Chapter 1 : Slippery, that ice.
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James Potter couldn’t think of anything he’d rather do less than write this essay. Well, kiss Snivellus, perhaps. That could make even the one-hundred-and-eighty-fourth Goblin peace agreement look appealing by comparison.
Sirius was still methodically coating his sheet of parchment in violent black scratches. James wondered if perhaps he had spoken to Regulus, for nothing had upset him this much since Remus’ poisoning. He resolved to ask Sirius about it later and reread the sentence he had just written.
Five years later, Borgar the Belligerent decided he was tired of peace negotiations, and took a shovel to his opponent’s head.
I hate History of Magic, he thought to himself.
Lily was asking Sirius about his plans after school. Her hair trailed lightly across her parchment as she wrote. Only Lily could carry on a conversation and write an essay simultaneously. James watched her as she grinned at Sirius’ words, still without moving her face from the page.
“What about you? Any plans?” Sirius asked. Lily looked up at last, and brought her quill to her mouth, chewing at it ever so slightly. Her eyes were out of focus, thoughtful.
“I’ve been considering a few things, but I haven’t really decided…” she trailed off.
“You could get any job you want!” James blurted out. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Lily blushed, and gave him a furtive sideways glance.
“Don’t be silly,” she grumbled, sounding flattered but embarrassed.
James pushed his glasses back up his nose and wondered why he couldn’t keep his flapping mouth shut around her. Peter rolled his eyes and James resisted the urge to kick him under the table. Just because Peter had found someone daft enough to snog him didn’t mean he could rub it in that Lily wasn’t yet daft enough to snog James.
“Class starts in fifteen minutes,” Remus announced, and everyone but James stood, gathering their things. Was the free period over already? He glanced down at his page. Not bad, but still a long way from finished. He stuffed everything into his bag and followed his friends out of the library.
Down the corridor, Remus and Lily turned to go upstairs to Ancient Runes. James draped an arm around Sirius’ shoulder.
“Alright, Sirius? You’ve been acting off today.” He noted quietly. Sirius opened his mouth, then glanced over at Peter and closed it again.
“Spiffing,” came the sarcastic reply through clenched teeth before he shrugged James’ arm away. James felt a little tug behind his eyes, and turned just in time to see Remus turning back to Lily. He’d been watching them. Peter was whistling the Hogwarts school song and Sirius was holding his books up against his chest in a very uncharacteristic way. His posture reminded James of Snivellus: angry, cagey and secretive. There was something going on here, and James didn’t like it. He hated being left out of a secret, and he resolved to get to the bottom of it as soon as possible.
Peter kept whistling across the lawn until Sirius told him where to stick it, and James laughed heartily to see Peter so abashed. He was counting the days until Peter would finally punch Sirius in the nose for constantly taking the piss. He couldn’t help but grin at the thought of Sirius’ face- he’d probably look scandalised, and then start laughing uncontrollably.
After a long and tedious study of the symbiotic relationship between Northern Burstiles and Kelpies, James was certain he knew everything he’d ever need to know about loch dwellers. As Professor Kettleburn was an old friend of his father’s, he usually made an effort to help the old man tidy up after lessons, but Sirius was in such a rush to get back that James decided to stay close to him. After all, the last time he was this grumpy after a Care of Magical Creatures lesson, he ran into the Slytherins coming from Herbology and went ape on Snape. Not that Snivellus didn’t deserve it, but James preferred to keep Sirius on the quidditch team if possible.
Sirius was nearly jogging across the lawn, and James took long, easy strides to keep up. Peter was trailing behind as fast as his shorter legs would carry him, panting loudly. At least it keeps him from whistling, James couldn’t help but think.
When they reached the front doors to the castle, Peter looked cross that he was so out of breath and stated very loudly that he was off to find Doreen, his girlfriend from Hufflepuff. Neither Sirius nor James responded as they bounded up the stairs in unison, and Peter skulked off to the basement to linger near her common room.
In the dorm, Sirius seemed perturbed that James had kept up with him, but he didn’t say anything. He rummaged around until he found the map, and scanned it eagerly. James was dying to ask him who he was looking for, but Sirius was in one of his moods and James knew there were better ways of finding out what he was up to than to ask directly. It was usually best to act uninterested, so he busied himself with reading the Quidditch Quarterly, sprawled out on his bed until Sirius made for the door.
“Off to the library?” he asked. Sirius hesitated, and James continued before he could answer. “Because I was going to head there myself in a few minutes; we could go together.”
“Maybe I’ll meet you there later,” Sirius answered, and took off. No sooner had his footsteps trailed off on the other side of the door than James was up and digging for the cloak. He checked the map, and saw Sirius moving quickly downstairs.
“I need to see who Padfoot was looking for,” he said aloud. Sirius’ handwriting floated across the surface of the parchment.
“Stop being nosy, Prongs,” it said. James laughed.
“It’s for his own good, Marauder’s oath! I have to find him.”
