Chapter 1: The Keeper
I wanted to get all 5 chapters done and published on Xmas eve, but alas, I was being too ambitious. More to come!
My perfect cousin
What I like to do he doesn’t
He’s his family’s pride and joy,
His mother’s little golden boy
James swooped overhead, his red robes billowing, his broom straight as an arrow – like a quidditch poster. It gave Peter the usual jolt of excitement, combined with a sickly twist of envy. It was seventh year, if he wasn’t on the team by now, then he probably never would be. He’d tried almost every year – except the year Sirius went for beater, it was best to stay well out of that, he could do without the teasing.
He shivered inside his cloak. Only two days ‘til the Christmas holidays. Part of him couldn’t wait - no lessons for two whole weeks. Presents. Turkey. Mrs Potter’s mince pies. But then, he wasn’t even sure if they were going home yet; the full moon fell on Christmas night, and for some reason no one wanted to discuss it.
Remus never talked about full moons, ever, which seemed strange to Peter, but Remus was always strange. James was usually the most practical one, but lately all his time was taken up with Lily, so he wasn’t going to tell them what to do. Sirius was Sirius, and you could never talk to him about anything to do with Moony, unless you wanted your head bitten off. Maybe that was just Peter’s problem, though; he was always saying the wrong thing.
James had possession of the quaffle now, blew his whistle and tossed it to another chaser; Emelia Eriksson. She caught it, and aimed for the goal posts, but missed. Peter clicked his tongue, agitated. She was always missing. Last game, she’d dropped the bloody thing - saved by James, who had swooped beneath her and caught it deftly before Ravenclaw could take possession. If Peter had his way, she’d be off the team.
James was convinced Emilia would improve, and wouldn’t listen to Peter’s advice. Which was fair enough. Not as if Peter could do any better himself.
The problem was, the only position Peter had ever been any good in was keeper. He’d played that role almost exclusively throughout their childhood, when it had just been him and James every afternoon. He missed those days bitterly; having James all to himself. Peter had worshipped James ever since he could remember. But the time you put in doesn’t count for much – he knew that. Like the keeper position. Peter had been good, but not good enough. James had been very kind about it, but James was always kind.
Not good enough. A common criticism, and, again; fair, Peter supposed. He’d heard it from his mother from an early age – and his father, (who had left shortly after Peter was six, and had only occasionally made guest appearances in his son’s life since.) He was either not quiet enough, or too quiet; too slow or too clumsy. Didn’t do enough reading. Didn’t get enough practice. Peter’s greatest shame was that he had shown no signs of magic at all until he was almost eleven, while James (‘the Potters’ boy’, as he was known in the Pettigrew household) had been able to levitate various household items from the age of two.
At Hogwarts things had been much the same – Peter rarely shone in his lessons, except for Astronomy, which he had a good memory for. Still, there was less pressure at school than at home; when your best friends were the three most gifted wizards in the year then no one really noticed if you weren’t keeping up. If you were a pureblood, then even better - especially these days. Still. Peter knew that if anyone bothered to look closely, they would be able to tell. He was not quite good enough .
Dezzie had seen it.
Peter bit the inside in his cheek to distract himself. He did this often, especially when Desdemona Lewis entered his mind. She had been a complete anomaly in his life; the exception which proved the rule. Uncommonly pretty, clever (a bloody Ravenclaw!), kind, funny. And interested in him; boring, sub-par, chubby little Peter Pettigrew. He missed her every day. He thought maybe he had been in love with her. But it was impossible, in the end. Even if she hadn’t dumped him, she was a half-blood. Mother wouldn’t have it.
He felt her absence, though. He’d never had a name for the feeling before, but now he knew it was loneliness. It had been there for a long time, maybe always. Peter remembered the first twinges when Philomena went away to school, and then when she left for good. He remembered feeling it the moment James and Sirius shook hands for the first time.
It had mattered less, when Dezzie was around. Peter often wondered if those had been his glory years - who would have thought he’d be the first of the marauders to get a girlfriend? The first to get a snog, the first caught groping in a cupboard. Even McGonagall had been shocked, when she gave them their first detention for ‘indiscreet behaviour in the halls’.
There had been the chess club, of course. Black in second year he had begged James to join with him, but of course James was far too cool for that sort of thing, and Sirius - who was actually annoyingly good at chess - had laughed in Peter’s face at the mere thought of marauders doing anything as goody-goody as chess clubs. (No one made fun of Moony’s study group, though, how was that fair?!) Anyway, Dezzie had convinced him in fourth year that he should just join if he liked chess so much. So he had.
