Warnings: Right, let's make this nice and simple for all the people out there who tend not to read warnings: SLASH is contained within this here fic, which means MALE/MALE relationships. Don't like that kind of thing? Then push off and don't make us ANGRY.

Disclaimer: Whilst we solemnly swear we are up to no good with these characters, we'll give them back to Ms Rowling when we're done.

Notes: This takes place in an AU, meaning none of this actually happened in HP canon. Come on, did you honestly think it would?

Pairings: S/R, one sided S/J and J/L.

The rain hammered down outside the castle, falling in sheets as it pummelled against the stone walls and windows, creating a roar that people had to almost shout to be heard over, despite the stone's thickness. Lightening rent the sky, and thunder growled low and ominous on the horizon, as inside the great hall, the students of Hogwarts enjoyed their dinner.

…Well, most students.

"It's awful out there," Remus commented, waving a forkful of mashed potato towards one of the windows that lined the room, "You wouldn't believe it's nearly summer."

Sirius, who was sitting next to him, gave a non-committal grunt and hastily swallowed his own mouthful of food. Putting his knife and fork neatly on his plate, he gave a contented sigh. "Perfect weather for managing mischief," He commented, grinning across the table at James, who was staring thoughtfully into his goblet of pumpkin juice, "Nobody can escape us."

James glanced up, his expression sour, "Mr. Prongs would like to remind Mr. Padfoot that thanks to his amazing genius, they can't manage any mischief, because they have a detention tomorrow evening." He scowled and shoved his goblet to one side, "He would also like to point out that because of this, he's going to have to cancel his date with Lily!"

Sirius shrugged, not looking at all sorry. "So? At least you'll be spending a bit of time with your friends for once. Ever since you discovered Red, we've hardly seen you." His expression darkened slightly, and Remus, sitting next to him, saw his jaw tighten as he bit back a flow of bitter words, that would no doubt have come tumbling out if he'd allowed the sentence to continue.

Sighing as he once again put himself in the line of fire, the werewolf interjected before the conversation could move into uncharted territory. "Sirius is right, James, you don't spend much time with us any more." He said, gently, as Peter nodded quietly in agreement, showing his support, but not wanting to be dragged into yet another argument. "However, we understand that you wish to spend time with her," He sighed and rubbed a hand across his eyes, "It's just this once." He added quietly, kicking Sirius under the table as the other boy opened his mouth, no doubt to pick up where he'd left off with the verbal abuse.

James looked apologetically at Remus, his hazel eyes somewhat sheepish behind his glasses. "You're right, Moony, I have been spending a lot of time with Lily recently."

A snort from Remus' left indicated that Sirius was not likely to be easily placated, and it was only another short, sharp kick to the shins that stopped any attempt he might have been about to launch to restart the argument.

"Will you please stop doing that?" He hissed at Remus, a pained expression crossing his face as he absent-mindedly rubbed the offended bone. His friend grinned apologetically, although his expression changed almost at once to one of unease as he looked at a point just beyond Sirius's head. Turning in his chair, Sirius saw Lily walking towards them, her face set in a small smile as she locked eyes with James.

"Speak of the devil and she will appear." Sirius muttered under his breath, his expression dropping from the smile he had shot Remus to one of icy blankness. The only person to have noticed the change was Remus himself, and he kept quiet, hoping that Sirius would at least not cause any problems.

His fears were allayed, however, when Sirius stood up hastily, nearly knocking over his goblet in his enthusiasm to escape. "There are some things I need to look up in the library." He explained, seeing the concerned look on his friends' faces, and all but fled from the hall.

Remus watched him go, eyes worried as he followed the black haired boy's progress down the aisle towards the doors. Turning back to his friends, he was just in time to catch Lily slipping into the seat next to James. Peter, who was sitting to his left, shot Remus a look of suppressed annoyance that was returned almost equally by the werewolf. When Lily was around, James hardly strung one coherent sentence together when speaking to his friends; his entire attention was devoted to the red-head.

"What's the matter with him?" Lily jerked her head in the direction Sirius had fled, and arched an eyebrow at James, "He was in a hurry."

