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Fic: Where Loyalties Lie
mwpp
liebesfic
Title: Where Loyalties Lie
Author: liebedance
Pairing: James, Sirius, Peter, and Remus. From James POV
Rating: PG/PG-13
Word Count: about 5,700
Warnings: Lots of angsty!James
Summary: Sirius' betrayal almost tears them apart. Peter is confused, Remus is hurt, and James has never been more angry in his life.
Author's Notes: Written for imagined_away finally, several months after she requested it. This technically fits within KKverse, but you absolutely don't have to have read Kin and Kisses to understand this at all. Thanks to H for the beta and help.



The first thing that James notices when he wakes up is the throbbing pain on the left side of his head. Eyes still closed, he lifts his hand and feels the knot right above his ear. The light brush of his fingertips makes him wince, and it's with this sudden stab of pain that he realises where he must be, and why.

He opens his eyes and, blinking, reaches for his glasses. In the back corner of the room is a screen, shielding a bed from sight. Sudden and intense curiosity strikes James. For some reason – a reason unknown even to himself – it's very important that he sees the person in the hidden bed.. He's about to get up, about to go over and investigate, when Madam Pomfrey walks out of her office.

"Awake, then, are you?" she asks.

James nods, ignoring the ache in his head as he starts to get up.

"I don't think so, Potter," Madam Pomfrey says, hurrying over to push him back down onto his bed. "I'd like you to stay here for a while. You suffered a significant concussion last night, and I want to make sure that your arm has set properly."

Last night. These words bring a surge of memories to the forefront of his consciousness. Of Sirius' account of how he'd been goaded by Snape, how Snape's hurtful words had led him to hint at where Remus went every month and of how to get past the tree. Of sprinting from the dormitory, through the common room, and across the grounds to the Whomping Willow. Of the look of horrified comprehension on Snape's face, the paralyzing fear that had gripped the slimy git. Of seeing Remus so un-Remus-like, so uncontrollable. Of being hit over the head by the angry tree. And then, nothing.

"How'd I get here?" he asks.

"It seems that one of your friends found Dumbledore, told him where you'd gone," Madam Pomfrey answers as she inspects his arm. "The Headmaster showed up with you on a stretcher and Severus Snape in tow. He informed me that you'd had a run-in with the Whomping Willow and asked if I could please see to your health while he had a conversation with Mr Snape. Why on Earth you would mess with that tree is beyond me. It's been off-limits for years now, not that I should be surprised that that didn't stop you-"

"How's Remus?" James interrupts. He's heard enough and can guess the rest. He realises who must be in the bed behind the screen."Is he okay?"

"Mr Lupin with be fine."

"Let me see him," James demands. He realises, now, what almost happened the night before. And with this realisation comes the burning hot anger, the fire born of ultimate betrayal.

"I don't know if that is the best idea," she answers, looking at him warily.

"Let me see my friend," James says through clenched teeth. He needs to see for himself that Remus is okay, that no lasting damage had been caused by Sirius' idiocy. He glares at her, daring her to deny his request.

"Fine," she agrees after a moment of consideration. "But don't wake him. He only just arrived a few hours ago, and Merlin knows the poor boy needs his sleep."

James doesn't respond but, rather, gets out of bed quickly and walks over to the screen. He can imagine what Remus looks like, and finds himself almost scared to see it for himself. But it's Remus, and Remus needs him. With that thought, James swallows and pushes back the curtain. His rage subsides at once, pushed away by terror and concern.

Remus is lying on his back, asleep and so still that James is almost afraid that he's dead. He could be, from the paleness of his skin, the stark contrast of blossoming bruises and fresh cuts. If it wasn't for the ever-so-slight rise and fall of his chest, James would call Madam Pomfrey over just to make sure. He looks so little and innocent, nothing like the fifteen-year-old studious prankster James is used to and certainly nothing like the blood-thirsty wolf from the night before. James has seen him hours after the full many times, when he and Sirius and Peter would sneak to the hospital wing to visit him. But this is the first time he's seen Remus looking so small and broken. And James knows that the smell of human blood – his and Snape's blood – the night before riled the wolf.

As soon as he recognizes this, comprehension dawns on him. Sirius is responsible for the scent that provoked the wolf, is responsible for Remus' current condition. James' rage returns, stronger than before. Sirius, their best friend, had all but given away Remus' deepest secret, had almost destroyed Remus' life. James turns and begins to walk towards the door, ignoring Madam Pomfrey's exclamations that he isn't to leave.

He doesn't care that he has a concussion or that his arm is still stiff. He doesn't care that he's wearing a pair of the hospital wing's striped pyjamas. He doesn't notice the odd looks he gets from the students he passes on the way back to Gryffindor Tower. Only two things are present in his mind: he is going to find Sirius Black, and he is going to kill him.

--
James is prepared to search the castle high and low to find Sirius. But, he doesn't have to look that hard. When James storms into the fifth year Gryffindor boys' dormitory to get his cloak, he sees the boy sitting on his bed.

Sirius' head is in his hands, elbows on his knees. James doesn't think he's ever seen him so upset; it's as though he's trying to curl in upon himself. And, for a moment, James almost forgets that he's indescribably angry, that he's decided only moments before that he's going to kill the boy. He feels the momentary urge to rush over to the bed, place his hand on Sirius' shoulder, and ask which Slytherin is deserving of which hex.

