A couple of days before going back to school Lily asked how things were going with James and I dismissively said something like ‘great’ and quickly changed topic. I told myself it was because it would be insensitive to talk to her about it while she was grieving her broken relationship but the annoying voice in my head snickered at me. I had to shut that voice down for good.
Lily had started feeling much better after the first week and by the time we were back at King’s Cross she was completely over Cal and ready to meet someone new.
The Marauders, as I now called them in the privacy of my own mind, had stayed at school over the holiday and I could not wait to see them. I had missed them. Alice had stayed with them. Well, scratch that, she had stayed with Remus. I did not want to know the things those two had gotten up to in our empty bedroom.
I jumped out of the carriage and helped Lily, who was much more delicate than I was, get off too. It took some effort for us shorties. Last term of sixth year. I couldn’t believe how quickly this year was going. I didn’t have much time to dwell on it, though. We made our way to the Great Hall and found Alice sat at the table by herself.
“Hello!” Lily said cheerfully.
“Hi Alice, we missed you” I added, sitting next to her. She smiled warmly at us.
“Go on, Jo. I know you’re dying to ask”
“Where are they?” she knew me so well. I hadn’t been able to refrain from scanning the hall a few times already.
“Prank” she whispered.
“Ooh, and we’re safe here?”
“It’s a Slytherin-only prank” she informed us. As if on cue, we heard a big commotion and saw people jumping, screaming and cursing at the Slytherin table. I shook my head and smiled.
“James told me to tell you after the prank he’d be waiting for you” Alice said.
“He said, and I quote, ‘our special room’” Lily started giggling at that.
“That is so cute you guys” she said.
“Do you actually know where he means?” Alice checked.
I nodded and stood up. “I’ll see you guys in our room” I waved goodbye and went to meet James.
I realized as I made my way to the room that I was a bit nervous. I had missed James, a lot. But I hadn’t missed him as much as I thought I would. Individually, I mean. I had missed all of them. ‘You missed Sirius individually’ said the annoying voice in my head. I scoffed and ignored it, as per usual. James and I had been dating for over two months and things had been going well, much better after he let me in on their map secret and the whole Cal thing, but over the past two weeks I’d found myself wondering with some degree of disappointment if this was it. I kept hoping to feel something more even though I didn’t know what it was I was looking for.
Let me explain, I had read enough novels and listened to enough songs to have a romanticized idea of what love was supposed to feel like. I was either not in love with James, or people had greatly exaggerated the feeling. I didn’t have a problem with not being in love with James yet. I thought it was probably something that took time. I had a problem with having doubts, and with the fact that I didn’t know if they were legit. It was starting to freak me out. I also had a problem not knowing how James felt. I didn’t want him to be more into me than I was into him, it wasn’t fair and he didn’t deserve it. He didn’t deserve my doubts. I wanted us both to be equal. I, however, did not know what to do to find out. If I asked him, he could take it the wrong way.
Lost in thoughts, I didn’t realize I had been standing outside the room for a little while, never going in. Shaking my head to free it of silly thoughts, I pushed the door open.
“Hello” he hurried to the door as soon as I walked in. He looked so hot and handsome standing there waiting for me. What was wrong with me? Any girl in Hogwarts would be lucky to have him. Perhaps, if we get closer my doubts will dissipate, I thought.
“Had a good holiday?” I asked him when we sat together.
“I did, you? How’s Lily?”
“Much better, ready to meet someone new” I said. I thought that a funny look crossed his eyes, but it was gone so quickly I feared I had imagined it.
“Good for her. I’m glad she has you as a friend” he brushed a strand of hair away from my face and I kissed him again.
We didn’t talk anymore. I thought perhaps getting closer to James was what I needed, that perhaps crossing that last line would finally turn our relationship from good to great, to that all-consuming feeling I was looking for. So, we kept kissing, more and more urgently, and our clothes started to slowly come off. After a while, we were down to our underwear and breathing raggedly. I was nervous, but also excited. I felt like this was a good idea – if it worked, and James became my epic, it would erase all doubts. And even if it didn’t, who better to do this for the first time with than a best friend? It was a win-win, and I was sure and ready. He looked straight into my eyes.
“Are you sure?” he asked me, searching my eyes for confirmation that he could keep going.
“Yes. Are you?”
There was something quite special about knowing you were someone’s first time the same way they were yours. It wasn’t mind blowing, but I wasn’t expecting it to be. Neither of us knew very well what we were doing, but we were two friends who felt comfortable with each other so there was no embarrassment. When we were done, we lay there together in comfortable silence for a long time.
Prongs hadn’t been back in ages. I wondered what he was doing, then remembered he was with Jocelyn after two weeks apart and wished I hadn’t wondered. Not for the first time, my fists curled and my blood boiled at the thought. I hated myself for it, but I was almost permanently angry at Prongs deep inside. I felt I was doing a reasonable job at suppressing these feelings, but it made life difficult.
