Disclaimer: Remus, Sirius, James, Peter, and their world belong to J.K. Rowling. I just borrow them because Remus and Sirius won't get out of my head.
"Fallen (Alternate Version)" by CLS was also a definite inspiration for this story.
The title comes from the song "Say Goodbye" by Dave Matthews—"Tomorrow go back to being friends, but tonight let's be lovers."
Author's Note: I've read many, many stories about Remus and Sirius's "first time," and if James doesn't know about them by the end of the story, I wonder about the conversation in which Sirius tells James. This story evolved out of such an imagined conversation. So—this story presupposes that Remus and Sirius have become lovers in the physical sense, but that they haven't said that they are "in love." Many stories fit the bill nicely, but CLS's "Fallen (Alternate Version)" works particularly well.
St. John is pronounced "Sinjin," hence St. John Wildsmith's nickname.
This portion of the story is set in the early months of 1979, after MWPP have graduated, but before James and Lily marry.
Go Back to Being Friends
Chapter One: The Ski Trip
Peter unlocked the door of the flat occupying the ground floor of the small chalet in the Swiss Alps and entered the flagstone entryway, followed by his friends. James stamped his boots against the flagstones and brushed a few flakes of snow off his clothes before moving farther into the room and onto the carpet.
"Here we are, our home for the week," Peter announced with a smile. "And it looks like we'll have new powder for our first day of skiing too."
Remus dropped his duffle bag on the floor in front of the sofa as he looked around. "Very nice, Peter. It's really generous of your brother to let us use the place this week."
Sirius dropped his bag next to Remus's and began examining the small kitchen along one wall. "This is Simon's? I thought your brother was too stingy to buy a vacation home this nice."
"Well, he bought the chalet with a few friends. Tarquin and Dido Marsh have the flat above, and Simon shares this flat with St. John Wildsmith."
Sirius turned back with a grin. "Does he now? I always wondered about Simon and Sin." He waggled his eyebrows knowingly. "They make a cute couple."
Peter frowned. "Don't be disgusting, Sirius."
"Note to self," Sirius said as he wrote in the air with an imaginary quill. "'The love that dares not speak its name' makes Peter uncomfortable. Poor Simon, stuck with an unsupportive family. Might stay in the closet for years."
James decided to intervene before Sirius could annoy Peter any further. After all, you couldn't count on Sirius to know how far was too far. "Why don't we put away our things and go get something to eat. I'm starving."
"Right," Peter said as he turned his back on Sirius and looked at James. "We have two bedrooms, there and there, both about the same size, so two of us in each I'd say. Who wants to go where?"
"Want to be my roommate, Remus?" Sirius immediately asked.
James smiled to himself at this. Sirius had often complained about Peter's snoring at Hogwarts, but Sirius could be just as bad at times. "Remus and I should really force the two snorers together."
Remus slightly cocked his head as he looked at Sirius and considered. "All right," he replied after just a moment's thought.
"Don't do it, Remus," James warned him. "Whoever gets stuck with Sirius might end up sleeping on the sofa because Sirius brings pretty girls home for the night. We could draw straws and short straw gets stuck with the dog in heat."
Remus smiled just slightly. "I'll take a chance. I don't mind the sofa."
"Don't listen to him, Moony; you won't be on the sofa," Sirius threw a dirty look at James. "I do bring home occasional overnight guests to our flat,"— James snorted at the word "occasional,"— "but no more than Lily spends the night in Prongs's bedroom."
"In fact," Sirius continued on, raising his wand hand to make a vow, "I, Sirius Black, do hereby promise Remus Lupin that if he will be my roommate this week, I will not bring home any pretty girls, or pretty boys," he smirked at Peter during that comment, "but if Remus brings anyone home, I will cheerfully sleep on the sofa."
