“Don't worry, we're not going to get caught.” Many of the Marauders' plans started with that sentence and ended with two weeks of detention. But Sirius was confident that they could pull off their latest venture without the resulting punishment. “All we have to do is make sure that Peter is -”
“I can hear you.” Remus didn't look up from his book, he merely flipped the page and continued to wear a tired frown. “In fact -” he peeked from under his lashes and eyed Sirius across the table “- I'm fairly sure half the library can hear you.” The Prefect shifted in his seat and nodded towards James, who was half laying on the table. “He isn't even listening.”
“Yes he is. Aren't you James?” Sirius scoffed and clapped his hand on James' back.
James jumped up and looked around, his heart near stopping with fright. “What?! What happened?”
“You weren't listening to me?” Sirius gaped at his friend and folded his arms. “I can't believe you weren't listening to me.”
“He's been staring at Lily for the last half hour.” Peter closed his Charms book and pushed it away with an undignified snort. “You were talking for half an hour without noticing that he wasn't answering you.” The boy gave Sirius a little so-there smile and grabbed his History book.
“I'm sorry Padfoot, I'm just distracted.” James laid his glasses on the table and rubbed at his eyes. “I know I said I'd back off a little but...look at her.” He pointed towards a table across the library, where Lily sat doing her homework, and sighed. “She's been single for over a week now. If I don't ask her, she's going to end up with someone else.”
“She's been single for a week James.” Remus sighed. “Don't you think you should give her a little time to...recover?”
“No, I'm going over there.” The boy shoved his glasses back on and got to his feet.
Sirius threw up his hands and groaned. “No, don't mind me. I'm just going to go over my plan again later, when you're actually paying attention. It's fine. I don't mind that one bit.” He didn't skimp on the sarcasm, but it didn't matter, James was long gone.
The bespectacled boy slipped into the empty seat opposite of Lily and offered up a smile. “Hey.”
“Hey yourself.” Lily didn't glance up from her work.
“So...Hogsmeade is coming up soon and I -”
“Let me stop you right there.” The girl laid down her quill and took a long breath before looking up at James. “Davey and I broke up a week ago. I'm not even close to being ready to date again. And even if I was -” she held up her hand, sensing James' hopeful expression “- I wouldn't go out with you.”
“I see you're going with harsh and straight to the point today.”
“Harsh? You think I'm being harsh?” Lily closed her book and pulled over her bag. “You know what I consider harsh? Charming someone to the ceiling because he ran into you in the halls.”
“Now Lily wait.” James put out his hands and held onto the girl's book so she couldn't pack it away. “I didn't do that just because he ran into me.”
“So you admit you did it?”
“Well, yes, but there were other reasons.”
“I don't care what your reasons were.” She jerked her book from under James' hold and stuffed it into her bag. The girl got to her feet and pointed a finger at James. “Did you know he was afraid of heights?” When James' lips twitched into an involuntary grin, Lily scowled. “You did! And you put him up there anyways. That's sick James.”
“You don't even care what he did to deserve it?” James jumped from his chair and gave the girl a pleading look.
“No one deserves that.” The girl held up her hands and backed away. “No one. And I don't want to hear any more about it. I'm going to be late.” She shook her head in disappointment and turned her back on James, then walked out of the library without another word.
James felt his heart sink into his stomach and trudged back over to the table where he'd left his friends. The boy dropped into his seat and let out a loud whine as he laid over on the table. “She hates me.”
“She doesn't hate you, Prongs.” Sirius gave his friend a pat on the shoulder. “What's she mad about?”
“She found out about what I did to Donovan.”
“Donovan? That arse deserved everything he got!” Peter clapped his hand over his mouth, not having intended to be so loud in the library. He dropped his voice and leaned closer to James. “Did you tell her why? If she heard the reason -”
“No, she doesn't care about the reason.” James folded his arms under his head and put his face down towards the table. “What am I gonna do? She's going to hate me forever.” The barrier of the boy's arms made his words muffled and low, but luckily the other Marauders could understand the gist of it.
Sirius pushed on the sulking boy's shoulder to get his attention and moved his plans within the boy's sight. “Come on, help me with this, it'll take your mind off everything.”
“Before you do that -” Remus closed his book and picked his bag up off the floor “- let me leave. I have patrols tonight.”
“With Lily?” James gave the other boy a hopeful smile.
