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Chapter 22 : Chapter 22
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“I wasn’t going to say anything,” Remus replied lightly, settling himself in the chair next to Sirius.
“You had that strangled look on your face that you always get when you want to tell u…me off.”
“You weren’t even looking at me.”
“It was all in the walk. Weight distribution of the morally minded.”
Remus rolled his eyes and pulled out one of his text books. This merry little game had been going on for a week now and it rather painfully brought up the memory of the Snape incident in their Sixth Year, except it was now James who was more or less the outcast and they were finding that to be disastrous…like a ‘ship without a rudder, or a broomstick without the balancing charms, or, Peter added, it was like that time he cut the tail of his budgerigar off and it flew around in circles, bashing into walls until the feathers grew back…and even then it was still a bit funny and wouldn’t it be nice if James would just…
But no. Every time James came into a room that Sirius was occupying, the two of them did the avoidance dance, blushed, pouted and invariably puffed up and deflated depending who had on scowled first. His conversations with Remus and Peter were increasingly stilted and Remus knew that it was because he felt guilty, but was too proud to admit it to Sirius…or anyone, so he spent his time with Lily, careful to avoid Sirius as often as he could and usually crept into their dorm only if he thought everyone was asleep. Remus would lie awake at night, hearing the floorboards squeak, the sounds of James carefully disrobing, smelling of perfume and the way that Sirius’ breath hitched as soon as he heard the door open. More than anything he wished he could just sit up and say something, but the words caught in his throat and his tongue felt heavy from all the things unsaid.
Sirius had thrown himself into study, taking what James had said to him a little too personally and he was determined to prove that he was an adult, capable of adult-like pursuits, like a fondness for very large and boring texts filled with ‘the basic components of magic’ and the kind of attention span that only adult’s have.
Remus was surprised that he missed that element of recklessness in Sirius, but he often found himself lamenting ‘the good old days’ when he should have been concentrating on his studies. He hadn’t seen Sirius even crack a smile this week, his face looked like strangers without a lopsided grin.
Since he had been delegated to silent observer in this (and apparently had nothing better to do with himself), he’d begun to notice the little things in his friend’s behaviour.
At least when James and Sirius had been doing their male dominance aggression and jealousy act they had been speaking.
He was sure it would sort itself out, it was just that he didn’t have very many friends and was therefore extremely invested in keeping those he already had. Split royalties were unpleasant and rather tedious considering all that was going on in the world at the moment.
His parents had written to him expressing their concern over the impending threat. There had been a lot of talk of Voldemort recruiting werewolves for his cause and a spate of attacks on the outskirts of London had done nothing to quash that rumour. He really didn’t like thinking on it; every attack brought up memories of all those close calls, he wondered if the others werewolves were being forced against their will, or if he truly was the exception to the rule. Lately he’d had a lot of questions about his kind, about what it meant for him…but mulling it over lead to a very unpleasant line of thought and so he tried to push them to the back of his mind.
If things had been as they were James, Sirius and Peter would have been reassuring him, distracting him from his sullen disposition and trying to make him laugh but everyone’s focus was elsewhere and though he felt like a right prat: he missed being that centre of attention, taking care of him had taken up quite a lot of their schooling career and he might have wearied of being treated like a child sometimes…but he now found that he also missed being protected.
The dilemma of every young man he supposed. He didn’t like it.
The door creaked open and Lily stepped into the room, laughing with Marjorie about something or other.
Remus glanced sideways at Sirius who was determinedly looking down at his book, his lips drawn in a thin line.
The two girls sashayed across the room, still tittering on. Remus heard the words ‘broomstick’, ‘boys’ and ‘if he thinks…’ and tuned out. Marjorie had taken to dating a Sixth Year boy named Paul Postlethwaite and it seemed every other time they talked they were sharing dating stories, Remus wasn’t sure he wanted to know about ‘that little thing that James did with his hands’, or really, what miraculous things other parts of his anatomy could do; there are some things that friends just do not share. He noticed a couple of third years checking their wrist watches and glancing towards Sirius, looking like little beasties; none of them would have dared to try and pull a prank on him, no, it had become a game to time how long it would take Sirius to leave a room that Lily had just entered.
So far the longest he’d lasted was two minutes and 18 seconds.
Right now he was clenching his book so hard his fingers might snap off.
“Sirius,” Remus touched his shoulder gently. “What’s the theoretical process behind conjuring again? I can’t seem to remember it…too many things floating about in my head.”
He didn’t even look up as he began explaining. “When you conjure something from nothing it creates a temporary imbalance in the matter of the world, which is why it’s unstable. Essentially it’s transfiguration…except you change the structure of air rather than…” Sirius' eyes cut toward him suspiciously and Remus knew his rather deceptive attempt at discussion had been discovered.
Sirius frowned. "Nice try, but you've never asked me for help in the 6 years I've known you." His voice lowered in sarcastic conspiracy, reminding Remus how much he missed the inside jokes and well intended but sometimes needling remarks between the Marauders. "How on earth did you keep your furry little problem a secret?"
“Seeing as you found out, I’d say I’m not terribly good at it.”
“We do have above average intelligence…and we were incurably curious at…”his breath caught as he realised what he’d been and he trailed off.
Plurals were apparently taboo these days.
Sirius made a start to get up, but Remus pressed down on his shoulder and made him sit.
“What’s your problem?” Sirius hissed.
Remus didn’t say anything, knowing he’d garble the words anyway. Sirius glared at him waiting for him to say something…but he couldn’t. What on earth could he say?
