My bellows were legendary; especially the ones directed at James. Come to think of it, about ninety-nine percent of them were directed at James. Not surprising, really, since we spent just about every minute together.
"You yelled?" he asked, sauntering into the room.
Yes, you heard me right. He sauntered.
"You ate my cookies!" I said, gesturing wildly at the empty plate sitting on the counter.
"They weren't your cookies," he retorted, picking bits of my cookies out of his teeth.
"Yes, they were! Your mother made them for me!"
He raised his eyebrows at my rising hysteria, his arms crossed over that stupid pink shirt of his. It made him look like a girl.
"You can't prove it," he said, shrugging.
"You don't even like macadamia nut!" I screeched, grabbing the plate and chucking it. James ducked out of the way, the prat. He could have done us all a favor and let it take his head off.
"How are those anger management classes coming, Ronnie?" Sirius asked, sauntering in behind James.
What was with them and sauntering?
Sirius and I had exactly one thing in common: we both lived with the Potters. He had run away from home. My mum had died when I was little, and my dad hadn't wanted to take on a daughter he had no part in raising. My mum and James' mum had been best friends, so she and Mr. Potter took me in without blinking. I more or less considered them my parents, and James my brother. Sirius, I supposed, was like a brother as well. I fought with them like siblings, anyway.
And we were all best friends.
"Dear Merlin, woman," Sirius said, looking me over, "Cover yourself. We're going to have company."
He looked slightly feminine too, with his too-long hair and tight pants. Some tart had told him that girls liked tight pants on guys and now he had half a closet full. They made me chafe just looking at them.
"It's Remus and Peter," I said, rolling my eyes.
You would think I was in my knickers or something. Really. I was wearing a pair of pink shorts and a fitted tank top. Very tasteful, especially considering the "company" that Sirius was referring too.
"May I remind you that they're both teenage boys?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.
"May I remind you that you, too, are a teenage boy?" I retorted.
"But I'm practically your brother," he reminded me, pulling a cookie out of his back pocket.
"MY COOKIE!" I screamed, pouncing. In a split second I had him pinned to the floor, his arms failing as he attempted to keep MY cookie in his possession.
"GIVE IT!" I screeched, finally catching his flailing arm. I brought his hand up and bit down on it. He dropped the cookie, which I snatched and stood up.
"You bit me!" he accused, pointing at me from where he was laid out on the floor.
"Deal with it, cookie stealer!" I cried, stuffing the entire cookie into my mouth. Ah, white chocolate goodness.
"She bit me!" Sirius said, appealing to the people in the doorway.
Yes, I said people. Two, to be exact.
"Morning Peter, Remus," I said, spewing cookie crumbs.
"Ronnie," Remus said, nodding. He seemed completely unfazed by the scenes before him as he adjusted the weight of the suitcases in his hands. I knew better than anyone that where the five of us were concerned, stranger things had happened.
"What just happened?" Peter asked, hopelessly confused. Peter was always hopelessly confused. He put his suitcases down with a loud thunk and took a seat on them.
James stole my cookies and gave them to Sirius. Sirius hid my cookies in his pocket, and then had the nerve to eat them in front of my face. So I attacked the cookie-stealing dolt.
"Ronnie has mental problems," James answered. This was met with general nods and murmurs of agreement.
"Thanks, guys," I said cheerily, "Happy to see you too!"
"Group hug!" Sirius called, and I was instantly enveloped in a cloud of floppy hair and cologne; not a pleasing combination.
"Can't--breathe," I choked as someone, I think Peter, shoved his elbow into my side.
"Do you feel the love?" Sirius trilled.
"I feel it," I gasped, and they finally let go, "Dear Merlin. I think one of you groped my boob."
"Wasn't me!" they all said in unison, raising their hands up in the air as I gulped the fresh air. Having five guy best friends did have its downsides from time to time, especially the smell. It was something that even I couldn't get used to.
"Sure, sure," I grumbled as I trudged up the stairs without a backward glance.
Every year, the guys came to spend the weekend before the start of term. Every year, I lugged my mattress down the hallway to James' room so that I could be near them. I wasn't sure if it was an actual desire to be near them or a fear of what they would do to me in the middle of the night if I was the first one asleep. They were my best friends, but they were still Marauders.
"Need a hand?"
I looked up to find Remus leaning against my doorpost. He had gotten taller over the summer, I noticed, and his hair was longer. I searched his face for new scars and found none, thankfully. His transformations were always harder without us there.
"I'm fine, Ronnie," he said with his trademark half-smile. I knew from hearing the mindless chatter of girls in my dormitory that his smile--and the smiles of all the Marauders--were heart-melting. They were my four favorite smiles in all the world, but I honestly didn't see what the others saw.
"I know," I said, gesturing for him to grab the other end. Together, we lifted the mattress and carried it down the hall to James' room.
The scene before me as I dropped my side of the mattress was as familiar to me as the portrait of the fat lady. James lay across his bed, talking animatedly to Sirius, who was sprawled across the floor. Peter was frantically searching through his bags for something or other that he forgot.
"It's right here, Peter," I said, snatching his wand up from under a small pile of clothes.
"Thanks, Ronnie," he said, relieved.
Merlin love Peter. He was just as good-looking as the other three, but more in an adorable, lovable little-brother type way. If that made any sense. There were plenty of girls who fancied him, but getting Peter to talk to any girl besides me was like pulling teeth.
"So," Sirius said as I flopped myself down onto my mattress, "What's the master plan for wooing Lily this year?"
