James blinked. And then blinked again. And then he stared at Sirius as if he had a pair of lobsters hanging off his ears. He opened and closed his mouth several times, soundlessly, as though starting to say something but changing his mind before any actual words came out. Then, finally, he demanded, “What!?”
Sirius gulped. Actually gulped. "Um," he said. "Well… I said that I’m--"
James shook his head and waved his hand dismissively. "No, I, I heard what you said. Trust me, I heard you. I just… I… uh…" He trailed off, and then shifted around in his spot on top of Sirius’s bed, until he was leaning more fully against the headboard, obviously deep in thought. He didn’t look at Sirius, but instead stared intently into the depths of the bottle of butterbeer in his hands. Sirius picked at a couple of loose threads on his blankets anxiously, but didn’t disturb his friend’s contemplation by talking. James clearly needed some time to adjust right now and Sirius was willing to give it to him.
After a bit, James finally looked up from his bottle, apparently coming to a decision about what his reaction was going to be. He gave his best friend a disapproving look. Sirius sighed, discouraged. "I’m really sorry, Prongs,” he said quickly. “I swear, it’s not something I’m happy about or anything and if I could change it, I would, but I felt like you deserved to know--"
James shot him one of his patented ‘you-are-such-a-fucking-moron’ looks before rolling his eyes. "You don’t actually think I care that you’re gay, do you? Merlin’s tits, you’re an imbecile sometimes."
Sirius perked up at this, feeling a hint of hope blossom somewhere inside him. James continued to look at him as though he was mentally deficient. "I couldn’t give two shites who you prefer to shag, Pads, be it man, woman, house-elf or goat. Whatever flies your broomstick is fine by me. It doesn’t even surprise me now that you bring it up, if we’re being honest about the whole thing. You’ve had girls throwing themselves at you for years and you’ve barely noticed them, so I guess this at least explains a few things.”
Sirius just shrugged. James shook his head at him and went on. “No, I just want to know how long you ago figured it out and why you suddenly decided that just now, of all times, was the time to tell me? I mean, that can’t possibly be a normal segue into the typical ‘coming-out’ conversation, can it? When I say, ‘Lily Evans finally agreed to go out with me!’ the normal response from one’s best mate, one would expect, should be ‘Congratulations!’ But, no, instead of that, what I get, with no warning or work-up to it at all I might add, is, ‘I’m a poof’. I mean, couldn’t you have just told me over breakfast or something? Maybe with a bit of build up to it, to, like, mentally prepare me or something? You know, maybe something like, ‘Hey, you know what’s funny? The fact that oranges are the only fruit that happen to be called the same as what colour they are. Really, they should call apple juice red-or-green-or-occasionally-golden-depending-on-the-type juice instead, if they want to be that way. You know what else is funny? I fancy blokes!’ Would that have been too much to ask?"
Sirius looked down at his hands, watching them intently as he twiddled his thumbs. "Well, I just thought that it was something you should know. As my best mate and all."
James sighed and laid back, crossing his legs, making himself comfortable on the bed again and propping his open butterbeer bottle up to sit on his stomach. "I suppose that’s… considerate of you. Oddly and somewhat uncharacteristically considerate, really."
Sirius shot him a cautious look. "You really don’t have a problem with it?" he asked. James snorted.
"No. Why, would you like me to?"
"Well, no, but…" Sirius could feel the weight of worry slowly lifting off his shoulders. "I dunno, I guess I wasn’t expecting it to be quite this simple."
"Oh, I daresay I’ll be taking the mickey out of you something wicked in days to come, don’t you worry," James warned, a dangerous, playful glint coming into his eyes. “But to get maximum impact from jokes made at your expense, I need someone else to laugh at them. And, judging by the fact that you still sort of look like you want to cry, I’m betting I’m the first person you’ve told, right?”
Sirius scowled. “I do NOT look like I’m going to cry. Also, you’re a total bastard.”
“It’s okay, though,” James insisted, smirking at him now. “I know that you fairy-types are known for being more in touch with your feminine side and all. And I want you to know that I’m always here for you.” He reached out and gave Sirius a gentle pat on the arm. “It’s okay to cry, Padfoot. I’m here to be your sympathetic shoulder.”
If looks could kill, the look Sirius gave his best friend would have had him chopped into bloody little pieces all over the floor. “This fairy can still kick your skinny ass.”
James condescendingly patted his arm again and said, “Awww.” Sirius reached and knocked over the butterbeer bottle that was still propped up on his stomach. The contents splashed out onto James’s face and shirt, causing him to curse and splutter. Sirius used his distraction as an opportunity and, with a great shove, he managed to push James halfway off the bed, causing the other boy to flail around widely in an effort not to go tumbling across the floor. With his right foot tangled in the sheets and his right hand grabbing on desperately while his left side hung helplessly in the air, he made an amusing sight and Sirius didn’t feel bad at all for laughing at him.
