James was lying on his stomach on the floor of the dormitory, the top half of his body submerged under his four poster, rummaging through crumpled papers and candy wrappers and making sure he wasn't missing anything that should be packed away to return home. Missing socks, broken quills-
"Oy, has anyone seen my broom polish?" He called to the other three boys.
"If you weren't such a bloody disaster you'd know where it was." Sighed Remus, closing his own fully packed trunk and crossing the room to James' bed. He opened the drawer on the other boy's bedside table and rolled his eyes, picking up the jar. He gave James a swift kick to the hip. "It was in your drawer, prat. Y'know, where it should be." He smirked as James wiggled his way out from the abyss that was under his bedframe.
"I checked there!" Insisted James, sitting up and taking off his glasses to clean off the thin layer of dust.
Peter chuckled, throwing balled up t shirts into his trunk hat he didn't feel like folding. "You need a better prescription on those specs, mate."
James grumbled some swears and flipped a finger at Peter as he tossed the the jar of broom polish into his own luggage. Peter had moved on to trying to force his overflowing trunk closed to no avail. James snorted. "Need help, Worm?" He walked over and inspected the boys belongings. "Haven't you heard of folding? You wouldn't have this issue..."
Remus shook his head at both of them and then looked to Sirius' bed. He frowned. The dark haired boy was sitting up against the headboard of his bed, hugging his knees to his chest and eyes looking vacant. With a quick glance back and James and Peter, who were both sitting on top of Peter's trunk it an attempt to keep it shut, he sat down beside his boy friend. At a closer inspection, he could see that Sirius' body was ridged and his nails, currently donning chipped black varnish, were digging into the skin on his arms. His breathing was shallow and quick. He was having a panic attack.
Remus quickly shut the curtains around them. "Padfoot?" Sirius didn't answer and Remus licked his lips nervously. "Sirius, it's okay." He tentatively reached out and touched Sirius' arm. "Hey, love...talk to me..."
"I can't go back." Sirius whispered.
Remus frowned. "Back where, Pads?"
"Home. I...I can't go home...." Sirius muttered shakily.
Not wanting to startle him when he was already panicking, Remus scooted a little closer. "Sirius, is it alright if I touch you? I just want to hold you...let me take care of you, love..."
Sirius nodded slowly and Remus gently pulled him into his arms and started stroking his hair. "Breathe, Padfoot...it's okay."
"I can't go back there, Moony-"
"Who says you're going back?" James had pulled back the curtain a bit. He sat on the edge on the bed. "You're coming home with me, you git."
Sirius closed his eyes, concentrating on his breathing. He shook his head. "Can't just stay with you forever, James-"
"Bullocks." James said firmly. "Come on, Padfoot. You think we would ever let you go back to that house? Don't be stupid." He smiled and put his hand on Sirius' knee. "Mum's already got your room all set up for you, mate. Stop thinking about it. You've got a home, Sirius. With me."
"Oh bloody fucker!" Peter yelled, making James, Remus and Sirius all jump.
"Peter is everything-" James made a face which both Sirius and Remus copied almost instantly as a rancid smell filled the air. "Damn it Wormy! I told you not to pack all that shit into your trunk that way! The dungbombs have gone off!" He groaned and got up to help Peter.
Remus gagged at the smell and picked up his wand to clear the air around Sirius' bed before he leaned back against the headboard, bringing a slightly more relaxed Sirius against his chest.
"See? Nothing to stress about, Pads." He kissed the top of his head. "We've got you."
Sirius couldn't be more thankful to The Potters, who continuously reassured him that it was no trouble at all and they were more than happy to have him. When he arrived at the house and dragged his trunk up the stairs to the guest room, he nearly fell over in shock.
The guest room had been completely transformed. What once had resembled a royal suite in a fancy hotel was now a bedroom much more suited towards a 16 year old boy. And more specifically, towards Sirius. Red and black curtains over the large bay window matched the sheets and bedspread on the plush, queen size bed and the walls were almost completely covered in posters featuring Queen, The Beatles, Iggy Pop and Bowie, with some room left to do as he pleased. And to top it all off, a large Gryffindor banner hung just over the headboard of the bed.
A hand on his shoulder broke him from his daze and he heard James chuckle. "Mum and dad wrote me last month to ask what you'd like. What d'you think?"
Speechless, Sirius stood there with his mouth agape gazing at sight before him and unable to process that this was all for him.
Finally composing himself, he spun around and flung his arms tightly around his best friend. "Thank you."
