As October drew to a close, the students of Hogwarts gathered themselves for a trip to Hogsmeade. Since Lily had turned down all six of James' invitations and Regulus had turned down Sirius' invitation in favor of spending the day with Daphne, the two Gryffindors were on their own for most of the day. As for Remus and Peter, they had dates with two of the Moore triplets, but planned on meeting up with James and Sirius afterward.
It wasn't that James and Sirius didn't enjoy spending time in Hogsmeade together, but they were both feeling a little down at the rejections they'd gotten. They wandered around for a while, no real destination in mind, stepping in and out of shops without much of a desire to make any purchases. As the two passed by the large window of Gladrags Wizardwear, Sirius' jaw dropped.
“That little arse.” The boy pointed through the window, his eyes focused on his brother's figure inside the shop. “He refuses to spend the day with me so he can shop for clothes? This is ridiculous.” Sirius grabbed onto James' arm and dragged the protesting boy into the clothing shop. “Regulus, what are you doing in here?” He looked around for any signs of his brother's girlfriend.
Regulus was startled to see his brother. “What does it look like I'm doing?” He kept his voice low and glanced behind him. “I'm waiting on Daphne.”
“You're spending the day waiting on your girlfriend to shop for clothes? Regulus, that's pathetic.”
The boy scowled over at his brother and moved towards a rack of scarves. “Not exactly. We're only in here for a few things. Apparently, I need a new coat.”
“What's wrong with the coat you have on?”
“I...I don't know.” Regulus held out his hands and shrugged. “You'd have to ask Daphne that.”
As if summoned by her very name, the blonde in question rounded the corner with a large coat in her hands. “Ask Daphne what?” She smiled between Sirius and James, then held up the coat towards Regulus. “I don't know, this one may be too long.”
“I was just asking what was wrong with the coat he has.” Sirius leaned around the blonde and frowned at her choice.
“The coat he's wearing is fine, but he needs something nicer for the holiday.” She shook her head and laid her selection over her arm. “This one won't do. I'll be right back.” She laid her hand on Regulus' shoulder and pointed towards the scarf display he was standing near. “You should get a new one. The ends of yours are getting worn. Get something blue, my mum loves blue.” She kissed the boy's cheek and walked back off in the direction of the coats to select another.
Regulus looked up at his brother and held out his hand. “Not a damn word. She's just excited.” He sighed and picked up the nearest scarf with blue on it.
“What's her mum have to do with the scarf you wear? And why do you need a new coat just for the holiday?” Sirius snatched the scarf out of his brother's hands and threw it back on the display. “You're not actually going to stand there and let her dress you, are you? You don't even let mum pick out your clothes and you're a little pushover with her.”
“I've let you pick out my clothes before,” Regulus pointed out. “You didn't have a problem with it then.” He picked the scarf back up and twisted it around his hand. “And I don't really care if she wants me to wear a certain coat or scarf. I just want to make a good impression on her parents. They're taking me to Genoa with them on holiday.”
James scoffed unintentionally and took the blue scarf away from Regulus. “You're going away with her family? You've only been dating for a couple of months.”
“I know that but....” Regulus would have continued if he had a valid argument on the matter.
“Here, this one.” James lifted a light purple scarf with dark purple stripes from the side of the display and put it around the Slytherin's neck. “Blue doesn't suit you; this is better.” He kept his eyes on the scarf as he looped it around and properly secured it.
Regulus felt like his heart was going to pound right out of his chest and jump onto the floor. He brushed his fingers down the ends of the scarf, just barely grazing the side of the older boy's hand as he did so. “Purple?”
“It's my favourite colour.” James met the boy's eyes and flashed him a crooked smile. “And it goes better with your eyes than blue. Trust me, I'm an expert on these things.”
“You're an expert in scarf selection?” Regulus let out a nervous laugh and dropped his gaze to the boy's chest; looking up into his eyes was almost too much to handle.
“I'm an expert in everything, really.” James tugged at the ends of the scarf to straighten it out and leaned down so he could see Regulus' face. “What's wrong? You don't like purple, is that it?” he teased.
The younger boy chuckled and put his hands over James' wrists without thinking about it. “I have nothing against purple.” He could feel his face growing hotter with every word. “Only...well Daphne said I should get a blue one....”