“I accept that this behaviour is just you lashing out because of your current emotional turbulence,” James declared grandly as he made a futile attempt to grab onto the bedclothes with his left hand. Sirius started kicking at him to try and make him let go of the sheets he was clinging to so that he could complete his rightful journey to the floor. “I accept and embrace that turbulence because I am your true, understanding and devoted friend! I accept every single facet of you as a person, even your absolutely disgusting foot odour and how you sing in your sleep!” Sirius managed to half-dislodge James’s foot and he slid another foot closer to the floor, which encouraged Sirius to start attacking his ticklish spots next. “No, no, no, NO! No! I accept you as the person you truly are, Sirius Black!” James fairly shrieked, simultaneously laughing at the top of his lungs and obviously beginning to have trouble breathing.
This, of course, was when Remus entered the dorm. The attack on James froze as both combatants looked up and grinned sheepishly when Remus cocked an eyebrow at them curiously. “I left my Potions book,” he explained.
There was a pause as he took a moment to fully survey them before he had to ask. “Do I want to know?” James and Sirius shook their heads. Remus nodded, went over to his trunk and took out his book, stated simply, “Alright then,” and then left the way he’d come, shutting the door behind him.
After another moment of silence, Sirius suddenly gave James one last big shove and his friend thudded onto the floor. “Ow! Git!” came the response and Sirius smiled serenely. All remained right with the world and he was relieved.
With that, Sirius considered the matter settled, but James, of course, was not the type to be dissuaded when he set his mind to something. He had decided, somehow, in his ‘infinite wisdom’, that what Sirius really, truly needed in order to properly settle down into his ‘newly established life of poofery’ was a boyfriend, of all things. Sirius didn’t know what to accredit the delusional behaviour to—if it was because his best friend had finally achieved his own long-awaited romantic ambitions of dating Lily Evans or if it was just some misguided attempt to be ‘supportive’—but frankly, the other boy was driving him completely round the bend.
“What do you think of that Quirke bloke, in Ravenclaw? Whatshisface, Alvin or something,” James would ask randomly, or some variable thereupon, whenever the two of them were alone together. “You know, he’s the prefect the year below us. I’m 87% sure that he’s a shirtlifter, too. D’you be interested in, uh, you know. Getting to know him better?”
And Sirius would sigh, assure James that, yes, he knew who he was talking about and no, he wasn’t interested in coughGetting To Know Himcough, thanks but no thanks.
Inevitably disappointed at his friend’s lack of enthusiasm, James would pout for a couple of hours, and then be back at it again with another suggestion. Sirius couldn’t find it in himself to feel bad at the hurt looks James gave him whenever he shot him down anymore.
“I’m almost POSITIVE that Primus Gamp’s a bender, too” he was saying today. The two of them were making their way across the school grounds towards the edge of the Forbidden Forest for Care of Magical Creatures with Professor Kettleburn. Sirius rolled his eyes, but James took no notice. “I mean, how many straight blokes do you know who spent that much time on their hair and facial care routine every day? I mean, honestly?”
And as per the routine, Sirius sighed, having already started shaking his head long before James had finished talking. “Okay, one, I’m still not interested in anybody that you would ever think to suggest. Two, you have started reaching rather desperately for ideas and it’s pathetic. Just stop. Three, since you are reaching, at least put some effort into it. Primus Gamp? I mean, I wouldn’t get close enough to him to throw a dungbomb at him, if I could help it.” James scowled.
“I’m just trying to be supportive“—and there was that bloody, fucking word again—“because, despite the fact that the very idea seems to be completely beyond you, that is what best mates are supposed to do, Pads.”
“Well, how about next time, you can remember that I would consider you as being just as supportive if you were buying me liquor and chocolate instead, how’s that?” Sirius suggested.
As per usual when he was presented with an idea he had no intention of listening to, James pretended that he hadn’t heard a word Sirius had said. Soon enough, he was stuck back in his own thoughts. He was chewing on his bottom lip and ruffling the hair on the back of his head absently. Sirius was hopeful that he would continue his silent contemplation for the rest of their walk to Magical Creatures.
“Well…” James started again slowly, approximately thirty seconds later.
“Dammit,” Sirius muttered.
Again, his friend gave no indication that he had heard him, though Sirius would have bet good money that he had. “I don’t know if this is a viable suggestion or not…” he went on, albeit hesitantly, and Sirius started listening more closely because James was not a normally hesitant person and it was making him curious. “But have you considered… Well, I mean, have you given any thought to—well, to Moony, at all?”
