Disclaimer: I still don't own any of the Harry Potter characters. I still figure that you could have guessed this on your own. I still don't think that J.K. Rowling is so desperate for money that she'd sue me for not writing this disclaimer.
Author's Notes: Except for the very beginning and the very end, this entire fanfiction was written out by hand during various classes. –lying- They weren't very important classes, I promise. -/lying- 0:-) As for the title, it is utterly and completely meaningless. Forgive me.
"One week. One more week, and we won't have to go to that idiot's class ever again," exclaimed Sirius Black, kicking an abandoned Arithmancy textbook enthusiastically into an empty classroom.
"Thank heavens," agreed James reverently. "I mean, honestly—Divination's not even a real subject."
Remus smiled, taking a few quick steps to keep in pace with his friends. Divination had just ended, a half-hour early by some stroke of mercy, and he and his three friends were eagerly fleeing the area. Needless to say, it had not been a very enlightening class. "I've heard that Dumbledore's been considering canceling it eventually," he told them, "but he doesn't dare insult Professor Proveca."
James snorted. "Why? Is he afraid she's going to come after him with her crystal ball? The woman can barely even stand up!"
"He's probably just waiting for her to either retire or die of old age and crabbiness," Remus said, shrugging. "I just know that after this year, Divination's not going to be a requirement all the way until seventh year. Dumbledore and the teachers decided to change the system so that there'll be fewer classes that aren't related to the NEWTs."
Sirius looked thoughtful. "Do you mean to tell me," he began slowly, "that if we had just poisoned her precious tea at the beginning of third year, Dumbledore not only would have left the position open permanently, but might have also perhaps have felt some well-earned gratitude toward us?"
Remus shot him a look of amused indignation. "Honestly, Sirius."
"Oh, come on—you know she's already lived longer than she ought to have," protested Sirius as they descended a narrow staircase.
James nodded. "Not to mention that she's a complete fake."
"She's not a complete fake," contradicted Peter, frowning nervously as he scampered up next to James. "She was right about your owl dying in fourth year."
"That owl was ancient," James reminded him. "Of course she knew it was going to die."
Peter looked unconvinced. "What about the time she told Remus that his aura reminded her of a wolf?"
"Peter, she knew that he was a werewolf," Sirius explained patiently. "All the staff did. Don't you remember how Dumbledore was furious at her for saying that during class?"
"Oh… That's right—" began Peter, but James cut him off.
"She told Snape that he was going to meet his end before sixth year was over," James said, his voice taking on a sense of finality. "And since he is still, regretfully, alive and well, I think we can safely say that she doesn't have a clue what she's talking about."
They walked through the halls in embarrassed silence for a few moments as each of them realised that Snape would have indeed met his end that very year had James not prevented it. Remus bit down firmly on his lip to prevent himself from contemplating how that year so easily could have ended…
"Is Lily going with you to the Graduation Ball next week?" Peter asked James suddenly, breaking the silence.
"Yeah," James answered happily, visibly relieved that someone had finally spoken. "I asked her yesterday."
Remus smiled. "Like she would have said no? You've been going out for months."
James shrugged. "You never know. Especially with her."
"I suppose so," Remus agreed.
A light seemed to appear in James's eyes, as if he had just been reminded of something important. "Are you even going to the Graduation Ball, Remus?" he asked as the four of them rounded a bend toward the Great Hall.
Remus frowned, confused. "I think so," he replied slowly. "I thought we were required to."
"Well, considering that you read a book at this school's last social function…" commented Sirius, disgusted. He was referring to the Yule ball that had taken place for the Triwizard tournament in their fifth year.
Remus blushed. "It was boring," he admitted. Something in James's tone of voice piqued his curiosity, though, and he turned to the boy. "Why?"
James grinned back at him wickedly. "Wellll…" he began, drawing out the syllable teasingly. "A certain girl in our house begged me to ask you if you'd go to the ball with her," James revealed, entering the Great Hall and immediately perching on the end of the Gryffindor dining table.
Sirius snorted loudly, Peter tittered quietly behind his hand, and Remus simply blinked. "…Someone wants to go to the ball with me?" he repeated incredulously.
"Yep." James grinned again.
"Ah…" Remus trailed off, a faint blush rising to his cheeks. "May I inquire who?" he asked delicately.
"She's a sixth year," explained James. "Kind of wavy brown hair… I didn't even know her name until this morning. Marian Noll."
"A slight crease formed on Remus's brow as he processed this information. "Isn't she Susanna's little sister?" he asked, referring to Susanna Noll, the Gryffindor chaser who had graduated the year before.
"Yeah, that's right…" James agreed, his eyes lighting up in recognition.
"She's pretty," Peter commented, apparently recognizing the name, as well. "You should go with her, Moony," he advised.
"If she's a sixth year, how can she go to the Graduation Ball?" Remus asked reasonably, moving around James to sit on one of the benches facing the table.
Sirius laughed, sliding onto the bench opposite Remus. "The other years can go if they're invited," he explained, and smiled wryly. "Or if they invite themselves."