Remus shook his head with a slight smile. "No promises necessary, Padfoot. I already said, 'Yes'."Thursday Morning
"Are you sure you don't want to ski with me this morning, James?" Peter asked as he and Remus pulled on hats and gloves. "After last night, who knows how late Sirius will sleep."
"No thanks," James replied as he poured a second mug of tea. "Have a go on those difficult runs that would probably kill me. Sirius and I will meet you two at the lodge for lunch after Remus's lesson. We can all take a few runs together after lunch. Can't wait to see how much better you'll be today, Moony."
"You have more faith in me than I do," Remus laughed. "Bye, James."
James settled onto the sofa with his mug and the latest copy of Quidditch Monthly. No, he didn't mind a morning off from skiing. Three days of using muscles he wasn't used to using had left him just a bit sore and achy. After reading the cover story and two smaller articles, James threw the magazine down in boredom. "Time to wake up, Sirius. Staying up late playing drinking games only buys you so much sleeping-in time."
James did give Sirius some credit. Three nights in a row they had gone out, three nights of flirting and being flirted with. So far, he had kept his promise. He had not brought anyone home, and no one had slept on the sofa. But that did not mean James couldn't torment a hungover Sirius. James twirled his wand in his fingers as he thought how best to torment Sirius awake. Large, fluffy, white flakes floating slowly down past the windows caught his eye, and he smiled. Sixth year, he had learned a variation of the enchantment on the ceiling of the Great Hall. This variation didn't change the appearance of the ceiling, but it did allow precipitation to fall. Remus had helped him cast it on the ceiling of the Slytherin Common Room just before a mid-winter downpour.
"I wonder if Sirius would enjoy waking up to new-fallen snow?" He went to the bedroom door that Sirius had adorned with a sign reading, "The Kennel," and entered quietly. Sirius was sound asleep, sprawled diagonally across the one large bed, and tangled in the covers. James whispered the incantation as he traced the outline of the ceiling, setting the boundaries of the charm. He watched the first snowflakes fall and smiled when they began to land on Sirius's black hair and bare back. He closed the door quietly and returned to the sofa and his magazine while he waited. Five minutes later, a snowball hit the back of his head.
"Good morning, Padfoot. Lovely weather we're having, isn't it?" He watched Sirius, clad only in jeans, search the kitchen for a reasonably clean mug and pour himself some tea. He had two almost circular bruises, now fading to purple and yellowish-green, on and just beside his shoulder. "Must have hit his shoulder pretty hard on that fall the first day," James surmised.
"Yeah, well, I was tempted to transform into my fur and go back to sleep." Sirius yawned widely and then used his wand to light two burners of the stove. He levitated a couple of slices of bread over the flames to toast them. "Would you mind turning off the snow? I can't remember how and I doubt Remus wants to come home to a snowdrift. He won't have fur to keep him warm for another two weeks."
"Sure." James returned to "The Kennel," performed the countercharm on the ceiling, and then evaporated the snow in the room. He shook his head as he looked at the one large bed and its tangled covers. "Lazy idiots didn't even bother to transfigure the bed." It had been the first thing he had done in the room he shared with Peter, transfigured the one large bed into two smaller ones. A pale blue sweater flying through the air narrowly missed his head as he went back to the living room. Sirius had obviously realized he needed it and summoned it from the pile of clothes on the floor of his room.
"Hey, Padfoot? Do you want me to split your bed so you two can each have your own?"
Sirius pulled the sweater over his head and emerged glaring at James. "Touch that bed and you die, Potter. It's perfect."
"Fine." He sat back on the sofa and picked up Quidditch Monthly. "It's just that you were taking up the whole bed earlier. Remus must hate sharing a bed with you." James tried to resume reading, but he had the uncomfortable feeling that he was being stared at. He glanced up at Sirius and saw that he was right. "What?"
"Are you really this clueless, James? How many times has Remus spent the night in our flat? In my room every time. It's not because he misses my snoring."
