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The World is Ending by _EmBoDiMeNt_Of_A_nAtIoN_
Chapter 11 : The Shirt Bandit
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 2


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((A/N: Yes! I'm updating a bit early. You see, my internet will be down until Friday, as I'm in the process of moving. And, as many of you will know, June 12 to June 24 is the staff vacation, during which only trusted authors may post. As a result, I may not be able to post this week or next. So I thought I'd take advantage of this time that I have and post! In any case, don't forget to review!! (Reviews make me happy!!!) And I hope you like it!))

((Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter. Sadly... or maybe happily?))
When I entered the Great Hall that evening for the Halloween feast, it was only to be pulled right back out. I was dragged across the entrance hall, shepherded into the dungeon corridors, not very surprising seeing how my Slytherin brother was the one doing the shepherding. When we were safely shut away in an empty dungeon and Apollo had lit some torches with his wand, my twin turned to face me.

“Temmy, are you okay?” he asked outright with a serious look. That was my brother: he liked to get a look at the big picture, always jumping straight to the point. Of course, he adored finding out all the small details; he just thought the overall was a bit more important. That was why he was going to be a great journalist, in my opinion anyway. I couldn’t help but smile at the old nickname.

Apollo and I, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, were twins, and we existed as positive evidence to the whole freaky twin bond thing. We weren’t what I’d call telepathic, but we could sort of tell when the other of us was experiencing extreme emotions or was in pain or danger. No wonder Apollo was looking so serious and worried. I’d had all my bases covered that afternoon.

“I’m fine now, Olly,” I said, mostly truthfully. After I’d left Sirius, I’d hustled up to the hospital wing, hoping that I would meet no one, especially not any teachers, on the way there. I didn’t, and Madam Pomfrey had healed my arm instantly, accepting my cock-and-bull story about falling without question, but staring after me with suspicion. I was still indescribably angry about everything that had happened that day, and perhaps a little scared if truth be told, but the fact that Lily hadn’t returned from Hogsmeade until later in the afternoon brightened my mood considerably.

Apollo, however, was not persuaded. He gave me a look that said plainly, I-know-you’re-lying-to-me-so-spill. I glared at him, but the look persisted.

And I talked. Everything came out, from all my problems with Sirius Black to the voice in my head that wasn’t mine and wanted me dead. I told him about James and Lily and about how I’d stabbed my arm. The explanations took all of twenty minutes, and we were now missing the feast, but Apollo didn’t seem to care much. He gazed at me with a thoughtful scowl, his lips forming a line to rival Professor McGonagall’s in her most foul mood and his blue eyes, so like my own, narrowed and expressing apprehension.

“Maybe...” he finally started, but he hesitated. “Legilimency?”

I frowned and considered it. “The voice? It’s possible, I reckon. It seems more like the Imperius Curse though, the way it controlled me.”

“But who could—“

“I dunno,” I interrupted, shrugging before he could even finish his sentence. He went silent, still staring at me ponderously. After another ten minutes had passed, he sighed.

“Looks like we have some research ahead of us,” he sniggered. I rolled my eyes and he shrugged. “As for Black, I can take care of him for you.” His tone was rather sinister, and a shiver ran down my spine. I snorted, but he could see my discomfort and laughed at me.

“I can take care of him myself!” I whined, crossing my arms and glaring at him. “I’m not a baby, you know!”

“Okay,” he conceded, but he was giving up way to easily. He was about as stubborn as I was, but he didn’t give me time to figure out what he was plotting, as he continued: “We should get up to the feast before everyone eats all the food. I’m starving!” He didn’t wait for me to respond, grabbing my newly healed arm and yanking me back up to the Great Hall. As he headed off to the Slytherin table, he called, “Library, Monday, after last lesson!” And then he had disappeared into the black mass at the Slytherin table. I myself headed for the Gryffindor table and took a seat next to Mira, across from Olivia and Lily. I was greatly pleased to see that we were sitting next to the Marauders, and James and Lily were sitting next to each other. They weren’t talking to each other, but even them being so close in proximity was positively a miracle. The only bad thing was that Sirius was sitting on James’ other side.

