Three months passed, without any real event, just the odd prank from the Marauders, nothing unusual, (well, that thing with the shrinking clothes had been interesting for the Slytherins) but with the steady flux of more and more reports of strange and violent deaths, the atmosphere had become a little stifling, everyone was eager to get home to their parents over the holidays, to make sure that they were alright…as if a bunch of teenaged wizards could stop fully grown dark wizards who didn’t care who they killed or how they did it.
On the final day before holidays, everyone was out in the grounds, building snowmen or, as in the case of Sirius and James, bewitching snowballs to chase after certain enemies.
Lily was sitting with her friend Marjorie Dawson, discussing what they were going to get up to over the Christmas break.
“Just a family thing,” Lily was saying, “I expect Petunia will be bringing her new boyfriend though,” she rolled her eyes, “probably a bigger idiot than she is.”
Several snowballs started to attack the both of them, and they turned to face the perpetrators, after muttering a couple of immobilising spells.
Remus looked disapproving, but James, Peter and Sirius were getting a good giggle out of seeing the rage in Lily’s eyes. She stood up and shook the snow from her hair, fixing up the low bun she’d put it in.
“Very clever, Black, Potter,” she drawled.
“Aw, come on Evans, it was only a little bit of Christmas cheer,” Sirius said, as he and James came over to help her get tidied up.
“You think you’re so funny,” Marjorie spat at them, brushing the snow out of her dark hair.
"Yeah, we kinda do, you’re right,” James said casually.
Lily just glared at him, but he held out a hand to help her up, saying “Care to spend some time with me over Christmas, Evans? Come on, go out with me…” she complied to his gesture with a shy smile on her face and as soon as she had stood up, she pushed a handful of snow down the back of his robes, causing him to yelp with surprise.
She quickly stalked off, yelling over her shoulder, “I hope you freeze to death, Potter!”
Sirius came to stand by his still shivering friend, who was staring after Lily with a look that could have only be described as ‘pathetic shock’. He laughed and slapped James on the back with vigour.
“Ah, Prongs, you are yet to understand the finer points of women,” Sirius said, throwing his arm around his neck, commiserating with him.
“And you do?” Remus asked incredulously.
Sirius leered at him, “I know enough,”
“I just don’t get it,” James spluttered, “I mean, every other girl, every other normal girl throws themselves at me…I’ve never had to fight for one like this, what’s wrong with her?” he demanded, almost angrily.
Remus, Sirius and Peter looked at each other, “We have explained that whole ‘conceited prat’ thing before haven’t we?” Sirius asked in a tone of mock seriousness.
James just shook the rejection off, as he had done for the past two years, knowing that later he would mull over it until his brain hurt.
After saying their goodbyes and promising to keep in touch, the Marauders had gone their separate ways, or rather, Remus and Peter had gone their separate ways, Sirius and James went home together, seeing as he now lived there.
Much gossip had gone around about Sirius running away from home, but the Marauders had purposely kept it to themselves, even Peter had learnt to deflect questions about Sirius. To take his mind off things, James had suggested a little ‘extra-curricular’ activity, which concerned mapping out the premises of Hogwarts, for the future benefit of troublemakers like themselves, they had spent many evenings finding the correct charms and incantations, memorising passwords and passages, it was a pleasant distraction from the world.
Charles Potter and his wife Dorea were waiting out the front of their home, broad grins on their faces.
James had taken after both of his parents, he had his father’s unruly black hair and stature, but he had his mother’s hazel eyes and shared the same affliction of having to wear glasses.
“James!” Dorea said, running towards him with arms outstretched, she enveloped him in a tight hug, Sirius snickered as he watched James struggle to wrench himself from her grip, quite an amusing spectacle, considering James was a full foot tall than her.
“Okay, Mum, yeah, I missed you too,”
She let go of James and rushed at Sirius, who looked positively dumbstruck and more than a little frightened.
“You didn’t think you’d escape did you, Sirius?” James said drolly, shaking his father’s hand. But Sirius now had a broad smile on his face, and he returned the hug affectionately.
“Nice to see you again, Mrs. Potter,” Sirius said, “But I’m going to need my ribs in full working condition if I ever want to breathe again,”
She broke away from him, her face alight with laughter, “It’s Dora, Sirius," she said warmly, clasping his hand.
