It had all started with James, and the Unpleasantness at the end of fifth year, right before O.W.L.s, and that was why Professor Slughorn had banned him from Potions class for life, much as it pains me dear boy, your father being who he is but there are limits.
Sirius, who had been in the Hospital Wing at the precise moment of the Unpleasantness (following an Incident) managed to escape blame and was warmly welcomed into Potions N.E.W.T. class, whether he liked it or not.
‘I don’t actually want to spend any more time in the dungeons, thanks.’
‘Aw, c’mon, Padfoot, step up to the plate,’ said James. ‘You know how disappointed Dad’ll be if neither of us carry on with Potions.’
‘Not my fault you got barred,’ said Sirius, scowling in a rather pathetic attempt to conceal the fact that he’d readily rip out his own kidneys and set fire to them to please any single one of the Potter family, never mind two of them.
‘Aaand,’ continued James, wheedling now, ‘Evans will be in the class. With Snivellus.’
‘I’m actually doing Potions N.E.W.T. was well,’ said Peter, not that he expected anyone to pay any attention to him when James and Sirius were having one of their high drama moments.
No-one paid any attention to Peter.
‘Yeah, Snivelly’s presence isn’t really selling it,’ said Sirius.
‘Oh, what about her?’
‘Prongs wants you to proxy-stalk her.’ Remus always chose the best moments to interrupt. ‘You really ought to say no, for his own good.’
‘Oh, well, in that case,’ said Sirius. ‘Of course I’ll do it.’
‘It’s actually going very well,’ said Sirius. ‘Evans said you’re cute, and she even mentioned weddings.’
‘Weddings?’ James squeaked. ‘Did she actually say she wants to marry me?’
He looked like he might faint.
‘Well, no, not exactly,’ admitted Sirius. ‘But the fact that she even mentioned the subject is promising, right?’
‘Definitely,’ said James, beaming as he clapped Sirius over the shoulder. ‘You really are the best, mate.’
Remus waited until they were out of earshot before turning to Peter. ‘What, exactly, did Evans say to Padfoot?’
‘She said “it’s cute how you and Potter are so in love,”’ said Peter. ‘And she asked if they’d set a date for the wedding.’
‘Ah.’ Remus had suspected as much.
Lily had only agreed to partner Black in Potions because Professor Slughorn needed someone to keep an eye on the pesky blighter and make sure he didn’t blow anything up. She hadn’t even notice how much it would annoy her ex-best friend, because she was above that sort of petty bullshit. It didn’t seem such a bad decision when she and Sirius won Slughorn’s competition for most innovative use of Bladderwrack Extract, trouncing Snape and Nott’s feeble attempt. Sirius could even be quite a good laugh, when he wasn’t hexing people or starting fights.
The only problem was that, sometimes, it was a bit like sharing a cauldron with the walking, talking James Potter fan club.
‘Could you stop for five minutes?’ snapped Lily, half-way through what she strongly suspected was an entirely fictitious account of James rescuing a small Muggle child (and a kitten) from an especially deep puddle. ‘I’d really like to go a lesson without hearing another list of James Potter’s good qualities.’
‘But he’s got so many of them!’ protested Sirius.
Lily had learnt, by now, that it was best not to argue directly. ‘Even so,’ she hedged, ‘perhaps you could stop talking about them.’
‘Did I mention the kitten?’
‘Yes, you mentioned the fucking kitten!’ Lily exploded. ‘And the intellect, Quidditch skills, various bon mots, and excellent, finely sculpted arse – your words, not mine – for the love of Merlin, it’s like you can’t talk about anything else.’
‘I could, I choose not to.’
‘Prove it,’ said Lily. ‘I bet you 20 galleons you can’t go the rest of the term without blabbering on about Potter.’
‘20 galleons?’ Sirius frowned. ‘I didn’t realise you were so cheap.’
Lily bristled. ‘Fine,’ she said. ‘I dare you to go the rest of the term without saying a word to me about Potter.’
Sirius looked conflicted. Despite his absurd levels of devotion to Potter, he couldn’t resist a dare.
‘OK, fine,’ he said. ‘But just until the end of term.’
He was true to his word. From that day until the very end of term Sirius didn’t say another word about James Potter. Lily enjoyed glorious peace.
It was amazing how much more she ended up liking both of them.
