Standing There By You

Chapter 62- Committed Companions

A/N: Heyheyhey : ) This is the first chapter of the summer, hope you enjoy!

'Oh bother,' said James, lingering beneath the doorframe of his kitchen and sighing. 'I can't even enjoy a simple breakfast anymore.'

'Slurpgh,' the squid responded, shifting uncomfortably in his chair. It was clearly not built for tentacles.

'I'm going to have to hex you,' James informed the squid. It responded with a lift of its tentacles in a sort of shrug, slurping up the last piece of bacon.

'Dear,' Mrs. Potter called, smiling sympathetically. 'The sooner you can remove your things from your room, the better. Mr. Squid and Lily need a place to stay!'

James stepped back in surprise as he turned to look at the squid and, sure enough, Lily had appeared next to him, donning an elaborate wedding gown and staring at him sternly. 'Where's our wedding present?' she demanded.

James stared at her, speechless. 'I- I'm sorry,' he sputtered.

'Sqmouf,' remarked the squid, and Lily laughed heartily.

'Good one,' she commended. James huffed and strode toward the squid.

'Well,' James said, 'what have you got to say for yourself?' He blanched. 'Stop slobbering,' he commanded, wiping off the spittle disgustedly. James felt another drop hit his eye. 'I said stop--,'

James swiped at his face furiously. Opening his eyes, he found that he was not in his kitchen at all, but rather involved in a massive tangle of his sheets. Another drop of liquid hit him and as his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he discovered that it wasn't squid spit after all, but rather rain that was streaming in through his open window. "Oh," James said, utterly disorientated. He leaned against his headboard, wondering at his peculiar dream, when a thought struck him that brought him back to reality. It had been raining when he went to bed, and he distinctly remembered shutting his window.

James went stock still when he saw a blurry, dark figure looming outside his window. He reached his hand out and grappled soundlessly for his glasses, but in his haste he knocked them off the table and onto the ground below the window. "Who's there?" he demanded, fighting to keep his voice forceful and courageous. His question was drowned out by the pouring rain and his visitor failed to answer, instead placing his hands on the sill of the window and lifting one foot into the opening as he prepared to climb inside.

James sprung to his feet; having no time to find his wand he instead fell into a defensive stance, prepared to knock the gillywigs out of his intruder. Cursing his poor vision, he strained to decipher the shape as it worked its way into his room. Finding no other options, James let loose a thunderous 'Arrrgh!' as he stormed toward the intruder and it immediately fell backwards, off balance because one of its legs had made it into his room while the other had not.

The force of James's blow caused them both to go tumbling onto the ground. "Blimey hell!" a boy's voice shouted from beneath him. James rubbed his eyes, trying hard to focus on the boy he presently lay on top of.

"Sirius?" James asked in awe. Spotting his glasses lying nearby, he shoved them on and saw that it was indeed his best mate.

"'Ello," said Sirius gruffly.

James pressed his hands against the floor and rose to his knees, staring down at his dripping wet friend. "What are you doing here?" he implored.

Sirius shifted awkwardly below James. "Er, I uh--," he ran a hand through his mop of sopping wet hair. He shrugged, grinning. "Just wanted to say hi!"

James stared. "At three in the morning?"

"There's no time like the present," Sirius told him, struggling to sit up. He was unusually fidgety.

"Sirius," James said exasperatedly. "You don't just show up at someone's house in the middle of the night during a thunderstorm and scare them out of their wits to say hi."

Sirius shook his head. "Yeah, sorry. Sorry I-- well, okay, I'll see you."

"Sirius?"

Sirius crawled back onto his feet and stepped toward the window. "Right well, night James; sorry hope- ah, night."

James watched his friend, attempting to figure out what in the world he was on about. His vision now aided by his glasses and some light from the moon, he made out a large rectangular object beneath the window being mercilessly splattered by the unremitting rain. "You brought your trunk?"

Sirius shifted so his luggage was out of sight. "What? No, don't be stupid. Term doesn't start for three months, I'm not that eager you know- ha ha."

James stood on his toes to peer over Sirius's head and found that it was without a doubt the trunk he brought to Hogwarts every year. "Hold on," he told Sirius, who was already partially out the window. "What's going on?"

"You know, this is the last time I'm dropping by for a cordial visit," Sirius chided. "I feel like I'm under investigation with all these questions."