James watched the blush rise in Sirius cheeks with a soft smile; he knew that receiving this kind of affection must be somewhat strange to him.
Charles shook Sirius' hand cordially, “Welcome home boys,” he said brightly and they walked inside, their trunks floating behind them.
The warmth felt at their reception had ebbed away as they reached the dining room, Charles and Dorea were throwing anxious looks at one another and Sirius and James didn’t have to wonder what they were about.
“Just say it,” James said cautiously, but confidently, both he and Sirius were watching them intently, a dark sense of foreboding behind both of their eyes.
Charles smiled slightly, proud of the aptitude of both of the boys, but he cleared his throat and looked suddenly quite serious.
“Your mother and I were debating on whether or not we should tell you this, or rather, how much we should tell you, but we feel it’s only fair, and after all, there’s no doubt you will have heard the rumours, it’s better you get the facts from us…yes, much better,”
“Just tell us Dad,” James said abruptly.
Charles smiled that same smile James had inherited, “You’re quite right. Now, boys, you have probably heard various rumours and speculations about the rise of the dark wizard Voldemort,” the Potters had never shied from using his real name, “You will have read about the number of deaths concerned with the Dark Arts, and I know that Dumbledore will have warned you, being the highly sensible man that he is…these are dark times, boys, and they are about to get a whole lot darker…your mother's and mine jobs at the Ministry of Law Enforcement mean that we are quite involved in this, we have been able to track various happenings, trying to keep up with Him, but as usual, the Ministry is three steps behind,” he scowled, “we know that he gathering strong support from many wizarding families who share his views about blood purity,” he said this with a specific and remorseful glance at Sirius, who looked as if he had been expecting this, “No, don’t worry, Sirius, your family has done nothing in an official capacity to support Voldemort, but we do still maintain a close eye on them,”
Sirius looked somewhat relieved but he still scowled, “Won’t be long, now, they’ll be throwing dinner parties in his honour, sewing his initials into their clothing” he said darkly
James just raised his eyebrows and smiled sympathetically, patting him on the back with a strong arm.
“That’s not all,” Charlies said hesitantly, trying to pull up the strength to continue, “There…there…lately the Ministry has been extremely busy, trying to keep control over the scourge that is taking over…your mother and I have been doing a lot of field work and, well, there is a chance that we may get hurt,” James’ and Sirius’ eyes darkened, Dorea had an uneasy smile on her face and was fidgeting terribly, “we want…we want you to be prepared for that eventuality, if it is one of course,” he added quickly, “Just in case we don’t make it or we get hurt…we know that you are very brave, both of you, but we want you to understand the danger everyone is in at these times.”
He finished, watching the two boys process the information, seeing no shock, little fear, but a lot of worry, in their eyes, and he swallowed; it had been hard to say those things, they were still children but they needed to know.
“Thanks for telling us, Dad,” James said, sincerely hoping that his voice didn’t sound strained.
Sirius nodded, “What can we do?”
Charles rocked uncertainly on his chair, “You can be safe, Sirius, you and James can stay out of trouble,” a smile crossed his face fleetingly, “or cut back a bit, anyway,”
James and Sirius laughed a little at thought of staying out of trouble, but the atmosphere was still quite tense.
“We’ll try dad, but don’t expect too much,” he said with his casual smile spreading on his face.
Charles and Dorea laughed with their son, remembering the various owls that had been sent home this year telling of the mischief he and his friends had gotten up to.
Sirius still looked wary, his worried look did not fade, and it still had not faded as Sirius left to go to bed, silent and alone.
James knew that he was bothered by his family’s connection with the Dark Arts, and knew which side they would take, James knew that as much as Sirius loathed and despised everything his family stood for, they were still his family and knowing what they would do…he knew the thought must be haunting Sirius.
He decided it would better to let Sirius think about it on his own, he would come to him when he was ready.
The days passed, and soon Christmas had passed, the holidays were spent blissfully at the Potter Manor, whether it was James and Sirius mucking around in the snow, or trying to perfect the map and generally, their conversation never strayed to what was happening outside in the Wizarding world, they just tried to enjoy it.
