title: Fourth Possibility
fandom: Harry Potter
characters/pairings: James, Lily, Remus/Sirius, Peter
rating: G
warnings: none
summary: James wants to know why.
notes: part of a slowly forming series, which actually will be about James and Lily... takes place sixth year, after the fic Hair!

It hardly ever happened, so when it did, he had to think about what was bothering him for a while before he realized it. But James was just not at all used to being alone, not unless he was in detention, and usually someone was waiting for him when he was done.

He wasn't even in trouble just then! He'd had to finish up his Astronomy essay, under the watchful eye of a rather peeved Professor who was tired of being sweet-talked into extensions. Still, it was hardly like detention, and he knew for a fact that Sirius and Peter both knew where he was.

So why was he walking back to the Tower alone?

Still, though, he couldn't be too annoyed, because the first Quidditch practice of the season was today, and it was his first practice as Captain. Visions of unparalleled glory, careening him to an even higher position of fame and adulation, potentially even winning him, dare he think it, the respect and affection of a certain Lily Evans, swam before his eyes so that he nearly fell off the stairs three times. That stupid motion spell...

He was so enwrapped in his daydreams as he entered the Common Room that he took note of Sirius by the fireplace, thoroughly charming a red-haired young lady with some outrageous story, but he was halfway up the stairs to the dorm room before the elements of that image clicked in his head, at which point, he spun on his heel and ran back down.

His mind was not, sadly, playing some cruel trick on him. There was Sirius, doing that thing that anyone else on the planet would call flirting, but Sirius called telling a story, and there was Lily Evans, the girl whose very name sent James' heart into a twitter. Laughing. Quite loudly. Because of Sirius!

James cleared his throat expressively, and rather pointedly in Sirius' general direction. Sirius noticed him standing there glaring during one particularly wild gesture, but he didn't pause at all. Evans gave him a brief look, but then she raised her nose, and laughed extra hard at whatever the hell Sirius was saying. Was he talking about the time he dressed Regulus up as Raggedy Ann and took him to Piccadilly station and made him sing for Muggle money?

Frustrated, James tapped his foot, and cleared his throat again. That got him another look from Sirius, though it was really more of a glare. And it didn't stop Sirius' story at all.

His flirtation, and wouldn't Remus be interested to know what Sirius was doing!

"Sirius," James interrupted. "Quidditch."

Sirius hated to be cut off midsentence, but there was nothing like Quidditch to get his attention. "Ah, right. You don't expect me to start calling you Captain, now, do you?" He sighed dramatically, and bent over at the waist to take Evans' hand. "Well, m'lady, I have been summoned to the field of battle by my overbearing commander. I do hope you will forgive me."

Evans actually giggled, and let him kiss her hand.

James wanted to kiss her hand.

He turned on his heel, and stomped up the stairs.

His head was a swirl of venomous fury. He kicked the dorm room door open, and threw his bag across the room. Peter peeked his long nose out his bed curtains. "Eh? James? Oh, no, I overslept! Quidditch practice isn't over, is it?"

"Shut up," he snapped. Peter squeaked, and receded back inside his bed. James knew he should feel guilty, but he didn't.

Damn Sirius and his charm and good looks and long, silky hair! There was no excuse for that kind of behavior! Sirius knew that James was mad for Evans. Everyone in the damned school knew!

"Got a wand stuffed up your backside, Prongs?" Sirius asked coolly as he entered. "Quite a tantrum down there."

"Stuff your own backside, Padfoot," James spat out. He pulled his Quidditch kit out. "Sorry I had to disrupt your romancing, but better I did before Moony came back, anyway, right?"

"What are you bleating about?" Sirius yawned in his most aristocratic voice. "Are you gone mental now? Mind, most of the school already thought you were, but I've been willing to defend you."

"You bastard!" James snarled, jumping over to grab Sirius by the robes. "You've been willing to defend me? Against what, your betrayal! Don't try to tell me what I saw wasn't what I saw!"

"You're daft!" Sirius growled. "This obsession has addled your brains! Are you even thinking about what you're saying? Can you honestly think that I'd do that to you? Just because you're emotionally stunted doesn't mean the rest of us are. She's a right nice girl, if you talk to her like a person instead of a freak."

His eyebrow twitched. In truth, no, he knew that Sirius wouldn't, that Sirius wouldn't even encourage a flicker of attraction from Evans. Still.

"Ah, good, you're all here!" Remus said, sounding out of breath. Well, no wonder. His bag looked like it weighed half of what he weighed. Sirius pulled away from James, and rushed to Remus' side, taking his bag. "Ah, thanks. I was afraid I was going to miss practice."

"The bloody hell, Moony? What is all of this?" Sirius poked through Remus' bags. "Where in the hell did you get all of these books?"

"The library, Sirius," Remus replied tiredly. "Terribly useful place. I'll take you there sometime. I mean, I know you've been there, but you've probably missed all the rows of books while you were plotting pranks on Snivelus or trying to corner me... ah. Well." His cheeks turned a bit pink.

Sirius winked at him, and started to unpack his bag. "Demonic Forces and Making Them Work For You. A Beginners Guide to Exorcisms and Other Useful Things For Old Houses. Making Every Spell Count: Dueling Against Demons. And Common Mistakes Made in Potions and the Interesting Things That Come From Them. The hell?"