But this reprieve from the rage is brief, and it dissipates as soon as Sirius lifts his head.

"James..." he starts, and goes to stand up.

But before Sirius has fully straightened himself, James has moved. He closes the space between them in three large strides. And, staring straight into Sirius' cold, grey eyes, James pulls back his fist and punches his friend as hard as he can.

"You fucking selfish bastard," James spits out. Before Sirius can get another word out, before he can even overcome the physical response to the blow, James turns on his heel and storms out of the room.

"That selfish bastard," James repeats to himself once he is in the corridor outside of the dormitory. He closes his eyes and rests against the cool stone. On his way from the hospital wing he'd wanted to kill Sirius, but now he can't even stomach the thought of looking at him long enough to thoroughly beat him to a pulp.

James runs his hand through his hair in anger. It's disgusting, what Sirius did. And James can't even begin to imagine what could have possibly possessed Sirius to so blatantly betray their trust. It is their biggest secret – bigger, even, than their current attempts to become Animagi – and a secret they'd sworn years ago to protect. It had been what brought them together and they'd refused to let it tear them apart. And now, James thinks, Sirius has done just that. He's brought everything to shambles.

"James?"

Peter's voice causes James to jump. He hadn't heard the door open, hadn't heard Peter's footsteps. But, then again, Peter has always been surprisingly quiet in his movement, and James had expected no one – save, perhaps, Sirius – to follow him. He hadn't, he realises now, even noticed that Peter had been in the room before.

"Hey, Worm," James says, letting out a slow breath and turning to face his friend.

"Don't call me that," Peter says for what seems like the billionth time. "I don't transform into a worm."

"You don't transform into anything," James spits out. He sighs, realising the harshness in his retort. "But, I guess none of us do. I still've only got the ruddy antlers. Sirius just gets... Fucking bastard."

"He's sorry, you know," Peter says quietly, taking a tentative step towards James.

"He should be," James replies. "He betrayed us, Pete. He betrayed Remus."

"He didn't mean to," Peter tries again. When James doesn't respond, he continues. "You know how he gets, sometimes. Speaks before he thinks, hexes before he looks. He didn't mean for-"

"Didn't mean for what?" James interrupts, straightening up and glaring at Peter through his glasses. "Didn't mean for Snape to almost die? Because, for some reason, I don't think that Snape living is very high on his priority list."

"Didn't mean to hurt Remus," Peter answers.

"Well, he did," James replies shortly. "I've never seen him so bad, Pete. Not that one time when he was already ill or when he was so upset about his Grandpa dying. Never. Do you know why?"

"The scent?" Peter offers, and James nods. The two of them stand in silence for a while, Peter shuffling his feet nervously, James glowering at the wall, jaw clenched and hands fisted in the pockets of his pyjamas.

"He's going to be punished, Sirius is," Peter resumes after several minutes. "He didn't even try to fight it. Right after you left, he went straight to Dumbledore's office, told him what'd happened. 'Parently, Dumbledore went to go find you and Snape, ordered Sirius to stay put. When they got back, the three of them talked, and Dumbledore got the whole story. Both sides – you know how he is."

Peter pauses. James is still glowering at the wall, his face contorted with rage. But he hasn't interrupted Peter, not yet.

"Well," Peter continues, "Snape got two weeks of detention, and Dumbledore made him swear not to tell anybody. He had to swear - at risk of expulsion or something – to not say anything about Moony or you or last night. And Sirius's been suspended, – two weeks, too. He's leaving soon, I think."

"He should've been expelled," James mutters.

"He made a mistake," Peter argues.

"That's not a bloody mistake, Peter," James exclaims. "Why can't you get that? It's not a mistake or a prank. It's not funny. What did we swear? What did we promise? That we'd be brothers, that we'd never hurt each other. "

"Sirius says Snape said something about Reg," Peter interjects.

"Bugger Snape!" And James is yelling now. He knows he shouldn't be, but he can't help it. It's as though something has taken over his brain and his forcing his thoughts out. "Bugger whatever Snape said and bugger Regulus. You don't break promises to your friends. And you don't use them either."

"But, Sirius-"

"No, Pete," James cuts him off again. "That's what he did, and you know it. He used Remus to get back at Snape. He broke trust – almost ruined Remus' life – to one-up Snape. Don't make excuses for him. There's no excuse. Just... I need to... I'm going out."

James turns away from Peter and starts down the staircase, through the common room, and out into the corridor.

--

It's been over a week since Sirius left Hogwarts for his two-week suspension, and James finds himself, once again, in the library with Remus. It's just the two of them, today, as Peter is serving detention for snogging a fourth year in an empty classroom. But James doesn't really mind. If Peter were here, there would be a lot more talking and goofing off and a lot less revising. While that wouldn't usually be a problem – hell, it'd usually be welcome – James needs the distraction of his schoolwork. He's discovered that if he forces himself to cram information about goblin rebellions and counter-charms into his mind, his rage and turmoil are almost forced out. It almost prevents him from thinking about Sirius.