Soon enough the holidays were over and they were back within the walls of Hogwarts, James and Sirius had felt uneasy about going back, given the warning James’ father had given them, the two boys had both momentarily thought about whether or not it would be the last time they saw them.
But they had managed to settle back in reasonably well, sharing the information with the other two Marauders about Voldemort’s uprising.
“Yeah, my dad told me something similar,” Remus had said, an expression of worry in his eyes, “But then again, there’s not much we can do, is there?”
James and Sirius had agreed, but in their minds they were trying to think of ways they could help, Peter had looked terrified throughout the whole story and after.
“Don’t stress, Peter,” Sirius had said kindly, “Voldemort’s,” Peter winced at the name, “hardly going to try anything with Dumbledore around, he’s the only thing he fears, mate, and we’ll look after you,” he said, placing a comforting hand on Peter’s quivering shoulder, who whimpered gratefully.
Winter passed, and Spring came upon them, all were grateful to get out and stretch their legs on the Hogwart’s ground…for Mooney, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs, this also meant that their moonlit strolls were a little more comfortable.
James had still constantly approached Lily, almost begging her to date him, but she had insisted that he was still a selfish git and would not concern herself with the likes of him, instead she had taken to dating Thurston Padget, a Ravenclaw 7th year, who, James thought, had all the charm of a weak tea.
But he resigned himself to weary acceptance, spending more time with the Marauders to plan out their next mode of attack on the hapless students and teachers of Hogwarts.
Quidditch training had started again, and that often kept James and Sirius busy in the afternoons, as James did not want to lose their next match against Slytherin. A sentiment shared by every other house and all of the students within them.
Today, however, there was no Quidditch practice, James had decided to let everyone have a well deserved break, this left the Marauders to an afternoon of lazing around near the lake, a place conveniently chosen so that James could watch Lily talk with her friends, who were sitting to their left under an old oak tree.
“Anyone been noticing Snape nosing around about where Remus goes on full moon?” Sirius said in a conspiratorial whisper.
Remus looked more than a little panicked, as he hissed, “What?”
“Yeah, I’ve been noticing him lately too, just sitting there, behind some bush or tree or something, trying to get a glimpse of where you’re going,” James explained to Remus, who looked positively petrified.
“Don’t stress, Moony, he hasn’t got a clue in that slimy head of his, he just can’t keep his honker out of other’s people’s business, I suspect he’s trying to get back at James and figures he can do it through you,” Sirius observed, this did little to appease Remus, who was now breathing rather shallowly and looked as if he might faint.
“He can't find out," Remus said with a strength that belied his present condition. If anyone found out that he was a werewolf, he would have to leave Hogwarts.
“Relax, Moony,” James said soothingly, “He won’t see you, I just reckon he’s curious is all, he’ll get over it in a while, we’ll just give him a, erm, distraction,” he said, the tone in voice indicating he was going to have a little bit of fun with old Snivellus.
He turned to Sirius to discuss plans, but they were interrupted by a cold and sneering voice.
The four of them turned, Peter’s watery eyes darted towards a boy standing roughly six feet away from them, he had the same features as Sirius, dark hair and eyes, long limbs and pale skin, but their was something in the way he looked that separated him from Sirius, a cruelty in his features that made Peter shudder.
Remus stopped having his panic attack and stood up with Sirius and James, facing a group of devious looking Slytherins, the rest of the school had seemingly gone quiet and were now all staring at the tense stand off.
“Hello Regulus,” Sirius sighed.
Regulus was standing with a group of Slytherins who were all positively vibrating with the excitement of an approaching fight.
“Hello Snivelly,” James said coolly.
Snape just scowled.
“Didn’t see you at Christmas, brother, too ashamed to show yourself at home? No matter, mother and father have disowned you, said that they didn’t want a weak fool like you for a son and after they beat you…”
“What?!” Sirius roared, but Regulus continued on, a little louder an ugly smirk growing on his otherwise attractive face.
“After father and I had thrown in a few good punches, I knew you’d be too scared to come back," he crowed and his band of Slytherins laughed uproariously, other students had broken into bursts of gossip, discussing whether or not it was true.
