"Why are they letting you take so many exams again?" Sirius asked, throwing the Quaffle in the air and catching it deftly. They'd been playing with it for the last hour, and Sirius still wasn't quite bored to tears of the game. Remus had abandoned the oddly shaped ball for his courses parchment and timetable. "You shouldn't even be able to take that many classes in fifth year."
Remus flipped the parchment over. "My parents explained that, because of who I am," and he dropped his voice - quite unnecessarily, as they were miles from any other houses, nevermind people - "I'd need more skills to be able to find employment. So they're letting me sit for the extra O.W.L.s and things, just like they let me take a different schedule than the other fourth years."
"That's not fair," Sirius said, with force. He stopped tossing the quaffle. "You shouldn't have to prove you're better just because once a month you turn into a raging beast."
Remus shrugged. "Aren't you keeping up with my schedule too?"
"I'm fancying a change," Sirius replied, and then, "Divination," Sirius ticked off, sitting in the grass, "Care of Magical Creatures," he said, "and maybe Muggle Studies."
Sirius grinned, somewhat nasty. "I intend to get an Outstanding. My parents will be so proud."
"But." Remus shook his head. "Muggle Studies? Come off it."
"Why not?" Sirius said, a little defensively. "It's not like I've been allowed much contact with Muggles before."
"It's Professor Arbingy," Remus said reasonably. "She thinks that essays are fun. The textbooks are longer than my arm," he added, "and you hate homework."
Sirius sighed, picking up his battered timetable again. Remus had saved it from the wood stove this morning; it was one in a long line of attempts by Sirius to make the parchment simply disappear, thus denying him more schooling. "Fine," and Sirius scratched out Muggle Studies with Remus' quill. "Happy?"
Remus eyed him. "Now fill in something sensible."
"Harder, you mean." Remus nodded. "But as you said, old boy, I hate homework."
"Well, you're not going to be able to copy any homework if you don't stay in the same classes as James and myself like last year, now are you?" Remus picked up Sirius's parchment, and ticked off the boxes for Runes and Arithmancy. Sirius tried to protest, in vain. "Oh, come off it," he said, impatiently. "It's not like you and James ever have trouble in classes; you handled all these fine last year. Calm down."
Sirius subsided, but it was an irritated sort of silence.
"James' parents are forcing him to take the fuller schedule again too," Remus said, patting Sirius' arm. "Professor McGonnagall told them that maybe more work will keep him out of trouble." Sirius snorted. Remus grinned - there was no way James would have taken that laying down. "That was basically his reaction in the owl he sent."
"James sent an owl and you didn't show me?" Sirius stood up. "You bastard."
"It was," and Remus swallowed, "a little private."
Remus pulled the letter out of his pocket, hesitant. "James wanted to know how we were getting on."
"Nosy prat," and Sirius grabbed it, pacing around the grass while he scanned it.
"Well, yes," Remus answered, shifting a little uncomfortably. "As you can see, James is livid about taking extra exams, but his parents insisted he continue and the school agreed. He said the teachers were all but jumping to give him extra homework."
"Hang on a bit," Sirius said, interrupting. His eyebrows were drawing together as he scanned James' owl. Remus had a sinking feeling he'd got to the point in James's letter where James went on about the two of them. His suspicions were confirmed when Sirius asked darkly, "What exactly did you tell him about us?"
"Nothing," Remus answered, a little sharply. Luckily, James had been mercifully brief in his torment this owl; Sirius hadn't got the chance to read too much of it. Remus added, "He has a great mind to guess exactly what's going on."
"Yes, that sounds right." Sirius flung himself down on the grass, and stared up at the sky. "I'm almost bored."
"You'd be bored the day of the Transfiguration N.E.W.T., looking for a new hex to pull," Remus countered.
"Too right," Sirius said. "Come on, lay down. It's almost calming."