I was also finding it harder and harder to deal with the thoughts of Jocelyn that assaulted me at random. One minute I’d be planning an epic prank with the boys, the next I’d be remembering the time we opened her room door at her house in London to find her in her bra (what a sight!). One minute we’d be playing explosive snap, the next I was thinking about us falling over in my room and how close I’d been to her (way, way too close). It was excruciating and I didn’t know what to do about it.
Since the Hufflepuff game I had spent hours obsessively watching her on the map, even if it was late at night and her dot was immobile in her room, sleeping next to Alice and Lily. I had gone to watch over her every single time she had practiced her animagus transformation. I had even convinced the others to let her into the marauders gang just to impress her and make her happy. I had devised new moves with the bat that were difficult on purpose so that she’d need me to help her perfect it as an excuse to be close to her.
And, hardest of all I found to deal with her, with all of her, her glorious, beautiful self. I caught myself thinking about the way her chocolate hair cascaded down her back, or the way her blue eyes shone with mischief, or intelligence, or joy. I knew by heart the exact shape of her lips, and had even noticed small things like the way she pursed them right before she hit the bludger with a bat or how she always looked up when she had to think hard about something. I wondered if James knew these things, and then I almost immediately felt the turmoil of my guilt battling with frustration. Of course he did, I told myself, because it was impossible to spend time with her and not know. And he is the one who gets to be with her all the time.
I was fully aware of the fact that I should not be noticing her in this way, even less so thinking about her as often as I was. I knew very well this meant I was in trouble. She was Prongs’ girlfriend, for crying out loud. I did not want to have these thoughts. I didn’t want to feel this… this need, that I had for her.
The whole thing was confusing and distressing. I had convinced myself for a long time that it was all just due to my ego being wounded at her indifference towards me. I had gone on a crazy hook up spree to try and get it (her) out of my system but the more girls I took to bed the more I thought of her. It got to a point where I had a weird vision when I actually imagined for a second it was Jocelyn I was with, not some random Hufflepuff chick. I didn’t know what to do to stop thinking about her. I didn’t know what it meant. Did I fancy her? Was I just, as I wanted to think, obsessed over the fact she’d never paid me attention in that way? Or was this something else?
The past two weeks had been easy, but I had woken up today knowing she was coming back and I’d spent half the day excited and half the day terrified at the thought of seeing her again. Now that I knew she was off somewhere doing Godric knows what with Prongs I was in agony. I had hidden the map under Moony’s bed in an attempt at preventing myself from checking it. I did not want to see them together.
A part of me selfishly wondered if Prongs wouldn’t just go back to obsessing over Red now that she was available. But, the more reasonable part of me knew that even if that was the case, I could never, ever touch Jocelyn. It was bro code. It was marauder code, and it was sacred. We didn’t have many rules, but the ones we had were precious and they were what had kept us close friends through thick and thin. We trusted each other with our lives (quite literally, I might add). Jo was out of bounds forevermore. The thought made me want to punch the wall. As I was debating just how bad doing exactly that would be, Prongs came back.
“Didn’t think you’d be awake” he said when he saw me sitting up on my bed.
“I just came back too” I lied. He looked at me funny but didn’t push it.
“Tell me it wasn’t Iris”
“What? No way. Olivia” I hoped that was her name, I hadn’t even spoken to the girl in a month, but who cared.
“Good for you man” Prongs said. He took off his clothes and put on his pajamas.
“So, how’s Jo? Good holiday?” I asked him casually.
“Yeah, she said so. Not sure what they got up to, though. I’ll ask tomorrow”
“We didn’t... ehm... we didn’t do much talking” he smiled goofily, blushed lightly and I knew. It felt like I had been hit by a truck. Oddly, it hurt way more than breaking every bone in my body. I had known this would happen, Prongs had confided in us he thought Jocelyn was going to be his first, but I didn’t know until that moment I had been furiously holding on to the belief that he was wrong.
“Congratulations. You’re a man now” I sincerely hoped it sounded less aggressive to his ears than it did to mine. Luckily, he just smiled even more and went to bed.
Being back at Hogwarts was nice, but it felt a bit strange. Alice and Jo were both loved up with Remus and James and I felt a bit lonely at times. Not that I would ever tell them that, I didn’t want to make them feel guilty about spending time with their boyfriends. After all, it wasn’t their fault I had chosen a lying cheating bastard.
Being the only single one of my friends gave me a lot of free time to get ahead on my school work but also to pay attention to our strange group. If someone had told me this time last year the girls and I would be spending most of our time (and dating) Potter and his group of friends I would have sent them straight to St. Mungos’ psychiatric ward. Yet, here we were. Not only were we ‘hanging out’ but I actually considered them all close friends.