His own handwriting, messy as his hair and just as thick, answered.
“He’s off to find Moony.”
James grinned just as Sirius’ handwriting answered, “Stupid git. Mind your own bloody business!”
Despite the protests of Padfoot’s imprint, the map worked its magic and brought the desired area to the foreground while everything else faded slightly. The tiny crescent labelled Moony moved around the edge of the forest at a secluded spot James knew to be full of laceleaf. Moony must be collecting for potions.
With broom and cloak in hand, James slid open the latch to the window.
Sirius didn’t see the invisible James floating above and behind him on the way out to the forest, although he did turn and look behind him a few times to make sure he wasn’t being followed. James smiled proudly at his own brilliance- sorry, Padfoot, no footprints here!
At last, Moony’s cloaked form came into view up ahead. Sirius went into stealth mode and began dodging behind trees. He followed Moony’s footsteps for a while before jogging off to the left and through the trees. James stayed back, behind Remus, because he thought his cloak might snag on the branches if he followed Sirius. When Sirius emerged ahead of Remus, James flew behind some tall bushes and dismounted his broom. He didn’t understand what his two friends could possibly be arguing about, but Remus seemed to be trying to get away from Sirius. Sirius chased after him and grabbed him by the sleeve. Remus’ cloak ripped and for a moment, he just stared at Sirius with a mixture of surprise and anger. Then he lunged forward and shoved Sirius, who was taken completely off guard and fell back onto his bum. Remus turned once more to leave. He was nearly five metres from James’ hiding spot when Sirius caught up to him and punched him, hard, in the back of the head. James’ mouth fell open. What the bloody hell was going on here? he wondered, as Remus fell forward and landed on his hands. His right hand must have landed on a rock, because it stained the snow red. He rubbed his eyes, disoriented, and Sirius seemed to feel bad for hitting him.
“Moony, are you alright?” he asked, coming forward.
“It was a mistake,” Moony said quietly, his hand still oozing blood. “It was all a mistake.”
Something in Sirius’ eyes clouded over and he advanced on Remus. “You’re lying,” he hissed, and took Remus’ face in his hands. Then he did something James could never, ever have foreseen.
He leaned forward and kissed Remus. And Remus let him.
James froze as his two best friends shared a very passionate kiss. At first he thought it must be a prank for his benefit, a gag of sorts, but neither Sirius nor Remus could act this convincingly. Although Remus had a pained expression on his face, his hands were clutching the fabric at the back of Sirius’ cloak, pulling him closer. After a minute or so, Sirius’ hands snaked into Remus’ hair as his mouth moved from Remus’ lips to his ear. Remus’ eyes were closed, and his mouth hung open just slightly, emitting small wisps of fog into the cold air.
Under the cloak, James felt his head spin. Never, in a million years… He looked down at his feet, ran his fingers through his hair uncomfortably. He must be imagining things.
What in Godric’s name…
When he looked back up, they were still going at it. He wasn’t imagining it after all. After a moment, Remus’ tense fingers slackened, and with a streak of blood they slid from Sirius’ back to his chest. He pushed him away.
“No…” he moaned without conviction. His eyes opened, and he addressed Sirius in a frustrated voice. “No! You’re- I can’t-“
“You can’t what?!” Sirius snapped, plunging right back into his temper. He put a hand against Remus’ cheek but Remus squirmed away.
“You don’t understand,” Remus was muttering. He began to back away slowly, trying to untangle his hands from Sirius’.
“STOP IT!” Remus finally shouted, and pushed Sirius away. Sirius growled loudly, and ran at Remus like a battering ram. Remus kicked a leg up just in time, and Sirius bounced back. It didn’t stop him though, and another scuffle arose. James wanted to run forward, to stop them fighting, but his legs stayed rooted as firmly as the bushes around him and his throat was much too dry to yell. Finally, Remus threw an unexpectedly strong punch and Sirius fell back, landing on his arm with a sickening crunch.
“Oh my God, Padfoot, I didn’t mean-“ Remus gasped, looking horrified.
“BUGGER OFF!” Sirius growled, kicking at Remus from where he lay. “I think you’ve done enough damage here!” Remus was standing just out of reach from Sirius’ kick, but the words seemed to hit him like a fist in the stomach. His mouth opened and closed again, like a gaping fish, before he staggered backwards.
“That’s right- get out of here! It’s what you want, isn’t it?” Sirius barked. Remus hesitated a few times before stumbling off in the direction of the castle, looking very near to tears. Sirius grunted as he lifted himself up, favouring his left arm. James came forward as if in a trance.
“Sirius?” he asked, sounding hurt. Sirius’ eyes darted around, panicked, and James remembered he was still beneath the invisibility cloak. He shrugged it off and faced his best friend at last.
Sirius looked like a trapped animal. His eyebrows were stitched together in a concern rarely witnessed, and his grimace of pain had dissolved into one of shock. His nose and cheeks, which had been turning pink from the cold in Moony’s absence, darkened further.
