I've Always Been Their Friend

Disclaimer: The following is not purely original fiction (it's called fanfiction.net, after all), but rather characters, settings, and situations as created by J.K. Rowling. I will return all characters in fairly decent condition. No money is being made of this piece of fanfiction and can not be reproduced for any purposes but strictly private entertainment.

A/N: Again, I'm trying out some new characterisations for size. So here's another attempt. It is told by a teenager, so some of the syntax and wording is deliberately non-optimal.

Oh, and if you want to consider it slash, be my guest. I've noticed it could be either-or between Sirius and Remus in this piece.

All morals involved are for you to conclude. I don't spoon-fed my readers, and nor is anyone black-and-white and completely right. Especially/Particularly not here.

Sirius is the only one who can even think of pulling off a grand kitchen raid and a sacking of one of the professors' offices or the Slytherin common room tonight. I've always admired his metabolism, even when I'm too tired to keep up with it.

Two nights ago was the full moon. James and I are still trying to adjust our sleep schedules, and Madam Pomfrey only allowed Remus to attend classes today - today, after much begging, pleading, promises, mock-threats, and other charm techniques from Remus. Why he would honestly be that eager is beyond me. Me, if I had the chance, I'd be deliberately recovering slowly as possible. Especially seeing as after the last class, he always returns to our dormitory and promptly naps the rest of the afternoon and evening away.

He's fine now, though, and even James and I aren't adverse to our usual nightly revels. (History of Magic - aka Naptime - has something to do with it.) I love these nights together. No one else in this school has this with their roommates. You wouldn't believe how wonderful and cosy it is to idle away half the night together. I like it better than what James calls our midnight prowls, where I'm always sure to mess things up and/or be stuck with the worst and most dangerous and coldest lookout post.

On these nights, usually the first few nights after the full moon, when we're all more or less sleepy and sore, we bring out every edible goody we've been hoarding, all the new ideas for games, and every bit of gossip. We bring out stashed newspapers and magazines; we tear our beds apart and bring comforters and pillows to the floor - except for Sirius, who insists on his bed. So we camp between his bed and James's. Other nights are spent midnight prowling or sleeping or cramming for big tests, but these - these are my favourites.

But that's not right anymore. They were my favourites. Were. Until I started to see things. Things I didn't like.

Like tonight. Sirius brought nothing in terms of food. Which irritated me some, because I always go out of my way to a) horde the sweets and b) refrain from enjoying them myself. I tease him a little, saying that we'll be expecting reimbursement when he comes into that inheritance of his.

And he frowned pretty sharply. 'And maybe I'll have the fun of tossing it off London Bridge,' he snapped - as his hands open a bag of Bertie Bott's Every Flavoured Beans that I brought. Now, granted, I don't even like those, and I don't begrudge anything I give to him or James, but it's the principle of it.

And maybe it wasn't extremely tactful, considering that he's coming into that inheritance because his dad was killed when he was little, his mum a few years ago. But I'm not tactful, as he so often reminds me. Sirius says I should be crowned prince of the faux pas. And that's the thing. Sirius teases me all the time, and sometimes Sirius can be really mean, even when he doesn't want to be. It hurts, sometimes; I'm not proud of my defects. And I don't always see why I should have to put up with it, but Sirius doesn't.

Then there was the Chocolate Frogs Remus brought. 'Seven,' he said, 'it's all I have - two for James, two for Peter, and two for Sirius, although I considered just giving him one and keeping two for myself.' He tossed them to their respective recipients as he spoke.

'Git,' Sirius said. Remus grinned. James and Sirius never tell him this, but sometimes Remus grows really punchy around the full moon. Before the full moon is even worse - I think he's trying to shove it to the corners of his mind, and sometimes is extremely annoying because of it. Even afterwards he can be like this - too cheerful, as if he's trying too hard.