I instantly started piling food onto my golden plate while Lily, Mira, and Olivia watched me.

“Is something wrong?” I asked before starting on my thick, juicy steak. They exchanged looks full of meaning before looking back at me.

“Just having a little family reunion, were you?” Mira asked, watching me eat with a disgruntled expression. I sometimes ate like the guys did: stuffing food into my mouth constantly. However, unlike the guys, I didn’t talk with my mouth full, and I felt no need to answer regardless, so I shrugged in response.

“You know who he hangs out with, right?” Lily put in, staring at me with intense concentration.

I swallowed and scowled at my friends. “Yes, I’m sure I do, seeing how—“

“He hangs out with Snivellus,” James interrupted, joining our conversation without being invited. He cringed when Lily glared at him furiously. “Er, I mean Severus Snape. And Avery and Nott and a bunch of other guys who will probably end up Death Eaters when they get out of Hogwarts.”

I turned my glare and James, and I saw that Sirius and Peter were listening to the exchange as well. I tapped my fingernails on the table in irritation and took another bite of my steak to stop myself saying something I would regret.

“Not to mention about half of Sirius’ family—“ Peter began, but he cut himself of as Sirius sent him a withering look.

“The point is,” Lily said, rolling her eyes at the guys, “that he’s a Slytherin, and the crowd he hangs out with—“ her voice died in her throat as my fork was embedded in the center of the table, mere inches from her hand, and everyone stared at the glittering golden utensil.

“I suggest,” I growled dangerously, “a change of subject.”

Mira, Olivia, and Peter nodded quickly, and even James and Sirius looked a tad nervous, but Lily remained undaunted, staring back at me defiantly.

“And I suggest,” she retorted, “that you don’t go around sticking forks in the table, because that vandalism. As I was saying, it’s not exactly good for you to be seen with him, at least not by... well, by anyone really. Your reputation is getting rather fragile as it is, you know. Hanging around with Slytherins degrades the sense that you’re...” she paused thoughtfully, “honorable.”

I leaned over the table. “If you think I’m going to stay away from my brother just because it ‘degrades my honor,’ you are sorely mistaken,” I hissed maliciously, earning shocked glances. “Of course, I understand if you don’t want to get sucked into it, you know, for the sake of your ‘honor,’ so maybe you ought to steer clear of me; after all Heads and prefects shouldn’t have friends who aren’t honorable.” I shoved my plate away from me, my appetite lost, while the seven of them stared at me, and I almost believed that they would listen, almost wanted them to leave me be. But Lily shook her head, looking rather flustered.

“That’s not what I... I didn’t mean...” she mumbled, and her embarrassed attitude made me feel immensely guilty. I flushed beet red.

“Sorry,” I muttered, looking down the table in the guys’ general direction. “I’m having a bad day.” I looked back at Lily, and out of my peripheral vision I saw Sirius look away. Lily nodded at me.

“I’m sorry, too. He’s your brother, we shouldn’t...”

Just then the food disappeared and was replaced by the desserts. We dined in silence for a while, and then, as James and Lily reached for the same tray of éclairs, I remembered that I hadn’t asked about the rest of their date yet.

So, suavely as I could, I said, “So... how was your date?”

Lily and James both turned bright red; Lily knocked over her pumpkin juice as she went to take a bite of her éclair, spilling it onto a platter of pastries, and James started choking on his as his elbows slipped off the table.

“Er,” Lily commented.

“Erm,” James added.

“It was—“

“Okay. After you and Sirius left—“

“We went to Honeydukes and James—“

“I bought some chocolates and candies—“

“We got some for you two too, of course, and then—“

“We went down to the Three Broomsticks and got—“

“Got some butterbeer and talked a bit about our duties as Heads and stuff—“

“Then we came back up to the castle to get ready for the feast.”

They glanced at each other, then quickly looked away, both blushing scarlet. I smirked smugly, snacking on some mouthwatering chocolate pudding and looking between them contently. At least something good had come of this terrible day: Lily and James were certainly not being as chaotic as usual. It was a relief, because so much had happened that day that I didn’t know if I could possibly stand anymore.

