The bar was small and smokey. It was dimly lit and the tables all had a slight layer of sticky on them. It was perfect. Sirius and James smiled their ways inside without a single ID requested. They headed straight for the back and kept their eyes peeled for Remus and Peter. And Regulus, though they weren't sure if he'd actually show up.
“James, I should tell you something before it's too late.” Sirius settled into their chosen table and pulled a chair closer to himself for James. “I didn't – Too late.” The boy pulled a face and hung his head.
“Too late?” James was confused. He turned around to see what Sirius had been looking at and gawked. Two girls were walking in the door: Lily and Mary. “You invited Lily?” He grabbed his friend's shoulder and shook him. “Are you mental?”
“No, I didn't invite her. I promise. I...invited Mary and Mary asked if she could bring Lily and I said yes. I'm sorry, Prongs.”
“Uh uh. You can't call me Prongs right now. I'm mad at you.” He narrowed his hazel eyes and folded his arms over his chest like a sulking child.
“James, come on, mate. Look at it this way, you can test your ignoring her theory. You said that you were going to just back off and stop flirting with her. Go the night without asking her out. It'll be the first step in getting her to miss you.” Sirius put his hands together in front of his face and pouted at his friend. “Please James? Don't be mad at me.”
The other boy huffed quietly and pursed his lips. “Fine. I'm still mad that you didn't give me any warning though.” He slapped on a fake smile as Mary and Lily approached the table. “Ladies, I didn't know you'd be joining us tonight.” He got up and allowed Mary to take his seat.
“Thank you, Potter.” The girl tucked her short brown hair behind her ears and took her place beside Sirius. “You didn't tell him we were coming?” she asked, scooting against the boy.
“I didn't have a chance.” Sirius shrugged and pointed towards the door. “M-Remus and Peter are here.”
“Good. Remus can get us some drinks.” James fell into the seat next to Mary and frowned.
Sending Remus to get alcohol was commonplace with the boys because he always looked older than his real age. Even though he hated doing it during the school year—especially since making Prefect—he didn't seem to be as bothered by it during the summer. Sirius caught Remus and Peter's attention and waved the boys over. Peter instantly pulled over a seat next to James and Remus took the empty side of Sirius. Lily happily fell into place beside Remus, but looked highly uncomfortable with where she was in general.
“What band is playing?” Mary looped her arms around one of Sirius' and grinned up at him.
“They're called Sonar. Apparently it's some kind of bat reference. The name's stupid but I heard their music was pretty good.” Sirius patted the girl's hands and smiled back. He was getting a clingy sort of impression off Mary already, but he wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt. She had been asking him out for three years; a few clingy moments up front could be tolerated as long as it didn't persist.
James cleared his throat and kicked at Remus under the table. “Wanna go get some drinks, mate?” He fished his wallet out and slid a note across the table to the other boy. His love for Muggle shops meant that he always had Muggle money at hand.
Remus frowned a little, but took the note and got to his feet. He didn't bother asking for orders; they'd take what he got them without complaint, they always did. He headed up to the bar, trying to compose himself as maturely as possible. Luckily, the bartender was rushing around and didn't look twice at Remus before handing over five beers and a Coca-Cola. The boy was trying to wrap his fingers around six drinks when someone tapped him on the shoulder.
“Need a hand?” Regulus flashed the older boy a smile and pointed towards the drinks.
“Regulus? What are you doing in here?” Remus laughed at the very sight. For a minute, he thought he was imagining it. “You do know where you are, right? You're not lost are you?”
“Such a comedian.” Regulus rolled his eyes and picked up two of the drinks. “Sirius invited me.”
“I see.” Remus called over the bartender and pointed towards Regulus. “We need one more -”
“Just a coke.” Regulus was thankful that the older boy didn't tease.
Once the drink arrived, Remus collected the remaining bottles and led the way back to the table. “Look what I picked up at the bar.” He tipped his head back towards Regulus and chuckled. “Seems they're giving out free Slytherins with every five drinks you buy.” He placed beers in front of Sirius, Mary, and his own seat, then handed Lily the Coca-Cola.
“Hey....” Regulus offered a smile to Mary and Lily and put beers down in front of James and Peter, then looked around for another chair. He snagged one from another table and squeezed it in between Peter and Lily. Seeing Lily with a soda as well made him feel slightly less childish amongst the drinkers.
