i: idle shallow things
"Thanks, James." Peter bundled the invisibility cloak up and tucked it under his arm.
"No problem," James said from where he lay sprawled on his bed. "Though I really don't think you need to be invisible just to stay out of Filch's way."
Remus popped out from behind his bedcurtains. "He's going to see Flora Hutchinson," he said. "You know, that pretty Hufflepuff fifth-year with the long blonde hair and the big—"
"Oh, no!" James leaped up. "Give that back! Peter, if you get any revolting stains on my cloak, I'll peel you like a shrivelfig."
Peter laughed. "I'll try to keep it clean," he said, blinking his large round eyes at them, and then ran out the door and down the dormitory stairs.
"Augh." James fell back on the bed again and shuddered. "I may never touch that cloak again."
Remus grinned. "You do know that when he borrowed it last week, he was behind the greenhouses with Lettice Edgbaston?"
"This is wrong," James said. "This is all very, very wrong." He looked sternly at Remus, who had pulled his bedcurtains back and sat crosslegged in the middle of his bed wearing striped flannel pajamas, with three books and seven rolls of parchment spread all around him. "Why is it that Peter of all people gets more than you and me and Sirius put together? He's having it off with girls left and right and the rest of us are like those Muggles in the funny robes. Nuns."
"Monks," Remus said. "Nuns are girls."
James waved this aside as irrelevant. "Peter," he said. "Peter gets all the girls. And the rest of us are so chaste, we might as well be Snape."
"Girls like Peter." Remus tapped his quill against his knee, leaving an inkstain on the flannel. "And you, for some unknown reason, have decided that if you can't have Evans, you don't want anyone, so really you only have yourself to blame."
"I can blame her," James said, a little more cheerfully. "And then there's you."
Remus kept his eyes on his parchment. "Yes, well, I don't really fancy trying to keep up a full-body concealment charm at the same time."
James frowned. "You're not that ugly."
"You're too kind," Remus muttered. "Look, James, you've seen me without my— What do you think I should say, that I was attacked at the zoo? Fell into a nest of feral blackberry brambles?"
"Oh." James looked at Remus, who always wore long sleeves and kept his shirt buttoned to the neck even in hot weather. "Right. But if you found someone you really liked, someone you trusted..."
"If I did," Remus said. "If. Might as well do my Arithmancy homework while I wait for this miraculous event."
"Well, it can't be hopeless," James said. "I mean, you found us. You trust us, don't you?"
Remus finally looked up. "James, I don't care how frustrated you are, I'm not going to have sex with you."
"That's not what I meant!" James threw a pillow, and Remus batted it away. "And then there's Sirius. He's not ugly, he doesn't fancy Lily, what's wrong with him?"
Remus shrugged. "If you don't know, nobody does. Maybe he's impotent."
"Who is?" Sirius asked from the door. "Snivellus?"
"You," James said. "According to Remus."
Remus threw himself backwards off the bed moments before Sirius's Tarantallegra jinx hit the bedclothes. The quill attempted a tango with one of the parchment rolls. "It was just a theory," Remus said from behind the bedpost. "James is concerned about your sex life."
Sirius snorted. "Not much to be concerned about, mate." He sat down on the floor in a sprawl of arms and legs and leaned back against James's bed. "I'll have you know I'm saving myself for marriage."
"There you are," Remus said to James while climbing back on his bed and smacking the dancing quill. "You're in love, I'm ugly, Sirius is holding out for a white wedding, and Peter is none of the above. Which is why he's out somewhere snogging Flora Hutchinson and we're all sitting here."
Sirius frowned. "You're not that ugly."
Remus chuckled. "So I've been told. James, give me one of those sugar quills. Thanks."
James poked the back of Sirius's head. "You're not really waiting for marriage, are you."
Sirius leaned back and looked at James upside down. "Could be I'm in love with Lily, too," he suggested.
"Right." James bit a sugar quill in half.
"Could be he's ugly," Remus suggested.
Sirius reached up and stole a sugar quill. "Could be."
"You like someone, don't you," James said.
"Nah, that's you." Sirius wasn't looking at him. "Maybe I just haven't seen anyone I fancy."
James rolled over on his back. "One day," he said, "I will get Lily to go out with me."