The first day of school after the Easter holiday, Jocelyn was, once again, taking forever to get ready.
“Jo! I am starving and need breakfast before we head to class” I complained.
“I am coming! Melin, woman, have some pity for those of us who are not morning people” she moaned.
“I am going to have a word with James” I said matter of factly. “He shouldn’t be keeping you up until so late, you clearly can’t handle it”
“He wasn’t keeping me up” she said suggestively.
“Oh my god! Really?” Alice gasped. She was even less of a morning person than Jo, but this was good gossip.
“Why didn’t you say anything when you came back?” I asked, sitting on her bed. She blushed.
“I didn’t want to make a huge deal out of it… you know, because of Cal and everything” she shrugged.
“Oh, come on. Cal doesn’t matter anymore. I refuse to be left out of these things because the idiot decided I wasn’t enough for him. It’s his loss anyway” I said.
“True that” Alice chimed in.
“Alright, well, there isn’t that much to tell… I mean… I met James last night, we had missed each other, we were kissing and then, well, it happened. It was quite cute” she said with a smile.
“And how do you feel?” I asked her.
“I’m happy it happened. He made it super comfortable, there was zero awkwardness” she replied. “Now, let’s go to breakfast you said you were starving”
We nodded and followed her out of the room. I couldn’t help but think that something was off. Jo seemed perfectly happy, but she didn’t. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me, but I had long ago learnt to trust my gut, even when I didn’t know what it was telling me.
“Morning!” Remus greeted us as soon as we arrived in the common room. Alice gave him a quick kiss.
“You didn’t have to wait for us” she said, waving hello to the other three.
“We wanted to” James said kissing Jo as she approached him. Sirius looked away briefly.
“Let’s go, I am starving you know?” I added, heading for the portrait. Peter fell into step beside me, but we didn’t talk. I loved that it was always like this, we could walk in comfortable silence with the guys.
I glanced behind me quickly as we turned a corner and saw that Jo was, as usual, walking between James and Sirius. She was thinking about something, her face sporting a slight frown. James was walking with his signature swagger, a grin on his face. Sirius, however, looked pained. He kept stealing glances at Jo, then frowning. The guy was in so much trouble, I thought.
It occurred to me that Sirius really was the most loyal of friends. Everyone knew there wasn’t a single girl who had ever resisted Sirius. As far as I knew, no girl even wanted to resist Sirius. Even I wasn’t immune to his good looks. Yet, because of James’ fixation with me he had never even looked my way. And now, despite him clearly wanting Jo quite badly, possibly even loving her, he respected his friend. I could see it pained him, and I worried the others would notice it soon, but it was obvious he was trying his hardest and I thought that was very noble of him. It made me like him a lot more. It also made me wonder if he could have made Jo happier than James did. James and Jo worked well together, but I knew she had some doubts that she wasn’t sharing with us.
I glanced at Sirius again as we sat on the breakfast table. He was joking with James, his face a mask of mischief and his usual arrogance until his eyes darted towards Jo again and the mask fell for a second to show his longing and hopelessness. It lasted but a moment before he composed himself again. I looked at James, James whom I had grown used to always being there for me, waiting for me, even if I didn’t want him. I was sure Sirius had assumed the same about him. That he would never give up, that he would never go after another girl. Unfortunately, the mistake had cost Sirius a lot more than it had cost me. After all, I never intended to give James a chance…
“You ready?” I asked Jo as she appeared at the bottom of the girls’ staircase.
“I am” she grabbed my hand casually and pulled me towards the portrait hole. “I haven’t been on a broom in ages, Lily isn’t too fond of flying so I didn’t train during Easter” she stopped and turned on herself all of a sudden, coming very close to me. She looked into my eyes with a solemn, hard look and said, “do not tell James.”
“Tell him what?” I asked innocently. She smiled so brightly it almost hurt me. She was standing close, so, so close it was torture. Of course, she was totally oblivious to this.
“You’re the best” she said, turning and resuming our walk again. My heart was beating violently, and I worried she might be able to hear it.
“So, any ideas for the Ravenclaw match?” I asked trying to re-focus on Quidditch.
“I have an idea, but I kind of want to save it for the Slytherins next year” she said.
“We could always just play a normal game against Ravenclaw. We’ve pretty much won the cup already anyway” I agreed.
“Yeah, we’re still the best beater team in the school without crazy stunts” she winked at me and I laughed. I put my arm over her shoulders as we walked across the Entrance Hall.
“I’m so glad James found you” I said.
“You found me, not James” she replied offhandedly.
“What do you mean?”