And that's another reason that James is secretly – and ashamedly – glad that Peter is in detention. Peter has been trying – without cessation – to convince James to forgive Sirius. James has found himself subject over and over to Peter's explanations of Sirius' reasons, of his guilt, of that fact that he and Sirius are brothers. But Peter just doesn't understand, James thinks. It isn't that James doesn't want to forgive Sirius, to forget what happened. Because, Merlin, he does. He misses his best friend, and hates being angry with him. But it sickens him to know what Sirius did, to think about what the consequences could've been. The image of Remus laying in the hospital wing burns in James' mind, and it could have been so much worse.

James looks up from his barely-started essay on Silencing Charms. Remus is scribbling away as he reads from his Charms text, and James thinks he must be taking notes. He doesn't really understand this study habit of Remus' – why take notes from the text when you get the same information from class? – but it's just something that Remus has always done. Remus goes to class and does his homework, even when he's ill – something that happens far too often, even when the moon isn't full. It's moments like these, when Remus is working away, face drawn and pale, that James really despises the fact that his friend is a werewolf.

"I'm sorry," James says before he can stop himself.

Remus ceases his scribbling and looks up at James, half-exasperated.

"Whatever for?" Remus asks, though James suspects that he knows exactly what the apology is for. They've had this conversation at least once a day since the… the incident.

"For Sirius," James answers.

"I've told you," Remus says, "it's not your fault. You're not the one who messed up. That was Sirius, not you."

"I know," James replies, his voice quiet.

"No, actually," Remus counters, placing his quill on the table and crossing his arms firmly across his chest, "I don't think you do know that. I think that you've spent so long being Sirius' best friend – being Sirius' other half – that sometimes you forget where the line between the two of you is. 'Prick Black, Potter bleeds' is what they say, isn't it? And it's true; I would know. So, I think that that is what's going on. You have some stupid idea that you ought to carry at least half the blame for Sirius' idiocy."

"I do not," James argues, but he refuses to look at Remus, opting to stare idly at his quill instead. Though he's never thought it in so many words, James realises that Remus has hit on something remarkably true. And, if he's completely honest with himself, this guilt does have a role in continuing to fuel his anger.

"You do," Remus maintains, and James wonders if Remus has read his mind. "You do, and I wish you wouldn't. It will destroy you, James. Everything is completely messed up with Sirius. I can't... I don't want to lose you, too."

James raises his eyes again to meet Remus'. For a moment, he looks like the lost little boy James met on the train so many years ago – scared and unsure of the world. It's an expression he'd hoped to never see again on his friend's face, an expression that he and the other two Marauders had vowed to rid him of.

"You won't lose me, Moony," James assures him. There's a moment of silence before he cracks a grin and elbows his friend gently in the side. "Now, which books did you say would give me the information I need? And how did you say I should start?"

"Honestly, James," Remus says with a sigh, and James is glad that the expression has left his face, "When are you going to learn to write an essay without my help?"

"When are you going to stop helping?" James shot back. And, as Remus begins explaining for the second time which chapter of the textbook contains the needed information, James is almost able to push Sirius and any Sirius-related guilt from his mind.

--

"What am I supposed to say?"

James turns on his bed so that he is facing Peter. The shorter boy is looking at him anxiously, furrowing his brow and biting his bottom lip.

"What are you supposed to say when?"

"Tomorrow," Peter answers, "you know, to Sirius. He comes back tomorrow."

"Say whatever you want to him, Wormy," James answers, casting a quick glance at Remus.

Remus doesn't say anything, doesn't make any acknowledgement that Peter spoke. He just continues to lay on his bed, staring at the ceiling with a pensive look on his face.

"But, I mean," Peter continues, "am I supposed to ignore him? Am I supposed to be cross with him? Do you want me to be cross with him and ignore him?"

"Do whatever you want, Peter," James repeats, sitting up so that he was fully facing his friend. "I'm not in charge of you, of what you do."

"I know," Peter replies, "but..."

"I'm not going to stop being your mate just because you are chatty with Sirius," James says. "It's up to you whether you want to ignore him or be angry with him. Just think about the type of people you want as friends."

Peter doesn't answer, just continues worrying at his bottom lip. James gets up and starts pacing, back and forth, across the dormitory. And Remus continues to stare at the ceiling above his bed in silence.

--

James has been at the Quidditch pitch ever since Sirius returned to Hogwarts. Some part of him knows that he's being immature and cowardly, but he doesn't want to deal with Sirius, not yet. He is afraid of what his reaction might be, that he'd either kill him or forgive him on the spot. And despite the fact that James is still positively livid, he doesn't want Sirius to die, not anymore. The stupid, betraying prat is still his best friend. And that's why James is worried about going against his principles and forgiving him. And so, James is out here, avoiding the situation all together, trying not to think about werewolves or betrayals or idiotic best friends.

"James?"

As though summoned by James insistence to not think about him, Sirius appears. He's just feet away, James can tell. And he sounds strange – afraid? – and nothing like how Sirius is supposed to sound.

"What?" James demands, not looking up.

"I've been looking for you for ages," Sirius answers. When James doesn't respond, he continues. "Look, James, I'm sorry. Okay? I'm sorry and I fucked up and I feel horrible. But I'm sorry."

"I'm not the one you should be apologising to," James says after a moment. He wants to look at him, wants to go over and embrace Sirius like the brothers they are and tell him it's okay. But it's not. And it takes almost all of James' resolve to stay put and continue to stare determinedly at the goal posts.