James shrugged, looking puzzled as well, an admirable feat when he couldn't have cared less. "No idea, maybe he just had something important to do." He sighed, and shot a guilty look at his girlfriend. "Umm, Lils, about that date tomorrow evening…" He trailed off when sharp green eyes looked him full in the face, and Lily's expression turned slightly cold. Flushing, James dropped his gaze to the table top. "I…well…that is, Sirius accidentally let off some dungbombs and…well…" He sighed, looking guilty, "Can we move the date to tomorrow morning?

Remus watched the exchange with mild amusement. The only one who could ever make James Potter into a stuttering, apologetic idiot was Lily and, in his opinion, it was nice to have someone able to control James for once. Even Sirius hadn't been able to do that. Smiling slightly, Remus looked across at Peter and jerked his head towards the door of the great hall with the clear meaning that they leave James – who was still apologising profusely – and Lily to their own devices.

Peter nodded, and both boys stood up, Peter giving James a friendly pat on the shoulder. "We've got to be going, Prongs; Remus and I are going to go find Sirius." He grinned and shot Lily a sly glance, "We'll leave you two alone." The look of relief on James's face because he wouldn't have to embarrass himself further in front of his friends, was almost priceless, and Remus found himself half wishing he could stay, if only to see what Lily was going to make him do to apologise.

Both boys hurried out of the hall and down the corridor, back towards Gryffindor tower, but halfway there, Peter tugged on the sleeve of Remus's robe, drawing him to one side, out of the main flow of student traffic. "Look, I think it best if you go and find Sirius on your own," The shorter boy said, his round face lit up with concern, "If he really is upset, I don't think he'd appreciate me being there as well."

Remus blinked, confusion showing on his face, "But you're his friend too."

Peter shrugged, slight wistfulness showing on his face, "Yeah, but I'm not his closest friend," He sighed, trying to look cheerful, "It's more 'you three' than 'us four'… he'd just appreciate more if it were you, I think."

Remus, startled by Peter's perceptiveness, shot him a guilty smile. "Now come on Wormtail, you know that's not true...but, you're right, Sirius might appreciate it more if there's only one of us there. He's never enjoyed an audience when he's wallowing in misery." A sense of relief shot through him when Peter laughed and nodded in agreement, obviously glad that he wouldn't have to be the one to deal with Sirius in a temper. "You can come if you want…" Remus added, pretending to sound hopeful, as though he were scared for his very life.

Peter mock-grimaced, "And face Padfoot in a temper? No thanks."

And with that, he left the dubious honour to Remus.

********

Sirius was currently sitting in the library, curled up in one of the window seats, pretending to read.

He'd fled there after Lily had approached the table, knowing full well it was the last place any of his friends would think to look for him. He needed, he had decided, time alone - to sort out his thoughts. And despite the fact that he'd never been one for an easy challenge, it was turning out to be practically impossible.

He'd never been jealous before, not even when James had gone out with…what was her name? He frowned, rubbing his forehead to try and ease the headache he could feel building behind his eyes. Emma, yes that was her name. But then Lily had come along and everything had changed, it was no longer Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs, it was Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Mr and Mrs Potter. He scowled and snapped the book shut, giving up on any pretence of reading. It wasn't that he disliked Lily. On the whole the girl had been very patient towards him and his attitude, but it was the fact that it was her instead of him.

Sirius briefly wondered how pathetic his inner thoughts would sound to an outsider, and came to the not so comforting conclusion that they were worse than a muggle soap opera. Didn't this sort of thing happen all the time in those? Best friend falls hopelessly in love with another woman, completely ignoring what was right in front of him, until at the dramatic climax, it all comes out, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Like there was a chance of that happening.

He hadn't wanted to admit it, even to himself, but when he'd started to lose sleep because he knew something was fundamentally wrong with his life, he'd tried to come up with an answer as to why he was feeling odd. It had come as no little surprise when he'd begun to notice that whenever James grinned at him, he felt warm inside, or that his knees went weak. It was so cheesy, so corny, so un-Sirius that at first he thought he'd been wrong. And then, it had hit him.

He was in love with James Potter.

Ever since then, he'd been struggling to hide his feelings, knowing full well that his love was unrequited and was likely to stay that way. 'Why is it that, that which you want the most, you can never have?' he thought miserably. But misery had never been Sirius's strong point; he hated wallowing in self pity and despised those who indulged in it. Shaking himself out of his mood, he stood up, stretching, and winced as the stiff muscles in his back protested loudly.

"Sirius?"

The quiet voice broke the stillness of the library and Sirius jumped, his hand halfway to the nearest shelf as he searched for another book.