“James asked me to try out because he knew I was a good flyer, he remembered it from when we were kids. But you convinced him to make me a beater not a seeker” she beamed at me. “You knew we were going to be awesome together even before we were friends”
“I might have had a feeling…” I said casually. Inside, I was screaming at the top of my lungs that yes, we are and would always be awesome together, even if my together and her together weren’t the same.
“I am famished, let’s go to dinner” Jo said as soon as she landed. We’d been training for hours, lost in the game and each other’s company.
“Bad news Jo, dinner ended about half an hour ago” I informed her. She groaned.
“I will not survive the night” she said dramatically.
“Well, I am always happy to assist a damsel in distress” I winked at her. “I’m sure the elves in the kitchens will be happy to prepare some dinner”
“I had forgotten about the kitchens!” she clapped her hands excitedly. “Lead the way, my knight in shining armor”
“Calm down, you’ll wet yourself” I joked. She made an indignant face at me.
“How dare you! I am a lady, I would never” she pretended to slap me, but I caught her hand with mine, noticing they were roughed up after the intense training.
“Ladies don’t have callused hands” I teased.
“James doesn’t seem to mind” she wiggled her eyebrows at me.
“Too much information” I muttered, dropping her hand and picking up our brooms. I walked inside to put them away without another word. I needed a second to recover.
It was always like that. We’d be teasing each other, joking around, having a great time and then, one way or another, I’d be reminded that she was Prongs’. It felt like a punch in the gut every single time.
“Hey, everything okay?” she asked. I hadn’t noticed her walking in after me. “You forgot the bats” she handed them to me.
“Sorry” I picked them up and put them in the locker. “Let’s go get some food”
“You didn’t reply. You okay? You look troubled” she said, putting my arm around her shoulders when I didn’t do it myself.
“Yeah, yeah, just really hungry. You know I get moody”
“Ah, Sirius is hangry!” she said, laughing lightly. “Good thing I’m around or else you’d murder somebody”
“As if you could stop me” I joked.
“I am tiny but mighty” she replied.
“That you are” I agreed. She grinned at me.
“I could totally calm you down. Remember that time when Christian Rosier and his friends started a fight with Remus? If it weren’t for me, you’d still be in detention”
“Mmm… that was a one off”
“What about right before Christmas when you got into a fist fight with Amycus Carrow because he offended my honour?”
“That doesn’t count! I was defending you, you insisted it wasn’t worth it, so I dropped it”
“I had to physically restrain you. With the help of James, I’ll admit my might only gets me so far. You’re a strong man” she said pointedly. I felt absurdly giddy at the fact she called me a man.
“You make me sound like I have anger management issues”
“Not at all. The Slytherins deserve everything they get. All I’m saying is that I have the Sirius magic touch. You know it, and so do I” she grinned.
“Maybe you do” I conceded. If only she knew just how much.
“I like it, you know?” she said in a small voice. I glanced at her sideways but before I could ask, we arrived at the pear painting.
After we asked the house elves for some food, we settled at one of the small side tables. Jo was sipping a tea and making funny faces.
“Why did you order tea? You don’t even like tea” I said.
“I wanted to sip on something, and Firewhiskey on a Tuesday didn’t seem like a good idea” she shrugged.
I laughed out loud before replying. “Yeah, I don’t think you want to have potions tomorrow with a hangover”
“Ugh, I don’t get why Lily likes it so much. It’s so boring” she complained.
“Sit with me tomorrow, you’ll find potions can be quite a lot of fun” I wiggled my eyebrows at her.
“If I get bored, you’ll owe me a bottle of firewhiskey” she demanded.
I always got excited before potions. It was my favourite lesson of all and one where I was actually better than most people. I wasn’t competitive, but it was nice to know I wasn’t completely useless at magic. Lily and Jo spent a lot of time helping me so I didn’t fall behind the class, and I loved them for it, but I liked that they didn’t need to assist me when it came to brewing. If anything, I sometimes helped Jo.
“I’m going to sit with Sirius today” she said casually as we walked out of the dining hall.
“Why?” Lily asked.
“Dare” she smiled mischievously.
“This doesn’t sound good at all” I said. Lily nodded.
“We won’t get in trouble, don’t worry”
“You and Sirius are trouble” I pointed out.
“So you keep saying” she shrugged. I gave Lily a look and she nodded lightly.
We made our way to our table and saw Jo take a place next to Sirius. Slughorn didn’t seem to mind we were in pairs. We gathered our ingredients and as we got to work, I whispered to Lily.
“I am worried about Jo”
“I know what you are thinking, but we can’t tell her” she said.
“No buts Alice, she needs to realise it on her own”
“It’s not really fair on James, is it?” I asked. Lily glanced towards him quickly.
“I think he knows. Deep down, he knows” she replied.
“I really don’t think so” I said.
“How could he not? It is kind of obvious to everyone but Jo herself” she insisted.