"I tried," Sirius admits, "but he wouldn't say anything. He ignored me. I tried, but he wouldn't accept it."

"I don't blame him," James replies. "You used him, Sirius. You used him for your own selfish purposes."

"I know," Sirius says, and James notices that he doesn't even try to defend himself, explain his actions.

"I know you hate Snape," James continues. "I hate Snape, too. But your loyalty to your friends should be stronger than your hate for your enemies. But yours wasn't. You ruined the trust we have, Sirius. You could've ruined Remus' life. And when he forgives you for that, find me. And maybe then I'll accept your apology. Until then, I don't want anything to do with you."

Sirius doesn't say anything. And by the time James turns to look at him, to gauge his reaction, he's gone.

--

For James, the next week passes in much the same fashion as the previous two. He goes to his lessons and sits with Remus or Peter or sometimes with his Quidditch teammate, Mary McDonald, and quietly takes notes. He doesn't start food-fights in the Great Hall or jinx innocent passersby in the corridors. He spends his time with Remus and Peter, mostly, and never with Sirius. The only difference, for James, is that Sirius Black is actually present within the walls of Hogwarts, attending classes and eating meals.

Quite often, James finds himself in the same room as Sirius. And yet, no disturbances are made, no calamities caused. He can feel Sirius' eyes on him, but James adamantly refuses to make eye contact. Because, if he did, it would be so easy – too easy – to slip into a silent conversation or flash the familiar mischievous grin. Instead he stares straight ahead at the wand motions that Professor McGonagall is writing on the board, copying them down diligently.

"Now, that's all the theory you'll be expected to know on Vanishing spells," Professor McGonagall says as class comes to an end. "We'll be starting the practical application on Tuesday, so I would strongly advise you all to review the theory carefully." The bell rings, and Professor McGonagall nods to indicate that they are dismissed.

"Potter, a word," she calls out as James picks up his bag and turns to leave the classroom.

He nods at Remus and Peter to go on without him and turns to face the professor. She's eyeing him with a slight frown on her face and expression James isn't quite sure he's seen before. She doesn't seem angry – no, that James would recognize – and he can't think of anything he'd done to merit a detention.

"Yes, Professor?" he asks, looking at her with slight trepidation.

"Are you," she starts, and James can't help but feel as though she's forcing the words out. "Are you quite alright?"

"I'm... I'm fine," James answers slowly, unsure as to how he should respond to this unfamiliar McGonagall. "Is there... is there any reason you ask?"

"You've been paying remarkable attention in class," she replies.

James blinks. "Isn't that what I'm supposed to do?"

"It's what a student is expected to do, yes," Professor McGonagall concedes. "However, I'm quite sure that in the four years I've taught you, you've never once considered yourself to be subject to that expectation. And, to be honest Mr. Potter, despite your extensive note-taking, I've never seen you perform worse in my class."

"Of course," she continued before James had a chance to speak, "I am well aware of what passed between yourself and Mr. Black and Mr. Snape. I'm also aware that this incident seems to have caused some animosity between yourself and Mr. Black. Am I correct?"

"Yes, Professor," James responds.

"I trust that you are aware of the stirrings in our world, of the dangers. I would advise you to not separate yourself from those who have proved to be good friends."

"But, Professor," James starts before he can stop himself, "He betrayed us. What he did was wrong. Surely you agree."

"I do not condone his actions, Potter," McGonagall snaps, looking at him fiercely. "But I will tell you this. I have never once doubted Mr. Black's placement in my house."

James looks at her fierce gaze, meeting it almost with a glare of his own. He knows what she is getting at, what her words mean. Sirius is not like his family. She's trying to get him to see that Sirius is not a bad person, James thinks. And, in all honesty, the thought that his best friend was one of them never crossed his mind. There are many things that James has charged Sirius with over the past three weeks – betrayal, selfishness, stupidity – but not one of them is malevolence.

"Neither have I, Professor," James says back, a definite air of defiance in his voice.

--

Professor McGonagall's words echo through James' mind as he makes his way through the castle corridors and up to Gryffindor tower, muddling his own thoughts. He's still angry, but not with the same burning rage that filled him before. He almost wishes it would come back, would possess him as it had that morning he woke up in the Hospital Wing. Because, in anger, everything is clear. And, now, nothing is clear, he doesn't know what he wants, or what he should want.

"Hey, James, there you are," Peter says, pulling James from his thoughts.

James blinks and looks around. Somehow he's made it to the seventh floor, though he doesn't quite remember getting there.

"What'd McGonagall want?" Peter inquires, looking at James with a curious expression.

"She just wanted a few words, is all," James answers. It isn't as though he doesn't want Peter knowing what their Head of House said to him. He just really doesn't want to have another conversation with Peter about Sirius.

"Oh, you're not in trouble, then," Peter says, a slight smirk playing on his lips. "Moony was afraid you were in trouble for something. Class let out over forty minutes ago."

"Why, in Merlin's name, would I be in trouble?" James retorts.

"Other than the fact that you're James Potter?" Peter quips. When James nods, the shorter boy continues, "Oh, I don't know. But I told Moony that it's because you've been complete rubbish at Transfiguration this week."

"Have I really?" James asks, sighing. He really hadn't noticed, but McGonagall had. And so, apparently, had Peter.