James stared back at Sirius, trying to decide if he was really saying what he seemed to be saying. Trying to decide if he was being sincere or putting him on. "Sirius can't be gay. He's always having girls spend the night."
Sirius shook his head and returned his attention to his breakfast, spreading chocolate-hazelnut spread on his second slice of toast. "Put the clues together. Even Peter could figure it out faster, although he'd probably say we're 'disgusting'." He licked the knife clean.
"But—all the girls you bring home—"
Sirius laughed. "Yeah, I like girls. I like Remus too. The two don't have to be mutually exclusive, you know. Remus likes girls too; he just doesn't dare date any. He thinks he'll scare the shit out of them." Sirius laughed again. "He might be right. Our sweet, sensitive Moony gets rather aggressive in bed, and he tends to bite." He took a large bite of his toast as he watched James's reaction to that statement.
James suddenly realized that Sirius's bruises were not from skiing. He felt very, very stupid. Two of his best friends—in his own flat—and he had had no idea. Sirius rose and put his plate in the sink.
"That's how all of this started actually," Sirius explained. "Some girl got Remus all hot and bothered, he felt like he was losing control of his wild side, and—you know Remus—it scared him to death. I suggested he might be better off with someone the wolf couldn't scare."
"Me. We've been occasional lovers ever since." Sirius sat in a chair facing the sofa and leaned forward looking intently at James.
"This isn't your bizarre idea of a joke, is it?"
Sirius shook his head. He did look sincere, and just a bit worried. "You aren't all shocked and horrified about this, are you?"
"Just a little bit."
"Fine." Sirius bit out the word angrily and stormed toward the kitchen to refill his mug. "Just do me a favor and say whatever you want to say to me and leave Remus out of it. The last thing he needs is one of the few people in the world who've ever accepted him to call him a freak."
"No, I don't—I mean—you caught me off guard. I'm shocked-surprised, not shocked-disgusted."
Sirius's shoulders relaxed and there was a smile of relief on his face when he turned back. "Lately, it's been driving me crazy keeping you in the dark. I kind of liked it being our secret at first—back when I thought it was a temporary thing." He sat on the sofa beside James and stared down into his tea.
"And now the relationship is something more?" James prompted. "This could become very interesting."
Sirius pulled out of his reverie and laughed. "Don't be such a girl, Jamie. This is sex, not a relationship, sex. Very, very good sex. Amazing sex." He gestured expansively to indicate how "amazing" it was.
"O.K., O.K.," James laughed, "no details, please."
"But Moony and I aren't going to copy you and Miss Evans and start picking out china patterns. Don't tell Peter, all right?"
"Goes without saying. So, do you really think Simon and Sin are gay?"
"No idea about Simon, but Sin is, absolutely. He was practically drooling on Remus at Peter's graduation party."Thursday Evening
Another night at one of the local bars. Another night watching Sirius work the room in search of female companions for himself and his friends. However, tonight James was watching Sirius—and Remus—with new eyes.
Sirius had just coaxed three American college students into joining them at their table. The women had seemed impressed when Sirius lied and said they were all studying at Oxford.
"And last, but not least, this is Peter Pettigrew, third son of the eleventh Earl Pettigrew." Sirius winked at Peter as he made the introductions. "Of course, since our Peter is the third son, he's pretty safe from those awful women who chase titles." The Americans nodded understandingly. "Things might be very different if they knew that his eldest brother is sterile due to an unfortunate polo accident."
"Ouch," Ellen, the pretty blonde sitting between James and Remus, said as she winced.
Sirius nodded sadly. "And his other brother, Simon, is a confirmed bachelor, so—"
"Confirmed bachelor?" asked Amy, the brunette beside Peter.
"Gay," clarified Tricia, the brunette between Amy and Sirius.
Peter glared at Sirius, but Sirius continued his act. "Yes, so it looks like Peter is the family's only hope for heirs."
