We're All Crazy Now 2

***

The boy who walked onto the stage now was in the seventh year. He said he was a drummer, and he offered to tap out some rhythms on a table, but Remus said no, that was okay, he was in the band. Sirius stared at him open mouthed as the auditionee thanked them and left the stage.

"Who's band is this?" Sirius demanded.

"Ours," said Remus. "Remember?" And he reminded Sirius of his promise that the band was to be a democracy.

This was because it was Sirius' idea, had James fronting it, and had been named by Remus. The young werewolf was oddly proud of this. The band was to be named The Marauders, after Remus' most ingenious invention, the Marauders' Map. And since all three had had a significant input, all three were to be able to make decisions regarding the band.

"Why him?" Sirius asked, nonplussed.

Remus said he didn't really know. And it was probably true, except that as soon as the boy had walked onstage, dressed in tight jeans and shirt, with his scruffy brown hair half-covering his eyes, butterflies had risen up in Remus' stomach. There was something about the boy. The fact that he actually volunteered to demonstrate his skills was enough for Remus. He wasn't about to wait for Sirius to reject this person on the grounds of his hair or dress sense.

The boy wandered back over to Remus, once Sirius started disassembling the stage, and James was guiding the couches and armchairs back into place with his wand. Remus felt himself going pink. He seldom spoke to seventh years, and felt rather embarrassed at having come across so assertive at the audition.

"Hey," said the boy, in a Highlands accent. "You're Remus Lupin, aren't you? You know my name, right?" Remus had to admit that he didn't. The boy held out his hand to shake. "I'm Paul McLeod. Nice to meet you. I take it you're into rock?"

"Er, no. Not really. That'd be Sirius, I just play piano."

"You are a musician then! Good." Paul put a companionable hand on Remus' shoulder. "It's about time we had a decent band around here. So, when do we practice?"

"Er. You'll really have to talk to Sirius about that." Remus glanced up. Paul had one blue eye and one brown eye. Remus stared. His new friend grinned. "This Sirius is the boss?"

"No. No, he's not. He doesn't wear the trousers, not in our relationship, and not in the band. But he might not actually back me up on that."

Paul raised his eyebrows. "You two are a couple?"

"Yeah. It's an odd arrangement. Don't ask."

Paul said his goodbyes and wandered off to lunch. Remus slumped into an armchair and thought for a long time about how he and Sirius got together. It had been over a year ago now, and had been the most embarrassing, humiliating experience of Remus' teenage life. Sirius had thought it a wonderful idea to announce to everyone in the great hall one lunch time that Remus was gay (a secret only Sirius and James were supposed to know), and that he, Sirius, adored him. From Sirius' point of view, this had been an excellent idea. The rest of the school both admired him for coming out publicly, and suddenly had something juicy to talk about thanks to him. He was patted on the back and congratulated and given detention for causing a disturbance, but that only made him more of a hero. Remus got a selection of funny looks and smacked by a girl he had recently broken up with, lying about the reason he didn't want to go out with her. So Remus had refused to speak to Sirius for weeks, and Sirius had been forced to prove his undying love before Remus would even give him the time of day again. By this time, Remus had been forced to acknowledge that he didn't hate Sirius one bit, and in fact adored him in return. Since then, they had been utterly inseparable. As James frequently commented, they bickered like a married couple, but Remus would smile secretly whenever he said this. They also made up like a married couple. On top of that, Remus was one of the most envied people in the school. There were endless swarms of girls and boys who would have killed to go out with Sirius Black, and whenever he felt down, Remus would go and find one, talk to them for a while, and be reminded why he had no right to be unhappy at all. It was the general consensus at Hogwarts that Sirius Black was a kind of deity.

The werewolf watched his lover idly from the couch, until the animagus joined him. "Coming for lunch, Moony?"

"Yeah," said Remus. "I might." He looped his arms round Sirius neck and kissed him deeply. The other looked slightly surprised by this rare public display of affection.

"What was that all about?"

"That was an invitation to miss lunch." Remus let his eyes roam hungrily over Sirius. The darker boy was dressed quite casually for a change, in a white t-shirt over his leather trousers. There were traces of eyeliner around his deep blue eyes, and his hair curled delicately to his shoulders. Somehow, Sirius' expression managed to remain cool, but the werewolf knew there was no way Sirius would refuse.

"Okay, darling," Sirius smiled slightly, tugging his lover closer to him by the belt. "I think I can make time in my tight schedule for missing lunch."

Remus commented that Sirius' schedule wasn't the only thing that seemed very tight right now, and with a canine yip, Sirius dragged him up to the dormitory, as the rest of the house headed in the direction of the Great Hall.