“Yes with Lily, and yes I will casually talk you up and try to explain what you did, so on and such forth.” He packed his bag and slung it over his shoulder. “Careful if you're going to the kitchen tonight, Slytherin's on patrol there.” He gave the other boys a simple nod and headed out of the library.
“I'm so glad he's on our side. Can you imagine trying to get things past him if he was a proper Prefect?”
“Peter, don't say that. Remus is a proper Prefect.” James frowned over at his friend and shook his head in a slightly scolding way. “He just...he knows where his loyalties belong is all. Puts his mates over the rules.” He sat up straight and pulled Sirius' plans over to examine them. “This isn't a bad idea. And with Peter standing guard, we shouldn't get caught. Of course, they'll assume it was us despite that.”
“But if they can't prove it -”
“They'll probably punish us anyways.”
“You're right, I suppose.” Sirius took his plans back and folded them up. “If you don't want to do it....”
“Hey.” James snatched the plans back from the other boy and smirked. “I never said we weren't doing it. This is too good to pass up.” He picked up his bag and got to his feet. “Shall we continue this in the dorm where we won't be overheard?”
And so, the remaining Marauders made their way back to the dormitory to finish their scheming. It was a simple plan but held several complicated charms. The goal was to essentially shake the spirits of the Hufflepuff Quidditch team by painting them crimson and gold at their next practice. The colouring had to take place somewhere that none of the team would miss it, so the showers were chosen. It would require sneaking into their changing rooms and tampering with the taps. But it wasn't as simple as that, for if coloured water began to pour out, the players would simply avoid it. Thus the colouring had to be clear in nature and react only after skin contact was made. However, that created another problem. Unless every member of the team was under the tap simultaneously, only one member would be affected before the others knew to stay out of the water. Therefore, a time delay had to be added to the colouring process. Only then could they successfully paint every member of the Hufflepuff Quidditch team in Gryffindor colours.
“We should turn them green. Or blue.” Peter tossed his bag onto his bed and kicked off his shoes. “If we made them green or blue, then everyone would think that Slytherin or Ravenclaw pulled the prank.”
“You know...that is not such a bad idea.” Sirius dropped his robes to the floor and flopped back on his bed. “But honestly, who on the Slytherin or Ravenclaw team would be genius enough to come up with something like this?”
“Careful Pads, you keep talking like that and you might not be able to fit that big head through the door in the morning.”
Sirius grabbed his pillow and flung it across the room, pegging James in the back of the head with it.
James froze when the pillow made contact. He slowly lowered his bag to the floor and picked up the pillow. “Did you just...hit me with a pillow?” The boy's eyes narrowed and he turned towards his friend. “You know what this means, right?” He snatched his glasses from his face and tossed them over onto his bed.
Sirius' eyes widened and his fingers closed around the edges of his remaining pillow. He knew to be prepared because when James Potter removed his glasses, something was going down. The boy barely had enough time to raise his pillow before the other was upon him. James bolted across the room, used the side railing of Sirius' bed to get himself into the air, and came flying down on top of Sirius. The attacker pinned his victim to the bed with one knee to the chest and began to unleash a barrage of pillow swats onto the boy's head.
Sirius squirmed and let out muffled cries. He swung his arms and manged to clock James in the side of the head with his own pillow. James toppled over into the floor and groaned as his back slammed into the hardwood. But the minor flicker of pain was not enough to quell his fighting spirit. The boy was back on his feet instantly, poised to lay another pillow strike against Sirius.
But Sirius would not go down so easily. His body lurched forward and in a matter of moments, black, fluffy paws began to emerge from the arms of his jumper. The dog shook out his fur and stretched before lunging towards James. Padfoot's large front paws landed square on James' chest, knocking the boy back into the floor. James put up his arms, but it was too late. The boy whined and wiggled beneath the creature as a large pink tongue dragged across his face, leaving a long trail of slobber from his neck to his forehead.
“Sirius, no! Down! Bad dog.” James made a retching sound as he attempted to wipe the slobber away with the sleeve of his robes. “That's disgusting. I hate it when you do that.”
James tried to sit up, but Padfoot would have none of it. The dog pinned him back to the floor, using the boy's distraction over the slobber to get the advantage. Padfoot turned around and began to wag his fluffy black tail frantically, slapping James back and forth across the face with it.
