathroom. After taking care of his business he stopped to look at himself in the mirror. His honey-brown hair was getting long. He hated getting haircuts. The stylists always wanted to chat. Remus sucked at small talk. He didn't understand how people managed it. Lily was great at small talk. Remus was great at… hiding… keeping his head down… not getting in the way.

He sighed. He thought he should get back into his room. Lily's girlfriends would be there soon. He liked Mary and Dorcas but couldn't really deal with both of them at once. In a way, dealing with Severus was preferable. Severus mostly left him alone, aside from a few snide remarks and sneers. Mary and Dorcas actually liked him and would want to talk to him. It could sometimes just be too much for his anxiety.

It made him feel so bad, so stupid and pathetic. Why couldn't he just do it? It wasn't like the anxiety would kill him. There was nothing to be afraid of! He had talked to people online who had social anxiety. All of them were medicating to deal with it, some of them taking pills prescribed to them, others taking pills that weren't prescribed to them. Some drank alcohol or smoked pot to deal with their anxiety.

Remus was leery of anything that could be addictive. He had bad memories of his tyrant, alcoholic grandfather as a child. He was his mother's father and he had only died a few years before. Remus never wanted to be like him.

Pot wasn't that harmful per se, but Remus didn't like how it made him feel and he still preferred to keep his head clear. And it was illegal anyway. He'd consider therapy but finding doctors that took Medicaid wasn't easy, and the process of going to the doctor still required him to overcome anxiety, a bitter irony.

Remus sighed again, knowing he was stalling. Suddenly, there was a knock at the front door and Remus tensed up.

"Shit," he heard Lily say.

He listened as the front door was unlatched, unlocked and opened.

"Hey!" he heard Mary or Dorcas say.

Remus felt frozen. He messed up. Now if he dashed off to his room it would look like he was being rude. Dammit, Remus, stop being a coward, he scolded himself. He opened the bathroom door.

"Hey, Remus," Mary said.

Mary MacDonald was a cute girl with an athletic build, brown skin and short brown hair. She was high energy and friendlier than most people Remus had ever met before.

"Hey," Remus said, feeling compelled to approach, briefly flashing her a smile before looking down as he walked over.

"How are you?" Mary asked.

"Fine," Remus answered.

"That's good," Mary said.

Lily and Dorcas were talking about work stuff while Severus stood there looking annoyed.

"I'm gonna go," Severus said.

"Bye!" Lily said, patting him on the arm.

Neither Mary or Dorcas paid Severus much mind. In a twisted sort of way, Remus felt bad for him. He didn't like Severus but he did try to acknowledge him. On the other hand, Severus wasn't exactly friendly to them, so perhaps Remus was being too generous to him.

"Remus! Can I hug you?" Dorcas asked, smiling brightly.

Dorcas was a very short black girl with large brown rimmed glasses that made her brown eyes look huge. She was very affectionate, though always respected boundaries.

"Yeah," Remus said, surprised to find himself smiling.

Dorcas leaned up and hugged him tightly, while Lily grinned over her shoulder. The hug eased his anxiety a little but he still wanted to run.

Lily closed the front door and locked it up again.

"Geez. I didn't even get a hug," Lily said sarcastically.

Dorcas laughed and hugged Lily who let out an, "Oof."

Mary then came to their side and hugged them both. Remus chuckled and took that as his opportunity to leave, sighing with relief as he reentered his bedroom. He sat down at his laptop. He needed a distraction from all the evening's anxiety. He reached over to his DVD shelf, pulling off his DVD of Captain America: The First Avenger, which Lily had gotten him for his birthday.

Remus had never been into comic books or super heroes but he was enjoying the Marvel films and he and Lily had even gone to see The Avengers on opening day. The funny thing about his anxiety was that he could do a thing like that and it wasn't a big deal. There was no social pressure in a packed theater and everyone was focused on the movie, not each other.

Remus popped the movie in and tried to relax. He felt a little hungry but that could wait until Mary and Dorcas were gone.


"I'm sick of working retail. There's a lady working there who is three times my age. She has grandkids. She's been working there since when we were kids. How does she do it? I'm ready to pull my hair out," Dorcas complained, as she laid on the couch with her legs draped over the end and her head in Lily's lap.

"Then quit," Mary suggested.

Dorcas scowled.

"I can't just quit. I like having money," Dorcas said.

"Yeah, but you still live with your parents. They aren't going to throw you out. You'll have time to find another job," Mary said.

"I don't want to live with my parents, though. What do you think, Lils?" Dorcas asked with a pout.

Lily pouted back down at Dorcas, which made Dorcas laugh.

"I think… I think I'm tired of Wal-Mart. The work sucks. It feels soulless and just working for them feels gross," Lily said.

"You should quit too," Mary said, then laughed.

"Hey, I actually do have to pay rent," Lily said.

"Should've moved into the house I'm living in. It's great. It's a big house. Everyone gets stoned and plays video games. It's chill as fuck," Mary said.

"Yeah, but it's all college students. I would feel out of place. And I thought it would be cool to live with Remus. And if I lived in a place with a bunch of other people he would never want to come over. That would suck," Lily said.

Dorcas frowned and nodded in her lap. Mary also frowned and said, "Yeah. I get that. But you should come hang out sometime."

"Will do," Lily said.

"Are we quitting our jobs?" Dorcas asked.

"I don't know. I'm trying to save money. I want to move away someday. Somewhere… sunny," Lily said, smiling wistfully.

"Sun is nice. I just want to travel. I like the idea of going from place to place. Meeting different people," Mary said, leaning back and seeming to lose herself in a fantasy.

"I want security and comfort. That's it," Dorcas said.

"Fair enough," Lily replied.

"Are we quitting our jobs?" Dorcas repeated with a frown.

"You sound like you want to be given permission to quit your job, babe. Do it if you want to. Don't do it if you don't want to. We can all snuggle afterwards either way," Mary said, blowing Dorcas a kiss.

Dorcas giggled and Lily snorted.

"You guys are dorks," Lily said.

"Pfft, you're the dork," Mary said with a smirk.

"I think I'm going to quit my job," Lily said.

"I'm not. I can't," Dorcas said.

"But I need work. Wish there was something I was good at. Some in demand skill that didn't require more school. Lots of people work from home on their computers now!" Lily said with a pout.

"Could be a cam girl," Mary commented.

"Do they still make money? It's not like porn is difficult to find these days," Lily said.

"Sure. One of my roommates does it. She makes enough to pay her rent. You might need a part-time job too I guess," Mary said.

"Huh. I… never really considered that," Lily said.

"Well, babe, you've been eighteen for six months and were living with your parents for most of that," Mary said.

"You are pretty good… with sex," Dorcas said then giggled.

"Yeah, but I wouldn't be having sex. I would just be… like… masturbating," Lily said then laughed.

"It's more than that. Have you never watched a cam girl?" Mary asked.

"No. I have… very particular tastes in pornography," Lily said.

"Fair. But anyhow, you should watch. I mean… I'm not saying you definitely should do it. But it's an option and you clearly have some skill with sex and seduction," Mary said with a wink.

"Yeah," Dorcas agreed.

Lily could feel herself blushing and shook her head.

"You jerks are embarrassing me," Lily said.

"Awww," Mary said then wrapped an arm around Lily, squeezing her tightly then giving her a soft kiss on her cheek.

Lily giggled and winced, feeling goosebumps arise on her arms and legs.

"You two… I swear. If I weren't exhausted and didn't have to get up to go to that job I'm probably going to quit tomorrow, I would march you both right to the bedroom," Lily said.

"Shame," Mary said.

"Yeah. Instead, I'm going to kick you both out," Lily said, laughing as she stood up, forcing Dorcas to move.

"Rude," Dorcas said.

"Right?" Mary chimed.

Dorcas stood up and gave Lily a kiss, then went to the door, put on her shoes and left. Mary strode over and gave Lily a big hug.

"I really wish I was staying," Mary groaned in Lily's ear.

"Me too. But I really am tired," Lily said.

Mary pulled away, standing in front of her with a playful look on her face.

"That's not a problem for me. I could still show you a good time," Mary said.

"I know you could. Goodnight, Mar," Lily said and gave her a kiss.

"Night," Mary said, slid into her sandals and left.

Lily went to her bedroom, falling onto her bed face first in a hard flop.

"Ugh," she said, suddenly feeling too tired to even change into her bed clothes.

She laid there, considering Mary's cam girl suggestion. She decided she would do some research. It couldn't hurt, she supposed.

Chapter Text

"How is Sirius?" Charity said, as she walked along the sidewalk, arm in arm with James, autumn leaves falling around them and fluttering in the breeze.

James frowned.

"I don't know. If I'm being honest… we've barely spoken for months. Not because we aren't around each other. But… it's like he's not there anymore. He doesn't take even photographs anymore," James said.

"That sucks. Is there anything I can do?" Charity asked with a pained look on her face.

"Nah. I think he'll work through it in time. I hope. He's been sleepwalking through classes as far as I can tell. I haven't asked him about his grades but…," James said then shook his head.

This wasn't the way he thought things would go. Moving to this resort town was supposed to be a blast. It was supposed to be a way to let loose and for Sirius to unwind and escape the pain of his family. Instead, James was finding himself the one who was doing all the partying while Sirius suffered in silence.

"So, you're coming to the party tonight, right?" Charity asked, looking timidly hopeful.

"Yeah. Definitely," James said, giving his girlfriend a small grin.

"Cool," Charity said, squeezing his arm.

Things between him and Charity were wavering between fun and serious. He liked her a lot. She was fun and very sweet. Even though she was three years older, she didn't seem a day over sixteen, at least from what he remembered sixteen year old girls to be like.

They didn't have a ton in common but they always had a good time together. She was a pretty great kisser too. He didn't know if they had a future but James didn't even want to think about the future. In some ways, seeing how downtrodden Sirius had become only made him wanted to live life more. Regulus was younger than them and he was dead. Better to enjoy life to the fullest than wait for life to take you out. That was probably bullshit but James liked the way it sounded in his head.

They walked further along the sidewalk, until they had arrived in front of Charity's apartment building. Smiling up at him, Charity held his hands in hers.

"James… After the party, would you… Would you like to stay the night with me? Valerie's out of town this weekend," Charity said, her brown eyes wider and even more hopeful than before.

James gulped. Was Charity saying what he thought she was saying?

"Are-Are you sure?" James stammered.

"Yeah. I'd enjoy your company," Charity stated warmly.

"Yeah. OK. Sure," James replied and she leaned up, giving him a slow, sweet kiss.

She pulled away then stared up, positively beaming.

"Thanks," she said and gave him a wink, before heading up to her apartment.

James strolled back home, his mind fluttering and his heart pounding. He and Charity had been dating for nearly four months and the topic of sex had barely even come up between them. James liked to think of himself a gentleman. He didn't want to pressure women into sleeping with him. Certainly they had made out a great many times and he'd desired her more than he'd cared to put into words but he didn't press the issue.

He also wasn't sure if perhaps Charity was the sort of girl who believed Jesus wanted her to save herself for marriage. She was twenty-one but she seemed to take her faith at least a little seriously. And James loved him some Jesus but he wasn't sure Jesus cared so much about that sort of thing. James was all about the Jesus of love and goodwill to all mankind. Sex was fun and could be an expression of love, well, in theory anyhow.

James's prior experiences with sex weren't so special. His first time was rotten and the girl he did it with dumped him afterwards, which he thought was fair enough. But he was only sixteen then. He'd possessed more enthusiasm than knowledge or skill. He did some reading. He watched a whole lot of videos. He wanted to learn how to really please a woman, just in case it ever came up again.

He went down on a girl he dated for a while. He snuck through her bedroom window while her parents were sleeping. They were making out and neither of them had any condoms. She made the suggestion. It was just a little trade. He went down on her first. After bringing her to climax her parents woke up and he got the hell out of there, only a little bit disappointed she didn't get to hold up her end of the deal.

They broke up after that too. Not because of the sex. It was other stuff. James had probably been an ass about something. It was a bad habit. But he was trying not to fuck it up with Charity. This was his first adult relationship with an adult woman. And she was nice. Sure, every relationship couldn't be a one way street to happily ever after but the least he could do was put in in a good effort.

Charity would probably be the longest relationship James had ever had, if it weren't for Stacy Reynolds. They dated for two years… when they were both ten. They were basically friends who held hands a lot, not really a comparable experience.

When he went inside the house, Peter was on the couch playing a video game. Sirius was probably in his room. James wanted to reach out to him again but nothing ever worked. In some ways, it felt like he had lost Sirius. He always worried that he'd be the one lost in some pretty girl while Sirius stood there looking annoyed but instead Sirius… Sirius was just gone.

James approached Sirius's bedroom door. He clenched his fist, preparing to knock but… he hesitated. No, I shouldn't bother him, he thought. He exhaled and went to get ready for the party.


James laughed as Charity unlocked her apartment door, leading him inside. He was almost certain he wasn't high or drunk, though he'd definitely smoked a joint and drank a few beers earlier.

"Coffee?" Charity asked, turning on a tall lamp in her living room then gently kicking her heels off with a sigh.

"Yes, please," James said, flopping down on her sofa as she set her purse down on the opposite side of the sofa then went over to the kitchen.