"Moony? That you?" He peered down the gradually darkening aisle and spotted a flash of hair and the concerned look of golden eyes. 'Oh gods don't ask me what's wrong,' he thought desperately, knowing full well why his friend had sought him out, 'I'm not ready to answer that kind of question.'

Remus, apparently ignoring all mental pleading, moved closer. "What's wrong?"

Forcing a grin that would have looked better on a corpse, Sirius attempted to imitate his earlier, happy mood. "Nothing! What on earth would be wrong with me, Moony my lad?" 'Idiot, don't sound so happy or he'll know you're faking it!' Sirius cleared his throat, his expression dropping slightly as he glanced sideways, avoiding Remus' eyes in favour of looking at the bookshelf. "Um…so," He began, unsure what to say, "Where is everyone?"

If Remus knew he was deliberately changing the subject, he didn't show it. "Peter's gone back to the common room to study and James is apologising to Lily." He gave a small smile and Sirius, startled, returned the favour. "Guess it's just you and me, Padfoot." He sighed and sat down in the window seat Sirius had just vacated, "I'm not promising to provide endless entertainment, though…" He trailed off as he caught sight of the closed book his friend had apparently been reading. "Shakespeare?" One eyebrow rose in surprise, "I thought you didn't hold with 'all that muggle nonsense'?" 

Sirius coughed, looking slightly embarrassed as he continued to scan the shelves. "Yeah, well, Mrs Potter got me hooked on his damn plays when I was a kid." He half smiled, turning to face the surprised werewolf, "It was the only escape I had from…things."

Remus was shocked. Sirius had never opened up this much to his friends before, and certainly not to him. He rarely spoke of his childhood and family life, and whenever the subject had come up in general conversation, Sirius had always declined to comment. He was also more than a little surprised that Sirius, proud, brash, noisy Sirius, would sit quietly and read a book written by a muggle. Muggles, his friend had always claimed, had no idea about true wizardry. They fumbled along, and only rarely should one of them be classified as a true genius. According to Sirius, most of their writing was not as powerful as that of one of the magical folk, and he very rarely took the time or effort to read something written by a non magical person.

"Oh don't look so surprised." Sirius's cheerful voice cut through his thoughts, ending his inner reverie. "I'm not as stupid as both you and Pete tend to think."

"Mm." Remus murmured, his tone non-committal as he wondered what had provoked this sudden insight into his friend.

Sirius studied him for a moment, wondering what he was thinking about so deeply, little realising that it was him. Having tired of the silence, he poked Remus's arm, causing the smaller boy to jump. "Knut for your thoughts?"

Remus cleared his throat, turning his head to look out of the window. "I was just thinking, Padfoot, that you've been cooped up too long if you're reduced to reading – as you so often eloquently put it – 'muggle rubbish'. Perhaps we should go down to Hogsmeade?" He grinned up at the dark haired boy, feeling an odd flutter in his stomach as the grey eyes lit up in anticipation of mischief. "I'll even buy you the first round of butterbeers in the Three Broomsticks." He added temptingly.

Not that Sirius needed tempting.

"Moony, you're a genius! A night out's exactly what I need." Sirius beamed and hauled his friend to his feet before they hurried out of the library and back to the common room to grab their cloaks. "I haven't had fun in ages, what with you and Peter being busy with revision and James…" He trailed off and shrugged, being careful to hide his sour expression from his friend, before he brightened up again, grabbing his cloak and tossing Remus his. "Come on, before someone catches us."

"Marauders Map?" Remus reminded him as both he and Sirius clambered back out of the portrait hole.

Sirius rolled his eyes. "James has it, and I don't want to bother him. Besides, we can do without it," He smirked, looking far more like his old self than he had in longer than Remus liked to think, "We're two criminal geniuses."

"I'd hardly call us that." Remus demurred as they slipped down a corridor, moving like wraiths through the rapidly darkening gloom.

"I would, Moony my friend," Sirius threw an arm around his companion's shoulder, "I would."

********

"You're not buying him another one, are you?" Rosmerta shot Remus a dubious look from behind the bar, even as she filled another tankard with foaming Butterbeer. "He's well on his way towards drunk already; he doesn't need any more help." Her dark eyes worried, she jerked her head at Sirius, who was sitting cheerfully in a corner, eyeing the other customers with unusual interest.