By the time Seventh Year rolled around Lily was prepared to address both James and Sirius by their given names but had not, as yet, shown any interest in swopping bodily fluids. Sirius was allowed to mention James, but took care to keep it subtle.
‘His eyes are such an interesting shade of hazel, don’t you think?’
‘Yes, I noticed you staring into them at breakfast,’ said Lily. ‘Now pass the shrivelfig and stop talking.’
No-one was paying much attention to Peter (as usual) but he was watching. And he wondered.
‘Has it occurred to you,’ asked Peter later that evening. ‘That Padfoot might be the reason Evans won’t go out with you?’
James was actually listening for once, mostly because Peter had got his attention by turning the hot water off.
‘No!’ he shouted, outraged.
‘You think she fancies Sirius?’ asked Remus.
That wasn’t what Peter meant, actually, though he did think it was interesting that it was the first thing Moony thought of.
‘She does not!’ said James, even more outraged.
‘Of course not,’ soothed Peter. ‘But she might have some idea that the two of you are shagging.’
‘Why would she think that?’ demanded Sirius.
‘You are sharing a shower cubicle,’ pointed out Remus, not entirely unreasonably.
‘I was savaged by a Raucous Rosebush in Herbology,’ said James. ‘Padfoot’s plucking the thorns out of my back. It’s much easier when you’ve been soaking in warm water.’
It was Sirius who’d shoved James into the Raucous Rosebush in the first place, but there was no use pointing that out.
‘I couldn’t blame the girl if she’d been put off,’ said Sirius. ‘I am quite formidable competition.’
Well, no-one could really argue with that, but they weren’t about to feed Sirius’ ego by agreeing either.
‘Maybe you could try telling her you’re straight,’ suggested Peter.
‘I don’t think I should lie,’ said Sirius.
Peter gulped. Remus half-chocked on his toothbrush. James frowned.
‘You don’t think Lily’s prejudiced about that, do you?’
That really wasn’t what Peter had meant at all, but he recovered quickly. ‘I wouldn’t have thought so,’ he said. ‘Lily’s pretty open-minded.’
‘Yeah, she ditched Snivelly for being a bigot,’ agreed Sirius, attacking James’ back with a flannel and a bar of Murtlap Soap in precisely the way that started rumours. ‘If anything, being more liberal-minded should be a point in your favour.’
‘Exactly!’ exclaimed James. ‘Having a gay best friend makes me look properly sensitive. You should definitely tell her all about your poofy ways next class.’
‘Well, I did have a whole speech planned about your amazing stamina, but OK,’ agreed Sirius magnanimously. ‘I’m sure I can fit in a brief digression about how enthusiastically you’ve embraced my homosexuality.’
‘Thanks, Padfoot,’ said James happily. ‘Now turn around and let me do your hair.’
‘I can see literally no flaws in this plan,’ said Remus, although he was possibly being a tiny bit sarcastic.
As it turned out, he was dead wrong.
‘Wormtail reckons you think that Prongs is my boyfriend,’ said Sirius, ever the master of subtlety.
‘Then Peter’s an idiot,’ muttered Lily. ‘Everyone knows that you and James are madly in love.’
‘We’re not going out,’ said Sirius.
‘Yeah, sure you’re not,’ said Lily. ‘Excuse me, I need more Mandrake leaves.’
They didn’t talk about it any more, but Sirius was curt and grumpy enough for the rest of the class for Lily to worry that she’d actually upset him.
‘Look, if you say you and James aren’t an item, I’ll believe you,’ she said as they filed out of class. ‘I’m sorry for accusing you of being gay.’
Sirius gave her a very disapproving look. Lily couldn’t help but feeling that somewhere along the line their relationship had been turned upside down. ‘It’s not an accusation if there’s nothing wrong with it.’
‘No, I didn’t mean – ’
‘– especially when it’s actually true.’
‘Wait, so you really are dating James?’
‘What? No. Honestly, everything isn’t about James. You’re starting to sound a bit obsessed with him,’ said Sirius, most unreasonably. ‘I am gay, just not with James. Well, I mean, I still am when I’m with him – it’s not like Prongs walks into a room and, bam, I turn straight. That would be weird.’
‘Yes,’ said Lily tiredly. ‘That would be weird.’
They were half-way across the entrance hall when Lily said, ‘So you don’t actually fancy him?’
‘What, James?’ Sirius frowned. ‘Don’t be daft.’