But that wasn't even the thing. I mean, I can kind of understand Remus's actions on that score. I wish he'd just believe us once and for all when we said we didn't care, though. James and Sirius were rather cold to me for a while because they said I had grown 'flinchy' around Remus when we found out. Well, maybe, but I never held it against him. It took a little getting used to was all. Now, recently Remus has been doing some other things that really bother me, but I think if I said anything, James and Sirius might think I was being prejudiced again.

What happened tonight was that James bit into one of his Chocolate Frogs and found they were filled with something that tasted like chocolate, but made his teeth stick together. It took a few moments of hilarity for him to convey without words what was wrong. His glaring at Remus helped.

Remus just smiled, completely unapologetic. 'Why, Prongs, here I thought I was doing you a favour.'

'A favour?' I repeated.

'Yes, a favour. Remember when he was saying that he would challenge me to a duel because he believed I was attracting undue attention from Miss Evans? But then Lily - sensible girl she is - ordered him to stop, and James, like a good sweetheart, obeyed.' (James glared daggers.) 'So now I'm simply giving him a pretext for that duel.' He cast a quick spell, and James's teeth became unglued.

'Thank you, Moony,' he said solemnly. 'I appreciate it. Saturday morning, perhaps, by the lake?'

'Sounds good.'

'I must say, though, that it would have been far the better if you had pulled that one on Sirius.'

'I agree.' Remus pulled a tragic face. 'If he had but only wanted a duel, I would have. I might anyway.'

'Who needs a reason? Just do it anyway,' I put in, but rather than encouraging more amusement, smiles seemed to fade as I spoke. And, you know, if I had done what Remus had, Sirius would have either been angry with me or James would have been patronising rather than playing along - or both. I could understand, because James and Sirius are probably the two closest people you'll ever meet - but Remus had somehow become their equal.

Why not me? I've always been faithful and generous and sympathetic to them. I've always supported them. I've always been their friend. So why Remus, rather than me?

I wouldn't say I'm the best friend in the world, but I think I could at least win out over Remus. They had taken a lot of trouble with Remus, forgiving him when he lied, drawing him out of his shell, and then spending three years risking their lives and freedom learning how to become Animagi. Which isn't something that bothered me before; I helped them, because I also liked Remus, although I admit it was in large part because I wanted to win James's and Sirius's friendship as well.

The thing is, Remus had thrown it away. Just as we became Animagi, all of the sudden he has become tricky and irritable. I think it started with his sudden interest in Dark Arts. I find that just disturbing to begin with. He studies them night and day. 'I'm not about to become the next Voldemort, Peter,' he once said to me, annoyed, when I brought it up. 'I just want to know about them for knowing's sake.'

And I could have lived with that, but then he started spending more and more time with other people - other people who would reject them if they knew he was subhuman, other people who sure as breathing wouldn't put three years in to help him. And then - crowning injury - Slytherins. He's been starting to hang around Slytherins; I kid you not.

And I'm not the only one who's a little miffed. James seems a bit bemused and occasionally gives out a warning or two. Sirius is the only who will really be angry. He and Remus have been fighting constantly for a while now, and it's usually about some of his new companions.

Still, he's with us. We risk our lives for him every month. James, who is our unspoken leader, our adored general (at least, Sirius and I adore him), could issue an ultimatum to Remus at any time, and won't. And between his and Sirius's fights, Remus is still their equal.

Meanwhile I continue to be faithful and supportive. I ensured that friendship with me is easy. I ask them for nothing, never bother them, as opposed to Remus, who didn't quite ask for us to give him our world but was given it anyway. I - well, it's a funny way of putting it, and I'm not queer or anything - but I love them wholeheartedly. And I love them alone.

And despite all of this, although I'm almost always with James and Sirius, I only sometimes feel that I'm of them.

Sirius is asking about games to play. 'Exploding Snape?' He always tacks the 'e' on to make Snap into Snape. Remus will come right out and tell him that it's disturbing, how much relish he holds in the idea of Snape exploding. And I have to say, I agree, but I'd never say that to Sirius. Or anyone.