James pushed himself up until he was sitting cross legged in the center of the table. "So," he began importantly, "will you go with her?"
Remus stared down at the wooden table with a bemused smile. He had never considered asking anyone to the ball, nor had he imagined that anyone would ask him. Considering that none of the girls at Hogwarts had ever paid him the least attention over the past seven years unless under direction from one of his friends, it was understandable that he was rather taken by surprise.
"I'm not sure," he finally stated, feeling hesitant.
"You ought to!" enthused Peter squeakily, still hovering at the end of the long table.
James nodded in agreement. "He's right, Moony," he said from his perch, looking rather sagely. "You haven't been on a date in—" he blinked. "Have you ever been on a date, Remus?"
Sirius laughed. "You know, I don't think he has."
"See? Never," said James, looking vaguely indignant. "This is your last chance! Once we graduate, it's too late."
"I doubt that," Remus observed quietly, a smile forming on his face at his friends' enthusiasm. Truth be told, he had never really been interested in dating any of the girls at Hogwarts, but he did appreciate his friends' concern.
"Well, not too late," James corrected. "But you do finally have a chance, and you might as well."
Sirius rolled his eyes. "Come on, James, you know she's probably just trying to get into the ball. Don't make Moony go with her if he doesn't want to."
"He didn't say he didn't want to," James pointed out. "Plus, if she just wanted to go with anyone, she could've asked one of her friends, or something," he reasoned. "I think she's got a crush on him," he decided.
Sirius snorted again. "Convenient time for it, don't you think? We're not even going to be here after next week."
Remus looked at him, frowning. "Are you implying that it's that unlikely for a girl to have a crush on me?" he asked pointedly, his voice calm despite his heated face.
Sirius, James, and Peter all stared at him with identical expressions of surprise.
"Well, no, of course not," Sirius managed finally. "I just mean—well, you know. It's suspicious," he finished lamely.
"Mmhmm," Remus responded, not entirely convinced.
"So, ah… Do you want to go with her?" asked James.
It didn't entirely seem that had much of a choice. Even if he could talk James out of the idea, what was he supposed to offer as an excuse to Marian? It seemed rude simply to refuse out of a lack of interest.
"I…" he sighed. "I just don't know." he had intended to give more of an affirmative answer, but a certain reluctance had stopped him.
James looked dissatisfied, but shrugged as he hopped off the table. "Well, if you want to…" he trailed off expectantly. Upon receiving no response, he shrugged again. "Just tell me, and I'll pass the word on to her."
"Okay," agreed Remus, smiling shyly. The sound of distant bells drifted through the cavernous room, altering them that it was three o'clock and afternoon classes were officially over.
"Another day down," Sirius commented with a slight grin. Counting on his fingers, he added, "Eight days to go."
"And that's counting the weekend," James observed, already distracted from his previous goal of getting Remus a date for the ball.
Seeing this as a good time to make an escape, Remus pushed himself up from the table. "I have some library books I need to return before the term ends," he announced, picking up his bookbag and hanging it off his shoulder. Some time to think without anyone prodding at his thoughts might do him some good. "I'll see you at dinner," he said, heading toward the Entrance Hall and the grand marble staircase leading to the upper levels of the castle.
"I don't understand him, sometimes," James commented conversationally as they watched Remus depart.
Sirius scowled. "Sometimes?" He shook his head, sighing. Then he looked up at his friend. "Did Marian Noll really want to go to the ball with him?"
Sirius made a low sound in his throat that came out sounding suspiciously like a growl.
"What's wrong with that?" James asked. "She seemed nice… Not half bad-looking, either."
Sirius shrugged, annoyed. "I don't know," he lied. "I can't imagine her with Remus." That much, at least, was true. He had never really been able to imagine Remus with any girl, and of late he had realised that the reason for this was that he didn't want to. It was a strange sort of possessiveness on his part, and he had long since given up on telling himself that it was merely the result of friendly protectiveness.
In short, he had a crush on the bloody werewolf, and it didn't seem to be going away.
"So, what're we going to do now?" piped up Peter, who had been silent for some time.
James shrugged. "Wanna go see if Filch is in his office?" he suggested.
Seeing as Remus wasn't around to discourage them, it was a decent idea, though unoriginal. Peter, for his part, seemed quite pleased by the prospect, but Sirius wasn't in the mood for mayhem and mischief at the moment.
"Maybe later," he said, although his mind was somewhere else entirely. On Remus, to be precise. And on Marian Noll, for that matter. While Sirius could sympathize with her girl's attraction to Remus, it offended something deep inside him that she had dared to actually ask him to the ball. She wasn't even supposed to be at the ball! And, perhaps more to the point, he was bothered that Remus had seemed so pleased by the idea.
At this thought, he paused. "Pleased," was an exaggeration, perhaps… But then, when were Remus's emotions ever easily discernable?
Peter sighed loudly, interrupting this train of thought. "I'm bored," he complained. "What are we going to do?" he asked a second time.
Sirius stood up, using the table as a prop. "You two have fun," he said. "I'll see you later."
