Author's Chapter Notes:
This is unbetaed, and all mistakes (not to mention my take on the effects of too much dittany and bad Sirius/serious jokes) are mine.
The Gryffindor common room was, mercifully, deserted when James, Sirius and Peter staggered in. The fire was slowly dying, the smouldering remains of the flames still making tiny hissing sounds as they sparked and burnt out. But while James and Sirius collapsed on the floor, clinging to the armrests of armchairs for support (though not having the energy to haul themselves up onto them), Peter managed to make it to the doorway of their dormitory.
"You guys coming?" he asked, stopping to catch his breath.
James shook his head, groaning, and Sirius rasped, "N-not yet. We'll be up in a bit. Or we might just crash here."
It was early morning, and the second time the Marauders had accompanied Remus during the full moon. Things hadn't gone any more smoothly this month than they had last month, although at least Sirius hadn't been badly injured this time. James, however, had been clawed by Remus the most. Peter hadn't been of much help, unable to do anything except to step on the knot that froze the Whomping Willow and try to distract Remus, and Sirius and James had had to wrestle with the werewolf for the rest of the night. By the time Remus had collapsed on the floor inside the Shrieking Shack at around five, the other three were exhausted, and even now, Sirius could still hear the stag's yowls of pain slicing the air and feel something cut through his fatigue and stab at his conscience.
"Merlin's y-fronts, James," Sirius said softly as James lifted his shirt and examined himself. "You're going to have some serious scarring there."
Despite James clearly wincing in pain, he laughed. "Sirius," he managed to say between laboured breaths. "Sirius scarring. Geddit?"
Sirius sighed, waving his wand and muttering an incantation. "I think you're losing your touch, Prongs. Or maybe you're just going delirious." For once, Sirius wasn't in the mood to make jokes. "Anyway, I reckon you need some dittany on that - it's stopped bleeding, but still, it looks nasty."
"If you say so, Healer Padfoot." Moments later, a bottle of dittany flew through the open dormitory door, and Sirius caught it, passing it to James. However, when James removed his shirt, Sirius couldn't help but stare. There were so many scratches and cuts on his arms, chest and back that it was hard not to.
"Shit," Sirius breathed. "Do you need help with..."
"It's fine," James said hastily, pouring a few drops on his chest. Another groan of relief escaped his lips as the cuts healed one after the other.
"What for?" he asked, wincing. "Not like this was your fault. It wasn't anyone's fault."
"I should have protected you."
"Don't be stupid. I don't need protecting, for starters. We agreed to do this for Remus, so obviously there's a chance we're going to get hurt. Besides, they're only a few scratches - ouch."
"Sorry," Sirius mumbled again, only for James to roll his eyes and try to get to his back, but even he could see that there was no way he could reach.
Sighing, Sirius ordered, "Turn around," and to his surprise, James acquiesced, lying on his front on the rug. Kneeling in front of him, Sirius carefully dripped dittany onto a particularly nasty slash on James's shoulder blade, but it was difficult because of how much James was quivering. "Look, I won't be able to do anything if you don't stay still. I'll put too much on and then it will sting."
This time, James didn't move, and the rest of his injuries disappeared with the dittany.
"Done?" James asked. Sirius nodded, and James rolled over so he was on his back this time, but then, Sirius noticed a scratch - a shallower one - on James's abdomen.
"Oh, you missed one." However, Sirius didn't realise how much his hand was shaking, so much so that he spilled too much dittany onto James's skin, making him cry out in pain.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck."
An angry pink lattice formed on James's flesh, and without knowing quite what he was doing, Sirius bent forward and blew on it very, very softly, not quite registering his knee digging into James's hip.
Though Sirius could feel James tensing, he continued, hoping his breath would at least ease his pain a little.
"Thanks, Sirius," James said, abruptly sitting up.
"That was my fault. I'm-"
"-sorry, yes, I know. It's fine." James made to get up, but before he could do so, Sirius placed his hand on James's arm, Sirius's leg still pressing against James, only for James to jerk away involuntarily. Sirius could feel it, too - the embers that flared between them singed the air, which was suddenly far warmer than normal.
He still didn't know what he was doing. This was James. James. His best friend.
"James, what-" Sirius began, but then he looked down and understood.
The sudden silence that followed was so loud that Sirius could hear his own heart thudding against his ribcage, though he did not loosen his hold on James's wrist, even when James tried to tug it away.
"Can you just - I - you - we-"
Despite everything, Sirius couldn't stifle a snigger. James Potter, the only person in Hogwarts who could rival Sirius in his cockiness, was stuttering.
But James did not laugh back like he usually would. Instead, he hissed, "Screw you," and Sirius felt James's hand scald his neck as he lowered his mouth to Sirius's.
It was nothing like kissing a girl; there was nothing tender or gentle about how bruised Sirius's lips felt against James's rough mouth, or how Sirius's teeth clashed against James's, but James didn't stop, instead continuing to kiss him, James's hand fisting into Sirius's hair. Somehow, it wasn't painful (or, perhaps, it was painful, but in a good way?), even though Sirius was sure his stubble was rubbing James's jaw raw.
And then, just as suddenly, as Sirius ran his hands down James's bare chest, James broke away, breathing heavily, and stared at Sirius. Sirius stared right back, and James eventually said, "Well, um, aren't you going to say something?"
"What do you expect me to say?"
"I don't know."
"I don't know, either," James admitted. "I... I just... kissed you."
They both looked away from each other at that, and Sirius could feel his ears becoming red with embarrassment. "How, um, insightful," Sirius drawled, mock-clapping and trying to sound bored.
Even though it wasn't particularly funny, James laughed nervously, and that helped clear the air a little, though Sirius still couldn't quite meet James's eyes. "I - it's getting late. Maybe we should go to bed." At this, Sirius burst out laughing, and the tension between them, which had been electric just a second ago, all but disappeared. "Separately, of course," James added, pulling on his t-shirt.
Sirius's eyes held a mischievous glint as he said nonchalantly, "Yeah, I'm knackered as it is."
James punched Sirius playfully on the arm, and they left for their dormitory together. The fire spluttered and died, spitting out the last of the ashes, and Sirius went up to the dormitory, his shoulder brushing against James's, wondering how (or if) their relationship had changed.
Chapter End Notes:
I think I've taken liberties in terms of when moonrise/moonset would be, but just for this story's sake, let's say moonset will be at 5am, okay? :)
Thank you for reading, and please please please leave a review! (They're like Sensations Crisps to me - I can never get enough of them :D)