Lily quickly made an attempt to change the subject and I allowed her to without complaint. I really wasn’t in much a mood to talk anyways, so instead I sat back with my pudding and éclairs and listened while the others chatted lightly.

“Hey, where’s Remus?” Mira asked, and I frowned as I realized that, indeed, Remus was not present. The boys didn’t miss a beat; well, Peter did, looking nervously at Sirius.

But Sirius said confidently, without hesitation, “Hospital wing. He wasn’t feeling well.”

The other girls made sympathetic noises and returned to their desserts, not questioning the explanation, but something about it gave me a nagging sense in the back of my mind (not the voice, thankfully), and it told me that Sirius was lying. I silenced the nagging as the plates cleared for the second time and Dumbledore stood, wishing us a Happy Halloween and sending us all off to bed.

It wasn’t until later, when I was wrapped in my blankets, cozy in my four-poster, relieved that no one had noticed anything out of place in the dorm, that I realized what was wrong with Sirius’ lie.

I’d been in the hospital wing before the feast.

And Remus Lupin had not.

***~~~***

It was the last Quidditch practice before our first match, and the weather was once again flawless. It was almost uncannily perfect. All the students were taking advantage of the weather and venturing outdoors, and it was excellent conditions for Quidditch especially.

I caught the Quaffle as Sirius passed it to me, flying down the field at a breakneck pace, tossing the Quaffle to James, who hurled it through Silvia’s goalpost. James flew over to Silvia to give her some pointers, leaving Sirius and I to toss the Quaffle back and forth. Sirius and I had reached an unspoken agreement: we weren’t talking about what had happened that Saturday last week. We were pretending that it hadn’t happened, but I could tell that we were both still upset about it. I, for one, was still furious with him, and I was trying very hard not to let it show. We didn’t speak, but that was typical, for the most part. I, in fact, completely ignored his presence except during Quidditch, and he, in turn, ignored me.

James rejoined us, grinning like a mad man just released to wreak havoc on the world. “Not gonna make it past her this time! It’s your shot, Ar!”

Sirius passed me the Quaffle, giving James a curious look. I caught the ball, shrugged, and flew off down the field, dodging the Bludger Terry sent my way and tossing the big red ball towards the furthest hoop with all my might. This time, Silvia didn’t let it through. James, who had followed me down the pitch, whooped and shot Silvia an encouraging grin, and then told Sirius to take his shot (we had to make sure both of us got the same amount of practice time or all hell would break loose). Silvia caught his too, grinning herself now.

“Excellent!” James yelled, blowing his whistle. The team converged around him. “I think we’re about as good as we can be by tomorrow. We’re definitely going to kick some Slytherin ass!” I cheered along with the rest of the team as we dismounted and sauntered into the joined portion of the locker room as one. After a cheerful, optimistic, and typical James speech about how awesome we were, the three of us girls headed to our locker rooms to change.

I pulled on my jeans and reached for my shirt, but just as my fingers closed and the blue cotton material, the door to the room burst open and Sirius Black and Wes O’hare were standing in the doorway. I froze and stared at the two with wide eyes, and I heard Silvia and Terry do the same behind me.

“Silvia, James says he wants to give you—“ Sirius cut himself short at a completely unnecessary nudge from Wes, both guys’ eyes widening at the sight of three half-naked girls. It was silent for a matter of minutes.

And then Silvia and Terry shrieked, jumping for something to cover themselves with; the sound brought me back to my senses, making me realize that Sirius’ and Wes’ gazes were glued to my black bra. My face grew hot and I did the first thing I could think of: chucked my shirt at Sirius’ head (I was angrier with him at the moment than Wes, and it seemed to make sense; though in retrospect, it was rather stupid, as I now had no shirt). While Sirius struggled with the shirt, I picked up one of my Quidditch gloves.