***

The following weekend was the start of the Christmas holidays, and a record number of students were staying in school over the break. This was because of Dumbledore's Sirius Placating Plan. Sirius had been pestering the Headmaster endlessly to let the band perform to the whole school in the great hall, but the teachers had protested. It would be disruptive to the students' learning, and was completely unpractical. So Dumbledore had proposed a New Years Eve party, at which The Marauders, and any other bands who should surface between times, would be quite welcome to perform. Dumbledore was known for taking any excuse to celebrate and throw parties and balls, and getting Sirius off every adult's case was as good an excuse as any.

Sirius had been overjoyed. James had been enthusiastic too. The idea had been growing on him ever since the band's formation, and he was now quite exited about the idea of performing on stage in front of so many people, especially Lily Evans. He had always been a show off, and even now he was dating Lily, he couldn't help trying to continuously impress her. She seemed to like it, and Remus could see why. He and Lily had a lot in common. They were both quiet and studious, and yet both of them had gone for outrageous, boisterous boyfriends. He couldn't make any sense out of it at all.

As for Remus, he wasn't bothered about performing. He knew his pieces off by heart already. His keyboard had been brought into school by his older brother, and now occupied most of the available space in the Gryffindor 6th year dormitory. Sirius had spent a lot of time writing songs, and reworking some of his favourites by his various idols, so that they could play them. He had given the rest of the band the sheet music to learn, and Remus had done so before James or Paul had even looked at theirs. And while they learned their bits, Sirius went off in search of a bassist.

This was easier said than done. Most of the people who had shown up at the audition had been third years who had bounced about a bit, playing air- guitar and making strangled-cat sounds until they fell off the stage and had to be rolled to the hospital wing. A few had been able to actually play, but had been either too fat, too thin, too spotty or too plain. Sirius spent hours roaming around to the other houses' dormitories, knocking on the doors and asking if anyone was interested in playing in the band. Then he spent hours rejecting each and every person who volunteered. Eventually, Sirius was forced to go back to the girl who had auditioned and been judged to be more or less okay, apologise, and press-gang her into joining.

And so the band was complete, with two weeks in which to learn everything they needed to before their first public performance. Remus didn't doubt that it was possible; what he did doubt was that it was probable; Sirius and James were world class procrastinators.

However, rehearsals went ahead in a large, unused classroom where Sirius had set up another temporary stage. Their new bassist, who was named Sandra Dolan, picked everything up easily enough, and Paul soon turned out to be a musical genius. It was James who had the biggest difficulties.

Sirius had positioned everyone on stage. He was to the far left, Sandra to the far right with Remus close by her, Paul centre back, and James had almost the entire stage to work with. This was helpful because it meant there was slightly less chance of him falling off it. He was currently clinging to his microphone stand, lost somewhere half way through a song, and feeling extremely dizzy.

"SIRIUS!" he screamed over the noise of the music. "REMUS! WILL YOU ALL SHUT UP!"

Gradually the noise faded away. Remus was reluctant to leave a tune half- way through, so sat there idly playing the melody with one hand while they waited for James to explain himself.

"I can't *see*," James snapped. "I need my glasses."

"No," said Sirius. "It'd ruin everything."

"So would me tripping over my microphone stand and tumbling headfirst into the audience!"

"Well you'll just have to be careful."

"Sirius, I can't see a bloody thing! I need my glasses and I need them now."

They continued to row about it for a while. Sandra wandered off to chat to Lily, and Paul ambled over to Remus, leaning on the keyboard. "This is fun."

Remus grinned. "You'll learn soon enough that Sirius can't go a day without arguing with someone about something. It's part of his charm. Apparently."

"Apparently?"

"Well, that's what he says."

Paul laughed. Remus tried not to think what an attractive laugh it was, and how good Paul looked when he laughed like that. "You guys are great," said the drummer. "You make me smile."

Remus went a bit pink. They both looked back over at James and Sirius. James had somehow retrieved his glasses from wherever Sirius had hidden them, but they were still bickering. Remus sighed and turned back to his keyboard. He picked out a tune he was particularly fond of, Paul watching him with a faint smile.

"Hey," said the drummer after a while. "Nothing's going to happen round here today. Shall we go somewhere and play? I've got an acoustic guitar up in my dorm."

Remus hesitated a moment. Leave James and Sirius, his fellow Marauders, here fighting and go to the Seventh Year dormitory? It was unthinkable. Or apparently not, because he thought it, and before he could shake his head to refuse, Paul was striding out of the classroom. Remus hesitated for a mere moment, then padded along after him.

"I should really try to sort those two out. . ." he began.

"Nah, sounds like they're enjoying themselves to me."

". . ." said Remus, then realised that Paul was right. Sirius hadn't bickered with anyone for a while, and it was long overdue.

The seventh year dorm was surprisingly similar to the sixth year dorm, except that it was tidier; it didn't have Sirius or James living in it, after all. Paul picked up his guitar, which had been leaning against one of the four poster beds, and picked out a quick melody. Remus had already caught sight of something against the far wall, and his eyes lit up.

"Thought you might like that," said Paul, grinning.

Remus trotted over to the small yet perfect black piano, and sat down on the stool. He ran his fingers expertly over the keys; it was in tune.