The door opened again to reveal James, Sirius shook his head and muttered something under his breath. He shrugged Remus’ hand from his shoulder and stalked off, out of the portrait of the Fat Lady.
He spied on them from beneath his fringe, James and Lily were talking in hushed tones, they could have been whispering declarations of love if it weren’t for the tension in their postures. Remus watched James pull away from her, that familiar expression of defiance on his face, but she caught his arm and pulled him back, when he turned around again the look on his face now resembled the look that his father always wore whenever his mother got her way.
Remus raised his hands in defeat and frustration, beckoning to The Powers That Be to rectify the situation…or at least give him the balls to say something.
“Remus!” He looked up to see Lily walking towards him, James trailing reluctantly behind her. Remus smiled brightly, the smile of a man with no confrontation skills.
The two of them stopped in front of where he was sitting, Lily grasped James hand, making sure he couldn’t escape. His other hand was jammed in his pocket, head bowed and very nearly scuffing his shoe on the floor: The stance of a very truly whipped man.
“You two need to talk, then you need to talk to Peter. And then you all need to take Sirius by the ear and beat him till he sees reason, understand?” Lily said pleasantly before turning away, giving James a kiss on the cheek, slap on the back and prancing back off to Marjorie.
After a few agonising moments of silence, James spoke up. “So…”
“This is weird.” James shifted his weight a few times, looking every bit like the eleven year old boy Remus had met his first year at Hogwarts.
“I know.” Remus set his quill and books down gently and crossed his arms in front him, an unconscious act of dismissal.
Remus considered for a moment, trying to organise his thoughts. “You need to talk to Sirius,” he said quietly before getting up, leaving James looking hurt and bewildered.
“Just talk to him, James. Just tell him he’s being a prat.”
“Yes, because that worked so well last time,” he said sarcastically.
"Well, maybe you didn't do it right," she returned testily.
"Right? Is there a right way to call your best mate a prat?" He scowled and turned away quickly, trying to vent the dirtiest of his looks at the wall rather than her. "Can't you just let it sort itself out? It always does. We aren't like a bunch of girls who need to talk about everything, you know."
She fixed him with a hard stare. “It’s not going to sort itself out, he has to realise that I’m not just going to vanish because he wants you all to himself.”
James looked sideways at her. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Lily sat herself down on the end of his bed, straightening a rumpled edge delicately. “He’s jealous, James, he thinks I’m taking you away from him.”
“He’s not a poof,” James growled.
Lily groaned and rolled her eyes, she swept the curtain of red hair from her face and looked up at James entreatingly. “I never said that,” she said slowly, “I meant that he thinks that I’m taking you away as his friend, that you’ll grow up and forget about him.” She grinned deviously, “I never believed those rumours about the two of you, anyway.”
James glared at her reprovingly. He had been pacing about the bedroom for an hour now, his hair standing on end and his glasses smudged with fingerprints as he had absentmindedly tried to clean them so often.
They had known they wouldn’t be interrupted as Sirius was serving a detention with Slughorn for some other altercation and Remus helping Peter study in the library, they were alone for a good long time.
Apparently James was looking at a comfortable future in which Lily was his only company. The thought terrified him.
Her vague attempt at a joke had infuriated him even more. "I could never forget about Sirius and if you think that I will-"
"Of course not!" She huffed. "I never said that. I just think you are both acting like juvenile prats."
"Both? Now it's not just Sirius but me as well?" James whirled on her. "I've spent every waking hour with you for weeks. I've listened to your little giggling girlfriends go on and on. I've put up with who knows how many hours of incessant talk about potions class. And in return you decide this whole thing is my fault?"
"I didn't say…"
James could tell she was trying to temper her words but the look on her face told him so much more. "You don't like him, you never have! And you just can't accept that he is a part of my life!"
"James, be reasonable," she said quietly, taking a step toward him.
"Reasonable?" he hissed. "All Sirius has ever asked is for me to be his friend. How's that for reasonable?"
Lily couldn't suppress a furious laugh. "Sirius Black, reasonable? He's just jealous of me and that I have you and he doesn't. For the first time in his life he didn't win."
James couldn't contain the rage welling within him. It was one thing to ramble on about how he needed to talk to Sirius, it was quite another to treat him like a chess piece to be fought over. At least Sirius had the presence not to fall into such a childish fight. "You," James breathed. "You are the one that's turned this into a fight."
Lily spluttered incoherently. “You can’t possibly be serious! Come off it James! I want you and Sirius to be friends, I don’t like coming between you two.”
“All you ever do is want to talk about it, I come in here to try and be alone with you and you insist on bringing him into the bedroom with us. Maybe that’s what you’d like, can’t get him off your mind Lily?” He sneered, turning to her, anger rippling through the space between them.
Lily set her jaw and glared up at him witheringly, too shocked and hurt to say anything. James gave her a final look of contempt and turned on his heel.
A/N: Yay update. I've moved out of home to a place with no internet so...er, well, saying that updates may be fewer and far between really doesn't say much considering I haven't been queen of the updates lately, so I don't know, it will affect my response to your reviews as I have to come home to log in etc etc, but I do appreciate them.
This may actually have a positive affect on my writing, going out and experiencing the world et al, oh, if only I could tell you all about my housemate situation. And my cat had kittens, so cute and fluffy thoughts for all.
Okay: here come the thanks: Timeturner...Linda, I adore this woman, I don't think I could get anything done without her counsel, she helped me write this chapter in a big way, changed the tone and even wrote some of it. The fight scene would not have the same impact with out her input. She's amazing, go read her work and give her cookies.
Er, that's all, I hope you enjoyed.
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