“Get out!” I screamed, hurling it at Wes. It hit him square in the forehead (there was a reason I was a chaser, after all), which seemed to knock some sort of sense into him: he yelped, “Sorry,” and sprinted out. Sirius, however, clearly had no intention of leaving. As he peeled my shirt off his head, he grinned mischievously, so I grabbed my other glove and threw it at him too. This only served to make him smirk wider, and that just infuriated me more. I grabbed my entire bag and flung it at him. It hit him in the chest with a satisfying sort of thunk. It was, again, not a great idea, looking back. Sirius waggled his eyebrows at me, collected my belongings, and walked out.

It was a second before the effects of these simple actions occurred to me.

I’d thrown my shirt and my bag at him. My robes were in my bag, not to mention all my Quidditch stuff and my wand. Sirius had taken all of it with him.

Bloody hell, I was a moron.

I groaned and plodded to the door, which the guys had left open, and peered out with a furious scowl. “Black!” I bellowed. “Get back here with my stuff or you are dead, you bastard!” The girls giggled behind me, but I ignored them. Silence was the only response I received, and I would have tracked him down if not for the fact that I didn’t want any of the other guys to see me without my shirt on. Of course, half them already had... I was just about to plunge out to kill him when I saw something moving towards me. I barely had time for my brain to register that the something was a black t-shirt before it hit me in the face.

The smell of it nearly knocked me over: Sirius clung strongly to it, or at least his scent did. The odor made it obvious just whose shirt it was. I stared at it for a minute, fighting both the urge to vomit and the urge to cuddle with it (both urges were rather repulsive to me). I growled and called, “I said my stuff, you—“ but I couldn’t think of a word bad enough to call him, so when there was once again no answer, I conceded defeat and returned to my locker. Silvia and Terry were gazing with wide eyes at the shirt that I still clutched in my hands.

“That’s... Sirius’ shirt!” they whispered reverently at the same time. I rolled my eyes at the brilliance of Hogwarts’ fourth and fifth years.

“Yes, that’s Black’s shirt. Nice of him to give me something, I suppose, seeing how he just stole all my stuff,” I growled a bit sardonically, glaring at the shirt before pulling it over my head. It was a loose, almost baggy, on me, but it wasn’t terribly bad. I shuddered as the scent washed over me again, then picked up my trainers and pulled them on. “I believe that what those idiots were trying to say was that James wants to talk to you, Silvia.”

Silvia nodded, staring at my torso with veneration. I rolled my eyes again.

“I feel very uncomfortable with you staring at my tits like that.”

She turned scarlet and nodded, quickly turning to her own bag. Next to her, Terry also jerked out of her own trance, flushing nearly as red as her sister. I chuckled and bid them farewell, striding out of the locker room. Outside, James was waiting for Silvia calmly, but he did a double take when he saw me. He smirked.

“Er, you and Sirius—“

“Don’t even start joking around, James, where is he?”

“I dunno, he finished before me... what did he—“

“Nothing, don’t bother, I’ll see you at dinner.” And I marched away before James could say anything else.

Where would he go? I thought to myself desperately. I needed that stuff!

As I entered the entrance hall, it occurred to me that it was dinnertime, and Sirius might be hungry. I turned sharply and entered the Great Hall, searching for Sirius’ shaggy hair, but to no avail. Spotting Lily’s flaming hair, I trudged over to her.

“Lils, have you seen Black? He took all my damn stuff! I swear I’m going to kill him!”

Lily swallowed her food and shook her head. “No, Ar, I haven’t. Did you get a new shirt?”

“No! Can’t you tell by the smell, it’s horrendous! It’s—“

“Sirius’ shirt.” I looked around at Melanie as she took the seat across from me with a sour look. “What are you doing wearing it?”

“None of your business! I don’t suppose you’d tell me where he was, so I’m going to—“

“That’s the shirt he wore the first day we had sex.”

Lily gagged, immediately choking on her new bite of food. I had the shirt half off before I’d even realized what I was doing, and then I hesitated.

The Great Hall was packed with students eating their dinner... and when I say packed, I mean packed with students, not to mention staff. I was pretty sure that stripping in the Great Hall was against school rules. But at the same time, the shirt I was being forced to wear was utterly revolting to me at the moment, and I really didn’t want to wear it any longer.

