Starcross'd: part 4 (four): FULL

Fala Reflects The Madness Within Tzipori

Written:Summer, 2004
Fandom:Harry Potter
Genre:Romance, Drama, Angst, Humour
Pairing(s):Sirius/Remus, James/Lily
Warnings:slash, strife, Lily actually being civil to James, Peter/Sirius (but only in you stand on your head and squint), gratuitous boyish wrestling, Peter-ly whinging and more of the biting fetish! Yay!
Plot:James has no faith in Peter, Peter has no faith in himself, and Sirius and Remus have oodles of faith (among other things) in each other.
Spoilers:None, I do not think . . .
Dedications/Thanks:HUGE thanks to Carlea, ├╝ber-talented talented writer and grammar-Nazi extraordinaire for beta-ing all ninety seven pages of this shite. Thanks so much, love. You so totally rool.
Disclaimers:The characters in this story belong to J.K. Rowling. I'll return them before their warranty's spent. And I sort of borrowed a line fromVelvet Goldmine:P
Other comments/schtuff:n/a

Over the course of the next week, it seemed every moment Remus spent near Sirius was swept up in a haze of meaningful looks, soft touches and quickening pulses. It almost made Remus forget about the full moon all over again.

On the morning preceding his return to the Shrieking Shack, he and Sirius were walking down to the Great Hall for breakfast along with James and Peter. James, Sirius and Remus were all engaged in plotting yet another Snivellus prank while the fourth member of their party walked alongside them in silence. Peter, for his part, had grown painfully curious over the past few days. James had not given him an answer as to why Sirius and Remus were acting so oddly, so he had taken to watching them carefully out of the corner of his eye. Every observation brought with it a new question that he had been too shy to ask. Now, however, as he watched Sirius chatting animatedly and touching Remus on the arm rather frequently, he could stand it no more.

Sirius felt an inquiring tap on the shoulder from behind. He stopped and turned to find Peter looking quizzically at him. Er, Sirius? Can I have a word?

Sirius blinked, a bit surprised. Sure, I guess. He turned to James and Remus. Be right back.

James and Remus looked strangely at Sirius and Peter, then nodded. Peter motioned to the boys' toilet and Sirius followed him inside.

After making certain they were alone and there was no one in the stalls, Peter spoke.

So, I was curious . . . he began, toying with the hem of his shirt and trying not to look at Sirius. Are you and . . . Er . . .

Sirius said more than asked, smirking. You want to know about me and Remus, right?

Peter nodded shyly, though he was slightly relieved. Sirius wasn't beyond making a joke, even if it was at his own friend's expense. He'd poked fun at Peter on more than one occasion, but Peter always felt like he could talk to him because Sirius Black was one boy who was never embarrassed to talk about anything. He also prided himself on honesty and while he was rather complacent, his way of conversing had that comfortable, boyish feel to it that made him the ideal person for what would otherwise be an awkward discussion.

He casually slid his hands into his pockets and leaned against the wall. So, what do you want to know?

Peter shrugged, trying to make light of the situation as Sirius seemed to do. Are you . . . well,bent?

Sirius grinned. He found the way slang varied from person to person genuinely interesting. Dunno, Pete, he said truthfully. But the other day, Rem said he fancied me and it got me thinking. I mean, let's face it; a snog is a snog no matter who you get it from. Though quite frankly, he's better than any girl I ever had. He laughed at the face Peter made, then continued, Anyway, I guess I'm bisexual, if it comes to that. But that's a really stupid-sounding word, he mused out loud, thinking for a moment. I like girls, but I like him, too. I like him a lot more than I've ever liked anyone. He's the exact opposite of everything I really hate and I can actually see myself in a long-term relationship with him, which hasn't ever happened with anyone else. Maybe I'm Remussexual. He laughed again. Peter laughed a bit as well, finding the idea fairly amusing.

So, it's just because of him that you decided you liked boys?

I don't think it was a decision as much as a discovery, Sirius said almost chidingly. And I don't know, really. I guess the more I think about it, the more I say, Birds, blokes, they're all great.' I suppose it's a best-of-both-worlds thing.

That makes sense, I guess, Peter said, beginning to understand and finally feeling brave enough to look at Sirius.

And if you really think about it, Sirius continued, boys don't expect as much from you as girls do and they're not as tetchy, you know? Like, I don't think I have to worry about Remus asking me Does this dress make me look fat?'.

Peter laughed a bit, but shifted uneasily.

There's lots to appreciate about boys that they just don't see in each other because they're so busy looking at girls, Sirius continued, not noticing his friend's discomfort. After all, there's something very sexy about big hands and a strong jaw if you get my meaning. He slid a licentious grin toward Peter and patted him on the cheek. A brief, awkward pause hovered between them.

Er, Sirius, Peter squeaked, suddenly apprehensive, y-you don't fancy me, do you?

Sirius raised an eyebrow and gave Peter a long look. Oddly enough I don't, now feck off.

James and Remus were waiting a short ways down the hall from the toilet when Peter rejoined them. James asked, Where's Sirius? Is he coming?

Peter made a face. Funny you should say that. He said to tell you he'd be out in a few minutes, just as soon as he finished his wank.

James made a noise of revulsion and Remus rolled his eyes. I do hope he was joking.

Peter opened his mouth to say something, but right at that moment, Sirius came out, a rather cocky grin slapped over his face. Remus assessed him as he rejoined the group and was a bit relieved to find that he did not look as though he'd been up to anything funny.

Shall we, then? Sirius said brightly, and the four resumed the trip down to the Great Hall. Sirius walked a bit faster than the others so that he was a bit ahead of them. Remus picked up the pace a bit to catch up with him and Sirius grinned to himself.Perfect.

As they rounded the bend into a fairly crowded hallway, many heads turned. A few giggles and even more whispers could be heard. Sirius coolly brushed a stray hair from his brow then very deliberately grabbed Remus's hand.

Remus hissed, glancing round him warily, People are going to see . . . !