James was too busy trying to figure out the situation to laugh. His eyes narrowed in thought as he glanced back at his friend, an idea surfacing. "Did you… Are you running away?"

"No!" Sirius laughed heartily. "I'm not seven, James."

"You are, aren't you?"

"Nope," Sirius told him, "I have a birth certificate to prove I was in fact born in 1958." James crossed his arms, staring at his friend. At the lack of response to his joke Sirius finally relented, dragging his leg off the sill and leaning against the window. "I couldn't take it anymore," he said, finding curiously that he did not know where to look, so he settled for the floor beneath him. "I just- Listen, I didn't know where else to go and I didn't really think about it, I just knew I had to get out of there and somehow, you know, ended up on your roof--,"

"No, it's all right," James cut in. Still gazing at Sirius, he asked quietly, "They didn't do anything… I mean, you're all right?"

"Sure," Sirius nodded. "Yeah. Say, I just need a place to crash for the night. If that's all right."

James was already reaching past him to heave his trunk through the window. "You'll stay more than one night," he told him firmly. "You know my parents won't mind."

"No," Sirius shook his head, but James ignored him. He reached into the rain to help pull his trunk through the window; together they managed to lug it through.

Tossing a few pillows onto the floor, James said, "Take my bed for now; mum doesn't have any sheets on the guest bed yet and I haven't a clue where she keeps them."

"Shut up," said Sirius. "I'll take the floor."

"No really," James insisted. "I've just had a highly disturbing dream and I need a change of scenery."

"You were thrashing about quite a bit over there," Sirius noticed groggily, heaving his exhausted body gratefully onto James's bed. "What was it about."

"I don't remember," said James. "But it really put me in the mood for calamari."

"Good heavens," Mrs. Potter declared, clutching her heart in amazement. "Is that… could it be?"

Mr. Potter gaped at the rarity above his steaming mug of coffee. "It can't be our son," he said, "it isn't even noon yet!"

"Har har," James said, collapsing tiredly onto a kitchen chair. "Listen, I have to talk to you about something and I wanted to before…"

"Go ahead, dear," Mrs. Potter prompted, taking a seat beside him.

"Sirius ran away from home last night," James told them. He looked at his parents expectantly. "He can stay with us, can't he?"

"Ran away?" Mr. Potter repeated. "What happened?"

James shrugged. "He didn't really want to talk about it. But you know his parents; they must've done something terrible."

Setting down her tea and looking deeply concerned, Mrs. Potter said, "Of course he's welcome here, but... no matter how terrible the fight his parents will still be worried sick when they look into his bedroom and find him missing."

"Really doubt it, mum," James shook his head.

"I'm obliged to contact them; it's in the Parents' Unwritten Handbook," she insisted, standing up and heading toward the fireplace. "Sirius might've had a spat with them but I'm sure they wouldn't have wanted him to just get up and leave. What's his mother's name?"

"Walburga," James said, and Mrs. Potter did a double take.

"Hm. Seems like I would've remembered something like that."

"Yeah, but mum I really don't know if-," Before he could finish, his mother tossed a pinch of powder into the fireplace, kneeling before the green flames. "Walburga Black," she said loudly.

James and his father watched as she stuck her head in the fireplace. A few minutes passed as they watched her gesture in the air, the conversation soundless at this end of the fire. A short while later she pulled her head out back out of the green flames, her eyes wide.

"What did she say?" Mr. Potter asked his peculiarly silent wife.

She shook her head. Her voice was shaky but adamant when she decided firmly, "Sirius will stay with us."

"Is it your life's ambition to make me fat?"

"No, right now my life's ambition is to feed a dozen five year olds," Julie replied, pulling out a tray of cocoa walnut cookies- her own invention- and setting it on the stove beside two other overflowing dishes. She looked at Grace, who was already piling the gooey sweets onto her plate, raising a brow. "You don't have to eat everything, you know; actually I'd prefer that there be a few left for Rebecca's guests."

Lily ducked her head into the kitchen, pink and yellow crepe paper twisted haphazardly around her. "They're getting anxious," she said, looking frazzled.

"On with the sweets, then!" Grace declared, scooping up a tray in either hand and bracing herself before marching out of the kitchen. A multitude of tiny voices squealed at her arrival; after what seemed like only seconds later, Grace came rushing back into the kitchen, looking rather stricken as she tossed the now empty trays onto the table.