"What?" James looked at him strangely. "And where do you think you're off to?"
Sirius pondered this for a moment, trying to come up with a reasonable lie. The common room? They'd only follow him there. The shower? No, they wouldn't buy that. To study? He almost laughed out loud at the thought. "I… I have to go owl my mum," he finally decided. "I'll meet you here at dinner," he added, as Remus had. Before any complaints could be voiced, he was off, already through the door and bounding up the marble staircase.
A few minutes later, he was creeping through the library, trying to find Remus without being spotted by the librarian, Madame Pince, a severe young woman who had recently joined the school's staff and who had taken a near-immediate disliking to Sirius.
Near the back of the library were several long, wooden tables near a series of pane-glass windows, and it was at one of these that Sirius found Remus sitting. He was facing away from the windows, holding a large tome propped up on the table in front of him. A faint crease was visible on his forehead, as if he were either upset or in deep concentration—perhaps both. The afternoon sun shone through his honey-colored hair, highlighting it with streaks of brilliant gold and reflecting off the rim of his reading glasses. Sirius stood for a moment in the shadow of a nearby bookshelf, staring at the scene as a strangely pleasant twisting sensation worked itself way from his stomach to his throat. He bit down hard on his lower lip, taking several shallow breaths through his nose. Then, with a final deep breath, he emerged.
"Hey, Moony," he greeted the other boy, taking the seat opposite him. "What're you reading?"
Remus blinked up at him, a small frown touching his lips. "What are you doing here?" he asked, ignoring Sirius's question. "And where are James and Peter?"
"In the Great Hall, presumably," Sirius responded casually. He folded his arms on the table and rested his chin on top of them, gazing mournfully up at his friend. "I thought you came here to return your books."
Remus sighed. "I just needed some time to think," he explained, setting the book down open in front of him.
"Oh." Sirius shifted in his seat. Remus was eying him quite suspiciously, making him uncomfortable. Any minute, now, Remus would ask him if he needed anything, and Sirius would have to admit that he didn't. He chewed morosely on his lower lip. "Are you really going to go to the ball with that girl?" he blurted suddenly.
Damn. He hadn't meant to say that, or at least say it so bluntly.
"I didn't say I was," said Remus, frowning. "Why?"
"You shouldn't," Sirius found himself saying before he was even aware of opening his mouth. It was too late now… "She's just using you to get into the ball because she knows you're too polite to say no," he went on brazenly. "She doesn't like you. She doesn't even know you!"
Remus's lips were pursed together and set in a thin, straight line. "I don't know why it bothers you so much," he said, his voice unnaturally cold.
"It's not that it bothers me," Sirius lied, "it's just that…" he trailed off. "It doesn't seem right," he muttered.
"What doesn't seem right? The fact that there's one girl in this school who's not in love with you?"
"No!" This conversation was not progressing the way Sirius had hoped it might. "This has nothing to do with me!"
"Then why do you care?"
Sirius had to actually bite down on his tongue to keep himself from admitting the truth. It was tempting, with Remus right there across from him, late sunlight creating a halo of radiance around his lightly ruffled hair… Sirius closed his eyes, sighing. "I don't know. I just do." The words sounded pathetic even to him; he didn't dare imagine how they must have sounded to Remus.
"Do you really thing it's impossible for one girl to like me?" Remus asked, his eyes flashing accusingly. "You have girls all over you."
This struck Sirius as being incredibly unfair, and he said so.
"Unfair?" echoed Remus. "Unfair how?"
"I don't have girls 'all over' me," Sirius retorted, "and if girls like me, it's not my bloody fault. It isn't as if I encourage them."
Remus snorted. "Oh, really? You're always flirting with girls, showing off and pretending you're God's gift to humanity," he accused. "Between you and James, it's a wonder that the castle is big enough to hold your egos."
"James? How did he get into this?" sputtered Sirius, now utterly confused. "Plus, I'd have thought you'd be grateful to him for telling you about this girl in the first place," he spat.
"What? Why are you so fixated on that?" demanded Remus. "I never wanted to go with her in the first place, but since it bothers you so much, I think I will." And with that, he snapped the book shut and walked away, leaving Sirius sitting at the table feeling utterly defeated.
Remus had been doing a lot of hiding lately. Between Sirius, who was acting like a whiny prat, and James, who had only become more smug at Remus's acceptance of Marian's proposal, it was little wonder that being with his friends had become less than enjoyable. Out of his three closest friends, only Peter was still tolerable—at least, as tolerable as he ever was—and talking to Peter when James wasn't around was strikingly similar to conversing with a hand puppet, minus the hand.
All of this had added up to create quite a sullen mood in the young werewolf. He had spent as little time as possible with his friends on Friday, finding questions to ask teachers during passing periods and prefect duties to attend to at lunch. Over the weekend, he had managed to volunteer himself for odd jobs around the school, and ended up spending most of Saturday and a good part of Sunday helping Professor Sprout organize all her plants and cast self-watering charms on those that could be left unattended over the holidays.
