Disclaimer: Don't own HP or the Marauders.

Oh, this was written before DH came out. It just took me so long to finally post it on this site.


What They Call Loneliness

Quite frankly, James Potter had never before gotten a detention in his entire life… until now.

It had started in Transfiguration, his favorite class, when Professor McGonagall had partnered him with the least popular person in the entire school (aside from Severus Snape). The boy's name was Sirius Black, and he and James absolutely hated each other.

Sirius was the oldest son in the House of Black, a notorious family well-known for using Black magic and supporting Voldemort. Unlike his younger brother Regulus, Sirius barely spoke at all. Also unlike his Slytherin brother, he was a Gryffindor. No one liked this fact—least of all the Black family—and he kept to himself because of it.

James, on the other hand, was a member of the popular crowd, a group of the best-looking and generally pigheaded people that made fun of those that weren't in their clique. James could remember many occasions on which he and his friends had specifically mocked and berated Sirius Black.

Although Sirius was extremely good-looking, he lacked certain aspects that people in the popular group needed—like narcissism, popularity, charisma, the ability to mock people, and to not be born of an evil, devious family. He could, of course, fix all but the last. However, he didn't seem to want to.

That was probably why the two fought so much, even though it had never escalated to a full-fledged fist fight. James didn't really understand why he didn't want to be liked by everyone. He did, however, know that it was difficult to have real friends when popular, but that was something he didn't like to think or talk about. Besides, the loners, such as Sirius Black himself, didn't have any friends at all—not even fake ones.

When the class had received their new assigned seats and the partners that coincided with them, most of them groaned. McGonagall was apparently trying to improve bad relationships, so almost everyone was with someone they disliked. They had all moved begrudgingly to their new desks.

James had slammed his books down on the tabletop to show his annoyance to the teacher and had flopped down in his new chair. Sirius had sat down beside him in utter silence, not allowing even the chair to squeak in protest as he pulled it out. McGonagall had glared at them both, trying to command them to behave. It wouldn't do any good.

McGonagall has also made another mistake by assigning them all to transform their partners into a moose for a short while.

James had known that he could do it, but he had smirked, planning, instead, to do something else far different.

When they had begun their practice, it was Sirius who had gone first. On his first attempt, the words barely from his mouth, he had been successful.

And, a moment later, James had returned to his proper form, ready for his turn. The words that had issued from his mouth, however, were not what they should have been. Not even a second had passed, and Sirius had begun to sprout leafy greens from his chin and ears.

Once he had realized what had happened, Sirius had pounced on his attacker in sudden emotion. The force of his blow had been strong and abrupt, and James had succumbed to its power without much defense. The two fell to the ground in a frenzy, and James had struggled to break free.

It hadn't taken long for McGonagall to intervene, but it had been long enough for James and Sirius to both have bruises and sores. Her words had been strong and harsh, and she had given them each a week of detentions, which they would serve together and she would oversee.

And so James had gotten his first detention ever. It wasn't as if he was a goody-goody. Definitely not! He had just never been caught before in any crimes he had committed. He and his friend, Adam Pennington, had played several pranks on Slytherins and many of the loners, including Sirius, but they hadn't ever been caught. Of course, a fight and a prank were very different; anyone could take credit for a prank, but it wasn't very difficult to decipher who had been the ones fighting.

The first three nights had been uneventful, and Professor McGonagall had kept them busy enough to ignore each other. On the way back to the Gryffindor tower, neither had spoken to the other—nor had they even glanced each other's way.

But James's heart jumped when he reached McGonagall's office for the fourth night of his detention-filled week. Sirius was already inside, sitting in a chair opposite McGonagall's desk, and there was an empty seat beside him.

What surprised him was the fact that McGonagall was not there. Instead, Lily Evans sat behind her desk, sifting through the papers. She didn't even look up as he sat down, awe and amazement etched onto his face.

Professor McGonagall entered from her classroom a moment later and glanced between the three of them almost suspiciously before saying quietly, "Mr. Potter, please close your mouth. It is rude to stare."

He started, and both he and Sirius looked to her for instruction.

"Tonight will be far simpler than the previous ones," she explained almost hesitantly. "You will assist Miss Evans and Mr. Lupin in sorting through these documents." In confusion, she looked over to the girl behind her desk and said in a much kinder voice, "Speaking of him, where is Mr. Lupin? Do you know, Miss Evans?"

"Yes, ma'am," responded Lily in her serene voice, not even glancing up from the papers she was overlooking, "he went to fetch us drinks. Very kind of him, Professor."