Everyone was now waiting to see Sirius’ reaction, Remus, James and even Peter (who had been sneaking peaks of the stand off from behind his friend’s backs) were all glaring murderously and it seemed it would be a question of which one of them would throw the first curse.
Sirius was white and shaking with rage, his hands balled, his wand clenched in one white knuckled fist.
“Not so brave, are you Black, when your mummy and daddy are beating you? Do you cry? Do you scream?” Snape was muttering fervently, though everyone could hear him and the whole school’s eyes widened at these cruel remarks, “I bet you do, I bet you…” but he never got the chance to finish the sentence, James had cursed him, there was a cold fury in his eyes as he stepped forward, wand raised.
Regulus and the rest of the gang snickered, still confident, still reveling in their ‘victory’ over Sirius, who was still shaking with rage.
“I told you,” Regulus shouted to everyone, “I told you all, my brother is nothing but a mudblood lover: weak, pathetic…look, he doesn’t even have the guts to raise his wand!”
But Sirius had dropped his wand and was rushed forward, fists flying, ready to pummel every inch of his accursed brother that he could. He flew at Regulus, pushing him to the ground; he drew back his fist and smashed it into Regulus’ face repeatedly.
Remus and James were cursing the rest of the group with Peter shouting support from the sidelines … he was always terrible at dueling.
Sirius continued to pound Regulus, sitting on his chest, pinning him down his arms with his knees, Regulus was struggling beneath him, he was staring up in wide-eyed terror at Sirius, who had a demented look of rage and pain in his eyes.
“You liar!” he screamed, flecks of spit flying down at the shrieking Regulus, “I left because you…you’re all disgusting! Filth!” he spluttered, “I would have rather died then spend another night in that house, under their rules! You’re nothing but an idiotic,” he punched him hard, could feel the ridge of nose shatter, “vile,” another blow and blood splattered up onto Sirius face and robes, “pathetic,” Regulus had now managed to get his arm free and was desperately reaching for Sirius' face, “coward!” Regulus' arm fell down limp.
Sirius drew his fist back again, but someone grabbed it and pleaded distraughtly “Stop! You’re going to kill him!” Sirius face snapped around, his breathing laboured, he was staring into the startling green eyes of Lily Evans, who wore an expression somewhere between horror and concern. She clasped his fist in her delicate hand, entreating him silently to let it go.
“Please Sirius, it’s ok,” her voice was forceful, but kind, “stand up, just let him go,” she was saying and he felt as if he was waking from a daze, he gaped up at Lily, his mouth slightly open, he removed his hand from Regulus, gawking at his own blood stained hands.
Everyone was frozen; James and Remus had stopped dueling with the Slytherins, they were, as with the rest of the school, watching Sirius and Lily.
Sirius glanced momentarily at the bloody mess that was his brother, at his own hands, then up at Lily again: he looked horrified, his dark eyes, usually twinkling with laughter and mischief were now wide with shock and fear.
He felt sick.
“Just let it go Sirius,” Lily was pleading gently, “It’s okay now,” she released his fist and he lowered it, she then offered him the same hand, palm open, asking him to take it, her long red hair was whipping about in the breeze. Sirius grappled her hand, still wearing the same vacant expression, she pulled him up, he leaned heavily on her shoulder, as though he was too out of it to move.
“James,” she called, looking over at him from beneath Sirius tall frame; he had been watching the whole thing, his hazel eyes not missing a trick, “Come over and take Sirius for me, Remus, Peter, you too,” they both ran over, shouldering his deadweight, “I think you should take him back to your dorm, I’ll, ah, I’ll take care of this, “ she said, indicating the fair amount of injured people, whether incapacitated, as several of them were, or merely bleeding or suffering from the after effects of a various jinxes.
Both James and Remus had minor injuries, but Lily knew they wouldn’t be concerned about themselves, but more about Sirius and seeing the unstable condition he was in now, well…Lily could see the alarm in their eyes.
“I’ll be fine,” Lily assured him, her eyes and features were soft, almost serene, but set with a grim determination, “Just take care of him,”
James hesitated for a moment, but staring down at her, looking both at her with both awe and intrigue, he nodded and along with Remus carried Sirius, whose legs weren’t fully functioning as yet, he was stumbling and disorientated, his eyes were still unfocused.