James didn't usually spend a lot of time at Charity's apartment. Her roommate, Valerie, didn't like having guests over. It was a fairly small but otherwise nice place. It was clean and tidy in a comfortable sort of way. It wasn't like his mom and dad's place. He'd had many stern lectures growing up about not touching things and leaving things in their place. And God forbid if he actually broke something, which he often managed with ease.

"Did you have fun?" Charity asked.

"Yeah. The game was something else," James said, though football wasn't exactly his preferred sport.

"Yeah," Charity replied, the sounds of her coffeemaker growing loud.

Charity came back into the living room. She frowned and pulled off her socks, tossing them aside with a smile then wiggling her brightly painted toes that matched her hot pink blouse and skirt. James smirked as she plopped down next to him, giggling as she planted a soft kiss on his neck.

James turned and gave her a deep kiss. She tasted like pot and beer, though he supposed he did too. The coffee finished and she hopped up, shuttling over two mugs in a hurry. James liked his coffee black. Charity loaded her coffee up with so much sugar and cream he wasn't sure you could legally call it coffee anymore.

As James was quietly sipping his coffee, that was still very hot, Charity interrupted with, "Umm… James… I need to…we need to… I need to tell you something."

James smiled a Charity whose eyes were wide, her face seeming nervous.

"Yeah. What is it?" James asked, trying to stay calm.

"I've never done it before," Charity said, then exhaled, seeming relieved.

"Really? Huh. You're a virgin?" James asked.

Charity cringed.

"I don't really like the concept of virginity. I'm not holding onto anything and I don't have anything to lose. I've just… never particularly gotten around to that sort of thing before," Charity said.

"Oh. Huh. I guess I thought because you were older…" James said, gesturing with a hand towards her.

"Yeah… I don't know. I've never really done a lot of dating. I didn't even have my first kiss until last year!" Charity said, drinking some of her coffee.

"Huh. So um… Thanks for letting me know. I guess. Not that it matters to me. It's not a big deal. I mean, I'm not… I have… done it," James said, feeling himself blushing a little.

"Yeah, I know. No, it's just… I didn't want you… I know we shouldn't view sex as a performance but… I guess I just wanted you not to judge me too harshly. I mean… I masturbate! I watch porn! I am an owner of various sex toys and I know how to get myself off. But I still might… well, suck," Charity said then quickly added, "No pun intended."

James laughed, nearly spilling his coffee.

"No worries, Char, no worries. It's cool. Man, my first time… I promise you it was nothing to write home about," James said, then drank more coffee.

Charity laughed.

"Dear mom and dad, I had really terrible sex, love James?" Charity asked then stuck out her tongue.

James laughed again, nearly spitting out his coffee.

"You are such a goofball," James said.

"I try," Charity said, setting her now empty mug aside on an end table.

Despite the party, despite the laughter, and despite the coffee, James's intention was slowly drifting to the situation in his jeans. He could feel the desire raging through him, like his body knew he was getting laid. Oh shit, this is it, the real thing, his body screamed at him, his dick rock-hard and balls aching. He wondered what it was like for her. Was she aroused? Did it feel like she was going to explode if she didn't do something fast?

Charity slid next to him, giggling once more as she softly sucked on his neck, her hand now resting on his thigh. James poured the rest of his coffee down his throat, not caring how much it burned. He turned and their mouths met in heat and desperation. The sweetness of her tongue made him instantly take back everything he had ever thought about the sugar and cream she put in her coffee.

Charity moaned and her hand clutched him between his legs, surprising him. James laughed as she pulled her mouth away, rubbing him through his jeans with the palm of her hand. She got on her knees, tucking her skirt underneath her.

"Can I pull it out?" Charity asked with a bright smile.

"Who am I to say no to such a beautiful woman?" James joked as she undid his belt, button and zipper in succession, finally pulling down his boxers to expose his hard dick.

"That's a penis," Charity observed almost as if she was a doctor explaining it to a class then laughed, seemingly at herself.

"It is, in fact," James said as Charity tried to wrap her fingers around it.

"Seems thick-ish. Thicker than any of my dildos, at least," Charity said, dragging her pale fingers up to the swollen head of his cock, causing James to let out a soft moan.

"Yeah. It, uh, my first time… It was a mess. I couldn't get it to fit. I didn't really ever think I was big or anything because it's not long. And I didn't know anything about foreplay or lubricant. It wasn't… It sucked," James said then laughed.

"Aww. You poor babies," Charity said, her hand slowly stroking up and down the shaft.

"Yeah. She dumped me. I mean… not just because of that. But I guess it didn't help," James said.

"I'm not gonna dump you if the sex is bad, honey, don't worry," Charity said.

"That's a relief. So now what do we-" James started but was caught off guard by Charity leaning over, her mouth drifting to his cock.

"Oh," James said as her mouth wrapped around the head, feeling so soft, wet and warm.

James gasped and grunted. So this is why everyone loves getting head so damn much, he thought. Charity's head bobbed, her brown curls bouncing with her. James felt sort of heavenly.

Eventually, she pulled her away, getting back on her knees to smile at him.

"Bedroom?" Charity asked.

"Yeah," James said and Charity hopped off the couch and ran to her bedroom.

She quickly turned on a couple of a lamps then pulled off her blouse and removed her bra, leaving her golden cross necklace on as she always did, hanging between her boobs. James was pretty sure she showered with that thing on.

Charity came over to James and helped him pull off his tee-shirt. She rubbed his torso with her hands, tracing the lines of his lean muscles, before a hand drifted back down to grip his cock. James leaned down to kiss her, wanting to touch every part of her as his hands cupped her boobs.

Charity fell back onto her bed, sending a few of her stuffed animals flying off. James hopped out of his jeans and got on the bed, hovering over her as he kissed her. He kissed her lips, her cheek, her neck and nibbled on her ear lobe. He then leaned in and told her how badly he wanted to eat her pussy.

"That sounds… nice," Charity said, closing her eyes and tilting her head back, almost as if she was standing beneath sunlight.

James drifted down her body, making sure not to ignore her hard, brown nipples which he sucked in turn, making sure not to get himself entangled in her necklace. Charity giggled as he kissed over her soft belly and then pulled her skirt and panties down, revealing the dark, damp curls of her pubic mound. His fingers explored her as she spread her thighs. He liked the way she moaned as he gently stroked her swollen clit. She was more wet than he expected.

He kissed her thighs, teasing only for a moment before his tongue began to softly lap at her clit.

"Oh. Wow. Hmm," Charity moaned.

James knew he could do this part. He wanted to make Charity come. He wanted her to know that he could do that to her. It was a gift that could keep on giving, if they both wanted it to.

With patience, love and determination he did make her come. He loved the way her chest heaved with hard breaths and her lips quivered as her mouth hung open, letting out her deep moans.

"Oh, James. I could just sit on your beautiful face," Charity said, tapping his head then leading him back up to her face with a finger.

"That could be arranged," James said with a grin as she kissed him hard, slowly sucking on his bottom lip.

Her hand found his cock again, stroking it hard. His balls ached something terrible. He craved relief.

"You've got a condom? I mean I have some but…" Charity said as James slid off the bed, reaching into the back pocket of his jeans.

In a moment, he had slid the condom over his cock. She had pulled out an egg-shaped vibrator which she had lowered to her clit and turned on, creating a surprisingly loud buzz.

"Lube's there," she said, gesturing at the large clear plastic bottle on her night stand that he couldn't have missed if he wanted to.

James slicked himself up with a significant amount of lube then got between her legs. He felt like he couldn't breathe as he lowered the tip to her sopping hole, the feel of her heat through the latex very enticing.

"It's OK. Go slow," Charity said.

"OK," James said as he pushed gently inside.

"Oh. OK, stop," she said, as he had barely more than the head inside.

James froze, smiling up at her.

"OK. You can continue. Just go slow. Pull it in and out until it slides all the way in," Charity said.

James did just that, surprised by how quickly he did get inside. This was so much better than the first time. That had been so… uncomfortable and dry. This was… tight but wet and slippery. Charity was smiling with that sunshine look on her face again.

It felt so good. He wondered what it would feel like without the condom, if it was this damn good with one on. He could barely hold on.

"Mmm. That feels good, James," Charity breathed, her eyes closed and her mouth open.

James clutched her hips as he thrust into her, feeling himself sitting on the brink of ecstasy.

"You can come if you want. I want to see you come," Charity said, her eyes open and looking at him with great fondness.

James pounded harder. He could come for her. He could come hard for her. He could feel it building and burning inside of him. His insides clutched as his cock twitched hard.

"Fuck," James called out as he tried to keep thrusting.

"That's good," Charity said, reaching up to touch his face, leading him down to her face to kiss me as he still shuddered from his orgasm.

Their bodies pressed together, feeling hot, minus the cold metal of the cross that pressed against the center of James's chest. He felt tired, euphoric and so connected to Charity. The feel her of naked against him was so perfect. It felt right.

She pulled the vibrating egg out from between them, turning it off. James kissed her again, sweetly, softly and deeply. This was real. This was good. At that moment it felt like this was the only thing he ever needed. He was in love.

"'Sup, Char?" James said as he approached Charity.

She had texted him, asking him to come to the park. It was a miserable February day. They had barely spoken for the last few weeks. He knew this was coming. He didn't know why. He wasn't sure what he had done. He supposed he would find out now.

Charity sighed. Her eyes were puffy. She had been crying. Dammit, what was wrong?

"You're dumping me. I get it. Just… tell me why," James said, frowning and feeling a sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach.

"I'm not dumping you. You're dumping me," Charity said, sounding like she was going to cry.

"I'm pretty sure I'm not," James said.

"I've been cheating on you," Charity said, looking sad.

"Oh… Uh…" James said, suddenly feeling confused.

"I'm sorry. There's not really any sufficient excuses. I messed up," Charity said.

"I just… don't understand. I don't understand when this happened… or how," James said, surprised that he was more confused than angry.

"It started at Christmas. While you were at home in San Francisco. It was with Tom," Charity said.

"Tom? Who the hell is Tom?" James said, not feeling any less confused.

"You've met him. Tall. Blond. Blue eyes? He's been at a lot of parties," Charity said.

"You just described like eighty-percent of the white guys I've ever met, Charity. Next you'll tell me how he likes to say dude and bro a lot," James said sarcastically, rolling his eyes.

"That's fair. Anyhow… there's more… I'm… pregnant," Charity said.

"Wait, what? How?" James asked.

"I think you know how it works," Charity said.

"Yes but… we always use condoms," James said.

"Tom didn't a few times. He and I didn't," Charity admitted.

"Ugh… I think I'm getting a headache," James said, looking out at the park as he clutched his head.

There were families bundled up, the kids playing on swings and slides. They were all clearly having a better day than he was.

"I'm sorry. I… I should've said something… after it happened," Charity said.

"No, you should've said something before it happened," James corrected her.

"That's fair," Charity said with an nod as tears streamed from her eyes.

"So… so now what?" James asked.

"Now you yell at me. Tell me what a t-terrible person I am. It's what I de-deserve," Charity said, her words started to get broken up by sobs.

"You're not a terrible person, Charity. I just… I don't understand," James said, feeling light-headed.

"Aren't you angry?" Charity sobbed.

"I… I don't know. Sort of. A little. I just… feel like the rug has been pulled out from under me. I just thought you were going to dump me. I figured I had screwed something up," James said.

"No, no, you're wonderful," Charity pleaded.

James shrugged.

"I don't really feel so wonderful right now. So is this it? Are we done?" James asked.

"I think we have to be. I want to keep the baby. Tom doesn't want to be a parent. He's only nineteen. My parents will disown me if I show up unmarried and pregnant. They'd cut me off… They really support me and I'll need help with the baby. I don't know. I guess I could've lied and said the baby was yours but that just felt… so wrong," Charity said.

"It wouldn't have just felt wrong it would've been wrong, Charity," James said flatly.

"I know, I know. I didn't do that. I wouldn't have, I swear," Charity said.

"Charity… let me help you. I love you! I have money. I don't care who the father of your baby is. No, I'm not ready to be a father either, but sometimes you just roll with the punches," James said, placing a hand on her shoulder.

Charity looked down at the ground.

"James Potter, you are a good man. You're a better man than I deserve. I need… I need to sort all of this out and I can't drag you down with me. I've made a lot of bad choices over the years… I never should've dropped out of high school. I never should've… ran off. I shouldn't have been partying so much. I should've been studying instead. I shouldn't have cheated on you… I've gotta… clear things out. I need to straighten my life out. Probably somewhere away from here," Charity said.

James sighed but nodded.

"I understand, though I wish it didn't have to be this way," James said, urging himself to keep it together.

He didn't want to cry before he could get home and be alone in his bedroom. He could be strong, if only for Charity's sake. He was distantly aware that his phone was buzzing in the pocket of his jacket but he ignored it.

"Me too. Can… can we hug?" Charity asked and James embraced her as she sobbed into his shoulder, her pain pouring out and James felt his own tears falling as well, unable to be strong any longer.

James drove home with the radio off. He always thought heartbreak was something other people experienced. Something that didn't happen as long as you kept a positive attitude and didn't take things too seriously. His phone was buzzing again in his jacket. He would call whoever it was back when he was at home.

When he pulled up to the house there was an ambulance. He parked on the side of the curb, feeling panicked.

"James! Why didn't you answer your phone?" Peter screeched as he ran over.