“Lily, Jo was closed off from the rest of the world for five years. They know her now, the new Jo, the fun and outgoing and cocky Quidditch player. They don’t know the Jo we do. They can’t see the signs”
“I think… I don’t know… I have a feeling that James and Jo need to be together now. This relationship has been good for both of them. Even if it ends, eventually, they need each other right now”
“Well, James’ grown up. He looks after her, and is actually a very good boyfriend. He’s matured, and I think being with Jo has been a huge part of it. James needed a first girlfriend who would join in on pranks with him but keep him out of serious trouble. Someone who was just as cocky as he was, so he’d have to tone his own arrogance down” she bit her lip. I was shocked at how much she’d thought about this. “Jo needed someone gentle, someone who wasn’t a player. Someone who wasn’t a muggle”
I chuckled at that.
“Yeah, Jax wasn’t really a great boyfriend for her, was he?” it hit me right then. “Oh my God, Lily! Jax is like a Sirius clone. How did we not see it?”
“Alice, Jo had a crush on Sirius for ages. I thought you knew this” she said.
“Well yeah, in like fourth year, but she then started hating him and wouldn’t go within a two meter radius of him all of last year so I thought it was over”
“Oh, come on Alice. The only reason Jo hated Sirius was because he didn’t acknowledge she existed, and she fancied the crap out of him” Lily rolled her eyes in a very Jo-like fashion.
“Right, okay, well… what are we dealing with here, then?” I asked. Lily wasn’t the wisest and most perceptive of my friends for nothing.
“I think Jo really likes James, and James really likes Jo. They are good together, and we won’t meddle or say anything. I also think Jo still has lingering feelings for Sirius, but they will either go away on their own as their friendship strengthens or one day, she’ll realise she loves him and then she’ll break it off with James” Lily explained. “Either way, we say nothing, we do nothing. Jo needs to deal with this herself. Feelings are complicated when you are with one person, I don’t even want to imagine what it’s like to have them towards two people”
“They are best friends, Lily. Are you not worried about that detail?”
“Sirius and James are like brothers. It will be fine no matter what. I wouldn’t worry about that”
“I meant Jo and Sirius”
“What, as in something could happen?” I nodded. “Absolutely not. Jo would never cheat on James and Sirius would never hurt his brother. If anything, Jo will break up with James and explain. But as I said, it may never happen. They could just remain friends”
“If you say so…”
“Also, Alice… not a word to Remus. Promise me”
“I promise” and smiled at Lily.
I felt a bit sad, deep inside. I always thought Lily and James would end up together. ‘Maybe they will’ a little voice in my head said. I smiled to myself. Perhaps, they would. After all, no matter what Lily said, I knew real love when I saw it and Jo and James were just not it. James and Lily, yes. Jo and Sirius, hell yes. It was bound to happen. Eventually.
The last weekend of April gave us a nice respite with a spell of unusually warm weather, so I took Jo on a date to a small garden in Hogsmeade. We’d been spending way too much time with friends and way too little time on our own.
“This is nice” she said, sitting on the grass.
“I thought you’d like it” I sat next to her as she tilted her head back to enjoy the sunshine.
“I do. Living in Scotland gives me vitamin D deficiency, I’m sure of it”
“Just nod and smile” she teased. I laughed.
“You are a little devil” I moved so I could sit right behind her, and have her rest on my chest.
“And you like it” she said proudly.
“I do” I grinned even though she couldn’t see my face.
“I can feel you smiling” she said.
“That’s not physically possible”
“It is. I know you” she replied. “I’m your best friend, James, I know you too well”
“Don’t let Sirius hear that” I joked.
“Mmm… I can have two best friends” she said.
“I also have the boyfriend title; he might demand a second title to compensate”
“He’s my fellow beater, too. And the bane of my existence. Now he out-does you” she joked. I laughed.
“His ego will be satisfied then” I said.
She giggled for a bit, then we stayed in comfortable quiet.
“I am glad we’re friends now” she said all of a sudden. “I love hanging out with you and Sirius. And the others, too. But you two make life much better”
“Good. Because you’re not getting rid of me” she turned around and gave me a kiss. We stopped talking then.
The final quidditch match of the season was almost upon us. Practice had been intense as always but the weather had got much, much nicer so I had no complaints. Sirius and I had spent a lot of time working together too. Our synchronized work when he was guarding my broken hand side during the last game had given us some ideas to protect our most valuable players. At some point, James had insisted he wanted to watch our beater practices, arguing that he didn’t trust us not to get ourselves killed anymore. He joined the last three sessions we had before the Ravenclaw game.