Remus joined in. "It's really fortunate that this isn't common knowledge back home. British women love titles. Poor Peter would have women throwing themselves at him for all the wrong reasons. How would he ever find true love?"
"Poor baby," Amy cooed as she threaded her arm around Peter's.
"Hook, line, and sinker," James thought.
"So what are you studying?" Ellen asked James. She leaned in slightly, gave a smile strangely reminiscent of the one Sirius used to charm McGonagall, and batted her eyelashes twice.
"A very experienced flirt," James thought.
"Sorry, Ellen dear," Sirius interrupted. "Our James is engaged to be married, and if you were to tempt him, I'll have to answer to a very angry redhead for introducing you." She laughed lightly but leaned back away from James. "Now, Remus, on the other hand, is quite available."
James raised one eyebrow at hearing Sirius call Remus "available" and looked over Ellen's head at Remus. Remus was looking down into his beer, no obvious emotions visible on his face. Ellen then turned her skillful attentions on Remus.
"Same question," she said as she cocked her head in a way that indicated he had her full and undivided attention.
James decided it was his turn to be creative. "Remus's favorite subject is mythological and folkloric creatures. He knows the subject inside and out." "Play with that, Remus." "We figure he'll end up teaching the course before long."
"What types of creatures?" Ellen asked Remus.
"Dragons, trolls, vampires—werewolves," Remus said it deadpan, but a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth.
"Ooh! I loved 'Interview With the Vampire'!" Amy squealed as she pulled herself closer to Peter, pressing his arm against her very ample breast. "Did you read it?"
"Muggle fiction," Remus quickly explained.
"No, afraid not," Peter replied to the young woman. "It's a good book?"
"Oh, yes," Amy gushed. "Anne Rice is a wonderful writer."
"You should read some of the erotica she writes under a pen name," Tricia said. "Very hot and steamy."
"Well, Sirius picked the right one for himself," James noted.
"I prefer to experience 'hot and steamy,' rather than read about it," Sirius said with a wicked smile as he put an arm around her.
"Good. So do I." Her voice was warm and purring and hinted of bedroom whispers. "Let's dance."
James noticed that Remus was back to staring at his half-empty beer as Sirius and Tricia left the table and began to sway slowly, pressed closely together, on the dance floor.
"So, what university did you say you all attend?" James asked.
"Lewisburg University. It's in Pennsylvania," Ellen said as she sat back so she could better divide her attention between the men on either side of her. "We're all seniors, and we came here because we wanted to take one amazing trip together before we graduate in the spring and go our separate ways."
"We were all dorm mates together as freshmen," Amy added. "Now here it is, four years later, and we're still friends. It will be so strange when we graduate and scatter to different parts of the country."
Peter nodded. "We were dorm mates for seven years, so I know exactly what you mean."
"You went to boarding school together?" Ellen asked Remus. Unfortunately, Remus's attention was elsewhere, focused on a tall, dark-haired man with his arms wrapped around his pretty dance partner.
"Remus!" James gave the back of his head a quick tap. "Ellen asked you a question."
"Oh, I'm sorry." Remus blushed as he looked back at Ellen and James. "What was the question?"
"I was just asking about boarding school. You all went to the same one?"
"Yes," Remus grinned now. "We all went to a school in Scotland."
"Any chance we've heard of it?"
Peter and James both laughed as Remus shook his head still grinning. "I doubt it. It's the kind of place you're only likely to hear of if you, or someone in your family, went there. Everyone in Peter's and James's families has gone there for as long as anyone can remember."
"Very exclusive, huh?" Amy asked as she looked at Peter.
"Very," James assured her. "Tell them about the castle, Peter."
"Well, it's about a thousand year old, and it's amazing. Towers, dungeons, secret passages—everything you could want in a 'home away from home."
"Except central heating," Remus said.
"Don't be such a wimp, Remus," James scolded. "There were fireplaces in most of the rooms we spent any time in, and you just had to dress warmly in the corridors."
