For Taragh McCarthy's Word Limit Competition - Round Four.

2000+/-100 words, "playing it cool"


"A Menace to Society"

Remus is sitting with his back propped up against a large mound of snow, warming charms and a scarf wrapped tightly around him, book open on his lap. He's not reading it at the moment, though. He's watching the giant annual Gryffindor/Slytherin snowball fight – which Gryffindor always seems to win, every year. He won't join, he never does, but he enjoys watching it. Watching Sirius, in particular. Watching the mischievous expression that graces his aristocratic face when he gets a grand idea, the gleeful expression at a successful execution. Then, of course, there's the flushed cheeks just from exertion in the cold – wind-burnt, his face is.

The smile lingers on Remus' face as he looks back at his book after watching Sirius pump his fist in victory after dumping a particularly large heap of snow on a group of Slytherins that included his brother Regulus.

Remus wonders, as he often does, if Sirius is really seventeen already. He has the maturity level of a five-year-old sometimes, and yet, he's the oldest Marauder, a fact he often likes to flaunt.

The smile is still playing at Remus' lips as he begins to read again, but he doesn't get very far.

Smack. A snowball hits his temple.

Remus looks up sternly, but no one is close enough. Everyone he can see is still down on the field.

He frowns, shaking his head, and turns back to the book.

Splat. This time the ball of snow comes from above, sliding down his face and landing on his book. Remus tilts his neck backward to find himself staring straight into the grinning face of one Sirius Black.

"What are you doing?" Remus asks sternly. Sirius continues to grin.

"I'm… What's that Muggle phrase? Playing it cool."

Laughing, Remus throws off all pretense of upset and replies, "Sirius, I don't think that's exactly what it means."

Sirius just grins at him unrepentantly and shrugs. Faster than Remus can stop him, he balls up another batch of snow and chucks it at him.

"How dare you?" Remus mock-gasps, and he dives at Sirius, tackling him firmly into the snow and pinning his arms above his head.

"You, my dear Sirius," Remus growls menacingly, "are very, very lucky that I put an Impervius Charm on that library book before I brought it out here!"

"Well, I should hope so!" Sirius remarks cheekily. "This being your sixth year of friendship with yours truly, you really ought to know by now that your best bet is to simply Impervius everything!"

"You, Sirius Black, are a menace." But Remus is grinning as he says it. Sirius, who feels Remus' grip slacken, takes the opportunity to flip them both over so that he's now the one holding Remus' arms down.

"Who am I to disagree? But admit it, Moony, you love me for it."

As always, Remus meets Sirius' silver eyes and just melts. "I do. For some completely unfathomable reason, I do."

"I knew it!" Sirius crows triumphantly. But then he sobers. "I love you, too, Moony," he says, and then he kisses him fiercely.

The snowball fight rages fiercely on – at least until Professor Dumbledore walks by and all the Slytherins are suddenly buried (two events the Headmaster will continuously insist are merely coincidental) – but neither of the boys up above notice, and the library book lies forgotten for a long while.

They're brought back to reality by a splash of icy wetness and a shout.

"Oi! Have you two been up here snogging the whole time?"

Sirius grins unrepentantly. "Not the whole time."

James sighs, shaking his head and tutting. "What are we going to do with you two? Whaddya think, Pete?" Peter has come up beside James while he was talking.

Peter shrugs. "Missing the annual snowball fight-"

"Not all of it!"

Peter ignores the interruption. "That's pretty much unforgivable."

Remus frowns. "I miss it every year."

"Yeah, well, you're Remus. You can do things like that."

Sirius pouts. "I hate double standards."

"Unforgivable, eh?" James echoes. Peter nods.

"Marauder's revenge?" Peter asks innocently. Sirius shudders.

"C'mon, James," he pleads. "It's not that bad."

"It's the annual snowball fight!"

"It's Remus!" Sirius counters. Remus stares pointedly at the snow. When Sirius grins cheekily, James can't help but laugh and shake his head.

"You're a menace. You should never be let loose on society."

"See?" Remus says to Sirius. "James agrees with me!"

"That makes three people that think so," Peter mutters.

Sirius pouts again. "You guys are all always out to get me!"

"Yes, that's it," Remus says dryly.

Sirius grins at him. "Good to know I can always count on you to agree, Moony!"

Remus can only laugh, shaking his head. "You're impossible."

"I try."

"You succeed," James deadpans.

"Of course I do!" Sirius' tone is wounded. Remus snorts skeptically. "Hey!" Sirius yelps indignantly. "You're supposed to be on my side!"

Remus chuckles. "Only when you're right, Pads."

"That's not how it's supposed to go," Sirius insists. "You're supposed to agree with me no matter how insane and ridiculous my ideas are."

"Knowing you, that can get pretty insane and ridiculous. I don't dare sign myself up for agreeing with everything you say."

"It's not fair! I agree with everything you say!"

James nods. "That's true."

"It is true," Remus concedes. "But it's true because Padfoot here has no willpower and succumbs to the tiniest little look from me and my apparently extraordinary powers of persuasion, not because I believe he should."

James gives this a moment's thought, then shrugs. "I'm with Remus on this one," he says.