James frowned and looked over the boy's shoulder just in time to see Daphne making her way back towards Regulus with a new coat in her arms. He waited until the blonde was within hearing distance to speak again. “To hell with what Daphne said.” He dropped his hands from the ends of Regulus' scarf, pulling out of the boy's light hold. “What does she know about picking out nice clothes?”
The girl froze in place and gave James a glare that would shrivel a weaker man. “I happen to know a lot about fashion, thank you very much.” She grabbed onto Regulus' sleeve and pulled him back away from James, her eyes never leaving the Gryffindor. “Come on, I want to show you something over here.” She glanced at the purple scarf around Regulus' neck and sneered at it. “That's not blue.”
Before Regulus could protest or even comment, he was dragged off into the back of the store by his irate girlfriend. James just huffed and stormed out of the store, ignoring Sirius as the boy slipped out after him. He started off towards the Shrieking Shack and searched his pockets for his cigarettes.
“Prongs, slow down, mate.” Sirius caught the other boy's arm and forced him to walk a little slower.
“Sorry, I'm pissed off.” James reluctantly made an effort to walk in step with Sirius. “She might as well put him on a damn leash. Did you see her? Oh he needs a new coat and a blue scarf. Bloody twit.”
Sirius kept his mouth closed as the two approached the Shrieking Shack. Most of the students and residents of Hogsmeade stayed far away from the building on account of thinking it was haunted. But since the Marauders knew the truth behind the shack, the place was their own private hiding ground. It was the perfect location to nip away for a smoke if they didn't want to get caught. James threw himself onto the ground behind the shack and cleared away a patch of snow so he would have a place to sit without getting a wet backside.
James put two cigarettes between his lips to light them, then passed one over to Sirius as the boy took a seat beside him. Normally, they would have simply shared one, but James was feeling more on edge than usual. In fact, he'd been smoking a lot more than usual for the last few months.
“James....” Sirius put one hand in his hair and frowned. “You trust me, right? You know that I wouldn't tell you something if I didn't believe it. I wouldn't lie to you about anything, especially something important. I need you to listen to me and just...believe what I have to say without arguing. Can you do that? For me?”
“Of course, I trust you. That's a bloody stupid question, Pads.”
“I know!” Sirius hung his head and took a long drag to calm his nerves. “James...I don't think you should be around my brother any more.”
James looked taken aback at the other boy's words. “Why?”
“He likes you. Alright?” Sirius rubbed at his face and kept his eyes on the ground while he spoke. “And I don't mean the way I like you, I mean he really likes you. I should have told you sooner but....”
“I don't understand.” James pulled off his glasses and wiped them on his shirt hem. “Are you trying to tell me that Regulus has a crush on me?”
“Exactly.” Sirius finally dared to look over at his friend and gave him a sad smile. “I've known for a while now and I should have told you before. I should have told you when I first started noticing it, but I thought maybe...maybe I was just imagining it and then it got worse but I kept telling myself it was just some kind of phase and he'd get over it and everything would be okay, but he's not getting over it, it's getting worse and you're making it worse and he's not going to be able to move past it if you keep on like this.”
James pushed his glasses back on and stayed silent. Several times, he tried to speak, but couldn't think of what to say. What was he supposed to say? What did Sirius want to hear? Did he want James to argue, to tell him that he was seeing things and it wasn't true? He took another drag off his cigarette and stared at the ground. He would tell Sirius that if it was what the boy wanted to hear, but the problem was, James would be lying. Hearing Sirius confirm what was already weighing on the back of his mind was the final straw. As much as James wanted to pretend like he wasn't aware of Regulus' feelings, he couldn't lie to himself any longer, not now that Sirius brought it to light.
“James...you can't date my brother.”
The boy gaped at his friend's words and started shaking his head. “Sirius, I'm not interested in dating your brother. That's...I'm not. He might have feelings for me that way, but I...don't? I don't.” James twisted his fingers around in his hair and kept slowly shaking his head. “Why would you even say something like that? Just because he has some kind of crush on me, that doesn't mean that I'm going to feel same way. Because I don't. I don't feel that way...I don't feel anything for him. He's just....”