He looked back at Regulus and mumbled, “Sorry.”
“It’s okay, Sirius,” James said gruffly, “Come on mate, let’s get you out of here,” he advised urgently.
Remus caught James’ eye, scrutinizing him, “Later,” James mouthed, meaning he would explain everything later.
“Nothing to see here,” James said loudly as they pushed their way through the mystified crowd, people watched, mouths a gape as they heaved Sirius back to the castle, his legs seemed to work properly now so, they were making the journey quite quickly.
Everyone stared after them, long after they had disappeared through the doors of the castle.
“Right,” Lily said abruptly and slowly people turned to her, “we need to get these people up to the Infirmary, “ she conjured up a couple of stretchers, “Come on,” she said irritably, as they continued to stand there “I can’t do this by myself,”
People started to shake themselves from their stupor and came to her aid. The more advanced students conjured up another couple of stretchers, while others helped the less injured up and towards the Infirmary.
Meanwhile James, Remus and Peter had helped Sirius into a chair up in the dormitories, James had ordered everyone else out of there and they were currently trying to assess what was wrong with him.
“He’s in shock,” Remus said, observing that Sirius was pale and shaking, he placed a hand to his forehead, “He’s freezing, we need to warm him up,”
James was almost as pale as Sirius was, but the man looking out from behind his glasses was not the same sixteen year old James Potter, Marauder and Practical Joker extraordinaire, the wizard behind the glasses was seething with furious power, the wizard behind his wired glasses seemed much, much older, “Yeah,” he said.
Remus stood in front of James, keeping their unblinking connection, he said, “Peter, go down to the kitchens and get some Butterbeer.”
Peter squeaked in understanding and scurried off to the kitchens.
James and Remus continued to stare at one another, until they heard Sirius stir behind them.
“I didn’t mean to do that,” he mumbled quietly.
James and Remus moved him into his bed, taking off his shoes and some of his more bloodied robes; they wrapped him up snugly in blankets and James sat down next to him.
Sirius looked up at him with the appearance of a child, “I didn’t mean to do that, James,” he whispered fearfully.
“I know mate, I know,” James soothed, taking Sirius hand in his own.
“I lost control,” he spluttered and James was not surprised to see tears shining in his eyes, “I…oh God, I’ve killed him! I’ve killed him,” he whispered, watching the scene flash and flicker in his mind: his hands…bones splintering…blood…blood everywhere…on the grass, on his robes, on his hands…Sirius lifted his hands up in front of his eyes, as if seeing them for the first time: they shook terribly, Sirius let out a strangled “Oh!” and began hyper ventilating.
“Breathe, Sirius, breathe. Regulus is alright, he’s just a bit bloodied up is all, he’ll be fine,” James assured.
Remus stood back from them a bit, just observing with his light brown eyes how James calmed Sirius, almost expertly.
“Shhh, Sirius, it’s okay now, you did what any of us would have done, you are not as bad as they are,” James was reading Sirius fears, the bond between them so palpable, words were unnecessary.
Sirius fearful eyes locked onto James’, “I’m not like them, James, I’m not like my family,”
“No, you’re not, you are better that them, you know that, everyone knows that,” James was speaking with a tenderness that Remus had rarely heard in his voice, but it didn’t surprise him.
Peter stumbled in carrying half a dozen bottles of Butterbeer, he looked like he had run a marathon, “I tried to get here as fast as I could,” he panted, his face flushed.
“Thanks Peter,” Remus said, taking a bottle and uncorking it, “Drink this, it will help warm you up,” he entreated Sirius who nodded, the focus slowly shifting back into his eyes.
Remus began to rummage around the room, “Ah,” he sighed, frustrated, “I don’t have any chocolate with me,” he said remorsefully.
“I…I could go get some,” Peter offered, feeling useless.
“Thank you,” Remus smiled.
Sirius propped up on a couple of pillows, brooding over his drink, his eyes still shining with tears.
Remus went to the bathroom and ran a basin of warm water, he summoned up a cloth and brought it out to Sirius, he began to wipe away some of the blood on his face.