"Thank you, Miss Evans." She turned back to James and Sirius and continued, her voice strict and stern again, "You will speak only when necessary, and I expect there to be no fighting. I will be—"

A large man suddenly burst into the room, his robes flailing out behind him. James easily recognized him as Professor Slughorn, the teacher of Potions class.

Trailing behind him was a boy that James didn't recognize. He appeared to be about their age, and his robes claimed that he was a Gryffindor. He was a small boy with shimmering golden-brown hair and beady, little eyes.

"Horace, how may I be of service to you?" asked McGonagall.

"Oh, Minerva, it's Peeves! He's being a nuisance again, making a mess up on the sixth floor!"

"Do you need my help? Has someone fetched the Baron?"

"We are searching for him, but he cannot be found as of now. Albus is taking it good-naturedly, of course, but even he is a bit worried."

"Then, we must go to see what can be done."

"No, nonsense, Minerva. Stay here. I came merely to see if you could watch young Mr. Pettigrew here. Sadly, he blew up a cauldron earlier today in class, so I had to give the poor boy a detention. I've been helping him with the class."

"Of course, he can stay here, but are you sure that you don't need my help?" she asked cautiously, but she still gestured for the boy to come into the office.

A crash was heard on the floor above.

Slughorn hesitated. "Well, he has moved a little closer now. Perhaps you had better come with me."

Professor McGonagall nodded and turned to Lily. "Miss Evans, please keep everyone here in a line. Mr. Lupin shall assist you in doing so when he returns. We should not be gone for very long. Mr. Pettigrew, please find a seat and help."

The boy nodded and stumbled toward a chair in a corner before sitting down on it nervously.

Without another word, McGonagall and Slughorn left, hurrying along the hallways to the staircases leading up to the floors above.

A moment later, Remus Lupin entered, holding two mugs of hot chocolate. A look of confusion passed over his face as he stopped at the doorway, then it was realization, and then he continued toward the desk, handing Lily one of the mugs.

She took it graciously, sending him a warm smile and taking a deep drink of the hot liquid. When she set it down, she turned to both James and Sirius, her face changing from nice to… extremely not nice. "Well, what are you waiting for? Didn't she tell you what you're supposed to do?" she said haughtily.

Sirius scowled but didn't say a thing. He was very good at not speaking apparently. He had never really done it before, so why would he start now?

James, on the other hand, wasn't so pleased with her words. "Yeah, but you're the one with all papers, aren't you, Evans?" he snapped with pursed lips. "If we're to do anything, you'll have to show us what to do."

Sure he fancied her, but that didn't mean that she could push him around with those demanding words of hers. She was still annoying, even if he did actually like her.

She had barely glanced at him—and she certainly wasn't starting now. Lily just rolled her eyes and pushed two large stacks of parchment toward them. "Sort those into alphabetical order by last name," she commanded.

He seriously didn't know why he even fancied her in the first place. She was bossy and a know-it-all and a goody-goody, but he still did. He couldn't help it. Part of it was the fact that she was extremely pretty—hell, she was beautiful. But he didn't understand how that made him like her.

It certainly wasn't her personality… or rather the side that she showed to him. To almost everyone else, she was extremely kind and considerate. But she didn't seem to have any patience for him or for any other troublemakers. He didn't cause that much trouble, but, because he had a detention for fighting, he had immediately gone onto her Must Be Mean and Bossy To list—and he was rather sure that she actually had one.

With a small grimace, he slowly began to sift through the papers, Sirius at his side, doing the same and not uttering a sound.

Lily was decidedly kinder to Peter Pettigrew, the boy in the corner, when she talked to him about joining the work (he agreed without dispute). That was probably because he was only there for accidentally blowing up a cauldron. It obviously wasn't his fault. He was just stupid.

James quietly laughed at that thought, and everyone's eyes zeroed in on him, which felt strange. The only person that didn't look up was Sirius, who continued with the work assigned to him.

"What, might I ask, is so funny, Potter?" asked Lily, looking at him in distaste.

He shrugged, not meaning to answer her question in the least. When she continued to press, he simply said, "There's little in this world that isn't funny in some remote way, Evans. Get over it."

"I don't like your tone," she responded levelly.

James snorted at that and laughed, "Well, you can get over that at the same time."

Remus took a gulp of his cocoa and sighed in frustration.

"What?" James turned on him.

Startled, eyes wide, he said in a quiet voice, "I didn't mean anything by it."

"Everybody means something by everything."

"What the hell kind of logic is that?" Sirius spat, finally speaking.

"Oh, no, you two are not fighting again," reprimanded Lily.