“James.” Sirius gently pulled the boy's hand out of his hair and looked straight into his troubled hazel eyes. “You cannot...date...my brother.”
“Why do you keep saying that?” James jerked his hand out of the other boy's grip and turned away from him. “I just told you that I don't want to date him. I don't. Can't you hear me?”
“Oh I can hear you alright.” Sirius snorted and pushed the end of his cigarette into the snow to snuff it out. “I can hear you sitting there trying to convince me and yourself that you're not interested in Regulus. And it's not bloody working.”
“I'm in love with Lily! Has that little tidbit escaped your brain somehow? Or do you think I'm just putting on that I like her? Do you honestly think that I'm going to just stop being in love with her because your brother has a crush?”
“I never said that.” Sirius put up his hand and made a fist, trying his best to keep his temper in line. “I never said any of that. I know how you feel about Lily, I don't doubt it one bit, but James...I'm not stupid. I can see the way you act around him. It's worse than with Lily because he actually responds to it. You smile at him and you touch him and -”
“Oh, is that all? Well I smile at you! I touch you all the time, does that mean I'm in love with you too?” James got to his feet and patted the dirt off his backside. “This is mental, Padfoot, and I'm not going to listen to another minute of it.”
“You're going to listen!” Sirius jumped up and grabbed his friend by the shoulders. “But first, you're going to stop acting like I'm not justified in everything I'm saying.”
“I'm not? So it must all be in my imagination, then huh? Is that it?” Sirius bared his teeth at his stubborn friend and took a step away to restrain himself. He knew how bad his temper could get and the last thing he would ever want would be to have an actual fight with his best friend. “I am not blind, James. I know you. I know you. I would not be standing here saying these things if I didn't believe wholeheartedly that it was true. You can stand here and lie to yourself all day long, but you cannot lie to me.”
“I'm not gay.” James tried to step around his friend, but Sirius blocked his path. “Are you even listening to me? I am in love with Lily. I do not have those kinds of feelings for your brother.”
“I never said that you were gay, James. And I know how you feel about Lily.”
“Then why are you saying this? Why are you...?” He shook his head and tried once more to walk away.
Sirius blocked James' way again and put his hand up. “Just because you're in love with Lily, that doesn't mean you can't have...feelings for someone else. It happens all the time, and no one could blame you for looking elsewhere. She practically spits on every request you make. And Regulus...well he's not exactly telling you to get lost, now is he?”
“You're doing my head in right now, Padfoot. You're standing here telling me that you know I'm in love with Lily and you know that I'm not gay, but then you're saying that you think I have some sort of crush on your little brother and it doesn't – it doesn't....”
“I don't know, James! I mean maybe it's possible to like girls and guys at the same time, I don't know, the only thing I do know is that where my brother is concerned, you are getting pulled in. You're letting him get inside your head with his Quidditch talk and his flirting and blushing and you...you are egging it on. You are making it worse.”
“I'm being nice to him because he's your brother.”
“No! No, you used to be nice to him because he was my brother, but now....” Sirius shook his head and turned his back on James.
James put his hand over his mouth and kicked at the dirt. “What do you want from me? What is the bloody point in all of this?”
“What do I want?” Sirius rounded back on James and stared at the boy in shock. “I want you to be honest with me! That is the bloody point. But apparently you can't confide in me anymore.”
“No, don't you dare make this about me not – not trusting you. This is not about you.”
“Then what is it? You used to tell me everything and now you're standing here lying to me!”
“I am not gay, Sirius!” James' face flushed with red and his hands curled into fists.
“But you like my brother! Tell. Me. The. Truth.”
“Fine!” James' hands started shaking and his eyes glossed over. “You want the bloody truth? You're right! You're completely right. I...like...him. And I know I'm not supposed to, but I can't help it. I feel like I'm losing my damn mind because I keep telling myself to stop but it won't stop! It won't! And I can't -” The boy's words caught in his throat and he dragged his hands back through his hair. “I can't do this.” The tears he was desperately trying to hold back threatened his eyes and James dropped back onto the ground. He buried his head between his knees and clasped his hands behind his neck.