"I was busy. What's going on?" James said, his heart racing.

"Sirius collapsed. I don't think he's been eating enough… or at all," Peter cringed.

"Is he OK?" James said.

"They're taking him to the hospital," Peter said.

"Get in my car. We'll follow them there," James said, quickly getting back into his car.


 

“James?” Sirius said, sitting up slightly from his hospital bed.

James reached over and placed a hand on Sirius’s hand, squeezing it. Sirius’s head tilted James’s direction, his grey eyes looking tired and worn down.

“They made me use my goddamn dead name,” Sirius said with a frown.

“I’m sorry, Sirius,” James said.

“It’s OK. I guess. They let me use Sirius once I explained. I’ve really gotta get it legally changed…” Sirius said.

“Have you been eating, Sirius?” James said.

Sirius threw his head back and groaned.

“You’re as bad as the doctors,” Sirius complained.

“No, I’m worse. I care about you. I love you. It hurts to see the ones you love suffer,” James said, his eyes hot and feeling like he had spent too much of the day crying.

Sirius closed his eyes and nodded.

“I know. I swear I wasn’t trying to starve myself. I just… haven’t felt like eating much. I fucked up. I wasn’t thinking,” Sirius said.

“You’ve gotta eat. Dammit, if you need help, just ask me,” James insisted.

“I will. I promise. Hey… where’s Charity?” Sirius asked, looking around.

“We broke up,” James said flatly.

“Broke up? What do you mean you broke up? When the hell did you have the time?” Sirius said with exasperation.

“Earlier. It’s not important right now…” James replied.

“Of course it is. My god, James. I’m sorry,” Sirius said, squeezing James’s hand and giving him a frown.

That meant a lot coming from Sirius, whose views on romance weren’t so rosy.

“Thanks. Now back to you…” James said.

Sirius groaned and whispered, “Shit. OK. Let’s talk about me.”

Chapter Text

Petunia should be here by now, Lily thought, looking up at the clock. She clutched her mother's hand. There was still some warmth in her. She wasn't gone. Not yet. She was only resting for the moment.

Lily called Petunia after their mother had the accident. She'd fallen down the stairs at home. She broke a leg, among other more minor injuries. At the hospital they also diagnosed her with a chest infection and gave her some antibiotics. After a few days it was clear that something wasn't right. She couldn't breathe and she seemed… wrong… off.

Another trip to the hospital and they had looked at her again. She had the flu, swine flu in particular and she had pneumonia. It wasn't good. Petunia was flying out but her flight had been delayed. Lily didn't want her to not be here. She didn't really want to see her sister but she wanted her to be there… before…

The doctors were doing what they could but things had gotten too bad too quickly. If only they'd known faster. If only Lily'd known faster…

She knew her mother would never allow her to blame herself for what had happened. But she'd been there. She'd had concerns.

I just need to lay down, honey.

Mom, you seem weak. We should go back to the-

I'm not going back to the doctor. I just need some rest.

Lily wondered what she could have done. Should she have forced her? She's a grown up, for God's sake. These questions plagued her every waking hour, even though the answers didn't matter. They didn't change the reality. She wasn't going to make it.

It felt so stupid. So random. Her mother wasn't that old, barely middle aged in fact. She wasn't exactly in perfect physical condition but she wasn't especially unhealthy either. This was the sort of thing that happened to other people. Other people suffer tragedies. One parent dying before she was even twenty that was just a fluke but two? That was nature taking a stab at Lily Evans, seeing what she was made of.

Dammit, you're acting as if she's already gone. Show some respect, Lily.

Lily wiped a tear from her eye on her shirt sleeve. She wished Remus was there. She could ask him to come and he would but she knew he would be miserable and Remus wouldn't try to impose on his own. Sev had offered but she promised she would visit him later. Petunia hated Sev and the last thing she wanted was a scene when…

Stop it, Lily. She's not gone yet…

Her girlfriends were both out of town, on vacation. It was spring and people did things like that. They both offered to return but Lily couldn't bear it. This was her pain to carry.

The sound of heels clomping on the floor startled Lily and she turned around to find Petunia's long, thin form behind her, covered in a long, brown leather jacket. Her face was a mixture of discomfort and shock. She looked like she was trying very hard not to cry. On top of her blonde hair sat a small hat that she quickly removed and sat down with her purse on a chair.

"Tuney…" Lily said and stood up.

"Lily," Petunia said, her eyes fixed on their mother and not her.

Lily wrapped her arms around her sister and squeezed her, finding Petunia cold and stiff. Petunia instead lightly tapped Lily's shoulders, as if they were nothing more than casual acquaintances or distant cousins.

"How is Vernon?" Lily asked.

"Fine," Petunia said coldly then went and sat down where Lily had been sitting.

Lily frowned and pulled another chair over to her bedside.

"How long?" Petunia stated.

"They don't know. She's been fighting but… She's getting weak," Lily said.

Petunia cast Lily a dark gaze. It was accusatory. She didn't need to say what she was thinking. She probably would with time. Maybe she wouldn't say anything yet. She would wait until after the funeral before sending Lily long emails about how she let their mother die. She would call her a sinner and a pervert but she would make it all seem like she was being so nice. She was only trying to help her see the light. Lily only needed to start going to church and be a good completely heterosexual Christian and stop smoking so much pot.

Petunia turned her gaze away at last, Lily' face probably having revealed that the message had gotten across. Lily pulled out her phone, looking at her last conversation with Remus. She could ask him to come but she would feel so bad. She sighed and started typing.


 

Lily was in the waiting Remus when Remus arrived. He knew as soon as he saw her. Her face was red and puffy, just like it had been when…

"Remus," Lily said and started to sob, her arms reaching out to him as he dashed over and quickly held her tightly.

She felt so heavy, her weight surrendering to his strength as grief poured forth. Remus felt tangled up in knots, wanting to cry with her but not wanting to lay that responsibility at her feet. He could cry for her grief later, in private without giving her any sort of strange guilt.

As the day continued Lily never fully stopped crying. There were brief interludes, including several involving her sister, Petunia but the crying always resumed before long.

Losing both of one's parents at such a young age seemed a cruel fate. Lily didn't deserve it though Remus supposed no one really did. These things happened. Sometimes they happened to terrible people and sometimes they happened to someone like Lily whose smile was so bright it rivaled the sun.

By the time they had made it back to the apartment Lily seemed thoroughly drained. Remus made her soup and a cup of tea. Lily was a coffee drinker but he thought she could use a little comfort from some chamomile. He had anticipated advising her against getting stoned but she declared her own lack of interest in getting high.

"I could get high and make it go away but it would just come back. I can't let the pain chase me around," Lily said as she sipped her tea.

Remus only nodded. He had done a lot of nodding and replying in the affirmative that day. He felt foolish and inadequate for the task. He had no personal experience in grief. Remus wondered if life would be better if you spent your childhood preparing for the reality of death.

Good morning, class. Today's topic is 'Everyone you've ever known or ever will know is going to die.'

No, perhaps not like that. Don't rub their faces in it. Don't traumatize them. But don't hide it either. Use stories about grief to teach them how to handle grief.

Remus recalled the death of a teacher he'd considered quite cruel in Junior High. He was mean to the students. Not many liked him. But when he died they cried. Remus hadn't understood. He didn't want to celebrate his death but he didn't feel especially sad either. It was more strange than anything else.

The same couldn't be said for his feelings about Lily's mom. He liked Lily's mom. He'd liked her dad too. His death had been difficult as well. Somehow this was worse, though. Her father's passing seemed like it was barely last week.

Remus sat with Lily until midnight. She finally dismissed him. He told her that she should get some sleep but she declined. She had too much on her mind. Remus gave her a hug and departed for his room. In the dark and quiet of his bedroom he finally cried. He cried for Lily. He cried for her mom. And he cried a little bit for himself.


 

At a half hour past midnight someone knocked on the door. Lily knew it was Severus before she even answered. He stood there looking aggrieved and despondent. Lily invited him in.

"How are you?" Severus asked as he gave her a hug, whatever resentment he might be feeling for her never having called him seeming to evaporate.

"All right. I've been better," Lily answered honestly, still feeling hollow.

She wanted to say that it was late and she wanted to be alone. She had sent Remus away because she knew he would stick by her rather than take care of himself. There was no sense in dragging him down with her. But here was Severus, stepping in to take his place almost as if on cue.

"Sit down, if you like," Lily said.

Severus nodded and sat down on the couch. Lily plopped down and scooted over to him, laying her head on his shoulder. She could allow herself this comfort. She could let herself be vulnerable to him right now. Severus put an arm around her and squeezed her tightly. Lily exhaled with relief and closed her eyes. She could rest her eyes for just a moment.


Lily awoke in bed and looked at her clock. It was almost one in the afternoon.

"Fuck," Lily groaned, then stretched and yawned.

She didn't remember coming to bed. The last thing she recalled was laying next to Severus on the couch. She slid out of bed and wandered out of her bedroom. Severus was lying on the couch, scrolling through his phone. Dammit, she should've let Remus know Severus was there.

"Hey, Sev," Lily said.

"Hey," Severus said, giving her a smile.

"I don't remember what happened last night," she said, hoping Sev would fill her in.

"I let you sleep on my shoulder for awhile then I eventually nudged you awake and suggested you go to bed," Severus said.

"Oh. Thanks," Lily said and went to the bathroom.

She decided to take a shower, hoping the water would make her feel more prepared for the day. When she came out of the bathroom, wrapped in only a towel, she could smell food emanating from the kitchen. She glanced inside to see Severus at the stove.

"Thought you might like some breakfast. I've never made vegan pancakes but it didn't seem hard," Severus said.

"Aww thanks. Have you seen Remus, by the way?" Lily asked.

Severus frowned.

"He left earlier. Said he needed a walk to clear his head," Severus said.

Lily suspected Remus wouldn't come home until after she let him know Severus was gone. It wasn't convenient having two of her best friends not really get along. She hoped someday she would be able to remedy that.

"OK. I'm gonna get dressed," Lily said and dashed off to her bedroom.

While getting dressed she took the time to respond to texts. There would be a lot of arrangements to be made over the next few days. Petunia was doing her best to shut Lily out of the process. In a way, Lily didn't want to make any of these decisions but she also didn't want to be shut out.

She also texted Remus who just repeated that he wanted to go for a spring walk, reminding her that it was good for him to get out of the house. Lily wanted to give him some sort of promise that Severus would leave before long but she didn't want to make a promise that might not be kept.

Severus served the vegan pancakes with strawberries. He'd done well for his first time. Whatever else he might be, Severus Snape wasn't a bad cook.

"Thanks, Sev. That was delicious," Lily said, rubbing her now full belly.

"No problem. I just didn't think you should have to do it yourself after…" Severus trailed off.

It was times like this that justified why Lily continued to be Severus's friend even if he occasionally could be a bit too judgmental and superior. He was always there when she needed him.

"Sev…" Lily said, reaching across the table and placing her hands on his very pale ones.

"Yes?" Severus said with interest.

"I… I just wanted you to know… how much I value you… value your friendship. I'm sorry if I… keep you at arm's length sometimes. I know you say you don't have feelings for me but… I've just never wanted to lead you on or hurt you, you know?" Lily said, feeling her heart swell with compassion.

"Yeah. I mean… there's no denying that you are attractive. I would have to be blind or a fool not to feel some attraction," Severus said with a smile.

Therein lied the rub: Lily did feel some physical attraction to Severus. She had a desire to experience physical intimacy with him. She loved him as a friend but not romantically. Romance was poorly defined, she knew. There was no objective definition of romance but by her definition she didn't feel whatever it was towards Severus. And moreover she suspected that Sev would never be fully comfortable with who she was. That was a deal breaker if true.

"Thanks. You're not so bad yourself," Lily said, saying the words before she realized what has about to happen.

Severus almost seemed surprised.

"Really? You're not just messing with me?"

"Why would I do that?" Lily asked with a frown.

"I don't know. I guess… Well, let's say that people haven't always…"

Severus looked down. Lily's heart poured out for Severus. He'd had a hard time. He grew up in an abusive household. It was another part of why she cut him so much slack even if he could be an asshole. If she'd gone through what he had she thought she might be an asshole too, though she supposed there was no way of knowing. Mary would've pointed out that her home life had been terrible and she didn't come out like Severus at which point Lily would've changed the subject.

"You're cute and that's the truth. I don't care what other people have said," Lily said honestly.

Severus smiled and looked up. It was perhaps the most genuine smile she had ever seen on him. Severus avoided vulnerability, probably another product of how he grew up.

"Severus… do you want to come around here and kiss me?" Lily asked.

She knew that she was the vulnerable one right now and she knew that he knew it too. But surely it was OK if they both knew.

Severus answered by swiftly getting to his feet and coming around to her. Lily leaned up into his mouth, her lips gliding over his soft ones with ease. She made a pleased giggle and kissed him again, her body fluttering to life as her heart pounded.

"Let's-" she started as she stood up, his mouth still trying to find hers as they backed up into the living room.

Lily fell back against the couch and gestured up at him towards herself. Severus climbed on top of her, his mouth hungrily finding hers again. Severus was a surprisingly adept kisser. He kissed her with passion and desire. The sort of kisses that made her want do the very sorts of things she hoped they were about to do.

