The Marauders were bored. Collectively, incredibly bored.
Usually, boredom hit them at different times. For instance, Sirius usually got bored in that pesky hour before dinner when his belly rumbled and his homework lay woefully abandoned at the foot of his bed, while Remus dutifully did his in the library.
Peter got bored during the school holidays, especially when his whingeing tween sister wouldn’t shut up about her latest celebrity crush or which colour she was going to dye her hair next.
James got bored in History of Magic, whenever Professor Binns opened his ancient little mouth, and even more so when Lily Evans sat behind him, meaning that he could not admire her lovely auburn hair, or the gentle curve of her porcelain-white neck.
Remus seldom got bored, although it had been known to happen: when he was caught without a good book, for example, or during those endless prefect meetings when it felt like nobody but him could make a decision.
On this lazy, overcast Saturday in early summer, however, their boredom was palpable, hanging thick and oppressive in the air, and each of them felt it keenly.
They thought, perhaps, that they could sneak off to Hogsmead under the cloak, but they eschewed this idea as they realised that they had grown far too gangly to all fit underneath without their socks showing.
They considered paying a visit to the house elves in the kitchen, who always cooed at them and showered them with more pumpkin pasties than were strictly healthy for a growing lad, but breakfast was not long past and more food seemed greedy, even to them.
James had the bright idea of learning how to cast a perming charm, to use on Sirius’s hair. Sirius entertained the idea until he remembered an article he’d read which suggested that perms were beginning to go out of fashion. He decided not to risk it, but insisted that he could probably still pull it off. He gave James the option of tattooing ‘something cool’ on his bum cheek, but James wasn’t sure he wanted such an intimate view of his best friend’s derriere, nice as it was.
“What we need is a good old fashioned prank.” Sirius opined. “It’s been a while, lads, and our reputation as the greatest tricksters in Hogwarts history will be in jeopardy if we don’t pull our socks up.”
“Padfoot, we pranked Filch yesterday, remember?” Peter guffawed.
“Ah yes, the classic dung bomb in his drawers routine - an oldie but a goodie,” he nodded enthusiastically. “But that wasn’t exactly the sort of gesture which will ensure we go down in infamy, is it? We need to think bigger, bolder... wetter.”
“Wetter?” Remus sighed. “Do I even want to ask?”
“You’re a prefect, Moony. I don’t want to offend your sensibilities.”
“I think my sensibilities will emerge in tact.”
“Right then, here’s the plan...”
Sirius moaned theatrically as he collapsed on his sagging bed in the dormitory, the frame creaking as he did so.
“What’s up, Pads?” his sandy-haired friend asked kindly.
“Naomi.” He sighed.
“Oh God, what have you done to the poor girl now?” Remus enquired. Sirius looked back at him with mock disgust.
“I have done nothing, my ignorant little pally. She on the other hand is driving me insane! I thought that once I let her touch my magic love stick, she might back off a bit. But of course nobody can get enough of my sweet, sweet loving.”
Remus scoffed and looked at his friend searchingly. “Maybe if you told her how you feel? Explain to her that you need a bit more space, perha-“
Remus was cut off abruptly. “Oh Moony! Sweet, romantic Moony. Alas, we can’t all be like you and your betrothed, you know. All talking and feelings and stuff.” He spoke as if a toddler just learning to talk; not entirely sure what these foreign words meant.
“Do you even know what betrothed means, Sirius? Joanna and I are not betrothed!”
“It means you’re courting like an old fashioned gent. It’s painful really, Remus! I mean, have you even shagged her yet?”
“What the fuck’s that got to do with anything?” the taller boy spat out with a sudden venom Sirius had only seen a couple of times before. He stood, the bed creaking as he did so and towered murderously over his friend, who swallowed nervously.
“I’m just saying...” Sirius shrugged.
“Well don’t! Don’t just say! Why not try thinking before you blurt these things out for once?”
“I didn’t mean any-“
But Remus hadn’t finished. “And for your information, yes. Okay? Yes, we have shagged. Eight and a half times, actually, if we’re counting. Feel better now? Or do you want the play by play account?” The volume of Remus’s voice had risen gradually and Sirius felt like he had just taken a bludger to the stomach.
Remus huffed, mumbled something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like “massive bellend”, turned, and before Sirius could take everything in, he heard footsteps on the dorm stairs and the door into the common room slammed, leaving Sirius standing alone, mouth wide open, confused and upset.
“Fuck.” He whispered to the Remus-less room.
James sighed, frustrated. He didn’t know why the two boys sitting either side of him weren’t talking. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know, but he knew the argument was making them both miserable so he decided to do his best to dissolve the tension as quickly as possible.
“Hey guys, did you see that new girl? My God, she’s a looker! Romanian, apparently. Do you know her name?” He looked from side to side, hoping to elicit a response.
