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Dress up in You

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I'm the singer, I'm the singer in the band

You're the loser. I won't dismiss you out of hand

Cos you've got a beautiful face,

It will take you places.

 

WhatsApp between Padfoot and Prongs:

Prongs: Mate r u coming tonite or wot?

Padfoot: Obvs. Wouldn’t miss it.

Prongs: noiiiice.

Padfoot: Do they have a name yet?

Prongs: *Drumroll*

Padfoot:

Prongs: ...The Flu Fighters!

Padfoot : omg.

Prongs: It’s funny! They’re all nurses!

Padfoot: It was your idea, wasn’t it?

Prongs: ...maybe

Padfoot:

Prongs: what?????? not funny????

Padfoot: I preferred ‘The MediSinners’.

Prongs:

Prongs: Fuck. That is better.

Padfoot: dw, we can’t all be as witty as me. See you at yours, then? 7?

Prongs: Sounds good. Bring Marls?

Padfoot: I’ll try. Gtg.

Prongs: ttyl x

 

Sirius pressed the button on the side of his phone and slid it quickly into his back pocket. The kettle had boiled, and Mrs Figg came tottering out of the kitchen, carrying a tea tray in her shaking arthritic hands. He started forward quickly,

“Let me,” he carefully took the tray from her and settled it down on the little coffee table.

“Such a lovely young man,” she smiled at him through her cataracts, “So helpful. Did I tell you about my grandson? I’m sure you’d like him, let me find a picture…”

Sirius tried to hide a smirk. She did this every time. He felt very sorry for her grandson, who was probably very nice, but at least a decade older than Sirius, and not his type at all. Anyway - he wasn’t looking for anything like that. Right now, for the first time in his life, Sirius felt like he was actually going somewhere with his career. A relationship would only muck it all up - it had taken a good few years and a lot of heartbreak, but he knew that now.

“We’d better be getting on with your ‘do, Arabella,” he said, gently, “didn’t you say you’ve got bingo at four?”

“Ooh yes,” the old lady nodded, getting up again, “Oh, you are good to remind me. I’d forget my head, if it weren’t screwed on. Come on through, love.”

He followed her into her little bathroom, dodging one of her ten cats as it wove between his legs. Bloody cats, he’d never been a fan; horrible scratchy yowly things.

Everything in Mrs Figg’s bathroom was a revolting avocado green, from the ancient porcelain fixtures to the knitted bog roll cover sitting on the tiny windowsill. Sirius loved it. So kitsch. He settled her into the kitchen chair that he had placed there when he arrived, and began to run the taps.

“Just you relax,” he said, kindly, as he held her head in his hands and guided her to lean back.

“I feel like a film star!” She babbled cheerily, closing her eyes as he began to wet her hair.

“I’ll have you looking like Helen Mirren in no time,” he replied, “Temperature ok?”

“Lovely!” She sighed, happily.

Sirius smiled. If only his mother could see him now.

He was aware that it wasn’t exactly glamorous , being a part time mobile hairdresser for old ladies and toddlers, but it was only a stop gap, and believe it or not, it really made him happy. Mrs Figg was a regular, and he would miss sorting out her trim and set every third friday of the month. He would be onto much bigger and better things, soon enough. They had the premises, and the staff, just waiting for the final month of the refurb now. And the name. They needed a good name.  

He finished with Mrs Figg by three, and had another cup of tea with her, because he didn’t have anywhere else to be, and she liked having someone there. Old ladies were good company, in Sirius’s opinion. Usually happy to carry the conversation, and full of stories about the 1960s, or whenever they were teenagers. Anyway, it came with the territory, he thought. Hairdressers are part beauty, part talking therapy.

Not hairdressers! Marlene would scold him, we’re Stylists .

That’s what their business cards said, anyway. Marls had printed them up the very day they’d had the idea to go into business together. Black & McKinnon, Professional Hair Stylists: Newham, Hackney & Tower Hamlets .

Sirius wasn’t a fan of the name - he didn’t want his family’s name on anything to do with him - but Marlene promised they would come up with something better once the shop was ready. He left that up to her; she was the business end.

