During the summer before third year, Sirius spent a great deal of time doing two things. The first involved a great deal of time on the Quidditch pitch, and the second a great deal of time in the library.
Sirius hadn't made the Quidditch team the year before, although James had. Sirius, not one to admit defeat, made sure to spend at least half his waking hours on a broomstick beating bludgers through the air. He liked cheering James on, but he was tired of being on the sidelines. He wanted action.
In that respect, it was very similar to what he was doing in the library. He wanted to find a way to help Remus with his transformations, so he spent innumerable hours researching anything and everything he thought could possibly assist him. He supposed it wasn't the same as being on the sidelines during James's Quidditch games, but he still hated that he couldn't be with Remus during his monthly ordeal, and resolved to do everything he could to remedy that.
Two weeks or so into vacation, the answer came to Sirius as he was thinking of ways to disguise a human from a wolf. He suspected that had he not needed to use a disguise daily, it would have taken him a great deal longer to work out that becoming animagi would work.
The problem with that, however, was whether the glamour Sirius used would mask the sex of whatever animal he turned into. Realizing that posing the question to McGonagall under any circumstances would incite far too much suspicion, Sirius decided to practice alone before showing James and Peter. Of course, Sirius thought wryly, if my inner animal is something stupid like a bloody cow I needn't worry. Suicide would fix that well enough.
Like the previous summer, Sirius found himself exchanging letters with his three best friends frequently. Surprisingly, however, Lily Evans owled him as well.
I hope your summer is going very well! I didn't know where you
lived, so I hope this post owl found you well enough.
I know we don't get a chance to talk much at school (don't worry, I blame Potter!) but I was hoping that you'd come over to my house for my birthday party. It will just be all of the girls from Gryffindor and one or two from Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw, and no boys! My sister will be there too, but she'll leave us alone, don't worry. Anyway I'd really love it if you could come, and a gift isn't necessary! It's a slumber party so make sure you bring some PJs and a toothbrush.
My address is on the paper attached. My family is muggle so we're having our fireplace connected to the floo network especially for my party.
I really hope you can come! Please owl your reply before August second (my birthday's the seventh!)
Sirius felt guilty about brushing off Lily Evans yet again, but the very thought of being surrounded by girls and sleeping over at her house (at least he assumed that's what it was—and isn't that a bloody boring idea anyway? Sleeping at the same time, what does that accomplish?) was unthinkable. He sent her a reply saying that he couldn't make it (not exactly a lie) but also asked Dumbledore if he could take some of his money out of his vault at Gringotts a little early this year.
Dumbledore peered at Sirius from behind his half-moon spectacles. "Ah, yes. Ms. Evans will be thirteen this August, I believe."
"Er, yes. I told her I couldn't come, but I still wanted to get her something…." Sirius trailed off, settling himself comfortably in the chair in Dumbledore's office.
"That is very thoughtful of you, Mr. Black. I'm glad that you have made some female friends as well. I daresay she's an improving influence."
Sirius grinned roguishly at the headmaster. "James and Remus and Peter are very improving, sir. I learn loads with them."
Dumbledore gave a small chuckle. "Yes, I suppose you do. Now, Mr. Black, about your financial situation. As you know your parents have frozen your trust account at Gringotts as you are the only one with access. Currently your balance is both protected and quite large, so I do not believe you should worry about it any time soon. However, it might be wise if you invested some of it."
"Invest it?" Sirius asked, intrigued. "You mean I can make money?"
"No overly large ventures, of course,"
Dumbledore smiled, "but yes, invest a small portion of it
judiciously and you can make a tidy sum of money."
"That sounds like a good idea," Sirius said contemplatively. "I mean, I'd be bound to run out sometime anyway. Can I choose what I invest it in?"
"Of course. If you'd like, I could give you a guide for the London Wizard's Stock Exchange."
"Brilliant! Thanks, professor."
"And in the meantime," Dumbledore continued, swishing his wand and conjuring a small golden key midair, "I'll have Hagrid visit Diagon Alley early to pick up your new school things and withdraw some funds from your Gringotts account. Doubtlessly you and your friends will put the galleons to good use in Hogsmeade this year."
I'm sorry you couldn't make it to the party, but I sent you some muggle party favors and birthday cake. I used an express post owl, so it should still taste good!
Thanks so much for the lovely gifts! It was so thoughtful of you, though I feel like I shouldn't be accepting them, they must have cost you a fortune! The perfume smells wonderful, and the charms books look so interesting, I can't wait to get back to Hogwarts so I can try some of them out!
Thanks again Alex! I'll see you soon!
Becoming Alex Rendall again was awkward, to say the least. Sirius portkeyed to King's Cross and met up with three very bronze boys.
"Bloody hell," Sirius said, regarding his three friends. "Where did you lot go this summer?"
