James had stomped downstairs, the room was now filled with Gryffindors that had arrived back from dinner, the witnesses of Sirius and James explosive confrontation were now telling the story with vigor to their disbelieving audience. Only Lily, it seemed, was not involved in the gossip, though she was surrounded by Martina, Violet and Marjorie, all begging her to recount the story.
“Look,” she said irritably, “It’s not my place to say anything, go find out from someone else, but I’m not going to tell you,”
But nobody heard her say it, as they had all noticed that James was standing at the bottom of the stairs, nobody approached him, because it looked as though he might will them all into dust if they even spoke to him, he caught Lily’s eye and stared at her, his expression unreadable, the rest of the room gawked at him fearfully and hopefully, he scowled at them and trudged towards the door, all eyes upon him.
Martina, Violet and Marjorie started gossiping furiously, ignoring Lily, who stood up and walked back to her dorm unnoticed.
She collapsed on to her bed, loosening her hair, so that it sprawled wildly over the surface, she just lay there, staring at the awnings, feeling utterly wretched.
She didn’t know what James and Sirius had been arguing about, but she had heard her name mentioned and it seemed to be a matter of some tension between the two.
She didn’t want to be that girl…
She laughed morosely to herself about James’ continual requests, she always turned him down because…because, because it was just pointless. James Potter thought that he was better than everyone else, and to be truthful, when everyone treated him like he was, she didn’t blame him.
He was arrogant, conceited and cruel…or at least he had been until recently, now, she wasn’t denying that he was still an immature idiot most of the time, but there were moments…moments when she wondered about him.
She groaned and rolled over onto her stomach, sweeping her hair out of her eyes and sighing heavily and looked at her bedside table.
There was a picture of herself and Thurston that she had only put there 3 days ago, after debating for weeks just how serious they were.
She stared into the picture, she had thought it was a nice picture, but looking at it now she could only see how uncomfortable she looked and how possessive Thurston appeared, his arm clutching her shoulders, a broad, proud grin on his face that seemed to say Look what I’ve got!. Lily stared deeper into the photograph, she reached out a hand, noticing a solitary figure in the background, she squinted down at the figure who was watching forlornly from the sidelines, his hands shoved deep into his pockets, she barely recognized him without his lopsided grin.
Was that how he looked at her when she wasn’t watching?
She didn’t have time to contemplate it because her roommates burst in, she quickly replaced the picture on the table and sat up, trying to look as unconcerned as possible.
“We heard your name got brought up,” Martina said accusingly, her hands on her hips.
“Really?” Lily said lazily, “Where’d you hear that from?”
“Well, since you wouldn’t tell us, we had to ask Iphigenia and she told us that James said that you and Remus had been right and then Sirius went right off and started calling James pathetic, you wouldn’t happen to know anything about this would you?” her tone was venomous.
“No idea,” said Lily flatly, she stood up, but Martina rounded on her, Violet and Marjorie looked embarrassed by Martina, but they stayed in the background.
“I think you do,” Martina said coolly, “I think you’ve been fooling around with James,”
Lily fought the urge to stand up and get in a screaming match with her, instead raising an eyebrow she said calmly, “Do you now? Couldn’t be that you’re just sulking because he won’t give you the time of day?”
Martina flushed an ugly shade of purple and advanced another couple of steps towards Lily, but Violet put a hand on her shoulder warningly.
“Don’t be stupid Marty,” Violet said sharply.
Martina glared at Lily who gave her a calm, dignified sort of expression in reply, Marty glowered at her and stormed out of the room, Lily breathed a sigh of relief and sat down on the bed again.
“Thanks Vi,” Lily said.
“Don’t mention it,” Violet said quickly, “Marty gets a bit stupid about James sometimes, think she has exclusive rights to him…she should know that he only wants a bit of fun,”
Lily snorted derisively at that comment, remembering exactly why she had never considered James: she didn’t want to be just another notch on his bed post.
Lily looked up at Marjorie and Violet, they were both looking at her curiously, wanting to ask a question but too afraid to, “Oh come on!” Lily exclaimed in disbelief, “You guys don’t really think that Potter and I have been having a wild love affair, do you?” she asked incredulously.
Violet and Marjorie glanced one another then back at her, not quite meeting her eyes, “Well, no…yes, I mean, have you?”” Marjorie stuttered nervously.
“Well, it’s just that you have been a lot nicer to him lately, and you’ve been happy and we just thought that maybe…”
“Maybe I’ve been sleeping with him?” Lily inquired silkily.
They both nodded, “Come on Lil, it’s not as though it’s that bad, you can tell us, nobody would care…”
“But…I haven’t… we haven’t…I’d tell you if there was anything going on,” she gasped, unable to believe what she was hearing.
They still looked doubtful. “Let me get this straight,” Lily said slowly, “you think that James and I are together because I’ve been happy and I haven’t been yelling at him as often?”
Now they looked embarrassed, they both blushed when they nodded. Lily laughed, “My God, I’m sure he’s good, but he’s not that good. He would have to really be something to give me an attitude adjustment,” she grinned.