But now it was Monday, and Remus was sitting in Professor Flitwick's charms class. Due to the extreme lack of attention he had been receiving during class over the last few weeks from the seventh years, Flitwick had recently implemented an alphabetical seating chart so that those students whose last names began with letters closest to the beginning of the alphabet were seated closet to the front of the room. As a result of this, Remus had ended up sitting somewhere in the middle of the classroom, in the fourth row of desks. Three rows in front of him and to the right sat Sirius, who had long since given up pretending that he was fascinated by Flitwick's lesson (which was on the charms used in making wizards' photographs). Several rows behind him, if Remus had turned to look, could be seen James and Peter, who had ended up sitting next to each other. Every so often, Remus would hear James mutter something unintelligible in a low voice, at which point Peter and occasionally a few other nearby students would break into muffled laughter.
Remus was one of the few students actually making some effort to take notes, but even his heart wasn't in it. After all, their NEWTs were over, so nothing they learned now could affect those scores. And while the topic of the lesson did interest Remus… He was just a little distracted. Not to mention that the temperature in the classroom was several degrees higher than it ought to have been, adding a lazy drowsiness to the general apathy filling the room.
"Psst." His focus was suddenly diverted by Sirius's whispered attempt to get his attention. He spared the other boy an annoyed glance, and in response, Sirius waved a folded piece of parchment at him.
Remus recognized it at once. It was something James and Sirius had come up with the previous summer—a device that allowed them to communicate with each other, particularly during class. Anything written on one of the pieces of parchment would simultaneously show up on each of the others and remain there until someone cleared it. It was a rather clever charm, and Remus had been only superficially reluctant to accept the copy Sirius had presented him with at the beginning of the term.
Reaching now into his bookbag, he retrieved the device from inside his Arithmancy textbook. He unfolded it, expecting to see some message, but it was blank. He glanced up at Sirius, but the boy was now turned away, his eyes on the chalkboard. Remus picked up his quill and wrote a brief message:
What do you want?
Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Sirius look down at his parchment for a long moment before picking up his own quill. On Remus's identical parchment, beneath his inquiry, appeared a new line in Sirius's distinctive handwriting.
Why aren't you speaking to me anymore?
Remus looked up momentarily so as to give the impression that he was listening while he mentally formulated a response.
Because you're being obnoxious.
There was another long pause, and then a fourth line appeared in a rush.
Remus paused, momentarily taken aback. Before he could respond, though, more of Sirius's writing appeared.
I won't bother you about it anymore if you'll stop avoiding us.
Coming from Sirius, it was quite a generous offer.
Okay, wrote Remus.
Sirius glanced back at him with a sheepish grin and Remus offered him a half-smile in return before clearing the parchment and returning it to his bookbag. Despite himself, a feeling of quiet relief spread through him, and as he turned back to his notes, he found that he was able to focus on the lecture much better than he had been earlier.
Monday had passed, and Tuesday and Wednesday and another Thursday, and Sirius had managed to keep his word. It hadn't been easy. Thankfully, James had since fallen quiet on the subject—whether out of respect for the tension between Remus and Sirius or out of apathy induced by the prospect of graduation, Sirius couldn't be sure. And while James did mention the ball from time to time, it was almost always in relation to Lily.
This, it seemed, was one of those occasions.
"So, what do you think? Should I get flowers for her, or something?" asked James. The four of them were lounging under a tree near the lake on Friday morning, enjoying the pleasant weather and the fact that it was the last day of the term. And while, technically, classes were scheduled for the day, several seventh year teachers had had the grace to allow the seventh years the day off so that they could prepare for the ball that night.
"Dunno," Sirius responded, idly destroying a clover blossom.
"I think you should," offered Peter. "It'd be romantic."
"But what kind?" mused James, sounding pained.
"Lilies?" Sirius suggested absently as he ran his hands through the cool grass. Remus was lying on his back a few paces away, gazing up at the startlingly white clouds above. His hands were laced behind his head, and his glasses were folded beside him…
He realised a moment too late that James was glaring at him. "The point, Padfoot, is not for her to think I'm a moron."
Sirius shrugged and leaned back against the trunk of the tree. "Roses?"
"But that's so ordinary," James complained.
"You're hopeless," Sirius accused, laughing shortly. But it was a dull, distracted laugh, and he could really hardly concentrate on James's predicament at all. Remus really was beautiful, Sirius decided, in his own calm, thoughtful way. Sirius was distantly aware that James had given up conversing with him and was now discussing marigolds with Peter. He didn't care. James had his love interest, but Sirius, despite rumors, had never actually had a serious girlfriend—or boyfriend, for that matter.
He sighed, fighting a recurring urge to go over to Remus and at least just sit there with him. They couldn't have been more than two meters apart, but the distance felt somehow magnified by the threat of the argument that still loomed ominously over them. That had been his own fault, as well. He hadn't meant to be such an idiot about it, but he hadn't been thinking properly, and… He sighed again. He was just jealous; there was really no other name for it.