James spit and whined, shoving the dog off of his chest. “You got fur in my mouth.” He rolled over and got on his knees, desperately trying to get the strands of fur off of his lips. “You play dirty, Pads! It isn't fair. I could easily change and...and kick you in the head or something.”
Padfoot lowered the front of his body and stared straight up at James with his big grey eyes. The dog wiggled his butt in a taunting fashion and crept closer to the boy.
“No. I'm not doing it.” James held out his hands and backed away from the advancing creature. “Sirius, no. I can't. Do you see the size of this room?” When the dog continued to edge closer, James climbed up on the nearest bed—which happened to belong to Remus—to get away from those pleading puppy eyes. “I cannot change in here. Stop looking at me like that.”
A loud squeak erupted from the bed side table, calling James' and Padfoot's attention. Wormtail sat on the top of Remus' night time book collection, balanced on his back haunches, front feet pawing at the air. He let out another squeak and ran around in a circle, then scurried down off the night stand and over to the window.
“Not you too.” James pulled his hands through his hair and gagged when he felt another glob of slobber. “Guys, you know I'm too big.”
Suddenly, the door swung open and Remus rushed into the room, looking like he was in a hurry. Everything froze. Remus stiffened up as he surveyed the situation: James standing atop his bed, a hunkered down Padfoot looking ready to pounce, a rat squeaking in the window sill. It disturbed Remus to note how unsurprising all of that was.
“I feel left out. It's playtime and I wasn't invited.” The Prefect rushed across the room, opened his nightstand drawer, retrieved his Prefect badge, and made his way back to the door. “I'll see you guys later and James...you'd better make my bed back up when you're done with...whatever you're doing.”
James nodded, Padfoot yipped, Wormtail squeaked, and Remus took those as signs of compliance. The Prefect closed the door behind him, instantly sending the room back into chaos.
That night, as James lay in his bed ready to turn in for the night, he couldn't help but smile on the evening's memories. Yes, he'd gotten a tongue lashing from the love of his life, but the fun he had being chased around by Padfoot was enough to ease that sadness. James knew how lucky he was to have a friend like Sirius. He knew that he could count on the other boy for anything, he'd lay his very life in Sirius' hands if he needed to. He didn't consider him to be a friend so much as a brother.
Sometimes, James felt selfish thinking that way.
After all, Sirius had a brother, an actual brother. And the two had been so close when they were younger. Throughout the first year of school, Sirius would spend hours telling James, Remus, and Peter stories about his and Regulus' adventures. Granted, those adventures took place beneath blanket forts or in the backyard of their home, inside the depths of their imaginations, but that didn't take away from Sirius' love for them. Together, Sirius and Regulus were pirates, traversing the seas in search of English ships to sink; they were Knights of the round table, battling to save their kingdom; they were curse breakers, making safe the tombs of Egypt for Gringotts; they were anything and everything they wanted to be.
James remembered watching Regulus' Sorting. Sirius had been so hopeful that his brother would be filed into Gryffindor along side him. The elder Black cried himself to sleep that night...James never told him that he overheard him. And as the years dragged on, Sirius and Regulus had less adventures; they developed separate lives, separate friends, separate ideas. After a while, Sirius simply stopped talking about his brother.
It was only over the summers that the two Blacks were together. A brief few months to share in old memories and desperately hold onto the bond that was once so unbreakable. Having Sirius for the school year wasn't enough for James, though, and he began to take the boy from his brother more and more. Over the years, he'd tried to be fair. James tried to encourage Regulus to come along with him and Sirius when they went out or even when they were just in Sirius' room listening to music.
Even though Sirius never talked about it, James could tell that he missed his brother. Sirius' parents had strong objections to their first born's way of living and their views were often shoved onto Regulus. There were times in the past that James was sure Regulus would give up on his brother completely. But this last summer...things had changed.
The young Gryffindor placed his glasses on the nightstand and stared up at his blurry crimson curtains. A tiny smile pulled across his lips as he thought back over the summer. The usually tense and standoffish Regulus had been different this year. James wondered if he was just growing up, starting to realize that his parents weren't flawless in thought. It had been quite unexpected when Regulus agreed to go out to a Muggle bar with the group of Sirius' friends, but things were different even before that.
