GRYFFINDOR TOWER

One month after Snape is rescued from the Shrieking Shack

"You're back." The words are flat and neutral yet, and the taller boy squirms slightly as Remus Lupin examines him, arms crossed over his slim chest. He looks pale, his cheekbones are jutting, and his lips, as they always do just before the full moon, seem redder than usual, and slightly stretched over his teeth.

"Yes," Sirius says, not meeting his eyes. "Poppy says I'll be fine. That I'll still be able to have children, even.' That last is obviously an attempt at weak humour.

"How nice for you," Lupin says flatly again. "That makes one of us, then." Across the room, selecting textbooks from his small shelf for the day ahead, James Potter winces, but says nothing.

"I am sorry," Sirius say, still not meeting his eyes. Remus nods.

"I know," he says, and Sirius relaxes with an almost audible whoosh, and that familiar cocky grin begins to blossom, but only for a moment before the smaller boy reaches out with his next words and knocks it right off his face.

"I want you to apologize to Snape.'

"Wha…" He pales so fast and hard he nearly faints. "But… Moony…"

"My name is Remus."

"Why should I apologize to him?' Sirius says nastily, with an obvious and blustering attempt to recover himself. "He deserved it.'

"As much as I did," Remus agrees. James sighs.

"Siri…"

"Would you do it?' Sirius demands. James shrugs.

"If I fucked up as badly as you did," he says simply, "Yeah. I would. For the specific instance, anyway. He's a greasy sniveling git, Padfoot, but you were channeling every one of your ancestral forebears with that one. Well enough to make Moldypants himself proud, and that's not a medal I'd want hanging from my antlers.'

"What? Prongs…"

"Take it or leave it," Remus says indifferently, and turns to load up his bag. He can almost feel the heat of the narrowed, pouting gaze between his shoulder blades.

"Define 'apologize'," the other boy says sulkily, finally.

"To apologize: to express active recognition, regret and remorse for one's truly thoughtless, shit-brained, potentially murderous actions," the werewolf recited, without turning around. "Though, given that… Has it occurred to you yet, Sirius, that if Snape had opened that door that night, that there would be three deaths for you to apologize for?'"

"Huh?'

"The passage isn't big enough to contain Prongs. It is, however, big enough to contain me, no matter my form. And James was right behind Snape. Right behind him, with his great greasy arse in his face, and no way around into the Shack itself. Bad as he smells, and as undeniably tasty a morsel as James is, Moony unchained would have spit him up, chewed him out, and gone right for our mutual best friend's sweet, edible…"

Remus turns, and he and James both watch as Sirius bolts for the loo, streams of vomit trailing behind him. James banishes it almost negligently, and retrieves his Charms text, shoving it into his bag.

"I probably wouldn't have attacked you," Remus says to James. "For the record. I'd have busy choking on Snivelly's nose and coughing up hairballs, and it would have given you time to back out and transform."

"Good to know. And… Lovely imagery there, Moony, old man. Almost as lovely as my sweet, edible…"

'Hey guys." Peter's head appears around the door, hair soggy and lank from the showers. The little rat's cursory acquaintance with soap and water, James reflects, isn't so much a nod to the obvious, but to the fact that Remus, once puberty had hit with a vengeance and Peter's habitual poor hygiene had caught up with him (and everyone else), had, after due consultation with his room-mates, ruthlessly employed a generalized 'poor me, my nose is super-sensitive and if you boys don't shower twice a day, I will puke in your beds to remind you' to encourage him along there. Really, it was a positively Slytherin solution. "Ready to go? I'm starving.'

"I am." Remus shoulders his laden bag, and smiles sweetly at the boy. "Think they'll have sausage at breakfast today, Pete? I'm siriusly in the mood for something juicy and meaty."

The two trail off, chatting. James watches them go as Sirius returns, wiping his mouth.

"I'm sorry, Prongs," he says.