"Mate, I've been better than you," Peter answers with a slight wince.

"Well, you're not complete rubbish at it," James tries, but Peter just shakes his head.

"Oh, come off it," Peter says with a small laugh. "The only reason I can do anything of... what we're doing... is because you and Sirius... Oh, sorry..."

"It's fine," James replies with a sigh. "Look, I was actually meaning to find Remus. Do you know where he is?"

"Yeah, actually," Peter responds. "I'm supposed to be looking for you right now. Dunno why he couldn't look for you himself, but, you know. He's up in the dormitory."

"Okay, thanks," James says, clapping Peter on the shoulder. "I'd best get up there, then. You know how Moony is when he has to wait."

"Yeah," Peter agrees. "I think I'm gonna run to the kitchens. I'll bring you back something."

"Sounds good," James says with a nod before giving the password to the Fat Lady and climbing through the Portrait Hole.

--

"Pete said you wanted me?" James asks as he walks into the dormitory and drops his bag at the foot of his bed.

"Sirius apologised again," Remus says without preamble, setting down the book he'd been reading and looking at James solemnly.

"Oh," James responds, not knowing what else to say, and not wanting to react until he knows how Remus feels about this.

"I forgave him."

"You did?" James exclaims, more shocked than anything. "Why?"

"Because he's Sirius," Remus answers. "Because he's been my best mate for years and stuck by me despite the fact that he was raised to think the worst of what I am. He's the one who convinced me to let the three of you go along with your idiotic animagus plan. He's been there for me as much as you and Peter, despite everything."

"Despite everything? How can you forgive him after he used you like that?" James demands. "Aren't you angry with him?"

"Livid, actually," Remus replies. "But... You don't understand, James. You can't understand. The three of you are the only friends I've ever really had, the only people who have accepted me despite the fact that I'm a monster. No, James, I know you don't think of it that way. But it's true. To the rest of the world, it doesn't matter what I am twenty-eight days of the cycle; everything I am – everything I can be - is contingent on one night. But you and Peter and Sirius, you're different. And I can't just throw that away."

James doesn't say anything. Again, he doesn't know what to say. A part of him – quite a large part of him – knows that Remus is right, much as he is loathe to admit it. And Remus' forgiveness really ought to mean that James should forgive their friend, too. Because, despite the fact that James himself was hurt, it's really not about that. It's about Remus.

"He's really sorry, you know," Remus continues after a moment. "It's killing him, James. He was... he was actually crying when he apologised to me. Crying, James. Sirius never cries, not even that time in first year when he broke his arm in three places. He said he doesn't deserve to be forgiven, that he probably deserves to die."

"He doesn't deserve to die," James says quietly.

"Well, you know that," Remus replies, "and I know that. But Sirius? I don't think he knows that. He knows what he did is wrong. And me forgiving him, yeah, that counts for something. But you're his best friend, James. He needs you to forgive him."

"But he-"

"I know what he did," Remus interrupts. "But you don't leave your friends, right? Isn't that what you always say? I've forgiven him, and I know you want to forgive him, too. So stop tearing yourself up over it, and go find him."

James stares at Remus for a moment, thoughts whirling and crashing in his mind. And after a few of the most agonizingly long seconds he's yet experienced, James makes a decision. With a quick nod at his friend, he turns and runs out of the room.

--

James has no idea where Sirius is. He's checked the kitchens, all the secret passageways out of the castle, empty classrooms, and even the astronomy tower. When he's checking the back stacks at the library, James realises that he's being incredibly daft. Sirius wouldn't be sulking alone in the castle, and especially not in the library. The only problem with this realisation is that James still has no idea where Sirius is.

With a sigh, James leaves the library, resigned to talk to Sirius later, maybe after supper. But instead of turning left out of the library and heading to Gryffindor Tower, James goes right, towards the Entrance Hall. He needs to be outside, away from the suffocating walls and the curious stares. And as James leaves the castle and the cold October air hits his skin, he has a sudden insight. He knows where Sirius is.

It was kind of stupid for him to not think of it at first, James reflects as he makes his way across the grounds towards the Whomping Willow. Sirius – intentional or not – always has had a rather direct way of dealing with things. When he's upset, he does his best to brood as close to the subject of his angst as possible.

Soon enough, James can see Sirius' form in the distance, dwarfed by the giant, thrashing Whomping Willow, and he quickens his pace. For all his earlier reluctance to speak with Sirius, or even to look at him, James doesn't want to put things off any longer.

"Sirius," he calls out as soon as he's close enough. The boy turns, and James looks at him - really looks at him - for the first time in three weeks. He's paler than James remembers, and slightly thinner. There's a dark, fathomless look in his grey eyes, one that reminds James too much of how he looked the first months of First Year.

"James?" he asks, his voice uncertain.

"You're a prat," James bursts out before he can stop himself. That isn't how he intended to start this conversation, but Sirius just nods slowly, and so James continues. "You're selfish and you broke the most important promise we've ever made and you used our best friend as a means to your own ends."

"You think I don't know that?" Sirius asks quietly. "Did you come out here to pound this into my head again? Do you think I don't feel bad enough about this without you coming in and being all... you!"

