A/N: I was concerned about this prompt. I couldn't think of how to incorporate cigarettes into the Potterverse without it seeming very misplaced, so the only thing left was this derogatory term for homosexuality. Then my boss sent me the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (yes, it's a real book) and, wonderfully, "fag" really did mean little servant boy (among other things) among the lower classes a couple centuries ago. If this still offends anyone, I'm sorry. It was my intention to avoid that possibility as much as possible.
Thanks to all reviewers, new and returning. I'm continually amazed at the amount of feedback I get from y'all. I hope you enjoy. :)
When James sat down at Gryffindor table that morning, Sirius was reading. A book. Without any pictures of nude women in it.
"Merlin's pants," James breathed. "Padfoot, are you feeling quite well?"
The shaggy black head emerged from behind the book, sporting a huge grin. "Prongs! Look what Moony got me for my birthday!"
James leaned forward and read the title. 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
"Ah," said James, nodding emphatically. "Now I understand."
"It's excellent! Did you know that the green sickness refers to the way that birds feel when they're not getting any?"
"Sounds like they're also jealous of their best mate, who's being shagged left and right."
"Hey, that makes sense! You've got a knack for this, Prongs! We should make our own!"
"You can't make your own historical slang," Remus said with an amused smile as he helped himself to a dollop of oatmeal. "But I'm glad you like it, Padfoot. It's about time you got around to reading books."
"I read plenty," replied Sirius distractedly, eyes flying across the page.
"Of smutty magazines, maybe," Peter interjected as he sat down at the table beside Sirius. "Which, oooh, speaking of which…" and he leaned over Sirius' shoulder to glance at what he was reading.
"Nay nay, dear Wormtail, this is much better than a smutty magazine," Sirius insisted, and began reading aloud that midwives were also known as gropers and began making gestures to indicate his interpretation of where the expression must have come as he and Peter snickered piggishly.
James' jaw dropped. "Better than smut? I've lost him!" He turned with reprehension to Remus. "Moony! You did this!"
Remus turned his half-amused, half-disappointed eyes away from Sirius' incredible ability to make anything and everything into something dirty and stared at James. "And I feel just sick about it," he said drily.
James opened his mouth to retort, but was saved the trouble as Lily and a small group of gaggling girls swept by and captured James' full attention. "Okay everyone, be cool," he muttered under his breath and turned hurriedly to his breakfast. He turned his head to watch her in what he thought was a discreet manner at the same time that he brought oatmeal up to his mouth and ended up slathering his cheek with oatmeal.
Remus and Peter laughed loudly. "All right, James. We'll be cool," Remus assured him.
Sirius kept reading his book. "What are you three on about?"
"Lily just walked by."
"Ooooh." Sirius closed his book and looked around eagerly, spotting her not far down the table. "Time for Prongs to embarrass himself."
"Shut up," James snapped. His vocabulary diminished to several very short phrases when he was trying to prove to Lily that he wasn't a complete arse. Unfortunately, his reputation was very solid in her eyes, and she made every effort to make it known to him. More unfortunately still, most of those short phrases made him sound like a complete arse.
"I need a different tack," James murmured, mostly to himself. "What can my tack be?"
"The tack of being a tacky prat?" suggested Sirius.
"No," James replied distractedly.
"It's all right, you try that one daily, it doesn't seem to work very well," Sirius said.
"What about that of being a tacky, obsessive prat?" Peter added. "No, wait… got that one down too."
"Shut up," James said again, now watching Lily quite plainly as his spoon dripped oatmeal onto his lap.
"Ooh, that reminds me," Sirius began without any obvious lead-in to what he was about to say. "Did you wash my Quidditch robes, Prongs?"
"What?" James' eyes tore away from Lily and landed on Sirius with confusion. "No. Why would I wash your Quidditch robes?"
"Because I asked you to and you agreed."
"Bollocks. I wouldn't have agreed to that."
"Well, you did, so—"
"I most certainly did not. I am not your laundry maid."
"It'd be lovely if you were, though. We can play dress-up later."
James' facial expression reached a new level of incredulity. "No we cannot, and when did I allegedly agree to wash your Quidditch robes?"
"Yesterday morning. We were getting up for Quidditch, and I said my robes had grass stains on them, and you said uh-huh, and then I said they also smelled like I'd had lots of ruddy sex in them, and you said I probably did, and then I said you could only have known that if you were there, and you said that you'd wash my robes after practice if I'd only shut up about them."
"What, at five o'clock in the morning? I don't even remember that!"
"Evidently," Sirius pouted.
"Wash your own damn robes, Padfoot."
Sirius' chin quivered as he looked up at James with big eyes. "James, it's my birthday."