Sirius saw the three boys exchange somewhat guilty looks. "We're really sorry Alex, but my mom didn't want any girls to come," Peter explained in rush. "It's nothing against you, honest, we really wanted you to come with us, but she didn't think it would be appropriate. We just spent a week at the beach, it wasn't a big deal or anything."
"If it wasn't a big deal, why didn't you tell me?" Sirius replied viciously, anger bubbling up inside him. He knew he was being childish, but he didn't care—it still hurt to be left out.
Before any of his friends could formulate a response, Lily Evans walked up to Alex. "Hey," she said, pushing a stray lock of hair out of her face. "Thanks again for the birthday gifts, Alex. I wish you could have made it to the party!"
Sirius saw James and Remus exchange another guilty look, and he felt a cold satisfaction that he'd made them feel bad for him. He turned back to Lily and gave her a wide smile.
"Oh no Lily, thanks so much for inviting me!" Sirius said brightly. "I'm sorry I couldn't come."
To Sirius's surprise Lily gave him a quick hug, like he'd seen girls exchange with each other in the hallways at school. It was his first time being on the receiving end of a hug, and suddenly he knew how awkward Remus must have felt last year, though at the time it'd felt natural enough to him….
"I hope we'll get to spend more time with each other this year, Alex, really. I hope you don't feel like you can't spend time with us just because you're not in our dormitory. We all really like you, you know," Lily said kindly. Sirius nodded, touched at her concern, however misplaced he thought it was.
"Don't worry. I'll see you later, all right?"
"Of course," she beamed back at him, and Sirius waved as she walked away, pointedly ignoring the trouble-making boys beside him.
James gave him an odd look. "I didn't know you were friends with Evans."
"She's nice," Sirius responded, not sure of the answer to his unspoken question.
"Just because she hates you doesn't mean she hates all of us," Remus said, giving James a sly look.
"Bollocks. She hates you and Peter just as much."
"Nah, she doesn't," Peter teased as all four of them headed onto the train. "You're the biggest git, after all."
"Oi!" James cried indignantly. "Who's the one who's always getting points for Gryffindor, eh?"
"I don't think they count if they're only from Quidditch," Remus laughed, sitting next to Sirius in their compartment. "Ready for tryouts, Alex?"
"Yep," Sirius replied, his excitement at being with his friends eclipsing his earlier frustration. "I've been practicing all summer."
"Really? The muggles didn't notice?" James asked, interested. "Why didn't you say so? Next summer I should come over and we can practice together."
"Um," Sirius said, inwardly cursing himself for saying something so thoughtless. "I don't think I'll make the team, though," he finished unconvincingly.
Remus gave him a strange look. "Sure you will, Alex."
"Yeah, there's two open beater spots this year, you're sure to make it." Peter confirmed.
"Why don't you think Evans cares about Quidditch?" James asked abruptly, his eyebrows furrowed in thought. "D'you think it's 'cos she's muggle-born?"
"Can't be," said Remus reasonably. "My mother's muggle-born and she likes Quidditch well enough. So do other muggle-born students."
"Just because she's not impressed by you doesn't mean she doesn't like Quidditch," Sirius said, grinning.
"Do girls care about that sort of thing, though?" James continued, looking out the window at the landscape rushing by them. "I mean of course they do. Don't they?"
Alex gave him a blank look. "How the bloody hell should I know?"
Remus, James, and Peter turned to look at him. Cursing himself yet again, Sirius rushed to cover his mistake. "I mean, I only hang out with you lot. Don't know what the other girls think. Not enough about pranks, in my opinion."
"Which reminds me," James said suddenly, "I had an idea for a brilliant prank this term. I think I've found a way to charm the ceiling in the Great Hall."
"What?" asked Peter, incredulous. "How? And why didn't you mention it to me and Remus?"
"I was waiting for Alex," James explained, pushing his glasses past the bridge of his nose.
James began to enthusiastically describe the idea for the prank. Peter nodded his head along and said "right, right" at regular intervals, and Remus was a warm presence next to Sirius, smiling as his eyes glowed with mischief. Soon Sirius forgot that he'd ever felt left out his friends' plans.
Sirius felt confident as he dismounted onto the Quidditch pitch two weeks into term. He felt that his tryout had gone very well; he hadn't missed a bludger once, and had saved his teammates from getting hit several times. James had given him a thumbs up after a few especially spectacular moves, further boosting Sirius's confidence that he'd done extremely well.
"All right you lot, listen up," shouted Tim Beckett, Gryffindor's Quidditch captain. "You all played well today. The new team members will be posted on the notice board tomorrow after dinner." He gave some of the more nervous looking students reassuring smiles. "If you didn't make it this time, don't worry. Just try out next year."