On his way out of Mrs Figg’s flat, she pressed a pound into his hand, grinning and telling him not to spend it all at once. He smiled back and gave her a peck on the cheek, slyly placing the coin back into the little dish on the telephone table in the hall. It was a paltry tip, but he knew she only had a state pension to live on, and couldn’t bear to take any more from her than the twenty quid he charged for the whole job.

“Come back soon, handsome!” She cackled, waving from her front door. He smiled bashfully, weighed down by his heavy kit bag.

“See you on the twenty first, love!”

The lift was broken, but he didn’t mind the stairs, even in his skinny jeans. He was in a good mood; it had been an easy afternoon’s work, and how he was free to do as he pleased until Lily’s gig tonight. Anyway; the sun was shining, which was always a plus for London. Brightened up the graffiti.

At the bus stop, Sirius checked his phone again. Twelve messages. One from Marlene, one from Lily, and ten from James. That sounded about right.

James first, of course:

  • OMG im so bored. What u up to.
  • U working? U still owe me a tenner from the Chinese last week.
  • U can get the first round in ;D
  • Nah only joking. It’s for charity innit.
  • Wot u gonna wear? U think rugby shirt’s ok?
  • Gid & Fab are coming tonite. R u ok with Gid now?
  • I can tell him to piss off if not.
  • Sooooo boooooored
  • When r u home?
  • Call me plz.

Sirius tutted indulgently at his best friend’s atrocious grammar before replying.

  • Omg you are so clingy. Yes I was working. On my way back now. To my home. Have you forgotten we don’t live together any more???

He sighed a bit as he pressed send. He still forgot they didn’t live together anymore, even though it had to be at least six months now. Maybe because he still spent most of his time at Lily and James’s. He started typing again.

  • Can come over yours though, if you’re in? Probably just wear what I’m wearing. Rugby shirt is a terrible idea, I’ll help you pick something less overtly heterosexual. Fine with Gid, dw about it.

The bus pulled up and Sirius hopped on, tapping his oyster and shuffling to the back seat. It was the middle of the day on a Thursday, so pretty much empty, and he didn’t feel bad about putting his huge hairdressing case on the seat next to him. He read the message from Marlene,

  • Got a wedding booking for June, hair and makeup, five hours, can you do it? I’ll do makeup.

That was lucky - they’d only recently decided to take events bookings, and had been struggling to garner interest, as they didn’t have the experience. As nice as it was to trawl round council estates giving old ladies blue rinses, weddings were really where the big money was. He replied ‘Yes, definitely!”, then opened Lily’s message.

  • Oi oi sexy, do my hair tonight? Will love you forever! xxx

He grinned at that. If he had to lose his best mate in the world to somebody else, then it may as well be ‘Lily Fucking Evans’, as she liked to introduce herself. He fired off another response.

  • No probs babe ;) x

The rest of the journey he settled back and watched the view. He’d broken his headphones that morning, which was a bit of a bummer, but the bus window provided a satisfactory distraction. Mothers dragged wailing toddlers along the pavement, groups of old men stood smoking outside the turkish kebab shop, stalls selling exotic fruit added splashes of colour to the grimy pavement, posters for gigs and pub nights were plastered on every spare bit of wall.

Sirius wondered if he would ever get used to the complete technicolour mayhem of East London. It was a world away from quiet, leafy Kensington, where he’d grown up.

His phone buzzed again.

  • Yesss come over! Kettle’s on.

* * *

Fortunately for Sirius, this meant getting off at his usual stop. Because yes, he had finally moved away from his childhood best friend, but only one street over. Baby steps.

The Potter-Evans’s lived in a gorgeous penthouse flat in a new development in Dalston, only five minutes walk from the overground. From the balcony (yes, a bloody balcony, in London) you could see the spire of the Holy Trinity Church. Sirius personally did not go in for church-y stuff, but he was particularly fond of this one, ever since he’d found out it was the Clowns’ Church, and home to an actual museum of clowning.