"We haven't done anything, Evans. Get back to your blessed paperwork. You're already making me sick with the need to burn them as it is."

She was making him sick with need, but it certainly wasn't how he had described it orally—and he certainly didn't think he would ever be saying that thought out loud… nor laughing about it.

James pushed that thought away as she glowered at him dangerously but she followed his words anyway. She didn't make any sense at all.

Remus entered the Transfiguration classroom and quickly returned with another stack of graded essays that McGonagall needed filed away. He and Peter set to work on doing that.

"Is that our last essay?" asked Sirius curiously.

After glancing over Remus's shoulder to look at his own paper, Peter said, "It is. Oh, and I got a 'P' on it."

"What did I get?" James questioned, sitting up expectantly.

"I don't know. Remus has yours."

"Lupin, m'dear," he said in a singsong voice, "would you like to tell me what my grade was on that lovely essay?"

Remus filed away his paper (he had recognized his handwriting from afar) with only the words, "It was an 'O'."

"And what did our resident know-it-all get?" he asked smugly.

"Oh, I have that one!" exclaimed Peter. "I just put it away. It's an 'E'."

"Yes!" cried James in excitement. "I beat Lily Evans."

Sirius snorted. "That's all that matters to you? I thought you were so popular that you didn't need to be smart," he said with a sly smirk.

He scoffed. "I never said that. I wouldn't be surprised if Adam had, but I didn't," he defended. "Smart people have every right to be smart—and I have every right to mock them for it. But that doesn't mean they should stop being smart. And it certainly doesn't mean that I can't be smart."

"Again, what the hell kind of logic is that? It's not right to make fun of people because they're smart or because they're not like you."

"Who took the jam out of your donut?" snapped James.

"Listen, Potter, just because you're a bigheaded, conceited bastard doesn't mean that you have to make everyone feel bad—especially when they've already been fucked by their family."

"You're fucking whom?" he asked with a raised eyebrow.

"How old are we, Potter? Thirteen? Fourteen? What idiot shags when they're that old?"

"More than you think."

"Will both of you belt the hell up?!" screamed Lily, her frustrating boiling over the top.

"No, Evans, I don't think I will," James replied defiantly.

Sirius just glared at her for disrupting their argument.

"You had better," she said, her voice dangerous.

He looked away from her back toward Sirius. "I think she's challenging us," he said with a small smirk. "What do you say? Should we take her up on that?"

"Yes, I think so," he responded with determination.

Neither had even touched their stacks of paper, and, when Lily stood up, knocking her knees against the desk, they toppled over onto the floor, loose papers floating through the room. "No!" she cried. She rushed over to pick them up.

Neither James nor Sirius made a move to help her. They scooted back their chairs to give her room but offered no aid.

Remus, on the other hand, set down the remaining essays and knelt down beside her. "It's not that bad," he tried to reason.

She sent him a wary glance but didn't say anything.

"They'll definitely need sorted now," grinned James.

Sirius almost smiled in return but stopped himself in time.

Both looked away from each other, not wanting to admit that they were actually somewhat enjoying the time they were spending together.

Peter stood by the filing cabinets, looking torn between helping Lily and Remus or doing nothing like James and Sirius. In the end, he filed away the last essay in his hands and moved toward the two boys. "Who won the fight?" he asked. It appeared as if he had been wanting to ask them that for ages.

They glanced between each other and shrugged.

"You know," James said pensively, "we never actually finished it."

Sirius nodded, his brow knitted lightly. "Why not now?" he suggested in a hushed voice.

James agreed.

Only a minute later, they were outside in the corridor, robes left forgotten on their chairs. Peter waited expectantly on the sidelines, excited beyond belief that he would see the best event since they had started at Hogwarts two and a half years before.

They stood in silence for a couple minutes, long enough for Lily to realize they had left and to drag Remus outside to stop whatever the boys were going to do. But, when she stepped into place beside Peter, she knew that there was nothing she could do to stop them.

Neither James nor Sirius moved for minutes, and Lily was about to intercede when James finally took a step forward.

"Why aren't they doing anything?" asked Remus.

"I don't know, but it's amazing," Peter responded in awe. "Who do you think is winning?"

"You can't win if you aren't fighting," Lily snapped, putting her hands on her hips and rolling her eyes.

"Will you guys be quiet?" James said, not even glancing over to the three standing at the open door to McGonagall's office.

"Why?" she scowled. "You're just looking at each other."

"That doesn't mean you should interrupt."

"What's there to even interrupt?"

"Hush," Peter quieted her.

She pursed her lips but no more words issued forth.