"I don't like towers," Amy said with a shiver. "I'm afraid of heights."
"Our dormitory was in a tower," Peter told her. "But they were big rooms, and unless you deliberately looked out a window, you'd never realize how high up we were."
"Well, I'd much rather live in a tower than a dungeon," Ellen said.
All three men laughed. "We agree with you," Remus said, "for several reasons."
"We only had to go down to the dungeons for Potions lessons," Peter said—and then went pale as he realized what he had said.
"Chemistry," Remus said instantly. "We nicknamed it 'Potions' because it was held in the dungeons and the name sounded appropriate."
Ellen laughed and smiled at Remus. "It is appropriate. I know when I took chemistry—the Bunsen burner aflame, beakers and vials full of potentially explosive ingredients, chemicals combining to create completely different things—I felt a bit like a medieval alchemist. I muttered 'Double, double, toil and trouble. Fire burn, and cauldron bubble,' under my breath more than once."
"She likes you, Remus, and she likes Shakespeare," James thought. "Do you like her?" His question was answered as Remus gave Ellen a slight smile and then glanced back to the dance floor. Remus's smile died as his gaze flew around the room searching for Sirius. He stared in the direction of the bar for a few moments and then stared down at his beer, swallowing hard.
James looked toward the bar. Sirius and Tricia were sitting on bar stools, each with one knee between the other's thighs. He had one arm on the bar behind her; his other hand was playing with her long hair. She had one hand possessively on his upper arm, the other caressing his upper thigh. Their quiet conversation was punctuated by occasional lingering kisses.
"I'm going to the ladies' room," Ellen announced. "Want to come, Amy?"
"All right. Be back soon," she promised Peter as she gave his hand a squeeze.
No sooner had the women gotten out of sight then Remus stood up abruptly. "I'm not feeling very well. I think I'll call it a night." He looked at James as he put on his jacket. "Tell Sirius that I'm planning on sleeping on the sofa tonight, so he can bring Tricia home if he wants."
"Take my bed," Peter offered. "You shouldn't be on the sofa if you aren't feeling well. Besides, I'm shorter, so I'll be more comfortable on the sofa than you'd be."
Remus shook his head. "Thanks, Peter, but I took the risk; I'll pay the price." Remus left without looking at Sirius again.
"Peter, I think I'll take off as soon as the girls get back," James said. He wanted to get home in case Remus needed to talk. James pulled some of the local Muggle money out of his pocket and pushed it across the table to Peter. "Use this if you want to get anything else."
"Don't go, James. Ellen won't want to stay if you and Remus are gone, and Amy might not stay if Ellen leaves."
"I have a feeling that at this very moment, Ellen is telling Amy that she wants to leave. Why don't you offer to walk them both home? Maybe you can make a date with Amy."
James discovered that he had read the situation correctly when the two women returned to the table but did not sit down. They accepted Peter's offer, and the three were talking to Tricia and Sirius as James slipped outside and apparated back to the front door of the chalet.
He entered to find the room still dark except for the starlight reflecting off the snowdrifts and coming in the windows. Remus was a dark silhouette in front of the window directly opposite the door.
"Are you all right?"
"I'm fine," Remus replied, but his voice was thick. He'd been crying.
James cast a charm on the ceiling causing it to glow softly. "No, you're not, and you don't have to pretend you are."
Remus nodded but didn't turn around. "Sirius told me that he told you. He's wanted to for awhile." Remus sniffed once as he wiped his face with his sleeve. Then he cleared his throat and turned to face James. "I'm fine, really."
"Well, I wouldn't be fine if I had to sit there and watch Lily kissing someone else." He decided to make hot chocolate. "Chocolate, the miracle cure, especially for Remus."
"It's not the same thing," Remus said sadly as he sat on the sofa and watched James.