‘But you’re always telling me how great he is.’
‘Yeah, so that you’ll got out with him.’
‘Oh, it’s like that is it?’ Lily narrowed her eyes. ‘He’s not up to your standards but he’s good enough for me?’
‘What? It’s not like that! James and I are like… he’s actually… we’re really very…’ Sirius spluttered. ‘He’s my Prongs.’
Lily had clearly spent too much time with Sirius, because that sentence actually made complete sense. That was probably why she let her guard down, laughing and bumping shoulders with Sirius to show that she wasn’t really offended at all.
‘Although,’ said Sirius slowly. ‘It’s very telling that you just assumed I must be straight when I said I wasn’t shagging James.’
‘I… well, yes, I suppose that was presumptive of me,’ said Lily. She started walking a bit faster, because actually she was in a bit of a rush to get the Greenhouses.
‘It’s almost like,’ continued Sirius, hurrying to keep up with her, ‘the only reason you can imagine someone not fancying James is that they’re just not into boys.’
‘Don’t be silly,’ mumbled Lily, practically running down the steps.
‘Like he’s the pinnacle of male attractiveness,’ said Sirius, catching up with Lily on the bottom step and jumping in her path. ‘You must really want him bad.’
‘Oh, shut up,’ said Lily, although she was pretty sure the colour of her cheeks was clashing with her hair, and this probably undermined her point somewhat.
‘Lils, this is wonderful!’ Sirius beamed. ‘James is going to die when he realised you’ve finally succumbed to his charms.’
‘No!’ It came out a little louder than Lily intended, and several passers-by turned to look. She grabbed Sirius’ wrist and dragged off to one side. ‘Look, you can’t tell him… I don’t want him to think that I’ve just given in.’
Sirius stared at her. ‘But why?’
‘Look, OK, I do like him,’ Lily admitted. ‘A lot. And I think he deserves a bit better than me just saying, “Oh, fine, I will go to Hogsmeade with you” like I’m only doing it for a quiet life or something.’
There was an uncomfortably long silence.
‘Yeah, you can go ahead and laugh now,’ said Lily. ‘Or crow or whatever.’
‘Why would I laugh?’ asked Sirius. ‘That’s the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard.’
‘It really is,’ said Sirius. ‘Never fear, I will help you woo James in the proper fashion.’
Lily had been under a lot of pressure lately, it’s the only reason why she thought letting Sirius help might be a good idea.
‘So, if you’re not interested in James yourself,’ Lily asked as they finally headed back to Gryffindor Tower. ‘Is there someone else you’ve got your eye on?’
‘Never you mind,’ said Sirius, looking impossibly shifty.
‘You might as well just tell me,’ said Lily. ‘You know I’ll find out sooner or later.’
‘No, you won’t,’ said Sirius. ‘I’m very sneaky.’
Christmas was coming, and Lily had badgered Sirius into helping with holiday preparations. Although this mostly meant Lily cross-examining Sirius about who he fancied while Sirius scowled and doodled on her notes.
‘That’s enough of that,’ said Lily, retrieving her list of Gryffindor students who were staying at Hogwarts over the holiday. ‘Oh, really, Sirius, I thought you could’ve at least been bothered to go outside your own dormitory to find someone.’
‘Are you actually gay or just lazy?’ continued Lily, looking indecently amused.
‘There’s nothing lazy about it!’ said Sirius. ‘Not that I, um…’
‘I don’t know why you don’t just tell Peter how you feel,’ said Lily sweetly.
Sirius choked. ‘Merlin, fuck, Lily, I actually thought for a minute there – ’
‘– You thought I’d noticed that you’d doodled love hearts all around Remus’ name,’ said Lily, holding up the parchment.
‘And a cock,’ added Lily, squinting at the parchment. ‘Nice.’
Sirius scowled at her. Bloody interfering Head Girls and their rotten sleuthing.
‘Don’t pout,’ said Lily. ‘It spoils your pretty face and makes me not want to help you fix your love life.’
Sirius eyed her suspiciously. ‘You’ll actually help me?’ he asked. ‘How?’
‘Well, I thought I could move to sit next to him in Defence so I can spend every lesson extolling your virtues,’ said Lily. ‘As you know, nothing makes a person fall in love with someone like being lectured endlessly about how amazing their arse is and how they rescue lost animals in their spare time.’
