‘I can’t believe Slughorn!’ Sirius muttered furiously, crossing out a mistake in his essay. ‘He gives us no homework, no assignments, and then suddenly he realises we’ve only got two weeks until Christmas holidays and he gives us this Merlin-cursed essay! One night is not long enough to write three rolls of parchment on everything we’ve learnt this year! I mean, it’s been three months and he expects us to remember that all in a night?!’
‘Get over it, Padfoot,’ Remus sighed. ‘I thought you were finished.’
‘I am. I just think it’s rude.’ James snorted but didn’t say anything.
‘Mmm hmm,’ Remus said.
Remus shrugged. ‘It’s N.E.W.T. year. It was never going to be easy.’ James nodded in agreement, absently signing his name at the bottom of his parchment.
‘Pete? You’re with me, right?’ Sirius looked to Peter for support, only to find the fair-haired boy slumped in his armchair, fast asleep. ‘Useless,’ Sirius muttered, prodding him. Peter snorted but didn’t wake. Smiling, Sirius trailed the end of his quill over Peter’s nose, the smile changing to a grin when the boy tried to bat it away. Sirius looked at Peter’s ear speculatively and then shook himself. ‘I must be bored,’ he muttered, dropping the quill. ‘Pete. Wake up!’ he poked him again, but this time, Peter’s eyes opened.
‘What do you want, Sirius?’ he asked sleepily.
‘You haven’t finished yet, and we have double Potions first thing.’ Peter jerked and snatched up his quill, writing again, though he kept rubbing his eyes and yawning.
‘What’s the time, Remus?’ James asked, smothering a yawn.
James made a face. ‘Sorry, Healer Prewett.’ Sirius looked at him in confusion, then remembered; James was supposed to get nine hours sleep. ‘Please don’t, Paddy,’ James begged. Sirius swallowed his reprimand, nodding, though he made himself a promise that James would be asleep by one, willing or not.
‘Morning, all,’ Lily said, shuffling into the Head’s Room, looking grumpy.
‘Morning,’ Sirius, James and Remus replied. Peter had dozed off again, and so said nothing.
‘How was patrol?’ James asked, kissing her. Some of her annoyance disappeared, though her forehead remained creased.
‘Long,’ she said, sitting down in his lap. ‘I prefer your company to that git Lockhart’s.’
‘Ah,’ Sirius said, understanding Lily’s bad mood.
‘Yes, ah,’ Lily said shortly. James opened his mouth but Lily cut him off, ‘I don’t want to talk about it. Did you finish your essays?’ James nodded, waving the parchment at her. She shook her head. ‘I don’t know how you do it. You’ve been back at school a day, have already learned a week’s worth of curriculum for every subject and still managed to do your homework. The worst part,’ she continued, ‘is that this is good!’ She hit James’ shoulder playfully. ‘Sometimes, I wish you could be awful at it. Just to show me you’re human.’ James grinned up at her.
Sirius hid a smile; His best friend really was smitten. He’d seen her almost every day for the last seven years – save for the awful last month - and even more so since they started dating, but that deliriously happy little smile still arose whenever she was around, and his eyes still glazed over whenever he looked at her.
‘Could Prongs be any more of a sap?’ Remus muttered. Sirius laughed. Apparently great minds thought alike.
‘What?’ Lily, James and Peter – who was awake again - all asked at once.
‘Nothing,’ Remus said at the same time as Sirius said, ‘You’re a sap.’
James laughed. ‘I can deal with that.’ He yawned loudly, rolling up his essay. ‘Did you finish yours?’ he asked Lily.
‘Sort of. I’ve almost written three rolls but I was thinking on patrol and I think I can write another one at least.’
‘You’re mad,’ Remus said. ‘Do three and be done with it.’
Lily gaped at him. ‘Surely my ears deceive me? Did the great, ever patient, studious, over-achieving Remus Lupin just encourage doing the least work possible?’ Sirius caught James’ eye and then had to look away, else he might laugh.
‘He did,’ Remus confirmed. ‘Because what you left out in your charming summary of my attributes was that I – the incredibly charming Remus Lupin – have a Furry Little Problem that likes to manifest itself on full moons and one of these full moons happens to be tomorrow night.’
‘It doesn’t help that it’s past midnight, and Remmy’s been up since about seven,’ Sirius added. ‘Merlin, Peter! Wake up!’
‘Someone poke him,’ James suggested, peeking over Lily’s shoulder. ‘He might be tired now, but he’ll regret sleeping in the morning if his essay isn’t done.’
‘No, leave it. I can copy his handwriting.’ He pulled Peter’s essay toward him, trying to blink away sleep.
Lily sighed, getting off of James to go through her schoolbag. ‘Speaking of essays... I should finish mine.’
‘I’ll help you, Pads,’ James said. Sirius smiled gratefully. Both of them were only at half capacity due to lack of sleep and stress, but two halves made a whole, right?
‘Sure, Paddy,’ Remus said, amused. Sirius laughed; clearly he’d spoken aloud. He and James finished Peter’s essay in fifteen minutes, but Sirius was pretty sure it would have taken Peter at least double that if he’d done it himself.
‘Why am I so tired?’ James asked aloud.
‘Because it’s nearly one?’ Remus suggested.
‘No, that’s not it,’ James said, a tired laugh escaping him.
‘Go to sleep,’ Lily muttered. Sirius had to admit that sleep sounded nice. Lily set down her quill, smiling. ‘Done.’
‘You go to sleep,’ James shot back childishly.
‘I will,’ Lily said. She threw her quill at her boyfriend. ‘Make a bed, would you?’
