Disclaimer: The boys belong to J.K. Rowling, and really, so does the girl. I'm making no money off this little story; just wanted to give the characters some random warm fuzzies.
A Bludger to the Heart
If you wanted to find James Potter, the first thing you would do is look for Sirius Black.
If you wanted to find Sirius Black, the first thing you would do is look for James Potter.
And the best place to find either of them was the Quidditch field.
These days, those instructions were a bit muddled by one Lily Evans. Unfortunately--for everyone it seemed except for James and Lily--James and Sirius were no longer the inseparable pair they once were.
Still, the best place to find Sirius Black was still the Quidditch Pitch, and that was the first place Remus Lupin went.
Since James had begun spending so much time with Lily--"We ought to have called him Moony," Sirius groused--Sirius had spent a good deal more time with Lupin and Peter Pettigrew than he usually did. This annoyed Peter, Remus had told him once, more than usual. Peter wasn't someone with whom Sirius had much patience. While he counted the smaller boy as a friend and comrade, Sirius made no pretext that he enjoyed James and Remus' company a great deal more.
And so Remus made his way up the stands alone, to sit and watch and wait while Sirius pounded Bludgers around the field with his bat. Sirius noticed him instantly and bullied the Bludgers back into their restraints, lest one hit his friend.
"'Lo, Remus," he greeted the quiet boy, letting Remus take the other handle of the box containing the Quidditch equipment. "Something wrong?"
"Not at all," Remus assured him. "Peter's having quite a time with his Arithmancy homework and said he didn't want help--wanted to do it himself this time."
"Oh, ok." Sirius shrugged and glanced over at Remus as they trudged toward the castle, hampered by the large wooden box. Where Peter's tagging along annoyed him, something about Remus made him feel protective. It stopped at a feeling, however, because despite his fragile exterior, Remus was strong and sure and smart and very difficult to scare. Sirius didn't dare speak up for him any more than he dared run his fingers through the caramel hair that the setting sun seemed to drizzle with honey. Briefly, Sirius wondered why he always thought of food when Remus came to mind and decided it was either because he just liked food, or because Remus never seemed to eat enough of it. "Want to get some dinner?" he asked. "I haven't eaten."
"I ate with Peter earlier," Remus explained, "but I'll come sit with you if you like."
"Good," Sirius said, his mind wandering back to what James was doing and who he had eaten with. "Maybe you can explain what was going on in Potions today."
"Potions isn't my strongest subject," Remus apologized.
"You're better than I am," Sirius replied, his attention on Remus again. Maybe he could get the werewolf to eat again while they were in the Great Hall. He could use it. "Besides, I know what we put into the cauldron, I just don't know why it all works together." And I have an essay due tomorrow because I sort of turned Snape's potion purple, he didn't add.
"The Bluebell you snuck into Snape's potion turned it purple because of the Redcap that was already in there, but the mandrake roots made the Bluebell ineffective," Remus said calmly.
They reached the shed that stored all the Quidditch practice materials and Sirius set down his end of the box to fumble with the lock.
"Are you all right?" Remus asked as the lock popped. "I think you dented one of those Bludgers."
"Nah, Bludgers don't dent," Sirius mumbled, dragging the box into the shed. He poked his head out of the door. "I'm fine."
Remus was sitting on the bench outside the shed, looking as if he was ready to sit there for the rest of his natural life. Sirius sighed. This was Remus' "talking" position and there was no use trying to escape it. He briefly considered getting angry, but getting angry at Remus always seemed futile and somewhat mean.
"Let it go, Mr. Moony," Sirius said anyway, not trying very hard to keep his voice from sounding sharp. "It's nothing a few good pranks and a butterbeer...or six...won 't fix."
"Or James dumping Lily."
"Blimey, Lupin," Sirius grumbled, giving up and dropping down on the bench with him. "You're worse than the bloody Bludgers."
"Come on, Sirius. He's still our friend. He's just got other things using up his time lately."
"He's got that bloody girl using up his time," Sirius grumbled. "How the hell are we supposed to be the Marauders if he won't Maraud?"
"I don't think that's a word," Remus said thoughtfully. "And Prongs will ride again. He's barely been seeing Lily, what? Three weeks? He'll be back with the next full moon, I'd imagine, and you know how one prank leads to another. You're being a bloody stupid git. You've both dated girls, even had girlfriends before, and it's not been fatal."
Sirius scowled at Remus. The "bloody stupid git" should have galled him, but from Remus it was just a calm statement of fact.
"I just..." Sirius stopped and reconsidered his words. "I convinced her to let him take her to the bloody Yule Ball. Feels like my fault all this happened. And Lily Evans isn't just another girl." Sirius scowled again as he stopped again to consider the exact effect Lily Evans was having on his best friend.
"You sound like you have a crush on Lily yourself," Remus said lightly.
"No! Of course not, I--" Sirius stopped, his cheeks flushing. "Aw, dammit."
"What is it?" Remus asked in his cheerful, unflappable way.
