“Flurries,” James Potter states importantly. “A charm of some kind, or a hex?”
Sirius Black looks up from the floor, where he lies on his back. “Neither,” he says, lazily.
James has a book spread open in front of him, Remus' Everything You Could Possibly Need To Know About Spells No Other Wizard Ever Bothers To Talks About, volume III. He's frowning, covering up the description underneath Flurries with his hand. “It sounds too pretty to be a hex, right?”
Sirius shrugs. “Lots of hexes have pretty faces.”
“Er. Names. Sorry.”
James prods him with his foot. “Concentrate, Padfoot.”
“Flurries sounds like something McGonagall would do.” He says, grinning. “Flurry, flurry, for methinks I spy Albus on the lawn doing cartwheels!”
James sighs. “I'll bet you 10 Galleons it's a charm.”
Sirius narrows his eyes. “What sort of a charm?”
“A charm to whisk a girl's skirt off,” he replies, waggling his eyebrows.
Sirius snorts. “You could use a spell like that.”
James' nudge turns to a kick. “Shut up. Just because your parents took you to Beauxbatons last summer-”
“That? That was a flurried affair, I assure you.”
James growls in his throat, part-jealous, two-fold. Of the girl Sirius followed into a silk-lined bedroom. Of the girl who put her hands on Sirius. Of the Sirius who's touched a girl, a real one, really naked. Of the girl who's touched Sirius, really naked. This is a complicated feeling and for the most part, he ignores it. Except when they're experimenting with the boundaries of their friendship, which they do often. They have a grandiose friendship: the two of them have discovered a mutual joy, kind of like rolling around on the floor together, playing like kids, except with more satisfaction. James doesn't think he's into guys, just Sirius, and he doesn't think anything more of it, no labels or anything, because he and Sirius are special and always have been.
Usually, they are a flurried affair. They're rarely completely undressed, usually just fumbling about in each other's clothes, quick and quiet, in case they're caught. Sirius is really rough and sometimes it's uncomfortable, but James puts up with it because there's just nothing like it in the whole world. It'll continue comfortably until they both find girlfriends, he expects. For the time being, he's happy to have discovered this thing, whatever it is, with his best friend. It sets them apart from other best friends, makes them more intense. Their fights, when they occur, are now colossal. Then again, making up is more fun.
“Hex,” he grouches. “Or charm?”
Sirius turns over onto his side and his jeans stretch on his hip, a gap of flesh where his shirt ends. James' eyes dart over, then back again, quickly. Sirius smiles, lazy and hot, and then says, “Hex.”
James squints at him and then closes the book. Sirius makes a 'hey' gesture, but James just smiles secretly. “I'm going to bring Remus in on it back at school,” he says. “Make some real money out of this.”
Remus is buttering his toast.
He sits opposite James, who is looking at him keenly and pleadingly and plain old pathetically, with Sirius flanking his side. Sirius has an air of reservation about him, which Remus takes to mean they've put a bet on this question. Peter sits beside Remus. He's doing some last-minute homework, grumbling that the teachers are cruel to set it on their first week back.
“Flurries,” Remus says, through bites. “You want me to make a bet on what 'flurries' is?”
James nods. He couldn't look more like a puppy if he were Sirius transformed. Remus frowns. “James, the book belongs to me. I've read it.”
This hadn't occurred to James, whose face falls. Then brightens. “But what would you say it was?”
“If I hadn't read it?”
“Yes,” Sirius says. His brows are wrinkled. It's almost as if he's trying to spell 'hex' with them.
Peter steals some of Remus' toast as he thinks.
“I would say hex,” he says, tentatively. Sirius lets out a whoop and James bangs his fist on the table. The Slytherins turn around and glare at them, Sirius thinks because they've interrupted their plan to strip naked and create a Dark Mark on the table out of their curved bodies. James reckons all they'd need to do that is Severus, really, he's all the snake they need. This makes Peter giggle, and Sirius has a wry smile on his face.
“Why hex?!” James splutters, then, at Remus. “You couldn't really, really want to hurt someone and then use something called 'flurries'! It's like 'kitten kazoom' being an Unforgivable!”
Remus shrugs, good-naturedly. “I've often found that some of the more pleasantly named spells are brutal. There's no reason why a spell couldn't include kittens but also be totally, unthinkably cruel. Wizardry is full of irony, when you think about it.”