Looking around to distract himself, he surveyed the castle grounds, taking in the lazy tranquility of it all. Just a bunch of 17- and 18-year olds spending what might well be their last full day together. The thought struck him with surprising force, and he was filled with a feeling of nostalgia and regret that was utterly unlike him. Was this was graduating would do to him? He pushed the thought out of his mind and instead turned back to gaze at the napping werewolf in front of him. Despite everything, he was bored and restless. He hoped that evening would come quickly.
For Remus, evening had come far, far too quickly. After a relaxing morning, they had gone to each lunch, after which they had sat through their last history lesson (when asked, Professor Binns did not, in fact, know what a ball was), and then had finally broken free, storming out of the dusty classroom to be met by a wild, gleeful stampede of other seventh years, all cheering and running through the halls.
It had been quite a thing to see.
After that had begun the flurry of excitement that inevitably preceded all social events. In the hours that followed, not a single girl had been sighted in the halls of common areas, save the occasional breathless one carrying dress robes or jewellery and racing from one common room to another.
When the novelty of laughing at this phenomenon as they wandered about had worn off, Remus and his friends had finally retreated up to the boys' dormitories, where the situation had been only slightly less pathetic. While the male population had not had makeup or jewellery to worry about, a surprising number of boys had been found in the halls fretting to each other about their robes or hair or lack of a date.
Remus had quickly made it to his own dorm room, which was where he now stood, looking pensively at himself in the full-length mirror that hung near the door. He was wearing dark grey dress robes made from some sort of woolen material, and he had on his glasses. The glasses were a noteworthy touch because he didn't actually need them—he wore them to class because he needed them to read, but for an occasion like this he chose to wear them simply for the sense of security they gave him. A strange feeling of sadness, almost like fear, descended quietly on the werewolf as he looked at himself. It was amazing, really. Amazing that he had made it this far. Amazing that he had friends, that he had a future, that he could be almost like a normal person again. And yet, it was scary, and also a bit sad, and those feelings Remus could not explain.
"Do I look alright?" asked James from across the room, breaking the silence that had filled the dorm. James was in front of the room's other mirror, smoothing down his hair (he had recently decided that doing so might actually make him more presentable). He was dressed in velvet robes of a deep burgundy color, and he was pacing. Apparently even James was daunted by The Event, as many girls had begun calling the ball.
"You look great," Remus assured him, and it was true. "Do you know were Peter and Sirius are?"
"Padfoot's in the shower, and I'm not sure about Wormtail," James replied. "Probably in the common room trying to find a last-minute date." He grinned.
"Ah," acknowledged Remus, turning back to the mirror and straightening his glasses.
"Speaking of which," began James," You're supposed to meet Marian in front of the staircases in the Entrance Hall tonight."
"Oh," said Remus. "Alright." Marian. Oddly enough, he had almost forgotten about her. She was the cause of all this trouble, the reason he had been in hiding during the last weekend of their Hogwarts careers, and here he had nearly forgotten that she was really going with him to the ball.
Far too late, he wondered if perhaps he should have gotten her flowers.
In the end, flowers turned out to be the least of Remus's concerns. After locating Peter (who had been trying to find a last-minute date and had failed) and giving up on Sirius (who had insisted that he needed more time to get ready), the four-minus-one friends made their way through the halls, down the final staircase, and into a veritable sea of girls. Were it not so utterly eerie, it would have been hilarious.
"James, do you even know what she looks like?" asked Remus worriedly. He had managed to misplace his mental picture of her, and in any case wasn't sure it would have helped. All the girls were wearing fanciful robes and makeup and Remus could barely recognize even those he saw daily.
"That's your problem," replied James, similar tones of unease shading his own voice. "I need to find Lily."
In retrospect, Remus though, he ought to have known that using such an obvious location for a meeting place would be a bad idea. Just when he was about to give up and retreat to his dorm, though, he heard a distinctly female voice calling his name.
"Remus! Oh—over here!"
He turned to see a short girl with wavy brown hair wearing bright blue dress robes that matched her eyes with startling accuracy. She was waving at him to get his attention, since they were a separated by a chunk of the crowd. He smiled briefly in recognition and weaved his way through a gaggle of couples to meet her.
"Sorry," he said when they were finally within speaking range of each other, "I couldn't find you in this crowd."
"Oh, no, it's fine," she assured him. "I just got here." Now that he could see her properly, he did recognize her. As Peter had noted when this entire ordeal began, she was quite pretty. She was also talkative and more than a bit jumpy.
"I'm terribly sorry about asking you to the ball the way I did," she was saying, "but, you know, I really hardly know you and all, and—well, I don't really know James, either, but my sister did and it was less embarrassing than asking you directly, and it was really very nice of you to say yes despite all that, and—oh, look, the door's open, shall we go in?" She had said all this in the time it had taken Remus to wonder if he was supposed to dance with her.
"Er," he said, completely at a loss. "Ah, sure." He smiled sheepishly and led them inside the Great Hall, all the while glancing around to see where James and Peter had run off to while he had been distracted.
"There you are, Moony!" came James's voice from next to him. His hair was already sticking up wildly again, and by the smirk gracing the face of Lily Evans beside him, Remus could guess why.
