A Marauder Holiday by ficexchange
Merry Christmas, Christine (Pogonotrophy)!
Remus stands in front of the door to Sirius’ flat, a bag of presents in one hand and a box of his mother’s best cookies in the other. This year is no different from the last, though the Marauders are meeting at Sirius’ flat instead of at the Potter estate. He glances down at the presents he’s brought, and his heart sinks. It’s not because he’s poor (although, in this circle, he admits ruefully, he is) or because he didn’t have adequate time to prepare; Remus Lupin is incapable of giving the perfect present.
But then the door swings open, practically flying off its hinges, and it’s too late for misgivings, since Sirius is grinning joyfully and dragging him inside. “MOONY!”
Remus squirms uncomfortably in Sirius’ viselike embrace, his protests muffled by the other boy’s thin cotton shirt. Although, he is glad to be out of the cold. He’d waited a good ten minutes (Remus has never been good at decisions) between Apparating and knocking on Sirius’ door, so he admits to feeling a little chilled. And the flat is warm, the firelight glowing and flickering in strange shadows on the walls.
As Sirius continues to hold him against his will, Remus sniffs warily, his nose wrinkling in protest. From experience, he should’ve been prepared, but what on earth is that appalling smell? He sniffs again, detecting a secondary set of smells. Is that vanilla? And cinnamon? But that could only mean –
“Remus! Hello!” As Sirius finally lets go of him, the aforementioned boy blinks in surprise, wondering if he’s seeing/hearing/smelling correctly. But, yes, there she is, that redheaded vision, that one and only Lily Evans, standing in the flat with a brilliant smile on her face and a doting James by her side. Her eyes are sparkling, and her hair spills over her shoulders, and he thinks that she looks pretty as a picture.
“Oh, hi, Lily!” Gingerly, he sets his things onto an already cluttered table, watching as the whole piece of furniture leans a little to the left. From the look of the place, you’d have absolute no idea that Sirius Black possessed a small fortune. “How are you?” James in tow, she skips forward lightly and kisses him on the cheek, her lips pressing into his skin for one quick second. Over her shoulder, he can see Sirius’s exuberant joy being transformed into a dark glower, and he knows that she wasn’t expected.
James offers him a lazy smile. “Hey, Moony. Happy Christmas, yeah?” In a green jumper and dress pants, he looks the way he always does: crisp, clean, and as if his mother bought his wardrobe (which she did).
“Of course.” Remus grins back. It’s good to see everyone (the week that has passed since the end of term has been interminable). “I-I brought Mum’s cookies. Help yourself.”
“Of course you did,” Sirius says, grey eyes flashing, and Remus wonders what he means by that.
He sniffs again, and this time, he can’t help but say something. “Sirius, what is that godawful smell?” James and Lily are already wrapped up in each other again, so Remus just heads towards the kitchen, his enhanced sense of smell sending protests up to his brain.
The kitchen, like the rest of the place, is filthy. Carefully, Remus picks his way towards the stove, clearing a path through the debris with the toe of one of his well-worn shoes (the tile is sticky and tinged slightly purple, but he doesn’t say anything about it). On the stove is a pan, which burbles incessantly and smells absolutely terrible. He leans closer; something on it appears to be yellow...though there are definitely some green and red bits, and parts of it are rather brown…
“It’s supposed to be eggs.” Remus twists his head around to find that Sirius is leaning against the doorframe, his arms folded and a scowl on his face, partially obscured by the wild black shag. Scowls settle easily into the twist of his mouth, Remus thinks. How could he forget how mercurial Sirius Black can be?
“What happened?” Using a nearby washcloth (he’s ignoring the stains on that right now), he picks up the pan and empties it into the rubbish bin, where it wobbles unsteadily with a mind of its own.
Sirius shrugs sulkily as Remus ignores him, washing and drying the pan before settling it back on the stove. As usual, he’ll come and fix Sirius’ blunders, and Sirius knows it. But Remus doesn’t mind, not really. That’s the way things have always been.