Remus blinked, looking quizzically at Sirius.

Iwantthem to see us, Sirius affirmed, grinning wickedly. I want them to look at us and say, Look, there's Sirius Black, heart-throb of Gryffindor House and hisboyfriend!'. He winked at Remus then returned his gaze to the world at large, every once in a while flashing a haughty smile at a staring classmate, his head held high and at a jaunty angle. Remus smiled softly in return and straightened himself to his full hieght and confidence. They walked on, passing numerous gawkers as they continued on their way, hand in hand.

Peter and James were walking a short ways behind them and had seen the whole thing. They're very brave aren't they? Peter murmured softly, almost reverently.

Yeah, they are, James muttered, directing his attention elsewhere. A pretty face framed by bright auburn hair was at the receiving end of his admiring gaze. When she noticed she was being stared at, Lily Evans scowled in James's direction, then looked away. Her hair flashed a brazen bronze colour in the sunlight that streamed in through the narrow window. It was as if defiance was written over her every feature.

James made a derisive noise and gave Peter a sharp shove from behind. Come on, he grumbled, proceeding moodily down the hallway.

He'd been so preoccupied with Lily that it took him a full five minutes to register the significance of what Peter had said. By that time, they were all sat at the table, James and Peter across from Remus and Sirius, and tucking into their respective breakfasts. James was lifting a sausage to his mouth when realisation hit him: In bathroom that morning. Peter must have asked. And Sirius had told him. Peter knew.

Sirius nudged his best friend. You okay?

James jerked out of his thoughts and saw that he'd just dropped his sausage. It's nothing, he muttered, picking up the sausage and cramming it into his mouth. While he finished his breakfast and tried to ignore the various exchanges between the pair and the whispers that were rising from the rest of the student body in response, James came to a decision. He had to speak to Evans.

After their Herbology class, James hurried ahead of his friends to find Lily. She was nothing short of brilliant when it came to Charms, mastering everything almost instantly and even reading her Charms textbook in her spare time in order to learn new ones. Because of this, in Lily's first year, Professor Twideon had allowed her to advance to a higher class and take Charms with the second-years. She was now a fourth-year taking the class with the fifth-years and she probably knew more Charms than anyone in Gryffindor House, so she was just the person James needed to see.

When he finally caught sight of her red hair from across the hallway, he called out,
Evans! Hey, Ev- Lily! Lily', he reminded himself firmly. Her name is Lily.'

She finally stopped and turned, only to frown when she saw who was calling her. What do you want?

When he caught up to her, he said, Lily, can I have a word? He looked over at her friends, who were waiting a few steps ahead. She narrowed her eyes at him, emerald irises dark with skepticism. This had better be good, Potter. She turned to her friends. Go on, I'll catch up.

As her friends turned to leave, James looked round for a place where he might talk to Lily away from prying ears. Seeing none, he decided he'd dart into an empty classroom if he saw one in passing and said, Er, will you walk with me?

Lily said nothing, but flanked him stiffly as he continued down the halls. Fortunately, he didn't have to wait long for an empty classroom because he happened upon the Arithmancy classroom just as the sixth years were leaving, their teacher, Professor Adon, following them. With both the students and the professor gone, the room was empty, so James ducked inside, holding the door for Lily, who followed him.

Once they were inside and the door was shut, she eyed him impatiently and he finally said, I need a favour.

Lily raised an eyebrow, the tiny movement dripping with dislike. You know, I've heard a lot of bad lines before, but --

It's nothing like that! James cut in, suddenly very nervous. And it's not for me. It's for Peter.

Lily's expression softened a bit. For him?

James nodded. What do you know about Memory Charms?

Lily blinked, surprised. I know how to do a few. Nothing too advanced, but I'm pretty good with some of the simpler ones. I'm not really supposed to know about them at all. You have to have a licence from the Ministry of magic to use them. I was just poking about the Restricted Section in the library when I was doing that report on the Devil's Snare for Herbology and I happened to see a book on them while I was there. I kind of snuck it out, she admitted, a shy smile creeping over her lips. James felt something warm flutter in his heart. She always looked so much prettier when she smiled.

Anyway, why d'you want to know about Memory Charms? she inquired. What, did you do something stupid in front of Peter and want him to forget it?

Nothing like that, James said, shaking his head. He just knows something I don't think he should and I think it'd be best if he'd never found out about it.

How long ago did he learn this? Lily asked.

Two or three days ago, probably. Maybe four or five, James said.

Lily nodded. I think I can do it, then. The newer the memory, the easier it is to erase.

James nodded, How soon can you do it?

I can do it today if you can get me alone with him, Lily said proudly.

James felt relief sweep over him and was seriously considering thanking her on bended knee when she suddenly asked. So, what does he know?

James did a double-take and fumbled for excuses. Er, d'you really have to know?

I have to know what I'm supposed to be erasing from his memory don't I? Lily said, her eyes wide in Hello-Captain-Obvious way. I can't just go and wipe his whole mind blank. He'll be wandering round like a zombie and then there'll be questions.

Oh crap. James hadn't thought of that. Now he'd have to tell her about Remus and Sirius. If she didn't know already, of course. The snog over Ayne's desk had been a dare and nothing more and she was a smart enough girl to know that. However, they had been parading their relationship round the school rather obviously as of late, smiling affectionately, touching each other more often than was necessary and, worst of all, walking to and from class hand in hand. They made it almost painfully obvious.

She added, crossing her arms in a fairly contemptuous manner. I'm not so sure I want to do this. Messing about with someone's mind is a pretty sleazy thing to do. Especially when that someone is a really good friend of yours.

James felt himself quaking beneath her dissapproving stare. Oh, crap, indeed. Er, well, he began lamely. Y'know Sirius and Remus?

Of course I know Sirius and Remus, Lily said, sounding slightly exasperated. Sirius is the braggart that all the girls drool over and Remus . . . She hesitated. He's all right when he's not acting stupid for you. She smirked at James.

