"Padfoot?" asked Peter. "Are you feeling okay?"
"Huh?" Sirius looked up from his plate. "What?"
"You're... awfully cheerful," Peter replied warily, waving his fork in a vague circle. "I mean... you don't usually hum at breakfast."
Sirius blinked, then glanced at Remus, who was stabbing repeatedly at a pancake he showed no apparent desire to eat. "Was I humming?" he asked.
"Yeah," said Remus.
"Oh," Sirius shrugged. "Sorry." No wonder Peter was worried; humming to himself was something Sirius usually did. He tried to remember what he'd been humming... it was something by that Muggle band Evans liked – the Bugs or whatever they called themselves. All you need is love, da-da da-da-da, all you need is love... that was it.
Okay, yeah, come to think of it, he was being kind of disgustingly cheerful this morning, especially for a Monday. He'd been singing in the shower, too – James had given him this revolted look and then walked off without talking to him. But Sirius couldn't help himself. He just felt so free. For more than six years of his life he'd been locked up in this little cage of worrying about what everybody thought of him, and now that he's realized it didn't actually matter, it was like he could fly. He, Sirius Black, could do anything he damn well wanted... and it was beautiful.
So was Rosalie. Maybe not the way he would have wanted last week – she was still short and flat and big-eyed... heck, she wasn't even as pretty as the Ravenclaw girl Remus was so taken with – but she was beautiful in her forgivingness... if that was a word, which Sirius suspected it wasn't. He still couldn't quite believe that she'd actually forgiven him for all the hurt and humiliation he'd caused her. Forgiven him enough to date him, even. That was beautiful, and made Sirius' circle of friends and family look like a bunch of cold-hearted bastards.
All in all... well, Sirius doubted he was in love. Love was supposed to take a long time to get started, and his inner cynic wasn't sure it was anything more than a fairy tale anyway. But he was definitely in like and possibly a bit of lust as well, although if that were the case it wasn't much like the lust he was in with Ianthe or Helene or Phaeda Panopolous, the seeker on the Greek National Quidditch team... whatever it was, though, it was enough to make him sing in the shower and think in terribly disjointed sentences, and it felt pretty damn good by any name.
It felt good enough, he suddenly realized, that he hadn't even noticed that James wasn't sitting with them for breakfast.
Or that Remus hadn't eaten a thing.
Sirius shook his head as the pink fog cleared from it. "Where's Prongs?" he asked Peter.
The answer was a shrug. "He told me to tell you to tell me to tell him when you want to let him in on the conspiracy."
It took a moment for Sirius to work that one out: ah, yes, then. James wasn't here because he was still mad that Sirius had called him on being a jerk. Well, James could go r... no, Sirius changed his mind mid-thought. No, James didn't have to go rot. Sirius would forgive him. It wasn't going to matter in a hundred years what Rosalie had heard him say to Lily, and it wasn't worth holding a grudge against his best friend. That was another thing about Rosalie... she made you want to spread her philosophy around.
But then there was still Remus. He was sitting slumped on the bench, picking at pancakes and fruit that he'd cut up but didn't seem to have eaten any, and he looked like he hadn't slept much. Of course, the full moon was only four days away, but Remus' "Pre-Moon Syndrome", as the boys jokingly called it, had been much better since James, Sirius, and Peter started accompanying him to the shrieking shack every month. So what was the matter?
"Are you all right, Moony?" asked Sirius.
"No," said Remus.
"I... um... kind of have something I'd better go check up on. A project." Peter stood up and stuffed a section of orange into his mouth. "Be back in a minute," he said around the fruit, and scurried off.
Sirius chewed and swallowed a mouthful, then looked at Remus again. "Moony?"
"Vivian's afraid of werewolves," said Remus.
It was sort of hard to come up with a reaction to that. "Well," said Sirius. "y'know... a lot of people are afraid of werewolves."
"A werewolf killed her father," Remus said morosely. "Sort of. She told me about it. And then I told her that a werewolf killed my father, too, but I didn't tell her the rest of it. All the way back to school I kept thinking she was going to ask me, if he died then how did I escape, and then I'd have to say that I didn't. But she never asked me."
"That's good," Sirius offered.
"No, it's not," said Remus.
"Yeah, I guess not," said Sirius.
There was silence. Sirius thought madly, trying to come up with something to say, but he had no ideas. There wasn't much he could offer by way of comfort, and absolutely nothing that might count as a solution. Remus was a werewolf and that was sort of that... and if Vivian's father had been killed by one, then she was scared of them and that was probably that, too. "Don't tell her" was what Sirius wanted to say, but it would be a dumb thing to say. And when you'd ruled out those, you were left with exactly nothing, so the silence just went on and on...
Only to be broken in the worst possible way, as Vivian herself stopped to talk to them on her way by.
"Morning, Remus," she said.
He swallowed, sat up, and gave her an uneasy smile. "Morning, Vivian."