"Yeah," Sirius agreed, sounding unwontedly subdued with a sugar quill in his mouth. "I know you will."
"Maybe," Remus said, "you should ask Peter for advice." He tossed a roll of parchment at James, hitting him on the nose. "Clearly, there's at least one thing he does much better than the rest of us."
ii: must needs go that the devil drives
"Remus left already?" James looked at the empty bed.
"He didn't come back last night," Sirius said, shrugging into his robes and flipping his hair back over the collar.
James shook his head. "One of these nights he'll get caught."
Peter frowned a little. "Where is he, anyway?" They looked at him, and he blushed a little. "No, I mean, I know what he's... But it's not as though he can go into another dormitory or anything like that."
"Lots of empty rooms in the castle," Sirius said. "Come on." He put an arm around James's shoulders and leaned on him, yawning, as they went down the stairs to the common room. It was barely light out, and a few sixth-year girls were standing by the fire, braiding each other's hair and gossiping.
"Wait," James said, "we lost Peter."
Sirius looked back. "He was here just a moment ago."
"...haven't told us how it was," Janet Weeks said over by the fire, and the others giggled. "Is it true what they say about Lupin?"
"Oh, yes. Oh, yes."
Sirius glanced at the girls and saw that Rose McKnight was grinning wickedly. Weeks grinned back. "Go on."
"He's incredible," Rose said, looking very pleased with herself. "I mean, he even..." She lowered her voice, and her words disappeared beneath excited squeaks.
"That's disgusting!" Arianna Atherton said.
Weeks shook her head, looking superior. "It's not, and if you'd ever done it, you'd understand. We should all be so lucky."
"If Remus keeps up the same pace," Sirius said in James's ear, "they all will be."
"Well." James considered the girls. "I don't think even Remus would go with Weeks. It'd be like doing it with Bertha Jorkins."
They both shuddered.
Peter came rushing down the stairs. "I forgot my Potions essay," he said, waving a roll of parchment. "Breakfast?"
They scrambled out through the portrait hole and went down to the great hall, looking around for Remus all the way. "Wherever he is," James said, "I hope he doesn't oversleep. He promised to finish our Transfigurations homework."
Peter shook his head. "Remus always does his homework. Oh, look, kippers!"
They sat down, and Peter reached for the kippers, and James reached for the scrambled eggs, and Sirius reached for the tea and began to drop one lump of sugar after another into it. Sugar was a passable substitute for wakefulness.
A stir over by the door was Remus slouching in, his clothes wrinkled and his hair untidy, walking as though he owned the world. He had a red mark on his throat, just above the collar of his shirt.
Sirius looked at James. "Two Galleons on a Ravenclaw."
James shook his head. "Deal. I say Hufflepuff."
Peter scooted over, and Remus sat down and took Sirius's tea mug and drank. "Morning." He choked. "That's disgusting."
"Morning, yourself," Sirius said, taking the mug back. "Get your own tea, Casanova. Where were you all night?"
"Busy," Remus said mildly.
The morning owl post arrived, filling the hall with the beating of wings, and thuds from letters and newspapers landing on the tables. The Daily Prophet landed on James's toast, and in the front page photograph, a Gringotts spokesgoblin frowned horribly at being suddenly covered in strawberry jam. "Yes, and you took the map." James tried to wipe the jam off. "Where, and with whom?"
Remus neatly lopped the top off his boiled egg. "Charles Zabini," he said. "Fourth floor storage room."
Sirius choked on his porridge. James blinked. "But he's a bloke."
Sirius made a strange wheezing sound. Remus looked up, a faint glimmer of laughter in his eyes. "I did notice that, yes."
Peter thumped Sirius's back. Sirius coughed and finally managed to draw breath. "He's a Slytherin! Remus!"
Remus reached for the salt. "Don't shout," he said. "McGonagall is watching us."
"But Remus, a Slytherin! That's obscene!" Sirius put his elbow in the butter. "You can't do a thing like that with one of them! It's a disgrace to our house, it's—"
"Mr. Black," Professor McGonagall said, appearing behind Remus as suddenly as though she'd Apparated from the teachers' table. "Either lower your voice, or leave the hall."
"'m sorry," Sirius ground out. He glared at Remus. "But a Slytherin!" he hissed. "What were you thinking!"