Sirius reached towards his friend, but recoiled his hand when the boy sat down. “James, I...I'm sorry.” He hugged his arms around his stomach and lowered himself onto the ground beside him. “There's nothing wrong with it. Liking other boys...I don't think there's anything wrong with it. And Remus and Peter, they wou-”
“Don't you dare tell them!” James looked up with wide eyes. “I swear, if you tell them -”
“I won't!” Sirius held up his hands and shook his head. “I promise.”
“Can we just forget all about this? Please?” James pulled off his glasses and wiped away the faint traces of tears that his lashes had streaked across his lenses. He sniffled loudly and let out a nervous, broken laugh. “I feel like an idiot. I never cry.”
“I think it's excusable right now.” Sirius put his hand on James' back and pulled the boy closer for a side hug. “You're my best friend, James, and I didn't mean to be so hard on you, but I....”
“I know. You just don't want me dating your brother, you made that perfectly clear.” He slid his glasses back on and gave Sirius a tight smile. “I understand though. I act like the things that Lily tells me just bounce right off, but I hear her. I'm...immature and cruel and I don't respect -”
“James stop.” Sirius held up his hand. “You think I don't want you with Regulus because there's something wrong with you?” He almost laughed at the idea. “You've never been more wrong. If things were different I wouldn't have any problem with you two being together, but...” he licked his lips and tried to arrange his thoughts “...do you know what would happen to him if people found out? Our parents aren't like yours; they wouldn't understand, they wouldn't allow it. Not everyone is so accepting of it. I've seen the kind of trouble that people get into for being....”
“For being gay?”
Sirius just nodded and rubbed his hand over the back of his neck. “If anything ever happened to him, I couldn't live with myself. He isn't stupid, but sometimes I think he's so...naïve that he's going to get himself into serious trouble.”
“I think he's a lot smarter than you give him credit for. And a lot stronger.” James twisted his lips and pulled up his sleeve to check his watch. “We're late. We shoulda met Remus and Peter fifteen minutes ago.” The boy climbed to his feet and helped Sirius off the ground too. “Let's just put this all behind us, okay? Regardless of how Regulus feels, regardless of how...confused that I feel, it doesn't change the way things are. I have Lily -”
“- that's a bit presumptuous -”
“- and he has a beautiful girlfriend -”
“-who you are insanely jealous of.”
James punched Sirius in the shoulder and gave him a stern look. “Put a lid on it. Let's go before the guys come looking for us.”
Sirius rubbed at his shoulder and laughed as he followed James back into the village. The two headed into the Three Broomsticks and spotted Remus and Peter at a back table, waiting. After getting themselves some butterbeer, they joined the remaining Marauders.
“How did the dates go?” James dropped into the seat beside Peter and gave the boy a worried look. “I have a feeling not well. You both look in a foul mood.”
“Well the dates went fine at first.” Remus scooted over to let Sirius sit down and pushed away his half-finished drink. “And when I say at first, I mean the first five minutes or so.”
“Uh oh is right.” Peter frowned. “Then they started asking the strangest questions.”
“What kind of candy does Sirius like?” Remus continued, using a slightly higher tone to mimic the girls. “And what is Sirius' favourite colour?”
“Then there was does Sirius like girls who wear their hair up...or down?”
“And after about ten minutes, they got to the prize! Do you think Sirius would go out with our sister?”
“Whoa, wait?” Sirius chuckled into his butterbeer and looked between Remus and Peter, sure they were joking. “Those two asked you out so they could ask you questions about me?” When both boys nodded sadly, he slunk into his seat and shook his head. “So their sister wants to go out with me?” Peter and Remus nodded simultaneously. “Well which sister? I can't tell them apart to save my life.”
“Which one is that?”
“Does it really matter?”
“No, I guess it doesn't.” Sirius laughed and took a long drink. “So you guys said up right? Because I can't stand when a girl has her hair all in her face and it gets in the way and – What?” He balked under the angry stares of the other three Marauders and held up his hands in surrender. “Alright, sorry. What I meant to say was that they are a couple of twits for playing you guys that way.”
“That's better,” James snapped.
And the Marauders put aside thoughts of the Moore triplets to enjoy the rest of their day in Hogsmeade.
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