So, take the shirt off and face humiliation, the thought of being half-naked in front half the student body again, and almost sure detention, or live with the shirt, deal with the thought that Sirius had been wearing it minutes before... you know, and cope with the pissed off feeling that seemed to have risen in my lower stomach.

I stood up and stripped the shirt off. Melanie, who seemed to have been enjoying my minute of internal struggle, burst out laughing.

“Well, you really do wear plain underwear, Gaunt!”

I wanted to snarl at her, rip her to shreds, destroy every thought of her in the Hall, but it suddenly came to me: I had the perfect weapon, for once. I leaned over the table, a smug sort of smile on my face.

“Didn’t seem to matter much to Black.”

Lily started choking again, but Melanie’s eyes widened, her mouth dropped open, and she looked like she was going to either hurl or scream at me. I smiled at the feeling of immense satisfaction the look gave me and walked out of the Great Hall, my head held high.

***~~~***

Sirius tucked the bag, minus the wand and the soft blue cotton shirt, safely into the loose floorboard he’d found under his bed in third year, then checked and double-checked to make sure that it wasn’t visible. Then he crawled out from under his bed and began looking for another shirt. He had sent Artemis his, and now he was bare-chested. While he searched, he thought about Artemis.

Her left forearm, from what he had seen, had a scar on it. He wasn’t positive, but he was relatively certain that it hadn’t been there on Saturday. So was that it, then? Was she cutting herself? Or had it just been some accident? Maybe it had always been there, Sirius just hadn’t noticed it? No, she’d definitely been in some sort of pain on Saturday; that much was clear by her gasp of pain when he’d grabbed her arm to stop her from leaving.

And then, of course, she’d probably gone and whined to her (somewhat) older brother. Apollo Gaunt had taken the liberty of confronting Sirius that morning, though he’d somehow done it without sounding as though he were actually threatening Sirius. Sirius still couldn’t figure out how he’d done it, but at this point, it didn’t really matter. Sirius’ pondering was cut short regardless as the dormitory door opened with a loud bang. Sirius watched with a smile as Artemis stepped inside, face red, nostrils flaring, arms clasped behind her back, and... shirtless? Well, Sirius didn’t mind much, he had to admit. He hated her, but even he couldn’t deny that she was even more attractive without her shirt; but where was the shirt he’d sent her?

Sirius had no more time to ponder on her thin waist, ample breasts, pale white skin; Artemis was almost literally breathing fire, and if he didn’t do something quick, she’d probably destroy the entire dormitory in search of her stuff. So he did something idiotic to catch her attention.

Like walked across the room and stood towering over her form with a smug look on his face. Artemis was clearly not impressed. Her look darkened as she glared across the half-foot difference between their heights. From this position, Sirius could see his shirt clenched in her hands, hidden behind her back.

“Need something?” Sirius asked, and he had to resist the urge to laugh when she snorted.

“Actually, yes! Give me back my clothes!”

Sirius pulled his face into the confused look he could. “What clothes?” He winced when she kicked his shin.

“The ones in my bag!”

“What bag?”

“The one I threw at you!”

“Well, why were you throwing it at me if you weren’t giving it to me?”

Artemis didn’t seem to know how to respond. She bit her tongue and stared over Sirius’ shoulder.

“If you don’t give me my bag this instant, I’m getting McGonagall,” she said in a warning tone. Her eyes narrowed dangerously when he chuckled. “What?” she snapped. Sirius continued to laugh, however, tears coming to his eyes, and Artemis had just inhaled to start scolding him when he stopped. He wiped his eyes, and then looked at her again.

“Tell you what, I’ll give you your shirt and, let’s see...” he paused, knowing exactly what he was going to offer her, but wanting to draw out the moment. “Your wand? And you’ll give me my shirt. Deal?”

Artemis looked ponderous for a moment, then shook her head. “I’ve got a better idea. You give me my wand and I’ll hex you and take the rest of my stuff.”

Sirius smirked. “As tempting as that sounds, I’d rather stick to my way. Give me my shirt, you get your wand and shirt, we’re both happy.”

“No we’re not! Accio Wand!” she yelled, pushing Sirius back a step.