“But why are you making eggs?” He checks his worn old wristwatch, just to be sure. “You do know that it’s almost dinnertime, right?”
Another shrug. “I just figured, we’ve been doing the same thing, year after year, and it all just felt kinda…trite.”
“Trite,” Remus repeats, lifting one eyebrow.
Sirius nods very, very slightly. “I couldn’t let the Marauders fall into unoriginal traditions, could I?”
“No. Of course not.” A pause, as Remus struggles to take in the whole of the kitchen. The egg cartons, all strewn about, and the big loaves of bread, and he thinks those might be sausages, sitting over there… “Breakfast for dinner, then?” he asks finally.
“I just wanted to do one thing differently.” Sirius walks carelessly towards the stove, his trainers squelching unpleasantly on the floor. Of course Sirius would do something having to do with food, which is the primary staple of a Marauder lifestyle.
Soft, girlish laughter floats in from the other room, and Sirius resumes his usual scowl. It’s easy to guess what else is different about this holiday.
Absently, Remus shakes his head, then turns on the stove and gets to work. It’s not supposed to be like this.
It really isn’t. Every year, the day after Christmas is a day reserved especially for the Marauders, since it is the first day that they have seen one another since the end of fall term. The days leading up to December 26th are days of individual misery, filled with parents and odd relatives and the occasional fruitcake (Remus also tries to do some reading and schoolwork). But this particular day is a Marauder holiday, and although Remus doesn’t mind Lily’s presence, the more traditionalist Sirius Black clearly objects.
When the pan is warm enough, Remus slides a pat of butter in, watching it dissolve onto itself and pool amidst a wonderfully golden smell. He inhales deeply, reveling in the smell of cooking, which he has always equated with home and his family. And then he’s cracking eggs and letting them fall into the pan, and for a time, the only sound in the room is the hiss and sizzle of the pan.
“Pete’s going to be late,” Sirius says finally, and he scratches his nose; it goes unsaid that Sirius is trying to say, Sorry for being childish. “Something about his mum.” He somehow manages to look contrite and retain his innocence while wearing ripped jeans, a faded shirt, and dark combat boots.
“Mhmm.” As the eggs cook, Remus finds an open bag of bread and slides two slices into the toaster. Then he spins to survey the mess of a kitchen, his brow furrowed. Boys shouldn’t live alone, he thinks. As he waves his wand, muttering a simple spell to tidy up (he prefers to do things by hand, but there’s simply no time tonight), he amends that thought: Sirius shouldn’t live alone.
“Moony, you really don’t need to –“ Sirius says.
“Unless you want me to walk out right now and leave you with the sappy couple to end all sappy couples, I suggest you let me clean,” he says tartly, watching as plates begin to wash themselves and food slips into cupboards. With grim satisfaction, he Banishes the stickiness of the tile. The kitchen will never sparkle, but at least it looks slightly tidier.
Sirius shudders. “That would be too cruel of you. You wouldn’t be able to live with yourself,” he informs his friend loftily.
Remus knows he’s right.
“Say, those are perfect eggs, aren’t they?” Sirius peers into the pan. “You’re a cooking genius, Moony.”
“Eggs are easy. Everyone ought to know how to make eggs.” But the flattery works. With a rubber spatula, Remus slides the eggs onto a newly cleaned plate. As Sirius burns his hand trying to extract the bread from the toaster, they hear the door open, and James-and-Lily greeting Peter in a loud and exuberant manner.
“Oh, good. Everyone’s here.” Sirius leans on the now-slightly-cleaner-and-more-bare counter, propped up by his elbows.
In another pan, Remus prepares to make bacon, which he knows is Sirius’ favorite. “I didn’t know that Lily was going to come” he says mildly.
Sirius huffs, sweeps back his hair, and opens a cupboard to take out pancake mix. He somehow manages to make all of that look graceful and elegant. “I didn’t either.”