This question, believe it or not, opened every summer sleepover. James sat up, rubbing his chin in a thoughtful manner, and considered all of us. Sirius plopped himself down where James' feet had been. Remus made himself at home on the camp bed, and Peter sat on his trunk.
"I don't have one," James said finally.
My shocked expression was mirrored in the faces of the other occupants of the room. James, not have a plan to woo Lily? Thinking up these plans was how he spent the majority of his summer.
"Don't look at me like that," he said, mildly defensive.
"Do you hear yourself, James?" Remus asked.
"You've lost it," Sirius said bluntly, earning himself a kick.
"Hear me out," James said, cutting off Sirius' protests, "I have been trying to win Lily over since first year, yes? And where has it gotten me?"
"Nowhere?" Peter suggested.
"Exactly," James said, throwing his arms into the air, "Maybe the problem is that I've been thinking about this too hard. Maybe I should just let the chips fall where they may."
Wow. It was unlike James to be this rational.
"That actually sort of makes sense," Remus said slowly.
I shook my head and got up, crossing the room to stand above where James was sprawled. He raised an eyebrow but I ignored him, pressing a hand to his forehead and then his cheeks.
"Ronnie, what are you doing?" he asked.
"You don't feel warm…" I said uncertainly.
"I'm not sick!" he said, springing up so suddenly that I fell back into Peter's lap.
"Alright, alright," I said, pulling myself up, "I'm sorry!"
"As it should be," he said with a nod, "Maybe I've just matured over the summer. Did you ever think of that?"
There was a beat of silence in which we all looked at each other, and then burst out laughing.
"Thanks, guys," James said flatly, "Thanks a lot."
"Does everyone have their lists?" I asked, glaring in my rear-view mirror at a minivan riding my bumper. June--Mrs. Potter-- had entrusted to me the task of driving the guys to Diagon Alley, making sure that everyone got their supplies, and getting us all home without accident.
I mean, I knew I was the good child, but really? This was quite a job. Especially since she wouldn't just let us floo there.
I take that back; he couldn't help it. Poor Peter.
"Yes, mother," James said from beside me. There had been a minor battle over who rode shotgun, ending with some pretty spectacular kung-fu flips that resulted in Sirius spraining his wrist. I managed to heal it, but James came out victorious.
"Please," I said as they rushed out of the car and through the Leakey Cauldron, "Please don't break anything."
"Stop worrying," Sirius said, tapping the correct bricks and leading us through the archway.
Yea, like that was going to happen.
"Where are you going?" I asked as they ran ahead of me. I swear, they were like toddlers hyped up on too much caffeine.
"I'll watch them," Remus reassured me. He hadn't run ahead like the others.
"Thank you," I said, and he nodded.
Nine times out of ten, Remus was my favorite of the group. I know, I know, you're not supposed to pick favorites. But with friends like James and Sirius, could you blame me?
I managed to get through my entire list without incident. I saw several people that I knew and chatted a bit, but small talk wasn't really my thing. I didn't have many friends outside of my group, but I was generally well-liked because I was the only person who could keep them from destroying you/your schoolwork/your sanity.
"Oh, dear God."
I had just turned a corner in Flourish and Blotts, my schoolbooks in tow, when I was met with the shocked face of Lily Evans.
"Nice to see you, too," I said mildly. She stood frozen for a second, mouth open in a perfect little 'o', before she caught herself and shook her head.
"Oh, I'm sorry," she said in a rush,"It's just that I had gone all day without seeing James and I was kind of hoping--"
"Why Lily, darling!" I turned to find James in the door, already honed in on poor defenseless Lily, whose nails were digging into the cover of the book that she was holding so hard that the paper cover was peeling under her fingers.
"I've got this," I said, dropping my books and rounding on James.
"Leave," I said, throwing out an arm as he attempted to pass me. He kept walking forward and I shoved him back.
"I just want to--"
"Leave," I said, louder.
"JAMES HAROLD POTTER!" I yelled, "This poor girl has had to deal with your obnoxious attitude for the last six years. The least that you can do is give her one prat-free summer!"
James' jaw dropped, as did the jaws of the other three Marauders behind him. After a moment and a shove from me he recovered, throwing Lily a wink.
"See you on the train."
"LEAVE!" I screeched, and they scattered.
With a heavy sigh, I picked up my abandoned books. Everyone in the store was staring at me, but at that point I didn't care. A certain seeker was going to get hexed in his sleep tonight, no matter what June would say to me.
"That was impressive," Lily said with a smile.
I understood what James saw in her. She was the envy of every girl at Hogwarts: beautiful, smart, and funny. She was also ridiculously nice. James didn't deserve her.
"Comes from years of practice," I assured her, escorting her out incase James was waiting to ambush. He was, but he paled and ran off when he saw me.
"Thank you," she said as we reached the end of the street, her voice sincere.
"You're welcome," I said, "Any time that you need my services, let me know."
"I might just have to take you up on that," she said with a small smile before turning and walking back down the alley.
"What happened to letting the chips fall where they may?" I asked without turning in response to the footsteps behind me.
"How did you know--?" he started.
"I know your walk, James," I said, "Answer the question."
"Old habits die hard," he answered simply.
This was going to be a long year.
A/N: So this is still a bit rough as I'm still working the kinks out and getting a feel for the characters. Updates might be slow and I apologize, but I've had this on my computer for awhile and I wanted to go ahead and post it.