She cocked her head, looking at him with concern. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," he said.
"I think he's coming down with something again," Sirius spoke up. "He... gets sick a lot."
Remus kicked him under the table.
"Well, I just wanted to tell you," said Vivian. "I found out that the Other Library has a copy of that Jack the Ripper book. I guess that makes sense, the way you said the room works. But it's turning out to be really interesting, so thanks for recommending it to me." She smiled nervously. She liked him, Sirius could tell... she liked him maybe as much as Sirius was starting to like Rosalie. Oh, yes, this was indeed a problem.
"You're welcome," said Remus.
"Did... you want to go to the library again after classes today?" asked Vivian. "We could work on the essay some more. Or something."
"I can't." Remus shook his head. "Sorry. I really can't."
"That's all right," said Vivian. "Maybe tomorrow, then?"
"Maybe," said Remus.
Vivian bit her lip. "You're not all right," she said. "What's wrong?"
"He just got some bad news," said Sirius.
"What happened?" asked Vivian.
"It's kind of personal." Remus kicked Sirius again. "I'm sorry. I'd like to talk about it, but I can't."
"I understand," Vivian nodded. "See you later, then."
Remus just nodded, and Vivian went on her way to drop her plate off on the sideboard, where the house elves were waiting to whisk everything away to be washed. But the bounce had gone out of her step.
"That... uh..." Sirius began, then changed his mind. What he'd been going to say was 'that didn't exactly make things any better', but that wouldn't help. As he'd noted before Vivian showed up, there really wasn't anything that was going to help this.
"I know," said Remus – but it was hard to tell what it was he thought he knew about what Sirius had been going to say. Sirius was about to ask, but Remus got up and went after Vivian. "Vivian!" he called.
She stopped and turned around. "Yes?"
Remus took a deep breath. "Look," he said. "I'm sorry, but..." and whatever came after that was said in a voice too low for Sirius to hear. Remus spoke, and then Vivian nodded... and they walked away in different directions, both with slumped shoulders and downcast looks.
"Oh, sure," grumbled Sirius, talking to his plate for lack of anyone or anything else in the immediate vicinity. "Just ruin my morning with your self-pitying, why don't you?"
"Myrtle?" Peter knocked gently on the bathroom door, then poked his head in when he didn't get a response. "Myrtle? Christopher? Anybody in here?"
There was a distinct lack of ghostly reply. Peter stepped all the way into the bathroom and looked around. Nope, no ghosts. Maybe Myrtle was showing Christopher around the plumbing or something. Well, that was good. Just so long as she wasn't thinking about going to the ball with Peter, Moaning Myrtle could do anything she wanted.
He smiled to himself and started to head back out. Hopefully, by the time he got back, Sirius and Remus would have finished their little heart-to-heart and James would have decided to show up, and everything could get back to normal. Peter pushed the bathroom door open...
... and nearly rain right into a short, plump Asian girl.
"Sorry!" he exclaimed.
She stared at him in undisguised horror. "This is the girls' room, you pervert!"
"I'm not a pervert!" exclaimed Peter.
She put her hands on her hips and glared at him.
"I'm not!" he insisted. "I came to see Moaning Myrtle! 'Cause, y'know, she gets lonely and all. Really, I did."
The girls' expression changed. "You come to visit Myrtle? Really?"
"Yeah," said Peter. "Actually, you see, last night I... um... I found this ghost who'd been stuck in a secret passage for four hundred years. And he was really lonely, so I thought maybe him and Myrtle would like to get to know each other, and I brought him here. That's all I was doing here, was coming to see how they were getting along. Honest. But they're not here, so I guess... well, I guess they're somewhere else."
"You really did that?" the girl repeated.
"Uh-huh," Peter nodded. "Ask Myrtle and Christopher about it when they get back. They'll tell you." And then he realized... an actual girl was actually talking to him... and she wasn't making fun of him and was actually shorter than he was. "I'm Peter Pettigrew, by the way," he said.
"I know," said the girl. "You're in Gryffindor. You hang around with the Marauders. I'm June Kim. I'm a Ravenclaw."
"Nice to meet you." Peter shook her hand. "Hey... um... I know this is sort of sudden and all... but do you have a date for the graduation ball, by any chance?"
"No," said June, who was looking just as stunned about having a boy talk to her as he was about having a girl talk to him. "I'm only in sixth year and the boys I know... well, they think I'm just the weird girl who makes friends with ghosts."
"Well, y'know, maybe if neither of us can find anybody else, we could go together," said Peter. "What do you think?"
"Sure," said June. "We could do that. If you can't find anybody else. I'm not likely to find anybody else, 'cause I'm not graduating, right."
"Right," said Peter. "Okay, we'll do that." He smiled. June smiled back, and Peter felt like turning a cartwheel. What the heck were his friends griping about finding a date? That hadn't been difficult at all! The black triplets had been perfectly right all along – all you actually had to do was ask.