"I think," Peter announces, and falls silent, as though expecting someone to deny this claim.
No one seems inclined to bother. The four boys are sitting beneath their favourite tree down by the lake, and are too exhausted by their last few exams and the sudden heat wave to muster up enough energy to do much of anything, let alone argue. James is lying flat on his face in the cool grass, though from the agitated way one of his hands is tearing at it, he isn't grateful for the respite from the unrelenting heat of the day. Sirius is lying on his back next to James, staring absently at the branches above their heads. Remus is reading.
Sometimes, when none of the boys want to waste their breath talking about that one tree down by the lake, you know, it is referred to as Moony's Reading Tree.
"Yes, Peter?" the aforementioned Moony asks, shutting his book and looking up. "What do you think?"
"That it's too bloody hot," says Peter decidedly.
Sirius hits him rather floppily. "Quiet. You're ruining my concentration with this silly moping."
"Not moping," James mumbles. "Happy. Thrilled. No more OWLs." He looks up, rather pink in the face and with the pattern of grass imprinted on his forehead. "What concentration?"
"I am trying," says Sirius with great dignity, "to bask in the delight that is this place after exams are finished and we don't have to worry about anything." He pauses and glances at Remus. "Also trying to figure out why Moony is reading such a very small book. Moony, oh Moony my lad, why are you reading such a small book?"
"It's an anthology of letters," Remus answers absently, turning the page. "Not very many letters, though most of them are quite long."
"Oh, letters. Prongs writes letters, don't you, Prongs? Scads and scads."
"That word sounds gross," Peter puts in. "If you turn the d around you get lots of scabs."
James turns to stare at him. "What are you on about?"
"Scads of scabs," Peter says reasonably, and picks up a rock, tossing it in the general direction of the lake. It falls into the shallows with a satisfying plop.
"He's delirious with the heat," James decides, and flops back over.
"Moooony," says Sirius, who is obviously very bored, and sprawls onto Remus's lap. "Moony, what sort of letters? Love letters? Suicide notes?"
"Don't be morbid," Remus says sternly, and shuts his little book. "If you must know, it's Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, and it would probably bore you out of your mind. It's about philosophy. It's far too deep for you."
"Ow," Sirius says mildly, and snatches the book from Remus, opening it at random. He frowns at it. "You lie, Moony. This is a love letter. I think."
"Possibly Rilke is rhapsodizing about love," Remus suggests, though this isn't quite the correct turn of phrase; still, he quite likes the word, and none of the other boys are going to ask him what it means.
"Possibly Rilke was full of himself," returns Sirius, and hands the book back.
"Good boy," Remus says. "Now get off of me. You're making my legs fall asleep."
Sirius rolls off obediently, and promptly chooses James' back as a pillow. James makes a muffled noise of protest.
"What're you doing over the holidays?" asks Peter, who doesn't like silences, even short content ones on a hot day, when nothing is really still except for the air, and the world of sound is alive with the drone of insects and the little plashing noises of lake water lapping up against the pebbly shore.
"Ireland," says James, who seems to be cherishing monosyllabic responses.
"What's in Ireland?" Sirius wants to know.
"Mum's family. Horrible bunch of old coots." But James says this affectionately, and he must really like his relatives if he is to gift the world with anything approaching full sentences.
"Aren't they all," says Sirius, but with less bitterness than he might once have done. Five years at Hogwarts have made him nearly accept the concept of other people having relatives worth liking.
"And you?" Peter asks. "What're you doing, Padfoot?"
"Running away from home," Sirius answers nonchalantly. He has said this every year, and hasn't done it yet, but Remus has the horrible feeling he really might, someday.
"I'm thinking about that too," Peter says unhelpfully. "My sisters are really getting on my nerves."
"Didn't Polly start Hogwarts this year?" Remus says, closing his book again, with his index finger as a bookmark. He is good at detracting conversation from uncomfortable things, and today doesn't seem a time for one of Sirius's blacker moods.
"Yeah," Peter says proudly. "And Patty's all set to get her letter this summer."
"You can't run away, then," Sirius points out. "Then you'll never know if whatever sister it is will be getting her letter and coming here to bother you all year round."
"I guess so." Peter makes a face.
"Moony," James says unexpectedly, and falls silent again.
"It speaks!" Sirius exclaims, and prods James' shoulders. "What, Prongs? What about Moony?"
"Holidays," James says, and mercilessly tears up some more grass.
"I'm helping Dad repaint the house," Remus says. "It's an absolute peeling disaster right now."
"If I run away," Sirius says, squinting at Remus, "can I help?"
"I wouldn't trust you not to paint everything in sight," Remus retorts, "and though I'm sure I'd look delightful painted Cerulean Sky, I'd much rather be plain old brownish Remus, all right?"
"Cerulean Sky?" James repeats, muffled and rather incredulous.
"I don't know," Remus shrugs. "Muggle paints come in all sorts of silly names."
"Plain Old Brownish Remus doesn't work, then," Sirius says decidedly. "Oi, Wormtail. What colour is Moony, do you think?"
"Um. Chocolate?" Peter hazards.
"Too obvious," James says, and turns over with a little oof as the back of Sirius's head comes down heavily on his stomach. "Padfoot, you absolute—"
"Shut up," Sirius interrupts good-naturedly. "You think of a colour, then."
"Russet Coffee," James offers.
"I am not," Remus says decidedly, "Russet Coffee. Good God, James, you're making me sound like a designer drink."
"Topped with whipped cream," Sirius adds happily. "And then we'll serve you at dinner in the Great Hall."
"That's disgusting," Peter says decidedly. "I wouldn't eat you, Remus."
"You mean drink," James corrects helpfully.
"I'm reading," Remus says with dignity, and goes back to his book. Rilke instructs him to be independent, and Remus is starting to think this is a very good idea.
"Moooony," Sirius says, and grabs at the book. "We can all be a colour, okay? We'll name our hair. We'll even be nice to Wormtail and yours can be Russet Chocolate, and then everyone's happy."
"Oh?" Remus retorts, raising an eyebrow. "And your hair, Mr. Padfoot?"
"Sinister Opal," Sirius says immediately and without shame.
"What's so sinister about it?" Peter wants to know.
"No idea," Sirius says cheerfully. "And Prongs' is Messy Coal."
"Hey," James protests.
"What's mine, then?" Peter asks.
"Sandy Gold," Remus says, taking pity on Peter and effectively sacrificing himself to the mercy of Sirius' insane colour whims for the rest of his natural life.
"You're all mad," James says decidedly, and attempts to roll back over to contemplate the grass, but Sirius is evidently too heavy, and so James ends up flailing for a few moments like an undignified fish before giving up. "Wormtail, they're all mad."
"I know," Peter says.
"I'm not mad," Sirius says. "I am a sane and practical man. You, Prongs, are the mad one. You are killing the grass and you don't want to go swimming because you're afraid the giant squid will eat you."
"Will it?" Peter asks in alarm.
"Probably," says James, and cuffs Sirius lightly. "You're still mad."
"I am not," says Sirius, and hits him back.
Peter starts egging them on.
It's too hot for this sort of thing, Remus thinks in faint amusement, and goes back to his book. Rilke, at least, doesn't care for heat or madness or naming things after house paints, and that is quite comforting.