James Potter and Sirius Black had the amazing ability to turn even the most torpid silence into a buzz of activity.
They went crashing up the stairs with James's trunk, talking in tones several decibels above normal and laughing raucously like a pair of restless baboons.
James was now fourteen, in his third year at Hogwarts, and staying at Sirius's house for the summer- at his own insistence.
Despite Sirius's protests, that James wouldn't want to meet his family and that this could only go wrong, James had packed his bags and politely instructed Sirius to alert his folks that he'd have a visitor.
though, apparently, it would be a bit of a crowded house as Sirius's
three (female) cousins were also coming to stay.
Or, as James put it, 'they might be in for a bit of a surprise.'
They crashed into Sirius's room and immediately made a mess of the room as only teenage boys can. James's owl, Persnickety, was dropped much to his discontent next to Hotpants, Sirius's shriek owl.
James's trunk was dropped immediately by the door and he threw himself down onto the stretcher bed that had been prepared for him while Sirius sat down on the double in a very dignified manner.
The queen bed could have accommodated both boys without any trouble, but it was against their manhood to sleep in the same bed as another male and both of them had flatly insisted on separate beds.
"Excellent, my lad," said Sirius haughtily as he reclined back on his bed, making James wince with the signature crick of his neck.
"Please don't," implored James for the umpteenth time, kicking off his shoes under Sirius's desk and gazing around the room, which was a very impressive size considering. Despite the macabre heads on the walls, the mother who resembled Yoda and the younger brother who was the human equivalent of a gremlin, James liked the place.
Plus, Sirius's cousins, who he never hesitated to insult with every expletive he knew, were very attractive girls. James didn't hesitate to remind him any chance he got. But now James was in Sirius's realm, and it was evident that he was clear on getting the dominance factor sorted.
"Right, mate," announced Sirius grimly, staring James in the eye.
"Let's get the ground rules sorted, shall we? One; my bedroom, my rules. Same thing in the car. Shotgun shuts his effing mouth."
Sirius pointed his finger at the stretcher bed.
"From now on, that's shotgun."
"Righto," replied James, nonplussed. He'd heard things on the same vein said to Remus and Peter many times before.
"Two; no touching the cousins. Bellatrix bites; quite literally. I have my suspicions that her mother had her way with a vampire. She bit me once as a child- my upper canines have never been the same."
"Narcissa's a maneater, so keep as far away as possible. The US Navy has her registered as a port of call, I believe. I think she was the original contractor of Syphillis, so unless you want to catch eight types of HIV, don't even bother."
"Lastly, Andromeda is alright, but I don't want her to be corrupted so keep your expletive paws off her, Prongs."
"Done and done," replied James merrily, not having encountered any awry rules so far.
"Okay, one more," said Sirius finally, his voice dropping to a whisper, his dark eyes drifting across the room to settle on the floor.
"See that nail in the floorboards?"
James twisted, curious, to see. Indeed- there was one lone nail jutting out of the floorboards, completely alone.
"That nail is out of bounds," growled Sirius, in a very firm tone of voice. James looked at him, incredulous, with one brow raised.
"You serious?" he replied skeptically, not quite sure if he would be able to handle the ridicule.
"Deadly," he replied, flatly ignoring the pun. "Do not touch the nail. Do not pull the nail. Do not look at the nail. Do not even think about the nail. Got it?"
"Uh, yeah. Sure. Whatever."
"Excellent!" piped Sirius, back into the hyperactive mood that he'd been before, leaping off the bed.
"I'm off to the loo, I'll be back in a minute. Feel free to talk to the folks. There's stairs to the roof upstairs with some sunbeds, and you can lock the door, too. Towels are in the hall closet. Butterbeer is in an icebox if you open my chest of drawers. There's some badminton racquets under the stairs and Narcissa keeps the shuttlecocks in her room… along with every other type of cock known to mankind. Narcissa likes cock. Make yourself at home."
Sirius left the room and James was left on his bed, staring contemplatively at the ceiling.
One thing weighed heavily on his mind. The nail.
If it was anything taboo, it was evidently designed to drive James as mental as possible and he didn't doubt that Sirius would be chuckling for weeks after his frustration.
he'd best put an end to his curiousity before it began, he rolled
over so that the nail was directly between his knees, looking as
intriguing and deceptive as it did before.
He tried to amass some kind of suspicion but all he could think of was 'this is stupid.'
James looked from side to side, and at the door for quite some time before finally working up the guts to lightly tap the nail on the head. Immediately he barrel-rolled back onto his bed and under his blankets, peeking out to see if any subsequent mini-apocalypse had been unleashed.
Nothing. Nada. How disappointing.
He blushed sheepishly, suddenly aware that he had dived across the room after poking a piece of metal in the floor.
Reaching down, perhaps to drill in the manliness that he felt had just been robbed from him, he gave the nail a little twist.
His insides writhed like a little boys but one heavily unimpressed voice in his head scathingly told him 'oooh, james, how daring…'
So with a proud relish, James hoisted his head, fastened finger and thumb to metal and yanked the nail clean out of the ground.
He grinned at himself for a moment, shaking his head at Sirius's stupidity, but a moment later there was a deafening CRASH and shrieks of horror as what was unmistakably a chandelier crashed to the ground downstairs.
SHIT!" yelped James, immediately leaping to his feet and crossing
the distance to the door in two bounds.
There was only one thing to do. Act completely and totally innocent.
Panicking, he jumped from foot to foot, looking around the room as if there was something on the walls that might be of assistance.
Then he saw it; the staircase to the roof that Sirius had mentioned earlier. Oh! Roof! Sunbeds! An excellent alibi. He turned around and deftly plucked a towel out of the hall closet that Sirius had told him about, and closed the doors with a short squeaking noise. Taking care to tread as quietly as possible, he tip-toed up to the distorted glass door and opened it, closing it and bolting it on the other side.
Thank Merlin and his fucking beard.
James turned around to observe his retreat, only to feel his heart sink with disappointment.
The reclining sunbeds were both out-of-the-salon, outrageous hot pink.
Well, no way in christ he was ever going to recline on one of those poofter traps. With an arrogant, swarthy look of disdain, James made his way across the cement rooftop and began to take off his shirt and pants, unrolling the towel. If he was going to tan, then goddamnit, he was going to tan royally.
He lay down on the ground and stretched out his arms and legs, completely starkers from head to toe, and reveled in the feeling of the sun heating his bare back. He could still half-hear the renewed screams of horror from downstairs; obviously that had been a very expensive chandelier.
Hell, maybe at the end of the holidays he'd write a note explaining that he was the perpetrator and give them the money to cover the expenses.
The sound of someone hammering on the rooftop door shocked James out of his reverie and he laid the towel across his bare bottom, agitated, just as Sirius burst through the door, panting like a stuck horse.
"What are the screams about?" asked James as if he were completely innocent and knew nothing about the incident.
James was the master of the throwaway comment but he knew that Sirius wouldn't have a bar of it- he would know that it was James that had pulled the nail.
But instead of the chastisement and incessant 'I told you so's' that he expected, Sirius only looked at him with a mixture of embarrassment, amusement and disgust.
"Dude," he replied with an imperious snigger,
"You're sunbaking on the skylight."