"Come on, I saved us a table!" cried James, grabbing Remus's wrist in one hand and Lily's in the other and pulling them both in the direction of one of the tables on one side of the newly-created dance floor. Remus barely had time to grab Marian's hand so as not to lose sight of her before they were all racing recklessly through the Great Hall, trying not to crash into too many other people along the way.
In addition to the small, quiet tables for two near the walls, there were also a number of larger round tables that seated eight people each, and it was at one of these that they finally arrived.
It was only at this point that Remus finally had the time to notice how the Great Hall had been decorated. In addition to the obvious absence of the usual house tables and sudden appearance of a dance, floor, the entire décor of the room had been changed since they had eaten lunch. In place of the house banners were majestic new banners in deep blue-purple velvet announcing the event. The candles that normally lit the hall were gone, and in their place were what appeared to be miniature planets and constellations. Small clusters of these were over each table, lighting them brightly, and a spread of stars hung tantalizingly over the dance floor, merging seamlessly with the ceiling above. It was a spectacular sight, to say the least. Where the teachers' table normally loomed was instead a low platform on which a popular wizarding band was playing a ballad, and a few eager couples were already dancing amidst the low-hanging stars.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" commented Lily as she seated herself near what appeared to be Orion. Her brilliant red hair had been gathered into an elegant braid down her back, and she was wearing flowing green silk dress robes that made her look a bit like a wood-elf queen. She was, Remus noted, wearing lilies of the valley in her hair.
"Yeah," agreed James," but he was staring more at her than at their surrounding. Remus hid a slight smile.
"Oh, this is so lovely," breathed Marian from beside Remus, sliding into one of the seats and examining the decorated place settings.
Remus nodded and took the seat to her right, feeling self-conscious. "Ah… What time is it?" he asked, for lack of anything better to say.
James pulled out his gold pocket watch and examined it importantly. "It's six fifty-seven," he announced. "Dinner should be served soon." Then he glanced to his left and right, frowning. "Where'd Peter go?"
Peter showed up hardly a moment later, and it appeared that he had finally been successful in finding a date. He was with a blonde girl in maroon robes who Remus suspected was another sixth year, and he was grinning to himself. Behind him came Sirius, who was dressed entirely in black.
"Evening," Sirius greeted them lightly as they were all arranged around the table. "Does anyone know what dinner's to be?"
They didn't, but they didn't have long to find out. At precisely seven o'clock, house elves streamed into the Hall, all carrying magnificent platters of food. There was a fancy salad and some type of grilled chicken and fish, and all the students were enjoying themselves greatly.
"I really have no idea what I'm going to do after I graduate next year," Marian was admitting to Remus. "I suppose I have another year to think about it, but what about you? What are you going to do once you leave here?"
"I'm not entirely sure," Remus answered, taking a sip of butterbeer from his glass. "I'm thinking about studying to become a teacher here, actually."
"Oh, are you really?" she asked, looking surprised. "I'm not sure if I could stand that, but I imagine you'd enjoy it," she commented, smiling.
Across the table, Sirius was looking bored. He had already cleared his plate and had taken to performing odd balancing tricks with his fork and knife. Every so often, he would glance up and glare at Remus, when Remus was looking away. He probably thought that Remus wouldn't notice, but Remus could see him out of the corner of his eye and was growing increasingly concerned.
After a few more minutes, the house elves came to take their plates away, and the dance floor quickly began to fill up. James and Lily were already out on it, dancing happily to some sort of swing music, and Peter was trying to get the blonde girl they had eaten with to dance with him.
Remus straightened his glasses, glancing at Marian and wondering if he should ask her to dance. He didn't actually enjoy dancing, but perhaps she wanted to… Then again, if he asked her, she would probably say yes whether she wanted to or not, and what if she didn't? Then they would both have to, and neither of them would even enjoy it.
"Er," said Marian, "do you—ah… want to dance?"
So much for that theory. "Alright," Remus agreed, standing up and pushing his chair in.
"I'm going up to the common room for a while," announced Sirius suddenly. Remus blinked in surprise. There was sure to be another, smaller party going on in the common room, but none of the seventh years would be there and it couldn't possibly be as splendid as this was.
"What? Why?" Remus asked.
Sirius didn't respond, just sullenly left his seat and stalked away.
Remus took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Then he turned to Marian. "Sorry, but can you wait here for a second?" he asked, feeling somewhat ashamed of himself.
"Sure," she said, blinking up at him.
"Okay. I'll be right back." With that, he headed off toward the Entrance Hall at a clipped pace.
When he got there, Sirius was climbing the first few steps of the marble staircase. "Sirius, why are you so upset with me?" Remus asked without preamble.
Sirius stopped in his tracks and turned around, stepping back down. "I'm not upset with you," he replied.
Remus regarded him skeptically. "Then explain why you haven't spoken to me since the ball began, and why you keep giving me dirty looks when I'm looking away."
Sirius appeared somewhat embarrassed, but still defiant. "It's not because I'm mad at you," he said again.
But Remus had had enough. "If you're not mad at me, then what's wrong with you?"
