James drips his way up the steps to the dormitory. He badly needs to practice his fast turns before the match on Saturday, and normally he would say that the weather didn’t exist that could stop him practicing when he needed to. Today, however, some gigantic celestial bucket was turned on its head directly over Hogwarts just as he took off, meaning that he had only been able to career blindly about the pitch for a few minutes before he nearly concussed himself on one of the goalposts. Even James admits that this probably meant he ought to call it a day, and though the little voice in his head he calls ‘motivation’ and Sirius calls alternately ‘the first sign of madness’ and ‘Colin the mad Quidditch player’ is screaming profanities and kicking him, most of him wants nothing more than to collapse face-first on his bed and possibly never get up.
He is fumbling with sodden, frozen fingers for the door handle, which seems to be dancing just out of his reach and blowing raspberries (and there’s actually a worryingly high possibility that this is really the case), when he hears a noise. It’s somewhere between ‘unf’ and ‘uurgh’ and his heart sinks slightly, because he knows from nearly seven years of occasionally traumatising experience what Sirius wanking sounds like and he’s really not feeling up to tip-toeing into his bed, sticking his head under the pillow and later pretending to have been either somewhere far, far away or temporarily deafened by a rogue Bludger. He opens the door, which miraculously doesn’t creak for once, and gets about halfway across the carpet before:
James has wanked to some fairly unorthodox things in his time, but he still nearly drops his broom on his foot, which would mean significant difficulties for his I’m-not-here-and-I-definitely-can’t-hear-you defence. He is fumbling to catch it when he hears another sound that makes everything so much worse, a drawn-out sigh that definitely doesn’t sound like Sirius. James panics, creeping as fast as possible towards his bed, but unfortunately forgets that his broom is sticking out in front of him, so that the handle collides with the bed-post and the sharply tapered bristles drive themselves into his stomach and make him go ‘oof’. The rustling stops and Sirius’ voice goes ‘Did you hear that?’ He considers hiding under the bed. It is at this point that the curtains of Sirius’ bed twitch and Remus’ face- Remus’ flushed, sweaty face- appears.
They both yell ‘AAAGHH!’ at exactly the same time. James falls backwards onto the bed and drops his broom on his foot, which is surprisingly painful but not really what he’s most concerned with right this second. Remus turns the colour of the curtains and starts spluttering something incomprehensible when Sirius’ voice booms ‘What the bloody hell is going-’ and then the curtains are wrenched open and Sirius is staring at him, open-mouthed, with his tie gone and four shirt buttons undone and oh my God, he isn’t wearing any trousers. Neither is Remus. James wonders what he did to deserve a day like this. All three boys stare wide-eyed at one another for about a century before James succeeds in taking a deep enough breath to ask the first sensible question which comes to mind, which is ‘…trousers?’
Sirius makes a strangled noise and tries to tug his shirt down over his crotch. Remus hides his head in his hands and wails:
‘You weren’t meant to be back yet! Quidditch! There was going to be Quidditch!’
‘Is this what goes on when I’m not around?’ demands James. It seems like a reasonable question until he says it, but Sirius’ instant look of puppy-next-to-a-pile-of-poo guilt and the wheezing sort of sob Remus makes from deep within his hands makes a horrible thought enter James’ head, namely: Oh God, this really is what goes on when I’m not around.
It takes a few more enormous gulps of air before James can ask the next most obvious question, which is ‘What the bloody hell?’ Sirius starts laughing wildly, going puce and apparently trying to strangle himself with the bed-curtains. Remus mutters into his hands like a broken man. James’ brain gives up and starts packing its bags.
‘You’re…you can’t be…’
‘Obviously we are.’ mutters Remus, still into his hands. Sirius has developed hiccups and sproings a good foot into the air every few seconds. James decides that there is no point in trying to extract sense from him and turns to Remus.
‘Moony-’ he begins, weakly. ‘I have had a very trying day, beginning with the jam running out at breakfast and getting steadily more trying, and I really need this explained to me, very simply, in very short words and possibly with illustrations’. His brain catches up with him. ‘Oh- God- no illustrations.’