It turned out that Peter might be the least cool marauder, but he was the coolest kid in the Hogwarts chess club. They were ok - not James and Sirius’s kind of people, mostly purebloods, and a lot of them Slytherin’s, too. Snape even showed up occasionally, and (though Peter would never dare mention it to James) they managed to put their differences aside most of the time and have a few pretty good games. Well, until that disaster in fifth year - and that hadn’t even been Peter’s fault, blame Sirius if you wanted to blame someone. Blame Moony .
James blew his whistle and the players still in the air began to descend. Peter got up too, and started making his way down the wooden steps to the ground. He might get in a few minutes to talk tactics with James before Lily showed up. He grumbled to himself as he reached the bottom steps. Bloody Lily, she was worse than Sirius. James had all but disappeared, since they’d started going out.
What would it be like once they finished school? Peter would have to go back and live with his mum, and she was expecting him to join the ministry; his step dad might be able to get him an entry level job in admin or something like that. He didn’t think he’d be too bad at clerical work. Some of his friends in the chess club mentioned they might be able to help him out, too. A lot of them had some really good connections. Said that someone as good at tactics as he was ought to have no problem fitting in.
Ah, here came Lily now. Mary too. Peter sighed, hanging back. They hadn’t seen him. He considered transforming, and just making an easy escape. He could go and find Dorcas. She was a bit annoying, but at least she let him feel her up sometimes.
Or he could go and look for Remus, who was sure to be in the library - he still had to make a start on his Charms essay and had forgotten to take any notes. Good old Moony was generally quite obliging, if you bribed him with enough chocolate.
Lily waved at him from near the changing rooms. He raised a hand and waved back. He buried his hands in his pockets, plastered on a jovial smile and headed towards her. Quick chat, say bye to James, then find something else to do. Maybe someone fancied a game of chess.
Song at the beginning is 'My Perfect Cousin' by The Undertones :)
See me pon the road I hear you call out to me,
True you see mi inna pants and ting,
See mi in a 'alter back
Sey mi gi' you heart attack
Gimme likkle bass, make me wine up me waist
Uptown Top Ranking
Mary flicked through an old copy of Witch Weekly , bored. She glanced over at the clock on Lily’s bedside table – quidditch practice was nearly finished, she could go down and meet Marlene in a minute.
She hated being by herself, and she hated being at a loose end. Consequence of growing up in a small flat with a big family, maybe. The thought of sitting alone in her bedroom at home reading a magazine in total silence was laughable. There was always a sibling jumping on the bed, or hammering on the door, or hiding in the cupboard playing a long-abandoned game of hide-and-seek.
And then her mother would enter, resplendent with a baby on her hip, wooden spoon in hand, hair wrapped up in a bright yellow scarf like a crown;
“What ‘cha think ya be doin’ gyal? Up and help me wid dinner!”
She smiled to herself now, remembering this. Mary was always queasy with homesickness around Christmas – she longed for the noise and colour of home. Grand as Hogwarts was, the castle just never felt properly comfortable.
She slid off the end of her bed lazily and stretched, then walked to the full-length mirror to check herself. She stood as tall as she could, raising her chin and stretching her calves, then turned from side to side, twisting to check that her skirt sat right over her hips, that her chest wasn’t sticking out too obviously.
She smiled. She looked good. Wearing her favourite brown suede mini skirt (Lily had gasped when she saw it; “But what about when you sit down?!”), a mustard yellow turtleneck jumper and a neat little brown waistcoat embroidered with a paisley design, which she’d bought in a market in Southall last year. Mary liked to stand out – she knew she wouldn’t have this figure forever; why not flaunt it?
McGonagall would go spare if she saw her, but it was a non-uniform day, so the old bat couldn’t give her detention, only disapproving looks, and Mary was used to those; she’d been getting them from old white ladies all her life. She went to her dresser next, and rummaged about in the top drawer for a suitable lipstick.
Red. Red for Gryffindor; then her outfit would look more like house pride. That might make Marlene smile, at least – even if Marls didn’t understand Mary’s devotion to fashion, she at least appreciated the effort. McGonagall liked Marlene, of course, because she wasn’t too girly, and she played quidditch. Mary liked Marlene because on their first night at Hogwarts, when Mary had thought she was going to die of misery from missing her family, Marlene had performed the most hilarious comedy routine impersonating McGonagall’s stern looks and prickly Scottish accent so that Mary couldn’t breathe for laughing.