"Now that you've been made aware of the full and potential consequences of your actions, eh?' James examines him, then offers him a small, tight smile. "I know this is rich coming from me, Padfoot, but do you have to be quite so much of a Gryffindor?"

"What's that supposed to mean?'

'It means that however red and gold your blood, and however much you disdain the idea of thinking before you act… You're still allowed to ponder the results of your actions in retrospect, and file them away for future reference."

"I didn't think…"

"Of course you didn't. You never do." He shouldered his own bag. "You should start. I intend to. Who knows, with enough practice, it might even get me that date with Evans."

"Do you hate me now?' Sirius' voice is small.

"No. We're brothers. That being said… I don't want us to end up like you and your actual brother, and the full moon's in four days besides. If you want to join us, I think you know what you have to do."

"But I don't want to apologize to him! And why should I? Moony literally busted my balls on his behalf, and nobody else remembers, but I know damned well he does."

"Oh?"

"Yeah. Six days in the hospital, and every single meal involved some form of meatballs with red sauce. Little meatballs. Like, pea-sized meatballs. Someone had to have had a conversation with the house-elves to pull that one off: someone who still can recall what happened, and Dumbles is pissed at me, sure, but he's not that petty."

"Oh, I don't know about that." James can't help but laugh though. "Really? Meatballs with red sauce? That's hilarious. If I didn't hate his guts so much, I'd actually congratulate him on that one."

"You would not."

"No," James admits "Probably not. Suck it up, Padfoot. Moony's a sweet guy, but you're not Alpha anymore, and he's given you an order. See it through, and then we can all move on."

"I never was Alpha. You were. Are, or has that changed?'

"Everything's changed, Padfoot," James Potter says quietly. "Everything has to, if he's ever going to trust any of us ever again."

"Why wouldn't he trust you? You saved the greasy git!"

"I did," James concedes. "And you might want to think about that. He thinks I went in there to save Snape and you. It never even occurred to him that I might have gone in there to save him as well.'

"That's retarded." There is a pause. "Did you?'

"He wasn't on the top of my immediate priority list, no," James says. "Which, coupled with the fact that he didn't make your list at all, is as good as saying that all of our reassurances for the last four years on the fact that we don't give a shit that he's a were mean absolutely nothing when it comes right down to it, unless, of course, in your instance, someone you hate needs disposing of. You told him he's a thing, just like the rest of the world does, and my reactions confirmed that for him."

"But that's not what we believe at all!"

"No. It's not. And now you have to prove to him that you don't think Snivelly is just a thing. Or convince him that you don't, anyway, and given the extreme effort that would take, you might as well just save yourself the time and go with sincerity straight up.'

"What about you?"

"I went after him, didn't I?"

"Come on, Prongsie. You wouldn't give a great flaming shit if the arse got bitten by a werewolf. You just didn't want it to be by our werewolf."

"The guy's already been bitten by a snake, Padfoot," James suddenly looks tired, and much older than his years. "And if he turned… Can you imagine how that snake would use the fact? A wizard of Snape's talents and capacity for hate, with wereblood as well? He'd make Fenrir Grayback look like a doe-eyed puppy, and every death, every person bitten afterwards… would be the Marauder's gift to the world. They'd be our children, those people: broken and maimed, the product of our hate and pain, and why the hell do you think he assigned Snape the balls anyway, and not the jaw?"

Sirius sinks onto the bed.

"I'm not good with subtlety," he mutters. "He knows that." He looks up. "Wait. You don't think he sent the meatballs, did you?'

"Could be," James conceded. "Could very well be. The house-elves are very fond of him, and I don't think memory charms work on them besides."

'So first he crushes my balls and then he makes me eat them? Symbolically speaking? Urrrghhhhh!" He gagged. A small chime sounded.

"Come on," James says. "We're going to be late.' He adjusts his bag. Sirius slinks to his feet.

"I'm not," he says. "Doing it in front of people. He never said that I have to do it in front of people, and if you make the suggestion, you'll be eating venison steak for the next year, understand?'

James just laughs.