Sirius scrunched up a bit of parchment and threw it at her. ‘You are a terrible friend.’
Lily used her wand to enchant the parchment so that it flew away from her and around Sirius, before crashing into the back of his head. ‘I’m exactly the sort of friend you deserve.’
Sirius couldn’t really argue with that.
‘Padfoot, c’mon,’ said James. ‘Time like this a bloke needs his best mate.’
‘Then I suggest you find one,’ Sirius informed him tersely.
‘You’ve been demoted,’ said Sirius. It was possible he was sulking rather. There had been an Altercation the previous evening. ‘Lily’s my best friend now.’
‘Well, that’s not so bad,’ said James, with infuriating good humour. ‘We’ll have to share you after we get married anyway.’
‘I’m going to go back out now,’ said Remus, who had just that minute walked into the dorm, ‘and come back when… well, I was going to say when you two aren’t being inappropriate, but I’d like to sleep some time so maybe just later, right?’
And with that he high-tailed it right back out of the dorm.
‘Prongs,’ muttered Sirius tersely. ‘This is why you are no longer my best friend.’
James considered him carefully. He remembered, vaguely, that the Altercation had started soon after he’d helpfully liberated Remus and Sirius from some mistletoe, employing his quick wits to set it on fire. Sirius was being awfully stroppy for someone who’d only received superficial burns.
‘No, I completely understand why you prefer Lily,’ said James sympathetically. ‘She might actually help you snog Moony.’
Sirius glared at him mutinously.
‘Oops, sorry,’ said James. ‘Was it supposed to be a secret? She never said.’
‘Lily did not tell you that I fancy Moony,’ insisted Sirius hotly.
‘No,’ admitted James, grinning broadly. ‘She didn’t. But you just did.’
‘How come I’ve never heard of it?’ Lily looked like she didn’t entirely trust James and Sirius, for some reason.
‘Don’t be silly, of course you’ve heard of Epiphany,’ said Sirius.
‘I meant the ritual,’ said Lily. ‘Obviously I’ve heard about Epiphany – the star, gifts, travelling across the desert and so on.’
She didn’t sound impressed.
‘I don’t know why they didn’t just Apparate,’ agreed James. ‘It was a really long way to fly.’
‘Wait, what?’ Lily blinked. ‘The Three Wise Men were wizards?’
‘Melchior was a witch,’ said Sirius, like she was the idiot for not knowing it.
‘Yeah, they didn’t teach that at Primary School,’ said Lily. ‘And this stuff isn’t on the curriculum at Hogwarts either. How are we supposed to know?’
‘We’ll tell you, won’t we, Padfoot?’ offered James cheerfully.
‘Some of it might even be true,’ said Remus. ‘Any parts involving public nudity, ritual humiliation or hexing Slytherins they’ve probably made up.’
‘Just wondering, though,’ said Sirius, ‘Muggles have heard of the Magi, right?’
‘Well, yes,’ said Lily. ‘They just don’t know that they’re, um…’
‘Magic,’ Sirius finished for her. He looked pained.
‘Lily, why don’t you tell him how Muggles think the Magi got to Bethlehem?’ suggested Remus.
Lily frowned. ‘Well, there was always a camel in school Nativity Plays,’ said Lily. ‘I suppose they rode that.’
‘What’s wrong with him?’
‘That’s his “I must not sound like my mother” face,’ explained Remus. ‘Just wait till he finds out Muggles use frankincense in bubble bath.’
‘THEY ARE ACTUALLY CALLED MAGI!’ Sirius exploded at last. ‘How can anyone not realise they were magical!’
‘Steady now, Padfoot, remember not everyone’s had your advantages.’ Remus seemed to be enjoying himself a little too much.
‘How can people be so stupid?’ Sirius glowered, daring anyone to make something of it.
‘I hear even the best families find it hard to get really good governesses to educate their young,’ said Lily, rolling her eyes. ‘And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, in the six years I’ve been at Hogwarts I’ve never heard of any special magic Epiphany.’
‘To be fair, most people don’t bother with the whole ritual,’ said James. ‘It’s a massive pain in the arse.’
‘So why are we doing it this year?’ asked Peter.
‘Some of us have dreams to come true,’ said Sirius. It was weird how he managed to make it sound like a threat.
‘The potion’s the most important part,’ said James. ‘Obviously we were hoping you’d be in charge of that. Padfoot’s already ordered the ingredients.’