"Well, he's on the Quidditch team," Remus said, as though that explained everything. "James, you might want to take a look at this." He tossed a roll of parchment across the table. "I added a few paragraphs to your section about mass conversion ratios. Sirius, you have butter on your sleeve."
"A Slytherin," Sirius muttered, staring across the hall at the Slytherin table. "I don't know if I can ever trust you again, Remus."
iii: as true a lover as ever sigh'd
"Jane, I'm not sure I understood all the effects of the goblin rebellions on the new legislation about non-humans. I thought perhaps if you have time later you could explain it to me?"
"There he goes again," Remus said, sotto voce.
Peter nodded. "Well, Jane Grey is almost the only person who takes notes in History of Magic."
"Yes, and Moony is the other one," Sirius pointed out, leaning across the library table to look at James, who had cornered Jane Grey in the Modern History section and was leaning in close, speaking quietly in her ear. "But he doesn't wear his skirts tucked up to make them shorter, does he? Oh, here it comes. Three, two, one—"
James ran a hand through his hair. Peter, Sirius, and Remus grinned at each other. "We could meet at the benches by the kitchen gardens," James suggested. "After our last lessons tomorrow?"
"Scorned for a Ravenclaw," Remus said, rolling up his History of Magic notes and patting the ends of the roll with his palms to make it neater. "Peter, let me see your essay."
"It's still four inches short," Peter said. He handed the parchment over. "And I think I got some of the names mixed up."
Sirius balanced his quill on the tip of his index finger. "See, Moony, some people don't mind that you don't wear a short skirt." He bounced the quill gently, making it float higher and higher with each pass. "Peter loves you for your mind."
"Great personality," Remus murmured, scribbling comments in between Peter's widely-spaced lines. "Good listener."
Sirius flipped the quill upside down. "But Peter, remember that you have to at least take him out to dinner before he'll let you—"
James fell into the chair next to Sirius and clapped him on the shoulder. The quill flew across the table and smacked Peter in the face. "Oh, sorry! Is that your essay, Sirius?"
"No, it's mine," Peter said, rubbing his nose.
"I'm going to make your life easier, Remus." James grinned. "I'm sure Jane will help me out with what I need."
Sirius rolled his eyes and took his quill back. "Serve you right if all you got was a two-hour lecture on Igvard the Bloody."
"At least he can look at her legs," Peter suggested.
"I'm planning to do more than just look."
Sirius muttered to his quill, and it hovered in the air above the table and began to write, in glowing golden letters, James Potter is a prat.
"I couldn't agree more," a clear voice said behind them.
"Hello, Evans," Sirius said, flicking a wandtip. The quill drew a star, a sickle moon, and an unidentifiable blob. He frowned. "Here, now."
"Sloppy charmwork," Lily Evans said. "It's all in the wrist."
James twisted around in his chair. "Evans! I wanted to talk to you."
She raised an eyebrow. "And then you changed your mind?"
"No, no." James got up from the table. "I, um. I'm not sure I understood everything Professor Binns was saying about the goblins and the post-rebellion legislation, and I was hoping—"
"Have you ever considered paying attention in class?" Lily held an enormous leather-bound book to her chest, both arms wrapped around it. She looked scornfully at James, and then only slightly less scornfully at Remus. "But I suppose the four of you only have one brain between you, and Lupin seems to use it most of the time."
"Hey," Sirius said, drawing himself up. "I'll have you know I've got it Sundays." He flicked a finger, and the quill started to write again. Sirius Black thinks! Thousands cheer!
"I just wanted to know if you would help me," James said, looking injured. "Isn't it a prefect's duty to help others in the House?"
"Yes," Lily agreed. "And you share a dormitory with a prefect who has excellent marks in History of Magic. I suggest you ask him."
"But," James said, rising from his chair. "But, Lily, listen."
But he thinks you're prettier, the quill wrote. Peter giggled again. James glared over his shoulder.
Sirius grinned up at Lily. "Come on. Have pity on the poor overworked bloke."
Lily looked James up and down. "Overworked?"
"Oh, not James, Remus. He already has to tutor Peter and me. Look at him, he's exhausted! Shouldn't you be more considerate of a fellow prefect?"