"I really didn't tell him anything," Remus said unnecessarily. It was quite true. He had mentioned only that Sirius was coming for two weeks at the end of the holidays, and they'd meet James and Peter at the train together. James had guessed the full extent of the holiday, what precisely the two of them had got up to, as well as the fact that Sirius had lied to his parents about where he was going. Not only that, but he'd guessed where Sirius had said he was going, what he'd packed, and what Sirius was behaving like.
"He's James," Sirius said. "He has a mind for other people's business."
"He wanted to know you were all right," Remus countered. "In his own way, I suppose."
"The nosy prat way."
They went back to the house, since - gorgeous day or not - there really was arse-all to do outside. Remus' broom was still being repaired, so they couldn't even play around at Quidditch aside from tossing the quaffle on the ground - an activity they'd long exhausted. The last straw was Sirius sitting down to pass. With the WWN broadcasting only four hours a night, entertainment was slim.
"Can you grab the post? It's been over a week since anyone's collected it," Remus said, following after Sirius along the path towards his house. "In the owl box there. It'll be all those envelopes you're completely ignoring." Sirius eyed him. "Ta."
They wandered into Remus' kitchen together, Sirius flipping letters over to Remus with uncanny speed. "Junk mail, junk mail - something for your Father, Remus, from the Ministry. Wonder what that is?"
"Probably about new registry regulations," Remus answered, a little angrier than he intended. "Have me wear a collar at school, maybe."
"It's all right, mate," Sirius said, still sorting mail into two piles. Remus thought it was mail for them and mail for his parents, but when he said, "Here's Peter's latest postcard - oh, look, he's at the sea - and our Hogwarts' book lists--" and tossed them into a pile with his parents' things, Remus realized Sirius must be sorting it into some other mental categories, most likely "interesting" and "mind-numbingly boring". Those often seemed to be the two categories that Sirius saw the entire world in.
"What's this?" Sirius said, eying an envelope with his name on it. "It's not from Peter or James, who--" and then he narrowed his eyes, and tossed it into the "uninteresting" pile. "I was supposed to write my parents every week," he explained blankly, attention focused on the table. Remus watched him put a palm down on the table top for a moment, and then he muttered, "I guess the post owls found me."
"No harm," Remus said quietly, shuffling Sirius's "boring" stack to cover it up. "Just chuck it, we'll be at school in a few days. A letter got through, that's all. She doesn't know you're here."
Sirius still had the stack of letters in his hand, and he glanced down at them. "Hey!" he said, suddenly, forgetting the envelope from his mother, "this one's from--"
Remus suddenly made a desperate grab for the final letter; he recognised James' messy writing on the envelope immediately. "Give me that!" he panted.
Sirius jumped out of reach. "Here now, it's from James!" He started to open it, and Remus lunged for him. "I can't read it?"
Remus glowered, trying to sneakily grab the envelope while Sirius wasn't looking. "Is it addressed to you?"
Sirius glanced at the front, then raised his eyebrows. "Oh," he said faintly. "No."
Remus managed to snatch the half-opened letter back while Sirius was standing there, looking a little shocked. "Oh, come off it," Remus said. "I'll let you read it." Sirius plopped down, and held a hand out. Remus continued to clutch it to himself. "After I've gone through it."
Sirius glared. "What secrets are you and James keeping from me, anyway?"
There was nothing for it: he'd just have to spill, or have Sirius staring at him with suspicion for the rest of the hols. Remus sighed. "Look," he started. "I may have written James about something private, all right?"
"Private?" Sirius continued to glare. "Since when do you two have things that are private?"
Remus gritted his teeth. "I don't want to row," he said. "Just let me see what he's written." Sirius didn't answer; he sat across the table from Remus and crossed his arms, instead. Remus slit open the envelope, slid out the parchments, and started to skim.
"Well?" Sirius said.
Remus ignored him. Most of the first half of the letter was news of James and his family, people James had been in touch with. He'd been to Coventry, to Bath, and Amsterdam all in the month of July - and now in August, his family were at the sea. At least two parchments were about this girl he'd met.
"Come on, what's James up to?"