“I tell you what's ironic,” Sirius says, mouth full of toast. “Is that every time that Lily Potter walks past Severus, he looks crosser than ever. Talk about a chat-up line. I think that boy's completely backwards.”
James picks up on this, eyes slanting towards the scene. “I think he's trying to flirt.”
“By glowering at her? Nice. Maybe feelings of love cause Severus to feel even more twisted up inside. Love isn't a Dark Art, remember. However will he cope?”
As she passes, James beams widely at her, leaning back in his chair with his hands behind his head. She rolls her eyes and strides off. He realises that his charm is no more successful than Snape's glaring and when his chair legs hit the floor, it's so loud that everyone jumps a bit.
“I tell you what's ironic,” he says, miserably. “I think she likes his sallow git-face more than she likes my brilliant smile.”
“There, there,” Sirius says, helping himself to more butter. “If you're right, you can just cast 'flurries' on her and make her skirt fall off.”
“If I'm right,” Remus teases. “She'll probably turn into a frog and hate you forever.”
“I'd have her even as a frog,” James says mournfully.
Sirius is disgusted. He flicks butter at James, who finally, a little sadly, begins to laugh.
“Why would you want a frog,” Sirius says, later, they're out of Divination early and everyone else is in the library. They don't have much time and the cloak isn't the best thing, really. His hand is in James' underwear and he's on top, Sirius, rolling about for friction. James' thigh is between his legs for balance and for rubbing and they shove together, finding a pattern that suits them both, James sneaking his fingers into the mix until Sirius starts and groans, there, there.
“I don't want a frog, idiot, I want Lily.”
“Even as a frog,”
“Even as a frog,”
“That's-” Sirius leans down, his head against James' shoulder, losing his balance, his eyes all dazed and white. “That's madness, mate.”
James tilts his head back, his chin nutting Sirius in the skull. Neither of them notice. “You'll understand when you find a girl.”
“I have found a girl.”
“No, one you...oh, god, no. One you actually want to stay with.”
“Boring,” Sirius says, cheerfully. “Only fifteen. Boring, boring, boring. Boring ol' Prongs.”
Sirius' hand becomes more urgent, more forceful. James' does the same, in turn. “Bet a frog can't do this,” he says, partly because he's jealous, partly because he wants him to shut up.
James just groans, finally beginning to shake his head. His eyes are glassy and his lips slack. His glasses are nowhere to be seen. Sirius recognises that he's lost, would say anything as long as Sirius doesn't move his hand.
“But I can,” he says. Wants to say it louder, much louder, just doesn't dare.
James just nods, keeps nodding, keeps nodding, keeps nodding, as Sirius' hand moves and moves, and their bodies rock, rock, rock together. And then there's a flurry of movement as Sirius yells out and James does, a fraction of a second later, and they collapse together like cards. Sirius lies very still, on top of him, bones sore with knocking against bones, his chest rising and falling on James'.
“Madness,” James says, because it's the only way to describe the situation, really.
“Pot kettle black,” Sirius says, grinning, a laugh in his throat.
“Potter kettle Black,” James echoes, a hand coming up to scratch Sirius' hair. Sirius knows it's unconsciously done, but he doesn't stop him. He doesn't think he could.
They get the book out, later. Sirius does a drum roll on the side of the bed and James shines a torch into his face, like he's telling a horror story. “For dramatic effect,” he says.
“Bloody hell, it's only ten Galleons,” Sirius says. “It's just a few butterbeers.”
“Flurries sounds like it should be a special kind of butterbeer,” Peter says. “With cream on the top, or something. And sprinkles.”
Sirius wrinkles his nose. James kicks him. “Pay attention.”
Remus rolls his eyes, trying to see his parchment in the dark. He's on his bed, away from them, not in the slightest bit interested but unable to see his homework in the dark.
“Flurries,” James says, juggling book and torch in one hand. Sirius takes over the torch, helpfully, but waves it about in his face until James roars and dives on him, and Peter knows it'll take them twenty minutes to resolve who won the fight, so he goes over and sits next to Remus instead.
“Is it a charm, or a hex?” He whispers.
Remus smiles, kindly. “It's a hex,” he says, very quietly. “Folk term, people think it was an old idea that became the Petrificus Totalus spell.”
Peter's eyes widen, trying to take that in. “Because...I suppose...it's like freezing someone.”