For just a second, Sirius’s brain short-circuited. The signals between his mind and his body went haywire, causing him to stumble and then trip outright. Very quickly, before his brain had even finished rebooting, Sirius found himself sprawled out on the ground, robes grass-stained, palms scraped and bleeding from his instinctive and mostly unsuccessful attempt to protect his face from damage when he fell. He pushed himself up carefully, wincing at the pain in his hands, and glared up at James, who was looking at him with rather more amusement than Sirius felt could possibly be warranted.
“No, I have NOT considered Moony,” he stated, pissed off that James could so nonchalantly speak aloud possibilities that Sirius had spent vast amounts of time telling himself he wasn’t even allowed to think about silently in his own head. “What’s wrong with you? He’s our friend, in case you haven’t noticed, fuckhead. Plus, he’s not gay.”
James reached down and grabbed his arm, yanking and helping him up off the ground. “He COULD be gay, you know,” he replied.
As soon as Sirius was back up on his own two feet, he shoved James away and continued to scowl at him fiercely, in between the moments when he picked dirt out of the scrapes on his hands. “There has been no evidence whatsoever to indicate Remus is queer, Prongs.”
James brushed his own hands off on his robes and hefted his bag back onto his shoulder since it had slipped off when Sirius fell on his face, giving no sign that his friend’s lethal looks were bothering him in the slightest. “Well, maybe so,” he admitted. “To be fair, though, he hasn’t ever given any sort evidence that he’s straight, either. He’s very vague and noncommittal in general whenever talk about relationships comes up.” He shrugged and started walking towards class again. “I’m just saying, you know. It wouldn’t hurt to ask. I mean, you already know he’s a pretty cool guy, he puts up with all of our, frankly, ridiculous behaviour with the patience of a saint, he’s not completely hideous or anything, and he always has copious amounts of chocolate hidden about his person that he’s usually willing to share. I know if I were looking for blokes to shag, Moony’d be decently high up on my list, that’s all.”
Sirius huffed and trailed reluctantly after him towards the class, which had just come into their line of vision along the Forest’s edge. “I hadn’t given it much thought,” he lied testily. “Besides, it doesn’t matter one way or the other. Remus is my friend and I’m not fucking around with our friendship again, not after the Shack incident. We’re not talking about this anymore.”
James studied him carefully for a moment and Sirius started to feel nervous, as though he might see something in his face that Sirius was desperate to hide, but soon enough the other boy looked away and shrugged again. In a voice that was, perhaps, just a tiny bit too casual, he responded with a simple, “Yeah, alright. If you say so.”
Possibly more anxious now than before, Sirius narrowed his eyes warily, but James didn’t even look at him again until they’d reached the rest of class, and that was only to grin and wink at him in response to Professor Kettleburn’s highly sarcastic greeting. “Well, well, if it isn’t the magnanimous duo! Misters Black and Potter, we are so very flattered that you could find the time in your busy schedules to deign to visit the class!”
And James grinned and Sirius felt himself grin back, and he replied to Kettleburn with a cheery, “Not a problem, sir, we’re always happy to oblige a fan,” losing ten points from Gryffindor in the process. Then they settled down to discuss the mating habits of glumbumbles and, as far as Sirius was concerned, that was the end of that.
Except, apparently, that wasn’t the end of that for James.
He allowed Sirius to think that the matter was closed for a couple of days. But that Saturday was a Hogsmeade weekend and, as luck would have it, also the day of the first snowfall of the year. So, since all the older students were going to the village and all the little toerags who were too young to go had swarmed outside for snowball fights and such, the Marauders decided to enjoy the rare occasion of having their common room to themselves in order to lounge around inside.
Sirius and Peter had constructed and charmed a seven-foot long mini-Quidditch pitch on the floor in front of the fire, mostly using rolled up pieces of parchment to form two-feet-tall goal posts. Then, they used levitation charms on a single book each to serve as a paddle or an “Keeper” to try to block the other from chucking crushed up balls of parchment—or occasionally rocks or candy wrappers or anything else they happened to find within arm’s reach on the floor—through their goalposts. They had charmed the posts to play various loud, cheerfully obnoxious fanfares and songs and to set off a tiny fireworks display every time a goal was scored and were feeling rather proud of themselves.
Remus was purportedly working on a Runes essay, though what he was actually doing was keeping score of both points scored and blatant fouls committed in the floor-parchment-Quidditch game. James was systematically applying sticking charms to every single page of a copy of the Standard Book of Spells Grade Five which belonged to the new young Prefect who had ratted him out to McGonagall last week for doing some prank or another and gotten him a detention. It took him about 15 minutes to finish going through the entire text, during which time the floor-parchment-Quidditch score had gone up to 320-50 for Sirius (though the tally of fouls was roughly just as high), after which he put the book down on the sofa next to where Remus was sitting and then sat down heavily on top of it, bouncing up and down on it a few times, just to make sure the charms had all the help they could get.