"It's rough out there," Julie said sympathetically, patting her friend on the shoulder. "Here, have this brownie for your valiant efforts."

Grace accepted the treat, collapsing onto a nearby chair. "Lily's on her own for pin the tail on the donkey," she decided, biting into the brownie.

Julie watched as her friend spat it back onto the table. "Not good?"

"Terrible," Grace sputtered.

"Hmm I guess radish and plum wasn't such a good idea."

"That's revolting," Grace affirmed with a noise of disgust. She paused. "Speaking of revolting…"

Julie looked over and saw Grace unfolding a piece of parchment. "What is that?" she asked.

Grace cleared her throat. "My beloved Julie," she began, sighing deeply. "I have taken a moment to come out of my evil lair to write you on this ickle green parchment-- a concoction of lizard and snake extracts, you know, general stuff mum has lying around the dungeon--,"

Julie deftly snatched the letter from her friend's hands. "Where do you come up with this stuff?" she asked, examining what she recognized as Graham's handwriting.

"I don't have to come up with it; I'm just reading between the lines. This is splendid," Grace said, her eyes twinkling. "The shy damsel leaps across boundaries to meet her amorous admirer and notoriously evil enemy, despite startling and reproachable differences. This is just like the soap opera mum was watching yesterday."

"One, he's not evil," said Julie. "Two... amorous admirer? We've only been corresponding about things related to our Envoy positions."

"Not from what I read..." Grace taunted.

"You're such a sneak," Julie chided, looking back at the letter. "Besides, he only said--,"

"I'm SO dreadfully bored," Grace elaborated. "Please, love of my life, come and rescue me-- Hey, where are you going?" she asked when she realized Julie had left the kitchen. "I'm just getting to the good part!"

"Wow," Sirius said, awestruck. He had to rub his groggy eyes several times to be certain the spectacle before him was not a mirage. In spite of the fact that the Potters had an immense kitchen, everything- every counter space, table surface, and stove top- was entirely covered with every breakfast food imaginable. "What army are you feeding?"

Mrs. Potter spun around with a large smile at the sound of his voice, wiping one powdery hand on her apron and gesturing toward the delectable food with the other. "I wasn't sure what your favorite was," she explained. "So I settled on..."

"Everything," Mr. Potter finished for her, and he was quite right.

James nodded his approval with a hungry smile, taking in the delicious atmosphere. "Oh, muffins," he said happily, reaching for a chocolate chip one.

Mrs. Potter smacked his hand away from the basket. "Those are for Sirius!"

James pulled back, looking wounded. "But--,"

"For me?" Sirius asked confusedly.

"Certainly," Mrs. Potter said enthusiastically. "We want you to feel welcome." Out of the corner of her eye she noticed James handling a plate of steaming bacon. "Thank you, dear," she said briskly, taking the plate from his hands and holding it out for Sirius.

James pouted, looking to his father for support. Mr. Potter shrugged, motioning to his own empty plate. "Don't look at me."

Sirius absently took a strip of bacon. "I'm only staying the day," he said, glancing at James. He had a feeling the boy had already briefed his parents about the situation.

"Nonsense," Mrs. Potter waved her hand, handing him several more pieces of bacon. "Mr. Potter and I would love to have you stay with us, and I'm certain James would enjoy it. Right, James?"

She looked at her son, who peered back guiltily, frozen over a suspiciously short stack of pancakes and his cheeks bulging. "Romphg," he affirmed, swallowing hard.

Mrs. Potter shook her head sternly, but before she could say anything Sirius cut in with his own thoughts. "Listen, I really appreciate it. I just…"

"Sirius," Mr. Potter cut in, holding up his hands. "Before you say anything, we've got something to show you. I think it's time…" he looked at his wife and nodded toward the stairs.

"Yes, of course," Mrs. Potter nodded, taking Sirius by the arm and leading him toward the staircase.

James looked at his father with interest and they followed the pair, but he just shrugged. He had a very peculiar family.

"Ah…" Sirius began uncertainly. He looked at James, but his friend looked as out of the loop as he was. "I'm not sure--,"

"Just come with me, dear." Still confused but interested, Sirius followed the lady up the winding staircase and through their second floor hall. A bit breathless from the hurried trip, Mrs. Potter stopped before their guest room and opened the door. The boys took in the room with surprise; it had been extremely modified from the simple design it had previously adorned- every inch of the plain guest room had been altered to comfortably accommodate a sixteen year old wizard. Among the most startling changes was the red and gold bedding akin to James's which had replaced paisley trimmed sheets and curtains, and where pastel paintings of flowers had previously lined the walls, now hung posters of the latest quidditch players and techniques.