James would be lying if he said that he didn't feel like he was in constant competition with Regulus. As much as he loved Sirius and wanted him for a brother, Regulus would always have something James couldn't offer: the childhood memories. And those childhood times between the brothers was something that James couldn't change, no matter how much he was there for Sirius, Regulus would have one over him. James found himself always trying to outdo the younger Black. When Regulus would tag along—even on James' request—he would try to make sure that Sirius paid more attention to him than Regulus.
It was greedy and wrong, but James couldn't stop himself.
But the past summer had been different. When James invited Regulus to tag along with himself and Sirius, it wasn't simply for his friend's sake...he wanted him to go. Being around Regulus didn't seem like a chore to him any longer. They laughed, they shared interests, they had silly little fights, it was like they'd become friends.
James never—not in a million years—thought that he'd be lying in bed, considering Regulus Black as a friend. But there he was, staring up into nothing, thinking about how much fun he had with Regulus. The boy kicked his feet together beneath his bedsheets until the socks peeled away, it was far too warm in the room for them. He pushed the sheets down and rolled onto his side, his eyes settled onto Sirius' face, the slim moonlight casting just enough glow to make out the boy's haughty features.
Even when he was sleeping, Sirius looked like a portrait. He was the perfect portrayal of how a dignified, Pureblood, aristocrat should look. His handsome features had earned him more than his fair share of female attention over the years, even when he was too young to appreciate it. Without prompt, James' mind jumped back to Regulus and how much he resembled his brother. On the surface, the two were very similar in appearance. They both had those light grey eyes and animated eyebrows that seemed to be Black family traits all on their own. Both Blacks had the kind of good looks that came from money in the blood and arranged marriages.
But James knew how to look deeper. Inside those identical grey eyes held two different souls; Sirius' were riddled with horrors and punishment from his youthful misdeeds while Regulus' were alive and innocent. While both brothers had black hair, Sirius seemed bereft of a comb—not that James had much room to talk on that matter—and lacking the desire to tame his. And Regulus...so persnickety that every strand stay as he wanted it. He kept his hair in line much as he kept himself in line. So afraid to break routine, so naïve of all the possibilities that came with allowing yourself the freedom to step outside of line.
He wondered what Regulus would be like had he been Sorted into Gryffindor.
James caught himself and forced away his train of thought. He'd let himself get carried away and it wasn't appropriate. The boy closed his eyes and tried to fall asleep, but every time his mind relaxed, his thoughts jumped back to Regulus. It was frustrating. He didn't like the idea of being unable to control his own mind.
The boy tossed back the sheets and climbed out of his bed. Quietly, so as to not wake the others, he crept over to Sirius' night stand and pilfered one of the boy's cigarettes. He didn't want the smell to bother anyone, but the idea of sneaking outside at such a late hour was ridiculous, so he eased open the window and took a seat on the sill, one leg dangling recklessly over the edge.
James tipped his head back and lit the cigarette, leaving the lighter laying in front of him. He let the smoke do its job; it seeped into his lungs and smothered unwanted thoughts and ideas. He took another long drag and closed his eyes, bathing in the quiet ambiance of the room.
A hand fell gently onto James' shoulder and made him flinch. He snapped open his eyes and put his hand on his chest. “Regulus?” He felt stupid the moment the name left his lips. “Sorry, Sirius.” He waved his hand and took a long breath to steady his racing heart. “What are you doing?”
“I was going to ask you the same thing,” the boy whispered. He picked up the lighter from the window sill and lit a cigarette of his own. “Did...did you just call me Regulus?”
“Yes. Sorry.” The boy ducked his head, feigning interest in a stray string poking from his pajama bottoms. Honestly, he didn't want Sirius to see the heat that had risen to his face. “I got confused, you startled me. And I was lost in my own thoughts.”
“About my brother?”
“No. No....” James shook his head and shoved his hand into his hair. He twisted the messy strands around his fingers and yanked on it, punishing himself for his bad choice of words. “Quidditch. I was thinking about Quidditch and your brother plays Quidditch and I...I got confused, alright?” He shifted so he could lean against the edge of the window without Sirius seeing his face.
“Are you worried about something?” Sirius climbed onto the sill beside his friend and cast a worried glance over at him.
“Worried about your brother?”
“Oh....” James started to shake his head, but stopped in favor of nodding. “Yeah, I've got a new play to try out next practice and I'm just not sure it'll work out.” The boy rubbed his fingers over his lips and closed his eyes. He felt a gut-wrenching shame inside himself.
He'd never lied to Sirius before.
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