‘No illustrations’ mutters Remus, in hollow tones. ‘No. I can- no.’
There is quite a lengthy silence, punctuated only by Sirius hiccupping noisily at intervals like an insane cuckoo clock. James tries his best to take it all in. He’s always sort of thought Remus might have a thing for Sirius, maybe, what with the way he stares at him when he thinks no-one is looking and reaches levels of flustered when Sirius starts taking off his clothes (the possible reasons for this range from ‘I have had most of a bottle of Firewhiskey’ to ‘It’s a Tuesday’) that probably aren’t normal considering he’s been around Sirius and his ability to repel clothing for nearly seven years. And Sirius has never been what you would call of discriminating taste, and doesn’t have the same boundaries normal people have about personal space and inappropriate touching, but this is a bit much. And besides, even in his exhausted state he can tell the difference between Sirius being Sirius (sticking a freezing hand down the back of James’ robes in Transfiguration so that he yelps loudly and somehow manages to turn his goldfinch into a marshmallow rather than a teapot) and…this. He sort of wishes he couldn’t, though, which is why he asks in a mostly hopeless sort of way:
‘There’s no chance this is a hilarious joke I just haven’t got yet?’
Had anyone cared to ask him, he would have said that nothing short of a battalion of flying monkeys zooming in through the window could have shocked him at this point, but he still manages to be at least a little surprised when it is Sirius who replies, bravely talking over his subsiding hiccups so that every fifth word or so sounds half-word, half-pogo stick. ‘Prongsie- er, I mean, heh, come on, did you really not see this coming?’
‘No’ James replies unhesitatingly. ‘I really, really didn’t see this coming.’
‘Oh’ says Sirius. ‘Bugger. Well. Yes. We are-’ He turns to Remus. ‘We’re- we’re- help me out, Moony?’
‘We’re a we’ says Remus, who is showing no signs of ever planning to take his face out of his hands. ‘Not that kind of we, Sirius, don’t snigger please.’
‘You’re a we. A- Merlin. A we.’
Remus’ head twitches in a way that could probably just about be constituted as a nod. James’ head is throwing all sort of unhelpful things at him, along with a great many unhelpful images, and so it is really quite impressive that he manages to say anything at all. What he does say is ‘I think I need to lie down.’
‘It’s not weird’ says Sirius, far more soberly. ‘Oh God, is it weird? Jamesie- mate- please don’t lynch us, or exchange us for less pooftery friends, I don’t even know if I am- shit-’
James aches in every muscle, and now his brain aches too (Is the brain a muscle? I wonder says a small part of his brain that doesn’t seem to have got the memo saying CRISIS, ABANDON ALL STATIONS), but he still says, forcefully, ‘You are my best friends.’
They stare at him, Remus through splayed fingers. He continues. ‘You are my best friends, and I don’t care, and obviously it’s a bit- I don’t care. You can even- kiss in front of me. If, if you want. Though- maybe not- that. We could have, um, a code. You could leave, um, a tie on the doorknob. Or something. Merlin, I-’
Sirius leaps off the bed and bounds over, dragging him semi-upright and engulfing him in a bear hug that would probably be more touchingly brotherly if he were wearing trousers. Remus gives a shaky laugh and their eyes meet over Sirius’ shoulder. His smile is so pathetically grateful that James feels momentarily angry- angry that Remus should have to worry even for a second that people might not accept him, for being a werewolf or for this. I have it easy, he thinks. I’m captain of the Quidditch team, I’m rich, I’m straight, I’m dating a redhead. Things aren’t ever going to be easy for Remus. He does the only thing he can think of, which is to wave Remus over to join them. He shuffles over, pulling his shirt down over his boxers, and they stay in a disorderly pile for so long that James feels about to drift off when there is a small, Peterish voice from the door.
‘Is anyone going to tell me why Remus and Sirius aren’t wearing trousers?’