Still, James and Sirius stood completely immobile.

"The suspense is killing me," Remus murmured sarcastically, and he returned to the office to finish picking up the papers on the floor.

A look of determination crossed James's face, and he said, "Are we gonna do this or what, Black?"

Sirius raised an eyebrow and replied, "Don't be an arsehole, Potter. You're not doing anything either."

Although James could be a bit of a berk, he still didn't like physically attacking someone without reason. Despite the fact that a prank could be far more embarrassing, those were generally done in good fun—unless they were on the Slytherins.

James hadn't hated Sirius Black at the beginning, though he had been very deterred by the last name. However, he knew that you couldn't judge someone by their name, though it did tend to play a large role in their personality.

They wouldn't have hated each other at all (probably) if it hadn't been for Adam. He and James had been friends for a couple months when he had verbally abused Sirius. James hadn't been there at the time, so he had had to rely on Adam's words alone, which he had grown to trust. Adam had told him that Sirius had provoked him, that he had spoken rudely about his family or something—James didn't even remember what it had been. After that, Adam had convinced him that they had needed to get back at him for what he had said… so they had played a prank on him.

James had been the planner of the entire prank—Adam wasn't very creative when it came to revenge (or to anything, really). And, after it had been carried out, they had made sure that Sirius had known who had been behind it.

It had been a challenge, which Sirius had accepted without question. When he had returned the volley of pranks, his had been just as wonderful as James's had, though they had both been lacking a certain expertise—the planning hadn't been just right yet. Everything had been downhill from there, though.

Despite what Sirius had said about Adam, James held a certain respect for Sirius and his pranks. And, even though Sirius wasn't involved in any sports like he was, James was still sure that they were equally matched when it came to strength as well. He definitely wasn't sure which one of them would win this fight, but it would be undeniably close.

When the fight finally began, neither was sure who had initiated it—it had been so close. Fists and feet and knees and elbows and heads were flying all over the place, two people watching from the side, one in awe, another in horror. Everything around them seemed to stop—they were focusing so fully on the battle at hand.

Lily scowled and grimaced in indignation, but she couldn't seem to pull her eyes away from it. It was horrible and yet intriguing. She didn't understand why they were even fighting—after all, it didn't make sense for them to be doing it just to spite her, but, considering all the things that James and Sirius had done during their detention, she wouldn't be that surprised if that really was their reasoning behind it.

Both boys tumbled to the floor, still thrashing violently. James barely noticed the chill of the stones beneath them until Sirius finally spoke in between heaving breaths. "Potter, what the hell is the point of this anyway?" he questioned in a strained voice.

Startled, James slowed down his struggling so that they could speak more easily. "What?" he asked, his eyes wide with confusion as to the purpose of the question.

"Why do we even fight? This is so stupid!" said Sirius, and yet he continued to punch and kick the boy on the floor with him.

"Why? Bloody hell, what kind of question is that? That's like asking a dog why it barks."

"So what you're saying is that it's in our nature to hate and fight each other? That's bollocks!"

"You're the one that started this, so don't blame me," James spat.

"Started what?"

"The hatred. You insulted my best friend."

It looked like Sirius was going to laugh, and the sardonic mirth was in his voice as he all but stopped moving and said, "Pennington? That bastard—"

Just as the words left his mouth, James's fist connected with his nose and a crack resounded through the hallway—as well as a sound far worse.

"By Merlin!" came the screeching voice of Professor McGonagall. "I leave you all alone for fifteen minutes and this is what I come back to?! You should be ashamed of yourselves."

It appeared as if Lily and Peter were… as well as Remus, whom was returning from her office.

"Miss Evans, Mr. Lupin, Mr. Pettigrew, please return to your common room. If I hear a word of this floating through the hallways tomorrow morning, you will all have a detention."

The three moved toward the Gryffindor tower in utter silence, their heads down in disgrace.

McGonagall then turned on James and Sirius still on the floor. "Mr. Potter, Mr. Black, you will both come with me to the hospital wing. The blood will already have to be cleaned up. I don't want more of it to run down while I reprimand you," she said. Her voice was very low and calm—far scarier than the voice she had used earlier.

It was true. Sirius's nose was bleeding very badly, but James didn't feel any pity for him. After insulting his best friend (again), he wasn't about to help him.

James stood up in silence, not sending Sirius another glance. He walked toward the hospital wing without McGonagall even needing to tell him. Behind him, she was helping Sirius to his feet and to support him while they walked.