The lift was always working in their building, and Sirius had his own fob for the doors, so he let himself in. He dumped his heavy bag in the hallway and wandered into the kitchen. The kettle was steaming and two mugs were set out, a bag of Yorkshire Tea in each.

“I’m here,” Sirius called, pouring hot water and searching the drawers for a teaspoon.

“Two ticks!” James called from somewhere else in the flat. “Ready to rock ?!”

“Oh good lord,” Sirius smirked, squeezing each tea bag against the side of its respective mug and tossing them in the compost bin sitting on the windowsill over the sink.

It was a lovely, bright kitchen, airy and painted white, like the rest of the flat. The walls were taken up with huge modern art prints (Lily’s) and vintage sci-fi film posters (James’s). As he opened the fridge to dig out the milk, he couldn’t help but notice that it was packed to bursting with beer, wine and big bottles of fizzy drinks.

“Cheers pal,” James finally appeared, hair wet and glasses askew, pulling his shirt on. He grabbed the second mug and slurped it like a builder. “How’s this?” He gestured at the top he was wearing. It was an old HMV Led Zeppelin t-shirt.

“It’s perfect,” Sirius raised an eyebrow, “It’s mine.”

“Is it?” James looked down at his chest, frowning, “I’ve had it ages…”

“Keep it,” Sirius shrugged, “Don’t think I’ve worn it since school. How’s our rock star doing? Nervous?”

“Have you ever seen her nervous?”

“Fair point.” Sirius nodded. “Excited, then? Who else is in this band, are they all nurses?”

“Think so. All the ones who can play instruments.”

“Wait, what does Evans play?”

“Nothing, she’s frontwoman.”

“Ah.” Of course. “So… has my absence turned you both to drink?”

“You what, mate?” James frowned.

“All the booze,” Sirius gestured at the fridge, “Stocking up for a long winter?”

“Oh! Didn’t I say? Lily’s invited everyone back here for an after party. Assumed you’d be coming.”

“Er… when you say ‘everyone’, does that include the Prewetts?”

“Probably. Oh, right. So… you’re not ok about the whole Gid thing, then?” James raised a dark eyebrow. It skewed his glasses and made him look comically judgemental, but Sirius wasn’t in a comical mood.

“I didn’t say that.” He snapped.

“All right, all right,” James held up both hands, as he often did when he thought Sirius was being too touchy. Sirius sipped his tea to stop himself saying something he’d regret. James changed tact. “Call of Duty?”

“Thought you’d never ask.” Sirius smiled, ready to pretend nothing had happened at all.

It wasn’t James’s fault, of course. Sirius hadn’t really talked about Gideon since the breakup, unless you included drunken rambling when he’d been in the very depths of it. The relationship hadn’t been that serious - or at least, Gid clearly hadn’t thought so - but they’d been together on and off since school. The main problem was that Gideon had been on and off with a lot of other people too. The last time it happened was the final straw for Sirius; if he took any more blows to his pride he’d never forgive himself.

He and James spent the next few hours plugged into the xbox, sitting on the big turquoise velvet sofa in James’s living room - another of Lily’s improvements, somehow when the flat had been Sirius and James’s batchelor pad they had never got around to furnishing it properly. Sirius still had his moth bitten old beanbag at the flat he shared with Marlene, but he had a sneaking suspicion Lily had thrown James’s out.

At about six thirty the front door went, and Lily’s voice echoed through the flat,

“Anyone fancy a cuppa?”

James hit pause and they both jumped up to see her. She was already in the kitchen, setting down some very heavy looking shopping bags. Five foot nothing with a mane of flame red hair and striking green eyes, Lily Evans was a force of nature. The most driven of the three of them; Lily had earned a first class degree in Psychology two years ago, then dived straight into an NHS nursing course before James and Sirius had even recovered from the graduation party.

She kissed her boyfriend, hugged Sirius, then stood back to appraise them both. “What are you wearing?” She laughed at James’s t-shirt. “Black! I’m just gonna wash my hair, then I’m all yours, ok?”