"Nothing!" Sirius barked. "Just leave me alone!"
"What, do you like her, or something?" Remus asked. Sirius looked pained. "Is that it? Are you jealous of me? Is that why you've been sulking all evening?"
Sirius's eyes flashed dangerously, and he stepped down the last few steps so that they were on equal footing. Then the anger seemed to drain out of him, replaced by an odd bitterness. "I'm not jealous of you," he muttered. "I'm jealous of her."
Remus froze, trying desperately to process this. But I don't even like her, was the first thought that came to his mind, but he quickly recognized that that really wasn't the point. If Sirius was jealous of her… That meant… He blinked. But that didn't make any sense…
He noticed then that Sirius had been watching him carefully. He opened his mouth to reply, but before any sound could come out, Sirius had closed the distance between them and pressed his lips recklessly to the other boy's.
Not since he had been bitten by a werewolf thirteen years before had Remus's life ever changed so drastically in the space of a single moment. In some distant part of his mind he thought that he ought to be protesting, but he was physically incapable of it. Sirius's lips were warm and soft, and the sensation of Sirius's hands on Remus's neck sent a strange feeling of liquid warmth through the werewolf's body. For one brief moment, he didn't care about anything—the ball, Marian, how wrong this all was, who might be watching… It almost felt as if this was what he had been waiting for…
So delirious was Remus from the sensation that he barely noticed when it ended. When he finally gained control of his senses, he blinked his eyes open just in time to glimpse Sirius turning darkly and bounding up the stairs two at a time.
He was an idiot. He had been told this more than once during the seven years he had graced Hogwarts with his presence, but there was no denying it now. He leaped up the final stairs and raced down the empty corridor that followed. Why had he been so stupid?
The dark-haired boy sighed, stopping to gasp for breath near the statue of some long-dead witch or wizard. He suddenly realised that he didn't know where he was going. Shutting his eyes tightly, he leaned against the wall and took a deep breath. He didn't know anything. Finally, he reached into his robes and retrieved the Marauder's map from one of the inner pockets. He had brought it in case any spur-of-the-moment mischief proved necessary, but now…
He unfolded it, deliberately not looking for Remus's name. Instead, he forced himself to survey the map, looking for a place where he might be able to hide for the night. The common rooms were all full, as was the Great Hall, of course, and the classrooms were sure to be locked… Then his eyes fell on an empty room he recognized as the owlery. The owlery would be open, and it seemed unlikely that anyone would really need to send and owl to anyone at this time of night on their last day.
He sighed again and hoped earnestly that he could make it through the next day without having to speak to anyone ever again.
Remus knew, as soon as Sirius had disappeared, that he should have chased after him and demanded an explanation. Or maybe just have kissed him again—either would have been preferable to standing at the bottom of the staircase, frozen in place.
But he was doing just that, and while part of him still wanted to race up the stairs after his friend, the sensible part of his mind wouldn't let him. Marian was still waiting for him, after all, and… He took a deep breath. No, he had to get this all sorted out, and he would do it properly.
He made his way back through Entrance Hall and the dance floor until he found Marian, right where he had left her. She looked confused, and for a moment Remus felt hopelessly unsure of himself. But the moment passed, and then he was in the seat next to her.
She turned to him, startled. "Oh, there you are." She smiled, and Remus bit down on his tongue. "Are we going to dance?"
"Ah—" he faltered slightly, then took another deep breath. "I have to go."
He sighed. "I have to go apologize to Sirius," he explained. It was as much of the truth as he dared tell. "I'm really sorry about all this."
"It's alright," she said, smiling slightly. Then she paused, looking at him closely. "You know…" she trailed off, blushing. "I really only asked you to come to the ball with me because… Well, I kind of felt sorry for you."
"Oh," said Remus, a slight grin creeping across his face. "Ah… Thank you. For a lot of reasons." Not daring to explain, he offered her a final grateful smile, and then raced off across the dance floor, stopping only to tell Peter, who was sulking near the wall, that he ought to ask Marian to dance with him. That done, he was heading off toward the common room, praying that he would be able to find Sirius again.
When he got there, he found the usual partying, but no sign of Sirius. None of those questioned had seen him, either, and Remus started to worry that Sirius was off hiding somewhere. Not seeing many other options, he went up to his dorm and found the parchment they had used to communicate with a few days before.
Sirius, where are you? he wrote with a quill snatched from James's bedside table.
There was no response.
I know you're reading this, he bluffed, having no reason to suspect any such thing. I need to talk to you.
Then, to his surprise, an answer appeared in Sirius's handwriting. I'm in the owlery, was all it said.
Not bothering to write a response, Remus immediately pocketed the paper and was off toward the owlery. The halls of the school were strangely desolate, and it didn't seem to take Remus any time at all before he was in front of the owlery's splintery door. Taking a deep breath, he pushed the door open.
Sirius was indeed there, sitting on the ledge formed by the always-open window through which owls came and went. He was leaning back against the wall, with one leg on the ledge and the other grazing the owlery floor. He glanced at Remus as the door opened, and Remus saw that he had been watching his approach on the Marauder's Map spread out before him.