Marlene always knew how to make you feel better; she would make a really good healer, one day. Mary wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after school. They’d always said they’d get a cool flat together in London, and have parties every weekend - though now Lily was going out with Potter it would probably just be Marlene and Mary. Maybe Remus, too - Mary had an idea that he was as aimless as she was, career-wise.
The problem was - and Mary would admit this to no one - she just didn’t want a magical job. She couldn’t see what was in it, for her. No one in her family could use knuts of sickles or any of their stupid wizard money, so what was the point? But of course she had no muggle qualifications at all, so it was a dead end either way. Her cousin had done a typing course last summer, and Mary’s mother kept on at her to sign up once Hogwarts finished. She often fantasised about getting a trendy job at a magazine, or a record company, bewitching a typewriter to work unattended and spending her time flirting with male models and pop stars.
She finished her lips, then licked her index finger and smoothed down her eyebrows, before straightening her skirt one more time and leaving the dorm. She skipped every other step on the way down, even in her high pointed boots – Lily often teased her that her Patronus was probably a gazelle. Well, she had, until the end of last year, in DADA, when Mary had finally produced one – a lioness.
“Hiya, Mary!” Connor Fitzpatrick, a very freckly redhaired sixth year came trotting over. Mary tried not to roll her eyes, though it was hard. He’d been ambushing her like this for weeks, it was getting silly.
“Hello, Connor.” She smiled, carrying on her way. He followed her.
“You look gorgeous!”
Ugh. Mary sometimes wondered if she’d spoiled herself, going out with Sirius Black and then Roman Rotherhide in quick succession, back in sixth year. The problem with having the two best looking boys in the school as your first serious boyfriends was that once those relationships were over, her options were a bit limited. She wasn’t shallow (though Marlene had accused her of it on a few occasions) but she wasn’t easily won, either – despite some very nasty rumours.
The thing was, boys got boring after a time. The physical side of things was always the best bit, she’d never had any qualms about that; a good time was a good time; but it was all the emotional stuff. She never seemed to line up quite right with any of them. They were either too distant, like Sirius, or too clingy, like Roman – expecting you to pander to them all the time. “What do you want?” Marlene would sigh, “Them to worship you?”
Mary had replied “No, of course not!” But it was a huge lie. Why shouldn’t she want to be worshipped by the person she was shagging? What else were men for ?! Marlene didn’t get it, Mary had come to accept that.
“What are you up to, later?” Connor was asking now.
“Oh, I’m really busy today. Up until Christmas, actually.” She shook her head, walking faster.
They had passed through the portrait hole now, and were moving at pace along the stone hallways down towards the nearest entrance to the grounds. He kept after her like a yappy little Jack Russell, and her patience was wearing thin. Even if Connor was ten times more handsome, he was a sixth year, and Mary had standards.
“Maybe in the new year, then?” He was keeping up with her. Stupid high heels.
“Erm… look, I don’t think so. Sorry, Connor.”
“Oh, go on, be nice, you went out with Eric Leith, he told us!”
That annoyed her. They’d reached a staircase now, and – just her luck – it had decided to start moving just as soon as they were halfway down, meaning they had to stop and wait until it had decided where to land. She folded her arms crossly and turned to look him in the eye.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Yeah you do, he told us. You and him, round the back of the Hog’s Head, he says you let him put his—”
Mary whipped out her wand, furious now, and held it to Connor’s stupid freckly chin.
“Listen to me, you little creep! Eric Leith is a lying prick. I went for a drink with him twice , and he forgot to bring cash both times – and he still owes me for it. Did he tell you that?” Connor shook his head, taking a sharp step back and nearly stumbling on the marble steps, she pressed forward, advancing on him. I’m a fucking lioness, you little pervert . “I wouldn’t let Eric Leith touch me with a ten-foot barge pole, let alone his grubby little hands. Only went with him because I felt sorry for him – he’s pathetic, and so are you, so get lost.”
The staircase reconnected with a grinding clunk at just that moment, and Connor scrambled backwards, retreating to the tower. Braver at a distance, his face contorted with embarrassment, he sneered down at her,
“Dirty little slag! As if I’d fancy you! Only tried ‘coz everyone say’s you’re easy.”
“Sticks and stones.” She tutted at him, putting her wand away and walking down the stairs, her cheeks hot and her throat tight. She held her head high. You never let them see how it feels. You never let them know it works. “Run along, little boy!”
“Mudblood!” He spat, from the top of the stairs, before turning tail and scurrying away.
Her breath caught in her chest at that one. She held the bannister, and pressed her lips together. Fucking wizards.
Song at the beginning is 'Uptown Top Ranking ' by Althea & Donna :)
(Would you believe in a love at first sight?)