“Hello!” Peter, cheerful and slightly chubby, enters the rather small kitchen, tracking dirty snow everywhere. Remus winces but says nothing. “Happy Christmas!” He pulls his bright red hat and matching knitted scarf over his head, then tosses them onto a counter.
“Hey, Pete.” Sirius tosses him a piece of toast, and Peter fumbles with it for a moment before finally catching it. “How’s it going?”
Peter grins, then takes a bite of the toast. “Are we eating any time soon?”
“Breakfast for dinner, mate!” Sirius searches for a mixing bowl (blue, and cracked, and it’s a miracle that he has such a bowl at all), then dumps the entire packet of mix into it. That’s going to be a lot of pancakes, Remus thinks. “James and Lily are up for it. What do you think?”
“Sounds brill!” Anything that has James’ approval has Peter’s, Remus thinks, then berates himself for thinking so little of his friend.
“My mum’s cookies are out there, if you want some. Happy Christmas!” After conjuring up a set of tongs, he drops a couple of slices of bacon into the pan, where they sizzle in a satisfying manner.
“Thanks, Moony.” Peter vanishes, and they can hear him talking to the others. Silence resumes.
Sirius, under Remus’ mindful scrutiny, adds water to the mixing bowl and pokes at it warily with a wooden spoon.
Remus starts some more eggs. The subject brought up before Peter burst in lingers in the air. He decides to broach it. “James and Lily just got together recently, y’know. And he’s liked her for…well, it feels like an eternity. Also, you need to stir more firmly, unless you just want to eat flour bits.”
“That’s not an excuse for being sappy.” Sirius stirs harder, and flour goes everywhere. “None of us ever brought girls in. She’s not one of us.”
“When have you ever cared enough about a girl to have her hang out with us?” Remus flips the bacon.
Sirius’ silence is enough of an assent.
“At any rate, we like Lily, remember?” Remus prods the eggs. Outside of the four of them, Lily is one of Remus’ closest friends. No one else is taking all N.E.W.T. level classes.
“Yeah.” Sirius peers at the instructions on the bag of pancake mix, then cracks an egg and tosses it into the mixing bowl as well. “But Prongs isn’t...isn’t himself,” he says finally.
It’s true. This year, James has changed in subtle ways. Maybe the rest of the school didn’t notice, but they did. He’s less impulsive, and he’s calmer, and he actually does his work, once in awhile…
“New and improved model,” Remus remarks.
Ah, yes. And, sometimes, James abandons them for Lily. Sometimes that happens.
Sirius sighs, and Remus checks on the bacon. “Moony, it’s not that I don’t like her or anything.” Remus knows that James’ persistent attraction to Lily Evans would never have lasted if the rest of them hadn’t approved of her (though Sirius has always been rather grudging about it all).
The eggs are done. Remus starts in on the next batch.
Sirius sighs again. Loudly.
Maybe he shouldn’t make all the eggs sunny-side up. Remus wonders how Lily likes her eggs. He heads out to ask, but the scene out there is too odd to interrupt. Lily and James are giggling (since when did James giggle?) and doing private and sappy couple-y things, while Peter attempts to tell them something which he finds interesting, but it’s probably just about his mother and her terrible Cornish beef. It’s the sort of story, involving relatives and food, which interests no one but the storyteller himself.
When he reenters the kitchen, Sirius is dumping chocolate bits into the pancake batter, which makes Remus rather happy. All in all, he’s glad to be here.
“Anything exciting to report?”
Remus shakes his head, then pulls his wand from his pocket and waves it at the food, so that it’ll take care of itself. The moment Sirius got his flat last summer, Remus was forced to learn how to cook, if only because he was worried that the other boys would eat nothing but Pumpkin Pasties and Cauldron Cakes. Cooking, like cleaning, is something Remus prefers to do by hand (one of the legacies of being Muggleborn), but sometimes there’s simply not enough time; if they want to eat before midnight, this is pretty much the only way to do it.
