“I’ve had enough.” Peter said, grimly. Remus sighed, next to him. He knew the feeling, but there wasn’t much point whinging about it now. “I really have!” Peter reiterated, his voice slightly high as he looked up at Remus for validation.
“I know you have.” Remus replied, hoping to placate him.
“They’ve dragged us into all sorts of stuff, got us detentions - and I never complained.”
“Well. You did a bit.” Remus raised an eyebrow. Peter nodded,
“Ok, I did sometimes, but I always did as James said. And Sirius, even though he’s horrible to me.”
“Sirius is horrible to everyone.” Remus said, getting bored now.
“Well this time I’ve definitely had enough.” Peter continued. “They’ve gone too far.”
“We’re just being supportive,” Remus yawned, leaning forward on the wooden spectator stands, “Thought you liked being supportive.”
“Not-” Peter grimaced, “At five o’clock in the morning.”
Remus was inclined to agree, even if he wasn’t going to whinge about it. At least Peter actually liked quidditch. They looked out on the quiet pitch, grass thick and green under a gauzy veil of early morning mist. James and Sirius were presumably still in the changing rooms with the rest of the Gryffindor quidditch team hopefuls. Remus and Peter were both huddled in the stands, wrapped in their scarves and hats, waiting for the trials to begin.
They had been there for at least an hour already – too early even for breakfast, because James had wanted to practice beforehand. They might have said no, and slept in instead, letting the other two go early if they wanted. But Peter was right; they always did as James said, he was just too good at convincing them. Remus yawned again.
“Oh, hello, Remus,” Lily Evans came up the stairs, smiling at them tiredly, “Hi Peter.”
“Morning.” Remus nodded back,
“’Lo, Lily,” Peter yawned.
“Chilly, isn’t it! Here to watch the quidditch trials?”
“Should have known James would be having a go.” Lily said, wearily. James’ quidditch fanaticism was not restricted to the marauders dorm room; everyone who’d ever met him knew how keen he was.
“Sirius, too.” Remus said.
“Well, never one without the other.” Lily replied primly.
“Who are you watching?” Peter asked.
“Marlene,” Lily pointed at the far end of the pitch, where the Gryffindor quidditch team and new applicants were gathering by the goal posts. Remus could just make out Marlene McKinnon’s pale blonde ponytail. “She’s going for beater.”
“That’s the position Siri-“ Peter started, but Remus kicked him quickly in the leg.
Lily looked at them, bemused, and opted to change the subject.
“Remus, can you check on the ‘pleasant dream’ potion tonight? I’m really behind on my astrology and I wanted to talk to Professor Aster.”
“Can’t,” Remus replied, leaning forward on his elbows, “We’ve got detention.”
“Oh. What for?”
“Levitating all of the tables and chairs in the Defence Against the Darks Arts classroom.” Peter supplied.
“Really?” Lily looked surprised, “I didn’t hear about that.”
“We haven’t done it yet,” Remus said, “We’re going to later while everyone’s at lunch. But I expect they’ll know it was us and we’ll get the detention anyway.”
“What did I say about getting caught, Lupin?” She grinned impishly.
Remus shrugged, giving her a small smile back. Lily really wasn’t that bad. She had that gift all girls had for making you look stupid, but at least she had a sense of humour about it. It was particularly pleasant to see her without Snape, who usually loomed nearby like a vampire bat, reeking of gloom and disapproval.
There was finally movement on the quidditch pitch as all of the hopefuls were put through their paces. James could not fail to impress; he was on top form that day. He swooped and dived and twisted in mid-air as if it were nothing – as if he were swimming, not flying. Remus heard Lily’s sharp intake of breath as James attempted a particularly tight turn.
“Does he have to show off like that?” She said, nervously, “He’ll get himself killed.”
“He won’t,” Peter said, “I’ve known him since we were five years old and he’s never even fallen off his broom. Not once.”
“No wonder he thinks he’s untouchable.” Lily muttered.
The rest of the would-be chasers took their turns, but it was obvious that James was the best choice. Next it was the beaters – Sirius, Marlene and a burly fifth year were banded their bats and took to the sky along with six bludgers. It was horrible to watch; Remus’ nerves were set on edge as the brutal red cannonballs shot towards his friend’s head and body. Sirius deftly avoided the bludgers and knocked a few out of the way, but Marlene was unstoppable. She flew circles around her competition, swinging her bat with machine precision and sending the bludgers flying across the pitch every time.
“Bloody hell.” Peter exclaimed, “Didn’t know McKinnon had it in her.”
“Her brother plays for the Cannons,” Lily explained, looking smug on Marlene’s behalf. “She’s been training with him all summer.”
“Sirius has been too,” Peter said, defending his friend, all previous slights forgotten, “He and James were at it constantly, weren’t they, Remus?”
Remus didn’t reply, even to remind Peter that he had not spent the summer with them. He was too busy being embarrassed for Sirius, and wishing Marlene McKinnon didn’t have to be so bloody good at whacking bludgers—or at least wishing that there were two positions open for beater. He wasn’t sure why he cared so much – he hated quidditch, and if Sirius and James were both on the team then it meant he’d have to spend a lot more time shivering in the stands. And he’d been secretly waiting for Sirius to fail at something for ages, waiting for proof that Sirius Black wasn’t utterly perfect in every way.
But now that the moment was here, Remus felt guilty for thinking it. Sirius was sure to be crestfallen.