"Why not?" James asked. He found two mugs in the sink that weren't too objectionable and rinsed them out.
"Because, you two are in love, and us—well, I'm just someone Sirius sleeps with when no one better is available." Remus laughed mirthlessly. "Well, that sounded bitter, and I really didn't mean it to be. I mean, I get as much out of it as he does. The whole thing started because he wanted to help me, you know." James nodded and began to spoon shaved chocolate into the milk he had magically heated. "So it's not like anyone has been taken advantage of. We both went into this with our eyes wide open."
James handed one mug to Remus as he sat beside him. "You said how Sirius feels about you. You didn't say how you feel about him." Remus was silent for a several long moments as he considered his answer.
"It doesn't matter," he said finally.
"Of course it matters."
"No, it doesn't." Anger was creeping into Remus's voice. "What do you want me to say, James? Do you want me to say that I'm in love with him? I won't. I can't. I have no right to screw up our friendship by falling in love with Sirius."
"Love chooses us, not the other way around. You couldn't help it if you fell in love."
"I did have a choice," Remus slammed his mug down onto the coffee table as he bolted off the sofa and began to pace the room. "I love all three of you as friends, and Sirius…. I knew how strongly I already felt about Sirius, and I started sleeping with him anyway. I was playing with fire. If I got burned, of course it's my fault!" Remus closed his eyes and took a slow, deep breath. He was obviously trying to rein in his emotions again. "Sorry, James. I shouldn't yell at you."
"It's O.K. You're angry at Sirius, and I'm the only handy target."
"No!" He paused for a moment and sat down in a chair facing James. "No, I'm angry at me. Don't you get it? Someday, Sirius is going to fall in love, get married, and have kids. He wants all the same things you do; he's just not in as much of a hurry as you are." Remus smiled at this, and James grinned back. "My friendship with you three is the most important thing in the world to me. When all those good things happen for Sirius, I want to happy for him. I really do. But right now, feeling the way I do, I can't be."
"What are you going to do?"
"What can I do? I have to stop sleeping with him and hope that someday I can see him with someone else and not feel like dying inside." He pointed his wand at the hot chocolate he had spilled on the table and carpet as he murmured a cleaning charm.
"Trying to fall out of love, good luck. Do you—" James was interrupted by the opening of the front door and the arrival of Sirius and Peter.
"We escorted the ladies home, and—" Sirius looked at Peter to finish the sentence.
"And I'm taking Amy to dinner tomorrow night," Peter said with a happy grin.
"Congratulations, Peter," James said. "Does she still think she's the future Countess Pettigrew?"
Peter hung up his jacket and sat beside James on the sofa. "No, I told her that Sirius just made that up."
"Then the young lady was left with a choice," Sirius explained as he moved behind Remus and put his hands on Remus's shoulders. "She could either reveal herself to be a title-chasing Slytherin, or she could prove herself to be better than that and give our Peter a real chance. I'm pleased we can report the latter." He looked down at Remus and felt his forehead with the palm of his hand. "How are you feeling? Peter said you weren't feeling well."
Remus smiled bravely as he held James's gaze. "I'm better, thanks. James made me some hot chocolate, and it helped."
"Good. Thanks, Prongs." Sirius looked down at Remus again. "You should go to bed. You'll need a good night's sleep if you're getting sick." Remus gave James a pleading look.
"Yeah, about that. Remus is moving into Peter's room, and I'm moving in with you, Sirius."
"Why?" Peter asked just before stifling a yawn. The look in Sirius's eyes was also asking, "Why?" and not as disinterestedly.
"Sirius snores," James said. "Go get your stuff, Remus." Remus gave James a grateful smile and did as he was told. Sirius moved to follow, but James stood and grabbed his arm. "Talk to him tomorrow," James said quietly. Sirius glared at James but didn't try to follow Remus.
"Well," Peter yawned again, "I think I'll get ready for bed, too." He rose and went into the bathroom.