“So…” Sirius dumps the bacon onto a spare plate, then plops pancake batter onto the pan. Remus shudders to think of bacon grease on chocolate chip pancakes, but Peter probably won’t notice. “How were the hols?” Remus guesses they have moved on from the Topic of Lily.
“Okay.” Remus makes sure that Sirius doesn’t burn anything. It’s amazing that he hasn’t burned the whole building down by now, actually. “Mum sends her love.”
“I adore your mum, Moony.” A wicked grin flashes across his face.
“We all know how good you are with mothers,” Remus says dryly. He picks lint off his faded blue jumper.
“Except for my own.” Sirius tries an Expert Pancake Flipping Move, which involves a deft flick of the wrist and a strong arm. It fails, and now there are pancakes on the floor. Remus Vanishes those, and watches as Sirius starts the whole process again.
“Keeps you humble,” Remus says lightly. “As long as you’re not irresistible to everyone, we can still be friends with you. Your pancake making skills also leave something to be desired.”
“Piffle.” Sirius scoffs and jabs at a pancake, popping an air bubble. “I am a Pancake Master.”
“I have a black belt in pancakes. I am the Merlin of Pancakes,” Sirius proclaims, as he tries another Expert Pancake Flipping Move. It’s 75% successful.
Remus banishes some more pancakes. The floor’s cleaner now, but when Sirius moved in, the tiles were white. Now they’re kind of yellowish.
“See?” Sirius grins.
“Merlin of Pancakes indeed. Did you manage to fix the Map?” Three weeks ago, Sirius and Peter (James was with Lily, and Remus was studying for an exam) smoked some Gillyweed and consumed an entire bottle of Ogden’s, and they somehow managed to change the password on the Map. Now no one can work it, and Sirius has been attempting to rectify the problem ever since.
“Um…Problem in progress?” Sirius does the Expert Pancake Flipping Move (no spatulas needed!) again before Remus can stop him, but only one pancake doesn’t make it back into the pan. Remus Vanishes the pancake. “I’ve tried everything. The thing is positively hackproof! Why didn’t we build a failsafe into the spell matrix?”
Remus blinks. “Remind me again why I taught you about computers last summer?” Unsurprisingly, Sirius turned out to be a gifted hacker.
Sirius doesn’t reply to that. “Are these pancakes supposed to turn black?”
“That means you burned them.” Remus sighs.
“Oh.” Sirius looks momentarily puzzled. “That’s bad, innit?”
Remus raises his wand. “Pretty much. I’ll just include it in the pattern spell.”
“Always saving the day, aren’t you, Moony?” Sirius steps back to let his friend do his work.
Remus checks to make sure his spell is working properly, before saying, “C’mon, the food can take care of itself. I want to talk to James.” It’s not that he doesn’t like spending time with Sirius, but he’s missed James and Peter too.
A dark look crosses Sirius’ face. That involves getting past Lily. “Fine.” As they walk out, he says knowingly, “You want to ask Prongs about the Transfiguration assignment, don’t you?”
Remus can feel a faint blush staining his cheeks. He says nothing.
“That’s right.” Sirius smiles smugly, and all Remus can think is, after seven years, Sirius knows him too well.
“Let’s do presents!” Sirius announces, his speech slightly slurred. He leans back and balances his chair back onto two legs, rests his legs on the table for a couple seconds, and then promptly falls backwards, dissolving into a silly grin.
“Or not,” Remus says, cringing. “We could just wait until later!”
“Piffle,” Sirius says, his eyes on the ceiling. “Piffle, piffle, piffle.”
“You keep saying that,” Peter points out, his speech very slurred, a bottle of Ogden’s still in his hand. Remus thinks he is on the verge of falling asleep.
“But we’re done eating!” Sirius cries. “What else shall we do?”
“We could clean up,” Remus says, feeling rather sensible and dour. “That should probably happen.”
“Cleaning up is witches’ work.” Lily smacks James upside the head, and he laughs.
