“Oh, no, no,” Sirius said, waving his wand in front of him as if to ward James off. “Last time you tested a spell on me, I had no eyebrows for a week.”
“And they grew back, and you're fine now,” James answered, still holding his own wand out in front of him. “If I had known you were going to be such a prat about it, I'd have asked Peter along.”
“I'm testing on you this time,” Sirius answered.
“Oh, so you're missing eyebrows trumps me having a purple arse for three days?”
“You can hide that under robes,” Sirius said petulantly.
“Right, well, I'm taking this as you being ready,” James answered.
Which was how they both ended up casting the spell at the exact same time, and, as Sirius would say later, was also how the whole bloody mess was clearly James' fault.
“It's probably temporary,” James said from where he stood in front of the mirror, trying to tousle Sirius' hair and getting his fingers stuck in it.
“You're going to make me go bloody bald at this rate,” Sirius complained from where he was (much to his dismay) wearing James Potter's body. He'd woken up on the ground, convinced that this time, James had really done it and completely blinded him, only to find that a familiar pair of rectangular spectacles corrected his now terrible vision.
After a few rounds of trying to reverse the spell (and, of course, the always reliable trick of running into each other), James and Sirius had retreated up to their room with the hope of finding Remus, the one person they knew who was perhaps talented enough to fix this and wouldn't go blabbing to McGonagall.
Alas, he was nowhere to be seen, and Sirius had been forced to watch James tromp about in his body for the better part of the last two hours. It was unnerving to see James' slouching gait on his body – and the way James kept reaching up to adjust glasses that weren't there – and the way he kept bloody touching his hair.
“If you weren't my brother, I'd murder you right now,” Sirius sighed, flopping back on the bed.
“Mate, I told you to be ready,” James said, edging close enough to nudge Sirius with the toe of his shoe. “Moony might be in the common room right now though. Let's have a look.”
The common room had been mostly empty for dinner when Sirius and James had sneaked back in, looking more suspicious than they needed to. Now, the room was flooded with students studying and letting off steam after a day of classes. Surrounded by other people, James started to fidget in a way that was distinctly James-like. Sirius nudged him.
They both glanced around the room, but Remus was nowhere to be seen. Lily was seated near the fire, though.
“Oi, Evans!” Sirius called – and it was still bloody weird to hear James' voice saying his words.
Lily looked up, scowling almost instantly. Beside him, James had gone stock still and grabbed at his arm, clutching him as if to hold him back. Sirius looked at him. Then looked back at Evans. And then grinned.
“Eyebrows,” Sirius mouthed at James before crossing the room – making damn sure to slouch more than usual. He draped himself across the arm of Lily's chair.
“Hey Evans,” Sirius said, and dear Merlin, was that the best that James' voice could pass as seductive? No wonder he still couldn't convince Lily to go on a date with him.
“What do you want, Potter?” Lily scowled up at him.
“I was just wondering if you'd come from Flitwick's class?” Sirius asked.
“No,” Lily answered, although she paused in her answer, obviously trying to sort out where he was going with this.
“Really? Why do I find you so charming then?”
Lily's lips went thin. A strangle jolt of warmth curled in Sirius' stomach.
“Potter, if you wouldn't mind, some of us actually--”
“And you've heard of Platform 9 ¾, right? Because I'm just saying, that's not the only thing with those measurements.”
“You are disgusting, James Potter!” Lily, just raging with anger, got up sharply from her chair and retreated from the room. The warmth spread throughout his body, and Sirius internally frowned. No wonder James was so odd.
“Oi, you wouldn't happen to know where Lupin is, would you?” he called after her. Not surprisingly, he got no answer.
Grinning, he looked back toward James, already imagining the delightful expression of horror on his face. Instead, James was looking toward the entrance – not paying attention at all – and watching Moony duck into the room. James' jaw was slack, his expression a little unfocused. And then – then – Sirius watched it happen – a dawning moment of realization crossed James' face. He looked back toward James, and instead of the I-want-to-die expression Sirius had worked so hard for, he was wearing a I've-got-you-now-Black expression.
“Ah, shit,” Sirius muttered under his breath.
James waited until Peter and Remus had gone to bed before assaulting him, pouncing into his bed and casting a hasty silencing spell. Sirius pretended to ignore him, but James wasn't dissuaded.
“You fancy Moony,” James hissed in his ear – and that, post-body swap, had to have been the strangest thing to happen, hearing James tell him in his own voice that he fancied Remus.
“Shove off, James,” Sirius said, knowing it was the wrong response. It was too cranky and only gave credence to what should have been an outlandish accusation.
“Is it always like that when he's around?” James pressed, forcing Sirius to roll over and actually look up at him.
“Like what?” Sirius sighed, knowing that there was no talking James out of this now.
“You, uh,” James fumbled for his words. “You know.”
“Oh, you mean you got a stiffy for Moony?” Sirius taunted him, taking the only revenge he had in the situation.
“It's your body, Pads,” James answered immediately. “And I will never be the same for it, all right. But, really, why don't you just tell him?”
Sirius stared up at James as if he had lost his bloody mind – which, Sirius was quite certain that he had. Something had to have short-circuited between them switching bodies, because there wasn't any way in hell that Sirius could just walk up to Moony and ask him out on a date, or something equally horrifying. Not Remus, who had been one of Sirius' best friends since he was 11, and had put up with him and all the stupid things he did, but smiled that strange crooked smile where one of the sides of his mouths went up above the other. Not Remus, who Sirius often woke up curled around after the full moon, because Padfoot could calm Moony down like nothing else. Not Remus, who always had ink on his hands and smelled like old books and tea and mint –
He had to take a breath just to calm himself down. He shoved at James with one hand, and James went toppling out of his bed, landing with a resounding crash on the ground below.