"What did you say to him?" Sirius growled at James as soon as they were alone.
"I just listened."
Remus emerged from "The Kennel" carrying a hastily packed bag and an armload of clothing. He went into the other bedroom without meeting Sirius's eyes. Sirius's eyes found James instead. They were hurt, and confused, and very, very angry.
"I have to get my stuff; I'll be right back," James said as retreated into his room. He found Remus sitting at the foot of a bed, holding his things, and looking slightly stunned. "That's Peter's bed; you can have the other. Use the drawers on the left. I'll empty them out."
"No problem." James suddenly laughed. "Except now I'm in a room with a very angry Padfoot who thinks I talked you into dumping him."
"I'll talk to him," Remus said as he stood up.
"No, I told him to talk to you tomorrow. I can deal with him until then." Peter came into the room then, ending the conversation.
James found Sirius in his bedroom. He had already transfigured the one bed into two and was stretched out on the one nearer the door, hands behind his head, staring at the ceiling.
"What's going on, James?" Sirius continued to stare at the ceiling as he spoke in a low and angry voice.
"Talk to Remus. I don't want to be in the middle of this." James began to put his clothes away in the dresser drawers.
"You already are 'in the middle.' I tell you about us this morning, you talk to Remus this evening, and now—boom—he moves out of our room."
"This really has nothing to do with me, Sirius."
"Everything was fine until tonight."
"No, everything was not 'fine'," James snapped. "Why do you think Remus left early tonight? Do you think he liked sitting there watching you with your tongue down some girl's throat?"
"Don't be stupid, James. Remus doesn't care who else I date. I know I'd be happy for him if he met somebody."
James slammed the drawer shut. "That's the problem, isn't it? You're assuming that he feels the same way you do, and he doesn't. Remus, on the hand, is quite aware of his feelings and of your lack of them."
Sirius sat up abruptly. "My lack—"
"He's decided that he has to choose between being your friend and being your lover, and he'd rather be your friend."
"Yes, I'd say that sums it up rather nicely." James threw his pajamas on the bed and began to undress. "Now that I've said far, far, too much, I think I'll get ready for bed. Goodnight, Sirius." Then regretting the angry tone in his voice, he said more kindly, "Talk to Remus tomorrow. He's not angry at you, only at himself."
Somehow, Peter managed to be everywhere the next morning. No sooner had Remus come out of the bedroom for breakfast, and Sirius jumped up from the sofa to go speak to him, then Peter came out of the bedroom to have his own breakfast. When Remus finished eating and went back in the bedroom, Sirius got only as far as the doorway when he heard Peter say, "Excuse me, Sirius, I need to finish getting dressed." James watched with a sort of sad amusement when Sirius, desperate to talk to Remus, even tried to follow him into the bathroom. Peter just had to brush his teeth.
"Do you have a lesson today, Remus?" Sirius asked as they buckled their ski boots.
"No, yesterday was the last one. I'll ski with you guys today. That is, if you want me to."
"Good," Peter said. "We can start the day on the long trail James likes. If James and Sirius can handle it, so can you."
"You just love reminding us that you're a better skier, don't you, Peter?" Sirius asked with an edge of annoyance in his voice.
James knew that Sirius didn't really mind Peter's needling; he was just annoyed by Peter's unintentional interference with Sirius's efforts to speak with Remus.
"Of course I do," Peter admitted with a grin. "After seven years of being reminded that you and James are better flyers, fair's fair."
This gave James an idea. "Well, Peter, you may be the more skillful skier, but I am accustomed to speed. Why don't you and I start the day with a little race? That last trail we took yesterday, top to bottom, no stops." He looked meaningfully at Sirius. "Then in half an hour, we'll apparate to the top of that easier trail and meet Remus and Sirius."
"All right, if Remus and Sirius don't mind."
"No," Sirius said quickly. "We'll meet you in half an hour. Who do you want to wager on, Remus?"