Suddenly, everything Remus had intended to say flew from his mind as if snatched away by a violent wind. Then Sirius moved the map aside, leaving the space next to him open. Wordlessly, Remus went over to him and sat down, not knowing what else to do. The waxing crescent moon was overhead, sending pale moonlight streaming onto them and through the window, and for a long time, neither of them said anything. Apart from the low murmur of owls and the occasional chirp of a cricket, there was silence.
"Graduation's tomorrow, isn't it?" commented Sirius after some time.
Remus looked up, startled, then nodded. "Yeah… Hard to believe, though."
"I know," agreed Sirius, suddenly animated. "It doesn't feel like seven years could have gone by just…" he sighed. "Like this."
"It doesn't seem like very long ago at all that you and James first found out what I was," Remus said, smiling as he recalled that fateful day. How scared he had been… How sure he had been that his life might as well be over… And then his amazement when he realised that maybe everything would be alright, after all.
Sirius smiled as well. "Or when we first met," he added. "James and I played some sort of joke on you, if I recall correctly."
"You turned my owl into a parrot," Remus reminded him, the corners of his mouth twitching upwards at the memory. "A talking parrot."
Sirius grinned. "That's right," he agreed. "With charmed water James had bought somewhere—we couldn't really transfigure it or anything, of course."
"It repeated Dumbledore's entire welcoming speech as he said it," Remus recalled, trying to sound disapproving and failing, as a grin spread over his face.
Sirius was laughing silently to himself. "Of course… How could I have forgotten that?" He shook his head, smiling. "McGonagall was furious," he said reminiscently, as if proud of his first act of mayhem at Hogwarts. "But I saw you, right afterwards. I thought you'd be mad, too, but I could tell that you were trying not to laugh."
They both smiled, remembering. "We haven't really changed that much, have we?" mused Remus aloud.
"Not really," Sirius agreed with a grin. "Except that you were more timid, then."
"Yeah, you were… You used to go along with James and me more. You didn't argue."
"I think I was just desperate for friends," Remus observed quietly. "I never had friends until I met the two of you, and then Peter. I wanted you to like me." He gazed down at his feet against the floor of the owlery, trying to remember what it had been like, back then. He pulled his feet up onto the ledge and turned around, then let them dangle out the window.
Sirius half-turned and did the same. "I guess you gave up on that pretty quickly, didn't you?" he asked teasingly.
Remus smiled wryly at him. "No, but once you found out that I was a werewolf and still stayed my friends, I realized that you wouldn't suddenly start hating me if I challenged your stupid ideas every so often."
"They weren't always stupid," protested Sirius, feigning a hurt expression.
"Usually stupid ideas," Remus corrected tolerantly.
"That's more like it."
Remus stared up at the moon, and realised that he wasn't bothered by its presence as much as he usually was. Maybe he was finally getting stronger. A strange peacefulness settled over the two of them as they sat, despite everything that had happened. Remus wondered if he was still delirious, because he didn't feel worried or miserable at all, even though the rational part of his mind knew that he ought to. He had come here to confront Sirius, after all. To demand to know the reason for the boy's rash behavior, from their useless argument to their shaky truce to tonight. To Sirius kissing him and then running away like a frightened animal. But it seemed so empty now, so pointless to ask him to explain. Everything was peaceful and calm, now. Everything would be alright, after all.
He looked over at Sirius, and gazed at the moonlight reflecting off of his jet black hair and his intent grey eyes for some time. Then, finally, Sirius glanced at him, and they watched each other for a brief moment until presently Remus leaned over and kissed Sirius softly on the mouth. Apart from the slight widening of Sirius's eyes and the subtle change in his breathing, he showed no sign of surprise; he kissed Remus back as if he had expected it all along. Perhaps he had.
They continued like that for a while, pausing only briefly for air. Shivers ran up Remus's spine at the warmth of Sirius's hands on his shoulders and neck and of Sirius's lips and tongue against his own. When they finally broke apart, they allowed themselves only a moment to gaze at each other before seemingly collapsing into a quiet embrace. Sirius murmured something unintelligible against Remus's neck, and Remus simply pulled the other boy closer to him.
The moonlight seemed almost comforting against his closed eyes now, sitting in the window of the owlery with Sirius's arms around him and their breath rhythmically going in and out in unison. It seemed unimportant, here, that they were missing the ball, because the stars seemed to hang just as close to them now as they had in the Great Hall. Remus smiled to himself as his head came to rest on Sirius's shoulder. All he needed was this—Sirius and memories, both good and bad, and perhaps just the cold night air and the warm moonlight, and everything would be alright, once again.
"You're not going anywhere after we graduate, are you?" asked Sirius, his voice slightly muffled.
Remus smiled again, this time at Sirius. Perhaps graduating wouldn't change things much, after all.
When the sun rose the next morning, it rose on a seventh year class eager to graduate, a teaching staff eager to leave the premises for the summer, and two boys asleep in the window of the owlery, content.