“B-but, you know. Before we do presents, I mean.” Remus always dreads the present-opening. It always entails lots of ridicule from Sirius, and James and Peter pretending that they love what he got for them, when all it comes down to is Remus and his silly books.
“We have spells for that,” Peter says, and giggles.
Lily twirls a strand of her hair as she says mildly, “Spellcasting while drunk is probably a bad idea.”
“No such thing as a bad idea, Evans!” Sirius chuckles, and attempts to get up (Remus steadies the table when Sirius kicks it in his haste). After a couple of minutes of attempting this difficult feat, he gives up, and resumes his contemplation of the ceiling, and the mold on the aforementioned ceiling. No one moves to help him up. It’s probably because, if anyone else tried to help, they would simply end up right next to him.
Remus quietly levitates the plates towards the kitchen. Dinner went over quite well, he thinks, with no small amount of satisfaction. He enjoys cooking. At any rate, Sirius is now all out of eggs and pancake mix, though they did find some suspicious smelling sausage in the back of the fridge. Remus wonders what they’ll eat in the morning.
“That was done perfectly!” Lily exclaims, eyes wide and cheeks flushed. “There’s something inhuman about your ability to hold your liquor, Remus.”
No one says anything, and Remus averts his eyes. Lily is a smart witch; he wonders how much longer they can all keep this a secret from her.
“So.” Sirius tries to clap his hands together, but misses. “Presents?”
“But, but…” Remus searches his mind frantically. “I wouldn’t want to leave out Lily,” he says lamely.
Lily protests, and James shakes his head. “I brought my present for her.”
“And you sent me that lovely present, Remus!” Lily beams at him, and he fights down the urge to blush. He never gets presents right. Present giving requires knowing a person so well that you can guess their secret desires without them having to articulate them, and Remus just isn’t good with people.
“Let me guess,” Sirius drawls, his eyes closed. “It was a bloody book.”
Now Remus is sure that his cheeks are burning. He doesn’t say anything.
A light giggle from Lily. “It was one I’d wanted for ages, though. I mentioned it to you at the beginning of the year, and you remembered!”
Remus would bet a thousand Galleons that his whole face is on fire.
“Moony’s a sweetheart, he is.” Sirius sounds scornful, and Remus cringes. “Mind like an elephant.”
“What!” Peter interjects, eyes crinkling in confusion.
“An elephant never forgets!” Lily cries, and, just for a second, she and Sirius have a Moment. Remus can almost see Sirius’ thought process, see the way that Sirius flashes from happiness and merriment to remembering his anger and resentment.
“Let’s-let’s just do presents,” James says, trying to smooth it all over. That’s what he does. He is James Potter: mediator. “Shall we?” He stands, wobbles, and places a hand on Lily’s shoulder to steady himself before he makes his way towards the couch and collapses like a big pile of Jell-o. Lily falls on top of him, and he chuckles and presses a kiss onto her hair. Remus pretends not to watch; Sirius and Peter are genuinely oblivious.
The rest of them slowly make their way over to the sagging couch with the broken springs (there are definitely some wobbles and falls). Sirius falls onto the floor again, and Peter scores the overly stuffed armchair that was part of the inheritance from Crazy Uncle Alphard.
“Isn’t the tree beautiful?” Sirius says proudly.
“Yes, Padfoot,” Remus says tiredly. He wonders what time it is. “It’s lovely.”
The truth is that the tree is pitiful. It’s small, and droopy, and Sirius alluded to finding it in some back alley…but Remus doesn’t have the heart to point out the truth. Well, it’s more like he doesn’t have the heart to argue with Sirius. Not tonight. He doesn’t actually like arguing with Sirius, though sometimes it seems like that.
“So,” Sirius says, beaming, his gray eyes clear and focused. “Presents?”
Lily Evans jolts awake, and her first thought is, I am not in my bed.
Her second thought: What time is it?