When the day arrived, first weekend in May, I was very excited about the game because, unless things went very wrong for us, the quidditch cup was pretty much ours. Merlin, and all the powers to be, decided to gift us with a relatively injury and accident free game. The Ravenclaw seeker almost got the snitch but Cal, redeeming himself (slightly) for what he’d done to Lily, jumped off his broom and caught the snitch midair. Luckily for him, everyone was watching this time, so his fall was halted with ease and he was safely deposited on the floor.
If I thought the celebration after the eventful Hufflepuff game had been intense this was a whole other level. We had won the quidditch up, and every single student in Gryffindor was going wild. The common room had been turned into some sort of party zone and the fire whiskey was flowing freely. I was feeling particularly smug at my perfectly aimed bludger which had hit the Ravenclaw keeper in the stomach leaving the goalposts without defense for a while.
James was hoisting the cup and showing it to a bunch of people, so I made my way to the bar. Sirius was pouring himself a drink.
“I can’t believe we actually won” I told him.
“Sure you can. You are almost as cocky as I am” he said, smirking.
“With good reason. What do you have to say about my taking down the opposition’s keeper?” I flicked my hair and smiled at him.
“Brilliant” he tilted his glass towards me, and I clicked mine against it.
“We make a good team” I said. “Don’t let it get to your head, though”
“It’s all firewhiskey up there at the moment. No room for anything else” he joked.
“Sirius Black, are you drunk?” I feigned shock.
“Jocelyn Silverway, are you sober?” he gave me a pointed look.
“I think I might be” I leaned in towards him and whispered. “Help me”
“You’ve come to the right man” he said. “Follow me”
“Where are we going?”
“I want to show you something. Come on, we’ll back in no time”
We dashed out of the common room together and I followed him to a nearby passage we had used a few times when spying on Cal before the holiday. ‘Lumos’ Sirius said. We walked down the passage a bit and arrived at a small opening to the side of one of the walls.
“Tada!” he presented me with a bottle wrapped in brown paper. I took it and gasped.
“Where did you get this?”
“I can’t reveal my sources” he replied, smiling. “I had been saving it for a special occasion. I think winning the quidditch cup qualifies”
I sat down on the floor and he sat next to me as I opened the bottle of the exact same muggle whiskey we had drank at my place on New Year’s Eve. I took a swig out of the bottle and offered some to him. He took it.
“This is so good” I said after my third go. He nodded. The light of the wand made him look like he was a statue carved out of beautiful marble.
“You okay?” He asked me. I realized too late I had been staring.
“Yes, just lost in thought” I replied. I could see him smirking and it made me nervous.
“Want to share?” he asked then. Did I? I wasn’t even sure that it was I was thinking about. The past couple of weeks with James had been both the best but also the hardest of our relationship. When I wasn’t with him, kissing or touching, I would have doubts. I hated myself for it, James didn’t deserve my doubts. The worst part was I didn’t even know where they were coming from.
“Hey, whatever it is, you can tell me” I looked at Sirius again. I had forgotten he was waiting for an answer. He looked so handsome in the pale light, like a prince of shadows.
Suddenly, I felt claustrophobic. “Let’s get back to the party, I think I’m no longer sober”
“Sure” he looked disappointed but stood up and offered me a hand. I took it and stood up with him.
We had barely walked a few steps when Sirius grabbed my arm and pulled me to the side rather violently. I was going to demand an explanation, but he pressed himself against me and put his hand over my mouth.
“Slytherins” he whispered in my ear. My eyes opened wide and I nodded lightly to let him know I understood. He lowered his hand but stayed ultra-close to me.
“He’ll never, ever turn. No matter what Regulus says, it’s a lost cause. I don’t get why we should even check on what he’s doing” I recognized the voice as that of Alecto Carrow, a horrible bitch whom I hated with a passion.
Sirius had tense so much I could practically feel his muscles where his body was pressed against mine. My hand, resting on his chest, gave me insight into his heartbeat which was skyrocketing. I knew it pained him that Regulus was such a blood-purist and refused to talk to him, but I didn’t know it made him so angry.
“What about Potter?” said a voice I thought belonged to Rosier.
“Even less so than Black. Those two are too self-absorbed and stupid to understand the importance of what we’re working for” replied the Carrow girl.
Sirius was vibrating with anger, and I knew if he didn’t calm down soon we’d get in trouble. We didn’t have our wands, and we were a little past the ‘tipsy’ point.
“Sirius, look at me” I whispered as quietly as I could. He kept staring at the wall.
“Sirius, look at me. Please” I tried again. Nothing.
I put my hand on the side of his face and gently but firmly forced him to look towards me. His silver-grey eyes met mine and I prayed to Merlin that Alice’s theory we could communicate silently was true. I tried to convey with my eyes that I was here for him, that I had his back and that these people were not worth his anger.
“Jo…” he murmured, inching a little bit closer.
“I think there’s someone here” said Rosier.