"We tried to fill the room with everything you might like," Mr. Potter explained. "If there's anything at all that you would want to make staying with us more comfortable--,"

"No," Sirius said, looking around the room in shock. "I- I don't think you could fit anything else in here," he added dazedly.

"Sirius," Mrs. Potter said softly, putting her hand on the stunned boy's shoulder. "We would be more than happy if you chose to stay with us. You wouldn't be imposing in the least, I assure you."

"Well," said Sirius, pulling his attention away from the room's adornments and toward her, laughing weakly. "Morning feasts and my own palace, how could I resist?" Mrs. Potter nearly knocked the wind out of him when she immediately pulled him into a tight hug. Sirius smiled, dropping his head so his chin rested on her shoulder. "Thanks."

"So," said Lily, who was presently helping a little boy with curly blonde hair decorate his cupcake. "Word on the street is you're in the middle of an inter-house fling."

Julie sighed, tossing a jar of sprinkles from one hand to the other. "Please," she begged, struggling to open the jar. "Don't tell me you believe Grace's stories."

Lily smiled. "I think he's nice," she said, handing Julie a knife to work the jar's edges. "For a Slytherin, at least."

"Lily!" Julie admonished. "Of all people--,"

"I was only joking," Lily hurriedly assured her. Her lip tweaked. "Aren't we defensive?"

"No," Julie said, well, defensively. Her cheeks flushed and she drew her eyes downward, fiddling with the sprinkles. "It doesn't matter anyway," she said quietly, concentrating excessively hard on separating the candies by color. "In case you hadn't noticed, I haven't much luck with-- oh!" she shrieked suddenly; the little boy Lily was helping had leaned on a large tube of purple frosting, sending the sugary substance streaming in her direction.

Lily brought a hand to her mouth, gaping at her friend. Julie blinked, drawing a hand upward to touch her hair and meeting a large, sticky glob that dripped past her headband and down her forehead. Grimacing, she stood up. "I think I'm going to make use of that sprinkler outside," she decided, heading blindly toward the door.

Julie stumbled her way through the doorway and had just stepped onto the porch, when she let out a shriek that sent Lily hurrying outside to see what was the matter. "Is everything-- oh," she cut off, cringing.

"Ah," Graham said, tilting his head as he examined the very goopy girl before him. "Er, hello."

Julie discovered that her voice had managed to disappear entirely. "Mugph," she whimpered.

"Going for a new look?" He asked, laughing weakly. When Julie continued to gap at him soundlessly, he said, "I'm sorry; I mentioned in a letter that I might stop by sometime and my mum's friend had a wedding in Tilbury, so…"

When Julie still failed to put a coherent sentence together, Lily stepped forward and put her hands on her friend's shoulders. "We're having a party for Julie's little sister," she explained. She gestured toward her very sticky, purple friend. "And we've discovered five-year-olds are not to be trusted with frosting. Er, we're going to go clean up..." Spinning Julie around, she steered her back into the house and called over her shoulder, "Be back in a bit!"

"It figures," Julie said, running a brush roughly through her now frosting-free hair. "It just figures."

"Don't worry about it," Lily comforted, shifting through Julie's dresser in search of a barrette. "I'm sure Grace is keeping him entertained downstairs."

"Oh great," Julie said, shrinking onto her bed. Lily laughed and sat down beside her, bringing the brush and hair clasp with her. "My hair is poofy," Julie remarked somberly, catching a glimpse of her reflection in a mirror.

"Your hair is lovely," Lily amended, fastening one of the clips into her hair. "I'm sure Graham wouldn't mind if your hair were green; he traveled all this way to see you."

Julie shook her head. "He had that wedding in Tilbury…"

"Tilbury is two hours from here," Lily reminded her, smiling. "Come on," she prompted, "Let's go."

She beckoned Julie toward the staircase and the girls descended to the first floor; taking a breath, Julie headed back to the porch- she stopped before reaching the door, however, when her sister shouted her name. Spinning around, she saw the little girl bouncing toward her with a noisemaker and streamers in her hands; Graham sat behind her, grinning sheepishly beneath a gold spotted party hat. "Your sister decorated me," he informed her, pointing toward his head.

