A/N: We left our boys a little distressed...so here is Part II. Yes, it's painfully short, but I did warn you all. Please read on, there's more coming later.
Someone suggested I get a beta so if anyone wants to be my beta, feel free to leave an email address or whatever in a review. I had to re-submit this whole chapter to add this little note, so don't hold back if you want to be my beta!
A few weeks passed where James refused to speak to anyone, and did not return to sleep in Gryffindor tower. Sirius, Remus, Peter, and Lily tried again and again to get through to him, to no avail.
No one knew where he went during the night, although Remus once pointed out to Sirius that the squishiest couch in the Gryffindor common room (coincidentally the same couch Sirius had spent a fateful night on…if one will remember) was not such a bad place to sleep. But James still looked way worse for the wear.
His unkemptness grew shockingly until he was almost unrecognizable; for though he was clean and washed, he had abandoned concern for his appearance in general and so looked uncared for. His hair was now ruffled and messy whether he ruffled it himself or not. His robes were now rumpled whether he had just gotten off a broomstick or not (and mostly not). He never tied his tie, or shaved his chin, and spent his time stumbling around dazedly like a poor lost bum.
This began to make Sirius feel guilty of still brushing his hair painstakingly and shaving in the morning (he had never tied his tie, ever). What gave him the right to parade around, a king in all his beauty, while his best friend deteriorated before his eyes?
Immediately, Sirius began to devote all his time to James, who was beginning to give in, he could tell. He couldn’t ignore him forever, especially given the persistence with which Sirius pursued his forgiveness. Wherever James would go, Sirius would follow like a crazed stalker. Everyone else generally stayed away from them to spare looking at the painful sight of a subservient Sirius. The other two Marauders could’ve cried with disgrace at the sight of what their mates had lowered themselves to.
Life as it was had halted, or at least altered, completely. Gryffindor had pre-scheduled only one Quidditch practice, and it had gone terribly. With one dysfunctional Beater who spent all his time chasing after and shouting apologies at the listless Captain, the practice was limited to the Chasers shooting the Quaffle past the Keeper, and the other Beater frantically trying to control two Bludgers at once.
Needless to say, they did not play the game that had been scheduled for the following week against Hufflepuff. Even against the biggest team of pushovers Hogwarts had ever seen, with a steady record of 0-3 every year, the Gryffindors had lost their Quidditch spirit.
On the other hand, all the Marauders’ and Lily’s grades slipped drastically. When called upon in class, they could answer only, “I don’t know.”
Soon the teachers came to the conclusion that they didn’t know anything anymore, and stopped calling on them. Sirius didn’t particularly care, but it still made him uneasy to pass clusters of two or three teachers in the corridors, whispering and casting glances in his direction.
Meanwhile, the Slytherins thrived on their misery, taunting James, Sirius, and Lily every chance they got. But even Sirius had now gotten to the point of not caring no matter what they said, for it couldn’t possibly make it worse or hurt any more than what he himself was thinking. Provocation was useless to the Slytherins.
One day, well into the month, Sirius was staring into the common room fire, thinking. It wasn’t strange to find him like this anymore; he often sat for hours nowadays, just thinking about nothing in particular.
Footsteps behind him made him turn around. The common room was usually silent on a Tuesday afternoon. Everyone was supposed to be in classes. But Sirius wasn’t surprised to find Lily staring back at him with the same weighted expression he had started to use a lot.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“What are you doing?” she parried.
It was obvious what he was doing, as Sirius had nothing in his hands and nothing on the table in front of him. He was running away to the only place he had left, inside his own head.
Lily, however, had just come down from her dormitory, clutching something small and plastic in her hand. It was filled with liquid. A lighter.
Where she was going was nothing of concern next to the fact that she was still smoking. Sirius leapt up, but Lily gave a little cry and shuffled toward the portrait door. “No! Just…just leave me alone, Sirius. I can deal with it myself.”
With that, she scurried out of the portrait hole and out of sight.
Suddenly feeling extremely tired, Sirius let her go. She was right, miserable as that was. They were all dealing with it themselves. He could barely help himself, so how could he spare anything to help her?
Before he could settle back into his chair, he heard more footsteps, this time coming down from the boys’ stair. The portrait door swung open again.
Sirius’s head whipped around, and he just caught a glimpse of a head of messy black hair before the Invisibility Cloak adjusted itself again, and the hole swung shut. James was following Lily.
Sirius grinned. This could only mean things were getting better. It was almost like old times. But the grin slid off of his face as quickly as it had come, for he realized what would now inevitably happen. He was not in the least bit surprised when James came racing up to him ten minutes later. Panting heavily, he spoke his first words to his best friend in almost a month.
Sirius braced himself for the onslaught. James leaned against the back of his armchair, clutching the stitch in his side and positively seething.
“Why has my Flower been hiding by the lake, smoking?!” he roared, right in Sirius’s ear.