“Here they come!” Lily jumped up and ran down the steps to meet her friend. Remus and Peter followed her slowly.
“I got in!” Marlene was grinning, her face pink with pleasure. She and Lily hugged.
James looked incredibly pleased with himself too, his hair sticking up wildly from the wind, his glasses slightly askew. Still, he wasn’t smiling as much as Marlene, obviously trying to subdue himself for Sirius’s sake. Sirius had a face like thunder – Peter actually took a step back just at the sight of him.
“Yeah, well done, McKinnon.” Sirius said, gruffly, looking at the ground.
“Thanks… er… you were really good too, Sirius.” She said, nervously. He grunted, still not looking up.
James looked at him sideways and made an apologetic face at the girls. He extended his hand to Marlene,
“See you next week for the first practice?”
“Yeah, great!” She smiled at him brightly, “See you, Potter!”
The two girls set off back to the castle, arm in arm, chattering away excitedly.
“Sirius, mate, it’s not the end of the world.” James turned to his friend, looking concerned.
“I know.” Sirius kicked a tuft of grass.
“You could have been on the reserve team if you wanted, Singh did offer.”
“I know. I don’t want to be on the bench.”
“Shall we go for breakfast?” James sighed finally, looking at the other two for support. Peter nodded enthusiastically.
Remus couldn’t help but feel a little annoyed. This was all Potter had talked about since they started at Hogwarts, and Sirius didn’t even have the decency to be happy for his best friend.
“Well done, James,” Remus said, rather pointedly, looking at Sirius as he said it, “You were amazing, congratulations.”
“Cheers, Lupin,” James grinned. His eyes crinkled slightly when he smiled, and his face lit up – as if that was his face’s natural state.
“Yeah,” Peter said, punching him on the arm, “Nice one, Potter.”
They walked back to the castle together quietly. Sirius still wasn’t speaking, and he was walking a few steps ahead of the rest of them. James jogged to keep up,
“You can try again next year, Ardal will have left by then, he told me he was dropping out to focus on his NEWTs.”
“I don’t care, it’s fine.” Sirius replied, shrugging him off. He walked even faster, quickly getting away from them, broom still under his arm. James went to catch him up, but Remus grabbed his arm,
“Leave him.” He said, angrily, “Let him go if he wants to be a moody git about it.”
Sirius did not join them for breakfast, nor was he in the common room afterwards. James was waylaid by most of the other Gryffindors, who by now had heard from the team that he was the new chaser. A gang of fourth year boys pulled him over to talk strategy, and Peter went too, basking in his friend’s glory. That never mattered with James; he always had plenty of shine to share.
Remus was not a fan of the spotlight, and took the opportunity to look for Sirius. He wasn’t in their dorm, but that was expected – clearly Black wanted to mope somewhere in private. But Remus wrote the book on hiding places, and it wasn’t long before he found him, curled up in an enclave hidden behind a tapestry depicting a unicorn hunt.
“G’away, Lupin.” Sirius scowled, turning away, arms around his knees. His voice was thick, as though he’d been crying, though his face was dry. “You can’t cheer me up, ok.”
Remus rolled his eyes, clambering into the enclave with him, forcing him to move,
“Budge up,” he said, firmly, “I’m not here to cheer you up, you prat.”
“What you sitting here moping for? Your best mate just had all of his dreams come true at once, go and be a good sport.”
Sirius made an indignant noise, still trying to move away from Remus, though there wasn’t much space left now.
“You wouldn’t understand.” He sniffed.
“I s'pose not,” Remus confirmed, calmly, “But I do understand that James really, really wanted to be a chaser, and he worked really hard for it, and he got it. And Marlene really wanted to be a beater, and she worked really hard too – Evans told us. So she got it. She was just better than you.”
“Piss off!” Sirius gave him a shove, but Remus was used to getting pushed around, and whether Sirius liked it or not, Remus was stronger.
“You didn’t even care that much!” He continued, pushing back, “Not as much as Potter. You only did the trial because he was doing it, but you don’t always have to be the same. You still beat him at Transfiguration. You still get the best marks in the year. Everyone likes you. Well, except the Slytherins and um… maybe your family, but who cares. Peter’s family don’t like him either.”
Sirius let out a weak laugh at that, despite himself.
“So stop acting like a little kid and go and say well done.”
They both hopped down from the ledge, pushing the tapestry out of the way. The tiny embroidered knights shook their fists at the boys for disrupting their pursuit of the silver unicorn, which whinnied and galloped into a dense copse of woven trees.
They walked back to the common room. Sirius shoved his hands in his pockets.
“Did you all have breakfast?” He asked, sulkily.
“Yep.” Remus replied. “James saved you some toast, though.”
“He’s a good mate.” Sirius smiled.
“Yeah,” Remus snapped, “He is.”
They were quiet for a bit longer. Just before they reached the portrait of the fat lady, Sirius looked at Remus. His eyes were still slightly pink, but other than that he seemed himself again.
“I don’t try to copy James.”
“Didn’t say you did.” Remus said. “You compete, though.”
Sirius seemed to acknowledge this. He looked up again.
“And I don’t care what my family thinks.” He said this so fiercely that his eyes shone, glistening slightly, and Remus was worried he’d start crying again. He reached out and touched Sirius's shoulder, warily, as you might try to calm a growling dog.
“I know, mate.” He said, softly. “I know that.”