Title: The Morning After
Characters: Remus, James, Sirius, a bit of Peter; mentions Snape
Word count: 696
Disclaimer: All the usual ones. The bits about werewolf laws are, by and large, pulled out of my nether regions.
Summary: There are pranks, and then there are pranks. Sometimes, though, the joke goes too far.
A/N: Not Sirius/Remus. Originally written for the nest-of-spiders day 1 prompt (A joke's a very serious thing. -Winston Churchill). Took a different direction with the prompt than the quote was going, I think, but that's how the plotbunny bites.
The Morning After
"It wasn't funny," Remus says.
"I know," James says for the twelfth time (he's been counting).
"Snape could've died."
Remus gets up, beginning to pace, his fingers twitching. The faded floorboards of the Shrieking Shack creak almost rhythmically under his weight. "That wasn't a prank. Pranks are different. They—they don't hurt anyone, not really."
James sighs. "He just—Sirius doesn't think sometimes. It was stupid, and wrong, but—"
Remus wheels. "Oh, sure," he snarls. "Sure. Take his side, I thought you would—"
"I'm not taking anybody's side," James says, raising his hands. "I'm just telling you—I don't think he meant any harm…"
Remus turns away and stands silent a moment, his shoulders hunched. Light filters through shredded curtains, glinting off his hair. "If you hadn't pulled him back," he says quietly, "do you know what they'd have done?"
"Because I do." Remus still doesn't look at him. "I've read up on werewolf law, you know." His hand rises to rub at a scar on his neck—a recent one, James realizes. "I think I was eight when I heard about a case for the first time—went to the library and started studying."
"Really haven't changed much, have you?"
Remus turns to face him. "If they catch a werewolf who's turned someone, and they can prove it, and prove reasonable measures weren't taken to prevent it happening, the werewolf goes to Azkaban for good. Anyone else responsible goes too. If a werewolf kills someone—" He stops, swallows. "If I kill someone—sometimes a really good barrister can do things, but werewolves…and it isn't like most of us could afford even a half-decent one anyway…" He shrugs. "They'd destroy me. That's the word they use, 'destroy,' like a—like a wild dog that has to be put down."
James doesn't know what to say, and he watches one of the Shack's battered shutters creaking in the breeze outside as he tries to think of something. Then he's saved from answering at all; Remus's eyes fix on something past James' left shoulder, turning hard and narrow. "What are you doing here?"
James turns. Sirius is standing in the doorway, his stance uncertain and even a bit vulnerable. "Probably not the best timing, Pads," James says.
"No, I want to hear this," Remus says, moving closer. "Which excuse will it be this time? 'It was just a joke, Moony, lighten up'?"
Sirius stares at the floor.
"Because it bloody well was not just a joke. It was serious, and it was stupid, and selfish, and people could've got sent to Azkaban or died, and—" His voices takes on a ragged edge, pain leaking through his anger. "You could've gotten me killed, and you didn't even think—you just think it's funny—"
"No, I don't," Sirius says loudly.
Remus breaks off and eyes him as if taken aback.
"It was stupid," Sirius plunges on, his eyes never leaving the floor. "I was stupid, and I didn't think, and—and I'm sorry, Remus, I'm really, really sorry." He looks up. "I wish to Merlin I'd never done it."
James watches them both, trying to remember whether he's ever heard Sirius apologize before. Not like this, anyway.
After a long moment, Remus releases a breath, the furious tension draining from his shoulders. "You're an idiot."
"I know," Sirius says.
"And Snape's never going to forgive any of us."
"I know," Sirius says again, though he doesn't sound quite so regretful this time. Remus gives him a warning look. "I don't wish he'd died," Sirius adds. "Honest. You know," he adds, glancing around the room, "I know you trash this place once a month, but—" He flicks his wand at a shattered chair leg with a jagged tip, and it repairs itself. "We could—I don't know, clean up a little—leave less for you to get hurt on next time, anyway."
Remus looks at him, and after a moment, he smiles, just a bit. "Thanks," he says.
The door creaks, and Peter pokes his head into the room, eyebrows raised at James: Is it safe to come out?