Sirius stared at him, fighting back a crazy urge to smile. James was talking to him. James was talking to him. He couldn’t mess this up.
That thought was enough to sober him up. “You want the answer? You’re not going to like it,” he warned.
James’s stony hazel eyes finally fixed on Sirius’s gray ones, cloudy with grief. “Padfoot, what’s happened to us?”
The question was seemingly random, but not quite random enough. Sirius sighed. This situation called for caution.
“I have an answer to both those questions,” said Sirius cautiously, “but you’re going to have to forgive me enough to believe me, won’t you?”
“Hurry up and start talking,” snarled James. He didn’t promise anything. His patience was gone. He needed answers.
Taking a deep breath, Sirius gave them. “Lily smokes now because she thinks you’ll never forgive her. She really cares, mate. You know how she started up?”
He didn’t pause for James to answer. “That night, when you didn’t show up, she was worried. First she thought you were really sick or hurt, and that made her drink. When she was drunk enough, she started to think you had stood her up. She was so messed up that she started to smoke and didn’t stop.
“It didn’t help, that day in the Great Hall. She was admitting her need and weakness to you, which you know is a big thing for her. And when you didn’t even acknowledge her, that was bad, mate. She gave up, because she thought that even if you saw her at her worst and didn’t yield, then you would never.”
James’s eyes flickered, but his face was unreadable. “How do you understand her so well?” It was more an accusation than a question.
Sirius held his hands up in surrender, but was completely serious when he said, “Because I feel the same way.”
James’s eyes widened and narrowed again and he bit his lip, frowning. It was strange to see such conflicting emotion flitting across his face, but Sirius continued.
“I’ve tried and tried to explain myself to you. I’m practically throwing myself at your damn feet, in case you haven’t noticed…and that’s not something that Padfoot does. Just like crying and burying her face in your shoulder isn’t something Lily does. We’re so sorry, Prongs, that we’ve stopped trying to explain at all. We just wish we could take it back now.
“I know I did real bad, mate, but you don’t know the half of it. I feel so old now. I’m actually thinking. About things, about everything. And Lily’s killing her lungs with cigarettes, and Remus is failing his classes, and Peter barely talks. These are not things that the Marauders do, mate. All of our other friends think we’ve gone mad. This is making us all miserable.
“That’s what’s happening to us.” It was a statement.
James wrung his hands. For the moment, for the current problem (though he was far from forgiving him), he was allied with Sirius. “How do I make her stop?” he asked.
Sirius rolled his eyes at his best mate for the first time in a long time. It felt strange. “Didn’t you hear anything I just said, Prongs? Get your arse out there and fix things between you two!”
Without another word, James turned around and raced through the portrait hole. Sirius had not been expecting thanks.
And when James returned with Lily both smiling and crying beside him, all cigarettes had been abandoned forever. Although he immediately returned to artfully ignoring Sirius without a sign of what had gone on between them, it gave them all hope.
It was a full moon tonight. Remus had already been confined to bed in the Hospital Wing with a fever and headache, and Lily was beside herself with worry. Now that she and James were together again, she had started to talk to Sirius too, and her primary concern was getting them two to talk to each other.
But what hadn’t occurred to her then was that her time to get this accomplished would run out at the night of the next full moon, which had been five days away. Now, she realized, there could be disaster if her two boys didn’t work together tonight.
Sirius had been walking by the Head Table on his way out of the Great Hall after lunch, engulfed in his own thoughts of the day and the night, when he heard someone call to him. Looking around, he spotted only Dumbledore. The Headmaster beckoned for him to follow him out into the entrance hall and to a private corner.
Dumbledore looked quite stern. “Mr. Black,” he began, “Do not think that because we have not had this talk earlier, I haven’t noticed your dreadful academic performance of late. This cannot continue.”
Sirius had, in fact, already been expecting Dumbledore to say something along those lines a long time before this, especially to his two formerly stellar students, Remus and Lily. He didn’t argue.
“However, I also believe it to be best that I leave you all to work that out for yourselves.” Sirius suspected also that Dumbledore knew all about the Marauders’ latest personal troubles. He wouldn’t put it past him. “Grades can always be raised. But consider yourself warned that certain other things may not be repaired as easily,” Dumbledore said firmly.
“Like friendship?” Sirius asked warily.
Dumbledore burst out laughing, his chuckle a low tinkling sound. “No, Mr. Black. Not friendship. Think more like…school property. The safety of the students. Secrets that are better kept secret. And wolves.”
Sirius’s jaw dropped. Dumbledore knew. But of course, he always did.
A/N: This chapter is dedicated to silver_d0e, who reviewed my last couple chapters and wanted a REALLY GOOD Part II. Well, sorry silver_d0e. This one's nothing more than a filler and a cliffie. Maybe all those reads I get can magically turn into reviews, and then Part III will be as amazing as Part II was meant to be...Thanks!
By the way...Name of the next chapter? Part III: Full Moon