James laughed and hugged him back. "Welcome home, mate."
James and Sirius spent the first three days home rearranging the room, setting up Sirius' record player and covering every bit of spare wall in photographs of the Marauders, until finally Mrs. Potter had had enough of them blasting The Beatles (and singing off key) and sent them outside to enjoy the summer weather.
It took three full weeks before Sirius finally stopped uttering 'thank you's for every tiny thing James or his parents did. He couldn't help it. He felt like a stray dog that they had let in from the rain, but would tire of him once the novelty wore off and he tracked mud all over the carpets or something.
Once he finally stopped the urge to vocalize his gratitude, he decided simply to show it in other ways. He flat out refused to take advantage of the Potters' hospitality and kindness towards him, and had taken responsibility of half of James' chores, as well as asking Fleamont and Euphemia if he could help with anything whenever they were busy around the house.
"You're starting to make me look bad, mate." James joked with him one afternoon, sun tanning in the grass while Sirius organized the old shed for Mr. Potter while he was at work.
Sirius rolled his eyes as he pulled a large crate out from under a pile of lumber. "Look, I don't want to seem like some ungrateful brat who ran away from home just to mooch of your family, alright?" He took off his t shirt, using it to wipe the sweat and dirt from his face.
James brought himself up on his elbows. "Pads, we all know you're grateful. I'm just saying you don't have to go overboard. You're family, Sirius. Same blood, remember?" He lifted his hand, showing the faded white scar across his palm that matched the one on Sirius'.
Sirius smiled a little. "Yeah, mate. I know." He let out a puff of breath and stared down at the crate he had been struggling to open. "I think it's magicked shut. Merlin, I can't wait to turn seventeen. Reckon your mum's got something to pry it open with?"
James shrugged. "Maybe. Oy, if you're going inside, d'you think you could nick something cold to drink out of the kitchen? It's bloody hot."
"Lazy arse. You're just sitting there baking-"
James chuckled. "Oh man I wish we were baking...I miss Moony and his bloody weed. How many days til he comes out?"
Sirius smirked and rubbed the back of his neck. "Five." He licked his lips. "Five days, three hours and," he glanced up, calculating the position of the sun. "47 minutes."
James shook his head. "Ah, young love..." He laid back down. "Pathetic twats." He flung his arm over eyes to shield the harsh sunlight. "So yeah, something cold to drink. Oh! And see if you can weasel some treacle tarts out of Trinket! I'm starving."
Sirius rolled his eyes once again and headed back into the house towards the kitchen. He was startled to see that it wasn't only Trinket working at the stainless steel counter tops, but Mrs. Potter was also there, a flour covered apron tied around her waist and holding a large mixing bowl. She turned and smiled at him. "Hello Sirius. You boys enjoying yourselves?"
He smiled back. "Of course." His curiosity peaked, having never seen his own mother step foot in the kitchen, let alone bake something, and he stepped closer, craning to see what she was doing. She noticed and laughed softly.
"There's an annual ministry banquet tomorrow evening. Horribly boring, big to-do sort of event. Every year someone different hosts and, wouldn't you know it, this is our year." She sighed and shook her head as she continued to mix. "It's a large crowd and a lot of food and I'm not fond of making Trinket do it all on her own. I'd have rented a few extra elves, I may tomorrow to help serve, but I do enjoy doing the baking myself so..." She shrugged.
Sirius took another tentative step closer. "What are you making?"
"Nothing too fancy. Chocolate cake" She poured the batter into the pan and held out the spoon to him. "Here."
He frowned, confusion etched across his face. Euphemia laughed lightly. "You've never licked the spoon after baking?"
Sirius bit his lip, feeling rather sheepish. "Er...well...there wasn't much of that going on when I was a kid I suppose."
The smile faded just a little from Mrs. Potter's pretty face and she sighed, nodding to the wooden spoon that she still held out. Sirius took it from her and, feeling a little silly, licked the sweet tasting batter from it. He laughed and handed it back to her, feeling his cheeks heat up slightly as she smiled fondly at him.
"Sorry, dear. Did you need something?" She asked, sliding the cake pan into the oven.
Sirius blinked for a second, then remembered. "Oh! Er, yeah...well, James is being a lazy git and sent me to fetch drinks." He and Mrs. Potter both shared an exasperated look and she went to the fridge, pulling out two chilled bottles of butterbeer and handing them to him. "Also," He went on, "We found this big crate in the shed that won't open and I wanted to know if you had something to open it with?"