"I'm not done," James says, looking Sirius hard in the eyes. "You didn't only hurt Remus. And, even though this should be about him, you hurt me, too. You broke my trust, made me feel guilty for something I didn't even do! Because, according to Remus, I have a hard time separating the bloody line between the two of us." He pauses and looks at Sirius' surprised expression before continuing, "Sirius, what you did was wrong."

"I know," Sirius agrees. "I'm-"

"What you did was wrong," James cuts him off, "But you're not a bad person."

"Maybe I am," Sirius argues. "Maybe I'm just like the rest of them. Born and raised... maybe I just can't be anything but a Black. Maybe-"

"Bollocks," James interrupts again. "You may be a sodding Black, but you're not one of them, Sirius. They're not your family. We are – me, Remus, and Peter. And that isn't going to change because you made a mistake. You don't betray your friends – your family. But, I guess, if I don't forgive you, then I'm kind of doing that myself, aren't I?"

"It's different," Sirius insists. "I don't deserve to be forgiven. Not by Remus, not by you..."

"Everybody deserves a second chance," James replies, his voice quiet but firm. "It's not going to be easy, fixing that trust. But I think we can do it."

"You're really forgiving me?"

"Yes."

"Really?"

"Yes," James says, a small smile playing on his lips. "Now stop questioning it before I change my mind."

"You missed me," Sirius replies, grinning himself. "All this rubbish about Moony and family, and it's really just that you missed me."

"Not at all," James responds, shoving Sirius lightly, "I miss having someone to mess around in class with. I am really sick of taking all those bloody Transfiguration notes."

The two boys quiet. There's not much more to say, James knows, even though so much is still unsaid. But, standing here with Sirius, looking at the angry tree move against the wind, James also knows that things will be okay.

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Ooh, I can't wait to read this!! But it is a bit too late now, so I will certainly be back when I do... :D

Okay I cannot promise that half of this review will not be me squeeing. Because I'm smiling like a fool just looking at this!

Oh this is not gonna be pretty once James gets out of that hospital wing.
Jesus James is going to beat the shit out of him. And I can't say he doesn't really deserve it. I'd want to kill him too.
By 5th year weren't they Animagi? Or was that later in the year?

Oh dear now I feel bad for everyone. Because Sirius really deserved that punch, but I'm willing to bet this is one of those things that the second you do it, you wish you could take it back.
Ahhhh they're currently becoming Animagi. I see :)

Peter, in the current loss of Remus, it's good to know that someone in this friendship can still be the voice of reason.
It also a sign of just how sorry Sirius is that he went straight to Dumbledore and told him what happened. Sirius has got to be just about slamming his head into walls right now.

Jesus, going back to his parents house has got to be the biggest punishment Dumbledore could give Sirius.

James, part of being brothers means that you forgive them even when they do something completely and utterly stupid. You don't have to forgive enemies, but you do have to forgive your best friends.

Remus is right. James is being ridiculous of course but trust Remus to see what the problem is.
I can't even imagine how upset Remus must be. Sirius did something completely stupid, James is trying to make it his fault, Peter's trying to get James to calm down and poor Remus is just trying to keep going. I can't imagine how upset he must be and he's still being the most rational one.

James, making Peter feel guilty, which is exactly what you're doing by the way, isn't fair at all.

Are you seriously going to wait for Remus to decide it's all okay before you forgive Sirius. I know you're pissed at the moment, Sirius is going to need a friend until Remus does come around.

Okay, when McGonagall of all people is telling you it's time to forgive Sirius. it's time to forgive Sirius. Really.

Even Remus has forgiven him now. He was crying James. You can't expect to be angry for ever even if that feels like it would be easier. That's not how friendship works.

Aww I love the conversation at the end!
I'm really glad that Remus convinced James to talk to Sirius because someone has got to convince him he's not an awful person and James is definitely the person to do that.

Thank you so much for writing this, Leah! <3 It's everything I hoped for and more. This was amazing. I seriously can't say thank you enough. I love the whole thing!
...this comment is disgustingly long. Sorry!

I'm so glad that you liked it! And I love the long comment <3

Angsty Jaaaaames! <3 I'm a sucker for it and I love this bit of writing. It's rare to see things from James' POV when it comes to this event and I really enjoyed it.

I've also not read many fics' where they've been blind angry at Sirius, so it's interesting to see. I also love how you've portrayed James as such a feirce friend, too. The relationships between the Marauders is very intense and different between them. Good job!

:]

Thank you!!

For some reason, my head!canon has always had James absolutely livid about this, for reasons I tried to explore in this fic. So, I'm glad that you liked it. I also absolutely hate when Peter gets left out, so I wanted to show that Peter and James were good friends, too.

yes, YES! I completely agree with you about Peter. I always make a conscious effort to add him into my writing about the Marauders, so good job there :]

I've always pictured Remus as being quite forgiving of Sirius... after a while of silent treatment. Sirius -is- like a dog, you can't stay mad at him. XDD;

Yeah. I agree about Remus. I think that the level of appreciation for friends that he has outweighs the hurt that he has. Though, it doesn't actually heal for a while. He believes that Sirius betrayed Lily and James, right? He probably thought back to this instance when thinking about how he could've missed it.

I've thought about these four way too much, in case you can't tell.

Haha, it's okay, I spend half my life procrastinating the inner workings of Sirius, James, Lily and others.. xD

I think that Remus and Sirius, as much as they do care about each other will always have this shadey area of distrust, probably stemming from this event. I think it's an important time for their whole friendship.