“I was afraid you weren't going to come,” Sirius directed at his brother. “How'd you do it?”
“I told mum that Daphne had a violin recital and I wanted to go support her.”
“That explains the clothes.” Sirius leaned up a bit to critically glance over his brother's choice of wardrobe. “You look really out of place.”
Regulus looked down at his own nice trousers and pressed dress shirt. “Well I couldn't exactly leave the house dressed like that -” he thrust his fingers towards his brother “- or she would have suspected something.” He frowned and pulled at his shirt until it was fully untucked. “Better?”
“Slightly.” Sirius barked a laugh and picked up his beer. “Wait...who the hell is Daphne?”
Before Regulus could answer, James tapped on the table and spoke up. “Daphne is the girl that you had the completely-not-surprising date with, right?” He flashed the younger boy a big smile.
Regulus cut his eyes over at James and scowled.
“Oh, come on, you can't still be mad at me. You know I wasn't trying to....” He sighed and shook his head, then put his hands up in frustration. “I give up.”
Regulus licked his lips and shifted uncomfortably in his seat; he didn't like the way everyone at the table was staring at him like they were just waiting for something to happen. “Yes, that was Daphne,” he answered simply. He dropped his eyes to the table and tapped his fingers on the side of his bottle. “She's kind of my girlfriend, I guess.”
“She's kind of your girlfriend?” Mary giggled at Regulus. “How can she be kind of your girlfriend?”
“I think sonar is how bats fly around at night since it's dark!” Everyone at the table slowly turned towards Lily and gave her curious looks. The girl smiled nervously and pulled her hair over her shoulder. “Well it is. They...use it to see and find...food. Okay I was just trying to change the subject.” Her cheeks flushed red, though it was almost too dark to tell, and she combed her fingers through her coppery strands. “It was just really tense. Stop looking at me like that.”
“They emit some kind of sound and it bounces back. That's how they keep from flying into trees and getting hurt.” Remus nodded and picked up his beer. “Quite amazing, really.”
Everyone at the table let out a laugh and the tension began to melt around them. The band was dreadful, that was something they could all agree upon. They stayed despite that.
Sirius and Mary spent the night gradually getting closer and closer until Mary was eventually seated in the boy's lap. He still thought she was being a bit clingy, but the more he drank, the less he cared. And Mary was just glad to be getting that sort of attention off him after waiting so long.
Peter spent the night drinking and telling rather obscene jokes. He had the table laughing so hard at one point, the people next to them made him retell the joke just so they could get in on the laugh. Remus was just glad to be out, the full moon had been the week prior and up until that morning, he'd been too sore and miserable to even consider going to a bar, let alone having such a great time.
Lily and Regulus spent the part of the night in deep conversation—what depth was possible in a loud bar surrounded by drinking friends. Blood status and politics meant nothing to the two as they discreetly discussed their shared love for Charms class and Lily filled him in on everything he could look forward to in class the coming year. Trying to keep Muggles from overhearing was quite the challenge and half their conversation required whispering directly into each other's ears.
James spent most of the night sulking. He laughed and chatted with the rest of the table, but every smile he gave was forced. The more Lily and Regulus whispered and laughed, the more sour James' mood became. He smoked far more than he would have if it were just the guys that night. He was the only one not in a great mood by the time they were ready to leave.
It was nearly three in the morning when the group of seven emerged from the bar, red-eyed and stumbling. Mary and Lily told the boys goodbye and Lily led away her slightly tipsy best friend. Remus and Peter headed off for a quiet spot where they could catch the Knight Bus, telling the other Marauders they'd see them again on the train.
Sirius threw his arms around his brother's neck and hugged him tightly. “I am so glad you came tonight. You had so much fun, I could tell.”
Regulus laughed and shrugged his drunk brother off him. “I had a good time. I just hope I don't get busted for lying.”
“You'll...you'll be okay. Just tell mum I kidnapped you and forced you to spend the night with a bunch of dirty Muggles.”
“She'd believe it.” Regulus smirked and turned back towards Grimmauld Place, shocked at the fact that James and Sirius turned with him. “What are you doing?”
“Just walking you home. It's dangerous out here.”
“I can take care of myself.”
