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Chapter 19 : Chapter 19
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Sirius’ tousled head snapped up; he had been lolling lazily on the bed, still dressed in his pyjamas, apparently involved in a rather boring game of Exploding Snap with Remus who was still looking frail and drawn, but he appeared comfortable, or at least used to this.
James’ grinned wickedly at his friend, an impish and yet droll expression that Lily had seen on his face numerous times when he was in the vicinity of one Sirius Black.
Lily felt immediately forgotten as James strode away from her and over to Sirius and Remus who smiled back at him, looking bored and a little bit sullen, but overall relieved to see James.
Lily lingered in the background, suddenly quite nervous now that she was faced with the sudden reality of their situation and just what this little confrontation would mean. She could only think that the timing was bad, and that they should hold off any sort of announcement for now. Yes, that would be best.
“Peter’s already been by,” Remus informed James as he reached the bed, standing by it. He said nothing, simply nodding in reply. Lily noticed that he moved with a slightly nervous energy, as if scared or worried, but he hid it all behind that smile, that laid-back stance.
“All right Sirius?” he asked.
“All right,” Sirius replied, “but bloody bored.”
James and Remus snorted and rolled their eyes. “He’s been insufferable,” Remus sighed, stretching in the chair he had pulled up beside Sirius’ bed. “Won’t stop moaning about how bored he is, and he won’t do anything to help himself either, because apparently, study is beneath him, and he’s allergic to books.”
Sirius screwed up his nose at the mere mention of them and Remus shook his head mournfully. “Insufferable,” he repeated.
Lily studied the way James fiddled with his calloused index finger, scraping the thumb along it as if trying to distract his hands. “And you? What about you Remus? Is Madam Pomfrey taking good care of our boy?” She noted the slight edge to his voice, the way he shifted weight from one foot to the other.
Remus’ expression grew dark and mulish, uncharacteristically ugly. “You’d think I was on my deathbed the way she carries on.” James gave a brief, barking laugh and Remus’ eyes drifted to Lily, who felt about five, on the night of her first dance rehearsal. Remus rarely missed things and it seemed he noticed that his own anxiety was dwarfed by hers; he gave a fleeting smile and what she thought might be a wink and turned away.
Sirius had not failed to notice this little exchange and his face grew dark and defiant. “ ‘Lo Evans,” he said flatly, keen grey eyes boring into her own.
There was nothing kind or warm in Sirius’ eyes, he appeared to her as he normally did (with very the rare exception of his fight with Regulus): arrogant, possessive and dangerous. She had expected as much and she remembered with an unpleasant sinking feeling that they hadn’t even told him yet.
She decided to grin and bear it, forcing herself to remember two things: 1. Sirius didn’t scare her and 2. He had recently been under the Cruciatus Curse, perhaps she could blame the behaviour on that.
The latter was doubtful.
“Hello Sirius, Remus,” she said brightly, stepping forward. Remus smiled, polite as always and Sirius remained stoic, but this did not deter her calm manner. “James, I’m just going to check on some of the other students.”
He nodded dumbly and watched her walk over to a cluster of injured Third Years, all yammering excitedly. He turned back to his friends with a dopey, dazed smile on his face.
Sirius groaned at the familiar expression and Remus interjected before Sirius could ay anything.
“What did Dumbledore have to say?”
“Everything and nothing,” James said, adopting the gentle intonations of their Headmasters’ voice. “The sky, the stars the universe and the tiny little hairs on his nose, and I didn’t understand a word of it.”
“Another round of cryptic clues, then?” Remus sighed.
James nodded. “I just wish he’d be straight with us, it’s not like we can’t handle it, not like we’re kids anymore.”
“Don’t you ‘technically’ me, Lupin,” James growled.
Sirius still hadn’t said anything, but now looked up at James, looking as though he hadn’t taken in a word of the conversation, instead having been too wrapped up in the contemplation of just how bored he really was.
James did a quick scan of the room to find Lily and let out a sort of contented sigh as he watched her comfort the students, laughing and talking easily.
This grabbed Sirius’ attention and the sour look returned to his face.
“What?” James said testily.
“Why’d you bring her along?”
“Ah, because she’s Head Girl, she’s got the same responsibilities as me and she wanted to see the two of you.”
The look on his best friend’s face was fair indication that now was not the best time for announcements, though he knew it would be better if he got it all over with now.
“Bit insensitive, did you even think of Moony when you—“
James cut him off. “Of course I did, she knows now, can’t change that fact, so you may as well get used to it. I don’t see Remus complaining and besides, Lily and I’ve talked about it—“
“When?” Sirius demanded.
“Last night.” He suddenly felt a giddy urge to tell Sirius right there and then (along with the rest of the ward, and then the rest of the school (whom he suspected knew already), and then his snobby cousin Ophelia who said he’d never ever be able to get anyone of Lily’s calibre, and the then the rest of the Wizarding population and then—
Sirius laughed bitterly. “Never let it be said that you’re not an opportunist Prongs. Use a bad situation and a friend for you own benefit.”
James blinked, a cold resolve coming across his features as he absorbed what Sirius had said. “Don’t talk to me about ‘using’ people, Sirius,”.
Sirius’ mouth was left in a gaping ‘O’ and he looked away from James’s dispassionate stare, fidgeting with the bed-sheets as though he’d quite like to tear them to shreds and use them to merrily strangle James.