They reached the infirmary without any accidents, and the two boys were sat down on a single bed until young Madam Pomfrey could come and heal them up. Neither spoke until Pomfrey joined them, using a few spells to mend Sirius's broken nose and their bruises. She left them for almost ten minutes then to search for a couple potions that would keep the pain at bay (she had not completely removed the pain and sores, so she had felt the need to aid them with that as well). McGonagall remained standing a little ways away so that she could make sure they didn't start fighting again.

"You didn't have to say that," James said quietly, his voice dead of all emotions but anger and resentment.

"You didn't even let me finish," defended Sirius.

"You got out all that was necessary. You called my best friend a bastard."

"Adam Pennington is a bastard, Potter, and I'll tell you why."

"What? Because we pulled some pranks on you? Wouldn't that make me one as well?" he responded mockingly.

"No. Because Pennington insulted me first, and he obviously lied to you about it, because he wanted you to like him."

James was suddenly confused. Adam wouldn't have lied to him. Best friends didn't lie to each other. What would have been the point anyway? The only thing that it would achieve would be that the two would hate Sirius together. Neither had really liked him in the first place, so it wasn't really that big of a deal.

But that still meant that Adam had lied. If there were three things that James really hated, they were lying, being a braggart, and provoking for no reason. Adam had known that at the time, so was that why he had lied? It was stupid, but it was still quite possible.

It still didn't make sense, though.

He didn't respond to Sirius's words, but he didn't need to say anything to make it known that he actually believed the words.

After they both took a couple gulps of Madam Pomfrey's potion, McGonagall escorted them to the Gryffindor common room, saying the password for them so that they didn't have to speak. She didn't follow them inside.

The common room was practically empty when they stepped through the portrait hole. Lily Evans was sitting by the fire with an almost-permanent scowl on her face, but she still looked beautiful (as always). She looked up as they walked past in silence toward the third year boys' dormitory. It appeared as if she was going to say something, but she didn't. She returned to her book when they first stepped onto the staircase.

They entered their dormitory, James first and Sirius after him, and moved toward their beds. Remus and Peter were waiting for them, their eyes curious, but neither pressed the matter.

Adam, however, was leaning on the window sill, and he barely looked over as they walked inside. There was a look in his eyes that James knew that Adam was sure that he would be joined at the window in less than a minute.

But James didn't join him at the window. He stopped at the sight of him, still taking in everything that Sirius had said. He glanced between his supposed best friend and the three boys that he and that supposed best friend had persecuted and rebuked many times over.

Sirius sent him a meaningful look, and he tried to ignore it, but it was stuck in his head—it was all stuck in his head. He couldn't seem to shake the fact that he knew that Sirius was telling the truth, even though he had no reason to trust him at all and he had every reason to trust Adam. Adam had been his best friend since a third of the way through their first year, so wasn't he more trustworthy? He didn't know.

James ignored the knowing look that Adam had sent him and moved to his bed instead, flopping down on it with a very deep sigh. He didn't feel like talking to anyone. He didn't know whom he could possibly trust, so what was the point?

Adam had lied to him. Even if it had been two years ago, it had greatly affected his life, making an enemy out of someone that perhaps could have been a very good friend or even just a nice acquaintance.

He and Sirius had fought ever since then. They had hated each other ever since then. Could they ever be anything but enemies? It didn't seem like they could. They were still the same people, even if one factor had changed.

Peter was completely in awe of him, but also of Sirius. Besides, Peter had always been an easily excitable boy, which could grow quite annoying. But did that mean that he was a bad person? Of course not. James and Adam had just always been mean and mocked him because it was rather funny to watch his reaction. Despite what they had done to him, he still looked up to James. It was unnerving and yet flattering and yet very pitiful.

The quiet boy, Remus, was… well, he was just that: a quiet boy. There was nothing wrong with him. He kept to himself mostly, though he spent a little time with Lily Evans every once in a while. Actually, James had always been rather jealous of him because of that fact.

Remus and Lily just had so much in common that they were friends. It wasn't that there was anything romantic between them—James had checked that many times over—but it was still frustrating that someone else could be so close to her and yet she barely even noticed him.

Actually, Lily was the only person whose judgment he deemed trustworthy at the time. She was always uniform and parallel when it came to her answers. She never went back on what she said or tried to lie about what might or might not have happened. She was generally kind and honest, though she was rather easy to anger. He had always admired her for that. It was most of the reason why he fancied her in the first place. The fact that she was beyond beautiful really helped as well, though.

James glanced over to the window where Adam had been, but the boy was approaching him instead. "I don't want to talk about it," he said squarely, loud enough for the other three boys to hear and powerful enough to make Adam stop in his tracks. With that, he pulled his legs up onto the bed and closed his hangings before settling beneath his sheets and blankets.