"So am I," Peter agrees. "You really do lack all willpower, Sirius."

"What is it, let's all gang up on Sirius day or something? Why am I even friends with you guys?"

"Because we're awesome?" Peter suggests.

"Because we're the only ones that would put up with you?" James is grinning as he says it.

"Because we were all in the same dorm?" Remus offers.

Sirius glowers, looking extraordinarily put out. "Seriously. I hate you guys. All of you. Even you, Remus."

Remus just grins. "Love you, too, Sirius."

James shakes his head. "Seriously, Sirius – and don't you dare make a pun about that – you're a little bit ridiculous."

"I am not!"

"If Hogwarts had a drama club, Sirius, they'd ask you to lead it. You're the biggest drama king I've ever met," Peter puts in.

"I… What is it with you people today?"

James shrugs. "Maybe you shouldn't have ditched the annual snowball fight to snog Remus," he says.

"All right, all right," Remus says carefully, always the mediator. "It's cold. No, scratch that, it's absolutely freezing, and I want hot chocolate." He stands up.

"Pete? Want to come?" Peter nods, always up for a trip to the kitchens.

Sirius and James do, of course, follow. "Moony, you have a chocolate problem," Sirius comments on their way inside.

"I do not!" he protests. "I just happen to have a suitable appreciation for such a delicious treat. There's nothing wrong with that!"

"Addiction," Sirius coughs out, mock-hiding it, even though everyone knows what he's saying.

"I do not have a chocolate addiction!"

Sirius whistles innocently. "Well, I wasn't going to say that in so many words, but now that you bring it up, Remus, it does seem to have passed the point of 'suitable appreciation.'"

Remus glares at him. "You're one to talk, Sirius. We all know you're a coffee addict."

"Am not. I keep it to a perfectly reasonable five cups for breakfast, and I manage the entire rest of the day without it. You, on the other hand, can hardly go for a few hours without chocolate. I'm surprised you're still so skinny."

"And I'm surprised you're still alive. Coffee dehydrates, you know. Chocolate, on the other hand, is good for the soul."

"Oh, it's good for the soul, is it? Is that what you tell yourself to justify the ridiculous amounts you consume?"

"Reasonable amounts," Remus corrects.

"You two bicker like an old married couple," Peter puts in suddenly. The floor abruptly becomes far more interesting to Remus than it was a minute prior.

Sirius, of course, has no such reaction. He simply slings an arm around Remus' shoulder and says broadly, "Nothing wrong with that, Pete. Nothing wrong with that."

James glances over his shoulder at them and rolls his eyes.

"I think you were right about that drama king thing, Pete," he says as he turns back around a tickles a pear.

The door to the kitchens – which the Marauders have known about since first year, from Sirius' cousin Andromeda – swings open. They climb in one after another.

"Twinkle can be helping young sirs today?" a house-elf asks the minute they gain entrance.

"Hot chocolate, if you please, Twinkle. Thanks," James says quickly and carefully. They make it a point to attempt not to let Sirius talk to the house-elves – he tends to be rather rude, as he's not especially fond of the species as a whole.

Twinkle shows up not two minutes later with four steaming mugs of hot chocolate topped with a swirl of whipped cream. Remus sighs in happiness at the sight, and Sirius laughs. "It that's not a sign of addiction," he says, "then I guess I don't know what is."

Remus elbows him in the ribs, but he's too happy to glare as he sits down and sips his hot chocolate. "Mmmmm."

Sirius can't help his grin. "And you say I'm ridiculous."

"You are ridiculous," Remus says in-between sips.

Sirius shakes his head. "You are such a hypocrite, Moons," he says, but he's smiling as he does. Remus just shoots him a grin as the rest of them sit down by their own mugs of hot chocolate. James first just wraps his hands tightly around it, more pleased by the warmth than anything else. Peter digs into the whipped cream on top first. Sirius stirs his together, mixing the cream and chocolate until the chocolate is a pale brown and the whipped cream has dissolved.

Remus sets his mug down for a moment, observing his friends. They're all so different, each of them – background, mannerisms, all of it – and despite this, or perhaps because of it, they all fit together so well. They complement each other, each one making up for what the others lack. And Remus wonders absently how on earth he got so lucky, to get friends like this. Coming to Hogwarts, Remus didn't expect to make friends at all. Casual acquaintances, perhaps, maybe people he spoke to on occasion. Maybe even people he kind of felt like he could trust. But Remus didn't ever expect to find anyone – not to mention three people – who knew him, all of him, even what he was, and would still consider themselves his friends. He doesn't ever stop feeling lucky for that.

Sirius finishes his hot chocolate first and as he sets the mug down, he appears to be thinking. "Remus," he says suddenly.

"Yeah?" Remus replies, still half lost in his thoughts.

"What was that library book you were reading?"

Remus shrugs. "Just Offensive Spells and and their Counter-Jinxes. Why?"

"So it wasn't important?"

"Well, it was a library book which has intrinsic importance, but not exceptionally important within that particular category. Why?"

"Because it's still outside," Sirius replies sheepishly.

Remus feels his eyes widen. "Sirius Black, you are absolutely impossible," he says flatly. Sirius just grins in return.