As the players disbanded, Remus and Peter descended from the stands to where James and Sirius were taking off their Quidditch pads. Sirius, who had initially felt very silly tying his hair up in a pony tail, was very glad for it as he wiped the sweat from his forehead.
"Well done Alex!" Remus said, patting Alex gently on the back. Sirius smiled and punched Remus back on the shoulder, hard.
"Thanks, Remus," Sirius said, laughing at Remus's raised eyebrows.
"Hold on a minute, Rendall," Beckett called out as Peter and James began congratulating him for securing a spot on the team. "Can I talk to you for a moment, in private?"
Sirius gave his three friends a wink and motioned for them to head back without him. He strode over to where Beckett was standing with the Quidditch gear.
"Wotcher, Tim" Sirius said, pulling out his wand and helping Beckett levitate the Quidditch gear back to the shed.
"Thanks. Look, Rendall," Beckett said, glancing warily around the now empty pitch. "I need to talk to you about your try out."
Sirius looked up at the taller, blonde sixth year. "Pretty good, eh?" he said, grinning. "It was fun. I'd been practicing all summer."
Instead of smiling, Beckett cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Rendall, I'll give it to you straight. I can't let you play beater for Gryffindor."
It took a few moments for Beckett's words to register in Sirius's mind, but when they did Sirius stopped abruptly, causing the levitated Quidditch gear to fall to the ground. "What?" Sirius all but shouted.
"I'm sorry," Beckett said quickly, meeting Sirius's angry gaze. "You're a great girl, I like you fine, hell if you were older I'd consider dating you, but the thing is—we can't have a girl playing beater on the team. They're too delicate, and they can't handle the position come game time."
Had Sirius not been so shocked he would have punched Beckett. But as it was he could only stare at the captain, dumbfounded.
"Look, don't take it personally. I'd say this to any girl going out for beater. Just try out for a different position next year, all right? Maybe seeker, girls are generally all right there. I'll make sure to give you special consideration. And maybe I'll ask you out for a weekend to Hogsmeade next year. Think about it, all right?" Beckett gave Sirius one last smile before striding away with the Quidditch gear, leaving Sirius slack-jawed and alone on the pitch.
"That bastard!" James yelled later that evening in the Gryffindor common room after a shell-shocked Sirius had finally related the story to most of his fellow third years.
For once, Lily seemed to be in complete agreement with James. "But how could that possibly be allowed?" Lily asked, eyes wide.
"Quidditch captains have complete say over who does and doesn't make the team," Peter said dully, mouth set into a frown. "And I suppose Alex couldn't prove that was the reason why she didn't make the team. Beckett would hardly advertise it."
"Fuck!" James said, pushing his glasses back into place. They'd nearly fallen off after his last outburst unsettled them. "I'm quitting the team in protest. That's total bollocks!"
"What?" Addy Johnson shrieked, while Peter and Lily gasped loudly. "You can't quit the team! How will that help anything?"
"She's right, James," said Sirius, looking up at James and meeting his best friend's smoldering gaze. "I appreciate the thought, but it won't do any good if you quit. You're one of the best chasers, after all."
James looked like he wanted to argue, but didn't say anything when he saw the determination in Sirius's face. "Fine, then. But I'm going to be captain when that prick's gone, and then we'll see how much better our team is when the best players actually make the team."
As rotten as Sirius felt, a wave of gratitude welled up inside him. "Thanks, James," he said sincerely.
Remus sat next to Sirius on the couch and put an arm around his shoulders. "Do you want me to beat Beckett up for you?" he asked, half-joking.
Sirius gave a small laugh, though his heart wasn't in it. "Thanks for trying to help, Remus. But it wouldn't make a difference. You have no idea how rotten it feels to be rejected because of—" Sirius snapped his jaw shut mid-sentence, but it was too late; Remus had already stiffened next to him, his arm rigid where before it had been comforting.
"No, I suppose I don't," Remus said evenly.
"Oh god Remus, I didn't mean—"
James coughed loudly, signaling for Sirius to shut up. Lily and her friends were giving them weird looks.
"I'm for bed," Remus said, getting up quickly. He gave Sirius a small smile, as if to say that everything was all right, before he turned towards the boys' dormitory, ignoring the girls' curious glances. "I'll see you lot in the morning."
More miserable than he had been before, Sirius made his way towards his private room near the girls' dorms. He was furious with himself for being so incredibly thick. This is what Remus dealt with every day of his life as a werewolf. This had only happened to Sirius once, and besides that he wasn't really a girl! Any discrimination he faced was temporary. Compared to what Remus would face for the rest of his life, how could getting turned down from the Quidditch team until James made captain even begin to compare?