Remus answered absently, "he's holiday'ing in Bristol," and then lapsed into silence. Finally, James started talking about what Remus had asked him. Of course, it was in typical James style - he went on for at least half a parchment in unmerciful teasing - but eventually, he got down to it. The prognosis was not good: Sirius was unlikely to settle down with anyone.
"Out with it already," Sirius said, and only then did Remus realize how much he was frowning.
"It's, here," and Remus handed Sirius the first half of James letter, about Betty from Bristol and James' cousins. "That's really all James has to say."
"What about that lot?" and Sirius pointed to the bit of parchment still gripped tightly in Remus' fingers.
"It's private," Remus said flatly. "And I'm sure it won't interest you."
"Come on," Sirius coaxed. "I won't--"
"I'm embarrassed enough as it is," Remus said, "about you reading his other letter, all right?" He ran a hand through his hair, trying not to flush - it was bad enough that James had written him about Sirius the first time. Remus didn't want Sirius to know that he'd written James again, and he certainly didn't want Sirius to know that he'd asked James's opinion on what Sirius felt. "I don't want to discuss it."
"You're so proper," Sirius said, scowling again. "I promise, I won't goad you. Just hand it over."
Remus was clutching the parchment so tight he was probably ripping it. "Leave it," he said, and got up to go upstairs. "I'm going in the bath, all right?" He didn't bother turning around to address Sirius. "Be down in a bit. My parents won't be home for hours. Do what you want, yeah?"
It wasn't that it was a surprise to hear, necessarily, but it was damned disappointing, all the same. Remus wasn't even really looking to try and make Sirius settle down with him; they weren't doing much of anything, truth be told, that they weren't doing before all this dating nonsense. But, he had hoped that perhaps James might have been a little more optimistic.
Not that Sirius would want to settle on one person now. Just, that should he at some time in the future, Remus would have a good chance of being the person, that maybe Sirius might find him interesting enough.
Remus had been in the bath probably five minutes before Sirius peeked his head 'round the door. "All right?" he said, and when Remus didn't yell or hex him, he sidled in. "Cheers," Sirius said.
Remus shook his head, trying not to snort. "Felt like a bath?" he asked.
Sirius shrugged nonchalantly. "I heard your parents wouldn't be home for a bit," and then he picked up a towel, put it down again, picked up Remus's sponge, put it down, went to the window and opened the curtains wide.
"Sirius," Remus said. "People can see in through that window if the blinds aren't drawn."
"Is that so." Sirius shucked his teeshirt. "Are there usually many people about in the sheep pastures?"
"Well," Remus said. Sirius was quickly removing the rest of his clothing. "No."
"As you say," Sirius said, and got in the bath too.
Remus shuffled over, trying to move his legs - which now felt impossibly long and awkward, being as how the tub was barely large enough for just him, nevermind him and Sirius both. "You know," he said, as they splashed a little bathwater onto the tile, "I don't know as we both fit in here."
"Piffle," Sirius said.
"Piffle?" and Remus chuckled, maneuvering so that Sirius could lean against his chest properly. Remus picked up the sponge again, trying to move it to a better place, and then finally gave up, dropping it onto the tile.
"Piffle," Sirius answered. "Andromeda started saying it, no clue why."
"Sirius," Remus said, lower, "you're in the bath with me."
Sirius tried to crane his head around, resulting in bashing both their knees against the ceramic. "So I am," he replied. "Fancy that."
"Is there a particular--"
Sirius - Remus had no idea how, but somehow - flipped around, and pressed himself against Remus so that they were both sloshing water everywhere. Remus found himself caught up against the tub, and Sirius on top of him. "Let's stop talking," he said.
His parents were finally home at ten o'clock; by then, they'd even cleaned the bathroom up.
"Boys," his mother called up, "are you upstairs?"
Remus called back an answer; he and Sirius were flipping through some old magazines by candlelight, having exhausted game playing and fooling around some hours beforehand. His mother knocked on the door, peeking around it. "I'm surprised you haven't opened your Hogwarts' letters yet."