These are hardly the normal thoughts of Lily Evans. Usually, she wakes up with a thought about what she will do today, or what she forgot to do last night. But today? Today, things are different.
She blinks, and her vision focuses slowly.
The first thing she sees is the mold on the ceiling.
It’s disgusting. She promptly closes her eyes.
But then the smell of bacon wafts past, and now she sighs with delight and opens her eyes again. If there’s one thing she loves, it’s bacon. It’s enough to get her up and moving.
“Unggggh.” Lily moans, and, in her effort to extract herself from James (who doesn’t stir), succeeds in tumbling off the couch and onto the floor, where she encounters Remus’ foot. As she struggles to a standing position, she looks around, and wrinkles her brow. Sirius’ place was a mess when they came in last night, but today it’s even worse. There’s empty bottles everywhere, and don’t even get her started on the bits of wrapping paper, and Christmas cards …Remus is on the floor, his hands wrapped tightly around the first edition of Spellman’s Syllabary that she found for him; Peter is in the chair, his head and legs dangling off the armrests. He really is capable of emitting the loudest snores she’s ever heard.
The light’s on in the kitchen. With a yawn, she stumbles over, only to find, to her surprise, that Sirius Black is at the stove, frying bacon. When he sees her, he grunts, “G’morning.”
“Hello.” She yawns again. “S’what time is it?” Blimey if she doesn’t have a slight headache of a hangover.
He grins at her, but it’s not a friendly sort of grin. “Four in the morning.”
“Damn.” She can’t really remember what happened last night. “Mum’s going to be upset with me when I get back.”
That grin of his, again, but this time showing teeth. He looks positively feral. “Never stay out late, Evans?”
She shakes her head. Nope, she’s a regular old prude.
He flips the bacon.
Not knowing what to say, she comes up with, “Didn’t know you could cook.”
He flips her a one-shouldered shrug. “Not really. But pre-cooked bacon is easy enough.”
They lapse into silence. Lily, leaning on a countertop, arms folded defensively, watches him.
Lily thinks that, as long as she lives, she’ll never understand James’ best mate. As far as she is concerned, they are polar opposites. James is a constant to her, a source of light and happiness and fun, a mate who is loyal until the end. But Sirius? If James is like gold to her (okay, at first she thought he was fool’s gold, but he’s grown on her), then Sirius is mercury. Sirius’ moods shift faster than the speed of light, and she finds him impossible to read. Does he like her? Doesn’t he? She knows that a relationship only works if a bloke’s mates approve, which is why she resisted James for so long, even after he won her over.
“D’you want some?”
It takes her a moment to realize that he’s speaking to her. He rolls his eyes and repeats the question.
She and Remus are study mates, and she’s pretty sure that Peter likes her well enough. With Remus she can discuss books while drinking tea and eating chocolate, and with Peter she can indulge her junk food obsession and commiserate about having an obnoxious older sister. And also, with Peter, well, she knows that Peter accepts her simply because James does. It’s not the greatest mentality, but there it is. But what does she have in common with Sirius?
Sirius turns the stove off and slides the plate of bacon towards her. That’s an understatement. It’s really more like a mountain of bacon, and she can’t imagine how they will possibly eat it all. “Here,” he says gruffly.
She uses her most casual tone of voice as she takes a slice. “Thanks.”
He watches her take a bite, chew it carefully, and then swallow. She can hardly help the silly grin that spreads across her face. “I love bacon,” she confesses. “It’s a guilty love.”
Taking a slice himself and leaning against the other counter, he looks puzzled, but not necessarily interested. “I’ve never known a skirt to love bacon.”
She shrugs. “Girls don’t want to appear anything less than feminine, and there you have the usual stereotypical drivel, blah blah blah…”
“Right.” He nods, chews, and swallows. “And you don’t care.”
Really, she thinks crossly. There is no justice in the world. Here they are, four in the morning, and he manages to make looking disheveled bloody attractive, for Merlin’s sake.