Right, well, James said, forcing out the words and feeling a pang of shame that he was so repulsed at them. They're, uh, they're going out. With each other.

Lily took a second to process this news and frowned incredulously. You mean, like,going out, going out. James nodded, making a face.

But I thought that whole thing in Defence was just a dare, a joke. You know, Lily fumbled for words. I mean, Sirius is constantly showing off and flirting with the girls . . . she glared accusingly at James. Are you taking the mickey?

I'm not, I swear! James said urgently. He then explained that the Truth-or-Dare thing was all part of a plan to see how Peter felt about the whole idea. As he relayed the whole story, he felt mild resentment rising in his tone. The Quidditch tryouts had come and gone and he'd gotten his wish, and just yesterday, he'd caught the Snitch in the first Quidditch game of the year. He failed to be unfazed at the fact that Gryffindor now had a brand new Seeker who'd fetched them a new victory, yet his friends were getting more attention than he was. He was a bit bitter about the whole thing, really. In more childish terms, it just wasn't fair.

Lily took in James's every word, working her fingers along a fold in her robes. I see, she said pensively when he'd finished. So why is it so important that Peter forgets he knows?

Because I'm really worried about Sirius and Remus. James admitted and explained. This sort of thing could really get them in trouble. Peter's thick, but he's got this cunning in him that's a bit scary sometimes. He's the sort of person you don't tell your secrets to because he'll use it against you if he has to. Like in first year, well . . . He hesitated for a moment. I kind of had a bit of a crush on Professor Twideon. James grinned sheepishly, running a hand through his hair. Lily tittered gently. I told Peter and he was all right with it. Then, later on, we had a big row-

Over Twideon? Lily asked, unable to keep from grinning. Did he fancy her too or something?

Nothing like that, James said, staring guiltily at the floor, He got really angry at me because I made some comment about how he couldn't ever hope to play Quidditch because he was so fat the broom wouldn't hold him.

Lily snorted, Well, I think I'd be pretty angry, too. She raised her eyebrows. I'd probably have thumped for that if it were me.

James nodded. Right, well, he was so angry at me, the next day he told Twideon I fancied her right in front of the whole Charms class, James winced at the memory. It was humiliating.

Lily actually nodded sympathetically. That would be pretty embarrassing, she admitted. I'm guessing Twideon gave you a detention.

Of course, James said. She gave us both detention because Peter was out of line sharing things that were none of his business and because a student fancying his teacher waspresumptuous and rude'.

Lily made a face. James continued, It took a while, but I guess Peter and I decided that I'd got him where it hurt - he was really sensitive about his weight back then - he'd got me where it hurt, and we were even, so we made up and went back to being friends. But it was still really awful. Everyone was taking the mickey out of me for the rest of the year about it.

And you don't want anything like that to happen to Remus and Sirius, Lily concluded.

James confirmed. Something like that could be really awful for them.

Lily nodded, then added, Wait a minute. Does anyone else know about this? About them being a couple, I mean?

James shrugged. I dunno, he said. Well, I'm guessing a lot of the school knows about it. I mean, Sirius hasn't been shy about it at all. You know what an attention slut he is, and I think he's rubbing off on Remus. They're not keeping it very quiet and I don't know whether people know they're really together or they think Sirius is just arsing about.

Well, that's not good, Lily said, frowning. Let's say I do perform the Memory Charm on Peter. If everyone else does know about them, don't you think it'll eventually get back to him?

I don't think so, James said, shaking his head. Peter's not very popular. He never hangs round anyone but me, Sirius and Remus. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever seen anyone else ever talk to him. Not unless they were taking the mickey, that is.

Lily raised her eyebrows and a sympathetic half-smile tipped her mouth. She thought for a moment, then nodded decisively. All right, I'll do it.

Thank you, James said, gratitude making him sound more sincere than Lily had imagined he could ever be.

You're welcome, she said. You'll just need to tell Sirius and Remus two things; First of all, they're going to have to stop flaunting their gayness or whatever it is they're doing. I don't want to have to do this more than once, as it's quite illegal. Second, be sure to tell them they're very lucky.

James looked her curiously.

She smiled and touched his shoulder. To have a friend like you.

He watched mutely as Lily turned and strode out the classroom, his mouth agape and his shoulder tingling.

That evening, James passed Madam Pomfrey in the hall and she stopped him. Are you on your way up to Gryffindor Tower?

I am.

Would you kindly ask Mr. Lupin to meet me at the castle entrance within the next few minutes? she requested, His grandmother is ill and I'm to see him off to the train station.

I'll tell him, James promised, trying not to sound as smug as he felt lest Madam Pomfrey become suspicious.Heknew where Remus was really going and it wasn't to see his grandmother, unless it meant seeing his grandmother in the My, what sharp teeth you have! sense. James grinned to himself as he continued down the hall.

When James reached the Portrait (dragon tails) and went inside, he found the Common Room nearly empty. He vaguely wondered where Peter was before he remembered that Peter had a detention to serve for talking back to Twideon during Charms. He'd most definitely accused Twideon of playing favourites when their essays had been handed back with their marks written on the top. If James recalled correctly, the boy's precise words had been bloody nepotist. He shook his head, grinning at the memory. Perhaps he and Sirius were finally rubbing off on dear Mister Pettigrew.

A trio of third-year girls were sat at a table and all of them were trying not to look at Remus and Sirius, who were sharing an armchair by the fire. Remus had his glasses on and was reading, one of his legs draped over Sirius's knee. Sirius was resting his chin on one hand and staring sleepily into the fire, the fingers of his other hand absentmindedly drawing nonsensical patterns on Remus's thigh. James felt a trace of nausea stirring in his stomach. This would take some getting used to. He cleared his throat and Remus looked up from his book. Hello, James, he said with a friendly smile. Sirius said.

Er, Madam Pomfrey's waiting for you, James informed Remus. A pale shudder passed faintly over Remus's features, but he brushed it off and closed his book. All right, He said mildly, removing his glasses. He lifted his leg from Sirius's knee and made to rise from the chair.