The quill wrote Your cue, Remus, and Remus obligingly pretended to faint across the table. Lily came close to smiling. "Well," she said.
"Oh, James!" a voice called.
Oh, no, the quill wrote.
James froze. "Yes?"
Jane Grey came around the corner of the stacks. "James, could we make it half an hour after lessons tomorrow, instead? I have an appointment with Professor Flitwick." She stepped closer, and smiled.
"Uh, Jane, this isn't really — I mean, yes, of course — weren't you going to class?"
"Tomorrow, then," she said with a bright smile, putting her hand on his arm. "I'm sure you won't have any trouble with the goblin rebellions once we have a chance to sit down and go through everything in detail."
"I'm sure of it, too," Lily said, showing her teeth. "And I really must be going. Pettigrew, no food in the library! Madam Pince is going to catch you sooner or later, you know. You really can't do something like that and not expect to be found out."
She walked away. Sirius put his head down on the table and laughed until he could hardly breathe, and Jane Grey looked confused and walked away, too, her rolled-up skirt swinging with each step.
"Dammit," James said.
Sirius lifted his head with an effort. "And you w-wonder why Lily won't go out with you. James, you utter moron."
"Shut up," James said half-heartedly. "You can't be that loud in the library, someone is going to—"
"Silence in the library!" Madam Pince swooped down on them. "I insist that you— Young man, is that chocolate?" Peter stuffed the chocolate frog into his pocket, but it was too late. "Out, out!" She shook her wand at them, and threatening red sparks burst from the tip.
Sirius gathered up the scrolls and quills, Remus yanked Peter out of his chair, and James covered their retreat, deflecting Madam Pince's wrath as best he could. They ran outside and didn't stop until they stood in the sunshine of the courtyard, looking up at a clear blue sky.
"So!" Sirius said brightly. "James, you're meeting Jane Grey by the kitchen gardens tomorrow! Won't that be nice for you!"
"I hate you," James said. "I really, really hate you and I hope you get eaten by a werewolf."
Remus smiled a little. "That could be arranged."
iv: painted full of tongues
"Course I have," Sirius said. "Last summer."
"Really?" Peter looked impressed. "Where — I mean, who—"
"You stayed with me all of last summer, you know," James said.
"Oh, James!" Sirius batted his lashes. "You've given away our secret!"
James hit him with the Standard Book of Spells, Grade 4. "You didn't so much as hold hands with anyone last summer, Sirius. Except when you held my great-aunt's hand to cross the road."
Peter snickered. Remus smiled.
"Well, she's a girl, isn't she?" Sirius said with a grin. "The beauty of the family seventy years ago, she said. And she thought the cars might leap on her if she didn't have a fine young man there to protect her."
"Yes, but you didn't snog great-aunt Clothilda, did you? I, on the other hand, kissed Renata Moreleigh behind the summer house."
"And then she slapped you and you had a handprint on your face for two days because she'd spelled her palm so you couldn't heal it off."
James shoved Sirius, and Sirius poked James, and they scuffled a bit until they slid off the sofa and almost rolled into the fire. They sat up and brushed themselves off, and Sirius looked at the other two. "Well, what about you? Peter? Remus?"
Peter shook his head and turned pink. Remus lifted an eyebrow. "No, no one slapped me all summer. I must have been doing something wrong."
"Oh, ha, ha." James shoved Remus instead, until he slid off the sofa, too. Peter remained perched above them, hugging a squishy red velvet cushion. "Lots of girls in Gryffindor who'll be happy to slap your face for you if you give them a chance."
"Mm. A good swing with plenty of follow-through is exactly what I've always looked for in a girl."
"Lots of girls in other houses, too," Sirius added. "I'm sure some of them have to be a bit less violent."
"Lucasta Frazer gave Jonathan Abington cauliflower ears," Peter said.
Remus grinned. "After what he said about her, I'm surprised she didn't turn him into a whole kitchen garden."
"Girls," James said, flat on his back, "are dangerous."
Sirius pushed at Remus's knee. "What did he say about her? That her ears stick out? Because they do, really."
"No, stupid. He said that she met him in the back of one of the greenhouses and she wasn't wearing anything under her robes."
James shook his head. "In December?"
