" Ouch! Damn it, Wormtail! You're eating! You're supposed to be covering me, and you're bloody eating!" James Potter cried at the blonde boy crouched behind their snow fort, who had inexplicably acquired a sandwich in the midst of a heated snowball fight between them and three girls from Gryffindor. Peter shrugged, and shoved the offending snack in his pocket, resuming his duty as supplier of weaponry, packing the powdery snow into missiles.
Remus landed a good shot square in Lily Evans' chest, ducking from retaliation with a breathless laugh.
" Too bad Padfoot's got detention," he said. " He'd really enjoy this."
" He'll probably be out soon. It's almost two," Peter said, handing James a snowball.
" Admit defeat, Potter!" Alice Brown screamed, knocking his glasses off with a well aimed shot.
" Never!" James roared, blindly returning fire and missing terribly.
" Oi, look! We've a hostage now!" Vivian Jones squealed joyfully, causing all three boys to peek over the fort curiously.
" Get off!" they heard Sirius laughingly protest as the three girls tackled him and drug him behind the low wall of snow they'd constructed.
" Help, Prongs! They're having their wicked way with me! I'm too pretty to be a prisoner!" Sirius called out.
" Right, men! They're fighting dirty now. Time to brave no man's land and storm the enemy fortress!" James cried dramatically, leaping over the fort, snowball in hand.
The other two followed with a war whoop, and the three prepared to dodge fire that never came. Looking at one another in confusion, they slowed their pace and casually walked to where the girls were giggling loudly behind their fort.
" What the hell are you wearing, Padfoot?" James asked, pushing his now slightly bent glasses back on his nose. The girls were fawning over Sirius like he were a large doll. He looked up with a grin from the depths of a fur trimmed hood.
" Did you rob an Eskimo, Padfoot?" Peter said, scratching his chin.
" Nicked it from the lost and found. Isn't it great?" Sirius asked.
" I think it's kinda sexy," said Alice with a smile. " Looks like something I saw Mick Jagger wear once." James snorted.
" You look like a right git," he said, dropping his snowball.
" Jealous," Sirius said with a wink.
" So is the snowball fight over, then?" Peter asked. " I could go for some hot cocoa about now." The group murmured with agreement, and began to make their way to the castle.
Sirius threw a fur trimmed arm around Remus as the fell back slightly from the others.
" So what do you think of the coat, Moony?" he asked. Remus shrugged.
" I dunno. Looks warm," he said, his cheeks slightly flushed. Sirius impulsively grabbed Remus' long fingers with his own, swinging the boy's bony arm to and fro playfully. Remus gave him a polite smile that conveyed nothing in particular.
" You should see the lost and found room, Moony! It's brilliant. There's all sorts of things in there. We need to sneak in there and have a look around sometime," Sirius said. Remus looked at him suspiciously.
" What exactly were you doing in there, anyway?" Remus asked, receiving a smirk from his companion.
" Poor, naive Slughorn had me try to straighten it for my detention," Sirius said. Remus shook his head.
" He's no idea the seed of evil he's planted, has he?" Remus asked with amusement.
" Nope. I have a feeling this will be a source of much mischief, indeed. But I really just thought you might enjoy looking around it, you know, for books and things," Sirius said, glancing at Remus' thin, worn jacket and wondering if he were as cold as he looked.
" Might find you a cool coat, too," Sirius said with a laugh, hoping he'd worded it casually enough. Remus stopped in his tracks, his hand slipping from Sirius'.
" No, go with James or something. I need to study," he said, carefully filtering the irritation out of his voice.
" It's Friday, Moony," Sirius said plaintively. A flicker of pity flashed in Remus' golden brown eyes, but was replaced by an emotionless stare, as he walked past Sirius in the direction the others had gone.
Sirius followed the path of muddy slush the others had left in their wake behind him, gazing at the the way the sunlight lit the frosty trees with a wistful sigh. He wished things could go back to the way they once were with him and Remus. Remus had always been one to shut others out, and never say exactly what he was thinking, but not with him. There was a trust there his friend had shown him, in the days when they first mastered becoming animagi, that he didn't seem to have for anyone else. They had become so close, as Sirius watched over him long after the others had left, sharing secrets, having long conversations about everything, and generally just enjoying being near to one another. It was different than it was with James somehow. Sirius didn't have to feign toughness all the time with the gentle, quiet boy who listened to him without judgment. And he never felt the urge to snog James fiercely.
Sirius gave another dramatic release of breath, as he caught up with Remus, who ignored him. I've thrown it all away, Sirius thought miserably.
In the common room, Sirius plopped down beside Remus in the narrow armchair by the fire, half way in his lap. Remus gave him an annoyed look, but said nothing, as the other five students gathered around in the surrounding seats, each taking a steaming mug of cocoa from the table. Sirius jumped up and grabbed two of the cups, settling back down on Remus and handing him one. Sirius wriggled his way further into the seat, leaving Remus' lap, but forcing them so close together that Sirius had to throw an arm around the back of the chair to accommodate them. He took the coat he'd shed and laid it across their knees. the fur trim making Remus sneeze.
" Don't tell me you're allergic to fur, Moony. That would be pretty unfortunate," Sirius whispered in his ear, his warm breath nearly making the already nervous boy spill his drink. James spared them a glance, tearing his eyes away from Lily for a half second.
" You're such a poof, Sirius. Just tell him to get off you, Moony," James said, turning his attention back to the girls, who were giggling. Sirius stiffened slightly.
" Sorry, Moony," he muttered sulkily, sliding down and sitting on the floor instead. Sirius thought he saw Remus open his mouth to say something, but the words never came.
" Psst. Moony."
Remus was awakened by a shift in weight on his bedsprings, and an urgent whisper.
" Wha?" he said, rubbing his eyes and untangling himself from the sheets.
" I can't sleep. Come here," Sirius whispered. Remus caught a glimpse of moonlight on raven black hair by the window seat in the dorm, and rolled ungracefully off the bed to join him. Sirius had opened the window a crack, lighting a cigarette, and turning from where he perched by the window with a smile.
" I don't know what they're thinking," Remus said, climbing up beside him and taking a cigarette for himself. " Having a window that opens in a school on this floor."
" It's charmed. Look," Sirius said, stretching his arm out and meeting resistance.
"It's not strong enough to resist me jumping out, or even throwing this fag out the window, but it gives enough push to upright you if you should fall accidentally." Remus smirked.
" How'd you know that? You try to jump?" Remus asked. Sirius shrugged and looked away.
" No, but I've thought about it a couple of times," he said with a quiet laugh. Remus studied him closely.
" That's not funny, Sirius," Remus whispered. Sirius gave a dismissive gesture.
" Ah, you know I have a flair for the dramatic. Just too proud for my own good," he said. Remus shook his head in wonder at Sirius' candidness.
They both looked out the window, hearing a loud crack below, as a tree limb buckled from the weight of the snow.
" I'll probably come back as a tree," Sirius murmured, looking below with a strange smile.
" What?" Remus asked.
" There's a sect in Hinduism that believes that exhibisionists and the overly proud come back as trees when they die," Sirius said.
" Why trees?" Remus asked.
" I dunno. Maybe the way the tarty little things drop their leaves every year and stand about naked," Sirius said with a grin. Remus' lips twitched slightly.
" Well, you'd best keep your pants on then," Remus said. Sirius shrugged.
" Might not be so bad, being a tree," he mused, watching the wind blow their branches on the grounds below.
" Why on earth would you want to be a tree, Padfoot?" Remus asked in amusement.
" Trees can't hurt anyone they love," Sirius said, looking up at last and meeting Remus' eyes.