To both their surprise, Artemis’ wand flew towards them from Sirius’ bedside table, where he’d placed it minutes ago. Acting on impulse, Sirius dove for it at the same time Artemis did. Colliding roughly and somehow ending up entangled on the floor, Sirius on top of Artemis, Artemis’ wand flew over their heads. Sirius was about to lunge for it again, but then he realized how close they were: their chests were pressed close together, and he could feel her heart thundering just beneath his own pounding heart. Their skin was touching, and the feeling of her warm flesh against his own sent electricity, adrenaline, pumping through his veins. He wanted to pull away, but at the same time, he wanted these seconds, pressed together, to last an eternity. He couldn’t tell how long they were there before he heard footsteps on the stairs. He jumped up as if he’d been shocked, and Artemis was up split seconds after. She threw his shirt on his head and lunged for her wand, and he leapt towards his bedside table, shirt dangling over his eyes, to grab her shirt. Throwing it to her, he pulled on his shirt, and she had only just got hers over her head before the door opened and James and Remus walked in.

Both guys halted in the doorway and looked from the flustered female, who didn’t seem to notice that her shirt was on backwards, to the shifty male, pretending not to notice that his shirt was inside out. There was silence, an awkward quiet that stretched through seconds to minutes like an endless road that never seemed to take you any closer to the end.

“Er, I think we’re interrupting something, Moony. Maybe we should—“

“Oh, sod off, Potter!” Artemis snapped, pointing a finger at him accusingly. Then she whirled around to face Sirius. “And you! If my stuff isn’t back to me in the morning, I swear I’ll knock you off your broom tomorrow!” Without waiting for a response, she stormed out, and all three teenage boys watched her leave with something akin to amusement written across their faces.

“So...” James began in an innocent tone, but Sirius was not fooled.

“Don’t even think about it, Prongs!”

James shut his mouth in a small pout, but Remus decided to pick up where James had left off.

“Doing something naughty up here, Padfoot?” he asked, a smile tugging at his lips. “Not something dirty, I hope. Or at least not in my bed.” And he strode off for said bed, tossing his bag onto his trunk unceremoniously. James laughed and headed for his bed. Sirius, however, look scandalized, his mouth hanging wide open and his eyes bulging, giving him a bit of a psychotic look.

“Padfoot, you may want to shut your mouth; that is, unless you’re trying to catch something in there, in which case you’ll be there for a while.” Sirius snapped his mouth closed, glaring at James as he did so.

“That’s just disgusting! The only way I’d shag Artemis Gaunt is if she were the last, and I mean the very last, woman on earth. I’d rather shag that Slytherin fifth year, what’s-her-name Carrow. You know the one.”

Remus rolled his eyes and James snorted.

“I thought you were ‘physically attracted’ to Artemis, or some bollocks like that? Doesn’t that basically mean you do want to have sex with her?” James asked, eyebrows raised, while Remus sniggered.

“Shut it, Moony! And no, that’s not what it means, I don’t go around fucking every girl who’s attractive, you know!” This time James sneered and Remus snorted.

“You shagged Melanie Jordan,” Remus pointed out.

Sirius couldn’t come up with a proper response, so he mumbled something about the circumstances being different, which caused his friends to laugh harder. “What?” he groaned, scowling at them. “It was! I didn’t hate her, and we were going out!”

“And that was it, right?” James said, giving his friend a you’re-an-idiot look. “She was pretty, you were attracted to her, and you were dating; so you did it.” Sirius flushed, but didn’t deny it. He hadn’t really felt any strong feelings for Melanie when they had had sex, but both of them had wanted to do it, so they had, one night after they’d managed to sneak away. “So the only difference is that you and Artemis aren’t dating. So you really can’t deny that you do want to shag her. You’re just too stubborn to admit it.”

Remus smiled smugly as James folded his arms across his chest and leaned back against his bedpost. Sirius’ complexion had reached a deep maroon by now, almost closer to purple than to red.

“I do not—“ he hesitated when both the other guys shot him sharp looks.

“Padfoot,” Remus began, “there’s a point at which you have to admit that there’s no more use for lies.”