Remus sighed outwardly, groaned inwardly and waited for the storm to pass, wondering again if Sirius was ever going to stop paying for what he did to him. To all of them. He thought (as he so often did) that perhaps they were all clinging to some childhood ideal of ‘friends forever’, and while the sentiment was honourable, reality had a most difficult habit of interfering.
James physically deflated his ‘impressive’ stance (Sirius had always said that he looked like a starved chicken trying to make its self intimidating). “Sorry,” he murmured, finding something very interesting about his shoe.
“No, I am.” Sirius said with eager contrition, “Really Prongs, don’t listen to me, I…”
“I never do,” James replied steadily; he felt guilty for berating his closest friend after he had…after what Bella had done.
“One day you’ll regret not listening to my worldly advice, James.”
James swallowed, “Sure, I will, Sirius and then I’ll go out and openly declare my undying love for Lucius Malfoy.”
“Blondes have never been your weakness,” Remus intoned slyly, a knowing nod towards Lily.
James ears coloured and the three of them turned their attention towards Lily, who was currently talking to a couple of Second Years. She looked up and the three of them immediately snapped their heads around, feigning innocence.
James shoved his hands in his pockets and looked guilty. “Look, I might as well tell you this seeing as you’re bound to find out anyway and it should be all over the school by, well, now…” he rambled, much to the amusement of his friends.
“Spit it out, man,” Sirius cajoled.
James took a deep breath, desperately trying to seek out some of that ‘Gryffindor courage’ that he usually had no trouble finding.
“Lily and I…we aren’t just…friends anymore,” he said carefully. “I, I mean to say we kissed.”
The words sort of hung there, empty and pathetic. Sirius and Remus seemed genuinely stunned.
There was something unreadable in Sirius’s eyes, though, but it was only a brief glint and disappeared as his features melted in his familiar grin. “And you still have all your body parts?”
“Still. And I’m hoping that it’s a continuing trend.”
“What? The kissing? Or the keeping-all-your-limbs-intact part?” Remus asked.
“Both.” James relaxed a little, seeing as Sirius seemed jovial enough and Remus had actually managed a smile; these were considered good signals. “The kissing trend has so far been successful,” he reported, feeling almost exactly like a giddy 14 year old relating the details of his first date.
Sirius raised his eyebrows, “And we all thought she had better taste.”
“She’s shown that frequently, for on thing, she’d never dated you.”
“Likes ‘em big and dumb, I guess.”
“As opposed to sissy and stringy,” James shot back, a welcome note of teasing in his voice.
“Right, because you’re the very image of bulking masculinity”
“Congratulations James,” Remus interjected, “we knew you’d wear her down eventually.”
“He’s an acquired taste.” Lily had snuck up behind them, the look on her face suggested she’d been listening for a while.
Remus gave her a genuine, but shy smile, but he did not look away. She took a couple of steps forward, coming to stand awkwardly in their circle. Sirius pasted on his most beatific smile and began talking, his words stumbling over one another.
“So here she is, and we thought she’d had much higher standards, morals, values! James has been fantasising over this day for years now, Evans, glad to see that you took pity on the boy and offered him a little bit of relief, should give him something to think about for a while…”
“Sirius,” James warned. Sirius gave no reply, his face a mask of innocence.
In a rush of defiance and the thrill of excitement, Lily captured James’s hand with her own and smiled at Sirius, daring him to protest. All of her previous calm and intentions or going easy on him forgotten. James looked helplessly between Lily’s stony faced rebellion, and Sirius’s expression of forced calm.
James looked at Remus who could offer no more comfort than a shrug.
“So when are you getting let out?” James asked, hoping to break the tension.
It worked; at least for Sirius it did. “Don’t know. Maybe you could have a word with Madam Pomfrey for us.”
“I’m all right. I should be able to get out with my usual story about ‘needing to relax in a comfortable environment’. But Sirius is going to have a little more difficulty, she’s really overdoing it this time,” Remus told him.
Sirius’s groan was evidence as to just how much she was overdoing it. “ ‘Don’t turn over, I’ll do it for you’, ‘Do you need help sitting up? Breathing? Chewing?’. Honestly, she’ll be asking if I need help going to the bathroom next.”
“I don’t know, she might be eager to get you out, she ought to have learned her lesson by now, anyway.”
“Worth a shot,” Remus said dully.
Sirius seemed determined not to look at Lily and kept his gaze firmly focused on James, his mouth a thin, set line, his eyes false with casual disinterest. His eyes always gave him away (The kind of eyes, Sirius would gloat, that girls would wax lyrical about).
They remained quiet for a few uneasy moments before Sirius seemingly got bored and flipped himself out of bed. “Right, enough laying about, got to go see a maternal, scary type about a dog. Coming, Lupin?” He didn’t wait for a reply and Remus sighed, stood up and followed submissively.
“Better get back to the Tower, I’ve a feeling this is going to take awhile,” he said and jogged off to catch up to Sirius.
James and Lily were suddenly keenly aware of the curious stares of the rest of the ward and decided to make their way out.
As the door closed behind them they could Madam Pomfrey’s enraged voice “What are you doing out of bed?!”
A/N: I updated! Hallehlujah! I hope that this chapter isn't a let down. Thank you all for being so patient and supportive while I waged a war with my computer. I will try to be more regular about it from now (seeing as I have oodles of spare time). Again, thank you to everyone!
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