Disclaimer: I own nothing, you should know that by now.

Warning: Eventual slash. If you don't like it, stop wasting your time reading it. If you don't know what it is, get out, and come back when you do, if you fancy it.

Author's Notes: MWPP era, in their Fourth Year. James's POV.

A Tale of Two Puppies

Chapter 10 – A Fool Positive (1)

Sirius's exasperated groan of, "This is completely useless," was accompanied by the sound of a book slamming shut and immediately followed by the dull thud of a head hitting a wooden bedpost.

James peered over the top of his own leather-bound tome to raise an eyebrow at his friend. "Troubles in paradise?" he inquired.

Sirius lifted a pillow to chuck across the room, then clearly thought the better of it and merely scowled.

James waited.

Sure enough, Sirius sighed and turned his scowl on the book in his lap. "He's out there right now," he said, waving vaguely towards the window, "tearing himself to shreds, and we're sitting in here, comfortable as you please, and I just feel…" he trailed off.

"Useless," James finished for him.

Sirius looked up, questioning.

"I feel the same," James explained. "So does Peter."

"Which is why he's not here," Sirius grumbled.

"He has a date," James reminded him. "Speaking of, don't you? With – whatsername – Juliet?"

Sirius snorted. "It was tomorrow night."

"Oh," James nodded. "Right. Wait. Was?"

"We're over. She was too clingy."

James frowned. "So were the last six girls."

"I don't like clingy girls." Sirius wouldn't look at him. "Besides, Rem needs us tomorrow night. Peter'd better not have plans again."

"I'm sure Remus won't mind if Peter goes out with his girlfriend tomorrow instead of watching him sleep or do homework. After all, not everyone has an endless supply of eager girls just praying for a second glance." It came out a little more harshly than James had intended, but Sirius surprised him by not snapping back. In fact, Sirius was looking a little pinker than usual.

"Not my fault they like me," the flushing aristocrat muttered.

"Especially seeing as you do nearly everything in your power to get rid of them," James agreed sarcastically.

"Just because I don't tell them to sod off every time they try to speak to me doesn't mean I'm encouraging them," Sirius insisted.

"No," James conceded, "but sticking your tongue down their throats tends to hint at something more than the rudimentary courtesy due fellow classmates."

Sirius's mouth had opened – no doubt with some clever and quite possibly scathing retort – but he closed it quickly, giving James an odd look.

James quirked an eyebrow at him. "What?"

Sirius shook himself. "Nothing," he said, and reached for another book from the pile at the foot of his bed.

James frowned. Sirius had been behaving very strangely for the past few months, the rapid succession of girlfriends – if they could be called that – being only a part of it. And James didn't like not knowing what was going on in his best friend's head.

"What were you going to say?" he asked, a little more insistently.

Sirius looked up at him, and, for a moment, James thought the other boy might refuse to answer, but he merely shrugged. "I was just going to say you sounded like Remus." And he opened the new book and started reading.

James frowned again. What does that mean? he wondered. He opened his mouth to ask as much, but thought the better of it before any words escaped. Perhaps now was not the time. He'd think about it, and maybe try talking to Sirius later, once Remus was back. Sirius was always at his worst and most unapproachable right around the full moon, which was too bad, as their lycanthropic friend might have been able to help. The tawny-haired boy had an uncanny ability to calm Sirius down even when he was at his most difficult, which, lately, had been often.

James shook his head. It was all too confusing for him to deal with at the moment. He'd wait for Remus. Maybe he would know something.

That decided, James shot another glance at Sirius, who was absorbed in his book, and returned to his own reading.

– – – – –

"James?" Remus's groggy and somewhat confused-sounding voice broke through James's concentration.

The dark-haired boy grinned at his newly-conscious friend as he put his essay aside. "Good morning, Sunshine. Or, should I say," he indicated the bright noonday sun shining through the window near Remus's hospital wing bed, "good afternoon."

"Uhm…"

"And how are you feeling this fine day?" James inquired, then winced.

Remus raised an eyebrow. "Just peachy, thanks."

"Sorry," James felt himself flush. "It's just –"

"Habit," Remus finished for him. "I know. Don't worry about it."

James gave h a half smile. "How are you, really?"

The brunet shrugged and looked down, picking at a loose thread on his sleeve. "I'll be fine."

James frowned. He always does this. "Well, you look like shite," he informed his friend tartly.

Remus's head snapped up. "What did you –"

"It's true," James defended himself stubbornly. "You look like something the cat dragged in, only done up in pretty white bandages."

"James –"

"We all know you're going through hell, Remus," James continued, cutting the older boy off, "but you seem to feel like you have to sugarcoat everything for us."

"I do not –"

"Look, I know you're going to be 'fine,' but if you feel like hell now, say you feel like hell. It's okay to complain. It even helps, sometimes. And you've earned the right far more than any of the rest of us."