Lily strongly suspected that by “ordered” James meant “stolen” but she let it slide. ‘So what are the ingredients?’ she asked. ‘Gold, frankincense and myrrh?’
‘Frankincense and myrrh, obviously,’ said Sirius. ‘The cauldron’s gold.’
‘Stop winding him up,’ said James, frowning at Lily like she was being deliberately obtuse.
‘We’ll also need a holly twig, ginger, a clove, rags, and some peas,’ said Sirius. ‘Oh, and a jar of jam.’
‘A jar of jam?’ Lily blinked. ‘You have got to be fucking kidding me.’
James and Sirius both looked vaguely outraged.
‘The Epiphany Ritual is a solemn and ancient rite,’ insisted James.
Remus grinned. ‘Is that rhyming slang?’
‘So the principle is pretty similar to Felix Felicis?’ said Lily, as she and Sirius peered over the cauldron.
‘Ish. It should still bring us good luck,’ said Sirius. ‘You could say we might even get lucky.’
‘The amount of faff for this potion we’d better bloody well do,’ said Lily. ‘Have you thought of a gift for Remus yet?’
‘I’m still struggling, to be honest,’ admitted Sirius. ‘Still, if all else fails I could just tie a bow around my cock and – ’
‘– No,’ said Lily.
‘If you say so,’ said Sirius. ‘What are you giving James?’
‘Well, I do have this snitch,’ said Lily. ‘I thought maybe I could enchant it somehow.’
‘Charming a snitch as a sex toy, nice.’
‘I didn’t actually say anything about sex toys.’
‘You didn’t need to.’ Sirius waggled his eyebrows. ‘You are kind of transparent.’
‘Carry on like that and I won’t help you pull Remus after all,’ said Lily.
‘If we get this right, I won’t need your help,’ said Sirius. ‘The Mystic Bean of the Epiphany will guide me.’
‘Yes, but on the off-chance that a magic bean isn’t going to sort out your love life, do you want me to talk to him or not?
‘Obviously, yes,’ said Sirius. ‘I know you won’t let me down.’
‘No,’ said Lily. ‘I only wish I could say the same for your bizarre magical shenanigans.’
‘Remus, you don’t happen to know anything about a minor Kerfuffle that left James in the Hospital Wing?’
Remus shifted slightly, not looking Lily in the eye. ‘I didn’t mean to injure him; my Silencing Charm just went a bit wrong.’
Lily fixed him with a “pray continue” gaze.
‘He kept going on about Padfoot’s hair,’ muttered Remus irritably.
‘Sirius does have excellent hair.’
‘People are starting to think you fancy him,’ said Remus, looking grumpier than ever.
‘People should stop projecting,’ Lily retorted. ‘Although I’m surprised James is willing to risk any more of those rumours about him and Sirius restarting.’
He tried not to show it, but Remus almost smiled. ‘Sirius insists that he is not in love with James, or shagging or even just snogging him, and in fact he doesn’t consider James suitable for so much as casual wank fantasies.’
Lily coughed. ‘He told you all this?’
‘Repeatedly,’ said Remus. ‘No matter how often Peter asked him not to.’
It occurred to Lily that Remus hadn’t felt the need to dish out any over-enthusiastic Silencing Charms to cut off that conversation.
‘Looking back, I suppose it was pretty silly of me to think there was anything going on between them,’ she said. ‘They’re great friends, sure, but James isn’t really Sirius’ type.’
Remus frowned, and Lily wondered if he was suppressing the urge to ask who she thought was Sirius’ type. Of course, she was going to tell him anyway.
‘A troublemaker like Sirius is bound to want another bad boy,’ said Lily. ‘Time was that James would’ve qualified, but he’s Head Boy now. That’s worse than a prefect.’
Remus bristled. ‘I’m sure Sirius doesn’t have anything against prefects.’
‘No,’ agreed Lily, suppressing a giggle. ‘Not as much as he’d like to, anyway.’
Remus did his best to look like he didn’t know what she was going on about, but it wasn’t even a tiny bit convincing.
Finally, after twelve days and twelve nights of careful preparation, the Epiphany Potion was ready. Lily, Sirius, James, Remus, and Peter each threw in a bean, and took it in turns to stir the mixture left, then right, then left again, until the potion glowed brighter than the gold cauldron. Peter fished out the beans, and James took them to the kitchens for the house elves to complete the next stage.