Yes I'm certain that it happens all the time.
(What do you see when you turn out the light?)
I can't tell you, but I know it's mine.
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends
Mummy and Daddy said that in your last letter you asked if you could bring your ‘boyfriend’ home for Christmas this year. I wanted to write and tell you I think you are being incredibly selfish. You know that this is my first proper Christmas with Vernon, and you know how much I was looking forward to him meeting the family properly.
I am used to you attempting to steal my thunder on every possible occasion, and I have been incredibly gracious about it for seven years now, but this is absolutely the final straw. I cannot believe you would be so thoughtless as to invite some flash-in-the-pan summer romance, when Vernon and I have been seeing each other for two years now. You know what he means to me, and you know how he feels about unwholesome elements.
If you dare to spoil my Christmas, I will NEVER speak to you AGAIN.
Petunia Ann Evans.
Lily fought back tears as she finished reading the letter. She had been so excited when the envelope arrived on the breakfast table that morning, recognising Petunia’s handwriting. She’d been silly enough to save it, to keep it for later when she could read it in private.
And now here she was, in her favourite spot by the window in the Gryffindor common room, hands shaking and close to crying. She folded the letter up and slid it into her pocket. She shook her head fiercely and looked out of the window, breathing deeply and willing the lump in her throat to retreat.
That stupid cow isn’t worth crying over! Severus’s words - Lily couldn’t help hearing them whenever Petunia hurt her. Even after everything Sev had done, it was still a comfort. You’re worth ten of her!
Better not to think about Sev for too long, either, or else she’d never stop crying.
She blew her nose into her pocket hanky and looked up. Mary had once told her that if she was going to cry, looking up helped. ‘Save your mascara’ she had grinned. Lily smiled thinking of that, and felt better.
Ugh, well, that settled it. James definitely couldn’t come for Christmas. She’d really wanted him there, too. More and more, Lily felt like a stranger when she visited home. She had hardly any friends in Cokeworth now; they all went to Petunia’s school, the local Grammar, and did O-levels or A-Levels, or else went to typing college. Some of them had jobs, even, or steady boyfriends on the cusp of proposing. Lily couldn’t tell any of them what her plans were, or anything at all about Hogwarts, which they just thought was an ultra posh private school, like Cheltenham Ladies’. She knew they all thought she was a bit of a snob now, and she suspected it might have something to do with Petunia.
Of course, there was no question of Lily going to the Potter’s for Christmas, as much as she’d quite like to. Evans family Christmases were hugely important to her parents, particularly her father, who was always so happy to see Lily come home after the school term.
She’d just have to explain it to James - fortunately, she knew he’d understand. It had been quite a revelation, perhaps the most startling of all, to discover just how understanding and thoughtful James could be. The way he’d looked after Remus had proved that much to her.
It was probably about time to go and meet James now, actually; his practice was due to finish in a minute or two. She wiped quickly under her eyes just to make sure, and glanced at her ghostly reflection in the window glass to check her face. Lily blushed at her own girlishness. She’d never given a toss how she looked before.
She set off out of the portrait hall and towards the grounds. He would be in a good mood, right after practice, even if it had gone badly. More amenable to bad news. Lily rehearsed in her head exactly what she planned to say - best not to mention Petunia’s letter, better to frame it as her own idea. She didn’t want James to know how her sister felt about magic, or wizards, or any of it. It was bad enough that he was a pureblood and she had to explain every other muggle thing to him.
That was unfair, she scolded herself. at least James cared enough to ask - at least he was genuinely interested. She remembered Snape’s look of distaste when she did anything to remind him of her muggleborn status. And he’d been a half-blood.
“Excuse me!” Connor Fitzpatrick, a younger Gryffindor boy came hurrying past her, bumping into her shoulder, hard.
“Oi!” Lily shouted, as he kept marching off, back towards the common room. She’d make a note of that. Why did boys have to be so rude?
She re-adjusted her dress, quickly. It was a neat navy blue pinafore over a cream polo-neck jumper. A bit shorter than she liked, but she had nice thick tights on, and Mary kept telling her that her legs were her best feature. Potter agreed, and she’d thumped him for it, though secretly she thought about it all the time.
She descended the steps slowly, taking in the scent of pine, orange, and clove. Christmas at Hogwarts was wonderful, and to think that this would be her last! She remembered the very first day, crossing the lake in the little rowboat with Severus, sitting in the Great Hall and just staring at everything. Magic had never ceased to amaze her. If she had her way, she would never leave.