She knew he'd had girlfriends in the past, however briefly, and she supposed he must've got some practice in. He wasn't nervous or fumbling like other teenage boys she'd fooled around with. He was intense but careful. He was on top of her without pressing his weight down, the hardness of his erection poking the roundness of her soft belly through his jeans.

He wasn't moving faster than he should be. She'd made out with her fair share of guys and a lot of them had a tendency to spend more time fondling her chest than she felt was warranted. Severus's attention was on kissing her, his hands on her shoulders, drawing her up to his mouth.

A quiet war waged in the back of her mind, all of her fears about Severus trying to reach the surface. But she wanted this. She wanted the intimacy. She wanted the friction. She wanted to feel desired if only long enough to mask the hollow pain inside of her. Her girlfriends were both planning on making it back for the funeral that weekend and, after all, how often had she fantasized about what sort of lover Severus would be?

"Sev… can you promise me… Will you promise me that if we do this you won't expect anything from me?" Lily asked, placing her hands on the side of his thin, angular face with affection as he looked down at her.

"Of course. I swear," Sev said, crossing his heart with a finger.

"OK. Let's go the bedroom," Lily said.

Severus slid off and rushed over to her bedroom, waiting for her to open the door and let him in. She turned the blinds up so that light could come in without anyone walking by and seeing what they were doing. Lily wasn't ashamed so much as she didn't want to offend anyone who might not want to see.

Lily tossed her tee-shirt off and Severus's dark eyes explored her chest, looking away when she smiled at him.

"It's OK. You can look. We're about to bone," Lily said with a laugh, pulling off her shorts.

"I'm sure you're used to guys staring at them," Severus said.

"I'm used to pretty much everyone staring at them," Lily countered and stepped over to Sev.

She grabbed the bottom of his tee-shirt and quickly pulled it off. She kissed his cheek then down to his neck, letting him feel her warm breath as her lips hovered and she kissed down to his chest that was only faintly covered in dark hairs. Her tongue flicked at one of his pale pink nipples and he shuddered.

"Are you nervous now?" Lily asked, noticing he was breathing hard and unmoving.

"No. I'm just… I want you so much I'm afraid to let go," Severus said.

"Heh. That's all right," Lily said and leaned into his mouth, her hands sliding up and down his back, pulling him in close.

She pulled away and spoke softly in his ear: "So what do you want to do to me?"

Severus seemed frozen.

"Too overwhelmed? Well, I'll tell you what I'd like to do. I'd like to wrap my lips around your hard cock," Lily said, fondling him between his legs.

"Oh," Sev said as she squeezed.

Lily dropped to her knees, quickly unzipping and unbuttoning him, sliding his underwear down then wrapping her hand around his cock. She was surprised to see how bright red it seemed. She slowly stroked it, twisting her wrist in a smooth motion.

"Is that good?" Lily asked as the circle of her fingers glided up and down the head.

"Yes!" Severus moaned.

Lily wrapped her lips around the head and began to suck hard, hoping to impress him with how deep she could take him without gagging. Sev's breath was ragged as she sucked him. She got a special thrill from getting such reactions from Severus given how cool and collected he normally was. She wanted to hear him squeal before they were done.

"Lily you'll-" Severus started and she pulled her mouth off as his cock twitched.

"Whew," Severus said.

"Am I that good?" she asked sticking her tongue out.

"Yeah," he admitted.

Lily hopped on her bed, gesturing at him to come hither. Severus pulled his jeans off and approached the bed. Lily spread her legs before him, her fingers sliding over her vulva, feeling her own wet heat. Two fingers dragged over her clit and she moaned. Severus seemed transfixed as if he was watching the most interesting thing that had ever happened to anyone ever.

"Will you go down on me? Please," Lily said, her hips rocking slightly as her fingers continued to slide over her flesh.

"Yes," Severus breathed and dropped onto the bed.

He immediately dove between her thighs to her surprise. His tongue lapped at her hole, worrying her for almost a moment that he was finding her clitoris elusive, no matter how swollen it was at the moment.

"You taste so good," Severus said as he then flicked his tongue over her clit, making her shake and moan.

Her fears were quickly assuaged as Severus lapped at her clit like it was the only thing in the world that mattered. He had little trouble bringing her to a rather potent climax. He offered another but she'd had enough of the empty ache inside of her.

"Fuck me," she said as Severus kissed her, her own tartness all over his mouth.

"I don't want to hurt you," Severus said.

"There's lube and I'm pretty horny right now. I wouldn't worry," Lily said.

"Yeah, I guess… I just mean…" Severus said glancing between his legs.

Severus seemed to be implying that he had an expectation that she would be intimidated by his size but personally she thought he seemed quite average. It wasn't really something she was worried about either way but she decided to move on and get out a condom and the lube. Both were applied in short order.

Severus took it slow which she appreciated but at the moment she was just ready to go.

"It's OK. Really. Just fuck me," Lily said

Severus still looked skeptical but he pushed, sliding all the way in as Lily moaned. She kissed him as he slowly thrust. His thrusts were long and deep, giving her the pleasure of the relief that came from being stretched and filled in repeated vivid detail. His face was intense and enthralled. He was disappearing in the moment, lost in eroticism.

"Oh, that's good Sev. Just like that," Lily said, biting her bottom lip.

Severus arched his back, lifting his head up in apparent ecstasy. Whatever she had thought fucking Severus would be like it wasn't this. She let out soft moans with every deep thrust. It felt so good and she could feel orgasmic tension rising again, an unusual feat considering she wasn't even touching herself.

Just as she was about to ask him to speed up he started to do so. She could no longer resist and reached between her thighs to lightly stroke her clit with her fingertips. Severus looked down at her with a mixture of love, lust and longing as he continued to increase the speed, providing her with the friction she desperately wanted.

"God, Sev. You're gonna make me come again… Can you come with me?" Lily asked, seeing how intense and erotically on edge he appeared.

He nodded.

"Fuck me hard," she begged and Severus started to slam into her as her fingers rapidly flicked over her clit.

"Shit. Oh shit. Oh. Ohhhhh," Lily moaned.

Severus's mouth slowly widened as his thrusts became fast but inconsistent. He almost looked like he was going to cry as he squealed in pleasure, calling out her name as they climaxed together.

"Yes. That's good. Come with me," she moaned as Severus's face twisted, as hips shaking as she clamped down on his twitching cock.

"Ohhh fuck!" Severus moaned through gritted teeth.

They resisted relaxing and letting go of the moment for as long as they could, Severus still thrusting until his cock was finally too soft to remain inside. At least they let go, Severus collapsing next to her while she basked in euphoria.

Lily slowly came back to reality. Her mind began to race over the things that needed to be done. She could feel the pain creeping back in. She checked her phone. There were angry texts from Petunia who seemed bothered that Lily wasn't trying to interfere with her attempts to take control of the whole process. And just like that she began to cry.

"Lily?" Severus said, confused.

"I'm sorry," she said through sobs.

The floodgates had opened and she couldn't stop. Severus didn't seem to know what to do. He looked uncomfortable, like he would rather be somewhere else.

"I… I don't understand. Everything was fine," Severus said.

"This isn't about you, Sev. My mom died," Lily reminded him.

"I'm sorry. Maybe I should go…" Severus said.

"No. You're fine. I just need to cry."

Severus went quiet and let her cry. She could already tell something had changed but she wasn't sure what. All the other things she was feeling were in the way of that sort of clarity of thought.

Eventually the tears subsided and she lay there quietly, waiting for the other shoe to drop. The front door opened. Remus was home.

"I guess I should go," Severus said.

"Why? I'm not kicking you out," Lily said.

"We're just friends. Feels sort of weird hanging around after…" Severus said.

Lily frowned.

"We've cuddled before. I mean usually we're clothed but… I mean… if you want to go you are free too. But you don't have to," Lily said.

Dammit, she thought. She could see it all over his face. Disappointment and regret.

"What's up? You look bothered. Talk to me," Lily said, not wanting him to leave with anything unresolved.

"It's nothing," Severus said, sliding out of bed and looking for his clothes.

He was reverting back to his coolness, wanting to hide whatever it was. But suddenly he turned around, looking angry.

"No, that's a lie. It's not nothing. I… I don't understand. I thought… I thought we shared something there," Severus said, pointing at the bed.

"We did. We shared a really special moment. It was good. It was fun. It was… comforting," Lily said.

"But did you feel something?" Severus urged.

"I felt a lot of things. I always feel lot of things when I have sex, especially with someone I care about," Lily said.

Severus turned his nose up, his nostrils flaring.

"Was it like it is when you are with… them?" Severus said, refusing to actually mention her girlfriends directly even though the implication was clear.

"Sex is different with everybody. I like having sex with friends. I think it's better when you have a close relationship with someone. And it's always different," Lily said, refusing to tell him things that weren't his business.

Away in the kitchen she heard the refrigerator door close. Severus flinched then tossed his head back and asked with disgust, "Have you been with him?"

Lily sighed.

"It's none of your business who I've slept with, Sev," Lily said, feeling herself becoming angry.

She had never had sex with Remus and as far she knew he was mostly into guys anyhow. But she wasn't going to give Severus information just because he asked for it.

"Don't you think people who have sex with you have a right to know something like that?" Severus asked.

Lily sat up, pulling her blanket over her nudity, suddenly feeling less comfortable and more exposed.

"What are you talking about?" Lily asked, knowing damn well what he was talking about but wanting to see if he would admit to it.

As it happened he wasn't willing to admit it and just sneered instead. Lily sighed and shook her head.

"Why are you being like this, Sev? This isn't you! This is ridiculous," Lily said.

"Is it ridiculous? Is it so ridiculous to not want to be used?" Severus said.

"I… was not using you. Don't you dare turn this around on me," Lily said, reaching out of the bed for her tee-shirt and sliding it on.

"Of course you were. I knew what you were doing," Severus said, pulling on his jeans.

"Oh really? Well, fucking enlighten me, Sev. What was I doing?" Lily said as she pulled her shorts back on.

"You just needed someone to help you stop hurting. You used me. I was just here. You know how I feel about you and you used me anyway," Severus said.

There was truth to the idea that she had wanted comfort but the rest of his accusation was bullshit. Sure, perhaps she was in denial about his feelings but he had put up a good effort to hide them.

"I… I asked you if you would expect anything. You promised," Lily sneered.

"And you believed that? You knew better. You're not stupid, Lily," Severus said.

"I cannot believe you. You lied to me," Lily said, feeling tears coming on.

"Spare me. You knew what you were doing. Of course, the truth is that you do have feelings for me. That's why this upsets you. You know that I know how you feel just as I knew that you were using me. But something changed… we made love, Lily. I know you felt it," Severus said, almost like he was begging her to admit he was right.

"No. Nothing changed for me except I've learned what an asshole you can be," Lily said.

"Me? I'm an asshole?" Severus replied, seeming repulsed by the accusation.

"Yes. You had sex with me, knowing I was vulnerable because my mother just fucking died, you lied when you said you wouldn't expect anything from me and now you are trying to tell me how I feel. Dammit, Sev, I love you… as a friend. Nothing more. I' m sorry if that hurts but you need to hear it. I'm just not interested in you that way," Lily said.

Severus looked hurt for half a second but his face twisted into rage.

"Of course, not. How silly of me. Lily Evans is too special and unique to want to do anything normal, like fall in love with a man, get married and have a family. She doesn't want to have a real job or a real relationship. She just wants to screw and play around and let gross old perverts jack off to her on the internet for money. You can't bear the thought of being normal and fitting into society," Severus said, his voice cold and almost growling.

Hot tears fell from Lily's eyes.

"You sound like Petunia. No… I take that back. You sound worse than Petunia. Get out," Lily said through gritted teeth.

Severus seemed shocked and wounded.

"What are you doing? Get out!" Lily said, stepping forward, fully prepared to make him get out if need be.

"If that's how it's going to be," Severus said and turned then left the bedroom.

Lily followed him out into the living room and watched him put on his shoes then leave. As soon as she locked the door she collapsed to the floor in tears.

"Lily," Remus said, instantly at her side, unsure where he had come from.

Remus didn't ask any questions. He just held her again. She wasn't ready for that inevitable conversation where she admitted to him and her girlfriends that they were right about Severus. And besides she was still hoping it was just a bad dream. If she waited he would call and apologize. She was sure of it.


 

Three weeks passed without so much as a peep from Severus Snape. He didn't even show up at the funeral, which probably hurt more than anything else. After everything… all the years… Everything they'd been through. Did it really all come down to Severus not getting what he wanted when he wanted it?

She decided to call him. She was surprised when he quickly picked up.

"Hey," he said.

"Hey. How are you?" Lily asked.

"All right. You?" Severus replied.

"OK. I guess," Lily said.

Silence followed for a moment. She was hoping he would finally burst out with an apology.

"You didn't come to the funeral," Lily stated.

"I'm sorry. I had to work," Severus said.

Lily wasn't sure if she believed that but she didn't press him on it.

"So… Are we still friends?" Lily asked.

"I guess," Severus replied, seeming preoccupied or disinterested in the topic.

"You guess? After everything? I've known you since we were kids, Sev," Lily said.

Lily wished she didn't want to give Severus another chance but the thought of not having him in her life hurt and she was afraid of feeling that. What if the wound never healed?

"Maybe everything wasn't what I thought it was. Maybe I just hoped you'd grow up and see what was in front of you," Severus said.