Sirius nodded, making another round of tea. She dropped her keys on the kitchen counter, then started unpacking the shopping bags she’d carried in. James quickly took this task over, pulling out stacks of hummus, breadsticks, bags of crisps and frozen pizzas. Party food. “Staying over, love?” Lily asked Sirius, accepting her tea and leaning against the kitchen counter. Lily rarely sat down.

“Yeah, probably,” Sirius shrugged. He slept over every other week, still - but to be honest, that was their own fault - Lily and James had a reputation for throwing a party at the drop of a hat.

“I’ll make up the spare bed then,” Lily nodded, draining her tea and rinsing the mug in the sink.

“Already done,” James said, wrestling to fit the pizzas in the over packed freezer. “You just go and get ready for your big debut!”

“Legend, cheers Potter!” She grinned breezily, kissing him one more time before disappearing off to the bathroom. Sirius shook his head in wonder. His tea had barely cooled.

“You two.” He said.

“What?” James grinned back, though he knew exactly what.

James Potter had been fortunate in many areas of his life - wealthy parents, (and, more importantly, loving parents) an excellent education, a sense of humour, and, of course, the ultimate best friend in Sirius Black. But perhaps the only thing James was actually smug about was having met his soulmate at fourteen years old. Of course, at the time, she hadn’t exactly seen things the same way, and it had taken him four years to convince Lily Evans that he wasn’t just another arrogant public school toff, but all that was forgotten now, and it was quite clear that they were a perfect match.

Not that Sirius was jealous .

“Cheer up, Black,” James slapped him on the shoulder, reading his mind, “Might see someone you fancy tonight!”

“I’m not looking for--” Sirius started,

“--a relationship,” James finished, “I know, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a shag every now and then, does it?”

“Why are you so obsessed with my sex life?” Sirius tutted.

“How can I be? You don’t have one.”

“Oi!” Sirius lunged at James, and they wrestled in the middle of the kitchen for a bit, socks sliding on the laminate floor.

It was pointless play-fighting James, who was adept at pretty much every contact sport there was, but that had never stopped Sirius.

“I’m ready!” Lily yelled from the bathroom, “Come and style me, Mr Sassoon!”

Sirius struggled out of the headlock James had him in, grinning,

“To be continued, wanker.”

“That’s rich!” James retorted as Sirius hurried down the hall.

“What’s he shouting about now?” Lily raised an eyebrow, drying her hair in the mirror. She was wearing a big fluffy purple dressing gown and her dressing table was a mess of hair products and accessories.

“Nothing exciting,” Sirius replied, standing behind her and formulating a plan of action. He picked up a comb. “Right, what are we thinking? Shirley Manson? Florence Welch?”

“Stevie Nicks.” Lily said, firmly, winking at him. “Or just do you best in half an hour - I need to be there for sound check.”

“Wow, fame has really gone to your head, Evans.” Sirius began to work. “So who else is in this band? Prongs was vague.”

“God, you’ve no idea how hard it was to scrounge up interest!” She exclaimed, as if anybody would be thrilled to join a rock covers band at short notice on top of their day job. “I mean, it’s for charity !”

“Shocking.” Sirius smiled, warming up the straighteners.

“But luckily Alice owed me a favour,”

“Alice plays an instrument?”

“No, but the guy she’s started seeing in the children’s ward has a drum kit. Frank something. Alice said she’d pick up a tambourine if she really had to. Then Dr Shacklebolt - Kingsley, I think you’ve met him? He was at our last party. Anyway, he’s always going on about how he played guitar in a garage band as a teenager, so I wrangled him.”

“Nice.” Sirius could imagine exactly what ‘wrangling’ meant. Lily was the most persuasive person he’d ever met. Somehow you ended up feeling as if she’d done you a favour, when it was completely the other way around. “Bassist?”

“Yeah, I was really stuck there for a while - I thought we might have to do without, but it turns out one of the chaps down in admin plays in a band, so we got lucky. He was the hardest to win round; I thought he’d be too shy at first, but to be honest I think he’s the only one of us with any talent. Anyway, he taught Frank practically all the songs. Is Marlene coming? I asked James to remind you…”

“Oh shit, yeah!” Sirius pulled out his phone quickly and sent a message. “I’m sure she will, she never misses a party.”