Lily had had a few chats with McGonagall, earlier that year, about what it took to become a teacher at Hogwarts. McGonagall had been kind, but suggested that she try a job outside of school first. Get some ‘life experience’. Fair enough, Lily supposed. She knew very little of the wizarding world, really. Besides, the only thing Lily thought she was good enough to teach was Potions, and Slughorn didn’t seem set to retire any time soon. Perhaps a job in an apothecary. Her kindly Potions professor had mentioned that he had a number of contacts in that area, if she was interested.
She made a note to talk to James about it, some time. She valued his opinion, on that sort of thing - and after all, his grandfather had been a famous potioneer.
“Oh, hiya, Lily!” Mary was coming out of one of the girl’s bathrooms by the grand entrance. She looked like a model straight out of Jackie magazine. Mary loved non-uniform days.
“Hi!” Lily smiled, “Must have just missed you leaving the tower. Meeting Marlene?”
“Yeah, thought I might as well. Meeting Potter?”
They walked along together, arm in arm, huddling close together as they came out into the cold winter air. Mary smelled very grown up, some perfume a boy had bought her last valentines day. Lily wished she had that much confidence.
“How is Potter? Gone all the way, yet? Full Monty?”
“Oh my god, Mary…”
“What?!” She giggled, coquettishly, “I’m just curious. Never had James, myself. Not even a snog.”
“I’m glad.” Lily rolled her eyes.
“Two out of four isn’t bad. Never fancied Peter, poor chap.”
“Mm, I’m still not sure I believe you about Remus…”
“Ask him.” She shrugged, confidently. “What are you two doing, after this? Cosying up in your usual spot on the nice couch?”
“I need to tell him he can’t come home with me for Christmas,” Lily bit her lip, frowning. They had reached the pitch now, and the players were just landing, by the looks of things. They waved at Peter, sitting in the stands. “Tuney won’t have it - her boyfriend’s spending the day, so I s’pose it’s not really fair…”
“Ugh, bugger Petunia.” Mary tutted, “That thick-necked boyfriend of hers might be big, but he doesn’t take up that much room. You should come over our flat on Christmas day - fifteen of us ‘round the table, and that’s a quiet dinner.”
“Yeah, but I don’t want to upset her…” Lily was distracted now, watching James’s descent. God, he was bloody fantastic on a broom. She felt a hot blush start up under her polo-neck, creeping up towards her cheeks. Last night they’d gone a bit further than usual, and he’d slipped his hand up under the elastic of her bra. She’d gasped, and he’d gasped, and he’d murmured against her lips - oh Lily, oh, so lovely … she’d practically dissolved into a puddle.
“Anyway,” Mary was saying, “You’re completely bonkers over that boy. All’s fair in love and war, innit?”
“Mm…” Lily murmured, not really listening.
The song is, of course, 'With a Little Help from my Friends' by The Beatles.
Chapter 4: The Bitch
I know a few folks have been very curious about this one :)
Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard
But I say...
Oh Bondage! Up yours!
Bind me, tie me
Chain me to the wall
I wanna be a slave to you all
Oh bondage, up yours!
Oh bondage, no more!
Oh bondage, up yours!
Oh bondage, no more!
Marlene flew a quick lap around the quidditch pitch while James drilled the new chaser, Eriksson. She was rubbish, but the best they’d been able to get at short notice. Oh well, Marlene thought to herself, they’d won the cup every year since she had been on time team, it made no odds to her if they lost it this year.
She flew as fast as she dared, enjoying the wind on her face, whistling past her ears, the stands below. She gripped her bat and made a few practice swings. She’d quite miss hitting things, once school was finished.
She was nervous; this was just nervous energy, she told herself. As soon as Marlene addressed the thought, her heart began to pound, her stomach flipped and she had to slow down and fly lower to stop from wobbling. Phew. Hadn’t felt like that in a while. She smiled, and allowed herself to be happy. To feel the happiness, uninhibited and without shame or embarrassment.
James blew the whistle and she landed quickly, keen for a shower. She could see Lily and Mary waiting for her - well, Lily was most likely waiting for James - and she was hoping to avoid them for a bit longer.
“Alright, McKinnon?” Yaz called to her from near the changing rooms, “Having fun up there?”
Marlene rolled her eyes and pretended to ignore her. She was hot from the exercise, so her face was already red - a handy camouflage. She hurried into a shower cubicle quickly, wanting to get the one at the far end which had the best temperature control.
“Ooh you bitch!” Yaz called over in the next stall as Marlene undressed. “Ought to be in Slytherin!”