Lily inaudibly sighed and shook her head.

"Are you really saying that if you can't be my boyfriend you don't want to be my friend?" Lily said, not knowing why she didn't just tell him to fuck off and hang up.

Why wouldn't he just take it back? He couldn't meant these things.

"The truth is that I'm too good for you," Severus said.

"You don't really believe that," Lily said.

There was silence and to her surprise he said, "No. I don't. But maybe I should. Maybe I should exercise a little more self-worth rather than chasing after someone who would rather have her head in the clouds than keep her feet on the ground."

Lily felt exhausted by the pain and anger she was feeling. It took all of her restraint not to just tell him to go fuck himself.

"Sev. I think… I think you're going to regret this. I know you're… feeling a lot of things right now. But don't burn this bridge. We've been friends for so long. Maybe we should just… take a break. Let things cool off."

Another pause for silence.

"Sure," he finally said.

"Maybe we'll touch base around the fourth of July?" Lily suggested.

"OK," Sev said.

"Good. That's good. OK. I… guess I'll talk to you then… then," Lily said.

"OK," Sev repeated and hung up.

In her heart, Lily knew it was over. She knew when the fourth of July came around that she would have to contact him, not the other way around. She felt so guilty that she couldn't let him go. He had been such an intrinsic part of her life for so long. Losing Severus was like losing a part of herself. It wasn't a perfect part of herself but it still felt irreplaceable.

Remus, Mary and Dorcas would be pleased by this turn of events but none of them would say so. Lily set her phone down and decided to have a lie down. She had done far too much mourning lately.

 

Chapter Text

Footsteps woke James up. It was the sound of bare feet moving across hardwood flooring. James opened his eyes, sunlight filling his vision. He groaned and looked around. For a moment he was disoriented, unable to remember where he was. He'd gone to a party last night. Nice house on the beach. There had been lots of drinking and smoking pot.

James looked down at himself. He seemed to have misplaced his clothes at some point. Hot tub. Yeah, everyone got naked in the hot tub. And some got naked out of the hot tub too.

Footsteps approached him. Suddenly a tall, thin pale but tanned woman with short, spiky bleached blonde hair stood above him, also naked. She had piercings in unconventional places. She looked sort of athletic.

"You awake?" she asked.

"I guess. Do I know you?" James asked, trying to stand himself up.

"No. You were at my party last night. Everyone left this morning but… I don't know. You seemed so peaceful on the floor," she said and walked away.

"Have you seen my clothes?" James asked as he pulled to his feet.

"Any clothes that were lying around got taken. You got robbed, dude," she said.

James wanted to sarcastically ask if her clothes had also been stolen but he didn't want to offend her.

"So uh… I'm James," he said, looking around to see if she was wrong about the clothes.

This place was nice. Nicer than he realized the night before. All the furnishings were made out of real wood. Things were polished and shiny. She had many shelves of unusual knick-knacks and a fair amount of books. She had significantly sized flatscreen TV. At the moment she was tidying up. She straightened up cushions and wiped off countertops.

"Petrova," she said, walking over and offering a hand.

"Petrova Porskoff," she added.

"Pleased to meet you, Petrova. Is there a bathroom around?" James asked.

"No. Just piss off the back porch," Petrova said with a smirk.

James looked shocked for half a second but relaxed once she laughed. She pointed him in the direction of the bathroom and he shuffled off. At the very least he was glad he had his glasses.

Upon leaving the bathroom Petrova was standing in the living room holding a bundle out to him.

"If you want some clothes. I mean I'm a nudist so it doesn't bother me but I guess you might want to be able to leave here," Petrova said.

James took the clothes from her. It was a plain white tee and and a pair of shorts that barely fit him.

"That's the best I can do. None of my shirts are really designed for such… broad shoulders. Shorts were an ex-girlfriend's," Petrova said as she walked into her kitchen.

"It's… fine. Have you seen my phone?" James asked, suddenly panicking.

Petrova reached over to the kitchen bar and shook his phone in her hand. James went over and grabbed, saying, "Thanks."

"No problem," she replied.

The phone was dead, of course. James remembered something else: he hadn't driven there.

"Shit. I'm going to have to walk home," James said.

"Yikes. Some friends you've got," Petrova said with a snicker.

"Yeah, except not really. They aren't friends. Just some guys I play soccer with. They said there was a party off the beach and I didn't ask questions," James said.

He supposed those guys were all at school right now. James got another sinking feeling.

"Fuck. School! It's Monday!" James screeched.

"It's one in the afternoon, friend. I'm pretty sure you've missed it," Petrova commented as she fried some eggs.

"Ugh. I don't think I'm going to get as many credits as I should have this year," James said.

"What's your major?" Petrova asked.

"Software development. I want to be a game designer. I thought it would be a good background to have," James said, leaning against the doorway of the kitchen, trying very much not to admire her well-toned bottom.

"Dude, if you want to be a game designer why are you even in this town? Are you a townie?" she asked.

"No. I… God, it's stupid…" James said.

Petrova laughed.

"You tell me your stupid story and I'll tell you at least five of mine," Petrova said, turning and winking at him.

"There was a girl…" James said and cringed.

"Isn't there always?"

"I suppose. And my best friend'd had a hard time with his parents. I thought it would be good for him to have a change of scenery," James said.

"Portland is a change of scenery. Or Seattle. Actually, have you been to Olympia? I wanna move back to Olympia…"

"I've been to Seattle… as a kid. It's been a while. No, I've never been to Olympia. I don't know. I just… it seemed like the right decision at the time."

"Eggs?" Petrova said as she plopped them onto a plate.

Toast popped out of her toaster, startling James.

"Sure," James said.

"Hope you like runny yolks," Petrova said.

"It's all good to me. Thanks," James said.

Petrova placed the toast on the plate and gestured at the stick of butter and butter knife behind her.

"So, is it still the right decision?" Petrova asked.

"I don't know. I do like it here. I like being close to the ocean," James said.

"Me too," Petrova said.

James ceased chatting to eat his eggs and toast. This was all sort of strange and surreal. A woman he didn't know was casually standing around naked and making small talk with him while she served him eggs. And he… sort of was enjoying himself.

Petrova finished another set of eggs and toast and gestured at James to follow her into the dining room, which looked out over the water, access to the beach via stairs.

"So this is your place? It's nice," James said.

"Yeah. Thanks. The mortgage is killer," Petrova said, taking a big bite of buttered toast.

"What do you… umm… do?" James asked.

"Whatever I want," Petrova said with a wink making James laugh.

"Fair enough," James said, mopping the last of his egg yolk up with a bit of toast.

"No, I'm an orthodontist," Petrova said.

"Really?" James asked, not expecting that.

"What? I feel like I should be offended. Do I not look like an orthodontist?" Petrova asked with a raised eyebrow.

"You don't look old enough to be an orthodontist," James said.

"Oh well, I can't be offended if you're gonna flatter me. Now I don't want to tell you how old I am. You'll run screaming," Petrova said with a soft chuckle.

"No, I won't. You seem cool regardless of how old you are," James said with a grin.

"OK. I'm twenty-four," Petrova said with a sigh.

"I mean that's about what I thought but… that's not old. And also too young to be an orthodontist… Actually you can't be any younger than-"

"I'm thirty," Petrova cut him off.

"Oh. Well, you don't look it," James said.

"Thanks. You look… nineteen," Petrova said.

"I am," James said.

"You can still see the baby fat in your cheeks. Past the awkward stage of life and into adulthood," Petrova said.

James tugged on his cheeks. They didn't feel fat to him. Petrova laughed and shook her head.

"So… you live here alone? No girlfriend?" James asked.

"No, just me. I never move boyfriends or girlfriends in and I'm not seeing anyone right now. I'm bi, by the way. To be clear," Petrova said.

"Oh. Sorry. I mean… That's great… I mean… I'll be quiet," James said.

Petrova cackled.

"You're so cute, dude," Petrova said.

"Thanks. I guess," James said, feeling himself blush.

"You can relax. I'm not easily offended," Petrova said.

"Oh. OK. I mean… I hope I'm not offensive," James said.

"So what about you? A cute guy like you must get lots of attention," Petrova said.

"I go on dates but I had a bad breakup a few months ago. I've just been trying to enjoy myself," James said.

"Nothing wrong with having fun and getting laid," Petrova said, scooping up their plates and taking them to the kitchen.

"I've been doing more of the former than the latter," James said, though in truth he hadn't been doing any of the latter.

"That sucks. Sex is important. It's healthy. Good for the body. I read that they tied prostate cancer to not having enough sex," Petrova said.

"Really? I'll… have to look that up," James said, failing to see how the body could know the difference between having sex and masturbating.

"Yeah. It's just… really important for all your systems and hormonal regulation," Petrova said, raising her voice over the sound of running water.

"I mean… I like sex. But I just like to… let it happen. I don't want to be that guy who is just trying to get girls into bed," James said.

"Is there something wrong with wanting to get someone into bed?" Petrova asked.

"I mean… I don't know. I suppose I hadn't thought about it too hard. I just don't think it's OK to pressure a girl into having sex with you or pretending you care about her just to get laid," James said.

"Obviously. But I mean, if sex is what you want I don't think there's anything wrong with being upfront about it," Petrova said, the dishes now in the dry rack.

"Yeah. But like… how can you know you won't make someone uncomfortable? You can't just go up to a girl in a bar and ask if she wants to have sex with you," James said.

"No. Don't do that! That's weird and creepy. But there are certain contexts in which it is OK to raise the subject, especially if you both already know you're looking to get laid," Petrova said, plopping down on her couch.

James followed over and sat down on the opposite end while she pushed her butt against the arm rest, sitting with her arms wrapped around her knees and her head resting on her arms.

"But when? Unless you're like… on Craigslist or a dating site where you can say you're looking for casual sex I don't see how it's appropriate," James said.

"Don't ask strangers for sex. If the situation is formal or business, don't ask for sex. But if you're like… Having an nice conversation with someone good looking. You can just… put out the hook. Just make a casual mention of sex without any sort of implication attached. See if they take the bait. If not, you move on. If they do then you can keep testing the waters. You can't guarantee you won't offend them if you lay out the invitation but you can at least make sure the topic doesn't make them uncomfortable."

"Oh," James said, realization dawning on him.

He realized that he had in fact taken the bait when it was offered but he was curious if she would lay out more.

"Ideally you just want to get a feel for whether they are game. And to be frank, when you've done it enough times you get good at reading people," Petrova said.

"Yeah. I suppose. I guess I'm not good at that," James replied.

"You can learn. With practice. If you want," she said.

"I don't know. I don't… I don't see myself ever just going out and pursuing it for the sake of it but I wouldn't mind… I wouldn't mind… not missing chances," James said, feeling flustered and knowing that if he got an erection right now there would be no hiding it in the tiny shorts.

"So, yeah. I can take you home if you want. Unless you would rather stay and hang out with me," Petrova said.

James's heart pounded. He wondered if this was all really happening.

"I… I think I'd like to stay and hang out with you," James said.


 

"Jesus," James said, breathing hard and staring up at the ceiling.

"Where?" Petrova asked, tilting her head back and forth as if actually searching for the messiah.

They both laughed. This was different, James thought. He had just had sex… no… that didn't do it justice. He had just gotten fucked. She was nothing like Charity. She was like a hurricane of sexual intensity. It also couldn't be discounted that she was older and had experience.

The only question was what happened now. He barely knew her. What were the expectations? He liked her and wouldn't mind getting to know her better but… this wasn't the intended relationship path.

Luckily Petrova cut right to the chase: "So to be clear, I'm not looking for a boyfriend. I don't know what's in your head but… just to be clear. I mean… I know we talked about this earlier… before. But sometimes guys get weird after."

"OK. That's… fine. I mean… I wouldn't mind hanging out again. You seem cool," James said with a grin.

Petrova laughed.

"You're all right. But yeah we can hang out. I just want to set some clear boundaries. I don't really date. I have really intense relationships that last a few years and then bad breakups follow and I lose my appetite for romance but not my appetite for… well, you know," Petrova said then stretched.

"I can tell," James said, laughing as he realized how sore every part of him, even his cock, was right now.

"Wanna take a run?" Petrova asked.

"Are you serious?" James said.

"I always like to go for a run after sex," Petrova clarified, standing up from the bed.

She did some stretches at the side of the bed while James laid still, feeling baffled. He supposed he couldn't really let himself be upstaged by someone eleven years his senior and he stood up, removing the condom then dashing to the bathroom.

Once he came back she was dressed, wearing grey sweatshorts and a matching sports bra that served as top. James quickly got dressed and they were off running. James didn't know the area all that well. There were lots of nice upper-middle class houses and a few houses that looked quite wealthy indeed.

He wasn't sure where he found the energy needed. His legs felt a bit like jelly. It wasn't easy to keep up with Petrova. Several times he tried to start up conversation but she stayed focused. There was something almost ritualistic to the process. James thought he had never seen anyone more alive than Petrova Porskoff. He bet she slept like a rock, but only after using up every last drop of energy she had.

An hour later they were back at her doorstep, James felt like he could barely stand but Petrova seemed tired but still enduring.

"Shower?" she asked.

"Yes, please," James said.

