"You said, and I quote, 'when we start turning into animals you can call us whatever you want'." Remus mocked, throwing on an exaggerated version of Sirius' slightly aristocratic accent and pretending to flip imaginary hair over his shoulder.
"You did say that." Peter agreed as he reached into the middle of their small circle on the floor of the dorm to take a chocolate frog.
"You're not calling me Snuffles." Sirius' eyes narrowed.
"Honestly, I think I'm going to call you Snuffles no matter what." James chuckled, earning a sharp punch to the arm from Sirius. "Ow! What? It's cute!"
Sirius scowled. "I'm not cute. I'm a big, manly dog. Not some bloody toy poodle." He huffed.
All three of the others snorted and bit back giggles. James reached over and scratched under Sirius' chin. "Aw, Snuffles is angry..."
Sirius went to lunge at the other boy but Remus caught him by the collar of his shirt. "Down, boy." He teased lightly. Sirius gave him a hurt pout.
They had decided that whatever nicknames they chose would be the ones they would eventually sign the map with once it was finished. If their names were to be part of their legacy, they had to be unique. They would also come in handy when talking about their animal forms so that no one else ever caught on.
"Well what about me?" Peter said in an attempt to get the focus off of Sirius and defuse his temper momentarily.
"I thought we agreed on whiskers?" James suggested jokingly. Peter rolled his eyes.
"Mrs. Norris' Supper." Muttered Sirius with a smirk.
Peter looked momentarily horrified and Remus laughed and shook his head.
"Maybe this would be easier if we could have a look at you." Remus suggested once Sirius and James had stopped cackling over their own humor. "See if you've got any defining features or something."
James and Sirius murmured their agreement and Peter sighed and stood up. His face screwed up in deep concentration and he was mouthing something to himself and finally his body began to shrink and morph until a plump grey rat sat in his place. Remus put out his hand and the rat ran forward.
Remus smiled to himself as he picked the rodent up and studied him. "I've never understood why people didn't like rats," he wondered aloud, using his forefinger to gently scratch the tiny, soft head. "I always thought they were rather cute. Smart as hell, too. You can train them to do nearly anything." Peter-The-Rat squeaked happily in his hand. "I wanted one when I was little but my mum always said no. She said it was their tails that freaked her out."
"What about them?" Asked James curiously.
Remus shrugged. "She said they had worm tails."
Sirius barked with laughter. "They do sort of, don't they?" He scooted closer to Remus so he could get a better look at Peter. "I sort of like that."
Remus set the rat back on the ground with a chuckle. "Wormtail?"
"It's got a ring to it." James said, giving a half shrug.
The rat transformed back into Peter, who didn't look nearly as convinced. "Really? Wormtail? That's all you've got?" He asked flatly.
Remus snorted. "Oh please. Because 'Moony' is such a creative name. Might as well write 'werewolf' across my forehead."
"No offense," Sirius remarked with a drop of sarcasm. "But your actual name is Remus Lupin...Isn't that a little-"
"The irony isn't lost on me, thanks." Remus cut him off irritably. "And if we're going there, Mr. Dog Star Black the Black Dog-"
James cleared his throat and the bickering stopped abruptly. "Now children, we're all friends here." He smirked. "Besides, we have more important matters to attend to...me."
"Why, Sirius? Do you want to eat me?" He looked pointedly over the rim of his glasses at his best friend.
"Nah, too gamy for my taste, mate." Sirius winked.
Peter and Remus ignored them, both studying James and trying to think. "Probably best not to have you change right here in the dorm...I don't think there's room." Remus sighed. "Probably something with your antlers though."
James stuck out his chest a little and sighed dramatically. "I'm quite regal, I know. Might as well just call me Prince of the Forest."
"This is why you can't get a girlfriend, you know."
"You're very mouthy today, Sirius. Why don't you go find a bone to occupy yourself with?"
"Bone jokes. Clever."
"Really though, are you alright?" James asked, suddenly very serious. "I mean, you're pretty much always a snarky bastard, but you're starting it with everyone today."
Sirius looked like he was going to come back at James with another insult, but instead he took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I'm fine." He ran a hand through his hair, tugging just slightly before he released. "Really." He said as he caught the look of disbelief shared between his friends. "It's nothing. Sorry, I didn't mean to be an arse..."
"You sure?" Remus asked gently.
Sirius nodded hurriedly. "Yeah, Moons. I've just...it's family stuff on my mind. It can wait. We can go back to discussing Prince Prongs over here." He forced a laugh.
"Hey that's not bad." James said quickly.
"James, for the last time we are not calling you Prince anything."
James rolled his eyes. "No, you prat. Prongs."
"I think it fits well." Said Remus, unwrapping a bar of Honeyduke's Best. "So, Moony, Wormtail, Prongs and-"
"CALL ME SNUFFLES AGAIN, LUPIN! I WILL EAT ALL OF YOUR CHOCOLATE AND YOUR HOMEWORK!"
"Does anyone have a muzzle?" Peter groaned, rubbing his temples.
Sirius growled in frustration and, quicker than he ever had before, transformed and ran under his own bed leaving the others speechless. They all knew Sirius well enough to know that while he was always quick to run his mouth, he also wasn't quite as good at receiving what he so often dished out. And if there was something already bothering him, he was likely to become twice as snarky as well as twice as sensitive.
Remus crawled over to Sirius' bunk and peeked underneath. "Hey...Look, we're all sorry for teasing you, Sirius." The dog huffed in response, then looked guiltily at Remus and whimpered. "Come on out, boy..." Remus coaxed gently. The dog didn't budge and he looked back to James and Peter for help.
James shrugged. "Let him stay under there if he wants to. Maybe he needs to cool off."
Remus sighed and got down on his stomach, meeting the dog's sad puppy-eyed gaze. "You don't have to come out and talk about it if you don't want to..." he slowly reached one hand, palm up under the bed. The dog's head tilted in consideration before lifting one of his over sized paws and placing it in his friend's hand. Remus smiled, rubbing the soft pads comfortingly. "Come on out, Padfoot..."
The dog lifted his head just a tad too quickly and he yelped as it collided with the hard wood of the bed frame. Remus, James and Peter all flinched, but the dog finally emerged and shook himself off before turning back into a teenage boy. Sirius sat and rubbed his head with a slight scowl.
"Alright Sirius?" James asked cautiously.
Sirius sighed. "Yeah. Sorry...I've just been stressed about going home for the holidays at the end of the month." He admit quietly. "I'm sorry for being bloody difficult." No one said anything. Sirius hadn't talked much about his family since he left them at Diagon Ally over the summer. He and Regulus had barely interacted at all since the start of term, and though he tried to play it off like he didn't notice and it didn't bother him, it did. The more time he spent away from Grimmuald Place, the more he dreaded the inevitable return, and with the Holidays fast approaching he knew he was going to have to face what he had been avoiding for nearly six months.
Finally, Sirius turned to look at Remus with a forced half smile. "Padfoot?"
Remus laughed softly and shook his head. "I don't know, it just sort of came out."
Sirius nodded silently for a second, considering. "I can live with it."
"Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs." James announced with a grin. "The Marauders."