"Can you keep a secret?"
Remus considered this. "Not very well," he admitted. "After all, it took the three of you all of about a year and a half to figure out that I am a werewolf. I'd consider that an abysmal failure."
"I know you can keep a secret," Sirius huffed. "I was just saying that to let you know that this was a secret and therefore ought not be told."
"Oh, well, in that case, I'll make every endeavor to keep this one to myself," Remus promised, nodding solemnly.
"Well, good." Sirius frowned down at a spot on his robes. Had that been from lunch or as early as breakfast?
"Go on," Remus prodded assuringly.
"I, it's just...oh, it's stupid," Sirius despaired, shaking his head.
"Well, it's not as if I have any room to laugh," Remus reasoned, "and since it's a secret, I'll be the only one to know, so there's really no danger."
"I just...I kinda had a crush on James," Sirius said in a rush.
Remus nodded thoughtfully. "It's rather easy to develop a crush on James," he agreed. "I'd estimate half the school shares your plight."
"No," Sirius corrected. "I mean a crush. A real crush."
"Oh." Remus raised an eyebrow. "Like a romantic crush."
Sirius heaved a sigh and glanced heavenward. The stars were just starting to appear in the darkening sky and his eyes automatically scanned for his namesake.
"Well," Remus said after a moment of consideration. "I can understand that, too. I've certainly been in your place."
Sirius forgot about the sky and started to ask Remus who he'd had a crush on, but the thin boy was still talking.
"Was it a crush you'd ever planned on doing anything about?" he asked. "Did you have a plan?"
"Well, no." Sirus dared a glance at Remus, but the other boy might as well have been talking about Transfiguration homework as Sirius' lovelife. "I mean, he was my best friend. I thought I didn't have to do anything. We'd just always be together. Y'know, Sirius Black and James Potter, Pranksters Extraordinaire."
Remus was nodding again. He seemed to do a lot of that.
"So it wasn't really a romantic crush."
Sirius felt his face flush. "It was a romantic crush," he protested, as if his crush had to be classified as romantic in order to be taken seriously. "I just...what do you mean do anything? What would I have done?"
Remus shrugged noncommittally. "Snogging's usually considered an acceptable start."
"Snogging another guy?"
"It's not a romantic crush if you didn't at least think about it," Remus told him.
"Well..." Sirius felt his face flush hot. "I just figured it was something you thought about and didn't ever really do."
Remus looked puzzled.
"You're not telling me," he said, "that Sirius Black actually thought instead of acted?"
Sirius snorted. "Look, not that it's any of your business," he pointed out, summoning his flamboyant attitude back from the depths of its ruin, "but never having snogged a guy before, I wasn't quite sure how to go about it."
"And yet you were born snogging girls?"
"What are you trying to say, Lupin?"
Remus cleared his throat dramatically and executed a perfect imitation of a Muggle chicken.
Sirius jumped him.
Remus, with the shadow of wolf's reflexes, ducked the leap and casually dumped Sirius to the ground. He let Sirius pull him off the bench and roll over him...then let the larger boy's momentum carry them over again.
"All I'm saying," Remus said conversationally as he rolled off Sirius and sat in the grass, pulling his knees up to his chest, "is that you haven't lost James as a friend, no matter what."
Sirius sat up slowly, spitting out a mouthful of grass and dirt that Remus had somehow managed to inject. He ran a tired hand over his face and felt his bravado crumble.
"I was scared," he muttered. "I didn't want James to hate me or be afraid of me, or think he had to, I dunno. Return my feelings or anything."
"I know," Remus said softly.
"And I wanted it to mean something," Sirius went on, his voice choked. "And I figured I'd mess it up."
"Sirius, you prat," Remus snorted. "When have you ever messed anything up?"
But the silence stretched long between them, because they both knew exactly when Sirius had messed something up and how very long it had taken to even pretend it was right.
"Hey, Moony," Sirius asked, his voice so soft that only with the shadow of enhanced hearing Remus still possessed could he hear the dark-haired boy's words.
"You, um...Have you ever...? I mean...do you wanna kiss me?"
It hadn't come out quite how Sirius had expected and actually sounded rather stupid.
"After making you eat grass?"
Sirius felt himself flush again and found his temper rising. He hated being embarrassed and even though it was just Remus, who'd never say a word to anyone, the laughing rejection had burned deep in his heart.
"Ask me again later," Remus told him softly, instantly dissipating the rising fury inside Sirius. "The Great Hall will close before you've eaten." He reached down a hand to pull Sirius to his feet. "Oh, and Sirius?"
"What now?" Sirius sighed, anticipating the sting of another gentle lecture until he felt Remus' hand tighten around his own.
"James will always be your friend," Remus said for about the hundredth time that conversation. He looked up suddenly at Sirius, his eyes promising more than the simplicity of his words. Hands still twined, he added, "And so will I."
And for the first time, Sirius understood that maybe this wasn't the end of the world. Perhaps, not even a little bit.