“Sirius, are you all right?” Remus asked groggily.
“Fine,” James said, muffled.
When he woke up the next morning – still in James' body, still in his bed – the rest of the room was empty. In retrospect, it was then, that exact moment, when he should have known what was going to happen, because Sirius loved sleeping in late, but James always could sleep in later than any of them.
He headed down for breakfast, which was already mostly cleared out, but froze in the doorway. Peter wasn't at breakfast, but James and Remus were. And James was leaned in far too close to Remus, almost talking in his ear, really, and what the hell did he think he was doing? He was smiling – smiling in Sirius' self-assured sort of way that he wasn't used to seeing on his own face. And Remus – was Remus John Lupin flushing?
An unfamiliar pit of heat flared up in his stomach. His heart felt like it was beating too hard, and he clenched his hands at his sides, balling them up into his fists.
He walked over, too fast, and back too straight to look normal for James, and grabbed James up by the collar.
“Word with you, Pads,” he said in a voice that was certainly too tight to ever pass for James. James looked up with him with wide grey eyes, and then smiled – smirked, really.
Sirius pulled James hard out into the hall.
“Don't,” he said sharply before James could speak.
“Don't what?” James asked, feigned innocence that, in Sirius' voice, sounded more like boredom.
“Don't mess with Moony,” Sirius said, precariously close to a growl.
“Oh, come on, Sirius,” James said, peeling Sirius' fingers away from where they were still gathered in his wrinkled collar. And that was it, the only excuse he even tried to make before slipping away again.
Sirius made a dedicated effort to tell Remus after that. It would all make sense then, he figured, and they would get back on track for the original plan of Remus sorting them out. But all day, no matter where he tried to find Remus, James was there first. Too close, still. Too damn close. In the library, James with an arm slung over the back of Remus' chair, reading whatever he was writing, and then in the common room, James with his feet propped across Remus' lap while Remus worked on his homework. All of the meals, James was next to Remus, making sure to touch him as much as possible, whispering jokes into his ear that would make Remus blush again, and then James would look pointedly at Sirius.
“James, are you all right?” Peter asked as Sirius ground his fork against the plate in front of him.
“Fine,” Sirius answered shortly.
After dinner, he couldn't take it. It was the stupidest bloody situation he had ever found himself in, he couldn't help but gripe. Feeling jealous of watching himself with Remus.
He stormed back up to their room after dinner, ready to shove his head under a pillow and suffocate James Potter's infernal body.
His escape plan failed utterly.
He had barely walked through the door when he heard Remus' voice from the direction of his own bed.
“Sirius – really though – get off.” Remus' voice was all breathy and strange, a struggle to get each of the words out and before Sirius had even thought about what he was doing, he stomped across the room and pulled open the bed curtains.
“DON'T!” he shouted.
James and Remus both stared up at him – tangled together, yes, but James' fingers were jammed into Remus' ribs, tickling him in the spot they all always took advantage of in any fight with Remus. Remus looked up at him as if he had gone mad – a bubble of hysterical laughter burst in his throat, but he swallowed it down. He was too far gone to stop now.
“That's not me,” Sirius exclaimed, pointing at James. “I mean,” he fumbled. “I'm Sirius. That's James. That's not me, Moony.”
The laughter faded from Remus' face as he looked between the two of them. James smiled, not bothering to deny the outburst. Remus sighed.
“I'm going to fix the two of you, and then you're going to tell me what's going on.”
The joy of being back in his own body – combing his hair with a brush instead of James' fat fingers – was quickly overshadowed by the thin set of Remus' mouth and the tight set of his shoulders. James had run off after explaining how they had gotten in the mess in the first place, leaving Sirius seated on his own bed, Remus hovering over him.
“What was James saying to you?” Sirius asked in a rush, knowing that he was the one who was supposed to be explaining things, but he had to know.
Remus sighed again.
“Listen, let's just forget the last day happened, shall we?” Remus asked, turning away and heading toward his own bed.
“No,” Sirius said quickly. “Remus, he was only doing it to have a laugh at me.” The words hovered in the air, and Sirius' heart picked up a beat as soon as they were out. His hands went strangely clammy, and he couldn't help but wonder if James had left some terrible residual habits.
“Well, you've both had your laughs,” Remus said, sounding tired in the way he did after the full moon sometimes, when he found just about everything to be too much to bear, but wouldn't share.
“Remus,” Sirius said. He must have spoken with enough insistence, because Remus turned toward him again. Sirius closed the distance between them without hesitation, and framed Remus' face in between his hands and kissed him – too roughly, probably.
Remus pulled back, and Sirius' heart lodged itself in his throat.
“This is Sirius, right?” Remus asked, suspicious. “I didn't muck it up?”
“I solemnly swear I am Sirius,” he answered, each word difficult to get out.
“Oh,” Remus said. “All right then.”
He stepped back in, closing the distance between the two of them, and this time he kissed Sirius.
James flounced into his bed again, jabbing his elbows into Sirius' ribs, but making sure not to wake Remus.
“You're a tosser,” Sirius muttered. “And I hate you.”
“I love you too,” James answered, his hair sticking up in every direction, his grin wild. He leaned down and smacked a kiss to Sirius' forehead.