Sirius sniffed and laughed, “You guys don’t have to baby me,”
James ruffed up his hair affectionately, “Ah, but you see Sirius, I just don’t think you understand the basics of personal hygiene, I reckon its safer if Remus here does it,” he joked and Sirius chuckled.
There was a knock at the door and Lily was standing there, looking apologetic. Sirius quickly wiped his eyes with the heel of his palm and avoided looking at her.
“Sorry,” she said quietly,” James, could I speak with you for a moment? Outside?”
James looked baffled, he threw a glance at Sirius, who in regaining his common sense had also recovered his sense of lurid humour; he raised his eyebrows suggestively and James glared at him, but he strode out, even now, out of nervous habit, his hand automatically went to ruffle his hair.
Lily looked nervous, but serious as she pulled him over to a corner where they wouldn’t be over heard by the muttering masses below.
“Thanks,” James said, looking upon her with strengthened respect.
Lily pushed some stray strands of hair behind her ears and met his gaze unflinchingly.
“Don’t mention it,” she said softly, “I know what it’s like to have family that don’t respect you, don’t like you,” her was tone grim, “there have been plenty of times when I’ve wanted to strangle my sister, I suppose that Sirius just had a lot of pent up anger, but it’s not his fault he’s related to them,” she shrugged.
James felt a wave of gratitude and compassion for her and said, “No, but he still feels bad. Regulus, the great wanker, deserved it though,”
“I don’t disagree,” she said dourly, “Listen, we’ve managed to get them all up to the Infirmary and Madam Pomfrey thinks they’ll all be fine, nothing serious really, and…and I spoke to Dumbledore,” James suddenly became extremely tense, “and we all agreed that it was started by Regulus and his gang started it, nearly all of the witnesses agreed, Dumbledore and the other Professors are quite sympathetic, so I doubt you’ll have much o worry about, but he still wants to see and Sirius later, when Sirius is feeling up to it, okay?”
James was dumbstruck by her manner and attitude, he was so in ingratiated towards her that he could have kissed her. Of course he often felt that urge, but right now, in his eyes, she was a Goddess.
“You’re amazing,” he murmured and she laughed.
“I’ve been telling people that for ages,” she said, deadpan.
James smiled easily and for a moment the two of them were enveloped in comfortable silence. She smiled curiously at him, her green eyes staring into his hazel ones.
“Anyway,” she said slowly, “I’ll let you get back to Sirius, don’t burden poor Remus with him too long,” she joked feebly, but the truth was that she was beginning to feel uncomfortable under his intense gaze…he made her hesitate, made her uncertain and Lily always liked to be in control of herself.
“Oh, I forgot, Sirius dropped this,” she said, digging into her robes and handing him his wand, James extended his arm and Lily saw that blood was seeping through his robes.
“You might want to get that looked at,” she said, holding his arm and inspecting it closely, James basked in her delicate touch for a moment…this was a dream come true as Lily had never been anything but prickly as a pincushion towards him.
“Nah, I’ll be right, it’s just a scratch, nothing major,” he said dismissively, smiling broadly…but it was not his usual leering grin, but rather a genuine smile. Lily continued scrutinising his arm for a moment, “All the same, I’ll fix you up with some essence of Murtlap, I’ll bet Remus has a couple of cuts…” she realised that James was chuckling. “What?” she said, her eyes narrowing, but there was an inquisitive smile on her face.
“Nothing!” James proclaimed, still laughing, “It’s just, well, you’re such a mother!”
Lily looked murderous for a second, but then her features softened and she laughed with him. Rolling her head back to look at the ceiling, she shook her head.
She had still not let go of his arm.
“I can’t help it! You’re all such juveniles! Someone’s got to take care of you!” she said in a tone of mock exasperation, making both of them laugh harder.
“James?” asked a simperingly sweet voice, James and Lily were unpleasantly interrupted by Martina Coately, her long brown hair tied up in two ponytails on top of her head, she wore an expression that reminded Lily of her sister’s face whenever she wanted to use her parents sympathy to get what she wanted.
Martina glanced disapprovingly at Lily and then rushed forward to James, completely ignoring Lily.
“Oh James! I saw what happened! Is Sirius okay? Are you okay?” she said, her voice oozing with pity.
“Er, Martina, I was talking to Lily,” he said, a little miffed by her interruption.