I'm faithful to Sirius.

'That's pretty noisy, especially in a dormitory that's supposed to be asleep,' James points out.

'Or empty,' adds Remus wryly. His rush of adrenaline seems to have settled. I like him much better this way - when he's calm, composed, and dry. It goes a long way in making me forget that he's a werewolf with an unhealthy interest in the Dark Arts in the midst of a war with the most powerful Dark Wizard of all.

'No,' Sirius drawls. 'The midnight prowls? You don't think they - they know?'

'Well, it hasn't been posted on the House points board yet…' I put in timorously.

And Sirius laughs. 'True. Good one, Wormtail.'

See? That's just the thing. Even when I'm acknowledged, even I earn a laugh, I'm patronised. They don't bother to praise each other for their quips, only me. Doesn't that say that they think mine are rare, or usually not as good?

'Rigamorale,' Remus suggests.

'Aw,' Sirius clucks, reaching over the side of the bed where he presides as if it's a throne to ruffle Remus's hair. 'Doeth Wemuth want a bedtime thowy?'

'Does Sirry want to be permanently silenced for the night?'

'Does anyone else want to put an end to these disturbing baby-names?' James asks, and we all laugh, although privately I just want Remus to stop all these threats. I never used to mind them before I realised that now Remus probably knows just the curse to do these things.

'You shouldn't talk,' says Sirius. 'You have the worst of all.' A nasty smile. 'Jamsie. Jimmy-boy. Jimsies.'

'We could play chess,' I say, quickly, before anyone else can come up with a better idea, and to stop Sirius's taunting of James. I personally can't think of any more embarrassing ways to butcher 'James', but I'm sure Sirius could go on all night.

Sirius groans loudly, and I felt shot. What say you just punch me in the stomach, Sirius?

'Please,' says James, with a mock-sniff. 'First I'm forced to take cover behind a birch tree because a salamander was chasing me in Care of Magical Creatures…'

Sirius starts giggling helplessly. He's been tearing up with mirth all day over that incident. 'The great perfect prefect Potter, pride potted permanently…'

'… I really don't think my pride can take much more tonight.'

'Oh, come on, it's not like anyone else has an idea,' I say, trying not to sound like what I'm doing - pleading. But then, I think I'm entitled to ask for something, and I really want to remind them tonight that I'm not an idiot. Maybe I stutter too much even on the rare occasion I can make a good joke, but on the chessboard I can prove I'm their equal - and their superior in that particular game, which everyone knows is the highest test of mental skill.

'Do we need to play anything?' Remus asks, with a slight yawn.

'Yes, I'm sure we do,' says Sirius. 'Come up here quick, and let Wormtail beat on Jimsie-darling while you and I play something safe and casual.'

'Can't we just declare you victor before it starts?' grumbles Remus, half-heartedly, as Sirius tosses James and I one of the chessboards, keeping the one that doesn't have the off-key singing black bishop to himself. Even thought I hate that bishop, I silently thank Sirius - we're stuck playing now, and after the initial protesting, James recovers his natural good humour. James is endlessly good-natured. It's one of the reasons I love him.

I've always been faithful to James.

Our game is soon over. I'm a little disappointed to see that James isn't even really trying; he was determined to capture my queen and then lost all his enthusiasm when he saw that didn't hamper me a bit.

'That was a nice move, when you won my queen, James,' I say, kindly as I can. I never brag, although I'm probably entitled to, seeing as I never lose.

'Mmm,' he said unintelligibly, and stretches out. We start a vague conversation about Gryffindor's stance in the Quidditch Cup. I don't think James knows how boring he can be when he starts talking about the Gryffindor team. He goes through everything, every detail, and I only follow one sentence out of three.

But I listen patiently, even though the game on the bed drives me mad. It sounds terribly interesting. Sirius was crowing at the beginning, but now it seems as though he might actually lose to Remus, who's bleary-eyed and bereft of half his pieces. It's driving me mad to listen about the differences in Seeker styles between the Houses as the match goes on, Sirius growing rather desperate and occasionally profane, and Remus slowly looking more and more awake. Sirius only loses to me, and, very infrequently, someone else. I'm dying to know how Remus is managing. Sirius is a challenge even for me.