Sirius latched onto the edge of his shirt to stop him. Remus stopped and turned back to Sirius who pulled him down and gave him a light kiss on the lips. See you, then. Remus smiled and brushed his fingers briefly over Sirius's jaw, then headed out. The girls at the table watching him with utter loathing in their eyes as he went. When he was gone, Sirius lifted his feet from the floor and stretched his legs out over the chair, flopping back into a reclining position.

Uh, Sirius? James said, feeling strangely as if he were intruding. Can I have a word?

Sirius raised his eyebrows. Sure. Have a seat. He gestured to the small corner of chair he was not occupying, which would not have accommodated one of James's buttocks, let alone his entire bum.

Er, no thanks, James said, taking a seat on the floor beside the chair. He scooted close to Sirius so they could talk quietly enough not to be overheard by the others in the common room. Look, about this whole you and Remus thing . . . he began quickly, then paused, trying to choose his words carefully.

What about it? Sirius asked vaguely, studying the fingernails of his left hand.

First of all, what made you want to go out with him? James inquired, genuinely curious. I thought you liked girls.

Sirius shrugged. He wanted to and I thought I'd give it a go. He smirked. And he may be a boy, but he's a pisser of a kisser.

More than I needed to know, James said quickly. Anyway, did you tell Peter you two were going out?

He asked, so I told him, Sirius said simply, I've got nothing to hide.

I think you should consider hiding it, James pressed. Maybe you haven't noticed, but not a lot of people are happy that there's a gay couple at Hogwa-

Sirius snapped.

You know what I mean, James said, sighing impatiently. And since when? You could've had any girl in the school, so why are you looking at boys all of a sudden?

Oy, he started it. And it never hurts to try something new, Jimbo, Sirius answered, almost chiding.

James shook his head. You're disappointing a lot of girls, you know. Have you even seen the looks you two've been getting?

Sirius swatted at the air. Of course I have, I'm not blind!

So, why?

Because it's fun.

James rolled his eyes. You really are just a pissing showoff, aren't you?

That's rich coming from you, Sirius quipped acidly. You know, I seem to remember from yesterday, someone throwing a copy ofHogwarts, A Historyat me and telling me to get my fag arse out of the way. Now, was that you or Evans?

Anger flared in James's voice as he hissed, What does that have to do withanything?!

You're worse than she is, that's what! Sirius snarled. Lecturing me like she does. If you keep this up, soon, I won't be able to tell you two apart!

James opened his mouth to shout something venomous in response, but he saw that the girls at the table were looking up from their work, so he took a deep breath to quell his anger. Lily's going to use a memory charm on Peter, he whispered through clenched teeth, changing the subject to avert an outburst. I asked her today.

Sirius queried, forgetting their quarrel and looking slightly alarmed.

Because he knows you're going out with Remus, of course, James answered. Do you have any idea how dangerous that can be for you? Do you remember what he did to me in Charms back in our first year?

With Twideon? Sirius said, trying not smirk, I remember. And you've got a point, he admitted. Can't speak for Rem, of course, but I don't really feel like being blackmailed.

James said, nodding. So after Lily makes it so he never knew about this whole thing, no more lovey-dovey or touchy-feely in public, all right?

Sirius sighed pitifully and made puppy eyes at James.

Just keep it behind closed doors is all I'm saying, James reasoned. You know, just lie low. And you know what mean by lie low', Sirius. James glared at Sirius who'd broken out into a very cheeky smirk.

All right, all right, Sirius relented. We'll tone it down.

James said, satisfied. Lily's really putting her neck on the line, you know. She could get expelled for using a Memory Charm without a licence.

Oh? That'sgrandof her, Sirius said, smiling beatifically, Well, you send her my love and tell her when Rem and I decide to have a shag, she's welcome to watch.

Augh, you'resick! James yelled, snatching a pillow off a nearby armchair and throwing it at Sirius as hard as he could.

The pillow hit Sirius in the face and he snapped up into a sitting position and hurled the pillow back at James. The pillow from his own armchair followed, catching James in the chest. Before James had a chance to throw either of these back at Sirius, Sirius had pounced and the two of them were wrestling on the floor. The noise made the girls at the table look up from their books once again. When they saw the two boys laughing and grappling, they rolled their eyes as if to say Boys will be boys and went back to their studying.

By the time Sirius managed to pin James to the floor, both were with breathless with laughter and their hair looked as though it been nosed through by a mob of nifflers.

No . . . fair . . . ! James gasped, struggling against Sirius's hold. He saw Sirius staring down at him, his hair boyishly tousled, and for a moment, everything was forgotten and they were simply two inseparable - if not incorrigible - best friends. He grinned. Just like old times, eh, Sirius?

Pinned ye again, Jimbo, Sirius panted triumphantly, Just like old times.

Ah, shut your face and let me up, you prat! James growled. Sirius snickered and obliged. James picked himself up and decided that it was high time he got some shut-eye. It'd been quite a day. Well, I'm off to bed, he muttered and made his way toward the staircase to the dormitory.

Hoy, James, Sirius called after him. James stopped and looked over his shoulder. Sirius grinned. Congrats on the game yesterday.

James grinned also. Night, Sirius.

The following day at lunch, Sirius took two helpings of everything and went up to the Hospital Wing. He knew the house elves could just as easily bring Remus his lunch, but his feelings for Remus, not to mention pride, demanded that he be the one to do it. Letting a bug-eyed and bat-eared creature of knee-height bring Sirius's boyfriend lunch-in-bed when Sirius could do it himself wasn't really on.

He found Remus laid in a bed, battered and exhausted, but smiling and happy to see him. The two ate, then played wizard's chess with James's set, which Sirius had taken the liberty of borrowing.

That looks like a nasty one, Sirius commented as he took Remus's queen. He pointed to an exceptionally bloody bandage on his forearm.

