James Potter liked to think of himself as a relatively good judge of character.
There was rarely a time that he met someone, and couldn't immediately tell whether or not he would get on well with that person. For example, regardless of the things one hears about the Black family, it had taken him less time than a train ride to school for him to put all of that aside and become friends with Sirius. He and Sirius became so close so quickly, people would have sooner believed they were brothers rather than Sirius and Regulus.
Similarly, the discovery that Remus Lupin was a werewolf never waved James' opinion of his friend. Remus was still Remus. He was one of the kindest, fairest and hilariously sarcastic people James had ever met. Not to mention he was a bloody genius when it came to pranks and figuring out loopholes in the rules to get away with said pranks. The fact that Remus, by no fault of his own, turned into a bloodthirsty beast once a month did not change any of that, so why should it affect James' friendship with him?
A lot of people were quick to judge Peter as well. Just because he wasn't as charismatic as Sirius and James or as quick witted and personable as Remus, other students seemed to write the smaller, pudgier boy off. James had taken to Peter nearly as quickly as he took to Sirius, though perhaps not as strongly. Peter was always the first to throw in an idea for a prank, no matter how small or simple it may be, but it often got the ball rolling for the other boys to make something bigger and better out of it. Peter also never minded taking the blame and serving detention, especially if James had a big game, Remus needed rest or Sirius was having a particularly rough time with his family and couldn't afford another letter home. Peter was a good friend, and James never once gave that a second thought.
Yes, James Potter could always tell when he was going to really enjoy the presence of another person in his life.
He could also tell when he was going to really, sincerely and deeply detest someone.
James Potter hated Severus Snape from the moment they had laid eyes on each other, and the feeling was most definitely mutual.
Of course, James and Sirius (and by extension, Peter and Remus) really tried to be equal opportunists when it came to who was being targeted with their usually harmless, if not a tad humiliating, jokes. Perhaps they did favor the Slytherins just a bit, but who could blame them? It was usually some form of retaliation for something one of Sirius' relatives had said or done or if they had seen or heard about a Slytherin bullying someone else. They liked to think of it as playing the part of karma.
But James couldn't deny that he got an extra thrill out of the pranks that singled out Snape, and he couldn't quite pinpoint exactly why. The greasy haired boy just radiated something dark. Sirius had told James about the run in he had had at the end of third year with Severus and Avery, and that hadn't been the first time that Severus' name had been attached to a story of shifty behavior. Plus, he was just simply a bother.
What really confused James though, was why Lily Evans was so determined to defend the slime ball.
"James Potter, you are a complete and utter toad's wart!" Lily Evans had barely made it through the portrait hole before she had spotted the boy and his friends. In seconds she had crossed the common room, wand raised and pointed at James who put both hands up in surrender.
"Merlin, Evans!" James took a step back, nearly knocking into the table where Remus and Peter had been playing gobstones, though the game had taken a temporary pause as they sat, gaping in shock at the outburst. "The bloody hell did I do to you?"
"Don't play stupid, Potter." Lily gritted her teeth. "I've just come back from the Hospital wing. You hexed Severus, again! He's covered from head to toe in boils. What is your problem?"
Behind her she heard Sirius snort with laughter on the couch where he and Marlene had been discussing weather or not David Bowie's new album was better than his last. Lily turned her wand on Black. "Don't think I don't know you had a part in this as well."
Sirius inched slightly closer to his girlfriend, eyeing Lily with slight apprehension. Lily turned back to James.
"Have you ever considered that maybe we had a reason to hex that git?" James defended angrily. "He and his friends are all part of that weird little Slytherin cult that have been picking on the muggle borns! Which, if you remember correctly, you are! He'd have a go at you as well if he didn't have some creepy little crush on you. So what, Evans? Are you just going to keep defending him until he finally turns on you as well?
Lily's glare faltered for a moment, but returned twice as fierce. She did, however, lower her wand. "Severus hasn't done anything to you or anyone else. He's my friend."
James shook his head, regarding the girl with complete disbelief. "You just keep thinking that, Evans. You know his friends are a rotten sort."
Lily let out a frustrated sigh and stormed off towards the girl's dormitory.
"Hey Evans!" James called after her. She stopped and looked over her shoulder. James smirked. "You're pretty hot when you're angry."
He just narrowly dodged the hex Lily threw at him before she stomped up the stairs and slammed the dormitory door.
Slowly the rest of the common room went back to their business.
"I should probably go and help cool her off." Marlene stood up, looking almost apologetically at James as she excused herself and followed her friend. James took her place on the couch beside Sirius.