Violet and Marjorie laughed with her, feeling rather stupid now, “We’re sorry…but when we heard that you’d been brought up in the argument, we kind of jumped to conclusions…well actually, Marty did, and we kind hopped on after her…but,” Violet said, her expression confused, “why were you brought up in the argument?”
Lily thought about it a moment, “If you had been there you would have seen that it wasn’t about me…Sirius did something incredibly stupid and he and James were hurling insults at each other…I think my name was just ammo,”
Violet and Marjorie were satisfied with that explanation, “I wonder what he did? Did they say anything that might…”
Lily groaned, but she now looked quite stern, “I really don’t feel comfortable talking about it…I just don’t feel like I have any right to say anything,” she shrugged, “but I honestly don’t know what Sirius did,”
“Must have been big,” Marjorie said, and both Lily and Violet nodded.
“He tried to kill me!” Snape yelled, looking murderous himself.
James stood silently behind them all, listening to Snape screech accusations and insults about Sirius, Professor Denison, the Head of Slytherin House, backing him up.
“He’s trouble, Professor, really, he’s shown himself to more than capable of inflicting serious injury before, and tonight he has gone too far, he would have seen Severus murdered and I don’t think it would have mattered to him,” Denison said, his lip curling.
Dumbledore had remained quiet, listening to Denison and Snape demand that Sirius be sent to Azkaban.
“And Remus Lupin is a werewolf! He should be chained up or…or put down! What’s he doing at Hogwarts? Wait until I tell my parents about this…” Snape snarled, James started to object but Dumbledore silenced them both.
“You’ll do no such thing, Severus,” he said quietly and Snape’s mouth snapped shut, “Remus is here as a student, under my invitation, we have a special arrangement and he is of no danger to anyone,”
“He was tonight!” Snape yelled vehemently, his usually pallid face now purple and splotchy, “He would have ripped me to shreds if…if…” he muttered himself into silence.
“If James hadn’t saved you?” Dumbledore said softly.
The colour rose in Snape’s face again, “He was in on it! Him and Black! He just chickened out!”
James was snapped out of his daze, “Hang on! I went in there to pull you out!”
“Sure,” Snape sneered at him, “You just got scared about spending the rest of your life in a cell at Azkaban!”
“Maybe I should have left you down there!” James roared.
“Silence!” Dumbledore ordered loudly, making everyone jump, “Severus, James, kindly sit down,” he said and they obliged, mostly out of shock.
“Severus, you have been through an extremely trying ordeal, but you must remember that James went into that passageway at great risk to his own safety, you owe him your gratitude and your life…” he said grimly, he then paused, carefully considering his next words, “I see no evidence to suggest that James was involved in anything sinister, nor do I see any that would implicate Sirius Black,” Snape started to rise angrily, “you might be wary, Severus, of what you hear next time,”
“Furthermore, Severus, you will not breathe a word of what you saw down there tonight, if I hear so much as a rumour about Remus Lupin being a werewolf I will have you expelled,”
James could have fainted from relief, he closed his eyes and thanked who ever was listening.
“But Dumbledore, you can’t be serious,” Denison said, a nervous laugh escaping from his throat.
“I assure you I am quite serious, Darius, and quite determined too, after all, Severus did deliberately go into an out of bounds area at night,”
Snape looked positively furious, he sank into his chair, a nasty scowl on his face, but he didn’t say a word.
Dumbledore turned to James, “James, sunrise is in another 6 hours, at exactly…” he looked at 12 handed wristwatch, “5:28 and 12 seconds, I assume that you will be there to fill Remus in,”
“Er, what? Yes Professor Dumbledore,”
“Good boy,” he said, and offered the first hint of a smile that James had seen the whole time he’d been in here, “What happened to your glasses?”
The innocent question took James completely by surprise, for the last 4 hours he had been dreading that either he or Sirius or Remus or Peter or all of them would be meeting some kind of terrible fate and sheer relief that all of them had gotten off so lightly had made him a little light headed.
“I…oh, I trod on them back at the Whomping Willow, I’ll go find them tomorrow,”
Dumbledore smiled pleasantly, “Yes, I wondered why you were knocking Severus’s head into doorways, I suppose all is forgiven if you can’t see,”
James smiled back sincerely, at that moment he had never felt so much gratitude towards Dumbledore, who he had known always to be a brilliant man, but right now…James knew that Dumbledore knew that Sirius knew exactly what he was doing, but he had saved him from expulsion or a jail sentence even.
Not that he didn’t deserve it but, James thought painfully, Sirius was still his best friend…no matter how much the thought of him made him sick right now.
“I think you should all go back to bed, try to get some sleep, I will talk to your teachers about excusing you from exams Severus and you James,”
“Don’t worry about it,” James had said assuredly, “I know it all,”
Dumbledore smiled at him and dismissed them both.
“You just wait Potter,” Severus had hissed in his ear as they stepped into the corridor, James turned to him, eyeing him blankly, giving him no indication of what of he was feeling, large hazel eyes unshielded, he just stared at him until Snape backed off.