I agree. Funnily enough, after this James still chooses Sirius to be his Secret Keeper (before the switch), which also shows a lot about his character and his willingness to trust and forgive. Yes, the prank is entirely pivotal in their development.

Out of curiosity, and because it can impact how one looks at this event, do you ship Remus and Sirius?

I do ship them yes, but I can work it either way. I like the concept of Sirius/Remus as I think they have qualities of a good couple. However, I can see then just as easily as friends.

I generally look at this event as Sirius being utterly stupid and letting slip something he should've. I think he's just so frustrated over Snape that he just wants to use the most powerful thing he can in a moment of maddness to destroy him; he has the famous Black temper afterall.

I love fics that deal with this, and this was a great take on it. I liked the detail of Sirius actually being suspended, and also the fact the Peter stood up for him so well. James' fury and Sirius' helplessness and regret, and then finally the forgiveness from both Remus and James were well drawn and so satisfying.

Oh, thank you! I'm glad you liked it :)

This completely drew me in -- James's frustration and anger, Remus's vulnerability and pensiveness, Peter's attempts to do right by his friends while also looking to them to decide how to act, and Sirius's desperation and hopelessness.

I like that you showed James not only reacting to events and trying to manage his feelings about his friends, but examining himself in the context of his friendship with Sirius, taking the moment of punishment and separation as a time to look at that process of subsuming, separating, and defining through someone else, which marks so many intense friendships at that age.

The scene with McGonagall was fantastic; her stalwart belief in Sirius as a Gryffindor while also acknowledging his huge mistake in recent events made total sense to me.

Really engaging fic; I'm so glad I read it.

Thank you so much! It's lovely to hear that you liked it. Thanks for the comment!

I've finally come back to read it, and Merlin am I glad I did. This was BRILLIANT! I LOVED it and think it's one of the best fics I've discovered on LJ.

First of all, I love angsty!James, and you wrote him beautifully. I loved brooding Sirius, as well. And Peter! My god, Peter! You made him real, a part of the group, and so effortlessly as well. And of course Remus was perfect too - I'm sure it was very difficult for him to forgive, but like he/you pointed out, Sirius, James and Peter were his closest friends and he didn't want to lose them. Heartbreaking!

I think your whole framing of the incident was spot on, particularly the punishment for Sirius. Truly a punishment, to be sent home for two weeks. And then to be further punished by his friends' silence. Again, heartbreaking!

I loved the conversation with McGonagall. Brilliant. And then their final reconciliation - very nice. I really love how you've captured the depth of their friendship through this incident. Never mind the beautiful writing - it's just a great fic!

Listen to me gush. ;)

Okay, I have one question about the timeline...while I have always thought this incident happened about where you placed it--fifth year-- I have also been under the impression that it was canon for it to happen sixth year. According to the HPWiki and HPL, it happened sixth year. They cite PoA 18 as the source, but the year is not mentioned so I'm not sure why. Yet rereading The Prince's Tale in DH, one can see that this was mentioned before Snape and Lily fell out with each other fifth year, so I don't understand how it's been placed in sixth year instead of fifth. I think your version could be canon. It totally makes sense for Sirius to do this before they have figured out the Animagus transformation. I guess I'm just wondering if you thought about the timeline at all. I'm always getting annoyed with the Marauder's timeline myself.

Anyway, I'm off to rec this! I LOVED IT!

Oh, thank you so much for the gushing. *blushes* I'm glad you liked what I did with the friendships - especially Peter. Because I'm always hyper aware of Peter bashing. James did trust him, you know?

As for the timeline, for several reasons my head!canon has it as taking place in 6th year. The reasoning for that, mainly, is that Sirius is said to be 16 in PoA. There's also reasoning that has to do with James' characterization at the end of his fifth year and the fact that he allegedly grows up. Also, the type of hazing they do of Snape in SWM wouldn't have been done, I'd assume, after The Prank. However, if you follow the timeline from DH, it does seem that this incident happened before Snape's Worst Memory. And, as this is technically part of my KKverse, I had to set it in 5th year (KK starts 6th year). And, as we don't know Sirius' birthday, he could've been 16 here. Still, the way it plays out (minus comments on year and how far into transformations they are) is exactly my head!canon.

So you thought it was sixth year too! I always thought it didn't seem like something that would happen AFTER Snape's Worst Memory, for some reason...and yet, you make a good point about James and Sirius torturing Snape after the werewolf prank. That seems odder, doesn't it? And I can see your argument about James being more mature sixth year, good point. And as for Sirius's birthday, I've struggled with that as well. If you look it up, it's listed as 1959 instead of 1960 like the others! So I think I decided he must have a birthday in the fall, after September. In which case, he very well could have turned sixteen at the beginning of fifth year instead of later like James and Lily.

I like the term head!canon. The way this played out will probably become my head!canon. I just loved the emotions involved. I have to ask - have you written about the Marauders circa October, 1981? Because I'd love to read it, although I've been sitting on my own idea for it for a while. Shockingly, I am taking a Marauder break at the moment. ;)

I recommended this. Just brilliant!

Thank you so much! I really appreciate it. :)

Thank you so much for such a stunning story!