He tried to calm down so that he could think things through, but it wasn't working. Nothing made sense, yet he understood it all completely. He didn't know whom to trust, yet he knew who was trustworthy. He was tired and haggard, yet he couldn't fall asleep.

When all the beds had creaked with the weight of their occupants and the lights were all turned off, he let out a quiet sigh of relief. He didn't want to speak to any of them, but he knew he had to hurry if he was going to do what he was considering doing.

He waited a couple more minutes before he slowly snuck out of his bed. It barely squeaked as he moved off, but he deemed it quiet enough to be someone just shifting on the mattress. He crept toward the door to the common room, hoping that Lily was still down there.

After closing the door behind him, he looked down across the common room, but she wasn't down there—at least not visibly. He turned to the stairs to walk down so that he could get a better look (perhaps she had moved since the boys had all gone to their dormitory), and he was startled to see her walking up the steps carrying two folded black robes. "Er, what're you doing?" he asked, furrowing his brow.

She looked up at him and scowled. "Professor McGonagall stopped by and asked me to take these to you and Black. You both left your robes in her office," she explained. She stopped on the same landing as him.

"Oh, thanks," he said, taking them into his hands. She turned to go, but he spoke to her, his words sad and desperate. "Evans, can I talk with you?"

Lily looked at him curiously. "I suppose, but make it short if you please."

"I'll try, but it's rather long."

She sighed in annoyance and continued down the stairs. "Fine, come down and we'll talk it over in the common room."

He smiled, set the robes down on the landing, and followed her down to the sofas near the fire. He enlightened her as to the situation, giving as many details as he could remember, never looking at her for fear of the distaste that was sure to be evident on her face. When he finished, he finally looked up at her to see her reaction, and he was surprised.

Lily's face was calm and pensive. She was clearly thinking over everything he had told her. "Well," she said, "it seems that Pennington was never really that good of a friend if he lied and insulted Black for no reason."

"Yeah," he agreed in a quiet voice, scared of what that would mean.

"It also means that you were wrong about Black since practically the beginning. He doesn't appear to be nearly as rude or obscene as Pennington made him out to be."

"Yes."

"So you should do the one thing that you haven't thought of," she reasoned.

"What's that?"

She laughed lightly, as if the situation was something silly like a bad hair day. "Apologize, of course. Potter, if you've proven anything to me today, it's that you're very rash but that you're also very smart. Do the smart thing here—not the rash thing. If you apologize to Black (and to anyone else who deserves it), you'll probably feel better.

"You should also probably talk to Pennington about what you've discovered. It's rather obvious that he'll deny the fact, but it's still honest and fair if you tell him. He deserves to know why you're not going to be friends with him anymore."

"What makes you think I'm not going to be his friend anymore?" asked James curiously.

"You've made that quite clear with many of the things you've said and how you've said them, Potter. Don't try to deny that."

He smiled gratefully. "You're right," he agreed. "Thank you, Lily Evans. You've been a great help. I'm going to try to get some sleep now." He stood up and turned back to the staircase… but then he stopped.

"What's wrong?" questioned Lily, wondering why he hadn't continued toward his dormitory.

James looked back to her with a twinkle in his eye. He leaned down next to her and pressed his lips to her cheek. "Oh, and, by the way, I really like you, Evans. It might be stupid, but I was wondering if you'd like to got to Hogsmeade with me next weekend."

"What?!" she exclaimed, her eyes wide and her voice dangerous. "No, I won't! Just because I'm nice to you for a couple minutes—that doesn't mean that I'll go on a date with you, Potter. Don't make me vomit please! Good night!" She jumped to her feet and stormed up her own staircase and into her dormitory.

He would have laughed if it hadn't been for the fact that he had just been very embarrassingly and very loudly rejected.

With a small sigh of resignation, he returned to his bed, placing the two robes on his bedside table. It took him a very long time to fall asleep, but he finally did around midnight. He was extremely lucky that the next day was a Saturday and he would be able to sleep in.

However, in the morning, Adam didn't allow him to sleep in. He had obviously waited long enough through the night until he would be able to talk to James about what had happened. Unfortunately, James wasn't in a good mood when he was awoken.

"What's wrong with you, James?" asked Adam.

He glared and rolled over away from the light, still not wanting to talk about it at all. He knew he had to, but he didn't want to do it just yet.

Adam wouldn't let him get back to sleep, though, because he was quite anxious and annoyed that he had been ignored the previous night. He wouldn't take 'no' for an answer. "James, don't be a berk. You've got to get up. We have class."