“Shush. I'm being a good big brother.” Sirius shoved the younger boy's shoulder and gave him a warning stare. “Let me walk you.”
“Fine.” Regulus laughed at his brother and fell into step behind him.
James hurried ahead and started walking alongside Regulus. “So...you and Lily seemed to hit it off pretty well, didn't you?”
“Yeah, she's really nice.” The younger boy nodded and looked up at James with an obviously forced smile. “I can see why you...like her so much.” He stuffed his hands down in his pockets and looked back to the pavement. “You still like her, right? You weren't really talking to her much tonight.”
“Well I couldn't get a word in with you taking up all of her time, now could I?” James looked a bit frantic as he waved his hands to accent every word. “You know she has a boyfriend, right? Yeah. She's dating some loser Hufflepuff. So you really shouldn't waste your time there.”
“James I -”
“She's a Muggle-born, ya'know?”
“I know that.” Regulus scowled up at the older boy and tried to ignore the pain in his chest. He knew that James was crazy about Lily—the entirety of Hogwarts knew that James was crazy about Lily—but seeing the boy so jealous and mad about them talking to each other was too much to stand. “I'm not interested in Lily,” he finally spat out.
“What?” James dragged his fingers through his hair and nodded. “I know that. I'm not stupid, Regulus. I know that you aren't...aren't interested in her. I was just making conversation.”
The two went silent. James kept cutting his eyes over towards the shorter boy as they walked, but Regulus wouldn't look at him. The Gryffindor hated the way he was behaving; he knew that he wouldn't be so erratic if he hadn't drank so much, but it didn't make him feel any better. He couldn't push the images of Regulus and Lily whispering and laughing out of his mind. The very thought that they could end up together made him sick to his stomach. Every time the idea flashed into his mind, he wanted to grab Regulus and scream at him to stay away from Lily. But also...he wanted to demand that Lily stay away from Regulus. He reached for his cigarettes and wished that he could just shut off his mind for the rest of the night.
“I should go alone from here.” Regulus stopped at the corner down the street from his house and turned back to his brother. “If they see you, they might get angry.”
“Yeah, you're right.” Sirius pulled his little brother into another hug and patted his back. “Don't get near mum, she's going to know you've been drinking and smoking if you do.”
“I haven't been drinking or smoking!”
“But you smell like you have been.” Sirius grinned at the younger Black and sighed happily. “Just stay away from her. Go straight to the bath. You'll be alright.” He grabbed the boy by the shoulder to add one last thing before he could walk off. “Wait. You should sit with us on the train to school.”
“Oh....” Regulus rubbed the back of his neck and shifted uneasily. “Yeah, I'll think about it. But, I do have friends, you know, that right?”
“Well yeah, but I just figured that...nah, it's fine. I'll see you there though.”
Regulus gave a nod and glanced at James quickly before heading off down the street to his house.
Sirius sighed and snagged the cigarette out of James' hand. “Give me that. You've had half a pack already.” He took a drag off the cigarette and started back the direction they'd come from. “What was with you tonight? You're in a bad mood.”
“I am not.” James made a grab for his smoke, but Sirius held it out of his reach. “I would have been fine if you didn't invite Lily.”
“I didn't in-”
“If you didn't let Mary invite her then.” James lunged for the smoke once more, giving Sirius an elbow to the gut to distract him. He freed his property from the other boy's fingers and moved far enough away that Sirius couldn't take it back. “And Regulus. The way those two were acting...I swear we'll all be getting wedding invites in no time.” He sneered at his own words and kicked the ground.
Sirius snorted so hard he started coughing. “James...are you...jealous?” He took a moment to stop laughing and get his breathing back to normal. “You can't honestly think that my brother and Lily would ever....” The boy waved his hands, unable to even say aloud what he was thinking. “No. Just no. My brother is the last person that you would ever have to worry about going after Lily.”
“I'm not jealous,” James argued. “And you don't know that. Lily is amazing. Just because she's a Muggle-born that doesn't mean Regulus wouldn't go after her. You saw how well they got on. It was sickening. Getting all close and -” He cut himself off and shuddered. “I don't wanna talk about it anymore.”
“James, honestly, I think you're overreacting. My brother is not going to date Lily.”