“And you’ve reached that point, mate,” James said, clapping Sirius on the back. Sirius was silent, gazing at his two friends thoughtfully while he considered their unusual burst of insight.

“All right,” he conceded finally, speaking slowly. “I—maybe I do. Want to shag her that is. I want to shag her. But I won’t. I wouldn’t; I mean, she’s—you know.” James grinned at his obvious inability to speak coherently. This only seemed to make Sirius angry, however. “I won’t! I mean, she’s attractive, and definitely shag-able, and the fact that she’s a virgin only makes her more appealing, I suppose; but her personality! Her attitude is a positive turn-off and it doesn’t help that she’s related to Slytherin, and she’s more violent than a PMSing manticore.”

James snorted at Sirius’ comparison, but the sound went unnoticed as Sirius continued to rattle off everything that he hated about her. Remus and James watched him rant with entertained looks while he insulted everything from her family to her mediocre charms skills. When he finished, panting and sending his friends furious glares, James laughed. He quickly stopped when Sirius’ glare darkened.

“Er, so if you weren’t shagging up here, what were you doing? She had your shirt on when she came out of the changing room, and now you’re wearing it again.”

“Oh, I stole her clothes.”

There was a long silence while James and Remus stared at him in shock.

“You what?” James yelled, looking absolutely horrorstruck. “Merlin’s left foot, no wonder she looked so bloody pissed!”

“You steal her clothes and then deny that you like her,” Remus said, shaking his head in exasperation. “You’re an imbecile, that must be it, you’re just rather stupid.”

“Sod off, Moony! She was the one who threw them at me, so I just took them with me.”

James seemed to understand now, enlightened in a brilliant moment of epiphany. “You didn’t!” he cried, leaning against his bedpost again with his forehead pressed against the cold wood, though he kept his eyes on his best mate. When Sirius nodded gleefully, James hit his head against the post with a loud clunk. “You idiot!” he groaned loudly. “When I told you to tell Silvia I needed to talk to her, I didn’t mean go into their changing rooms and tell her! I meant wait outside or knock on the door and yell it or something! Of course Ar would throw stuff at you, she was probably in the middle of changing, and here you are bursting into the room!”

Sirius smiled widely, his eyes slightly glazed as he looked back on the memory happily. “They were all in the middle of changing.”

There was another clunk, then another, and another. Sirius and Remus watched James in bemusement as he continuously banged his head on the post. When he stopped, finally, he turned to look at them both with a slightly insane grin.

“I-I know!” he exclaimed to himself suddenly.

“Great...” Remus muttered, rolling his eyes and turning his gaze to the ceiling as though he had spotted something interesting there. “He’s addled his brains now.”

“I know! I can-I can fix this, there’s still time! Padfoot,” he said, turning to Sirius with that same mad look in his eye, “You have to give her back her clothes, her stuff, whatever she threw at you, as soon as possible! No, no wait, not as soon as possible, no, you’ve got to push it a bit, you don’t want to look like you’re scared of her, otherwise once you two start dating she’ll think—“

“Whoa, whoa, wait a second!” Sirius yelped, alarmed by James’ choice of words. “Who the bloody hell said anything about dating? This is Gaunt we’re talking about, Prongs.”

“But Padfoot, you fancy her, you just don’t—“

“Oh, hell, not this again! James, Remus, I do not, most definitely do not, fancy Ar—Artem—“ he scowled at James and took a deep breath, then he hissed, “Artemis Gaunt! I don’t fancy her, and nothing you do will change my mind!”

There was a silence after Sirius finished, and it seemed to stretch to infinity as he started at them and they stared straight back. James still had that silly grin on his face, but he just shrugged.

“Right, apologies, mate. But you really do need to give her her stuff back. I mean it!” he said, rolling his eyes while Sirius snorted. “Give it back to her, or I’ll have to report you to McGonagall.” He stared relentlessly at Sirius until the latter had nodded his assurance.

But Sirius didn’t intend to give it up, or at least not all of it. After all, he’d taken it as revenge for having it thrown at him, but he’d thought of a better use for it now. Artemis Gaunt was a girl, and surely there was always something of interest to be found in a girl’s bag.


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