“And get her to bring Dorcas!” Lily commanded, lining up her makeup on the dresser as Sirius primped her hair, “The more the merrier!”

* * *

The Shacklewell Arms was a standard east end pub, complete with Victorian etched glass windows and brassy light fixtures. Sirius had popped in for a drink more than once, but he’d never seen a band playing there before. It turned out they had a room reserved especially for live music in the back, with its own tiny bar selling only beer and jack daniels. This suited Sirius, who had never been fussy about his poisons.

They arrived early-ish and were met at the door by Alice, who was sitting on a small table and holding the collection tin.

“Here you go!” She held the bright green box out to James, “Lily says you volunteered to take donations. She told me to tell you to be charming and try not to make any of your jokes.”

“People love my jokes!” James protested, taking the tin from her. “Where is she, anyway?”

“Going over the setlist with Frank and Remus,” Alice shrugged. “Things were getting heated, so I thought I’d better leave them to it.”

That was Alice all over - Sirius had only met her a handful of times, but already he had the impression of someone who was almost completely opposite to Lily. Where Evans was dynamic and candid, often to the point of bluntness, Alice was altogether more quiet and compliant; preferring that everyone just get along. Still, ever since Lily had started her nursing course she and Alice had become fast friends, and seemed to get on like a house on fire.   

“What are they arguing about?” Sirius asked, interested. He hadn’t met Remus or Frank yet, and wondered what on earth they considered worth going up against Lily.

“The venue gave us a longer time slot than expected, I think. We haven’t rehearsed enough songs and Lily wants to just blag it, but Frank reckons we’re not good enough. We’re not, to be fair, we sounded like shit yesterday.”

Sirius and James both objected gallantly to this, assuring Alice that everything would sound fantastic. Privately, Sirius couldn’t wait - if it was shit then at least they’d all have a good laugh about it later. Alice finally disappeared to the green room, Sirius went to grab drinks for James and himself, and by the time he returned with two pints the room was starting to fill up.

Marlene arrived shortly before the band were due to go on, with her girlfriend Dorcas in tow. This week Marlene’s hair was turquoise, but that was wont to change. She’d woken Sirius at 2am the previous Friday saying she was feeling ‘mermaid vibes’ and needed his help at once. Two weeks before she’d wanted it silver. Dorcas had very short hair, undercut at the back, and the most glorious natural golden blonde Sirius had ever seen.   

“Thanks for coming!” He got up to hug them both,

“Anything for a good cause.” Marlene grinned.

“Anything for Lily Evans,” Dorcas stuck out her silver studded tongue. Marlene elbowed her,

“Oi!”

“What can I say?” Dorcas laughed, “I love bossy women.”

“Donations in the tin, please!” James tapped his green box. “Show starts in ten!”

“Sirius, have you got some business cards with you?” Marlene said, shrewd as ever, “This is exactly the sort of crowd we need to be courting…”

“Yeah, I think so..” he rooted through his pockets, but turned up nothing. She tutted and pulled out a neat little box from her bag.

“Don’t lose them!” she said sternly, before leaving to get a drink and find a good place to watch the gig from.

Sirius was three beers in by the time Lily appeared on stage, gorgeous in a fantastic emerald green dress and lots of eyeliner. He could hear Dorcas wolf-whistling from a dark corner of the room.

“Hello,” Lily spoke into the microphone coyly as the rest of the band took up their instruments behind her. “Thank you for coming, we are The Flu Fighters!”

Cheers erupted from the crowd, and Sirius strained up on his tiptoes to get a better look. There was Kingsley - Sirius vaguely remembered having met him at a party, he was a tall, broadly built black man with striking features and a gold earring. Alice looked green with nerves and was clutching a tambourine, and the drummer (who must be her boyfriend, Frank) was smiling and saying something reassuring to her. Finally, a third young man loped onto the stage, eyes down, but hands up in an apologetic gesture.