I panicked. If they found us, we’d be in trouble. Sirius saw the fear in my eyes and put his arms around me, getting so close not a needle could have fit between us.
“I am going to pretend we’re hooking up. Don’t freak out” he whispered. He pushed me deeper into the shadows of the armours around us to hide me from view, and bent his head towards mine until we were almost touching. Then, he moved his hands, burying one in my hair and putting the other one up my shirt. I could feel it hovering over my skin but not touching it.
“Ah!” I felt a light on Sirius’ back and moved my hands over his shirt, hoping it’d make it more believable. “Oh, it’s just a random hookup” said the Carrow girl.
“Do you mind?” Sirius snapped at her, turning his face just a little bit.
“You’re such a man-whore, Black” she said, but fortunately, turned and walked away with Rosier.
“That was close” Sirius said, turning back towards me.
I couldn’t breathe. My heart was racing and my blood was boiling. All I could think of were Sirius’ hands and how painfully close to my skin they were. I was hyper aware of the smoothness of his hair, the shape of his lips, the smell of him.
“We need to get back,” he said after what felt like forever. When he finally moved away from me, I felt a wave of disappointment and relief so intense I felt a bit dizzy.
“Yes, I need a drink” I said. My voice sounded a bit hoarse and I blushed. He noticed and I was mortified.
“So do I” he said instead of teasing me. It occurred to me briefly that maybe Sirius was just as bothered by the whole episode as I was.
When we got back to the party, I saw James busy by the bar. Alice and Remus were, surprise (not), making out on an armchair and Lily was talking to Peter and his new girlfriend. Sirius and I joined James. I had drunk most of the bottle of muggle whiskey by now.
“Last one is yours” I purred, leaning close to Sirius and giving him the bottle.
“Are you drunk Jo?” James asked me, putting his arm around my waist and pulling me back slightly. In my extremely intoxicated state, free of all inhibitions and thoughts of consequences and still reeling from the incident with the Slytherins, I was having trouble taking my eyes off Sirius.
“I am” I said, giggling a little. “It’s his fault” I pointed at Sirius and my fingers grazed his shirt. He wasn’t standing very far at all, despite James’ efforts.
“Is it now?” Sirius replied. “I seem to recall you specifically asking for my assistance” he wiggled his eyebrows at me.
“Guilty!” I giggled again. James leaned in to whisper in my ear and I saw Sirius take the last big gulp and finish the whiskey bottle.
“Well, are you drunk drunk or tipsy drunk?” James asked me. I half turned to look at him.
“Are you planning on taking advantage of me?” I said, smiling wickedly at him.
“If you keep looking at me like that I just might” James replied, kissing me. I heard a loud noise, breaking glass and a yelp of pain, and broke the kiss, startled at the same time someone cursed loudly.
“FUCK” Sirius’ hand was bleeding.
“You okay mate?” James asked him, hurrying to help with his cut. I swayed a little and had to hold on to the table.
“Sorry, I broke the bottle by accident and cut myself” Sirius was telling James. I saw Lily looking at them with a concerned expression. What was that about?
The party was in full swing when I noticed James awkwardly trying to get rid of two adoring fourth year girls. I caught Remus’ eye and we both went to his rescue.
“There you are!” I said, putting my hand on his arm.
“Mate, we’ve been looking for you. Sorry ladies, the captain is needed at the bar” said Remus. We quickly made an exit and escorted James safely away from his fans.
“Thank you” he smiled at us. We reached the bar and he poured himself a drink. Then, quickly noticing I didn’t have one, he offered “What would you like, Lily?”
“I think a firewhiskey sounds good” I said.
If anyone had told me this time last year I would be friends with James Potter I would have punched them in face (maybe not, I would perhaps asked Jo to punch them in the face, but you get me). The change in him, and the other three boys, from fifth year to sixth year had been an impressive one. Sure, they still pulled pranks, and hexed people, but did so less often and more maturely. I also found that not being constantly harassed by him made James a nicer person to be around. When he wasn’t asphyxiating you, he was actually a great guy.
“Here you go” I took the drink from him and tilted it towards him.
“Awesome job, captain. You brought the cup home” he blushed and looked away quickly for a moment before regaining his composure.
“Thanks, Lily. It was a team effort, though”
“Are you alright mate?” Remus joked. “Has your ego finally deflated or do you have a fever?”
“Very funny Remus, hilarious” he rolled his eyes. I chuckled.
“I’ve been looking for you” Alice appeared at Remus’ side and he gave her a quick kiss.
“We’re toasting” I informed her.
“Ooh, can I have a firewhiskey too, please?” she asked James sweetly.
She was handed a glass and we repeated the toast to Gryffindor’s victory. After a while, Alice and Remus excused themselves and headed towards a secluded corner to make out. I swear to Merlin these two were all over each other at all times.