Remus shot her a wan smile. "The lord demanded another drink, so that's what he's getting." Truth be told, he didn't care how many drinks Sirius had. In fact, the more the better, because the more inebriated Sirius became, the more he seemed to open up to his friend. And the more he opened up, the more Remus began to see a side to him that not many other people did. 'And that,' he thought with a certain amount of satisfaction, 'might help me to find out what exactly has been wrong with him these past few months.' Picking up the two tankards and nodding his thanks to Rosmerta, he hurried back to his friend.

"By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes." (1) Half lidded silver eyes observed Remus's progress back to the table as Sirius lounged back in his chair, black hair shining in the light of the fire, his features sharply highlighted by the flickering light.

"Not wicked, just thirsty." Remus corrected him, seating himself opposite. "Mind you, we're rapidly running out of money. Honestly Padfoot, you should have warned me that you were going to be doing some heavy drinking - I would have brought more cash." He smiled to show he was joking and watched as Sirius wrinkled his nose, looking half disbelieving and half surprised.

"Didn't plan to drink this much." He admitted solemnly, picking up his own tankard and taking a long swallow. "Didn't plan on anything." He frowned and nibbled his lower lip, looking thoughtful. "'S odd that, I didn't plan on any of the stuff that has happened in my life happening. Seems like we have no damn control over anything. Not our lives, not our minds, not our bodies and not our hearts." He stared hard into his cup, as though it held all the answers to his life. "'S very odd."

From this, Remus concluded, Sirius was a philosophical drunk, and he was also beginning to get nearer to the real problem behind his sullen moods.

"An'…" Sirius was saying, now idly tracing patterns on the tabletop, "An' damn it, that Shakespeare fellow had it about right. 'All the world's a stage and all the men and woman merely players. They have their exits and their entrances and one man in his time plays many parts.'" He heaved a sigh and looked up at Remus, his face still holding a strange almost fey expression. "That's all of us. We always pretend, don't you see? We always hide what we're feeling and say the opposite to what we think."

Remus stared at him, shocked by this insightful comment. Half of him was mildly impressed by the display Sirius was putting on, and the other half was wondering how the hell his friend managed to remember complicated Shakespeare when he was more than halfway towards being smashed. Eventually, he settled on a safe, tame reply. "I think you've had enough to drink." He said, cheerfully, and stood up, walking around to the other side of the table and kneeling in front of Sirius so he was face to face with him. "Come on Padfoot, pop that down and we'll get you home and into bed."

He tried to take the tankard from Sirius who – though he was a philosophical drunk, was not an obliging one – promptly clung onto its handle tighter. "Ah c'mon Remmy, let me just finish this one." His eyes widened, giving him and innocent, childish look that, had he not known better, would have had Remus giving him anything he wanted.

"No, no more. Home. Now." He tried to tug the tankard again.

Sirius shook his head stubbornly and clung harder to the mug, inducing what could only have been called a tug of war.

"Give me that drink!" Remus snarled, losing his patience.

Sirius shook his head again, clutching it to his chest. "No! Mine!" He blinked, looking suddenly solemn, "It's not like I get drunk often, just let me this once, please?"

"No!" Remus tugged at the tankard one last time, but Sirius, tugging in the opposite direction, was stronger. The drink flew out of both of their hands and fell onto the floor, causing a puddle to form under the table. At the same time, Remus, thrown off balance, fell awkwardly forward, only to be caught by Sirius' quick hands as they came up to grasp the backs of his elbows, steadying him.

"Thanks." Remus went to get up, but found he couldn't move as the clever, capable hands of his friend held him locked in place. "Uh…Padfoot? I need to get up." He prodded gently, unwilling to remain in close contact with Sirius for an overlong period of time.

"'Soft you now! The fair Ophelia!'" Sirius murmured suddenly, his gaze roving over his friend's features before locking with Remus's. His eyes, the werewolf thought, suddenly feeling giddy, were like pools of molten silver as they continued to scrutinise his face with a sudden, fierce interest and – he was more than a little shocked to see – sobriety. "'Nymph, in thy orisons, be all my sins remembered,'" Sirius continued, before giving a small, half smile that spoke of the gentleness that usually lurked beneath his boisterous exterior.

Letting out a soft sigh, he leant forwards suddenly, and gently kissed an astonished Remus.

To Be Continued…  

(1) Macbeth – Act IV, scene 1.