She’s very envious. “I am what I am,” she says, “and I love bacon.”
They fall into a lull, and she closes her eyes and savors the taste of it. At the start of the year, she would never have imagined that she’d have anything to do with the Marauders, let alone be dating one and standing in the kitchen of another. All this, at four in the morning.
And then she thinks of something, and opens her eyes. “S’what happened last night?”
He quirks an elegant eyebrow. “What do you mean?”
She shrugs again. “Well, the last thing I remember is Remus, neatly opening his presents.” He had gone first, carefully slitting the Spello-tape and sliding the presents out of their wrapping paper, and then proceeding to fold up the paper into neat little squares.
They’d watched with something akin to awe.
His eyes cloud a little. “You fell asleep after that, huh?”
“Did I miss anything?” Probably not.
He shakes his head. “The rest of us just went in turn. That’s all.”
“How traditional,” she says, and, just like that, his good mood is gone. What did she do? What did she say?
What went wrong?
And then, because it is four in the morning and things are different in the middle of the night and he did just make her some bacon and is now resenting her for some mysterious reason, Lily Evans dares to ask, “Why don’t you like me?”
He freezes, a second bacon slice halfway to his mouth. And then, deliberately, he takes a bite of it, chewing very slowly and swallowing with great intent. She waits, not daring to breathe, her heart racing. What had possessed her to say such a thing to her boyfriend’s best mate?
“Why would you think that?” he says, his eyes very dark.
She twists one hand into her jumper to calm herself. In for a penny, in for a pound, she thinks. It’s too late to withdraw from this line of conversation, and if they stop now, then this would just hang over their heads forever and ever.
He sighs. “It’s nothing personal.”
“Oh?” A sudden flash of what – intuition? – occurs. “I’m not trying to take James from you or anything.” He looks startled, then slightly aggrieved, as she keeps going. “You know that, right?”
He sighs, and then rubs at his face. She watches him. Finally, after a long while, he says, “I know.” The admission is quiet, and he stares down at the ground and scuffs his foot. “I just…” he looks up at her, eyes flashing. “Just give me some time, all right? I didn’t…well, I never…” Instinct keeps her from interrupting him, though she really wants to. He sighs again. “I never thought he would actually…go for it.”
“What?” she says uncomprehendingly.
He nods at her. “With you.”
“Me either,” she says, and it’s true.
He looks at her with some surprise.
She stares down at the hem of her jumper, and counts stitches. “I mean, I didn’t think I would ever like James, y’know? He just kinda…grew on me.”
His sharp, sudden laughter startles her. “Prongs does that.”
She nods, and smiles back, feeling as if something important just happened between them, even if she can’t quite pin down what. But certainly something profound.
The thought reminds her of something. “You didn’t get my present, did you?” she asks.
“You brought me something?” He looks genuinely surprised, and she’s glad that there are still some things that can still startle Sirius Black. “B-but I don’t have anything for you.”
“That’s okay.” She supposes that since she fell asleep before Sirius’ turn, no one remembered. And they were all, well, all was not right with their minds last night. “Wait here,” she says, and she dashes to the front door. She’d hidden it on the way in, since she hadn’t wanted anyone to ruin the surprise.
“Here.” She thrusts a badly wrapped package at him. It’s not her best work, but she was in a hurry.
“Um, thanks.” He rips into the packaging before she can protest. “You really didn’t have to – whoa.” Letting the paper fall onto the ground, he pulls it out and unfurls it, then touches it with his finger. “Password reset? You mean –“
She enjoys his awe with smug satisfaction. “That’s right. I fixed it.”
“But how did you – what – you –“ Sirius sputters, and Lily thinks she’s never seen him so flustered.
And then he falls to his knees and looks up at her in awe. “But you – well –“
She takes another slice of bacon and bites off a piece, chewing slowly. “You should probably get up – I know Remus cleaned the kitchen, but still. You don’t even know what’s on this floor.”