'Checkmate,' Remus says out of the blue.

Sirius is staring at the board, and I ignore James for the moment as I kneel by the bed and examine things. Yes, Remus has him cornered.

'Damn,' he says finally, not the eloquent Sirius I love to hear. 'How much did I bet?'

Remus smiles a little. 'Only fifteen Galleons.' There's a pause, and he adds, 'You were a bit overconfident.'

'I should've known something was up, when you agreed to that,' Sirius pouts, reaching over to his nightstand and producing the coins. I gape a little at this coolly exchanged amount. This, and Sirius couldn't bring anything to eat.

'What's going on?' asked James, having realised that I've been paying no attention whatsoever.

'Remus is fifteen Galleons richer,' I explain.

James whistles. 'Considering that gambling is illegal within the school, that's a bit much to wager.'

'It just makes up everything I've lost to him in six years in Sickles,' Remus says.

'Beautiful Sickles they were, too,' Sirius says sentimentally. He even manages to make his eyes tear up. I've been trying to learn how to do that. Sirius's flair for the melodramatic outshines everyone. 'I lined my room with them, and they glimmer like mirages in the dead of night. Aunt Arabella calls them "dustcatchers", but I prefer to call them "trophies of my undisputed ski" - '

Remus stuffs a pastry in his mouth.

'Thank you,' James grins. 'That's, what, three and a half whole seconds worth of silence?'

'Mfph,' is Sirius's response.

'T-The sound of silence,' I sigh, trying to sound mockingly maudlin as well. The stutter kind of ruins it; but then, it's late, and I often stutter when I'm tired. Only ten, but considering the full moon was only three nights before…

'How'd you learn which way to move knights, Moony?' Sirius asks, swallowing the thing almost whole.

Remus ignores the barb, which is rather equivalent to Sirius once asking James 'When'd you learn to fight like a man, Potter?' That's Sirius. He stops at saying nothing. 'Oh, you'd be surprised, the practical things you learn.'

This hangs in the air. We all know he's referring to his Dark Arts studies.

James yawns. Convenient timing, but, as always, perfect timing. 'Well, now that Padfoot and I have been roundly humiliated and humbled - '

'You, humble,' Sirius snorts.

'Let alone humiliated,' I say, but it's drowned out as James continues heedless of my words.

' - I'm ready to depart from here to dreamland.'

Sirius nods thoughtfully. 'I'd prefer seeing Lily naked as opposed to spending time with us, too.'

'Padfoot!' Remus doesn't bother with a pastry this time; he covers Sirius's mouth with his hand. Sirius bites it. I'm blushing, something that no one else seems to be doing.

'I'm tired too,' I put in. 'G'night.' I'm not so much physically tired as exhausted form the effort of trying to keep up with them, their changing moods, their changing affections. How much will I have to do to prove myself to them?

James blows out one of the candles; there's only a dim one on Sirius's nightstand now. Sirius whips out his wand and banishes some of our garbage to a bin. I feel only slight guilt about not helping, whereas perhaps even yesterday I might have apologised and done it myself.

'Tired?' Sirius asks Remus.

'Tired? I've spent hours doing nothing but sleeping. Not particularly.'


'Put the candle out for them.'

I cannot understand how Remus just casually orders Sirius around. My mum says I treat James and Sirius too much like gods. Now, I'm not stupid, I don't, but they're just not the sort you boss around. I can never issue an imperative to them.

'And you?'

'I've a pillow and blanket left on my bed, when I'm ready. Let them have a catfight over my pillow down there.'

'Hey,' says James sleepily. 'We may not be the almighty carnivores - '

Sirius growls. I open my eyes to see him pretending to challenge James; Remus is staring down at his lap, embarrassed, as always, when his lycanthropy is brought up. It's pathetic, really; I don't see why he just doesn't get over it, at least with us. I think we've done enough to earn his trust on that.