“No, it’s okay,” Lily said quickly, “I'd best get down to round up the masses, make sure they’re all okay." She started to walk away, but she stopped briefly at the top of the stairs, looking pointedly at James, “Tell Sirius…tell Sirius he’s not the only one with an idiot sibling.”
James desperately wanted to go after her, but Martina was blocking his path, he watched Lily descend the stairs with a longing look in his eyes.
Martina had now grabbed his injured arm and began fretting over it.
“Ooo, James does it hurt terribly?” Maybe you should go see Madam Pomfrey, I could take you…”
James snatched his arm away from her, “I have to go,” he growled, he blamed her for cutting short his time with Lily. He went back into his dorm to find Remus and Sirius talking animatedly, Remus was laughing at the nonsense now pouring out of Sirius’s mouth.
James knew that this was a defence mechanism but this was not the time to sit down and have a heart to heart; Sirius liked to work things out on his own.
“Oh, you’re back,” Sirius said, looking up from his bed, grinning widely, “Did Evans have a special message for you?” he teased.
James grinned back, “For you actually: You’re a tremendous git.”
Sirius and Remus laughed heartily for a while, but when they had finished, Sirius spoke up, “No really, what did she say?”
James sighed a little and then told him, “She says that you’re not the only one with an idiotic family and that no blames you or believes what Regulus said.”
Sirius nodded, fully appreciative of Lily’s comfort.
“She also said that while everyone’s fine, Dumbledore still wants to see you and me later,”
Sirius nodded again, he had already been thinking about the repercussions.
Lily stood at the bottom of the stairs, she had immediately been attacked with an onslaught of questions.
“What did James say?”
“Is Sirius alright?”
“What happened down there?”
“What’s going to happen to him?”
Lily raised her hands, signaling for silence, “You’ll have to talk to James or Sirius about that, whether or not they tell you is their choice, but let me just say this: anything Regulus Black and those other foul Slytherins said about Sirius isn’t true and you, as Gryffindors, are all too intelligent to believe it, okay?”
Everyone felt an enormous sense of relief, none of them could really bear the thought of energetic, adorable Sirius Black allowing himself to be abused in such a fashion, others nodded in agreement with Lily’s stance.
“Now, I suggest you go back to your business, we’ve all had enough excitement for one day,” she sighed.
Sirius and James, who had heard the whole thing from the top of the stairs, started to clap.
”Here, here!” Sirius said, and Lily gave him a reproachful look…old habits die hard.
They came downstairs, all eyes on them, Sirius sighed, knowing that everyone would want to hear from him, otherwise the rumours would never stop, “Everything Evans said is true, Regulus is a right foul git and if you choose to believe him you have rocks in your head," he said simply.
“Now, if you’ll excuse us, we have an appointment with Dumbledore. Don’t wait up,” he added.
James and Sirius started towards the door, Sirius stopped in front of Lily, smiling at her coyly, humility in his eyes, “Thanks Evans,” he said simply.
“I didn’t do anything,” she smiled and the two of them escaped through the door.
Peter came running up from the corridor, breathing heavily and sweating profusely, “ couldn’t find any in the kitchens! So then I had to ask Terry Randwick if he had any, but he didn’t so then I…”
“It’s okay, Peter, I’m alright now, thanks anyway, I’ll see you later,” Sirius said, walking away.
James clapped a hand on Peter’s shoulder and nodded approvingly, “You did good Wormtail,” he said and then ran after Sirius, who had managed to get quite far away with his casual long strides.
Peter stared after them, watching James grab Sirius’ shoulders and push himself up, jumping onto Sirius back, Sirius threw him off and laughed, showing James into the wall while couple of portraits complained. Sirius threw his arm around James’ neck and the two of them stomped down the hallway, cackling madly at one another’s jokes and antics.
Peter didn’t understand how either of them could act like that: laughing and joking when only an hour or so previous, Sirius hadn’t been capable of a single coherent word.
They were his best friends in the whole world, but he was damned if he could understand them.
“Chocolate frog,” James said to the gargoyle outside Dumbledore’s office. The two of them had been there so many times that they knew the routine by heart.
They approached his desk with some trepidation and to their horror, Dumbledore’s expression was quite grim.