He laughs, but stands and dusts off his knees. And then he looks at the present again. “But it’s the Map!”
“I know it is.”
Sirius narrows his eyes. “How did you even know about it?”
“Well…” Lily rolls her eyes. “I cracked James. He’s not very good at keeping secrets from me.” A handful of threats to withhold snogs and he was singing like a bird – she hopes he never has to undergo any real torture.
“I’ll keep that in mind when trusting him with important things,” he says lightly.
“But…” He looks at the Map again, in all its faded parchment glory. The words “Would you like to reset the password?” are flashing in a distinctly girlish script.
“I know. I’m brilliant.” She takes another bite of bacon. “Jamesmentioned it was broken, and that you weren’t making any headway, and I’m doing my seventh year project on spell manipulation.”
Sirius’ clear gray eyes are still wide and astonished, and she realizes that Sirius, in those absurdly large combat boots, has this strange ability to look extremely young and extremely mature, all at once. “But how did you get it?”
Ah. Her pièce de résistance. She can feel that smug smile coming back. “I stole it.”
Now Sirius is really having difficulty forming words. “You – stole – you – what?” he splutters.
Lily laughs. Finishes her bacon, and wipes her hands on a paper towel. “It was a couple of days ago. James told me which day you were going to be at your cousins, and I just thought, since it was something I could fix for you… you should probably strengthen your wards, by the way, it only took me about a minute to break them, and, oh! I built in a master password to the Map, and streamlined everything – it will run much faster now…it actually didn’t take that long, you know.” She grins. “You boys are good at Transfiguration, I’ll give you that much, but leave the Charmswork to me. Although the idea itself is positively brilliant – I would’ve never thought of something like that.” Sometimes, it astonishes her how brilliant they truly are – and they don’t even realize it!
“Wow.” Sirius shakes his head in disbelief, then looks at the map, back at her, and then at the map again. “You – you’re just…unbelievable, you are.” She blushes, and he keeps talking. “But, really. You, like…” He tilts his head, studying her. “I see what James likes about you,” he says finally.
She doesn’t have a response to that. The truth is that it still astonishes her why someone as wonderful and silly as James Potter would lavish so much time and love on her.
“And here I thought you were just a very temperamental and boring Head Girl.” Sirius shakes his head in genuine merriment. “But look at you! You’re just as loony as the rest of us!”
And then, seeming to make up his mind about something, Sirius folds up the map, places it on the counter, and then grins at her. And this time, unlike when she first entered the kitchen, his grin seems friendly, and open, and she wonders if this is the side of him that his friends see. Maybe he’s only surly around strangers. And then he extends his hand. “Miss Lily Evans,” he says formally, and she giggles and places her hand in his. How is it possible that they can bounce from resentment to anger to happiness in the span of, what, an hour? “I think it is time that we become mates.”
She plays along. “Mister Sirius Black, it would be my honor.”
“So we are in agreement.” He looks at her, mock seriously, their hands and arms interlocked. “From this moment forth, we shall be Mates. With a capital M.”
A feeling of giddiness washes over her. “Indeed. Henceforth, we’ll – “
“What the bloody hell are you two doing?” They both turn, only to find James standing in the doorway of the kitchen, rubbing sleep from his eyes. “And is there any bacon left? I could smell it from a good twenty paces away.” He looks forlorn, and rather absurd, and she’s reminded of a small child, in the middle of the night and searching for a cookie.
But that giddiness is still upon her, and so she lets go of Sirius with a laugh, running and crashing into James, who has barely enough time to brace himself and wrap his arms around her before she kisses him, ignoring his morning breath. She really truly loves him, she thinks. It’s the real thing.
When they separate, Sirius is staring at her with disgust, but she knows that it’s not real. Not anymore. The twinkle in his eye gives him away. “You’re all mad,” he says, shaking his head. “Brilliant,” and she knows that comment is directed at her, “but positively mad.”
“But Sirius,” she says, feeling a little wicked. “Isn’t that what you like most about us?”