' - heel, boy, heel,' James interrupts himself. 'But neither are we cats.'

'Just catfood!' says Sirius cheerily.

I keep quiet.

'Hey, is he asleep?' asks Sirius curiously.

'I think so,' James replies. 'Let's join him.'

'All right, we won't keep you from Lilyland,' Sirius promises. (It's James's turn to growl.) Sirius tries to lower his voice, always a task for him. 'Hey, Moony, don't bother. This bed's big enough, and if you steal too many covers, I'll just kick your arse next full moon, that's all.'

'Oh, how I'd love to see you try,' returns Remus. 'But all right. Thanks.'

'You don't have to thank me,' Sirius says perfunctorily; he's told Remus that a zillion times before.

And, all right, I know, this is kind of stupid; I'm just whining about nitpicky details now. But Sirius never bothers to tell me that I don't need to thank him. One might infer from that he thinks I do need to thank him.

I'm doomed to remain sleepless all night; I can see it now. My head hurts as I go over the whole evening again, and then nights and nights before it. I can see it clearly. They don't reciprocate my depth of affection for them. Even though they're clearly capable of doing it; they do it for Remus. It's that they don't.

I feel like a first-year again. Forget first-year; I can remember first day. Going into those flimsy, shoddy little boats, thinking of how they'll break on us, and I'll die before I arrive. And even if I do, I'm painfully aware of how very alone I am. And when we are at the other end, I topple over while trying to get out of my boat, and while I don't suffer the embarrassment of flipping into the water, I scrape my knees on the stone and give my head a bang. There's a laugh, and too many insincere questions of concern from people I don't know. Thankful that the boats stayed together long enough at least for me. The Great Hall - too many eyes.

I never felt alone for years, not in the company of James and Sirius and Remus. Tonight, I feel alone again. I've forgotten just how much that hurts.

My thoughts drift back. I've finally forgotten them; I'm thinking of my family, and the dreams for greatness I had when I was very young, before Hogwarts, before I found friendship and then false friendship - a friendship based on quips and one-liners and a system of giving that I don't understand.

'James asleep, you think?' asks Remus.

'I think so. He falls asleep pretty quickly. Let's wait just a few minutes - just a few. I'm not a bit tired.'

'All right.'

Just when my thoughts were finally away from them, they draw them back by outright talking. You'd think that I could even have a thought of my own!

The few minutes somehow pass before even sixty seconds are up. I know, because I'm counting. And - they talk - they finish - and they fall silent, finally tired themselves - and I'm awake again, wide awake. What they said is too much to swallow. I've never felt pain like this before.

Sirius had broken the silence first. 'So. You beat me. Had to run to the Slytherins to do it, but you beat me.'

'Not fair, Sirius. I've been playing chess with a Hufflepuff - Horace Stebbins. He's brilliant. I've learned quite a bit from him.'

'I don't care a whit's worth that you won the bloody chess game,' Sirius said impatiently.

'I know you don't.'

'Do you play chess with the Slytherins?'

'Once or twice.'

'Pick one.'

'All right, three times. And now I'm corrupted for life.'

'Wouldn't be surprised.'

Remus sighed. 'Come on - '

'It just that we've done so much for you!' Sirius whispered fiercely, as if reading my thoughts from earlier. 'It wasn't that we didn't care if you were a werewolf or flying squirrel or dancing bear. It was that we went to the long trouble of convincing you of that, convincing you that you were worthy of our companionship. We risked the wrath of our families. Then we became Animagi for you. Illegal Animagi.'

No, really, Padfoot? Somehow I was under the impression that you were legal Animagi.

'Three years' worth of work, and if we ever were caught, then we're in for more than a week's worth of detention.'