“And you're so sure of this?” James spun around, making Sirius nearly crash into him with the sudden stop. “Huh? You're just so sure that he isn't interested in her! You were sitting there; you saw them.”
“I saw two people getting along and talking. You're reading too much into it.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I just...I just know!” Sirius growled and pulled at his hair. “He's my brother, James, I can tell these things. I know him better than he knows himself sometimes. He's not going after Lily. He's way too caught up in...someone else to even consider that.”
James made a questioning hum and resumed walking. “Yeah, that Daphne. What kind of name is Daphne anyways? Sounds like a spoiled little princess. You shoulda seen her too. She was all blonde and...pretty. But she looked like a complete bitch.” He took the last drag off his cigarette and stomped it into the pavement. “And who calls someone their kind of girlfriend? She's either his girlfriend or she isn't. That's rubbish, saying she's kind of his girlfriend. Your brother can be a real arse sometimes.”
Sirius widened his eyes slowly as he listened to the other boy rant. “Um...yeah, he can be.” He twisted his hands in his pockets and kept his gaze straight ahead of them. “So that band was awful. We should...we should not see them again, ever.”
“I completely agree. Who sings about a pet hamster?”
“Yeah, that one song was about a hamster. The one that went oh, you're so fuzzy sitting there in your cage.”
Sirius burst out laughing and shook his head. “Prongs, mate, that was oh, you're so funny sitting there with your rage.”
James looked utterly confused. “But they said hamster.”
“They never said hamster.”
“I'm very sure.” Sirius wiped his eyes and put his arm around the other boy's shoulders. “Come on, you are drunk and you reek of smoke and we have to be back at the house in half an hour.”
James nodded sadly and allowed himself to be led down the street. “I swear they said hamster,” he mumbled.
Meanwhile, Regulus was hurrying back to his house, careful not to make any noise as he approached the front steps. Before he could get the key out of his pocket, the door swung open and a tiny hand grabbed the boy's arm. Kreacher yanked Regulus into the house, closed the door, and began pushing him up the staircase.
“What are you -?”
“Mistress is in the kitchen. Master Regulus should go up to his room right away.”
Regulus didn't need pushing after that, he bolted up the stairs and slipped into his bedroom without a sound. The boy grabbed some night clothes and peeked out of the door. “Kreacher?”
“Yes?” The house-elf looked up at Regulus with wide eyes.
“Can you run me a bath?” He waited in his room for the elf's signal that his bath was ready, then darted across the hall for the bathroom, hoping that he could get inside without anyone stopping him. The boy leaned against the bathroom door and breathed a sigh of relief. He stripped out of his clothes and eased into the hot water. The warmth was relaxing and made quick work of easing his frantic mind.
A smile crossed his lips as he thought back on the night. He hadn't expected to have that much fun. He was used to enjoying himself when he spent the day with Sirius, and as of this summer, he was finding James' company much more pleasant, but he had never enjoyed time with the rest of Sirius' friends. Remus and Peter had always treated him as a slight outcast during the school years, but that night, they welcomed him as one of their own. And both of the girls had been so nice to him. Lily especially.
The boy shuddered thinking of what his mother would say if she saw him earlier, getting along so well with a Muggle-born girl. It wasn't as though he went with the intention of enjoying her company, but how could he not? He'd never met anyone who enjoyed Charms and History class as much as he did.
His happy thoughts of the potential friendship with Lily were quickly tainted by memories of James' anger. Regulus sighed and sank lower into the water, allowing it to cover his head. He had never made James mad before. His heart clenched painfully just thinking about it. How could James think he was interested in Lily that way? Just because James worshiped the ground Lily Evans walked on, didn't mean every bloke around had to also.
Regulus groaned and emerged from under the water. He dragged his fingers back through his black hair and closed his eyes tightly. “I need to stop thinking about him.” He shook his head and laid against the back of the bathtub. His eyes moved to the ceiling but didn't focus. All he could see was James. James getting upset and jealous. James being shocked that he would actually have a date. James laughing and smiling. James putting his arm around his shoulders. James. James. James! He couldn't make it stop.
The boy rubbed his hands down his face and whined. “This can't be happening, it's not fair. This cannot be happening to me.” But all the denial in the world would not change the fact that Regulus knew he had feelings—inappropriate feelings—for James Potter.
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