“Prongs. How long-“
“I was go-“
“No you weren’t.”
“What was I supposed to say? I hardly know how to explain it to myself, much less to you!”
“It doesn’t matter what you call it, Sirius! You should have told me!” James was starting to get angry. He felt like a fool for being left in the dark. How could he have missed the signs? Didn’t Padfoot trust him? It felt like a slap across the face.
“I know. I’m sorry. It’s been a strange month,” Sirius said quietly. Slowly, white specks began to float around their heads as the snow started up once more. For a few long moments they stood facing each other, each absorbing the new development in silence. The snow fell quietly over their unspoken discussion.
“I don’t know what to say,” James said at last.
“Neither did I,” replied Sirius, clutching his limp arm but seemingly unaware of the pain. James bent down and snapped a short branch from a nearby shrub, stripping it of its needles before coming towards Sirius.
“Hold out your arm.”
Sirius obliged, and James conjured a bandage and wrapped Sirius’ forearm around the splint. After a gruff final tug, he looked up into Sirius’ eyes. They were swimming with questions, the most urgent being are we still best mates?
“You’d better tell me everything from now on. That’s what best friends do.” James muttered, and went to fetch his broom. His mind was still reeling as he flew back towards the castle with Sirius’ weight against his back. Sirius’ relief was palpable- James could feel it in the way he held on with his good arm.
“You’re the best, Prongs,” He said, loud enough that James could hear him over the wind.
“Just don’t go getting any ideas back there,’ James teased.
Near the hospital wing, the boys ran into Lily, who was clutching a jar and dressed for the outdoors.
“What happened to you?” she asked in awe.
“If you’re off to gather your laceleaf, you’d best be careful. It’s dangerous out there,” Sirius grimaced. He allowed Lily to question him for a minute, and he even cracked a joke about Moony’s unlikely strength, but no one laughed. Then the large wooden door swung open.
“Why are you loitering out here chatting? I’ve got sleeping patients!” Madame Pomfrey chided before spotting Sirius’ injury.
“Merlin’s beard, Mr. Black, what happened to you?”
“Erm, fell down. Slippery, that ice.”
Good old Padfoot, James thought. Still loyal, even when he’s angry.
Madame Pomfrey looked doubtful, but ushered him into the hospital wing all the same.
“James?” Lily turned, looking worried. “I’m going to talk to Remus, if you don’t mind.”
James nodded. “Sure. I’m staying here with Sirius. Sort him out, will you?” He didn’t know how to tell her what he was feeling right now, and he knew it wasn’t his business to tell her either. What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.
She gave a weak grin, and started down the hallway. He watched her until she disappeared around a corner. Merlin she’s beautiful. Why anyone would rather kiss Padfoot than a girl like that is beyond me.
Back in the hospital wing, Sirius was arguing with Madame Pomfrey.
“I don’t see why I can’t just-“ he was grumbling.
“Because, Mr. Black,” she interjected. “Your injury needs time to fully heal. You may return to your dormitory in the morning.”
He scowled as she handed him a large phial of potion, and threw it back like a tall shot of firewhiskey. She vanished the empty phial before trotting off in the direction of her office. As she passed James, she raised an eyebrow.
“Talk some sense into him if you can,” she whispered. James grinned and dropped into a chair beside Sirius’ bed.
“Did she say how long until you could play Quidditch?” he asked.
“She says two weeks, but it’s rubbish. I’ll be at practice on Saturday,” Sirius muttered, scratching his forearm. “As long as a bludger doesn’t hit it I’ll be fine.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t take the chance. Channing's going to have to let Robins sub.”
“C’mon, Prongs, it’s not all that bad. Robins’ll just get his hopes up if she lets him play at practice.”
James relented. “We’ll see how you feel on Friday. But I doubt she’ll risk you breaking it again.”
Sirius nodded, and gestured to his arm. “How about Moony, eh? He’s got more fight in him than we give him credit for.”
James didn’t want to think about Remus or his fight, or why Sirius seemed to find that attractive. He examined his fingernails.
“I mean, he was being mental! Once my arm is healed I might have to slap some sense into him. Maybe we should banish him to the girl’s dormitories for being an emotional train wreck.” Sirius seemed to find comfort in his ramblings, and grinned.
James briefly entertained a daydream in which he was banished to the girl’s dormitories and had to bunk up with Lily. He coloured.
Soon enough, Sirius seemed to find the whole thing kind of funny, and James found himself feeling more at ease with his best friend than he had in weeks. As embarrassed as Sirius had seemed at being caught kissing Moony, it seemed to relieve him of a lot of stress to have James stick by him. And of course, James could have done nothing else. It was in his nature to be loyal, open minded, and easy-going. Sirius was still Sirius, after all. And James was still James.
A/N: If you're thinking, "more James, please!", don't worry, there will be more. But this chapter just had to be written, you know? And now for the best news of all: chapter 9 of AFLP is up! So the story continues...