“Snooze you lose, Patel!” Marlene called back, grinning to herself. She turned the knob to her perfect temperature - not too hot, but with a nice bite, enough to make plumes of steam billow out over the top of the stall. She stepped under the stream, “Aah!” she cried, to annoy Yaz more, “Just how I like it!”
There was quiet for a moment, and then, low - so that only the two of them could hear it -
Marlene tilted her head back to soak her hair, and bit her lip. That had been the surest sign yet. The butterflies returned to her stomach.
Yaz had only joined the quidditch team this term - She was a sixth year Gryffindor who Marlene had only spoken to once or twice before. But since September, they had been seeing a lot of each other, when she qualified as the new keeper. She was brilliant at it, athletic and tactical, the perfect build, balance and form. At first, Marlene had appreciated her skill. Then, after the heartbreak of the summer had run its course, Yaz had become a pleasant distraction.
Mary was never going to happen. Marlene had accepted this long ago. Or she thought she had. After Remus’s startling revelation that first night in Cornwall, the tension had become almost unbearable for Marlene, and she had spilled everything to her best friend in a flurry of tears and longing kisses. Once she had calmed down, Mary had hugged her, hard, and stroked her hair like a mother, as she gently let Marlene down. It's not how I feel about you. I love you. But it's not like that. After four years of adoring her vivacious, gorgeous, infuriating friend, Marlene had taken this harder than she expected to.
She tried not to take it out on Mary, who had never led her on, never done anything she oughtn’t to, not knowingly. But it was difficult nonetheless. Marlene felt awful; what kind of horrible person would she be, to get angry at her best friend for something neither of them could help? What kind of heartless bitch?
So when Yaz had first flirted - yes, Marlene was sure it was flirting, now - she had been reluctant to respond. To make the same terrible mistake twice would be more than she could bear. So she waited, and was friendly, but not too friendly. Every wink from the other girl was met by a bright smile from Marlene. Every coy remark with an innocent giggle. But now she was sure .
The butterflies flapped their wings again, and it felt good. Exciting. Starting something new. After the summer, she had thought she might never have that feeling again - the chances seemed so impossibly stacked against her. As Marlene shampooed her hair, for some reason she thought of Remus. A few times, lately, she had thought of talking to him. She felt guilty; Remus had always been such a troubled figure, so brave and strong and yet for some reason so repressed and locked down. Bursting with emotions but apparently unable to express any of them. And now they all knew why, she felt so sorry for him. She’d wanted to say something, on their way back from healing classes, which was the only time they were alone, usually. She’d wait for an empty corridor and stop and turn to him and say, very quietly, “Me too, Remus. You aren’t alone.”
But she hadn’t, and time was getting short. Soon enough, none if it would matter any more; school would be over, and they would begin their lives, childish things put away. Marlene read the papers. She knew what was coming, and she knew that there would be no time for selfish problems any more.
“Hey, McKinnon,” Yaz’s soft, singsong voice called over the hissing showers. “I’ve got a bruise, can you take a look? I’ve heard you’re Pomfrey’s star pupil…”
“Um… ok, I can look, just a minute--” Marlene turned off her shower quickly and wrung out her hair. She was crap at drying charms, so it would just have to get stuffed under her woolly winter hat until it dried.
There was a knock at her cubicle door. Marlene wrapped a towel around herself quickly and unlocked the door, hands shaking a little. Yaz was in a towel too, her long dark hair twisted into a black velvet rope over one shoulder, black eyes glittering like twin galaxies, full of tease and mischief. Marlene had to fight not to bite her lip again.
“Mm.” Yaz smirked, stepping inside and closing the door behind her, “Nice and warm in here.”
“Where’s the um... The ...bruise?” Marlene breathed, watching the steam settle on Yaz’s warm brown shoulders and roll down in rivulets, soaking into the thin towel.
“What are you doing after this?” Yaz asked, still smiling, “Fancy a walk?”
“Er… my friend Mary’s outside…”
“You see her all the time. Come for a walk with me.”
“Um. Yes. Ok.” Oh wow. Now it was happening, she had no idea what to do at all. “The… bruise?”
“Oh yeah,” Yaz laughed, tossing back her head and touching a finger to her jaw line, “Just here…”
Marlene leaned forward to see, and Yaz turned her head smoothly, catching her in a kiss, full in the lips.
Song is 'Oh Bondage! Up Yours' by the X ray Spec
Chapter 5: The Puzzle
I felt a massive pressure to get this EXACTLY right. It might not answer everyone's questions, but that wasn't necessarily the intention. I kind of just wanted to show a point of view, more than anything else. I hope you like it :)
When the day is done
And the sun goes down
And the moonlight’s shining through
Then like a sinner before the gates of heaven
I’ll come crawling home back to you.