It was pretty nasty, Remus agreed, instinctively touching the bandage over the wound.

Rough night last night? Sirius inquired.

Remus nodded. The worst in quite a while. Madam Pomfrey wants me to stay the night, here.

Sirius sighed darkly. Jeez, can't they throw some rabbits or chickens or something in there so you won't attack yourself so much?

Remus elbowed him. That's really mean. Wouldn't do any good anyway. I only attack people.

Not animals? Sirius asked, surprised. Remus shook his head. Just people.

All at once, Sirius broke out into a grin. That gives me an idea . . .So what's this all about? Peter said, sweeping off a spot on Sirius's mattress with his hand several times and looking it over carefully before taking a seat. After dinner that night, Sirius had called James and Peter to the dormitory to share a super, secret, special scheme.'

If this is about our plan to lock Snivellus in the girls' toilet next Tues-

It's not, Sirius said quickly, cutting James off. He was positively quivering with excitement, thrilled at his own brilliance and he simply couldn't wait to tell them his plan. The plan is, we're going to give Remus a present.

Peter blinked. But his birthday isn't till the middle of summer.

Sirius rolled his eyes. All the more time to get it ready, Pete. Lemme explain. Every full moon, Remus tears himself up, right?

the other two said together.

And he does it because he hasn't got any people to bite, so he bites himself, right?

Well, we're going to put an end to that. We're going to go with him to that bloody shack and keep him from bloodying himself up, Sirius stated, grinning brilliantly for the climax. As Animagi.

Peter's eyes bulged. You mean let him rip us apart instead of himself?! he said shrilly.

No, you dolt, Sirius said heavily. Remus and I were talking today and he said werewolves only attack people. They're not dangerous to animals.

So what you're saying, James began, more for himself than for the others, is that we turn into animals and keep him company in the Shrieking Shack and try to keep him from hurting himself.

Sirius confirmed. But the thing is, we've never really been serious about becoming Animagi before. It was all in fun. Now, we're going to have to really get on it. Treat it like a regular class because now we actually have a pretty good reason for doing it.

James nodded thoughtfully, then grinned in that adventurous way that suited him so well. Well, I'm game.

Me, too, Peter said, looking nervous, but rather proud of himself for taking on such an intrepid endeavour.

Sirius said approvingly. I'm thinking every full moon, we can meet and practice in here.

And since Remus is still in the hospital wing, we can start now. That said, James went over to his bed and retrieved the two heavy textbooks he'd kept hidden under his mattress.

What about Osgood? Peter inquired, looking over at the fifth bed in the dormitory. How'll we keep him from coming up here while we're practicing?

We'll fob him off somehow. Shouldn't be too hard, James said dismissively, placing the textbooks on Sirius's bed. The three crowded round. They hadn't looked into the prospect at all since the night James had gotten the books back from the library and they were going to be about it this time, so they decided to go back to the beginning and at least skim the basics.

Do we get to pick? Peter asked, suddenly very interested. What kind of animal we turn into, I mean.

James said, shrugging then smiling ambitiously. I'd like to be an eagle.

Sirius grinned.

Cause then I could skive off classes and fly without a broom whenever I wanted to, James answered. And such a handsome profile, he added thoughtfully, running a fingertip along the bridge of his nose.

I dunno what I'd want to be, Peter said. Something fast and clever, I guess, he added a little sadly.

I know what Sirius wants to be, James injuncted slyly. He wants to be a wolf. James threw his arms round Sirius's shoulders from behind and whispered tauntingly into his ear, So he can have little Mister Moon-Boyeveryday of the month!

Sod off, Sirius groaned, rolling his eyes and seeing to it that James fell to the floor in a graceless heap. Peter looked on, puzzled. Lily had dutifully performed the Memory Charm and he hadn't the foggiest idea what they were going on about. Before he could ask, Sirius, who was suddenly reminded that he'd need to talk to little Mister Moon-Boy' about keeping their relationship behind closed doors, spoke.

Oh look, he said, It says here that very few wizards can pick what animal to become. The magic itself will choose whatever shape best suits him or her.

Ah, well, whatever, James said, a little disappointed as he picked himself up off the floor and climbed back on the bed. He scooted next to Sirius and leaned in for a closer look at the text. Looks like the first thing we've got to do is decide on a movement because we want to be able to do this without wands, he said, It says,the wizard who desires to become an Animagus must first develop a specific motion, usually of the hand, to trigger the transformation. A very common choice is a clenching of the fist,'Fair enough. We can go with that.

Peter pointed to the spot where James had left off reading. It also says that we need to pay special attention to the movement and be able to do the exact inverse of it. After all, we want to be able to change back and look just like our regular selves when we do.

Well then, I guess we can start there, Sirius said.

Here, I have an idea, James said, pulling his satchel to him and fishing his inkwell from it. He dipped his index finger into the inkwell and dabbed a little drop of ink onto each fingertip of his other hand. He then made a fist so that his fingertips touched his palm and left a row of little ink stains on it. Now, try to touch those same marks again, he explained, passing the inkwell over.

Good thinking, Peter said, taking the inkwell and repeating what James had done, then handing the inkwell to Sirius, who did the same. Once the marks had been made, Sirius sat back and leaned against one the bed posts. He crossed his legs and laid his hand in his lap so he could watch it closely and made a fist. He missed his marks. He looked up and saw, with some degree of reassurance, that his friends were not having much more success than he was.

This is hard, Peter commented, holding his hand absurdly close to his face.

James said simply, concentrating on his own hand. This isn't going to happen overnight. It takes most wizards months to become Animagi. Years, sometimes.

Well, let's practice hard. Something like this we can practice any time, even during class. We can just put our hands under the desk and make fists, Sirius said, furrowing his brow as he stared determinedly down at his fist. The sooner we get this down,' he thought to himself, the sooner little Mister Moon-Boy will be able to come away from his namesake without looking like a serial killer and a suicidal psycho rolled into one.'