Euphemia looked thoughtful. "Hmm, must be a box of James' grandfathers things. I don't think there's anything too interesting in there but..." She rummaged around in a drawer for a second and handed him a key. "That will open anything as long as it hasn't got any extra security charms on it."
Sirius grinned. "Great, thanks mum-!" As soon as the words left his mouth, the color drained from his face and his eyes bulged. He blushed furiously and swallowed. He opened his mouth to stutter out some sort of humiliated apology, but before he could he found himself being pulled into tight, warm embrace by the woman. He relaxed and leaned against her, returning the hug and feeling, for the first time, like he was really home.
After a minute, Euphemia pulled back and kissed his cheek. "Go on, then. You mustn't leave James to die of dehydration out there." She laughed. Sirius smiled and nodded. "Right. Of course." She gave him a plate of freshly baked tarts and sent him back outside.
James had apparently grown tired of waiting and was floating in the lake by the time Sirius returned.
"Took you long enough." He grinned as he dragged himself out of the water in nothing but his boxers.
"I was talking to your mum," Sirius explained, uncapping a bottle of butterbeer and handing it off to him. "She was helping Trinket bake for some banquet tomorrow."
James groaned, plopping back down in the grass and taking a sip. "They're having it here? Fuck."
Sirius could understand the frustration. He was very familiar with High Class Wizarding events and just how stuffy and boring they could be. Of course he was sure a Ministry banquet at The Potters' wouldn't be nearly as dreary as any Pureblood Elitist gathering that The Blacks had ever forced him to attend. There was certainly a significantly smaller chance of anyone being hexed over the dinner table or that he'd be locked in his room for three days without supper for not wanting to kiss his Great Great Great Uncle's creepy ring, that he was absolutely positive was cursed (an ancient family heirloom that he was suppose to receive once the old man finally croaked...which each year seemed more and more likely. What was he? 208?)
He'd take a boring stuffy ministry dinner over a family reunion any day.
"So did mum say anything about that crate?" James asked, tearing him from his thoughts
"She said it's a bunch of your grandfather's things and it's probably nothing. But she gave me this," he held up the key. "Want to take a look?"
James shrugged. "May as well." He took a long swig from his bottle and got up, striding lazily over to the wooden crate with Sirius. They both inspected it curiously. There didn't seem to be a lock. "How is a key suppose to open something without a lock?" James frowned.
Sirius sighed and scratched his head. "Dunno...I mean, it is a magic key, isn't it? And it's been locked by magic. Maybe it works like a wand?" He sunk to his knees in front of the box and simply tapped the top of it with the iron key.
A warm yellow glow surrounded the crate and with a high pitched creaking sound the lid fell open.
"Of course it's that simple." James muttered, shaking his head.
Mrs. Potter had been right. It was mostly just old junk. There were several sets ancient looking dress robes that must have been fashionable at some point in history, but had clearly seen better days and were half moth eaten. Sirius found an entire set of fine china that seemed to have never even been touched.
"That's the whole point of fine china, isn't it?" James remarked. "You get it as a wedding gift from some old relative and you put it away and tell yourself you'll use it when you've got company, but then when company comes over, you're like 'oh no! Not the fine china!'...that's how you know you're finally a real adult, you've got this expensive fucking china you never use."
Sirius snorted and placed the delicate set aside carefully before plunging back into the crate. There were a bunch of old Prophet articles, including one, dated 10/31/1918 that featured Henry (Also known as Harry to friends and family) Potter's controversial views on the then- Minister of Magic, Archer Evermonde's decision to forbid the Wizarding Community from aiding Muggles during World War I.
Sirius was about to toss it away, but James grabbed it. "That's why my family didn't make it to the Sacred Twenty Eight." He said dramatically. "People reckoned we must have tainted blood somewhere if grandad was so intent on helping them."
Sirius rolled his eyes. "You're not missing out, trust me." He smirked. "You should frame that. Be glad you're not on that ruddy list."
James carefully folded the article and put it with his clothes to bring inside later. He pulled what looked like an old, round hatbox out of the crate and opened it. "Hey mate, take a look." Sirius scooted closer. There were some old photographs (James looked strikingly like his grandad. Right down to the wonky mess of hair), a decorative cigarette case, and old tobacco pipe. Sirius quickly snatched up the case and pipe and James raised an eyebrow.
"What? It's bloody cool." Sirius shrugged, pulling his cigarettes out of his back pocket and shaking them out of their carton.
James smirked. "I can't see you smoking a pipe, mate."