He trudged wearily back to Gryffindor, more exhausted than he had ever been in his entire life.
Nobody was awake when he’d gotten there, and he was incredibly grateful, he walked mindlessly to up the stairs to his dorm, his hand resting on the handle, but tonight opening that door seemed like the most impossible thing in the world: he knew that Sirius would be on the other side of that door, wide awake, waiting for him and for the first time in his life he felt like he couldn’t talk to him.
There wasn’t really a time he could remember in the 6 years that they had known each other when he hadn’t been able to find some solace in talking with Sirius, he remembered seeing him for the first time on the train to Hogwarts: he was a gangly looking boy, his dark black hair long by his parents standards, hanging gracefully just under his chin, sitting with a bunch of over grown and malicious looking Slytherins, Sirius was sitting off to the side, looking thoroughly disgusted by his present company and utterly miserable. James had barely noted the boy and therefore failed to recognised him when they met, quite by accident, on the boats, going over the lake.
Sirius studied the boats ranked against the water’s edge, he threw a cautious glance to those around him, making sure no one could see him hesitate as he dipped his foot into the boat: it wobbled slightly and he felt a little queasy.
He did not trust water.
There was a blur beside him and now the boat rocked considerably more.
“Come on!” a voice said urgently, hands grasped his robes, pulling Sirius down into the boat, it took him a moment to register that they were now moving, the boat gliding over the water’s surface.
He stared back at the land bank, now shrinking into the darkness and turned to face the blur that had taken him far away from the comfortable, stable land.
He was greeted by an innocent, wholesome looking child, jet black hair wildly sticking up in all directions, glasses slipping down his nose…he looked like a young librarian but there something in the way he grinned that gave you the impression that his looks were entirely deceiving.
“What’d you go and do that for?” Sirius demanded, hoping that he merely sounded disgruntled and not mortified.
The dark haired boy shifted his gaze from somewhere out in the misted darkness and his eyes rested on Sirius. He pushed his glasses back up on to the bridge of his nose and took in the figure glaring accusatorily at him, he noted that his hands were gripping the side of the boat to the point where James thought if he held on any tighter then the wood would splinter beneath his fingers.
“Sorry, I dropped a couple of dungbombs in one of the boats…I, uh, needed to make a quick get away, yours was the only boat not full, didn’t mean to frighten you,” he explained, adding that last bit as a sort of a test.
Sirius made a derisive sound, “I wasn’t scared,” he huffed, “I wasn’t the one running away from a fight,” he reminded James testily.
James broke into a wide grin, “You would have too, have you seen Rabastan Lestrange and his friends?”
Sirius laughed darkly, “Yeah, I have, his brother’s engaged to my cousin, Bellatrix, old family friends,” he added grimly.
James was flabbergasted, “You…you’re Bellatrix Black’s cousin?” he stuttered, wondering now if he’d just jumped out the frying pan and into the fire.
“Sirius Black,” he muttered dully, not bothering to extend his hand: his family always managed to screw things up for him.
For a moment James seemed unsure of what to say, but, he figured that if this dark haired kid hadn’t hexed him yet, he was either an alright sort or a bit of an idiot, either way, the silence was getting to be uncomfortable.
“James Potter.” He extended his arm and Sirius took it, staring at it in disbelief and doubt, as if anyone would associate with him when they knew where he came from.
They sat in silence for a while, contemplating each other.
“So,” Sirius said slowly, his face hidden in shadow, “How many dungbombs did you put in there?”
James smiled curiously at him, “ ‘Bout 10,”
Sirius snorted, “Might actually improve his body odour, a bit,” he said slyly.
James broke into a wide grin, “Nah, it’d take more than that,”
Sirius smiled back at him, not even noticing the boat was rocking anymore. The wild haired choir boy laughed and pulled Sirius down into the floor of the boat, so that only their eyes were visible over the edge of the boat, their heads knocked together, James whispered, “Reckon we could hit ‘em from here?” he whispered conspiratorially, his voice filled with laughter and Sirius had smiled and laughed with him, feeling as though he’d found a comrade…for the first time in his life he’d found a friend.
From that moment on, the two had been inseparable. There had been nothing they hadn’t shared: secrets, pranks, jokes, friends, girls...when James had tried out for the Quidditch team, Sirius had followed, when they found out Remus was a werewolf, they had both come up with the idea of becoming Animagus. Every prank they’d ever pulled they’d done it together. Together. Wherever one went, the other followed. Without questions. There was no need for them. No need for words. They had been there for each other through everything, triumphs and despair, both knew what the other one needed, without question, without words. James had been the family that Sirius had never had, the one person (outside of Andromeda and maybe Uncle Alphard) that saw past his armour, and it was beautiful armour, but there was something pure beneath it, James knew that, James knew that.
For awhile he just stayed at the door, his hand trembling on the handle as if it were a loaded gun, but after what felt like hours, he finally broke away from the door, instead choosing a comfortable position on the lounge, to curl up and sleep, or at least to rest, his body…his mind was still grinding away.