Petrova had a shower easily large enough for two people. The sort that was made of stone with a showerhead that felt like strong rain. James had never showered with a woman before. He was faintly surprised that Petrova stuck to business and didn't let things get sexy. But still when they stepped out of the shower she smiled at his hard-on.

"Damn, I thought I had drained all the come out of you," she joked as they dried off.

"Guess not," James said.

A short while later, they were back on the bed, breathing hard.

"Another run?" Petrova said.

"What?" James said.

"I'm kidding," Petrova said and they laughed.


 

The rest of the semester was filled with parties, Petrova and no regrets. James thought it was kind of nice to just hang out with Petrova, sometimes for sex and sometimes just to watch sports together and get high. There was no pressure involved. No stakes or expectations. Petrova was something simple in his life.

He wasn’t really surprised to learn he failed to get the number of credits necessary for the year if he wanted to remain on track to get his degree in time. He supposed he would be stuck in this town a little longer than he intended. Sirius hadn’t managed it either so neither of them would be holding back the other.

Petrova had urged him to push himself and not just give up at the end of the year the way he had but James felt more and more that enjoying his life to the fullest was the best way to be. He did vow to try harder next year, since there was no point in wasting his parents’s money.

“So when do you ever go back to visit your parents? I love San Francisco,” Petrova said while they had commercials muted during a tennis match.

“Well, Christmas is important,”  James said.

“Pfft. I’m Jewish,” Petrova pointed out.

“Fair enough. But it’s more about… the family traditions than the religion thing,” James said.

“That makes sense. I’m not really close to my family. It’s not that we don’t get along. I just think… We’re different people,” Petrova said with a slight frown.

“They really aren’t into orthodontics?” James joked.

Petrova chuckled and shook her head.

“Nah. They’re just… They like folk rock and I like dance, hip-hop, and electronica. They don’t like sports. They don’t watch movies. Ever. Actually, they don’t own a TV. But it’s not like… they don’t care that I’m bi or anything. They’ve met all my girlfriends. Hell, they’ve gotten along with most of my girlfriends better than they do me,” Petrova said with a shrug.

“My parents were older when they had me. Almost middle-aged. They’re kind of… very serious people. But so kind. When Sirius ran away… They did everything they could for him, even accepting him as their own. I always feel like I’ve never been a good enough son. I’ve never taken school as seriously as I should. Nothing’s changed. I know I must be a disappointment. But that’s not what they say. My mother tells me what a good man I’m becoming. And maybe I am growing up. But I wish I could be… I wish I could be better… for them,” James said, wiping his eyes which were feeling a little damp.

“That’s bullshit. I mean, it’s nice to want to please your parents, but you should want to be better for you. Because ultimately you are the one who has to live your life. You’re young. You have plenty of years to have fun and enjoy your life ahead of you,” Petrova said.

“But you-“

“I’ll admit I did my fair share of partying at your age. But you know me. I can’t settle and relax. But my point wasn’t to shame you or make comparisons. I’m just saying… Be the best you that you can be for yourself. The ones who love you will just be happy to see you succeed,” Petrova said.

“You’re probably right,” James said.

“Only one way to find out,” Petrova said with a wink, unmuting the French Open which was now back from commercial.


 

“Ah! Shit!” Peter shouted, having just been killed in Mass Effect 3.

James was sitting next to him on the couch absorbed into his 3DS on which he was playing Paper Mario: Sticker Star. Peter was playing the male Commander Shepard but James personally preferred the female Shepard.

“What difficulty are you on?” James asked, only briefly glancing up.

“Insanity. It’s not easy,” Peter said.

“It’s funny. After beating Mass Effect 3, I never felt like replaying it,” James said.

“Have you played the extended cut?” Peter asked.

“Nah. And I wasn’t bothered by the ending. It was a little disappointing but I wasn’t really that shocked. Maybe they’ll do better next time,” James said.

“They need you, right?” Peter said, popping James on the arm, making him smile.

“Hey,” Sirius said, coming behind them and leaning over the back of the couch.

“Hey, man. What’s up?” James asked.

“Nothing. Just seeing what you guys were up to,” Sirius said.

Sirius had seemed a lot better since hitting rock bottom back in February. Perhaps, it was the summer or perhaps the heart needed time to heal. He still wasn’t doing any photography but at least his mood seemed better.

“Playing video games,” James said.

“Well, obviously. Oh shit, Peter,” Sirius said.

“Fuck!” Peter almost squeaked as Commander Shepard’s life was snuffed out once more.

“So you’re not hanging out with Petrova tonight?” Sirius asked, coming around the couch and sitting down next to James.

“Nah,” James said.

“So are you two dating or what?” Peter asked.

“We’re friends,” James replied.

“But… you’re boning her,” Peter said.

James frowned at Peter.

“You can have sex with someone you aren’t romantically interested in,” James countered.

“That sounds like bullshit. Maybe. Like a one-night stand. But if you keep going back, that’s a girlfriend,” Peter said.

“No it isn’t,” James said.

“Then how is it different?” Peter asked.

“I’ll admit I’m curious. I mean… You know how I feel about the whole business. I don’t even really get it. I don’t understand what romance is even supposed to be,” Sirius admitted.

“On my first date with Charity I felt… I felt like my stomach was literally filled with butterflies. And I didn’t even think anything was going to happen. I didn’t realize it was a big deal until I just… felt it. I didn’t even care about having sex with her. I just wanted… She just felt… Special. And I wanted to feel special to her too. It’s hard to explain if you’ve never felt it,” James said.

“It’s different for me. I think they go hand in hand and I think anyone who thinks they don’t isn’t being honest with themselves. You can’t tell me you didn’t have any dirty thoughts about Charity from the moment you met her,” Peter said.

James paused Paper Mario and set his 3DS in his lap.

“Sure. I had thoughts. But that wasn’t what was driving me. The butterflies were in the driver’s seat not my dick,” James said, feeling a little irritated.

“So you’re letting your dick drive with Petrova?” Peter said.

“No! We’re friends! We hang out. We shoot the shit. I do a lot of the same shit with her that I do with you guys. Except she’s more interested in sports than you too,” James said.

“You don’t fuck us either,” Peter groaned.

“Jealous?” James said.

“Fuck off, man,” Peter said, laughing hard.

“I’ve never felt butterflies. Sounds distressing,” Sirius said.

“It’s hard for me to imagine anyone not wanting to have sex. I always want to have sex. Even if I’m sleeping,” Peter said.

Sirius shrugged.

“It’s not that I don’t… get turned on or anything. I just… I can’t imagine being that comfortable with someone. I understand like… thinking someone is hot. Like just because I think Lee Pace is hot doesn’t mean I’d want to fuck Lee Pace. I don’t know Lee Pace,” Sirius said.

“Who is Lee Pace?” Peter asked.

“He was on Pushing Daisies. He’s gonna be in The Hobbit,” Sirius said.

James privately admitted that Lee Pace was good looking enough for a guy but didn’t want any accusatory comments from Peter.

“The girl in that was cute,” Peter said.

“Which one?” Sirius said.

“Both of them,” Peter said.

“So, Peter… would you really like… if say Scarlett Johansson just knocked on the door right now and wanted to have sex with you, would you do it?” Sirius asked.

“Hell yes, I would. Why wouldn’t I? How could I live with myself if I didn’t,” Peter said.

“James?” Sirius added.

“Me? I don’t know. I don’t think she’s my type. Maybe if we could hang out and it felt like there was chemistry. I think to be honest, I would be freaked out if a celebrity ever randomly knocked on my door. But no. I don’t think I would have sex with her in that situation,” James said.

“But isn’t that basically what happened with Petrova?” Peter replied.

“No! We talked for a while. And even once it was obvious where things were going we didn’t just rush into it. Once she asked me if I wanted to stay and hang out… I mean we must’ve talked for nearly an hour before anything happened after that. We talked it over,” James said.

“I mean… I know I sound like some sort of pig,” Peter said.

“Oink,” Sirius mocked.

“But honestly, it’s not that I’m a horndog just trying to get laid. It’s just that I really want both. I want a girlfriend and I want sex. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” Peter said.

“There’s nothing wrong with just wanting to get laid. I think it’s about honesty. Don’t tell a girl you love her to get her into bed,” James said.

“I would never do that. Shit!”

Peter died again in Mass Effect. He set his controller aside and took a drink of his Mountain Dew.

“I should hope not,” Sirius said.

“I think most people just want their needs met. Love and sex are basic needs,” Peter said.

“I don’t agree. I don’t think my life is any less rich for lack of romance or sex,” Sirius said.

Peter just huffed and started playing his game again.

“Do you feel like you need them, James?” Sirius asked.

“Hmm…”

James leaned back in thought. He remembered the good times with Charity. Snuggling together on the couch. Going on walks and holding hands. Staying up all night to text each other. Making love and vaguely talking of plans for the future. That feeling that she was slowly becoming a part of him and he of her. He felt a tug at his heart and he banished the thoughts.

“I don’t know if I need it. But I do think… I’m drawn to it. Even though I’m afraid of another heartbreak. Petrova was saying how she lives in this cycle of intense relationships then long periods of single life after big heartbreaks. I think maybe she’s a stronger person than me. I can’t imagine ever feeling the pain I felt after Charity again,” James said, wiping a stray tear from the corner of his eye.

Sirius gently rubbed James’s arm and gave him a supportive smile.

“As for me… I guess never say never but I don’t think I need it. I’ll admit the prospect of heartbreak doesn’t make it any more appealing,” Sirius said.

James’s phone rang. He pulled it out of his pocket and answered.

“Hello?” James asked.

“This is James Potter?” the voice on the other end said.

“Yeah. Who is this?” James replied.

“Edward M. Johnson. Your mother and father’s attorney,” he said.

James felt suddenly anxious. He’d met Mr. Johnson a few times but they’d had few personal interactions.

“Oh, right. What’s up?” James said.

“I… have some bad news, James. Your mother and father have passed away,” Johnson said.

“What are you talking about? I just spoke to my mom last night,” James said.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Potter. I really am,” Johnson said and then proceeded to explain how a gas leak in the old home that they lived in had resulted in their deaths from suffocation over night.

“They probably didn’t suffer much at all,” Johnson finished.

“Everything all right, James?” Sirius asked.

Peter swore again, dying in the game for the umpteenth time.

“No,” James said.

“Excuse me?” Johnson said.

James turned to Sirius.

“Everything isn’t all right. My mom and dad are dead,” James said, then quickly covered his mouth as his eyes filled with hot tears, the reality of the situation barreling forward.

“What?”

“Oh god, James.”

James wasn’t sure what Peter had said or what Sirius had said. Johnson was still talking but James couldn’t focus.

“I’ll call you back,” James said.

“All right. We have a lot to talk about when you’re ready,” Johnson said.

They said goodbye and hung up. James felt his chest heaving. His cheeks were wet and he kept a hand clamped to his mouth. He looked at Sirius. He was crying too. That put him over the edge, his sobs finally erupting.

And just like that, he felt two pairs of arms around him, holding him tightly as he wept. He felt just like he did when he was five and got lost at the mall. A nice woman had stayed with him while they tried to locate his parents.

We’ll find your mommy and daddy, I promise.

The words echoed in his mind. He had never been so scared or cried as hard as he had that day, at least until now. He felt so afraid and so very lost. He sobbed like a child. Hands rubbed him. Possibly Peter or possibly Sirius or perhaps both. He pulled his arms around them, urging them closer. He knew they might be afraid to suffocate him but it was OK right now. He was a lost scared child and he just needed to feel safe until…


 

Petrova called the following morning, wanting to see if he felt going to the gym with her.

“I’m sorry, Petrova. I’m not feeling well,” James said.

“No, it’s cool. I’m sorry you’re not feeling well,” she said.

“It’s… my parents died,” James said, wondering when it would stop feeling like saying those words was killing them over and over again.

“Oh my god. James… that’s terrible,” Petrova said.

“Yeah. Funeral in San Francisco this Sunday,” James said.

James wanted to see if Petrova wanted to come along but he didn’t want to seem out of line per their relationship. But as it stood right now she was a good friend and he desperately wanted to be surrounded with friends.

“Do you want me to come? I don’t mean to impose but… I had a friend who died in High School. She got hit by a drunk driver. I remember how hard it was. It was good to not be alone… to just have my other friends there and… sharing our grief,” Petrova said.

“That would be nice,” James said, feeling relieved he didn’t have to ask her.

“I can help pay for a hotel,” Petrova offered.

“That’s OK. My parents place has enough rooms for us all and a few cousins,” James said.

“When are you planning on going down there? I’m off work Friday,” Petrova said.

“We’re going down Friday morning. I’m not sure when I’m coming back. I know Sirius and Peter won’t leave my side. You might have to drive yourself down there and back if you don’t want to miss work,” James said.

“That’s not a problem. I’m just happy to help,” Petrova said.


 

“It’s big,” Petrova said, her voice echoing.

“That’s what she said,” Peter whispered.

“I heard that,” Petrova said.

“Shut up, Pete,” Sirius said.

“It was my great-grandparents house. Passed down to my dad after his parents died. And now it’s mine I guess,” James said.

His parents had left him most everything, though they rightly assumed he wouldn’t want control of the family business. Otherwise most of the their holdings and property would go to him, to determine what to do with.

“You gonna move back down here and leave me and Sirius up in Oregon?” Peter asked while James opened blinds where he could.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do. There’s going to be a lot to take care of. I might have to spend more time down here. Especially when it comes time to sell the house,” James said.