“Have you seen Jo?” James asked me. I realized that no, I hadn’t in a while. I quickly looked around and noticed with growing alarm that I couldn’t find Sirius either.
“No, not for a little while…” I said, trying to sound casual about it. “I’ll go ask Annie, I think they were talking earlier” James nodded, and I got lost in the crowd. Annie had no idea where Jo was, but as I was making my way back to James, I saw her and Sirius come back. Together.
I knew it wasn’t any of my business but I had been watching Sirius a little more closely. By now I knew for sure I wasn’t mistaken about his feelings for Jo. However, the more I paid attention to him the more I realized he hadn’t known how he felt on the day of the Hufflepuff match. He had begun to realize it slowly, and every day that went by I saw him struggle more and more as the magnitude of his predicament became clearer and clearer to him.
Jocelyn had absolutely no clue about how Sirius felt, despite the fact that she had lingering feelings for him (or so Alice and I thought, and we were often right about these things). James was oblivious to the whole thing or he was a very good actor. I was worried though. The only reason it hadn’t become obvious yet was because Sirius had only recently come to terms with his feelings. But as he became more aware of what was happening to him, it also became harder for him to lie to the world about it. I watched as his eyes narrowed and his grip tightened around the empty bottle he was holding when James kissed Jo rather passionately. When the glass exploded and he swore, I knew he needed help or it would be the end of his friendship with James.
After his wound was closed up, James took Jocelyn to bed. It was clear she was too drunk for anything else. I patiently waited it out until the last stragglers left the party before approaching Sirius. He had been sitting by the fireplace on his own for the past two hours.
“Mind if I join you?” he looked at me, confused.
“I’m not great company tonight” his eyes drifted back to the fire. I sat down anyway.
“I am not looking for company”
“Suit yourself” I checked one last time to make sure we were alone before talking to him. Sirius had hung his head between his shoulders and had his elbows on his bent knees.
“You need to get her out of your head” I said. He looked up at me.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about”
“You do. And, if you want to stay friends with her and with James, you need to stop thinking about her that way” I told him. He didn’t react.
“Sirius, I mean it. It is dangerous. You’re playing with fire, give it up” I insisted.
“You don’t think I’ve tried?” He snapped. I was a bit taken aback by his outburst. I thought it’d take more to crack him.
“Who the fuck do you think I am?” I wasn’t expecting this viciousness from him at all. I stared at him as we went on. “Of course I’ve tried. I have tried everything! She’s with James. She’s my brother’s. His, not mine.” I didn’t fail to notice the tormented look in his eyes as he said that last line. I reached for his hand, but he pulled it away quickly. “I would never even look at her if it was up to me. If I could stop myself.”
He stood up and started pacing. “I notice her. All the fucking time I notice her. No matter what I’m doing or where I’m looking, she’s there. She is always there, smiling, or laughing, or helping us plan a prank. She’s flying and the air is messing her hair and the sunlight catches it and it shines and the breath is knocked out of me. I don’t want to, but I know that she purses her perfect lips before she bats, and that she looks to the heavens when she’s stressed out and needs to think hard about something, as if an angel would come to her aid. Why would they? I bet the angels are fucking jealous of her. How could they not? She’s perfect. She’s glorious. She’s my fucking soul-mate and she is my brother’s girl”
“Sirius don’t!” but it was too late. He had punched the wall and blood was spilling but he didn’t seem to mind.
Then, defeated, he sat back down, put his face in his hands and groaned. “I don’t know what to do, Red. It’s killing me”
This was a lot worse than I thought. I was expecting him to be arrogant, to tell me he had slept with half the school surely going after one more girl wouldn’t make that big a difference. I even expected him to use James’ old crush on me as an excuse, somehow. But I was absolutely not expecting this.
“How did this happen, Sirius? You spent five years pretending you didn’t know her name”
“You knew I was pretending?”
“She might have believed you, because she’s Jocelyn, and she takes things at face value, but nobody else bought it. You are a bad liar” I told him. “We just thought you did out of spite. But I’m starting to think that was never it”
“Doesn’t matter, does it?”
“Why didn’t you tell James before they started going out?”
“Red, you know very well James hasn’t fancied anyone that wasn’t you for ages. I couldn’t exactly tell him not to go for the only girl he actually liked just because I thought I might fancy her a bit”
“Fancy her a bit?” I raised an eyebrow.
“Well, at that point I thought it was just… you know… that she’s hot. And that was that. I had no idea this was going to happen.”
“Do you regret it?”
“You are a bad liar, Sirius Black,” I sighed.
“Let’s hope James and Jocelyn never find out,” he shook his head and looked at the fire again. I didn’t know what else to say, so I just stayed there with him in silence.
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