He was very tall and very slim, and sort of looked as though he had wandered onstage by accident. He nimbly navigated the mess of wires and picked up a large bass guitar, slipping the strap over one shoulder. Ah, the chap from the admin office at the hospital, Sirius remembered. Lily had said he was good, but the name had already left Sirius’s mind.

He had a mess of shaggy dirty-blond curls - mousy in the shadows, but startlingly chestnut when the spotlight hit him. He was wearing drainpipe corduroy trousers in a deeply unpleasant shade of green, and a plain grey t-shirt. Not very rock ‘n’ roll, in Sirius’s opinion. But he had big hands and long, bony fingers which seemed to have a life of their own as he fiddled with the frets on his bass. Sirius had a thing for hands. They could be very telling. Gideon’s hands had been smooth and freckled, with perfect pink nails like the inside of a seashell. Sirius drained his drink, and decided to get another.

‘The Flu Fighters’ weren’t terrible. They weren’t earth shattering, but even Sirius had to admit they knew their stuff. Lily had a surprisingly husky voice, capable of belting out every one of the rock classics they’d chosen. A healthy dose of Britpop - Oasis, Blur, Travis - some old school Clash tunes, and a startlingly heavy version of ‘Survivor’ by Destiny’s Child. Lily’s choice, no doubt.

There wasn’t a lot of room on stage, but Lily made the most of it, bopping about to the livelier songs. Kingsley was just as showy, playing to the crowd and flirting with a gang of swooning girls in the front row. Shame, Sirius thought, Kingsley was quite fit.

As ‘Survivor’ came to a slightly awkward close (the drumming went on a bit longer then everything else, and Lily had to glance back at Frank before he even realised), the audience cheered politely, but then fell quiet.

Sirius and James glanced at each other, both wondering whether or not the earlier dispute over the length of the set list had been resolved.

There was some conferring amongst the band, and after a minute or so, Alice handed her tambourine to the bassist, who still had his guitar strapped on. Frank, Alice and Kingsley then left the stage, and the tall lanky kid took a seat at the drum stool, dropping the tambourine at his feet.

“What are they doing?” James whispered loudly. Sirius shrugged at him, as they watched Lily pulling the microphone over to the drum kit and lowering it to Remus’s level. Now he was sitting down, Sirius could only make out the top of his curly head over the crowd.

“I’m going to get a better look,” he said to James, before heading off, pushing through to get to the front.

“Ladies and gentlemen, that’s it from The Flu Fighters!” Lily was saying, bent over the mic, “But our multi-talented bassist has offered to do one more song!”

There was a spatter of applause and a bit of confused murmuring as Lily exited the stage quickly, leaving Remus alone. The young man looked down at his guitar for a moment, then up at the audience, squinting a bit against the bright lights.

He wasn’t conventionally attractive, exactly, but he had a square jaw, and a long, narrow nose, which Sirius liked a lot. Then he smiled, and Sirius felt a flush of heat rising up his neck. It was a really great smile.

“Hi,” Remus said into the mic, his voice soft but clear, “I’m Remus, and this is a Belle & Sebastian song.”

He began to strum his bass slowly, and tap both his feet - one on the bass drum pedal, the other on the tambourine, alternating rhythmically, creating a warm steady sound. Then he looked up again, craning his neck a bit to reach the mic.

Sirius saw his adam’s apple bob as he took a breath, and his stomach flipped again. Maybe he was drunk, or maybe it really had been too long since his last shag, but Remus and his long fingers and his quiet voice were getting more appealing by the minute.

Then Remus closed his eyes and began to sing in a gentle, softly accented lilt, and Sirius’s felt his heart begin to beat faster.

I’m the singer, I’m the singer in the band,

You’re a loser, I won’t dismiss you outta hand...

And at this point, Remus opened his eyes, and happened to catch Sirius’s stare. His mouth formed a coy smile as he continued singing,

You’ve got a beautiful face, it will take you places…

Fucking hell , Sirius thought, his mouth suddenly very dry.