"Ah, you got it!" Peter emerged from his bed, as if nothing were wrong at all. "Good! Evans will be pleased. Those Ravenclaws have had it for so long!"

James stared at Peter, his eye twitching. What did he say...?

"I know," Remus grinned, sheepish. "I had to let Baxtor out of a violation to get him to part with it. They're so damned competitive when it comes to grades. They can't stand to see anyone else succeed."

"Moony, you aren't planning on becoming a Dark Wizard, are you?" Sirius asked, sounding half curious about possibly joining Remus should the answer be yes. He was flipping through Demonic Forces and Making Them Work For You, captivated.

Remus just rolled his eyes. "Sure thing, Padfoot. After I take over the world, I'll put you in charge of the Chudley Cannons. If you are good."

"I can be better than good," Sirius leered. Peter made a face.

James lost his temper. "Enough! Shut up! All of you!" Seething, he grabbed at his hair, just... well, he can't resist fluffing it up again, but still! "I don't get it! At all! I don't get it!"

"Er, Prongs..." Remus looked nervously from James to Sirius.

"Shut it!" He pointed accusingly at Remus. "Look. Look!" He wiggled his accusing finger frantically. "For five bloody years, now, I've been chasing Evans. And for five bloody years, the best I've gotten was the time she gave me back my Transfiguration essay after Padfoot used it to test his new slingshot and it went across the lake! For five bloody years!

"And I can accept that I still need to win her over. Ok, she hasn't gotten to see my good sides yet, I accept that. But the three of you are as chummy as can be with her! And that just doesn't make sense!

"All right." He took a deep breath, and narrowed his eyes. "Moony's a prefect, and generally well-behaved unless under the influence of Padfoot or me. And Peter is hopeless, so I suppose some girls would want to care for him like a pet or something."

"I'm what?" Peter asked, a slightly calculating look in his eyes.

"I can understand how you two are friends with her. But what about him?" James gestured to Sirius like he was the personification of the Black Plague.

"Hey!" Sirius objected, pouting.

"He and I are always together! If she objects to me because I get into trouble, or bully idiots, she should object to him, too! He studies less than I do! And he sometimes makes comments about Muggle-borns!"

"I haven't done that since third year!" Sirius objected, looking quickly to Remus.

"My point is, she'll sit and talk and be all chummy with Padfoot, but she treats me like I'm something found between a boggart's toes! What gives?" He was starting to whine. He looked desperately from one to the other of them. "Seriously. What is it? Why... Why does she hate me so much? It can't... can't be for any of the reasons she's ever said if she can be friends with Sirius..."

Remus and Sirius shared an uncomfortable look. They'd been doing that recently. It was irritating. Looking at each other, and seeming to speak to each other without words. Sirius would just look at Remus in class, and Remus would nearly break up laughing.

Just... irritating beyond words!

"Look," James growled. "It's time for bloody Quidditch. Just tell me. What's going on here? Why would she be fine with Sirius, and hate me? Moony." He narrowed his eyes and stared intently at Remus, making him squirm a bit, hedging closer to Sirius. "Just... just... what's going on, Remus?"

Maybe it was his tone. Maybe Remus got that he was actually serious. He straightened up, and took a deep breath. "Well. I suppose... I suppose there are three possible explanations."

Good. Good! This was what he needed to hear. He inched a bit closer to Remus, listening raptly.

Remus swallowed hard. "Well. The first possibility is... she's... she's developed a crush on Sirius, and she's just hiding it well, because, well, she's Evans, so."

James' heart dropped. That... was possible. Since he'd grown his hair out, for some damned reason, the bastard had become even more popular.

Sirius shook his head. "That's really not it. We're just friendly, I swear!"

Sighing, Remus continued. "Well, the other possibility is that she has a crush on you, and she's... well, you know, some girls are just... not romantic, and she's the type to concentrate on her studies, so maybe she's repressing it so she won't get distracted."

James perked up. That... well, that was horrifically unlikely, but it was a hopeful theory.

"And, er, the third possibility..." Remus took a step back, slipping his arm through Sirius'. James felt dread creep up on him. "Well, ah, the third possibility is that, well, she just... just hates your guts." He took a step back so he was standing behind Sirius.

Wait. No. Sirius said they were just friends, and it wasn't likely that she was secretly harboring a crush on him, so... "No. Wait. Why are there only three possibilities? There should be more!" He looked desperately between them, but the only one who would meet his gaze was Sirius, and he was looking sympathetic. "No! There must be another reason!" He turned quickly, stripping off his robes. He threw on his Quidditch robes. "There is a fourth possibility. There must be." He grabbed his broom, and faced them, resolute. "Moony! This is your mission!

"You will come up with a fourth possibility! And. Yes! Sirius, come on, there's Quidditch. And Peter, you can come to Quidditch and cheer for us. There is another possibility." He nodded, convincing himself. "Now, men, let's go!"

He struck a dramatic pose, and marched off, a gleeful Peter trailing behind him. It was just.

There had to be another possibility, or else... or else...

He and Lily wouldn't be destined to be together forever. And clearly, they were. So.

There was definitely another possible explanation. Definitely.

By the end of practice, he would be sure to have convinced himself.