When Remus returned to Gryffindor Tower the following evening, he found Sirius waiting for him outside the Portrait Hole, haughty and handsome as ever as he leaned against the wall with his hands thrust into his pockets. A smile quirked his lips when he saw Remus approaching, the too-long sleeves of his ubiquitous jumper hiding the evidence of his recent lunar escapade. said Remus.

Sirius stayed by the wall, letting Remus come to him. He looked left, then right, and when he was certain that they were, indeed, alone, he returned Remus's greeting by placing a hand on the other's waist. He made a face. Ugh. Wool again.

Remus laughed softly and grabbed Sirius's hand, moving it lower, away from the offending jumper and placed it on his hip instead. Sirius smirked as he felt the denim-clad contour of Remus's hip. Scrawny little sod, aren't you?

Sirius often made little sidelong comments about Remus's weight (or lack thereof), but he was never condescending about it, so Remus never took offence. It also gave Remus an excuse to explore Sirius's own commendable physique.

Remus grinned and slid his hands under Sirius's shirt. Not all of us are as lucky as you in that department, he stated lightly, his fingertips praising the contours of Sirius's smooth, muscular torso. He was tempted to snake both arms round Sirius's waist, but he knew that his sleeves would irritate the other's skin, so he pushed temptation aside and simply worshipped Sirius with his hands from the front. Sirius grinned his approval and closed his eyes, pleasure making his dark lashes flutter.

Then, to Remus's surprise, Sirius inclined his head and gently bit the soft flesh of the other boy's neck. Something between a euphoric sigh and an alarmed squeak escaped Remus's lips. Who knew Sirius was a biter? And for that matter, who knew Remus, of all people, liked being bitten? Funny that the one who had been immensely terrified of being bitten by a werewolf was now biting said werewolf himself. Irony, it seemed, was not without a perverse sense of humour.

After a moment, the delicious friction of teeth-on-skin-on-teeth vanished from Remus's neck as Sirius's mouth moved to Remus's ear. I need to talk to you about something.

The next few weeks passed fairly quickly. James took a bludger to the ribs, but still caught the Snitch in their next Quidditch match. Peter received a very rare on an assignment in Potions. Following Sirius's talk with Remus, the two busied themselves with pretending that their little love affair' had never happened while conducting it in private. If asked about it, they denied everything. Sirius threatened to thump anyone who spoke of it and his word carried a lot of weight due to his popularity amongst the students. If James was asked, he told them that it had just been yet another of Sirius's publicity stunts and found that that was what a great many of them had thought all along. Remus had been a trifle worried that Sirius would start flirting with girls again. Sirius did still like to show off and act up whenever he had an audience (Once an attention-whore, always an attention-whore, was Lily's reasoning), but the winks, smiles and eye contact stopped. Girls still eyed him hopefully, but he no longer gave them any response. Remus, for his part, was no small bit grateful for this and he made every effort to return the favour.

Between Sirius's threats and the collective refusal of James, Lily and Remus to discuss the matter, the fleeting romance between the two boys had been all but forgotten by the next full moon.

That day, James had a Quidditch match, which Sirius, Remus and Peter happily attended. It was a beautiful, sunny day with a few whispy clouds strewn here and there and a light wind blowing from the south; perfect flying weather.

Remus felt pleasantly cheerful as he took seat at Sirius's left, while Peter sat at his right. The three watched the Gryffindor and Slytherin teams enter the field and the spectators gathered round the Quidditch pitch erupted in cheers. Remus could almost feel the pride swelling within James as he turned to wave at the crowd.

The team captains shook hands, then Madam Pegasus released the balls and the game was started. Remus and Peter were immediately swept up in the excitement, but their enthusiasm was nothing compared to that of Sirius.

While he didn't jabber incessantly about the sport or draw little snitches in the blocks on his calendar or plan game strategies during breakfast (using bacon and toast crusts for props) as James tended to, Sirius loved Quidditch as much as his friend did. Of course, he couldn't enjoy it in quite the same way James did, being a spectator and not a player, but his energy and zeal were just as furious. When Slytherin scored, he snarled and swore so fiercely that Peter actually leaned away from him, looking positively terrified. However, when the quaffle left the hands of Gryffindor Chaser, Tracey Kilderkin, and sailed through one of the three hoops, Sirius leapt from his seat, cheering thunderously, then turned manically back and forth between Remus and Peter in turn, shouting, He scored! He scored! Did you see that?! He scored!GOOD ON YOU, KILDERKIN!

When James finally caught the Snitch, Sirius jumped clear from his seat, nearly upending the one in front of him. he positively howled, punching the air with his fists in triumph before hugging Remus and Peter in turn and nearly snapping their necks. He snuck a quick kiss on the lips into Remus's hug, but everyone round them was so riotously caught up in the thrill of victory that it went quite unseen by anyone.

As they returned to the castle, the adrenaline was beginning to ebb from their sytems and curiousity sprang upon Remus. He waited for a suitable pause in James and Sirius's excited discussion of the match, then spoke. I'd think you'd be on the team with James, he said to Sirius. How come you're not?

Sirius's brow quirked, but he shrugged casually. I've got other talents.

James snorted. That's a nice way of saying, Why Remus, I'm not on the Quidditch team because I am utter crap on a broom,'. He yelped as Sirius cuffed him across the ear. Oy, you know it's true!

Sirius shrugged again, defeated. I've got a lot of gifts, but flying isn't one of them.

Peter put in a little timidly. You're a brilliant flier, James. Next to you, anyone would look like an amateur.

True enough, James said with a nod, a cocky smile crossing his face. Remember our first flying lesson, Sirius?

Sirius shuddered. How could I forget? When Remus looked inquiringly at him, he explained. Halfway in, I pushed off from the ground too hard, shot up into the air and ended up flying right through Dumbledore's office window.

Madam Pegasus had to levitate him to the hospital wing, James continued, It took the whole Quidditch team to hold him down while Madam Pomfrey pulled out the pieces of glass.