Remus shrugged. "Well, I'm sure he wanted her to."
"Yes, but who'd believe it of Frazer? Some of those Slytherin girls, now..." Sirius's eyes glinted. "Or some of those Slytherin boys. They say Snape will polish anyone's wand for a sickle. Five sickles and he'll use his mouth."
"I don't believe that," Remus said placidly.
"I don't either," Sirius said. "More likely he pays them to be allowed to do it."
"Sirius!" Remus snatched Peter's cushion and hit Sirius with it. "I mean, I don't believe anyone says that. I mean I think you made it up just now."
Sirius looked revolted. "I don't sit around thinking about Snivellus like that to amuse myself."
"You do talk about him a lot," Peter said, and then he was off the sofa, too, rolled up in the Witchminster and squeaking with laughter.
Remus had a book, and James was determined to finish his Transfigurations homework before dinner, since he had Quidditch practice. Sirius sat cross-legged on the hearthrug and scribbled something, occasionally throwing scraps of parchment into the fire. Peter lay in his roll of carpet and read Charms theory, his sandy hair blending with the carpet fringe. They unrolled him when it was time to go down and eat.
All the way down the stairs, Sirius grinned in a thoroughly annoying way. He scuffled with James on the landings, tickled Peter on the turns, and ruffled Remus's raggedly cut hair. The resulting shoving match overturned two Ravenclaw first-years, but Remus picked them up and Sirius dusted them off and Peter gave them a chocolate frog each and James sent them on their way.
Down in the entrance hall, Sirius went up to the notice board and put up a piece of parchment on it. Then he looked at it with an air of never having seen this piece of parchment before and having nothing to do with it. The others crowded around to read over his shoulder.
Cheap & Easy Service
Slytherin Dungeons, Snivellus Snape
Wands Polished, Broomsticks Mounted While You Wait
No Charge for Extra Grease
Ask About Our Special Boot-Licking Offer!
Peter wrinkled his nose. "That's..."
"A bad idea," Remus said, frowning a little. "Sirius, I don't know if—"
"Brilliant," James said, clapping Sirius on the shoulder. "Can't wait to see his face. We should move away from the notice board, though."
They didn't go into the Great Hall, but loitered in a corner of the entrance hall, while James chatted with a couple of the other Quidditch team members about their upcoming practice. More and more people clustered around the notice board, whispering and exclaiming.
A group of Slytherin students came into the hall, sixth- and seventh-year students like Malfoy and Lestrange in the lead, Snape trailing behind them. Sirius tossed his hair back with excruciating casualness and talked about broomsticks. The Slytherins joined the crowd at the notice board. Moments later, there was an eruption of movement and raised voices. Lestrange was holding Snape back with both hands on his shoulders. Eventually, Lucius Malfoy broke free of the crowd. He looked slowly around the entrance hall and came walking over with measured steps.
Sirius smiled brightly. "Something we can do for you, Malfoy?"
Malfoy looked him up and down. "It's kind of you to offer, Black, but rest assured that your services do not appeal to me in the slightest." He looked at the other three. "Nor those of your odd little friends. I merely came to order you, as a prefect, to take down that notice. And also to watch your step for the rest of the term."
"What makes you think we had anything to do with it?" James said.
"Credit me with a little more intelligence than your Gryffindor hangers-on, Potter." Malfoy looked at Sirius again. "What Severus Snape does for his House is none of your business, Black, even a blood traitor like you should know that. Take down the notice. Oh, and ten points from Gryffindor." He turned and walked away in a swirl of robes and hair.
James hissed between his teeth. "Blood traitor! Wonder how he'd look with green hair."
Sirius looked pale and slightly sick. "I didn't think—"
Peter stared after Malfoy. "Does that mean it's true?"
"I really don't want to think about it." Remus put a hand on James's arm as James made to take his wand out. "Don't, James. Coming from Malfoy, blood traitor is a compliment, when you think about it."
The students around the notice board walked into the Great Hall. Snape glared over his shoulder and stumbled into Avery, who pushed him away, though not roughly.
Sirius went to the notice board, took the piece of parchment down, folded it, and tore it in pieces.
"Come on," Peter said. "We'll be late for dinner."