Remus stared.

James waited expectantly.

"I feel like hell?" Remus offered finally, sounding rather unsure.

James rolled his eyes. "We'll work on it."

Remus gave him a lopsided grin. "Can't wait."

James returned it. "Mm."

There was silence for a moment, then, "Where's Sirius?"

"Lunch," the hazel-eyed boy responded.

"Oh," Remus nodded. "Not that I don't appreciate you being here," he added hastily. "It's just he usually is, and I –"

James laughed. "No need to put your foot in it, mate. I'm not offended. He was here. Didn't want to leave, actually. But he needed to eat. Idiot completely skipped breakfast this morning."

Remus looked startled. "He skipped breakfast?"

James nodded. "Nabbed my cloak and snuck out around dawn, as always, but –"

"What?" Remus interrupted.

Uh-oh. "You didn't know he always does that, did you." It wasn't a question.

Remus shook his head.

"Oh." Damn. "Well. He likes to check on you – make sure you get back here all right, you know – but he usually comes to breakfast to let us know how you are, and then we take it in turns to come up here between classes, but he stayed up here all morning, even though… What?"

Remus was staring again. "You all check on me?"

James fidgeted. "Well, yeah, sometimes." He suddenly felt guilty for not visiting more often. "Sirius does the most. He worries, you know. Can't sit still. McGonagall kicked him out of class once, actually –" James stopped. "Erm, you weren't meant to know that."

"What?" Remus was still looking rather stunned.

"Er," James could feel himself turning red. "Sirius didn't want you to know about that. Said you'd get brassed off." And I'll never head the end of it if he finds out I spilled.

"Oh. Well, I won't say anything."

"Thanks," James grinned.

There was a comfortable silence for a moment.

"Say, Remus?"

"Hm?"

"Sirius. He's been acting… oddly for the past couple months."

A funny look crossed Remus's face, but it was gone so quickly James wondered if he'd imagined it.

"You have noticed, haven't you?" James pressed when the other boy didn't say anything.

The brunet nodded slowly. "Yes. I've noticed."

"Do you…" the hazel-eyed boy hesitated, then ploughed on. "Do you know why?"

Remus shook his head. "He hasn't said anything to me, if that's what you're asking. He's just been… tense, I suppose. But that's not even the right word."

"I know what you mean, though. It's almost as if he's scared of something," James mused, then blinked, unsure where that thought had come from.

"Maybe." Remus shifted. "Actually, I was thinking it might be something to do with his family."

"With his family?" James repeated.

Remus nodded. "He doesn't talk about them much, you know, not even to complain. Maybe… maybe it's like with me, not complaining to keep people from worrying?"

James was silent for a moment, thinking. "That makes more sense than it doesn't," he agreed. "The worse the problem, the less likely we are to want it brought up."

Remus nodded again, and covered a yawn.

Idiot, James scolded himself at that. Here you are, yattering away when he's just woken up after dealing with his own problem. "Why don't you get some more sleep?" he suggested aloud. "I should get to class, anyway, lunch will be over soon."

"Yeah," Remus covered another yawn, his jaw cracking. "I think I will." He shifted, trying to find a more comfortable position.

James gathered the essay he'd been working on together with his books, checking to make sure he had everything he needed.

"Oh, and James?" Remus already sounded half asleep.

"Yeah?"

"Don't let Sirius get kicked out of class again."

James laughed. "I'll try."

– – – – –

James, Sirius, and Peter had planned on visiting Remus in the hospital wing during supper. However, when James was halfway through his mashed potatoes, he was distracted by the bright sound of feminine laughter from only a few seats away.

Lily Evans, James decided dreamily, was a vision. A vision of redheaded glory. A vision of –

"You're drooling in your potatoes, Potter," Sirius's drawl interrupted James's dazed thoughts.

Quickly, feeling his face heat up, the bespectacled boy loaded his fork and took another bite.

Sirius, plate already clean, scowled at him, fingers tapping the table impatiently.

James swallowed his mouthful. "Why don't you go on without me?" he suggested.

Sirius arched a single black brow in question.

"I've got practice after dinner, and I'd rather not go on a half-empty stomach," he told his friend, hoping he sounded causal – but not too casual.

The grey-eyed boy's expression made it clear he wasn't buying. All he said was, "Hm," but the quirk of his lips added, You just want to stay and stare at Evans.

James tilted his head. I'd be able to hear her, too, if you weren't distracting me.

Sirius snorted.

"I'll see him after practice," James informed the other black-haired boy, hoping that was acceptable.

"Hm," said Sirius again, but he turned to Peter – who had been watching the exchange with a nervous sort of fascination – and jerked his head towards the door. "Let's go." He stood.

"Erm…" Peter hesitated.

Sirius frowned.

"I-I think I'll stay for seconds," the light-haired boy stammered. "And maybe watch James practice?" he shot the hazel-eyed boy a hopeful look.