“That should do it,” he announced proudly, pulling the book out from under him and tossing it carelessly under a chair across the room, in the rough vicinity of where he’d originally found it. “We’ll see if that prig Jorkins can tattle his way into getting his book to open ever again, shall we?”
Remus rolled his eyes and Peter finally scored his sixth goal, causing the William Tell Overture to blare and pink and purple fireworks to erupt from the center of the ‘pitch’. “That was very mature of you, Prongs,” Remus said, speaking loudly to be heard over the music and the crackling of the small pyrotechnic display. “Really, it’s a pity other Head Boys in days gone by weren’t so responsible and adult as you are. Truly, it’s very sad.”
In reply, James gave him a cheeky grin and said, “I know, it’s really very tragic.” He settled into his spot on the sofa, getting comfortable, and leaned over slightly to check out the game stats that Remus had scribbled down on the parchment in his lap. “So, how badly has Sirius been fouling Petey today?”
“He’s practically a fully fledged Falmouth Falcon by now.” Hearing this, Peter pouted and nodded.
“It’s true,” he stated. He then threw a ball of parchment directly at his opponent’s forehead to punctuate his point, causing Sirius to squawk and loudly declare that he had just been fouled, too, thank you very much. James smiled, almost like a proud father, and Remus shook his head ruefully.
The ‘Quidditch’ match on the floor began to escalate as Sirius and Peter stopped aiming quite so carefully for the goals and started just randomly chucking things at each other. Remus chuckled at them, wondering why he bothered trying sometimes, and that was when James sprang it on him.
“So, Moony,” he started out innocently, keeping one watchful eye on Sirius. “I’ve got a question for you.”
Remus tilted his head inquisitively. “Yes?”
“Do you think you could ever shag a bloke?” James asked. Remus blinked in surprise and on the floor, the parchment-Quidditch-turned-aerial-assault match came to a screeching halt as Peter and Sirius both stopped throwing things at each other and turned to stare at James, the former somewhat stupefied and the latter with angry disbelief all over his face.
Remus blinked at him a few more times, obviously confused, before he answered. “You aren’t propositioning me, are you? If you are, I’m going to tell Lily.”
James shook his head, as calm as though he had just asked for an opinion about the weather. Sirius fought back the urge to light his stupid hair on fire. “Nope. I’m just curious.”
“Oh.” Remus cleared his throat and scratched his head. Neither James nor Sirius missed the fact that his face was slowly turning very red indeed. “Well, uh. I guess, well, I mean…” His right hand flew up to his mouth and he started chewing anxiously on his thumbnail, something Sirius hadn’t seen him do in years. “Well, I suppose it’s not completely outside of the realm of possibility,” he murmured around his thumb.
James eyes lit up like a Christmas tree and Sirius felt his heart skip. The entire subject was brand new to Peter, though, and he didn’t notice either of them. His eyes were trained solely on Remus. To say he was shocked may have been an understatement. “What?!”
Remus shrugged, and apparently decided that he was going to try and pretend like he didn’t notice how very, very awkward the conversation had become. “I’m not really in a place where I’m actively searching out partners, of course,” he explained. “But if there was an interested party, well, I don’t suppose I would personally care one way or the other if they were male or female. I’m…” He paused for a moment, searching for the right way to say it. “I suppose that I’m open to the possibility,” he eventually concluded.
There was a moment of shared, contemplative silence as they all turned those words over in their head—including Remus, who nodded to himself when he decided that, yes, he had properly communicated the basics of what he’d been trying to say.
“That has got to be the most boring way possible of admitting that you’re bi,” James announced. Peter nodded in agreement.
Remus merely shrugged. “Well, I’m a boring sort of person.”
“I thought you did fine,” Sirius muttered, trying to hide his irritation at James, but not succeeding very well. “Considering how pointless and insensitive the question was.”
Remus frowned, not understanding what Sirius was so cranky about. Peter still looked more than a little confused. And then James shot him a gloating, triumphant look and Sirius couldn’t take it anymore. He stood up suddenly, unable to look any of them in the eye, muttered something about maybe taking a nap and then strode away and up the stairs to their dorm.
Remus stared at his back as he left, completely lost. Not noticing his friend’s expression, Peter asked, “So… have you snogged many blokes, then? Anyone we know?”
Distracted, Remus replied with a vague, “Not really,” before turning to James for answers. “What’s wrong with him? I didn’t think he would have a problem with it.”
James carelessly waved off his friend’s worries. “No, no, no, he’s fine with it. Pads is a very accepting kind of guy, you know that.” Seeing that Remus still looked doubtful, James grinned at winked at him. “He’s just never been this happy to be wrong before and he doesn’t know what to do about it.”
Remus didn’t feel any less confused.