That evening, they met on the edge of the Forbidden Forest, beneath the largest holly tree anyone could find. The Galette des Rois was duly cut and consumed and everyone had their bean. It was time for the Removal of Shoes, and the Commencement of Journeys.
James strode purposefully towards the Quidditch Pitch. Peter hastened back towards the castle, possibly to beg to be re-Sorted in Hufflepuff but no-one could prove anything. Remus disappeared behind some bushes on his way to who-the-fuck knows.
‘What do we do now?’ demanded Lily.
‘Trust in the bean,’ said Sirius. He tried to make it sound all solemn and mystical, but it was hard with Lily glaring at him like that. Honestly, between this and her refusal to help with the Hunting of the Wren and Winter Swimming in the Lake, Sirius was starting to wonder if she was really taking the Epiphany Rituals seriously. (Although she’d had no trouble at all with the Wassailing.)
Lily turned the bean over between her fingers. ‘So, what, should I eat it or something?’
‘What you want to put in your mouth is no concern of mine,’ said Sirius. ‘But do feel free to tell me if you manage it tomorrow, yeah?’
‘Shut up,’ said Lily.
‘Just… concentrate.’ Sirius took Lily’s hands in his own, surrounding the small, magical bean that lay in her palm. ‘What do you feel you ought to be doing?’
‘I think…’ Lily looked uncertain. ‘I think it want be to do something outrageous.’
‘What about yours?’
Sirius considered the matter. It all seemed a bit unlikely, but even so. He knew exactly what he had to do.
‘I have to do something sensible.’
Lily’s eyebrows nearly flew clean off her head. ‘Well, good luck.’
‘Yeah, and you.’
By the time Sirius got back to the dormitory Remus was already there, waiting for him. At least, Sirius hoped that Remus was waiting for him.
‘Hi, Padfoot.’ Remus was smiling, which meant he was at least a bit pleased to see Sirius, and that had to be a good sign, right?
‘I didn’t get you an Epiphany present,’ Sirius blurted out. ‘I didn’t know what – I had a few ideas, but Lily said they were all Terrible.’
Remus looked nonplussed, and Sirius couldn’t really blame him.
‘Sorry. My bean thinks I should be honest. Tell you everything.’
OK, Sirius was a fervent believer in the sanctity and goodness of the Epiphany Ritual, but even he thought “my bean wants me to tell you” sounded faintly ridiculous.
Remus seemed to think so as well. ‘Did it want you to confess anything in particular?’
‘I think we should have sex,’ said Sirius. Damn, that didn’t sound quite so charmingly romantic as he’d planned. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained. He ploughed on. ‘I think we should have masses of sex – I’ve been thinking about it quite a lot, actually, and if it’s even half as good as I’ve imagined it’ll be phenomenal sex.’
‘You’ve been thinking about us shagging?’ Remus sounded like he was about to choke.
‘Well, “thinking about” is a polite way of saying it,’ said Sirius. ‘But, yeah, we should fuck. I really want to. With you.’
‘But that’s not all!’ Sirius continued, suddenly concerned that Remus might get the idea that he was only thinking about sex – which, actually, he sort of was now that Remus was chewing his lower lip in the way that just did things to Sirius, so it really was all Remus’ fault in the first place…
‘I also want to snog you and stuff,’ said Sirius. ‘And make you sandwiches , and warm my hands under your jumper when it’s cold, and when you’re sad I want to kiss you until you’re not sad anymore, and then I want to curl up on your lap while you scratch behind my ear. Also, I want to rescue you from a dragon, or you can rescue me, or we could take it in turns… I’m not too fussed about the dragons actually. I just want you, and the happily ever after and, and… everything.’
Remus stared back at him. He blinked. It was really hard to tell how he was taking all this.
‘But I’ll settle for a shag,’ said Sirius, aiming for nonchalance. ‘For now.’
‘For as long as you’ll have me.’
It seemed to take an unreasonably long time for Remus to respond, and Sirius still couldn’t tell if Remus was about to hex him or jump him.
‘Padfoot, is this all because of the Epiphany thing?’
Sirius shook his head. He’d almost forgotten about the Epiphany Ritual.
‘Sort of?’ he confessed. ‘The bean wanted me to tell you.’
‘The bean, right.’ Remus took his own bean out of his pocket, and slowly turned it over between his fingers.