He was going to tell James. Just as soon as he knew what to say.
Fucking hell, how had it been so easy for Moony? It had to be one of life’s great ironies that mysterious, undefinable, incomprehensible Moony had been able to bear his soul so simply, and so effortlessly. But that was Remus all over. That was the draw. Just as soon as you thought you understood enough to see him clearly, another part revealed itself, and the whole picture transformed before your eyes. Layer upon layer, until you realised you had never truly known Remus at all. It was fascinating, and frustrating.
James was the opposite; what you saw was what you got, and Sirius loved him fiercely for that. Because you knew where you were. He never wrong-footed you, or left any room for misunderstandings. They had never fought, not in seven years of friendship, and as far as Sirius Black was concerned, that was nothing short of miraculous.
They’d ‘had words’, of course. He was no stranger to James’s scolding tone, or even – much worse – his disappointment. Fifth year came to mind – though Sirius always tried to forget that as soon as he remembered it. The point was, James Potter and Sirius Black were almost always in perfect harmony, and it had been that way since they met on the Hogwarts Express. James was his other half. His better half, come to that. The fact that there was anything happening in Sirius’s life which James was not aware of would have been unthinkable two years ago.
But that’s what Moony did. He just breezed in and turned everything upside down and then vanished before you’d caught your breath. Sirius sometimes felt like he’d spent the past two years trying to work out which way was up. Not that Sirius was complaining, not that it wasn’t bloody amazing, but he would be the first to admit that he was no good at this sort of thing. It wasn’t as if he’d ever been given an example.
Remus could put a date on it. It had been so clear to him; he knew the moment everything had changed. But Sirius had not realised. Obviously there must have been a moment, a second in which he had suddenly become aware. But nothing stood out. Hadn’t he always thought Moony was a bit special? Hadn’t he always wanted to get a bit closer?
Sirius groaned and buried his head in the pillow beside him. Yes, he definitely had to tell James.
Being with Moony was easy. Telling other people was not.
He got up, off his bed. A decisive move. He’d thought about this enough for one day. It was getting too complicated, better to find something else to think about. Sirius knew from experience that if he spent too long alone his mind started talking over him. Told him things he didn’t like to hear, about himself. About what other people thought of him. Better to interrupt it, to let someone else distract him.
Where was Prongs? Quidditch. Which meant that Peter would be watching. Sirius couldn’t bear to sit next to Wormtail in the stands, watching Prongs having all the fun and pretending they weren’t both wild with jealousy.
Anyway, if practice was over, that meant Evans would be there to meet James. And Sirius wasn’t so pathetic yet, that he’d follow those two around hoping for a scrap of attention. Well, that really left him no choice, Sirius decided with a smirk to himself. Moony. He went over to Remus’s bedside table and pulled out the marauder’s map.
Yep, there was Prongs, zooming back and forth across the oval pitch. Peter in the stands, Marlene looping the perimeter – probably bored, poor girl, James’s drills could be dull. Evans and MacDonald looked like they were together, just coming onto the grounds now. He watched their little flags, the steady progress. The tagging had been Remus’s idea, but the delicate little scrolls of text had been Sirius’s. It was all very well, producing a spectacular feat of magic – but presentation was everything. That was the difference between him and Remus – their magic, anyway. Raw power vs. spontaneous finesse.
Regulus was in the dungeons. Sirius couldn’t help checking. It was just good to know that he was where he was supposed to be. Maybe if he was surrounded by Slytherins he wasn’t tormenting anyone else, for once. Sirius knew it was none of his business – that he had to cut ties with his brother, who was just another death eater, now, just another enemy. But it was harder than he could manage. Sometimes, if he had nothing else to do, he spied on Regulus. Like that day in Hogsmeade – and it had come in handy then, hadn’t it? He’d saved Moony and that annoying swotty sixth year kid, completely by accident.
Now, where was Moony…? Sirius scanned the map, all of the usual places – the Charms classroom (Sirius could never remember when the study sessions were scheduled for), the library, the kitchens… but no, he wasn’t in any of these places. Sirius tried not to get too nervous as he searched quickly for his friend – not in any of his usual hiding places – and why should Remus be hiding? Was there something wrong, which Sirius didn’t know about? That was always a possibility. Had he left school again, like that time he went to face the werewolf? Oh merlin, what on earth had the stupid prat decided to square off against now?!
Ah. No. There he was. Remus Lupin, the flag read, and Sirius had to laugh at himself. He was only down in the bloody common room. Just a few meters away. Sirius put the map back, and straightened up. He glanced at himself in the mirror as he left the room, down the stairs.