That night Sirius didn't get any sleep. He resolved to redouble his efforts to become an animagus, and to include James and Peter in the plan as soon as he was sure it wouldn't reveal his own secret.
His thoughts were still a messy swirl of sadness and regret by the time he got up the next morning, though Quidditch try-outs were the last thing on his mind.
The next day at dinner, Sirius sat in his usual place with his fellow marauders. Lily and her friends sat near them, and kept shooting him sympathetic looks. Sirius was still angry with Beckett, but he had more important things on his mind; his room was filled with advanced transfiguration books, and he knew he'd have to look through each tome.
A shriek of laughter interrupted Sirius's brooding; he looked up from his roast beef and saw that James, Peter, and Remus were sharing satisfied smiles.
"What…?" Sirius started to ask, but before he could finish his question the Great Hall erupted in laughter.
Somewhere down the Gryffindor table Beckett gave an angry roar and jumped out of his seat. It was then that Sirius noticed what had happened; the ceiling had been charmed to reflect the students in the Hall instead of the outside sky, almost like a mirror. Except it didn't reflect Beckett in his Gryffindor robes—it reflected him without his trousers or shirt.
Instead it showed him wearing pink lacy girl knickers and matching bra.
Of course the real Beckett was clothed normally, but that didn't stop him from running out of the Great Hall, face bright red as everyone witnessed the spectacle.
The best part about this prank (besides the revenge), James later confided in Sirius, was that nobody even thought to suspect them. Why would the marauders prank the captain of their own Quidditch team, after all?
Sirius wasn't sure, but he thought he saw Lily send James something akin to an approving smile.
Sirius padded quietly into the Hogwarts infirmary. It was only just dawn, and the light streaming through the windows was pale and feather-light.
On the last bed lay Remus Lupin, wearing only flannel pajama bottoms. His upper torso was covered in bandages, and on the patches of skin that weren't covered Sirius saw thin white lines—scars from full moons long ago.
Sirius had made it a habit ever since the Quidditch fiasco to visit Remus the morning after every full moon. He knew that Madam Pomfrey patched him up and then went to report to Dumbledore over breakfast, so he had a good hour alone with him.
Sirius dropped a parcel of sweets onto Remus's bedside table. They bore no tag, and Sirius hoped that Remus would never find out that he was the one who kept leaving him sugar quills and Honeydukes chocolate.
After Dumbledore had given Sirius the bi-weekly subscription to The Wizard's Economist, Sirius had been investing a good amount of galleons into the two industries he believed in most—Zonkos and Honeydukes. He didn't think his friends thought it that odd that he encouraged them to spend their money there, and it wasn't as if they needed much convincing.
Sirius sat down in the chair beside Remus's bed
and watched his friend sleep. Remus's tawny hair looked coppery in
the golden light streaming through the windows. Sirius was relieved
that his face bore no grimace of pain. He knew only the most
rudimentary of healing spells, though it was on his To-Do list to
Remus's even breathing, the gentle rise and fall of his chest, the shadows of his eyelashes on his cheek… Sirius found that he could scarcely breathe for the sight before him. He'd never seen anyone else look so open before, and watching the self-controlled Remus like this left him breathless.
As he had done the previous times he'd visited Remus the morning after, Sirius tentatively reached out a hand and pushed a few tendrils of tawny hair off of Remus's forehead. Sirius held his breath as he ghosted his hand down Remus's arm before taking Remus's hand into his own. The gentle hold sent warmth flooding through Sirius.
This warmth turned into icy shock when Sirius heard Remus whisper, "Alex?"
Sirius choked and dropped his hand, readying himself to make a run for it, but before he could take a step in the opposite direction he felt Remus grab his wrist.
"Don't," Remus said, entirely too awake for Sirius's liking. Sirius stopped trying to escape and turned to face Remus, who was leaning forward to hold onto Sirius. "Feels nice. Don't go."
Sirius felt his cheeks grow hot. "Why aren't you sleeping?" Sirius demanded, though with his girlish voice it came out much more breathy than he'd intended.
"I asked Pomfrey not to give me any sleeping potion this morning. I wanted to see who kept leaving me the sweets."
"So you didn't know it was me, then?" Sirius said, sitting back down in the chair. Remus didn't let go of his hand, though. Instead, he twined their fingers together.
"Oh, I had my suspicions," Remus replied, his pale pink lips turning into a sleepy smile. If Sirius had been breathing at that point, he's sure his breath would have caught in his throat.
Remus fell asleep soon, his hand still holding Sirius's.
Author's Notes: Hey guys! Thanks for sticking with me thus far. This chapter is the end of Sirius's "easy" years at Hogwarts. This chapter is pivotal to the story, and from now on things will be much more complicated for poor Sirius. Hope to see you for chapter four! And remember, reviewing is good karma ;-)