Remus went to grab them from her, and flopped back down as she closed his bedroom door behind her. "Suppose we'd best find out what textbooks we'll be dutifully buying tomorrow and dutifully ignoring all next year," he said, tossing Sirius his envelope.
"Speak for yourself," Sirius replied promptly. "I intend to study nightly."
"Dirty magazines don't count," Remus said. He tried to pry open his letter, and dropped it. Something shiny fell out and onto the bedspread they were sprawling on. "What was that?"
Sirius reached around, grabbing it. "I don't. Believe it."
And he held up a Prefects' badge.
Remus blinked. "That."
Sirius wiggled it around in the air.
"That can't be right," Remus said weakly. "It, did it fall out of your envelope?" Sirius just snorted. "All right, fine." He shook his head. "I think McGonagall's gone a bit daft."
Sirius shrugged, tossing it to him. "No arguments here. I suppose you'll have us all in detention next year," he said, pulling out their booklist. "Scrubbing floors in the dungeons for setting off dungbombs."
Remus rolled his eyes. "As if you and James would ever do something as childish and uninventive as dungbombs." He leaned over Sirius's shoulder, to survey their books. "If you ever set off a dungbomb, you deserve detention for sheer lack of creativity, mate."
"Lack of creativity!" Sirius said, indignant. "Who managed to trump James last year with--"
"Yes," Remus said, "I remember exactly how you trumped James. I was there, yeah? You ended up causing a scandal in the Common Room."
Sirius lay back. "Ahh," and he grinned. "Good times."
"Yes," Remus said. He shook his head, and glanced out the open window. The stars were visible - no moon tonight. He was about to ask Sirius about the badge again - surely, surely that was a mistake. No one in their right mind would give James Potter and Sirius Black's best friend authority. Perhaps it was a desperate bid to control the two most demonic students, Remus thought. If so, they were going to be disappointed...
"So what did James write you about?" Sirius asked suddenly.
Remus kept from sighing. Apparently Sirius hadn't, in fact, forgotten about that. "It was nothing important," he said. "More nosy prat business."
"He's not a nosy prat if you wrote him," Sirius responded. "So what did you write him about?"
"I told you, nothing," Remus said, irritated. "Why are you so interested?"
Sirius started playing with the Prefect badge, flipping it from hand to hand, nearly sticking himself with the pin more than once. "I'm a nosy prat."
"So why do you want to know?"
"Because I'm nosy. Come on, tell me. I won't laugh."
"Yes you will."
"And I'll keep nagging until you tell me," Sirius said, and Remus knew that wasn't an empty threat.
"I asked him," Remus finally answered, annoyed, "what he thought you were about, going around announcing we were seeing each other, if you must know." Sirius sat up. Remus caught the badge mid-toss. "He thought you were probably having a laugh. That's, honestly, that's it. I didn't tell him anything. I just asked his advice, and he gave it," and Remus's lips twitched. "That and a lot of teasing. Satisfied?"
"He said I was having a laugh?" Sirius asked.
"Well," and Remus put the Prefect badge on his night table. He was going to have to think about that particular curve ball some other time. They had ages before he had to worry about it, a whole two days. "Aren't you?"
Sirius said uncertainly, "well, of course. We have a good time, yeah, a lot of laughs? Aren't you?"
Remus didn't answer him for a moment, and then, "well, yes."
"So why'd you owl James, instead of asking me?"
This conversation, Remus reflected, really wasn't going anywhere. It was summer boredom, perhaps. "Because I didn't want to bother asking you," he said finally.
"Bother?" Sirius looked at him, bewildered. "I'm right here. James is in Bristol."
Remus flopped down again, covering his face with his arms, and then a pillow. "I'm going to pretend we didn't have this whole conversation," he said, voice muffled through fabric. "I'm going to go to sleep now, and when we wake up tomorrow I won't be a Prefect and you won't have embarrassed me."