James blinked. What? he thought. Then, Oh, of course. If Remus is asleep, it'll really just be Peter and Sirius, and Pete's still scared of Sirius.

By the look on Sirius's face, he had come to the same conclusion.

"Neither of you need bother at all," he bit out, grey eyes as icy as his voice. "I'm sure Re doesn't want you lot crowding around his bed, anyway. It's usually just me, after all."

James opened his mouth to protest, but his friend had already turned on his heel and stalked away.

Not fair! thought James, and he scrambled to his feet, intent on catching the other boy, though whether to explain or to knock some sense into him he hadn't yet decided. Maybe both.

"James," Peter's voice stopped him.

He turned to frown at the smaller boy. "What?"

"Practice," Peter reminded him, gesturing.

James followed the waving hand to see the rest of the Gryffindor team leaving the table. "Bugger," he muttered. "Peter, would you –" he broke off, thinking the better of it. "Nevermind. C'mon." He sighed and followed his teammates, Peter trailing behind, picking at a last roll from the table.

– – – – –

By the time James reached the hospital wing after practice, Peter still in tow, the ward was dark. On closer inspection, it was revealed that the bed Remus had occupied all day was now empty.

"What do you think happened to him?" Peter asked in a hushed voice.

"Maybe he got eaten by a werewolf," James suggested.

"But the full moon was last night!" the smaller boy protested.

James suppressed a sigh of irritation. "I was joking."

"Oh. Right." Peter laughed awkwardly. "I get it."

They returned to the corridor.

"He's probably either gone to the kitchens or he's back in the Tower with Sirius."

"I'll check the kitchens," Peter offered at once.

James rolled his eyes, but nodded in agreement. "Bring something for the rest of us to eat."

"Sure thing," Peter grinned, and trotted off.

James rolled his eyes again and headed for Gryffindor Tower.

– – – – –

The common room was still quite crowded when James climbed through the portrait hole. A quick scan told him neither Remus nor Sirius was present, but Lily Evans sat with a group of friends in one corner. He wavered for a moment, then shook his head and made for the stairs to the boys dormitories.

He opened the door quietly, in case Remus had returned and gone to sleep, and, seeing both Remus and Sirius's bed curtains drawn, carefully shut the door without a sound. Deciding to get his things and do some work downstairs while he waited for Peter to return from the kitchens, he tiptoed across the room.

Halfway to his trunk, he heard the low sound of voices issuing from behind Remus's curtains.

"… about you, Moonchild," Sirius was saying.

"You don't need to," came Remus's soft reply. "I'm very well taken care of in the hospital wing. And I have you, even if you do insist on calling me 'Moonchild.'"

"You know you love it."

"Siri."

"Yes, Moonchild?"

"Don't make me hurt you."

"You couldn't hurt a fly."

James could almost hear Remus's glare in response.

"But it's so pretty," Sirius sounded as if he was wearing a pout.

"I am not a girl, Sirius, nor, I would like to remind you, are you."

"So?"

"So you don't need to give me pretty nicknames!"

"But I like it."

"Siri…"

"How about 'Moony'?"

There was a long-suffering sigh.

"I'm not going to win this one, am I?" It didn't really sound like a question.

"No. Your heart's not in it."

There was an indignant sniff, then another sigh.

"Fine. Moony. But not when other people can hear you."

"Deal." There was more than a hint of smugness in Sirius's voice.

The sounds of shifting and rustling blankets drifted out to James, who had moved closer without realising.

Then –

"G'night, Siri."

James froze, barely daring to breathe. Oh, shit. Sirius is going to come out and see me!

"G'night, Moony."

With no time to run, James could only stare in horror at the curtains, waiting for them to be pulled back and for Sirius to come out and catch him eavesdropping.

Any second. Any second.

But the seconds stretched into minutes and Sirius didn't appear.

Maybe he's waiting for Remus to fall asleep, James thought. That's what he does when Rem's still in the hospital wing.

It didn't quite fit, but it was a reasonable explanation, so, for the moment, he let it go.

As quickly and quietly as he could, James crept to his trunk, got his books, and escaped the dorm, heading back to the common room, wondering – rather more intently than necessary – what sort of food Peter would bring back.

TBC

(1) In William Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, Act II, scene iii, Thersites calls Patroclus 'a fool positive.' The line (and the surrounding dialogue) tends to make me laugh, and I felt it strangely applicable for this particular time in this fic – teenagers, you know. (This dialogue in Troilus is some time after Thersites calls Patroclus 'Achilles' brach' i.e. his bitch and some time before calling him 'Achilles' male varlet… his masculine whore' – neither of which has anything to do with this fic, but it amuses me, and so I share it with all of you.)

A/N: Sorry it has taken me so very, very, very long to update. School. Show. Work. Again. Sorry. But wow. Double digits! Are you impressed? I'm impressed.