"I'm not sure I can eat." Sirius looked towards the doorway into the Great Hall, the same expression still on his face. "Now I can't stop imagining Snape and Malfoy, you know."
"Well, don't." James slung an arm about Sirius's shoulders and dragged him away from the notice board. "You heard Malfoy, it's none of our business. And Malfoy is a prefect, so of course he's always right. I still say he'd look much better with green hair."
They went in and found seats at the Gryffindor table, and Sirius stopped looking sick and ate five chicken legs and a mountain of fried potatoes. Every time any one of them looked over towards the Slytherin table, they found Snape staring at them, white-faced. Lucius Malfoy merely smiled.
v: one other gaudy night
James dropped his muddy robe on the floor and half fell onto his bed. "I don't think anyone would have noticed the difference if I'd had my eyes closed," he said. "Couldn't see a thing out there."
"You'd better keep them open for the match," Peter said. "Hufflepuff's team is really strong this year, with Dargusson as Keeper."
"We're better." James stripped off his shirt. "And wetter."
"Poetry, James?" Sirius rolled over on his back and looked at James upside down. "Does that mean you're coming down with something?"
"No." James sneezed. "No time for that. Where's Remus?"
"He went out. There." Peter looked uncomfortable. "To the Shack."
"Already?" James rubbed his hair with a towel until it stood straight up. "Moonrise isn't for a good while yet, is it?"
Peter shrugged. "He was a bit, I mean, he's been a bit different about it since..."
"Oh. Right." James looked at the towel, which was now all over mud. "I need a bath and stuff, but then we can all sneak out later."
"Don't bother," Sirius said, sitting up abruptly and twisting himself around. "I'll go." He looked at James, and then at Peter. "You should both stay here."
James frowned. "Listen, Sirius, I'm not sure that's such a good idea. You could be the last person he wants to see tonight."
"Doesn't matter. I need to—" Sirius broke off and rubbed at his forehead. "I have to go. I owe him."
"He's angry," Peter put in quietly. "I could feel it."
"Yes, well, I'm not stupid, either. I know he's angry." Sirius got up off the bed, stepped in a puddle of rainwater that James had tracked in, and made a face. "I have to go, and the two of you should stay out of it."
"I don't know," Peter said.
"You know you don't really want to go." Sirius looked at him. "Remus is angry and this night won't be any fun for you. And it's raining. And you have homework."
"I can go with you," James said, looking closely at Sirius. "You know I can."
Sirius shook his head. "Lend me your cloak." James hesitated. "You're not going anywhere else tonight anyway, are you?"
"No, it's just — you know I would go with you anywhere if you needed me to, right?"
"I know," Sirius said. "It's — things are different now." He looked James in the eye, then away, and shifted from foot to foot. "Don't worry, you'll get it back tomorrow in one piece."
"And how many pieces will we get you back in?"
"You know Padfoot can hold his own with the wolf."
James nodded slowly. He turned to the foot of the bed and rummaged in his school trunk. "One single tear or clawmark in this," he said threateningly, "and I'll never partner you in Potions again."
"I'll be careful with it."
James blinked. "You. Will be careful."
"He's changing his spots," Peter said from the bed.
Sirius frowned. "I do not have spots." He shook the cloak out and put it on.
"Do you really think this is a bad idea?" Peter said, looking at James.
James shrugged. "I think it could be."
"But Remus wouldn't — I mean, Sirius can't—"
"I hope Sirius knows what he's doing," James said. "And I think Sirius should go and do it, and not stand about the dormitory and eavesdrop on his friends."
"Would I do a thing like that?" Sirius said and left.
He followed a group of third-years out of the common room. They went towards the library, and he went down the stairs to the front door. When Hagrid came in, carrying a Niffler under one arm and a sack of root vegetables in his other hand, Sirius slipped outside. He borrowed a long stick meant for plant support from outside greenhouse three and used it to press the knot at the base of the Whomping Willow.
Lighting his way with his wand, Sirius walked slowly through the low, narrow tunnel. When he came to the sharp slope that led up into the Shack, he stopped. He couldn't hear anything from the room above.
Sirius took off the cloak and folded it carefully. He stripped out of his clothes with hands that only shook a little, let them fall next to the cloak, straightened up, and took a deep breath. The earth was cold under his bare feet as he went to meet his first lover.