How Strange, The Form of Fear: Prologue

James had noticed the whispers, the books passed across study hall and complex notes scrawled up the margins of Sirius' parchments. In hindsight, he would always wonder why he'd never said anything, never bothered to ask what they were up to. Pete didn't notice, but then Pete didn't notice much, really. How long had Sirius and Remus been sneaking out together in the middle of the night before Pete caught on? Even then, he'd only noticed something was amiss because Moony failed to wake for class one morning, and James had to lean over Sirius' prone form to poke him. Sirius, he never bothered to wake. If he was going to skive off, nothing would stop him, and from the fact that Moony had overslept, Padfoot needed to renew his... erm. Energy.

But James was not in the habit of sticking his snout where it didn't belong, and just as any stag will tell you not to step between two fierce canine forms, any teenage boy will tell you not to step between your best mate and his boyfriend.

Not that it was the boyfriend aspect precisely... James grew tired of defending his discomfort to himself. He didn't care if Sirius Black buggered a thestral, so long as no one was buggering him. Better, Moony and Pads were very... happy. And they weren't poncy about it at all. Other than two (fully-clothed!) boys sprawled and unconsciously kicking each other in one tiny bed, James had never observed even so much as a flicker of romantic behavior between them. It truly wasn't a problem to James that Sirius was dating a bloke, or that said bloke happened to be another mate of his, and a werewolf. It was more that... Sirius Black was dating a bloke. Oh, bother. James slumped over the game of exploding snap with which he had engaged Pete.

"Something wrong?" Pete asked.

"Nah. Just this Sirius mess."

"Dumbledore sounded pretty angry, didn't he?"

James nodded. Indeed, when Dumbledore had accosted the four boys in an upstairs hallway with trembling baritone accusations of dangerous spells, "angry" was hardly what James would have called it. He thought they were all going to die. In the end, though, Dumbledore had left with Sirius and Remus. Only they were going to die. James didn't know if that was better or worse.

"What was he on about, anyway?" Peter asked, the game momentarily forgotten.

"Dunno," James lied. Without preamble, he stood and wandered back into the hallway. He'd heard the name of the spell Dumbledore had accused Sirius and Remus of performing. He didn't want to believe that he'd heard correctly, but he thought a trip to the library was in order.

Twenty minutes later, and having poured over every similarly-sounding spell, he had to admit that there was really only one possible conclusion to be reached. They had done it. They had done it. James cursed and threw the last book, Soul Magic, to the floor with a thump that was deafening in the silent library. After all, no one was in here on a Friday afternoon.

He was wrong, though, 'cause Lily Evans's head popped around a book case to glare at James. "Don't abuse the books," she sniffed.

"Sorry." James didn't have the energy to argue with her.

Lily seemed to be contemplating something. Eventually, she gave in with a shrug and wandered over, setting her little pile of astronomy references down. "You must know that two of your friends were hauled away by the Headmaster earlier."

James looked up at her- really looked at her- and saw how exhausted she seemed. Her hair was mussy and there were circles under her beautiful eyes. She didn't have an ounce of make-up on, though he wasn't honestly sure whether she usually wore any. She didn't tend to stand still so close to him for very long since Sirius had played that prank on her last year, and she was older now than she'd been the last time they'd been hesitant acquaintances.

"Might know something about it," James answered aloofly.

"Do you know why?"

"Can't say I-"

"I heard a rumor," she interrupted him. "From Peeves of all people. He said he overhead Dumbledore in the hallway saying that they did a mar-"

"Shut it," James hissed. "And shut Peeves. I'm going to hex his ghostly self into next-"

"Potter, he's already blabbing all over the school to anyone who will listen."

James clenched his fists, glad that it was a Friday and that everyone was outside and away from Peeves.

"It can't be true," Evans drew herself up proudly. "Remus would never-"

"Sod it, Evans. You don't know a thing about Remus."

"He's my friend-"

James stood. "I said, you don't know a thing about Remus. He would do whatever the fuck Sirius tells him to do, is what he would do."

Evans tried to stifle a gasp. "You mean they really...?"

"I don't know what they did. I don't know anything more than Peeves does, alright? Well, maybe a bit more. Alright, a lot more, I think- I hope. But not about what spells they've been getting up to. I stay out of their business."

"It's not reversible!" Evans' voice could only barely hide her mounting panic. "Are they... I mean, have they... they must have been..."

"They've been seeing each other for..." James' eyes glazed over as he started to count up the months. "Merlin," he groaned, "a year last night."

Evans made a sound like she'd eaten something bad. "What are we going to do?"

"We? You're going to go back to your astronomy. I'm going to go upstairs and try to finish my game of exploding snap."

"But the whole school will know soon!"

James shrugged. "Not my doing, and there's nothing can be done about it now."

Evans, mouth still hanging open, could do nothing but watch as James set the large, shabby text on soul magic onto the 'to be shelved' cart and sped out of the library. Only once James found himself in the relative private of the empty stairwells did he realize that he'd come to a conclusion. They had. They'd done it. They had to have. Merlin of Avalon, what were they thinking? Sirius and Remus had married their souls.