Remus commented, wincing at the mental image of Madam Pomfrey standing over Sirius with glass shards sticking out of his body like thorns while seven persons clad in red and gold pinned his arms and legs in a starfish position.

Pete here didn't come off much better, Sirius said a bit defensively. He couldn't even get the broom off the ground till six lessons in.

And then when he did get up in the air, James broke in, grinning, he stayed there for about thirty seconds before taking a nice spill into the lake.

What about you, Remus? Peter said quickly, turning slightly red and seeming keen on changing the subject. Do you play? Quidditch, I mean.

Remus shrugged. I've never played Quidditch, but I'm an all right flier, I guess. Mum taught me when we settled down in Yorkshire. The farm is huge, so there was plenty of room to practice. He smiled. But once, I decided to try flying at night and it went all wrong. I lost control of the broom and couldn't get back down and I ended up stuck on the barn roof till morning.

James made a face. Bet that was a fine piece of fun.

Sirius looked at James expectantly.

James looked back, puzzled. Well, what?

We've all shared our worst experiences on a broomstick. Sirius smirked. So let's hear yours. Or am I going to have to tell it for you?

Panic flickered briefly over James's features, then his eyes flashed dangerously. You wouldn't dare . . .

Sure I would! Sirius laughed, then turned to Remus and Peter. All right, so it was summer holiday after second year and ickle Jimbo, Evans and me here were just come home from the Highland Games in our kilts, right? Well, Evans wasn't in a kilt because she's a girl, f course. Anyway, this stupid sod . . . He jerked his thumb at James, who was growing steadily redder in the face. He decides he wants a go on his broom -showing off for Evans, you know- and can't be arsed with changing out of his kilt, see? And it was a really windy day- OW!!!

Sirius's hand flew to his head, having just received a sound thwack with the handle of James's broom. The owner of the broom increased his pace and stormed heatedly ahead of them, Peter trailing along after him, sputtering what solace he could. This suited Sirius just fine and he inclined his head toward Remus. You're not supposed to wear anything under a kilt, you know, he said, barely above whispering. And James does everything by the book. Let's just say poor Lily got to know him better than she ever really wanted to.

Remus grinned and followed Sirius inside.

There was a party in the Gryffindor Common Room to celebrate their recent victory over Slytherin. James seemed too swept up in the mess of red banners and sweets from Honeydukes to stay angry with Sirius and was soon back to laughing and joking with him like always, as best friends are wont to do.

As the party's momentum reached its peak, Madam Pomfrey came up to the tower and pulled Remus aside. She told him that she had just recieved a patient whose condition - he kept vomiting dirty socks - was growing steadily worse and she probably would not be able to walk Remus down to the Willow that night. After making sure he knew the way and how to sedate the tree, she told him he should make his way down to the Shack within the next hour and left.

When Remus returned to the party, Peter was waiting for him.

Going to the Shack, then? he asked, keeping his voice low enough so that Remus could just hear him over the general din of the party. He nodded and explained that Madam Pomfrey had her hands full and that he'd best be off. Peter, who had just been asked by James to go nick some more food from the kitchens, offered to walk him down. Remus cast a hopeful glance over at Sirius, but the other boy was rather engrossed in a game of gobstones with James and Tracey Kilderkin. He then turned back to Peter and nodded. He waited for Peter to get the invisibility cloak from upstairs, then the two departed through the Portrait Hole, just in time to hear Sirius shouting to James over the noise, And how about that sock-hocking hex I put on Snivellus, eh?

Peter, for all his habitual clumsiness, had amazing stealth. When they started off, he'd disappeared from view beneath the cloak and didn't make even the slightest sound as they proceeded toward the castle entrance. As Remus was making his way down the staircase and across the hallways, he'd found himself wondering whether or not Peter was actually still there and, consequently, whether or not it was okay to scratch that itch in that place.

When he made it outside, Remus saw the faint impressions of shoes on grass trailing his own, indicating that Peter was still with him. The sun was progressing sluggishly behind the mountains, feathering pink and gold into the base of the blue-black sky. The long, black shadows of evening were steadily creeping over the grounds.

Looks like it's going to snow, doesn't it? came Peter's voice at Remus's left.

Remus shrugged. I suppose.

Winter holiday starts this week-end. It'd be nice to have snow at Christmas, Peter mused aloud. I've never stayed at school for holiday, but I heard they run magic snow all round the corridors.

Remus said, not entirely interested. He found conversing with what could have easily been a disembodied voice to be a little disquieting. Er, I think it's dark enough and we're far enough away from the castle that you can take the cloak off now.

There was a rustle of fabric as the cape was flung off and Peter appeared at Remus's side. Perhaps he'd detected his friend's unease, as he looked a bit apologetic in the waning, crimson-orange light of the sun. There's something very nice about snow at Christmas, Peter continued as they neared the thrashing willow tree. They reached the point at which they were as close to the tree as was safe, and stopped. It's almost like, no matter where I am at Christmas, if there's snow, it feels like home. He shook his head, embarrassed at his sentimentality. That sounds really stupid.

Not really, Remus said, picking up a small stone from the ground. I've never had a Christmas away from home, but I'm sure I'd feel the same way.

Peter looked grateful. I like talking to you, Remus. If it were James or Sirius I said that to, they'd laugh at me.

Remus smiled to himself. Sirius and James laugh at a lot of people, he said as he retrieved his wand from his pocket.

No, really, Peter said, sounding disheartened all of a sudden. I don't think they like me very much. I mean, James is so good at everything and Sirius is so cool. I like them a lot but I think they're . . . I dunno . . . He studied his shoe. They're too good for me, or something.