"How come you have this in here?" he asked.

"Belongs to the Head Boy. If the Head Boy wants a piano in his dorm, he gets one. After all, he's Joseph Riley, Professor Riley's nephew. We all know that's how he got to be Head Boy in the first place."

"Will he mind if I have a go?" Remus asked, moving back slightly from the instrument.

"Course not. I probably won't find a reason to mention it to him anyway."

Remus let himself play. He wasn't sure what the song was, but it was something by Sirius and it came automatically. He could shut his eyes and relax his arms and let it play itself, if he wanted. Making music was something that came completely naturally to him, and he knew he was warming to rock. There was spirit to it, a life completely of its own. And, like Sirius said, it didn't have to have meaning, and if it did, you could never completely glimpse it. It was alluring and seductive, and Remus liked the mystery of it.

When he opened his eyes, Paul was leaning on the piano, watching him. "Wish I could play like that," the drummer commented.

Remus went pink again, and shrugged. "I was forced to learn as a kid. It's nothing really."

"No, it's really something. If I could play even a wee bit like that, I'd be so proud of myself." A strange expression passed over Paul's face. Remus thought quickly about what he had just said.

"Aren't you proud of yourself then?"

"Me?" Paul laughed bitterly. "No. To be honest, Remus, I'm not good at anything much."

"Of course you are," said Remus. "You're probably the only person in the band who understands all Sirius' ideas, and you don't play badly either."

Paul shrugged. "Maybe. Look, I guess you'd better go, people will be coming up to bed before long."

Remus left, feeling extremely odd, and decided it was probably best if he went to bed himself.

**

The following lunchtime, Remus found himself nearly alone at the Gryffindor table. He began half-heartedly to pile food onto his plate. He had hoped to talk to Sirius, who he hadn't seen outside classes since the previous evening's disastrous band practice. He was about to give up and go and see where Sirius and James had got to, when Peter joined him at the table.

"Oh hi Pete," Remus greeted him. "Have you seen the others?"

Peter began piling his own plate with food. "Didn't you know? Extra Quidditch practice." And with that he began pushing food into his podgy mouth. Remus sighed and pushed his plate back. It was a full moon tonight, and as he wasn't going to see Sirius this lunchtime, he figured he might as well head down to the Shrieking Shack before it started to get dark.

"See you later, Peter."

***

Not long after Quidditch practice, Sirius rounded the final corner before the long stretch to the kitchens. His stomach rumbled loudly as he ambled along the corridor.

"Oh shuttup," he told it. "You're always complaining."

"Talking to yourself, Black?"

Sirius jumped, but was quick to regain his composure. A small, dark figure was leering at him from the other side of the dark corridor.

"Snape!" he hissed. "What are you doing here?"

"Not talking to myself, that's for sure. What's the matter, your snotty little boyfriend dumped you?" Snape put on his best sneer, but it transformed to a worried grimace as Sirius took a step towards him, raising his hand, wand in grasp.

"Don't mock me, Snivvelus. Sod off back to your damp little dungeon and leave me alone before I do you some serious damage."

But Snape didn't sod off. He was alone, but so was Sirius, and this gave him a small but significant confidence boost. He knew Sirius' major weakness, and he went directly for the Achilles heel.

"That Lupin," he sneered, "what a freak! I've no idea what you see in such a damp little squib."

"You're the damp squib," snapped Sirius, trying to push past Snape, but the Slytherin was on a roll.

"He's got the makings of a little turncoat, that one. One minute he's the class swot, the next he's helping you terrorise first years. I wouldn't trust him as far as I could throw him. Especially as he's always sneaking off in the middle of term. Oh yes!" Snape grinned suddenly. Sirius' face had taken on a blank, drawn expression as soon as he mentioned Remus' disappearances. "I've seen the little creep sneaking off - saw him just now, in fact. Out of the window. What on Earth could there be in the forest of interest to our Lupin?"

"Nothing," growled Sirius. "Now get out of my way!" He tried to push past, but Snape stuck out a foot and Sirius sprawled flat on his face on the floor. Enraged at the humiliation despite no one else having seen his trip, he leaped to his feet, groping for his wand. But it had gone flying out of his hand and rolled along the corridor when he fell. Snarling, he turned to Snape, who's smug grin vanished when he saw the Gryffindor's expression.

"Fine!" Sirius yelled. "You want to know where Remus goes, do you? I'll tell you. You can go and see for yourself what he does!"

Snape's eyes lit up again. "Where?" he hissed. "Where does he go?"

"Through a tunnel under the Whomping Willow." Sirius viciously brushed the dust from his robes. "To stop the branches smashing your pathetic little skull in, you press the big knot on the trunk with a stick. Then you follow the tunnel. Trust me, you'll find Remus at the other end. Give him my regards." He paused to take in Snape's delighted expression, then turned on his heel and stormed away, his pride bruised and his conscience already starting to bother him.

.To Be Continued?