"It's for Moony." Sirius muttered defensively. James shook his head and Sirius threw his empty carton at him. "Moony'll like it! Stop being such a twat, Potter. Wait until you get yourself a relationship. I'm going to bloody torture you."
James laughed and held up his hands in surrender. "I'm only teasing you, sheesh. And yeah, Moons will definitely be into that. I always say he's an old man in a teenager's body."
Sirius gave him a sly grin. "You wouldn't be calling him an old man if you knew how brilliant he was at sucking c-"
"Alright, Alright! Too much!" The other boy shuddered and put his focus back on the crate. "Hmm...These are kind of cool." His top half disappeared almost completely as he dove back in, emerging with two identical, beautifully silver hand mirrors. He held one out for Sirius to see for himself and out of habit, Sirius recoiled. James frowned and Sirius shook himself.
"Sorry." He laughed nervously and cautiously reached out to take the mirror. "Just...In my family if something looks that old and that expensive it'll probably hex, curse or maim you on contact." He let out a breath as the mirror did none of the above.
James' eyes lit up and he made a funny little noise in his throat. Sirius knew that routine like he knew the back of his hand. James had an idea. "Out with it, Potter."
James grinned. "Alright, remember how we were talking about ways to contact each other when we're in different parts of the castle and the like?"
Sirius nodded slowly, not quite catching on, but James was practically bouncing.
"What about these? I'm sure we could charm them somehow! They're small enough that they'll fit in our pockets and-"
"Yeah, that'll show Evans how not conceited you are, carrying a mirror in your pocket." Sirius snickered. James leaned over and smacked him in the head.
"Fine, fuck you Black. I didn't hear any clever ideas from you on the matter. Though I hardly imagine giving you another way to gaze lovingly at yourself is the best idea either, you peacock."
"Oy!" Sirius punched him in the arm and the two spent the rest of the afternoon wrestling in the grass until Euphemia called them in for supper.
Sirius was standing in front of the full length mirror in his bedroom.
He grimaced at his reflection. "I hate dress robes." He muttered, tugging at his tie. He felt confined, trapped, he may as well be wearing a straight jacket.
There was a click and a flash and he spun around to see James cackling madly, holding his father's camera. "Aw you look so handsome though, Padfoot!"
Sirius growled and lunged at him. "You arse! Give me that!" He tackled the other boy onto the bed, hands reaching desperately for the photograph the messy haired boy had snapped.
"No way!" James laughed, fighting him off. "I'm sending it to Moony!"
"James!" Sirius whined as James wiggled out from under him and stood up on the mattress, holding the picture high above his head and well out of the much shorter boy's reach. Sirius huffed and folded his arms. "Shouldn't you be getting ready? Where are your dress robes?"
"Mine didn't fit right so mum's having Trinket alter a pair of dad's for me." He tapped Sirius on the head with the newly developed photo. "Some of us actually grow, you know."
"Haha, very funny. I'm short." Sirius deadpanned. Then he smirked and swiftly kicked his leg just behind James' knees, successfully knocking the boy off his feet. "I'll take that." He said smugly, snatching the picture from him and hopping off the bed. There was a knock at the door and Mrs. Potter entered with James' dress robe on a hanger. She sighed upon seeing both boys, breathless and mussed. She hung James' robes on the door.
"James, please. I've told you six times to comb your hair and Sirius," She shook her head and approached him, tutting in disapproval. Sirius felt himself blush as she fussed over fixing his robes and he heard James snickering. Euphemia used an anti-wrinkling charm on Sirius' robes. "Honestly, you're both nearly of age. Must I tell you not roll around in your good clothes?"
"He started it." Both James and Sirius muttered accusingly.
"Boys." She breathed in exasperation, fixing Sirius' tie. When she was satisfied, she gave him a warm smile and kissed his cheek before moving on to pester James about using Sleekeazy's to fix that mop on his head for the night at least, which James loudly continued to refuse.
Two hours and a bottle and a half of Sleekeazy's later, the boys were standing in the Potter's Grand Hall among the most influential and high standing members of the wizarding community.
"See?" James whispered as he plucked an hors d'oeuvre from the tray of a passing house elf. "Company's here...no one's using the bloody fine china. I'm telling you, Padfoot. We could hoc the entire set and buy ourselves brand new racing brooms and no one would ever notice they were missing..."
Most definitely a stuffy and exceedingly dull event, James and Sirius could think of about a thousand other things they'd rather be doing than being chatted up by pompous ministry folk who only seemed interested in their grades and if they were looking at jobs in office once they graduated.