"Oh," Julie giggled. "Sorry."

"Quite all right," Graham assured her, running his fingers through the silver fringe lining its edges. "I think it's rather dashing."

"The parents all came to reclaim their little monkeys," said Grace wearily, resting her head on her folded arms. "I need a nap."

"I could go for a doze myself," Lily said, taking Rebecca's hand and looking meaningfully at Julie. "We can clean up the place later."

"Oh," Julie said, watching Lily ascend the staircase. "Well um, how about I show you around, Graham?"

"Oh, sure," Graham stood up beside her, sliding the hat off his head and setting it on the table. "Sounds great."

"All right." Julie fought to suppress her nerves as she fumbled with her sandals. She hopped on one foot, fixing the other, and finally headed toward the door. "Er, follow me!"

After departing her yard through the walk that winded across her lawn, the two set off on the dusty road adjacent to her driveway. "It's a muggle area, right?" Graham asked, taking in the very few houses that lined the road.

"Right," Julie replied, nodding. "But there's not many; the whole population is probably smaller than Hogwarts'."

"Sounds exciting," Graham joked.

"It's not going to be a very thrilling tour," Julie warned him. She looked around, pausing. "Well um, here is the stop sign."

"Remarkable," Graham nodded.

"And… around this corner is the pond," Julie said, stopping by the small body of water."Er, over there is a tree--,"

"Happening hangout, is it?"

Julie laughed nervously. "Actually the town's pride and joy is a wishing well a little ways down the road--"

"Well that- that certainly sounds like a must see," said Graham; just as Julie set off in the direction she had pointed out, he grabbed her arm with one hand, looking at his watch on the other. "But… maybe another time. I've got to get going, actually."

"Oh." Julie's heart sunk. She was boring him endlessly, she could see it in his eyes. "All right," she nodded, heading back to her house instead. "I'll just fetch your broomstick."

"Back so soon?" Lily asked, looking up from the picture she and Rebecca were coloring.

Julie shook her head, searching for Graham's broom. "It was awful; I was so nervous I couldn't think of anything witty to say and I-- I blew it, Lily," she said, looking forlorn.

"You're too hard on yourself," Grace said from the staircase. "I'm sure you were charming."

"It hasn't even been ten minutes!" Julie exclaimed, shoving her shoes of somberly and tossing them beneath the stairs. She reached for the broomstick she spotted leaning against its base. "I think--."

"Is that mine?" Graham asked, appearing in the doorway.

"Wha- oh," Julie looked at the broomstick in her hand. "Yeah," she said softly.

"Thanks," Graham said, walking toward her. He hesitated before grabbing it, shifting his weight awkwardly. "I- I would stay, you know, I just have to get back to Tilbury for the reception…"

Julie nodded. "Right," she forced a smile. "Of course." She handed the broom to Graham and he held it lightly in his hands, turning it absently.

"You could er, you could come with me if you'd like."

Julie blinked. "What?"

"The reception," Graham reminded her. "She said- er, the bride- she said I could bring a… a companion if I wanted to, and…" When Julie only stared at him, he continued uncertainly, "There ah, there will be music and… food--,"

"Splendid, you'd never know it but Julie loves food," Grace said enthusiastically, referring to Julie's petite frame and her contradictorily large appetite.

"And music," Lily added with a large smile.

"Oh… yes," Julie finally spoke, shaking her head slowly. "I do."

Graham's lips turned into a relieved smile. "Wonderful."

Grace thrust a robe at Julie and Lily opened the door, ushering them onto the porch. "Have fun!" she called.

"But not too much fun," Grace said with a grin. She closed the door and stood on her toes to watch the two descend the porch stairs. "Our little Julie is growing up," she sighed.

"It was bound to happen eventually," Lily comforted, putting an arm around her friend's shoulders.

The door swung open suddenly and Julie reappeared, looking frazzled. "Here you go," Grace said, holding out her shoes.

Julie smiled sheepishly and gave an excited wave, backing once more out the door. "Thanks!"

Grace shook her head. "What would you do without us?"

Julie grinned. "I have absolutely no idea."

A/N: Thanks so much for all of your reviews! I'm going off to college in a week (and I have MAJOR packing to do) but I will do my best to maintain quick updates. Thanks for reading!