‘I almost thought you might not keep yours,’ said Sirius with a shaky laugh. ‘I got the feeling you don’t really believe in the Ritual.’
‘I don’t,’ said Remus, and he looked Sirius in the eye at last. ‘But it’s important to you. So.’
He smiled, warm and open, and Sirius wondered if this was what drowning felt like.
‘Your bean wants us to have some sort of sexually-charged epic romance,’ Remus pondered. ‘Possibly with dragons?’
‘The bean wanted me to tell you the truth,’ said Sirius. ‘And I’ve changed my mind about the dragon. Let’s skip that part. But the rest of it? You and me. I think it’s a good idea.’
Remus looked at the bean in his palm like he was seeing it for the first time. ‘I think my bean,’ he said at last, ‘wants me to believe you.’
Lily stretched out in front of the fire in the Common Room, feeling slightly sleepy, a little sore, and very smug. She may have been lying on the rug, but she was still clearly visible so it wasn’t her fault Sirius nearly fell over her as he rushed past.
‘Sorry, Lils,’ he muttered, picking himself back up and making for the portrait hole.
‘Stop,’ called Lily abruptly, sitting up. ‘Don’t think you can just walk out of here without telling me everything.’
Sirius smirked as he came to sit down beside her. ‘Honestly, after the night I’ve had it’s a miracle I can walk at all.’
‘What?’ Lily furrowed her brow – but he looked so pleased. ‘Oh… oh, Sirius, really.’
‘Like being pounded by the Hogwarts Express,’ Sirius continued gleefully. ‘It really is the quiet ones you have to watch. Good thing I’m so robust.’
‘Shut up,’ said Lily, giving him a half-hearted slap.
‘You were the one who wanted to hear everything,’ Sirius reminded her. ‘I’ve barely even started.’
‘Merlin preserve us.’
‘Anyway, what you?’ Sirius demanded. ‘How do you Charm a snitch to use as a sex toy?’
Lily liked to pretend it was the heat from the fire, and she definitely wasn’t blushing. ‘Wouldn’t you like to know?’
‘Yes, obviously, that why I asked,’ said Sirius.
Lily stretched out, and grinned. ‘Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.’
Remus let Peter and James load up all the cakes, sausage rolls, and other snacks the house elves could find, while he “kept an eye” on the Map.
‘Is Master Potter hurt?’ asked one of the elves. Remus had also noticed that James was moving a bit gingerly, but he didn’t want to encourage him by mentioning it.
‘Quidditch injury,’ said James, looking rather too pleased about it. ‘Lot of it about lately.’
Remus doesn’t really notice on account of being fascinated by watching Professor Sprout heading down towards the dungeons.
‘Couldn’t help but notice Padfoot had a bit of a limp this morning,’ said James, “accidentally” sloshing pumpkin juice so that Remus was forced to jump out of the way.
Peter made a strange groaning noise. The house-elves gave him another pasty.
‘On a completely separate note,’ said James brightly. ‘You have a good evening, Moony?’
‘Hm, yes, very pleasant,’ Remus said as mildly as he could manage. ‘But I’m sure you’ve more interesting things to talk about.’
‘Certainly do,’ said James. ‘I had an excellent evening, and I’m not about to deny my nearest and dearest a blow-by-blow account. Talking of which…’
Remus focused very hard on Professor Sprout stopping to chat to one of the Slytherin prefects. James hooked a finger over the edge of the Map, pushing it out of Remus’ line of vision and leaving Remus with little choice but to look at him.
James was grinning evilly.
‘Nice try having Padfoot promise not to tell me everything, but you know I’ll break him eventually,’ said James. ‘Even if I don’t, bet you didn’t think to ask him not to tell Lily.’
James laughed and shoved another jam tart in his mouth before turning to leave the kitchens.
‘You do realise,’ said Peter, glancing at Remus in a faintly exasperated manner, ‘That by succumbing to Padfoot’s dubious charms you’ve basically bought yourself a season ticket to join him, Lily, and Prongs at Theatre Overshare?’
‘You might have a point there, Wormtail.’
Peter nodded, and moved off after James. Remus looked back at the Map – there was Sirius, heading off to meet him on the fourth floor balcony, as promised. He smiled.
‘Completely worth it.’
Remus hurried to follow his friends out of the kitchen. The Epiphany Ritual, he now realised, really was the best.