‘Aren’t you going back to the Common Room?’ James asked.
‘It’ll take us fifteen minutes to get back and then we’d have to get past the Security trolls. Bed, please, James.’
‘I’m sure Sirius could get us past the trolls,’ Remus said, grinning. ‘He’s fluent in their language.’
‘Shut up, Moony,’ Sirius grumbled. He wasn’t sure when he’d closed his eyes but he couldn’t be bothered to open them. He heard a popping sound and assumed James had had success with the bed. ‘Duplicate that, would you?’ Sirius asked. Another pop. Sirius leapt onto one of the beds, claiming it.
He wanted to sleep, but now James and Lily were bickering: ‘James, go to bed. You need the rest! Healer’s orders.’
‘I’m not tired.’
‘You just yawned.’
‘Shut up, Moony.’
‘He’s right,’ Lily said. ‘You did just yawn.’
‘James Potter,’ Lily growled,’ you get your arse on that bed right now and go to sleep or I’ll tie you to it and dose you with a Sleeping Potion.’ Lily, Sirius decided, was going to be a wonderful mother.
‘Tie me to the bed, hmm?’ James said. Sirius knew he was smiling. ‘That could be fun.’
Sirius opened one eye to see a very pink Lily scowling at his best friend. ‘That’s not what I meant,’ she muttered. James kissed her on the cheek and crawled into the bed, tossing one of the pillows off. ‘That’s my bed,’ Lily sighed.
‘I can’t hear you,’ James whispered. ‘I’m sleeping.’ Lily sighed, but Sirius saw her small smile as she crawled in next to him. She was asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.
‘Smooth,’ Remus sniggered, finally setting down his quill.
‘I thought so,’ James said, pulling Lily closer. ‘Do you want another bed?’
Remus adjusted Peter into a more comfortable position on the couch. ‘That would be great.’ James waved his wand and another bed popped into existence. ‘Thank you.’
‘Don’t mention it,’ James murmured. ‘Good night.’
‘Good night,’ Sirius echoed, his eyes falling shut.
* * *
Lily woke up feeling disoriented; this wasn’t her dormitory. And why was James in her bed? Then she remembered. Peter’s loud snores were coming from the couch, and she could see the lumps that were Sirius and Remus in the beds next to hers and James’.
James muttered something. ‘James?’ The arm that was snaked around her was unnaturally stiff and uncomfortably tight. ‘James, are you awake?’
‘No,’ he said.
‘Very funny,’ she said, trying to worm her way out of his grip. ‘James, please, you’re hurting me.’
‘It hurts,’ James whimpered.
‘Yes,’ Lily said. James’ hold tightened, holding her firmly against his chest. ‘Merlin, James, let go.’ James ignored her. ‘Ow, James, please,’ she said. His grip tightened again. ‘This isn’t funny,’ she said, scowling. She pinched him, hoping he’d wake up. He screamed.
In the bed next to them, Sirius sat bolt upright, lighting his wand tip. ‘What’s happening?’ he mumbled.
‘James,’ Lily gasped, still trying to prise him off.
A tremble went through him. ‘No, I won’t,’ James snarled. Then he screamed again.
‘Lily?’ this time it was Remus. ‘What are you doing?’
‘I’m not doing anything! He won’t let go!’ Sirius rolled out of bed and managed to extract her from James’ arms. ‘What’s wrong with him?’
‘He’s dreaming,’ Sirius said softly.
‘Sirius,’ James whispered. Sirius started to say something but James kept talking. ‘Remus. Peter... brothers. Lily. Beautiful, love Lily. Marry Lily.’ She smiled briefly at this. ‘Won’t join. No. No, I won’t. No.’ James’ voice was devoid of tone and emotion at that last word. Then he tensed again, a shudder going through him. ‘Transfiguration is one of the most useful and adaptable branches of magi-’ James cut off screaming again.
‘Was- was that the beginning of the Transfiguration textbook?’ Remus asked.
Sirius shrugged, but Lily had recognised it too. ‘Yes,’ she said over James’ screams.
Sirius shook his friend. ‘James. Prongs? Jamie. Merlin,’ he muttered, as the screaming stopped suddenly, replaced by a loud gasping noise. ‘Jamie, wake up.’
‘James,’ Lily said, squeezing his hand. After another minute of cajoling, James finally blinked himself awake. ‘Thank Merlin.’
‘What’s happening?’ James asked, squinting at the light.
‘You were screaming,’ Remus said.
‘I-I was?’ James asked, swallowing.
‘You were,’ Sirius said darkly. ‘Get up, we’re going to the Hospital Wing.’
James laughed at him. ‘No, we’re not. I am not waking Madam Pomfrey up because I had a nightmare.’
‘Fine,’ Lily said. ‘I’ll wake Madam Pomfrey up.’
‘And how are you intending to get to the Hospital Wing? The Cloak’s in our dormitory.’
Lily sighed. ‘James-’
‘Lily, I have nightmares all the time. Remember when you and Pads were stuck together?’ Lily did remember. She nodded. ‘I’m fine,’ James pressed. ‘If you’re that worried, we’ll have Pomfrey run a diagnostic when we drop Moony off.’
‘All right,’ she said, intending to hold him to that.
‘Come here,’ James said as Sirius’ and Remus’ slow breathing filled the room. Lily curled up into his side. ‘I’m sorry for waking you up.’
‘It’s all right,’ she said, her eyes falling closed. ‘Good night.’
‘Good morning,’ James corrected. ‘Love you.’
‘Love you too,’ Lily murmured, smiling into James' neck. She didn’t think she’d ever tire of hearing him say those words.