"And I got you a nice, shiny present that you haven't even acknowledged yet for absorption in Moony's gift. I have fulfilled my duty as a mate. I'm not doing your laundry just because it's the anniversary of your mother's never-ending anguish."
Sirius fidgeted. James looked around to see that Lily was gone from her seat. He deflated. "Aren't you washing your own robes tonight?" Sirius asked him innocently.
"You are, aren't you?"
"It wouldn't hurt if you just washed mine while you were at it, would it?"
"For Merlin's sake, James, just do it to get him to shut up," Remus interjected from behind a textbook.
James scowled. "Fine. I'll wash your ruddy robes."
Sirius grinned. "Yay! You're my good little fag."
James stared blankly at Sirius. Remus' and Peter's heads whipped around to look at the pair with astonishment. James opened his mouth very slowly, as though really unsure about what to say in response, when a scalding voice from behind him cut through.
"I'm sorry… did I hear that right? You and Black are gay for each other, Potter?"
James' insides froze. It was Lily. Of course it was Lily. It was always Lily. He didn't dare turn around. He opted instead to take his anger out on Padfoot by kicking him under the table. "Sirius, what the fuck did you say that for? You knew she was standing right there!"
Sirius looked confused. "What? Oh… oh!" He laughed insanely and took on an expression of both horror and profound amusement. "Oh, no! No, no no no, not that kind of fag! Look," he said, brandishing his new book madly in front of him. "Fag means little servant boy! I was calling him my little servant boy because he said he'd wash my robes for me! Here, look, I'll find it for you," he said, and began leafing madly through the book, blushing and grinning at the absurdity of the situation.
Remus and Peter were wearing very wide grins and seemed to be buckling under the effort of trying not to laugh as James spun around in his seat. "I'm not gay," he said, deadpan.
"Really?" Lily said, her arms crossed and a smirk all too evident on her face as she looked down at James. "Because it sounded like the two of you were having quite the lover's spat. Him calling you Prongsie… something about you dressing up as a maid, I can only assume for bedroom purposes…"
"Ah, but your logic fails!" Sirius interjected, interrupting his mad search through the volume. "If I wanted him to dress up like a woman, I wouldn't be very good at being gay now, would I?"
"I don't pretend to understand your fantasies, Black."
"You know, Sirius," Remus put in, enjoying the situation immensely, "you did seem to be unusually enthusiastic about having James dress up for you—"
"Remus! Not helping!" James snapped at him.
"Now, now, if two of my best friends are having an affair, I feel I ought to know about it—"
"Lupin!" James hissed, and Remus and Peter found themselves losing a valiant battle against the urge to burst into hysterical laughter. James turned back to Lily. "Come on, Evans. After all the times I've asked you out, you must understand that I'm not gay." James frowned. "And even if I was, I wouldn't date Sirius."
"Why not?" Lily asked, eyebrows raised. "He seems rather like your soul mate, if you ask me. Better him than me, anyway."
James was getting irritated. "And why is that?"
"You must understand that I'm thinking about you, Potter. Even if you're not gay, you have a far better chance of getting Sirius to go out on a date with you than you ever will with me."
Remus and Peter gave a small "oooohh". They were a captive audience, if nothing else.
"In any case, I'm rather convinced by what I've heard," Lily continued, tugging at her sleeve casually. "Lots of ruddy sex… something about you being there while the deed was done… Really, all the evidence suggests that the two of you have quite the physical relationship going on." Lily placed a hand on James' shoulder. "And I couldn't be more proud that the two of you are so open about it. Maybe you're not such a bad guy after all, Potter." James said nothing. A fierce battle was raging within. "If you wish this coming-out process would go a little faster, I can help you spread the word if you want. Perhaps I'll start by telling the Slytherins, start with Sev and then—"
James' resolve broke. He rose from his seat and put his hands on her shoulders. "Lily," he said in a low voice, looking her straight in her gorgeous green eyes. "I love you. Not Sirius. You. Not any other girl, not any other bloke. Just you."
Lily's eyes searched his, and he realized with a jolt that she believed him. She stepped back out of his grasp, turned, and swept out of the hall without another word.
"Lily… oi, Evans!" James watched her go, then plopped dejectedly back in his seat.
"Well," said Remus delicately, "that certainly was a different tack."
"Shut up," James said, having reverted back to his monosyllabic vocabulary. He stared at his oatmeal as though trying to decide if he felt like eating anymore.
"Aha!" Sirius exclaimed, sliding his book under James' nose. "See? Fag means little servant boy! I wasn't making it up!"
James looked up at Sirius, blinked slowly, then cursed his clothing off and stormed out of the hall after Lily.
Sirius watched James go, then frowned as he regarded his own naked form. "He'll come around," he said, missing Remus' and Peter's sceptical expressions. He crossed his legs, turned to a random page in his book, and kept reading as he finished his toast.