“Snow flurries are the kind of storm where snow falls but leaves little on the ground. It's unusual. A little like the body-bind. The person doesn't look as if anything's happened to them, they're just rigid. You'd only know if you touched them. When snow falls that lightly, you almost don't believe that it's real. Snow falls through the air, but it doesn't gather. It doesn't look right. I think that was the theory, anyway.”
“People really used to fear snow,” Peter says.
“People used to fear anything they didn't understand,” Remus says. “Snow, yes. It must have been frightening, in the times when people didn't know what caused it. Anything can be frightening, in the right circumstances.”
Peter snorts. “I don't think I ever could.”
Remus smiles. “Why would you want to be frightening?” He says. “You're our friend, Peter. We much prefer you the way you are.”
They're interrupted by a yell from James, who is holding Sirius down by the knees, his feet in his face, reading the book. “It's a fucking hex!” he's yelling, and Sirius is cheering through muffled denim, hitting the backs of James' thighs.
Remus just looks at them, the discarded torch casting them in a spotlight. Peter follows his gaze, expecting a weary remark of some kind. Remus just looks soft, kind of fond. It could just be the light, dim and flattering. But a part of Peter thinks that it's Remus, just Remus. Remus has always loved the two of them in a way that Peter can't understand, would take for himself if he could, but he can't.
If he were frightening, he could command the attention that Potter and Black receive and leave unappreciated. But he isn't, and he can't.
“That's ten Galleons, please,” Sirius is saying, and Remus laughs, not at James' misfortune but at the warm, wonderful thought that nothing dark can ever touch them. In this moment, nothing bad will ever happen. They'll be friends forever, Hogwarts is their home, they're kings of the wizarding world. Except Peter. Peter's just the person who strides along, some ten paces behind them, trying to catch a sniff of the power they possess without ever knowing it.
“Flurries is a fucking hex,” James is shrieking, Sirius pummeling him in the face with a cushion.
Even the most innocuous things can be dangerous, Remus once said. Peter goes to bed, shutting his eyes to the light of the torch. Gradually, the voices of the other three grow quieter. The great swelling of his breath takes them over.
When he comes out of Azkaban and proves his innocence, in the painful days and weeks that follow, Remus warily fills Sirius in. Slowly, at first, because being in prison has turned Sirius' hot-headed streak into something far more reckless, dangerous. He tells him about Harry, about the challenges he's faced and how he's come through them. Sirius is desperate to hear it, soaks it up like a sponge. Remus knows Sirius never got over it. Not really.
In the painful weeks and months that follow, Sirius travels all over, trying to avoid rousing suspicion. He writes to Harry very carefully. He tries to quell the anger that rages inside him, all of the time, relentlessly. He remembers Remus telling him about Godric's Hollow. That after the two deaths, the people in the village erected a statue to honour Lily and James. A symbol of lost innocence. He wants, more than anything, to see it.
When he travels out there, it's December. People are inside, away from the cold and seeking out the warmth of their festivities. They don't notice the big, black dog that walks down the street. They don't notice that big, black dog sitting by the statue, marveling at the coldness of the stone, the odd likeness, as if someone had just petrified James and Lily Potter and placed them in the middle of the ground.
Remus would say that they had been honoured. That their deaths would inspire an uprising, a mood, that they would be seen as people who needed, needed and had to be avenged. That their suffering would be a catalyst for an army wanting to overthrow Voldemort. Sirius isn't sure. He can't get it out of his head, how pointless it was. How pointless the loss of their lives. Lily died honourably, James did, too, but still. Neither of them needed to die. If Peter hadn't-
There's a growl in his throat and he quietens it. He raises a paw and touches the stone memorial. He tries his very hardest to see it as an honour, and not another weary nod to another weary wizard who did what was right in the most difficult moment of his life. Sirius has a horrifying feeling that things will not change, or not fast enough. He feels powerless, empty and alone.
The snow falls in the street, covering his back with little flecks. It isn't strong enough to reach the ground. Sirius stays there for a while, nobody will notice a dog. He stays until he's good and covered. As he walks away, the ground is clean and dry. As if the snow is death breathed out, covering everything quietly until it suffocates and can cry out no more.
As he walks away, the snow flurries this way and that. Directionless, empty and alone, it covers everything that it meets without gathering on the ground.