"James and Sirius both have top marks, I assure you." Came the familiar voice of Albus Dumbledore from behind them, interrupting a toadlike woman who seemed to be quite partial to the color pink, judging by her robes. The headmaster laid a hand on each of their shoulders. "But I don't think politics are for either of these fine boys, Dolores."
The woman, Dolores, gave Dumbledore an unfavorable look and cleared her throat. "Well, Albus, I was merely suggesting. Times being the way they are these days, we need the best minds Hogwarts can offer, don't you think?" She had an eerily fake smile that made both James and Sirius want to force feed her a handful of dungbombs.
Dumbledore returned the smile, although his was quite a bit more pleasant. "Times being the way they are, Ms. Umbridge, I'd say the best minds Hogwarts has to offer would be best suited elsewhere." He squeezed both boys' shoulders. "Sirius, James, a word...?"
They both nodded wordlessly, thankful for a reason to step away from Dolores Umbridge, and allowed the older wizard to steer them away.
"Hem hem!" The obviously forced falsetto of a voice rang and Dumbledore turned only his head to address the woman. "Albus, while I have you here...I've been meaning to ask...I didn't see your name on the petition for the enforcement of halfbreed regulation laws?" She giggled girlishly.
James and Sirius' jaws both dropped, Sirius' fists clenched and he made a move to turn and face the squat little woman, a slew of clever swear words prepared to tumble out of his mouth, but the Professor's tightened grip on his shoulder warned him not to.
"That's correct, Dolores." Said Dumbledore casually. "You did not. Have a lovely evening. Boys? If you'll come with me..."
Dumbledore lead them into the next room and Sirius couldn't hold back his disgust any longer. "Who does that cow think she is?" He asked angrily, pushing a hand through his hair. "What petition? What laws are they trying to set against-"
Dumbledore calmly put a hand up to silence him. "Dolores Umbridge is a social climber who's been trying to work her way up to the top of the Ministry of Magic. She's part of a large percentage of officials who have very...conservative views-"
"Bullshit views is what they are." Sirius spat, visibly shaking now.
"How could you tell me to relax, James? That toad wants to set laws against Remus-!"
Dumbledore shook his head, fixing Sirius with a firmly reassuring stare. "Sirius, there are plenty of people fighting against the petition as well...In fact, there are plenty of people fighting against a lot of things the ministry is trying to do. I promise you, Remus will be just fine."
Not fully comforted by the headmaster's words, Sirius huffed in annoyance, but agreed to drop the subject just as Mr. Potter entered the room.
"Ah, Albus! How are you, Sir?" He smiled broadly and shook the older man's hand.
"Very well, Fleamont. Just having a word with James and Sirius." His blue eyes twinkled, flickering again to his students.
Fleamont grinned back. "Excellent, well, I'm sorry to steal them away from you Albus but there are some people I'd like to introduce them to."
Dumbledore nodded, humming pleasantly as he did. "Of course, Fleamont. I was actually just going to find that house elf with the sherry. Excuse me." He bid James and Sirius farewell and moved on into the hall.
Sirius's mind was still reeling from what that vile little woman had said even as he followed James' parents into the grand hall. What laws did she want to pass? What sort of regulations did they want to put on halfbreeds? Remus always talked about how difficult it would be to find a job after school. Sirius couldn't imagine what more they could possibly do.
"Sirius," James hissed, elbowing him in the ribs. "Oy. Pads!"
"What?" Sirius asked, dragging himself out of his thoughts.
James jerked his head to the left, in the direction of a grizzly looking man who was drinking from a flask. He had a fake leg and as they drew closer, Sirius could see he had one beady, dark eye and one large, round, electric blue one. "D'you know who that is, mate?" James whispered excitedly. He did know.
"Ah, Alastor!" Said Fleamont briskly. The scary looking man grunted in response, his blue eye spinning wildly before it landed on Mr. Potter.
"Fleamont. Pleasure of course." He nodded curtly to James' dad and then to Mrs. Potter. "Evening Euphemia. You've outdone yourself, dear."
"Thank you, Alastor." Said Euphemia as she ushered both James and Sirius ahead of her and her husband.
"Boys," Fleamont said with a smile. "This is Alastor Moody, head of the Auror department. Alastor, our sons; James and Sirius."
Sirius felt pride surge throughout his body like never before. He barely heard what anyone was saying around him even as he reached forward to accept Mad-Eye Moody's firm handshake. He could only hear Fleamont's words over and over in his head.
Our sons; James and Sirius.
This was his family.