“Why don’t you ask Sirius? He’s probably fucked her already.” Remus glared past James to Sirius, who stared back, his stormy grey eyes intense and full of hurt. Remus felt a twinge of guilt, but also felt an accompanying little rush of triumph that he could hurt the usually infallible Sirius Black. Even as the thought crossed his mind, he mentally scolded himself; he didn’t want to hurt him, not really. He turned back to apologise, but saw only an empty chair. James’s words were lost as Remus sighed and sheepishly followed the dark haired boy out of the Great Hall, leaving a wave of murmurs and whispers in his midst.
Sirius curled up in his bed, cursing himself for starting this stupid argument. He always knew just how to put his foot in it, but this time, his most valuable friendship was on the line. How could he be so stupid? He moaned as he pulled his bedspread right over his head, not hearing the door opening and closing gently.
“Pads?” The familiar voice made Sirius feel warm with hope. He poked his head out from under his duvet. “Oh Sirius,” he exhaled on seeing his hurt young face, “I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s got into me.” Sirius felt Remus’s light frame perch on the end of his bed and glimpsed lined amber eyes, etched with concern. “I was an ungracious knobhead. And I’m sorry. I am. It was uncalled for.” Remus was greeted with silence. “Shit, Sirius, say something!”
“It was my fault, Moony.” Sirius sighed and glanced up with pious eyes, “Me and my big mouth as usual. It’s me who should be apologising. I don’t even really care whether you’re shagging Joanna. Or not shagging Joanna, shagging Snivellus, shagging a banshee. It’s all the same to me.”
Remus chuckled and squeezed Sirius’s duvet-clad foot fondly. He went to sit on his own bed, just feet away. “It’s alright,” he said, “I know we think differently about these things. About girls, I mean. You’re all impulse and gratification, sod the consequences. It’s the same with pranks. I never enjoy the moment as much as you do, because I’m busy fretting about the eventual ramifications.”
Sirius fell silent.
“Is that how you see me?” He asked eventually, his brow creasing as he laid down on his side to face Remus’s bed, propping his head up on his hand. “As just a shallow, pranking nymphomaniac?”
“Why do you care? We’re friends, aren’t we? I like you, philandering and all.”
Sirius shuffled and began to look genuinely uncomfortable.
“I care.” He mumbled. “Sometimes, Moony, I think you think I’m ridiculous. Substanceless, you know? And it matters to me that you know I’m not. Don’t bloody ask me why.”
“I don’t think that,” Remus shrugged. “You-“
“I mean, did you know that my Defence scores are better than anyone’s, Remus? Even yours and Evans’?” Sirius interrupted.
“Yes, I know that, Sirius.”
“And did you know that I’m going to be an Auror? I’ve discussed it with Alastor Moody and Dumbledore and everything.”
“No, I didn’t know that.”
“And no, Remus, I’m not very good at building lasting relationships with girls. That is true. And yes, I do have a few notches on my bedpost. But did you ever think that maybe I would actually like a proper relationship? Something meaningful?”
“No,” Remus admitted.
“But I don’t know how?” he laughed mirthlessly. “I don’t know how to force these feelings that just aren’t there, you know? The point is that it’s not just about sex and pranks for me.” Sirius grunted. “There’s more. I’m more.”
“I... I’m sorry, Sirius, I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“I know.” Sirius nodded. “I know. Sorry, I’m just feeling a bit... spiky lately.”
Remus stood up and smiled softly, running a hand through his hair. “S’alright, you can be spiky,” he said gently before heading off to the bathroom. Sirius frowned to himself. He felt a little better. He was still concerned, though, that Remus thought of him as a shallow womaniser. But he supposed that none of his actions up to that point did much to challenge the assumption. He wondered whether he should make an effort to make things work with Naomi after all.
First thing the next morning, the four Marauders were strolling slowly down to Herbology, pretending not to notice the ominous storm clouds rolling in overhead.
“She’s really madly in love with me, she just doesn’t know it yet,'' James stated arrogantly.
“Course she is Pads,” Remus chuckled, “in between all the hating your guts and wishing you were dead, she dreams of you every night. She just can’t get enough of you.”
James grinned “You never know. Maybe someday...”
“Oh no, he’s got that face on again. Soon he’ll be planning their wedding!” Sirius ruffled James’s hair affectionately as the first flat drops of rain pattered out of the sky.
Herbology was still five minutes’ walk away so the four boys began to spring across the ground, the rain intensifying as their pace quickened. James was the fastest of the group so he was streaking ahead of his friends while Peter lagged behind. Sirius ran at the same pace as Remus, side by side. He looked around at his friend and caught his eye, grinning mischievously. He couldn’t help but notice the way Remus’s eyelashes went all spidery in the rain and how he flicked his hair back unconsciously as he ran. He swallowed down a fairly large heart palpitation, suddenly feeling slightly uneasy.
“Hey, come on you two! What’s up, can’t keep up with the master?” James shouted back to his friends. Sirius quickly turned his head back towards James, away from Remus. Both boys sped up and soon closed the gap so the three teenagers arrived at the greenhouse together, just in time for the lesson. They were soaked to the skin and grinning like mad. A few minutes later, Peter burst in, panting and puffing, much to the amusement of the other three.