They might get an hour or two alone, before dinner, as long as no one came up to the dorm room. A game of gobstones, or snap, or just listen to a record, maybe. How long had it been since they’d had any space to relax together? But of course, Remus seemed to want to do anything but relax these days; it was work, work, work.
Sirius reached the bottom of the stairs and cast around, looking for Remus. The common room was almost empty, only a small huddle of first years trading chocolate frog cards in one corner, a fifth year plugged into their headphones, head bobbing wildly by the window sill. And Remus, slumped over in his favourite armchair, head resting on a bent elbow, huge book in his lap. Fast asleep, snoring very softly.
Sirius stood apart from him, hands on hips, and smiled. Work, work, work. He must be knackered. Sirius relented. Maybe Moony didn’t need an hour of distracting Sirius from his own thoughts just now. Maybe he just needed a good long kip. He moved away, and sat in the sofa opposite. He picked up a copy of the Daily Prophet, and began doing the crossword, glancing up as often as he dared.
He looked so different, asleep. Without his sharp, watchful eyes open, Remus’s face softened, making him look younger; more fragile. Silvery scars caught the grey winter light, the only outward sign of how impossibly strong Remus was. How resilient. Tough. Sirius could remember wanting to be Remus, very early on. The rock stars Sirius adopted as heroes during those years had all seemed so much more like Moony, they had belonged to his world. Remus was fierce, and cool, slightly feral – he didn’t take shit from anyone, least of all adults. At Grimmauld Place, in the holidays, Sirius would think about his half-blood friend, wonder what he might say when Walpurga got in his face. He wouldn’t be frightened. He wouldn’t give in.
And so – no, Sirius could never be sure of a specific moment, or a sudden change. Because maybe it had just always seemed inevitable, to him. Because who else could Moony belong to? Who else but Sirius could want him as much?
The portrait hole slid open behind him, and a gust of cold air rushed in, disturbing the warm of their fireside. Sirius sighed, hearing James’s familiar footfall behind him, and Lily’s musical laugh. He prepared to force a grin, and stole one last glance at Remus, fast asleep, cheeks flushed pink.
“Wotcher!” James leapt over the back of the sofa, plonking his stupid gangly self down next to Sirius and whacking him in the arm. Sirius whacked him back,
“All right? Good practice?”
Remus stirred awake, stretching and yawning and grinning dopily up at Lily, who patted him on the head, leaning against his chair.
“Sorry love,” she said, softly, “Didn’t want to wake you.”
“Didn’t mean to fall asleep,” Remus replied, lifting the heavy book onto the other arm of the chair, then rubbing his thighs as if they were sore. He looked up at Sirius and gave him a quick, secretive smile. Sirius looked away, shyly.
Mary and Peter had come in with them, and stood around, a bit awkwardly. No Marlene. Sirius wondered if they were having a tiff again – Marlene had been really gloomy lately, and hardly around at all.
“I’m just dumping my kit,” James said, waving at his big quidditch duffle bag, in a pile on the floor. “Then going down for an early tea. You lot want to come?”
“D’you know what.” Peter said, suddenly, eyeing his chess set, on a high shelf in the far corner of the room. “Think I’ll stay here and see if anyone fancies a game.”
“I’ll walk down with you,” Mary said, “See if Roman’s about.”
“I thought you two had split up?” Lily raised an eyebrow. Mary shrugged, hand on her hip. Sirius knew that look, well enough. Mary wanted something, and she was going to get it.
“Moony? Padfoot?” James looked at his two friends. Remus yawned,
“Nah, sorry mate. Too much reading.”
Sirius held up his crossword,
“Really into this, actually.”
“Weirdos.” James snorted, before hoisting himself up, just as quickly as he’d made himself comfortable. “Alright, gimme five minutes, Evans.” And strode off towards the dorm with his bag, whistling merrily.
Five minutes passed, and everyone chattered around them, before heading off in their different directions, nodding goodbye and finally leaving the scene as peaceful as they had found it. Sirius and Remus had not moved, only pretended to look at their book and crossword, two friends, content in each other’s company.
Alone, they both looked up. Remus’s eyes burned so brightly, they were so full of every dark secret, every private moment. Sirius swallowed, dryly, thrilled and amazed. Remus grinned, and the force of it was enough to knock Sirius out cold.
“All right?” Remus asked, softly.
“Yeah.” Sirius whispered back.
Thank you all for reading! More All the young Dudes in 2018, as soon as I can possibly write it!
Happy New Year!