“James, Sirius, sit down boys,” he said, indicating with one long fingered hand.
They sat down, sharing a quick, tense look at one another before looking straight back at Dumbledore, who was gazing at them over his half moon glasses.
The atmosphere was incredibly nerve-racking, Sirius felt that this was it, he had really done it this time, crossed that one final line…
“Would you like some lemonade?” Dumbledore asked genially and quite suddenly, making James and Sirius all the more confused, they shook their heads slowly, utterly bewildered by his attitude.
Dumbledore conjured up a glass for himself, took a sip and smiled, “I do love how the bubbles tickle one’s nose,” he laughed softly, “and speaking of noses, Regulus’ is fine, as is the rest of him, alive and kicking and quite a lot actually, Madam Pomfrey is having a dreadful time trying to keep him still…”
The both of them laughed a little easier now, but there was still something in the way Dumbledore was looking at them that made them anxious.
Dumbledore judged from their expressions what their fears were and he smiled slightly, “No, you’re not going to be expelled Sirius,”
They heaved a sigh of relief.
“But I am most troubled that you waited so long to let it out, Sirius, it can’t have been good for your heart,”
“Er…” Sirius started.
“I too know the pain of having a brother who you do not see eye to eye with: Aberforth, excellent though he is, is quite a peculiar fellow and I often find our relationship can be quite strained…but he is my brother,” he said in his singsong voice.
“Yeah,” Sirius said bleakly, “but you’re brother isn’t a purity nut, he’s not into the dark arts either,”
“No,” Dumbledore said and he chuckled, “though Aberforth does have his own vices,”
“Look Dumbledore,” Sirius said abruptly, “if you want Regulus and me to kiss and make up, well…it’s not going to happen, yes, I worry about him, yes he’s still my brother, but that’s not my fault,”
“I wasn’t suggesting anything of the sort Sirius, but I doubt your parents will see it that way…”
Sirius rolled his eyes, “Now there’s a Howler I’ll be looking forward to,”
Dumbledore laughed his deep infectious laugh again, “Yes, I daresay it will be explosive,”
Now it was James who spoke up, wanting to get to the point, “Look, if we aren’t getting reprimanded or expelled or anything, why did you want to see us?”
“I never said you weren’t going to be reprimanded, Professor Denison has demanded at least a weeks detention for dueling.”
“Ah,” James said.
“But I also wanted to speak to Sirius about his new living arrangements, as you, erm, forgot to inform me,”
“Oh. Oh that,” Sirius said as it dawned on him, “I guess I just didn’t think about it,”
“No doubt,” Dumbledore smiled, “anyway, I shall be sending this owl to the Potters, it will be a pleasant change considering the number of owls James has merited this year,” he said, blue eyes twinkling, “I think you may have set a record,” he added affectionately.
James beamed proudly at his unusual achievement.
“Now, I suggest that you two you back to your dorms and prepare for bed, try to get some sleep. Tell Remus that he need not worry, I’ve convinced Professor Denison that he was trying to control and not exacerbate the situation,”
They nodded and stood up, thanking him, just as they were about to leave Dumbledore spoke again.
“Remember that true brothers have no need for shared blood, their bond extends much deeper than that.”
The two of them smiled puzzled at him then at each other, getting his intention, they grinned widely and left to get back to their dorms where they found Peter snoozing in bed.
“All that running tuckered him out,” Remus said, he was sitting in an armchair, behind yet another book, “What did Dumbledore have to say?” he placed the book in his lap.
“The usual weird stuff,” Sirius told him, “but I’m not expelled, James and I have just got detention for a week, you got off Scot free…must be your devilish good looks,”
Remus rolled his eyes, “Oh. Lily left that for you James,” he indicated a large bowl of Murtlap next to James bed, “She said she was sorry she couldn’t stay but that she and Thurston had a date,”
James looked rather disgruntled as he sat down on his bed, pulled up his sleeve and pressed the soaked cloth to his wound.
Today had been an interesting day to say the least: Sirius had had a near nervous breakdown and Lily had spoken to him like he was a friend and not a fatal disease.
The image of Lily smiling up at him with kindness danced in front of him and he fell asleep dreaming of her kind eyes and soft hands.