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Mandrakes

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The school is deserted. Almost everybody, including Remus and Peter, is home for the holidays. With no one there to witness and enjoy their pranks, James and Sirius, albeit with reluctance because Peter is not there, decide to try to brew the Animagus potion. But as they’re about to add the dew, they barely have the time to realize something’s wrong before the cauldron explodes.

The smoke has not even cleared that already James is reaching towards his left where he knows Sirius is, needing to touch him, to reassure himself that his best mate is there — not that he doubts it — and fine. As soon as his hand closes around Sirius’ arm, James’ breath becomes easier.

Sirius . His lips move but no sound reaches his ears. You ok? James asks. He doesn’t worry too much when he still doesn’t hear his voice. The explosion was really loud and his ears are still ringing so that must be why. He looks at Sirius, whose eyes are scanning him, looking for any injury.

I’m fine, Si, James says with a smile. He loves being Sirius’ first thought and concern, always. It should frighten him, but that would be preposterous since Sirius is always at the top of his priorities too.

“James!”

Oh, James heard this. Finally! He says it aloud. Finally my ears are working again! Except something’s wrong because he still can’t hear himself.

Judging from Sirius’ confused glance, neither can he.

“James? What are you saying? What happened?”

James clears his throat, hoping it’s just the smoke in there that prevents him from talking. Then, he wets his lips and tries again. I I think I I — Still nothing. And he can only imagine how weird he must look to Sirius, who sees him open and close his mouth like a fish. Frustrated and embarrassed, he internally curses, his head running a mile a minute as a strange nervousness takes hold of him.

“James? James, calm down. It’s ok, we’ll figure it out.”

Sirius waves his wand, muttering healing spells — they’re more powerful than usual. James feels Sirius’ magic caress him, warm and familiar, and basks in it. It sort of works: James’ back stops aching and the cut on his arm heals. But it does nothing to his voice.

“All right, J. We’ll reverse it. Don’t worry. We just —”

James leans towards Sirius, who takes the hint and hugs him, grounding him. He trusts Sirius.

“— and I didn’t think I’d ever say it, but for you I’d do anything — need to go to the library,” Sirius finishes, shuddering for effect.

It elicits a silent laugh from James. Suddenly things look brighter.

 

.x.

 

They quickly make their way to the library, trying not to be noticed.

They are on their own — no one can know about the potion they were brewing and what went wrong — but that has never stopped them before.

They don’t understand what could be wrong. It’s easy to mess up a potion, but not to the extent that it looks like some major enchantment is at work. So, a bit puzzled, they just grab all the books and scrolls that seem to be even vaguely related to the matter at hand. Everything and nothing may be helpful.

James lets Sirius take the lead, his mind barely able to focus on anything other than the obvious I can’t talk .

Sirius keeps flipping through the pages of various books about potions, animagi, loss of voice, mandrakes, even mermaids. When he’s done, he either puts them back or unceremoniously drops them on the floor as he grows increasingly frustrated.

“I’m sorry, James,” he says at some point.

What? Why?

“I shouldn’t have suggested brewing that potion.”

James looks at him, frowning, trying to remember. In the end, he shakes his head. It barely matters — Sirius may have been the one who said it aloud, but their minds work in sync. Sirius knows it, Sirius should understand it’s not his place to feel guilty over anything just because James got hurt. Which reminds him —

— Sirius never healed himself after the explosion, and there are still some little blood spots on his shirt.

Damn, Sirius!

James draws his wand and hovers it over Sirius’ chest. The stains disappear and, James knows, so do any cuts and bruises under the shirt.

“Thank you,” Sirius whispers.

James grins satisfied before conjuring a piece of paper and writing in big capital letters to get his point across: NOT YOUR FAULT, YOU IDIOT! Then, he does his best to look intimidating.

Sirius laughs, before handing him yet another book and continuing his search.

James opens the book half-heartedly. It can’t be so bad if he never talked again, right?

Just then, Sirius cries in triumph. “Found it!”

The book James is holding is thrown away and replaced by an old scroll that says: Though never confirmed, there are some who claim that, given the properties of such a plant, the toxins secreted by Mandrakes can be neutralized by true love’s kiss.

“Ah, it’s so easy,” Sirius says. “I mean, were you anyone else, we’d need to search high and low, but you knew from day 1.  Scratch that; the whole school knew from day 1. You’re lucky, J —”

Sirius seems unable to stop talking. Why doesn’t he stop? James has a bad feeling about it all, all the more so because his best friend is uncomfortable about something.

“Evans, we need Evans. Fortunately for you and your pretty voice, she stayed here so this can be done right now.” Without waiting for a response James can’t give anyway, Sirius grabs his wrist and drags him towards their common room without looking at James once.

Definitely a bad feeling.

“She’ll fix you. Don’t worry.”

But the thing is, James does worry, afraid he’s going to lose Sirius.

 

.x.

 

“EVANS!” Sirius shouts as they enter their common room.

She’s curled up on the couch, reading, her hair like a flame. She’s breath-taking. “Black. Potter. Why am I not surprised?”

“Well, she acknowledged us. That’s a good sign,” Sirius says. He turns to James encouragingly.

James glances between the two of them — the girl he may grow to love and the boy he shares his life with.

“Please, Evans, this is bad,” Sirius is saying. “We need your help. And before you say anything, no, we didn’t do anything harmful. We just — help him, please. I promise it’s worth it.”

It’d be if Evans was the love of his life, but the more James thinks about it, the less convinced he is. And it’d be wrong to steal a kiss from her just because of it. Sure, he honestly wants to befriend her, but not like that.

He touches Sirius’ shoulder to get his attention and shakes his head.

Sirius is confused. “Why? She’ll love you too, I’m sure,” he whispers.

“What are you talking about?” Evans asks.

This time, it’s James who drags Sirius away, waving goodbye to her.

Once they’re in their dorm, he pushes Sirius on his bed and sits next to him.

Sirius sighs, running a hand through his hair and, Merlin , the thought hits James suddenly, he looks cute when he’s worried.

“James, I’m sorry. I know it was unfair of me. We should wait until she knows the true you. We’ll figure something else out in the meantime, but — What?”

James can’t help it. He doesn’t remember anymore why they even considered him kissing Evans a good idea. Not that she wouldn’t be the right one to break this sort of curse, but James hopes she may not be the only one. He wants it to be Sirius. He needs it to be Sirius. To talk to, to plot with, to sit beside, even to cuddle with… And not because they’re soulmates, even if they probably are, but because they choose it to be so.

Because it’s them .

So James, locking eyes with Sirius, slowly leans forward, pressing their lips together.

The kiss takes their breaths away for a second.

“James…” Sirius exhales at the same time James says aloud , “Sirius…”

They grin.

James’ head spins. It worked. It actually worked.

“How long?” Sirius asks.

“I think… since day 1. You?”

“Since day 1,” Sirius echoes. “I love you.”

“In case it wasn’t obvious with the whole true love’s kiss thing, I love you too,” James says. Then, because he just got his voice back and once isn’t enough, he repeats, “I love you.”

Sirius’ smile is the brightest he’s ever seen.