“You’re going to sell your family home?” Petrova said, sounding sad.

“I’m thinking about it. I don’t really need a place this big. The taxes would just eat through all the money they left me. I’m not sure San Francisco is my future. I’m more drawn to Portland or Seattle,” James said.

“Fair enough,” Petrova said.

James felt that at any moment the thin ice that was protecting him from his emotions would crack. He never had been much of a skater. He sighed and rejoined the others in front of the stairs.

“Sirius can have his old room. I’m taking my parents room. Peter and Petrova can take whatever other rooms you want,” James said.

They walked up the stairs. Petrova ultimately chose his old room while Peter took one of the spares. While the others settled in, James wandered into his parents room. He’d already had their normal cleaners clean the bedding and he’d had a new mattress brought in. Otherwise everything was as his parents left it.

Both had books left on their end tables. His mother had copies of the New Revised Standard Edition of the Bible and The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. His father had political non-fiction only. All the President’s Men, The Audacity of Hope, The Shock Doctrine and The Autobiography of Malcolm X, all of them with bookmarks in various places. It was very like his father to read four different books simultaneously.

James checked to make sure none of them were library books. It would be easy to miss things like that. He wouldn’t want to get a bill for a million dollars when he was eighty-five all because he never returned his father’s library book.

James tapped the top of the books. He would donate the books to the library.

“Dad, won’t be finishing them,” he said to no one.

He blinked as tears fell from his eyes. James turned and closed the bedroom door. In silence he fell to his knees at the side of their bed and prayed for the first time in a long time.


Petrova opened the door as soon as James knocked. She had chosen to spend the night in his old bedroom. She was wearing the shirt and shorts she had given him to wear on the day they first met. They fit her marginally better.

“Hey,” she said.

“Hey. What’s up?” James asked.

“I’m watching True Blood. It was on. Apparently new season starts this weekend,” Petrova said.

“I’ve never seen it. I gather that it’s really violent and sexy,” James said.

“So far. It’s kind of ridiculous but there’s not much else is on,” Petrova said.

James sat down on his old bed next to her.

“I just wanted to say how much I appreciate you coming down here, Petrova. You never even met my parents,” James said.

Petrova shot him a small smile.

“It’s not a problem. I take my friendships very seriously. A few years ago I flew to Germany to attend the wedding of an old college friend. I hadn’t seen her in years and we had barely spoken in all that time. I didn’t know her fiancé. But I went because I take bonds seriously. If we ever lose touch, it doesn’t matter. If you ever need me I’ll be there,” Petrova said placing a hand on his shoulder.

“Thanks. You mind if I sit here for a little while?” James asked.

“It’s your room, dude,” she said with a grin.

It was nice to chat with Petrova while they both half paid attention to HBO. By the time midnight rolled around Petrova finally turned the TV off.

“Enough of that,” she said.

“Yeah. Vampires, man,” James said.

“They suck,” Petrova said then chuckled at her own joke.

“That’s the first time anyone has ever made that joke,” James said.

“Probably. So umm.. Listen. If you want… you’re welcome to umm… I guess I’m trying to say that if you were looking for a certain sort of physical comfort I would be amenable,” she said.

“Nah. I don’t think that’s the sort of comfort I need. Thanks for the offer, though. Goodnight, Petrova,” James said.

“Goodnight, James,” she said with a warm smile.

James wandered downstairs, wanting a snack before bed. There was already a light down there. He heard soft sounds. Crying. He slowly walked in there to find Sirius crying at the kitchen sink.

“Hey, James,” Sirius said as James came behind him and wrapped arms around his shoulders.

“Hey, buddy,” James said.

“I’m sorry. This is stupid. I don’t mean to take away from your pain,” Sirius said through choked sobs.

“You’re not taking anything away from me. You were like a son to them, even over such a short time. You have every right to grieve,” James said.

“OK,” Sirius said, letting out a series of hard sobs.

“Just let it out, buddy. Let it all out,” James said, knowing that it was advice he could use himself.


 

The rest of the weekend played out in a blur as relatives arrived and the funeral took place. James delivered a eulogy having written it in tears Saturday night. He didn’t even try to keep himself together. What was the use of keeping a strong image? Why was it strong not to cry? Crying made him feel better. It gave a path for his emotions to take instead of burying themselves deep and filling him with pain. He thought crying was strength, not weakness.

No matter how much he cried the pain would never truly go away. James thought a lot about the last year. Moving to the Southwestern Oregon coast, Sirius’s brother dying, his entire relationship with Charity, all the partying, his burgeoning friendship with Petrova, failing to get as many credits this year as he should have. He thought of his future and everything he wanted to do with his life.

Petrova was seated in his parents living room, quietly reading something on her Kindle. Sirius and Peter were visiting Sirius’s cousin Andromeda and her family who had also attended the funeral at James’s invitation. James went and sat down next to her and she set the Kindle aside.

“Hey,” James said.

“Hey,” Petrova echoed.

“I think it’s time to straighten my life out. I’m going to take a year off school,” James said.

“Really? That’s… not what I expected you to say,” Petrova said, making a confused face.

“I need to make sure I don’t halfass taking care of my parents’s estate. I mean I’m not moving back down here. But I want to not have to split my focus. If I don’t have to worry about school I can come down here and handle things. I could hire people to do everything for me but… I want to do as much as I can myself. I think I need to,” James said resolutely.

“I mean, you could still take some courses,” Petrova suggested.

“Nah. I’d rather get a part time job or something. Something to keep me busy so I don’t have to sit around all the time. Build some of my own savings. I think I’m done with partying too. Maybe just for very special occasions,” James said.

“That’s fair. Moderation is good,” Petrova said.

“I guess aside from partying my weed and alcohol intake is pretty moderate though. I’m sure getting stoned every now and then isn’t going to ruin me,” James said.

“Probably not,” Petrova replied.

“So a year off. Then fall of next year I’ll start back up with a clear mind, some of my own money and a desire to be the best me that I can be,” James said, feeling better already.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"Charity?" James said.

There she was in the grocery store, putting some grapes into a basket.

"James! Hey!" Charity said then set her basket down and quickly gave him a hug.

"So… how are things? I haven't seen you in a year and a half," James said.

"I'm good. I just moved back into town a couple of months ago. I wanted to contact you but… After everything I didn't think you'd want to talk to me," Charity said.

"Of course I would. So how's the baby?" James asked with a smile.

Charity cringed.

"There isn't one. I… I didn't keep the pregnancy. I changed my mind. I just… I went to stay with my parents and I really thought about it. I had been so busy thinking about how my choices affected everyone else and I asked myself what I wanted. I wasn't ready to be a parent. I thought I had made up my mind but I hadn't. Of course, Tom seemed relieved when I told him. Which kind of irritated me but whatever," Charity said.

James wasn't sure what to say so he just nodded.

"So what about you? What've you been up to? I can't believe you're still in town," Charity said.

"Yeah… It's a long story. I mean… I guess you know I wasn't exactly acing all of my courses. And then… my parents died," James said.

"Oh, James. Oh no," Charity said, clutching his forearm with sadness on her face.

"Yeah, it was hard. I took a year off school to take care of things but I'm back in classes now," James said.

Charity frowned and said, "Well, I'm glad you're OK now. We should hang out sometime. Catch up."

"Yeah," James said.

James had an impulse to ask if she was seeing anyone but banished it. He didn't want to be the sort of person who chased after old exs.

"You got the same number?" Charity asked.

"Yep," James said.

"Me too. I'll call you sometime. I promise," Charity said and gave James another hug.


 

Remus was lying shirtless on his bed, melting in the heat of his bedroom when he heard Lily shout in the living room. He quickly pulled on his shirt and ran out. Lily was holding some papers in her hands and looking shocked.

"Remus! Remember my Great Aunt who died back in July?" Lily said, her green eyes intense and wide.

"Yeah," Remus said.

Shortly after the fourth, Lily got a call from a cousin informing her that her father's aunt had died and that she was in the will. Lily hadn't known the woman well since she lived all the way in Oregon and was therefore surprised she would've been in her will. She apparently had few other surviving relatives.

"She left me her house! Her actual house!" Lily said, shaking the papers.

"R-Really? That's… weird," Remus said.

"Right? Oh my god, I have a house! In… Oregon," Lily said, making a puzzled face with that last part.

"I'd sell it," Remus said.

"Yeah. I could… Either way I'll probably still have to go out there to look at it and handle things. But… what if I didn't sell it? What if I just… moved in?" Lily said.

"I don't know. I mean… you could. But it's not like you know anyone out there," Remus said.

"You could come with me," Lily said, taking a neutral tone, which Remus took as her not trying to seem like she was saying he had too.

"I could. I'll admit that I'd love to see the Pacific Northwest. I've always wanted to visit Seattle," Remus said.

"I'd rather see Portland. But we could check out Seattle sometime," Lily said.

"I mean… you should look at the house at least," Remus said.

"I'll have to. I'll fly out there," Lily said.

"I'm not flying," Remus said, throwing up his hands in protest.

Remus had always been anxious about the idea of flying. He knew that he had been on a plane as a kid when he went with his parents to South Korea for a summer trip but he didn't really remember the experience of being on a plane well.

Lily stared at him for a second, seeming in deep thought.

"If it weren't for Mary and Dorcas… I would just say to hell with it. I've got no more family here. Severus is still around town and I've suddenly noticed there's a lot more rumors about me and people knowing about my sex work even though I've literally only ever told four people and there's no way that you, Mary or Dorcas would've told anyone," Lily said, angry in her eyes.

"God, Lily. That sucks," Remus said.

"It's fine. I'm not ashamed of being a sex worker. I just don't want to get harassed by people I went to school with because of it. I would miss New Hampshire. Maybe not during the winter. Wow, Remus. Can you imagine a winter with a minimal amount of snow?" Lily said.

"Sounds made up. A conspiracy made up by the Liberal media!" Remus said then laughed.

"I'll take it," Lily said, also laughing.

"Are you serious? Are we serious?" Remus said.

"We might be. Hey, you could visit Natalie!" Lily grinned.

"Right! Nat's in L.A.!" Remus shouted with excitement.

"Omigod, How am I going to tell Mary and Dorcas? Oh, hey girls, Remus and I are taking a road trip out to Oregon and we're not coming back!" Lily said.

"R-Road trip?" Remus asked with interest.

"Obviously. I've got some savings and Aunt Faye left me some money too. I figured we'd plan to go out there in a month or so," Lily said.

"Oh my god, that's so soon!" Remus said, hopping up and down.

"Right?" Lily said, sounding astonished herself.

"Oh my god!" Remus said, opening his arms wide.

"Oh my god!" Lily echoed and they embraced tightly, both squeezing hard.

"I hope this isn't a mistake," Remus said.

"Me too," Lily admitted.


 

Mary and Dorcas sat on the couch while Lily paced in front of them.

"Are you going to come out with it or make us guess?" Mary asked.

"Are we taking bets. I'm going with pregnancy," Dorcas suggested, perhaps jokingly.

"No way. She's going to tell us she's won the lottery and is moving to New Zealand to start a sheep farm," Mary said.

"Oh, oh! She's been elected Queen of the Martian Empire and wants us to be her royal concubines!" Dorcas shrieked.

"She's a secret agent and is finally bringing us in her case to take down an evil corporation. Actually, I'd be really into that," Mary said, looking up at the ceiling as if daydreaming.

"OK, OK," Lily said, stopping in front of them.

"Whatever it is we won't judge you. Unless it's murder. I might judge you for that," Dorcas said.

"I'll cut you some slack depending on who you killed," Mary said, playfully elbowing Dorcas.

"I've inherited a house," Lily said, deciding to drop each piece of information separately.

"That's way less cool than being a secret agent," Mary said with a frown.

"Where?" Dorcas asked.

"The moon? That would be cool," Mary said.

"Oregon," Lily said.

"I was so close," Mary replied, clutching her fist against her chest.

"I'm putting serious consideration into moving there," Lily said.

"No you aren't. You've already decided. I know you far too well, Evans," Mary said with a playful smirk.

Lily sighed and sat down on the floor in front of them.

"Remus is coming with me. There's room in the house for more. I… I don't want to be without either of you," Lily said.

"Hmm. West coast living could be cool. I bet the queer scenes in Seattle and Portland are killer," Mary said.

Dorcas frowned.

"I don't know, Lil. This town is everything I've ever known. I think the prospect of starting over like that… I don't know," Dorcas said.

"I mean with work I could probably visit every now and then anyway," Mary said.

Mary had recently taken a job as a courier for a medical supplies company which had her doing a fair bit of cross-country driving, though nothing as far as Oregon yet.

"Let me think about it, Lil but… I don't think I can. I just… don't want to say no for sure without really giving it some thought," Dorcas said, pulling off her glasses to rub her eyes.

"I think I'm a… maybe. Maybe someday. You and Remus should go out there and enjoy yourselves. Maybe I'll think about relocating out there sometime later," Mary said.

"OK. That's reasonable," Lily said, smiling though she was feeling sad.


 

“Hey, Sirius. Just wanted to give you guys a heads up that the owner is planning on putting this house on the market in a month,” Olivia said as Sirius stood at the refrigerator, contemplating dinner.

“Oh. OK. Thanks for letting me know. I guess I’ll tell Peter and James,” Sirius said.