"Bollocks," grumbled James, fully knowing that they didn't have classes at all that day. "Go away."

"Dammit, James, get the hell up!" cried Adam.

"Leave him alone," called a different voice. James's ears perked up at hearing Sirius speak. It had been rare that he and Sirius had even fought—let alone spoken—the previous night, so he hadn't expected any of it to happen again.

"What did you say, Black?" Adam said, turning away from James's bed and toward the interrupter.

"I told you to leave him alone. For Merlin's sake, Pennington, can't you see he's tired?"

"Yes, but where do you fit into all of this?"

"Merlin, I'm fed up with you putting all that shit in the boy's head. I knew you were stupid, but I didn't know you were stupid enough to lie."

"And that means you can stick your nose into our conversation?"

"It's not much of a conversation if you ask me," murmured another voice—Remus Lupin's. "It's a bit too one-sided."

"Well, I didn't ask you, now did I, Lupin?" snapped Adam.

"I don't think he really cares whether or not you asked him," Sirius defended.

Adam laughed somewhat maniacally. "Since when did a Black ever care about anyone else's feelings? Please enlighten me, because I don't get it. You've spent the past two and a half years alone and now you're actually caring? It doesn't make any sense, Black."

Sirius's voice was very dark and low when he spoke again—Adam had crossed a line that he shouldn't have crossed when he had said that. "Don't ever judge me by the people I'm related to, Pennington. It's exactly the same way with you, so you should understand it better than anyone else. The rest of your family is actually very nice, but you don't fit in at all. Understand better now?"

"Wait just one—"

James was sick of the argument and finally yelled out, "Put a sock in it, all of you!" as he sat up and turned to look at them all.

The other four in the room (Peter had remained quiet during the conversation) all rotated to see him. They all appeared to be in awe of his interjection, but Remus looked rather relieved that he had stood up for himself… and he wasn't quite sure, but Sirius almost looked hurt. Was that because he and told him to be quiet too while he had been defending him? Perhaps.

He rounded on Adam with a large frown on his face. "Leave me alone, Adam. I don't want to talk about what happened, so get over it already."

"James, I'm your mate. I deserve to know what happened."

"Yeah, well, we both know that's bollocks now, don't we?" he snapped in response.

"I don't get it," said Adam slowly, shaking his head.

"Well, you of all people should. You're the one that lied to me."

"When have I ever lied to you, James?"

"You figure it out. I don't have the patience for this. Just leave me the hell alone. I don't want to talk to you again."

"What?!"

Sirius gave off a small smirk. "I think he just said that he didn't want to talk to you, Pennington. Maybe you should get your hearing checked with Madam Pomfrey. She did a right good job with my nose. Maybe she'll be kind enough to you as well, though you certainly wouldn't deserve it one bit."

In frustration, Adam left through the door, slamming it behind him, and descended to the common room.

James swung his feet over the side of his bed and stood up hesitantly on the floor. "Eh, why did he have to wake me up?" he grumbled.

"Are you all right?" asked Peter.

He looked like he would die if James's feelings were hurt, and James was thankful for it. It seemed that someone really did care, even if it was a weak, chubby boy that he had made fun of for the past couple years.

He nodded slowly. "I guess so. It's not like it's really that bad anyway," he laughed. "I don't think I'll be that popular anymore… but it's not like that's everything. None of those people even really liked me."

"Why not?!" He looked utterly distraught by the fact.

With a short laugh, James responded to the short boy's question. "They look up to you, but they don't really care about your feelings or what you actually want. They just force you to be who they want you to be."

"And then you force others to be the way you want them to be?" questioned Remus, his voice calculative and precise.

James cringed at that. "Yeah, that's right," he said despite the fact that he disliked it. "That's what they wanted me to do."

"'They'? Who is this 'they'?" Sirius inquired with a raised eyebrow.

"The popular people, though I don't even know why they're even called that. Half the people in the school don't like them anyway. Someday, I hope that someone changes that. The popular people should actually be people that everyone likes—or at least almost everyone."

"Ooh, that sounds awesome!" exclaimed Peter.

"So what'll you do now?" wondered Sirius, sitting down on the bed beside him.

He shrugged. "I don't know. It's not like there's much to do but homework anyway."

Standing up, James moved toward his dresser and pulled out some clean Muggle clothes. Without a word, he entered the bathroom and changed, not even bothering to take a shower (or close the door behind himself). Despite the fact that it would probably make him feel better, he didn't want to spend that much time in the bathroom. Besides, what would he care what people thought of him anymore? He hoped that they didn't care what he thought, because he certainly didn't care at all.