"Completely mental, that one." He said, running a hand through his hair. Sirius didn't look up from the muggle rock magazine he and Marlene had been flipping through, but he nodded, eyes widening slightly in agreement.
"You did hex her best friend." Remus commented lightly while playing his turn at his and Peter's game. "What exactly did Severus do to bring this one about?"
James shrugged, folding his arms and resting against the back of the couch. "I'm sure I'll find a reason."
Remus sighed and shook his head, but he didn't deny James' claim either.
Sirius snickered as he turned the page of his magazine. "So when she said boils all over his body...does she mean like....all over? Like bullocks and all?"
James grinned. "Go big or go home. Isn't that you're rule, Sirius?"
"You're my hero, mate. Really."
James turned his gaze onto Sirius and watched him for a moment. Sirius didn't seem to notice, too enthralled with whatever he was staring at on the pages of his muggle book. "Hey Sirius, I've been meaning to ask...You and Mckinnon still...y'know...a thing?"
Remus and Peter glanced up from their game, also curious. It had been weeks since the start of semester, and Marlene had never once expressed concern with the fact that her boyfriend hadn't contacted her once during the summer. It seemed that the pair had simply decided to overlook it, but they also didn't seem as eager to run off to find a place to snog each other as they had been last year.
"Hmm?" Sirius muttered distractedly. "Er...yeah. Of course." He finally looked up and met James' eyes. "Why d'you asked?"
James shook his head. "No reason."
Sirius was trying to look on the bright side.
Marlene had been all too forgiving about his lack of correspondence. In fact, they never even discussed it.
He had stopped having strange dreams as well, which he supposed was good. But he still didn't feel the way he thought he ought to about his girlfriend.
Neither of them had initiated much physical contact since their return to school either. They just hung out and talked about music while Marlene tested out different styles of eyeliner on Sirius and tried to convince him that boys could wear nail varnish, which eventually Sirius caved into on the strict rule that he would only allow her to paint them black.
On occasion this would lead to some kissing and fooling around, but it got more and more sparse as the weeks went on.
It was on a brisk afternoon in early October that the two of them were in the stands, watching the Gryffindor Quidditch team practice that Marlene turned to him, heaving a great sigh.
"I have to talk to you about something." She looked nervous.
"Marls, I told you already that I don't think any less of you for thinking Jimmy Page is a better guitarist than Brian May. You're entitled to your wrong opinion." He smirked at her.
"No, it's not about that." Smiled a little and shook her head. "Although I really think you're completely bonkers for thinking so but- Never mind. That's...that's not what this is about."
Sirius watched, feeling his stomach tighten anxiously. "Is this about the summer? I know we didn't talk about it, but I-"
"Sirius, I'm gay."
Sirius choked. "You're what now?"
Marlene took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. "I met this girl while I was on hols in Australia with my family." She sighed and sat down on the bench behind her. "And one thing lead to another and I just sort of...realized." Her blue eyes looked up at him guiltily. "I should have said something sooner, but I wanted to be sure and...well, do you hate me?"
Sirius' mouth opened and shut several times, unable to make his voice form any sort of actual words for a moment. Finally he sank down onto the bench beside her. "That's stupid, Marlene."
Sirius rolled his eyes at her. "That I would hate you, idiot." He saw her relax. They were both quiet for a while, watching players zoom by on their brooms. "So...Did you like...love her or anything?" He asked.
She shook her head. "No, it was nothing like that." her hand slid over his as Dorcas flew by, waving shortly at them as she passed. Sirius heard Marlene's breath hitch.
"Oh." He said quietly.
"Yeah." Marlene breathed out. She rested her head on his shoulder. "I'm not...ready for anyone to know. But I wanted to tell you."
He pressed his lips to the top of her head and they watched the rest of the practice in silence, feeling more comfortable around each other than they ever had.
Once it was over, Marlene headed back to the castle and Sirius went down to wait for James by the boy's lockers. He was thinking about what Marlene had said, about just realizing suddenly.
He thought back to the day over the summer that he, James and Peter had sneaked into Mr. Potter's study and stolen a dirty magazine. James and Peter had both been in complete awe. Sirius had commented the way he figured he should; That witch's breasts, the other one's arse, and silly innuendos about his 'wand'...but he honestly could not have cared less.
He thought of all the times he had kissed Marlene.
And how different it had felt when he had kissed Remus during Truth or Dare.
He thought about those dreams.
He thought he should probably stop thinking.
Admitting he may be gay was one thing, but he wasn't quite sure he could handle the idea that he may be crushing on one of his closest friends.
After all, Remus was the only boy he had ever kissed, even if it was only a dare.
So it was probably just an automatic default to think of him...