"I think James will get off to an early lead, but crash spectacularly. My money is on Peter."
"I'll take the bet." Sirius pulled off his glove and extended a hand to Remus. Remus smiled and shook Sirius's hand. They held for a second longer than was necessary, but James wasn't sure which one was responsible.
* * * * *
James jabbed his poles into the ground and leaned forward against them as he wiggled his toes. The charm keeping the inside of his ski boots warm was working quite well, and he wondered how Muggles skied with cold feet. He watched Remus ski away from him, carefully following the path Peter was making. A sudden spray of snow hit James's legs.
"Well, that's one trick you've mastered this week, Padfoot, stopping without falling." He kept watching Remus and Peter.
"Remus has gotten pretty good," Sirius said. "Amazing to think he never skied before this week."
James turned to see Sirius's face. His friend was looking down the slope with a proud smile on his face. "How did your talk with Remus go? Are you two O.K.?"
Sirius looked down at his feet, stamping them to shake some snow loose. "We will be. I really never meant to hurt him." He looked up at James and held his gaze unflinchingly. "But I did hurt him, didn't I?"
"You aren't ready to be in love, Padfoot." He looked away and watched the shrinking figures of their friends. "In like, in lust—those you can do, but in love—you aren't ready." He turned back and saw Sirius hanging his head again, the very image of a whipped dog. "Listen to me, Sirius. You have a big heart, a kind heart, and a lust for life. Someday, you'll be ready to fall in love, and when you do, whoever it is will be very lucky. Remus understands that too. He'll be O.K."
"Knight to Queen's Bishop three," James instructed his chess piece.
"So, which strategy are you using this time? A real, thought-out plan, or randomly moving your men to confuse me?" Sirius wondered. "What do you think, Remus?"
"Hmm?" Remus looked up from the book he was reading while sitting in a chair near the chess game. "What did you say?"
"Never mind. King's Castle, take the pawn."
James was impressed. The three of them had spent an entire evening together, and not once had there seemed to be any awkwardness. No awkward silences for James to fill, no flinching away from each other rather than accidentally touch while making dinner, not even any excessive politeness. He knew that "everything is back to normal" was, at this point, just an act, but they were both excellent actors. Of course, he should have known that. Hadn't they carried on an affair right under his nose?
"Loverboy is home," Sirius announced as Peter opened the front door. "How was your date?"
"Pretty good," Peter said as he took off his jacket and hung it by the door, "but it's weird dating a Muggle."
Peter sat beside James on the sofa. "I had to keep lying all the time, and she kept talking about things that I had no idea what she was talking about, but obviously I should have known."
"You should have taken Muggle Studies, Peter," Remus said.
"Too late now."
"I know what you mean," James said. "It's weird when Lily and I are with her relatives or her Muggle friends. I find myself just nodding stupidly and feeling rather ignorant. And I did take a year of Muggle Studies. Makes me really appreciate how strange the first year at Hogwarts must have been for her."
"Well, it helped that we were from different countries. Whenever I didn't know what she was talking about, she just assumed it was because I'm English." Peter suddenly laughed. "Hey, Remus, guess what Ellen said when I brought Amy home."
"She wanted to know if you and your boyfriend had kissed and made up yet." Peter laughed again, oblivious to the fact that no one else did. "What an ego. She assumes that if you didn't like her, you must not like any girl."
"Quite an ego, indeed," James said. "Remus just has high standards."
Author's Note: Why do I make Peter homophobic? I needed a reason for the others to keep him in the dark. In my opinion, if Remus and Sirius had been lovers, AND Peter had known it, it would have come up in the Shrieking Shack in PoA. (I think that part of the reason the kids believe Sirius's story rather than Peter's is because Remus, who was friends with both, believes Sirius. If Peter could have said, "Of course you're taking your lover's word over mine," to Remus, he would have.)
-Posted February 2003