Remus shook his head. That's not true, he said, though he wasn't entirely sure he was correct. He wasn't very good at this comforting-a-friend business, due to lack of experience, but he decided to have go. However solitary, Remus Lupin was nothing if not loyal and it was not in his nature to let a friend suffer alone. They like you. They like you lots. They'd have said so if they didn't. Remus gave himself a mental pat on that back. That much, he felt, was true, at least. He fished for some more logic. Look, they're really popular, right? They can pick and choose their friends however they please. If they didn't like you, they wouldn't let you hang about with them, would they? Just look how they treat Snape. If they didn't like you, you'd probably be chucking up socks by now. He smiled, hoping it was a convincing smile and gave Peter a bracing pat on the shoulder for good measure. Then, he really went out on a limb as he put in his final word. If they can be friends with a werewolf, don't you think they can be friends with you?

Peter looked up sharply and broke out into a grin. You're right, he said resolutely. I'm probably just being paranoid. He looked away and added humbly,

Sure thing, Remus said, feeling pleased with himself. He raised his wand and tossed the stone, only to freeze it in midair, then guide it past the crazed tree's thrashing limbs. With a short, downward flick of his wand, the stone fell right onto a particular knot and the tree froze. A hush of stillness fell over the two boys as the paralysed tree loomed over them, a few faint slivers of leaves falling daintily from its branches.

See you tomorrow, Remus said as he headed toward the tree, hunkering down and sliding backwards into the hole hidden amongst the roots.

See you, Peter answered. Remus waved, then turned and disappeared into the darkness of the tunnel.

The next morning, Remus awoke quietly, inhaling the faint, mouldy scent of old bedclothes. He blinked, bringing the grey interior of the Shrieking Shack into focus. The pale glow of morning was streaming in through the hair-thin gaps between the boards that had been nailed over the windows. Remus yawned and dragged his aching body from the bed whilst surveying what damage he had done to himself. He'd left some angry red claw marks on his torso and upper thighs and he'd bitten himself a few times on his forearms as usual, but the wounds were not severe.

After pulling on his shirt, trousers and robes, he took the tunnel back to the world at large. When he emerged, Remus had to shield his eyes. The entirety of the grounds was covered in a heavy blanket of glistening snow, blinding white tinged with pink in the light of the sunrise. He then realised that he had gotten up earlier than usual and that Madam Pomfrey wasn't due to retrieve him for another hour or so. Snow was still falling from the sky, pale and pure in its abundance as it danced silently about him. This in itself captivated him so that he hardly noticed that the Willow was already frozen.

All at once, Remus was seized round the middle and yanked backwards. He turned and found himself face-to-face with Sirius, who was hurriedly throwing shimmering folds of invisibility cloak over the both of them. Pete told me how to freeze it, Sirius said, grinning, his eyes glinting silver-blue with the glare of the snow. He was still in his pyjamas and his face was flushed with cold. He looked tired, as if he hadn't slept all night. (He hadn't. He'd sat up in the common room long after James and Peter had gone to sleep, reading up on the Animagus transformation and practicing what he could.) Remus couldn't speak as he was tugged behind the Willow. When they were out of sight of anyone in the castle who might be looking out their windows, Sirius threw the cloak off, letting it fall in a graceful heap at their feet, silver on white.

They stood quite still for a moment, a safe distance away from the tree, which was beginning to regain movement, then Remus suddenly felt inexplicable laughter escaping him. Forgetting the pain of his wounds, he held his hands out in offering to Sirius who smiled and took them into his own. Leaning away from each other, the two then began to spin, losing themselves in the momentum and whirl of a white, white world as they turned. Remus saw only Sirius before him, the other boy's dark hair flying about his head as he tilted it back in a bout of laughter, their shoes printing harmony upon the white ground as the snow danced with them.

When they broke apart, Remus fell backward, caught in the afters of rotation. The snow was soft on his back. It melted beneath his body and crept into his hair and the fibres of his clothing, the cold nipping at his skin like it wanted to love him.

The world shuddered into clarity. Lifting his head from the ground, he saw that Sirius was sprawled out a short distance away. Pulling himself up dazedly, Remus crawled on his hands and knees toward the other boy, the snow giving way easily and with a faint crunching sound.

Sirius's eyes were open, staring dreamily upward. He inclined his head to the side very slightly when Remus drew near. As the two looked at each other, Remus couldn't help thinking that Sirius had never looked more beautiful. His pale skin was tinged with pink like the light of the sunrise on the snow. His eyes were deep and shining as ice and his hair was impenetrably velvet-black against the shimmering white that surrounded him.

The world was exquisitely silent, save for the soft, unobtrusive rustling sound of the Whomping Willow's leaves, like the whisper of breath over skin. Snowflakes tumbled ethereally from above, nestling in the darkness of Sirius's hair. A solitary snowflake landed innocently upon Sirius's lips and Remus leaned in to kiss it away. At the first tentative touch of Remus's mouth, Sirius lifted his arms to Remus's shoulders and pulled him down so that they were flush against each other. Sirius deepened the kiss making Remus gasp against his mouth.

When they finally surrendered to the need for oxygen, Remus lifted his head and looked into Sirius's eyes. You've got dog breath.

So do you. Sirius grinned matter-of-factly and an unspoken agreement was reached. Mutual morning breath was okay. They kissed again, very softly this time. Remus touched his lips to Sirius's jaw and neck. The skin was smooth and cool and he felt Sirius shivering beneath him. You're cold.

Really? I couldn't tell. Sirius snorted. And here I thought lying in a foot of snow in cotton pyjamas would be like lying on a beach in the bloody tropics. How disappointing.

You're hopeless.

You try it, then!

Remus yelped in surprise as he was flung sideways, then pinned down and straddled by a triumphant-looking Sirius. The cold was doubly sharp against his back with Sirius's weight pressing him down into the snow. Somewhere behind him, the Willow's branches could be heard, slashing at the air.

Sirius leaned in and bit gently at Remus's neck. Winter holiday starts this week-end, he said softly. Are you staying at school or going home?

Remus didn't answer, though he couldn't help but smile. If he hadn't understood what Peter had said the previous night, he understood it now. The morning had brought freshly fallen snow, and with it, Sirius. At that very moment, Remus felt, he was at home.