'I never asked you for any of that,' Remus said, even more quietly than Sirius's whisper. 'I appreciate - '

'I know you didn't! That was the point! It's called friendship, Remus! And then you turn around and jaunt with all sorts of people who - and you know they would - hate you if they knew. With Stebbins, and Malfoy in-laws, and Snape!'

'Oh, this is about Snape?' Remus sounded amused. 'One scarcely civil conversation about contemporary amulets hardly comprises anything for you to be jealous of.'

'It's not about Snape!' - although I guessed it was.

'Just what do you want?' asked Remus harshly, voice going even softer and colder. 'Another Peter? Another blind adorer, yes sir, if Simon says so?'

'At least Peter appreciates things!'

Another Peter? Another blind adorer? I risked my life to become an Animagus for him?

And then my defender, Sirius whom I gave everything he asked to? At least Peter? What was this at least bit?

There was a long silence, and I expected Remus to cry, somehow. He seemed to have outgrown that, although in our second year he had done that more than once in a confrontation, especially with Sirius, who can be very intimidating. But when he spoke, there was no hint of a tear.

'Sirius,' he said levelly, 'if you'll hear me out.'

'Fine,' Sirius sighed snappishly.

Another Peter? Another blind adorer?

At least Peter…

'No, you must promise to listen. Please.'

And - and Sirius actually listened. He didn't interrupt once. This was something he never did for anyone but James, and even that was a rare occasion.

'Sirius, I am and will always be incredibly grateful for everything you have done for me. I appreciate everything, even some things I doubt you'd remember. And even apart from that, I care for all of you very much. You are my friends. I would die for you. Happily. And - and I would live for you, although I imagine that might be much the harder. More satisfying to all of us, I think, though. I would do many things for you that neither of us really care to imagine, and some things I'm sure you're too good a friend to ever ask for.

'However, I am not only a part of us. I'm also a person of my own. I have interests I can't share even with you. There will be parts of my life that you won't always be able to satisfy, and I'm sure that works on the vice versa. Look at James. When he was ready for love, he couldn't find it with us. It was Lily. And you never had any objection to Lily. Which really brings us to our next point: you consider James an equal, because you're close, but sometimes I think that you think this friendship is some strange pack to be dominated. I care for you enough to defy you. I might be at the moon's beck-and-call, but I'm no one's personal satellite. Not even yours, although I'll always try to be other things to you besides.' A pause. 'Follow?'

Sirius was silent.

Another Peter? Another blind adorer?

At least Peter…

Remus sighed. 'I wish you wouldn't be angry. I know you all think I'm a cad for - what's the phrase? - "jaunting around". If anyone asks me to choose them wholeheartedly, I can't choose them. But I can easily choose many. I love you, Sirius - all three of you.'

Well, that was it. Peace was restored. Peace was restored, and their friendship pure again, because Remus had the courage to say 'I love you' aloud and because he knew how to put into words - sans stuttering - all those things that I wasn't able to say.

Another Peter? Another blind adorer?

At least Peter…

Was our friendship built on eloquence? Couldn't be. Certainly that was a part of it. We've become known for our tongues. It - It had to be something else. Maybe Sirius and Remus could be that shallow, but James wasn't, and he was our leader.

My feelings toward them were too deep to be put easily into words. The complications made it all the more difficult.

Or maybe it was that they were too deep and complicated for mortals ears to hear.

Perhaps I'm just tired. Tired physically, from dodging around three animals hours on end, tired of listening to the two of them exchange whispered little jokes and laughs. You'd think they were lovers. I can't sleep hearing that. I can't sleep with everything I just heard running around chasing its tail in my head. Especially that one exchange.

Another Peter? Another blind adorer?

At least Peter…

How would you finish that sentence, Sirius?

Better yet, how will I, Peter, your friend, finish that sentence?

How would you react if you knew I'd overheard?

You'd think I'd hate you. Maybe so. I hurt too much to love and love alone.

But I've always been your friend. I always will. You may not recognise it, but I'll go down dying as your friend, even if you can't comprehend it.

At least Peter…