When he returned to the dormitory, the three were still in the same positions, Sirius on his bed, Remus leaning against the wall with a bookmarked book, and Peter waiting worriedly near Sirius. He tossed the dirty laundry on his bed and picked up his cloak from the floor; he threw it onto his bed with the other clothes, then picked up Sirius's folded one and tossed it to the owner.

"I'm going to go eat breakfast," he said and turned toward the door.

"Alone?" cried Peter feebly, causing him to stop mid-stride.

"Yeah, I guess so. It'll be a bit weird and definitely a first, but I think I'll live."

"Of course, you will," agreed Sirius, but then he continued, "because we'll go with you."

"We will?" Remus asked. "I've already eaten."

"So? You'll watch us eat!" It was as if Sirius had changed overnight. Before he had been aggressive or completely silent… but now he was rather energetic and enthusiastic. It was a bit scary.

"I'm not that fond of watching James Potter, the guy that's glared at me for the past year and a half, eat. That's just not my cup of tea."

"I'm sorry," James said after a short moment of silence.

"What?" the three other boys said in almost complete unison.

"I'm sorry that I glared at you and called you a bookworm, Lupin," he finished, turning back to them. "It was wrong."

Remus smiled. "I suppose that's satisfactory. But why?"

"Why am I apologizing?"

"Yes," he clarified.

James let out a light laugh. "Well, quite frankly, because Lily Evans told me I should and I agreed with her judgment."

"So you're only doing it because the girl you've fancied for almost two years said you should?" smirked Remus.

"W-what? What d-dya mean?" he stuttered, his face automatically flushing. "I-I never—"

"It's been rather difficult to miss since the only time you really glared at me was when I was with her."

"Merlin, must you say it aloud, though?" cried James

"Ooh, James Potter fancies Lily Evans," Sirius said like he was plotting something devious. "Lily Potter. It has a nice ring to it, you know."

"No, it doesn't," he insisted. "She already turned me down."

"You actually asked her out on a date?" grinned Remus.

"Yeah, but she said 'no'. It was horrible."

"How so?" asked Peter.

He grimaced. "She told me not to make her puke."

Sirius and Remus laughed at that. Peter looked sorry for him.

"Lily would say that," agreed Remus. "Well, let's go eat, then." He moved toward the door with Peter and Sirius at his heels, but James didn't go with them.

"Er, Pettigrew," said James, catching Peter's attention, and the three stopped to look at him again.

"Yeah?" asked the chubby boy.

"I'm sorry. And I do mean it. It's not just because Evans told me to."

"What for?"

"For saying that you were fat and stupid, though Adam was the one that actually said it. I did agree to it, so I am at fault. I thought it was true anyway. I hope you don't think any less of me, but I don't blame you if you do."

"I don't," promised Peter.

"And, Black," he said, turning to Sirius, "I'm sorry that I thought you were like your family. I've spent only a little time with you now, and I can certainly tell you're nothing like them. I was wrong to think that, so I'm sorry. And I'm sorry that I broke your nose… and that I was partially to blame for you not having any friends."

All Sirius said was, "You know, I'm getting a bit tired of this surname thing. Let me reintroduce myself. My name is Sirius. And I don't need a last name for you to know me. It doesn't matter anyway." He thrust his hand out between them.

James smiled, replied, "I'm James. It's nice to meet you," and he shook the other boy's hand.

"It is, isn't it?" grinned Sirius.

They let go and looked to the others.

"Well?" asked James.

"I am Remus Lup—er, just Remus."

"My name is Peter!" he exclaimed.

"Okay, I'm hungry!" Sirius bellowed and pushed his way to the door before opening it and heading out. "Come on! Let's eat."

They laughed quietly and followed him down into the thriving common room, where it was quite a sight for the rest of the Gryffindor community to see. Four of the five third year boys that had previously disliked (if not hated) each other were laughing and grinning like lunatics as they made their way to the Great Hall for a late breakfast.

Lily was sitting quietly by the closed window for light as she worked on her Charms essay. She looked up when she saw the four of them, and she was rather glad to see that James had sorted out the problems of which he had spoken the previous night.

She was also, however, a bit worried that maybe they were better of with only James and Adam versus Sirius when it came to pranks instead of four rather intelligent boys that seemed to be enjoying each other. She just didn't know how right she really was, and she just returned to her essay without another thought.

And the four boys made their way to the Great Hall, laughing and goofing around as if they had been friends for a very long time.