A/N: This is for Season 4 Round 11 of the Quidditch League Fanfiction Competition. I'm Chaser 2 for the Caerphilly Catapults.
So, we chose our own prompts this round... sort of. We'd been told that we were choosing for our opponents, which is how I ended up with the spell: Carpe Retractum.
The other catch was that our fics had to open and close on the same word.
My optional prompts were 1. (dialogue) "I'm bored. Play with me!" 4. (quote) 'I can write the saddest poem of all tonight. I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.' – Pablo Neruda, and 9. (restriction) No using the letter 'w'
"Prongs? C'mon, Quidditch pitch. Remember? Got your broom?"
"Leave the lights off."
"Er… are you lying here in the dark because you like the ambience…?" Sirius leaned against the doorframe, folding his arms across his chest and staring at the silhouette of his best friend, lying on his bed in the Gryffindor seventh year dormitory.
"It's not funny," James groaned. "Don't joke."
"Oh, no, I'm not joking, you're genuinely being bizarre," Sirius replied brightly.
"Listen, I'm bored, so either you're going to come and play, or I'm going to sit in here until you start talking, or—"
"She dumped me."
Sirius straightened up. "Excuse me?"
"Lily. Ditched me. It's over."
"Like hell it is," Sirius scoffed. "More like the pair of you are having another one of your fights. Is Moony around? He can probably help out. He's good at talking to her—"
"It's not going to help. No one can help," James mumbled. He rolled onto his back and stared up at the canopy of his four-poster.
"Then here I am," said Sirius, going to sit on his bed, facing James. "So, did you get in a fight?"
James glared at him out of the corner of his eye. "You're going to sit here and have a chat about my relationship?"
"Since I'm sure you're not going to quit moaning until you tell somebody about you and Lily arguing—"
"It's not an argument, she—"
"She didn't ditch you," Sirius said impatiently. "At least, not seriously. And unless you're going to sit here and start penning me the saddest poem in history, then I'm going to get this sorted out. Tonight."
James rolled his eyes and looked back up at the ceiling once more. Sirius cleared his throat impatiently; James didn't respond so Sirius coughed again and raised both hands, imitating the air of a great orator preparing to speak.
"Ah, misery!" he cried.
"Shut up," James snarled.
"The saddest poem of all—that I loved her, and sometimes—only sometimes—she loved me back—OUCH!"
He flung James' trainer back at him and heard a satisfying, dull thunk as it hit his ribs.
"Leave me alone, Sirius," James snapped, turning onto his side.
"At least tell me about the argument," Sirius said. "Did she get mad about something? Did Snivellus come around ag—"
"No," said James tersely.
Several beats of silence fell. Then James sat up and faced Sirius; his eyes looked red. Sirius felt a squirm of discomfort in his stomach.
"So…" he prompted James. He sighed.
"She asked me about our outings again," he said significantly. "About Moony and us. She noticed the empty dormitory again last night."
"Okay," Sirius said. "That doesn't sound that bad, Prongs."
"She asked about the nicknames, and I panicked," James said. "I panicked because she thinks I'm lying to her or—or jerking her around, or something. She thinks I'm not serious—"
"No, that's me," Sirius replied, starting to grin.
"Shut up," James repeated, giving him a sharp look.
"James, I don't see the problem!" Sirius laughed.
"I can't tell Remus's secret," James said, his expression desperate. "I can't tell her our secret."
"I shouldn't think so," replied Sirius incredulously. "No one's saying you've got to."
"I have got to," James told him. He clasped his hands together for a moment, studying them intently, and then met Sirius's eyes. "I love her."
"You've been saying that for seven years," Sirius told him.
"No. Padfoot…I love her."
Sirius stared at him for several moments; James looked as though he might actually be in physical pain.
"So… I told her I couldn't say… and she got angry," James said, his throat sounding stuck, "And then I got angry, and… and she said that… if I'm not going to tell her the truth, if I keep lying… then she's done. She said that if I care about her at all, I'll explain. And if I don't… then she's leaving for the Easter holidays on Friday, and that's it."
Sirius let out a breath and rested his hands on his knees, studying James's face for a moment. "You'd like to tell her about us? The Marauders, the map? The, erm… rule-breaking?"
James's expression became bleak. "I love her," he repeated. Then, he seemed to collect himself for a moment. "But—but I can't tell her all of our secrets, because they're not all mine to tell. This—you three all need to agree, and actually be okay about it, and help me tell her. I'm not going to ruin your lives over this—especially Moony. If the three of you say no, then—then I'm not going to tell her. I'll let her go."
He stuck out his chin a little, as if to prove that this idea didn't absolutely kill him. Sirius considered him a moment longer.
"Nobody's ruining anybody's life," he said at last. "I can't speak for the others—I definitely can't speak for Moony," he added in all seriousness, "but I think Evans can keep a secret. I say tell her." He smirked slightly at the dumbfounded look on James's face. "Don't look at me like that. The pair of you have to get married and have sixteen kids together. Can't let a stupid map ruin that."
"Are you serious?" James asked.
"Are you going to keep chucking me those easy lines?" Sirius replied, just as the dormitory door opened, and Peter appeared, clutching his Charms essay and a quill and looking very anxious.
"Is Moony around?" he asked. "I got stuck on this theory essay. Do you remember the proper name of that spell from the other day? Carpe Retracto—Retracting—something like that?"
"Pretty sure you just made that up," James said, grinning faintly. "Put it aside for a second. Moony's sleeping off last night in the hospital, he'll be here for lunch. I've got to talk to you about something."
"I've got to hand it in before the holidays, or I'm getting detention for a month," said Peter, sighing as he sat beside James on the bed.
"Shut up a minute," Sirius told him. "There's something big going on, and Prongs needs to run it past you."
Peter stared at Sirius. "Something big?"
Sirius gestured to James. "Prongs?"