Which in this case meant going straight to James’s bedroom and knocking on the door.

“Come in,” James said.

“Hey. Olivia says the owner is gonna put this house up for sale in a month,” Sirius said.

“What? That’s pretty short notice,” James said, furrowing his brow.

“Hey guys, Olivia just told me the house is getting sold!” Peter said, poking his head in the room.

“Yeah, we heard. Come in, Pete, and shut the door,” James said.

Sirius sat on the bed. James was in his PJs and typing on his laptop.

“Guess I’ll move back in with my mom. She’s been begging me too. Or I could move in with Maddy,” Peter said.

Madeleine Yaxley was Peter’s new girlfriend, whom he was very excited about.

“What about us?” Sirius asked James.

James frowned.

“We look for somewhere else. I’m sure something will pop up. Maybe we can find roommates closer to our age. Similar interests. Maybe Petrova knows someone,” James said, grabbing his phone, probably to text her.

Petrova had recently started seriously seeing a lady which had resulted in James and Petrova seeing a bit less of each other. Apparently when she fell for someone she fell hard but she did seem to make some time for him. It also meant that they weren’t sleeping together anymore. Sirius had taken her for the sort to be polyamorous but it turned out she was strictly monogamous. But James hadn’t seemed bothered.

I was never in it for that.

James had changed. He hadn’t followed the path that Sirius had followed after his brother’s death. Sirius was proud of him. James had become more focused and determined. He was taking things in stride and adapting. As far as Sirius could tell he’d done a damn good job of handling his parents’s estate and he was taking his classes very seriously.

“Petrova says she’ll ask around. She thinks we’ll have better luck in December though. If we have to stay in a hotel for a few days to make it fit we can,” James said.

“Yeah. Suppose so,” Sirius said.


 

Lily flopped backwards onto her hotel bed, only just realizing exactly how exhausted she really was.

“Ugghhhh,” she groaned.

“Same,” Remus said, his face smooshed into a pillow.

“We have three more days of that. I mean… it’s cool and all. Nice sights. Cool roadside attractions,” Lily said.

For their first day they had drive from their hometown in New Hampshire all the way to Cleveland which was a pretty solid ten hour drive. They weren’t taking the scenic route across the country. Just the fastest route to physically get them to Southwestern Oregon. Tomorrow they would drive to Lincoln, Nebraska. The day after that would get them to Salt Lake City, Utah, leaving them with a long final push to their final destination on the last day. It was a hell of a lot more driving than Lily had ever done before.

“I want a bath but I also want to never move again. This is it. I’m never moving from this spot,” Lily said.

“They’ll kick you out,” Remus observed.

“You’re no fun,” Lily said pouting.

“Not really. Professional stick in the mud, that’s me!” Remus said.

“OK. I’m standing up,” Lily said.

She arched her back, hoping that momentum would follow but it did not.

“A-Any minute here. I believe in myself,” Lily said, finally half sliding, half pushing off the bed.

“Hooray,” Remus said.

Lily grabbed her bed clothes and dashed into the bathroom.


 

The night they arrived in Oregon they still had to stay in a hotel. Before she could take possession of the house there was still a matter of meeting with her aunt’s attorney. She had been offered to be shown the house but she didn’t think it really mattered. It was hers whether she looked at it first or not. If it was horrendous she supposed they could just go back, though it would be kind of tricky now that they didn’t actually have a place to live otherwise.

Saying goodbye to Mary and Dorcas had been hard enough. They were only just working out how they were going to make the long distance thing work. There were no definite plans for either of them to move out there but Lily was hopeful at least Mary might move out there eventually. Dorcas seemed less willing to relocate but it wouldn’t be the first time she eventually changed her mind on something she was nervous about.

Lily knew the nature of their non-monogamous relationships meant that they could always see other people to fill in the gaps but it really wasn’t the same thing. Her heart would always have room for more love but the parts of her heart that belonged to Mary and Dorcas belonged only to them. She loved them and wanted to maintain that connection unless things were well and truly over.

The morning after arriving in Oregon, Lily met with the attorney and got all the keys. The town was a bit of a resort town, though it was more grey and wet than she pictured resort towns in her head. There was also a local community college, in case she decided that was something she needed to make use of.

Hedges lined the dirt driveway down to the house. The house faced out at the coast, though it wasn’t technically as close as it seemed. There was still a good half hour walk down the beach. The house had two stories and substantial front and back porches. A metal fence surrounded the backyard.

They stepped onto the porch, Lily’s heart pounding with excitement. The house looked old but well maintained and she was hoping the same could be said for the inside.

“Here we go,” Lily said as she unlocked the door and they stepped inside.

“Wow. Seems nice,” Remus said.

Relatives had already gathered up items that they had inherited but some furniture remained. There were also relatively new appliances in the kitchen but the heater didn’t appear to work.

They went upstairs where two of the bedrooms and the attic was. Remus immediately dashed up the short staircase into the attic.

“Oh, this is cool!” Remus shouted with excitement.

The room was fairly sizable and had a large window that faced out across the other houses and a bit of the coast.

“I can put a desk here. A bed there. A dresser there…” Remus said looking all over.

“Are you claiming the attic?” Lily asked with a smirk and a raised eyebrow.

“No. Yes. Maybe. If you’ll let me,” Remus said, his speech becoming fast as he became more excited.

“You’ll really become a recluse. Until you need to eat. Long walk down to the kitchen,” Lily said.

“I’ll live. And what does it matter if I’m a recluse if we live here alone?” Remus said.

Lily cringed. She thought Remus would’ve realized…

“Remus… We can’t afford the bills here by ourselves. I’m going to have to rent out the other rooms,” Lily said.

“Oh,” Remus said.

“Sorry,” Lily said, rubbing his back.

“No. It’s fine. I trust your judgment. Just try not to move in anyone loud or obnoxious,” Remus said.

“Dude, have you met people our age? Twenty year olds are frequently loud and obnoxious,” Lily said.

“I’m not loud or obnoxious. Neither are you,” Remus said, with a pleased grin.

“Yeah, but who out there is even as cool as us?” Lily said, walking out of the attic.

“True, true,” Remus said.


 

“How about this? Four bedroom house with two rooms available. Not far from the coast. There’s two people living there. A couple I guess,” Sirius said.

“How does it look?” James asked.

Sirius handed James his phone, letting him get a good look at the pictures.

“Fixer-Upper. But doesn’t look bad. Old but not too old. I’m not sure how promising it is but it’s not like this search is going well,” James said.

“I wonder if she has room for Peter? We should ask,” Sirius said.

“Yeah. Maybe. Have you seen Pete lately?” James asked, handing Sirius his phone back.

Sirius contemplated. Since Peter moved out of the townhouse he really had made himself scarce. Sirius missed the sounds of him cursing at video games in the living room.

“No, I don’t think so. He texted me the other day to check on our progress and to let him know where we move to,” Sirius said.

“Huh. I’ll text him and see how things are going. Email the owner of that house and see when we can see it. It’s the first place you’ve found that wasn’t packed with people,” James said.

“I’m on it,” Sirius said and began to send her a text.


 

Remus sat at his desk, staring out at morning fog. Lily had officially placed an ad on Craigslist offering up the two bedrooms. The last couple of weeks had been productive for him and his work on his fanfic, Reliquary of Blood. Ever since he saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier he hadn’t been able to get the relationship of Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes out of his head.

He’d written eighteen chapters over the last few months, all of which were pretty substantially sized. It was an epic tale of victorian vampires with a surprising amount of BDSM. He wasn’t sure where that came from but the readers seemed to eat it up. It was funny writing about sex despite the fact that he had never done it. He wasn’t sure it was different than writing about being in love despite having never felt it before.

Sometimes Remus would admit to himself that he would like to meet someone special. But what did he have to offer to anyone? He was just some loser who had now found a perfect life hiding out in an attic. He could just stay up there and write. Lily would move people in and he would hardly ever see them since they would probably be college students or have jobs.

There was a knock on his door.

“Come in,” Remus said.

“Hey. Just wanted to let you know a couple of guys are coming by to see the house later,” Lily said.

Remus turned around with a grin.

“I bet they say dude and bro a lot. Brag about banging chicks and how awesome they are at sports ball,” Remus said.

“Maybe. I won’t rent to anyone too douchey though. Guy I’ve been texting with sounds nice. They are college students. Both our age,” Lily said.

Remus shrugged. The truth was it didn’t matter who they were: he was going to avoid them. He would hide up there in the attic and would almost never have to interact with them.


 

Sirius pulled out his phone and took a picture of the house. James was staring out at the coast, thinking how incredible the view was.

“Doesn’t look like much,” Sirius said.

“Dude, it’s practically on the coast,” James said, surprised that Sirius wasn’t impressed.

They walked slowly up to the house. James wished it wasn’t so yellow though the paint job didn’t look too old. They stepped up to the door and James knocked. No one answered.

“Are you sure this is the right place?” James asked.

“Yeah,” Sirius said, looking at his phone.

James knocked again before the door finally unlocked and opened. Whatever James had anticipated the owner to look like this wasn’t it. She was a very pretty girl, no older than they were. She had dark-red hair, light-brown skin and the most mesmerizing green eyes James had ever seen. She had round, soft features and was on the tall side for a girl, though still shorter than Petrova.

“You’re here to see the house?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Sirius said.

James felt unable to speak, mesmerized by sudden beauty.

“Great. Come inside. Please,” she said, stepping aside as they wiped their feet and followed her inside.

“I’m Lily, by the way,” she said, extending her hand to both of them to shake.

“James,” James said, shaking her hand unable to contain his grin.

“Sirius,’ Sirius said before doing the same.

“Cool. So, let me show you around. Remus and I just moved in a couple of weeks ago. I’m sorry it’s so cold. The heater doesn’t work,” Lily said, cringing.

James wondered if Remus was her boyfriend or just a friend.

“This is the kitchen. Umm… I don’t think the dishwasher works. The oven seems kinda new. It works fine. The microwave is new. I bought that,” Lily said, gesturing around the kitchen.

“This place seems kinda big. Bigger than I thought,” James said.

“Yeah, it’s bigger on the inside,” Lily said, looking pleased with her own reference.

James laughed. She was a fucking nerd, this was perfect. Lily continued to show them around, taking them through the kitchen and the dining room.

“Sooo there are two rooms and maybe the basement that I’m trying to rent out right now. One room is downstairs, another is upstairs and the basement is… Oh. Uh… Well, it’s a basement,” she said and laughed with a snort.

She was so fucking adorable James wanted to scream.

“Is there an attic?” Sirius asked.

“Yeah. My friend Remus lives up there,” Lily said.

James did a happy dance in his mind. Remus wasn’t a boyfriend!

“Is he home?” James asked, feeling it was good to meet new roommates as soon as possible.

“Yeah. Hopefully, he’ll come down at some point. He’s kinda shy,” Lily said, seeming apologetic.

“I guess show us the upstairs room first,” Sirius said.

The followed her upstairs and she showed them her bedroom, complete with bongs, a pagan altar and a huge pansexual flag. She went up to the attic door to summon her friend but he failed to answer. James hoped he was OK.

James decided to take the upstairs room which was across the hall from her room and Sirius took the downstairs room.

“Awesome. Do you guys want to see the basement space? Oh, do you know anyone who might be interested?” she said, seeming desperate.

“Oh. Um. Maybe. Pete?” Sirius said, glancing at James.

“Our friend Peter lives with his mom right now. He’s not really in the market now but I think he could be persuaded. What do you want for it?” James said.

“I’d take three-hundred a month for it. It’s pretty small,” Lily said.

“I think I can convince him,” James said

“Cool. That would be great,” Lily said and took them to see the basement.

It wasn’t as small as James expected but it wasn’t large. He thought it had plenty of room for Peter.

“OK. Anything else?” Lily asked, leaning against back of the old sofa in the living room

“Do you have any plans for like… a TV? Maybe a stereo?” James asked.

“I mostly just watch Netflix on my laptop,” Lily said.

“I’ve got a TV. It’s really too big for my room anyway. I’ve also got an Xbox,” James said with pride.

“No shit? Well, hey, if you want to share, I won’t say no. Do you smoke weed?” Lily asked.

“Sometimes,” James said, loving the feeling of their eyes meeting and that sense of instant mutual attraction that James hoped he wasn’t imagining.

“Well, you’ll have to smoke some weed with me sometime. My treat,” Lily grinned and James rubbed his chin and nodded with approval.

“You’re welcome to join too, Sirius,” Lily said.

Sirius shrugged.

“I’m kinda neutral on pot. But thanks for the offer,” Sirius said.

They made plans for a move-in time that weekend and he and Sirius headed back down the driveway.

“Well?” Sirius said.

“Well, what?” James replied, trying to suppress a smile.

“Come on, man. I know you too well. Don’t hold out on me,” Sirius said, grinning big.

“Yeah. OK. She’s fucking cute. Really cute. Like… how is it even legal to be that cute? That’s really unfair,” James admitted with a sigh.

Sirius chuckled.

“Did you see her dimples?” James asked.

James proceeded on the walk home to tell everything about Lily that seemed interesting and cool. He had butterflies in his stomach. Crushes weren’t supposed to come this easy. James wasn’t sure what the future held but with the way things had fallen apart before, it was nice to have something to look forward to.