"I didn't embarrass you," Sirius protested, but Remus kept the pillow on his head. He eventually gave up, getting into bed himself. Remus slept with the pillow right where it was, and in the morning, woke up with marks on his cheeks from where the fabric had bunched up and left wrinkles.
"So this letter--" Sirius started.
"Give it a rest." Remus threw a pillow at him. There was only so much humiliation a fellow could take. "Or I'll put you in detention."
"You try it," Sirius answered, "and you'll wake up with that badge up your nose."
"A lame threat if ever I heard one," Remus answered.
"I can't believe you asked James about me," Sirius told him. "Of all the daft things."
"I can't believe they made me a Prefect," Remus said. He was packing his trunk to go into London. His and Sirius's things were scattered together everywhere; they were going to have to sort out what was whose at school, possibly never. Remus tossed a yellow - yellow? - teeshirt in with his school things. That was, most likely, Sirius's.
"That is utterly inexplicable, mate," Sirius agreed, and threw the last of Remus's magazines on top of his own robes. Remus nearly got his fingers chopped off as he reached in to steal them back; Sirius had closed the trunk lid to stop him. He'd have to sneak them at school. Sirius added, "What were they thinking?"
Remus shrugged. He had no idea. "What was I thinking?" he muttered, and Sirius slid over on the bed, on top of half of his clothes. Remus flicked his ear, but Sirius ignored him; he grabbed Remus's hand instead.
Sirius said, "I have no idea," and then, "voluntarily taking extra classes."
"I must be mental," Remus said, grinning a little.
"I must be more mental, then," Sirius answered. "Since you conned me into taking the same ones."
Remus looked down at their entwined hands. "Well, that's a relief," he told Sirius. "At least someone's more mental than me."
"It's true," Sirius told him gravely. "I am."
"Good," Remus said, and then, "and at least James is suffering the same fate. We'll be locked away not doing homework together."
"True," Sirius said, and then eyed the badge Remus had almost left on his night stand - he'd nearly not packed it this morning, finally realizing that it could all be an elaborate joke on him by James, or even Sirius himself. But Sirius had tossed it into the case, so there it sat. "You think that's for real?"
Remus knew he meant the badge; he replied, "I have no idea, honestly. It's more than a little surreal."
"It's daft," Sirius said, and kissed his cheek. Remus blinked, a little startled. Sirius didn't kiss him randomly very often. "Is what it is."
Remus touched his cheek, blinking again, but all he said was, "We've been over this."
"It bears repeating," Sirius told him, and reached over with his free hand to close Remus's trunk. "You're a Prefect. It's the daftest thing I've heard all year."
"Not quite the daftest," Remus muttered.
He thought Sirius hadn't heard him, but then he said, "true," and then, "asking James what was going on in my head. As if he'd know anything," and then Sirius pushed against Remus's thigh, shoving him gently. "You nitwit."
Remus grinned a little. "James is going to be doing homework for the rest of his life," he said, "with his O.W.L. workload. He might know a little bit."
"He is taking four extra O.W.L.s," Sirius answered with a smirk. Then he sat up, still clutching Remus's hand. "We're taking four extra O.W.L.s. We're taking four extra O.W.L.s," he moaned. "We must be completely off our rockers."
"Yes," Remus agreed. Sirius's hand was warm, in his. His cheek tingled a little. "Absolutely nutty."
"Several cards short a deck--"
and then it was time to go to the train. Remus gulped, and pulled his badge out of his trunk before they hit the Tube; he pocketed it. Just in case it wasn't a joke. "You think," he asked Sirius, his mother standing a discreet and supportive-yet-giving-them-space few feet away, "this year's going to be all right?"
Sirius swayed a little with the movement of the train. He tried not to stare around at the machinations; Remus thought it fairly obvious he'd never ridden it before. Sirius turned to him. "Don't worry, mate," and he nearly lost his grip on the overhead bar, almost falling over when the train stopped suddenly. He saved himself by putting a firm hand on Remus's shoulder - which he left there as they started moving again. Sirius said, "it's going to be a fantastic year."