Thank you so very much :)

Okay, so you obviously know I love this fic. <3

Firstly, the Prank has been done a lot in fandom (especially among the R/S crowd), but I've never seen it done quite like this before. The perspective is unique and really lends itself to the situation like I hadn't thought possible. You don't see what's happening between Sirius and Remus, who are naturally the focal point of this particular incident. And yet, it's only natural that all the Marauders feel the repercussions of the Prank. So, I like that we get more James and Peter here than we do in most Prank fics.

But beyond that, you've thoroughly examined James as a character here. You've touched upon something that I believe is really worth mentioning, which is James' sense of loyalty to his friends. We know that James' trust in Peter in the end is what got him killed. But somehow I imagine that Peter could have slipped up somewhere along the way with this double life, that there could have been suspicions, and yet James (most particularly this James) would have overlooked it because of the loyalties and characterization that you've developed in this fic. James can be angry with his friends, but he can't give up on them or think the very worst of them (i.e.- James not considering Sirius malicious in his intent like his family). So you've really shown the fault (and ultimately the thing that gets him killed) with James in this fic.

Sorry, rambling ><

Anyway, there were smaller things I enjoyed as well: Sirius' punishment of being sent home, McGonagall's voice, Peter's involvement and insecurity over how he should act, Remus' reasons for forgiveness, Sirius dealing with his problems head on.

So yes, very very excellent fic. <3

I love rambling comments. They make me feel loved.

Everybody keeps commenting on how Sirius' punishment would've been horrible, and honestly, I never really thought of that -- just that suspension seemed like a good punishment.

And this story just has always been from James' POV inside my head. James was kind of the "ringleader" of the group, so it just kind of... made sense to me. And something that I read a lot is James thinking "I was wrong about Sirius". But, to me, that's never the issue. And I think that's why he can forgive Sirius, because even though it was horrid, he appreciates intent. And, also, Remus forgave him.

I'm glad it has your approval.

I'm sorry this review is so late! School is kicking my butt, and it's only the first week...

Leah, you GET James. I mean, you understand him in a way that few of us can, and what's more, you portray him so that we can understand his actions and motivations. That's a mark of a good writer, and for that, I salute you.

I like the way the story starts, after the ation but with no explanation. It works well here. Waking up in the hospital bed isn't unusual for our James. ;)

The way the backstory is explained is nicely done. The flashes of memory convey the whole story without spelling it out.

Of seeing Remus so un-Remus-like, so uncontrollable

Oh, Remus...this really brings home the point that the werewolf is not who he is. When he's the werewolf, he's not himself.

"But don't wake him. He only just arrived a few hours ago, and Merlin knows the poor boy needs his sleep."

This makes me wonder if Madam Pomfrey knows that James knows about Remus. She certainly seems to be implying that.

But this is the first time he's seen Remus looking so small and broken.

You are tugging at my heartstrings, you know that, right?

Only two things are present in his mind: he is going to find Sirius Black, and he is going to kill him.

Except we know he won't actually kill him. ;)

Sirius' head is in his hands, elbows on his knees.

The image of Sirius sitting alone, staring at the wall, showsmore than anything else how guilty he feels.

"But, I guess none of us do. I still've only got the ruddy antlers. Sirius just gets... Fucking bastard."

Hehehe, I can only imagine.

I like that they're not Animagi yet. So few stories focus on what they did *before* they became Animagi, or during the process. It's a refreshing change. :)

Right after you left, he went straight to Dumbledore's office, told him what'd happened.

Good for Sirius. He has a strong conscience, even though he tends to speak before he acts.

Your portrayal of Peter is excellent here. All he wants is for everyone to get along. He's the peacemaker, trying to talk sense into everyone. Though I can't blame James for not listening, he needs time to cool off first.

It isn't that James doesn't want to forgive Sirius, to forget what happened. Because, Merlin, he does.

That sentence expresses SO much. He wants to forgive Sirius, but he just can't bring himself to.

"I've told you," Remus says, "it's not your fault. You're not the one who messed up. That was Sirius, not you."

I can totally hear the exasperation in Remus' voice here. I bet he's had to put up with this *exact* same conversation multiple times a day, and he's tired of it.

You have some stupid idea that you ought to carry at least half the blame for Sirius' idiocy."

And Remus gets to the heart of the matter. Very perceptive of him.

. For a moment, he looks like the lost little boy James met on the train so many years ago – scared and unsure of the world.

Awwwwwwwwww, Remus...I just want to hug him.

The conversation between James and Peter is perfect. Peter looks to the others for guidance, for what he's supposed to do. And man, I've been in that situation before, when two friends are fighting and you're stuck in the middle, unsure of how to act.

And that's why James is worried about going against his principles and forgiving him.

That stubborn boy. Though I can't blame him. Sometimes it's really hard to know when to forgive.

Until then, I don't want anything to do with you."

It must have been so hard for James to say that. :(

Continued...

I find it interesting that although James has a bit of concern for Snape (he doesn't want Snape to die), his main concern is how the events affected Remus. It really shows his priorities....friends are number one, everything else is a very very distance second.

It's taking a LOT of effort for James to maintain his behavior toward Sirius, isn't it? Much easier just to go back to the usual routine. No wonder he's having trouble in class, when so much of his energy is spent on ignoring Sirius.

However, I'm quite sure that in the four years I've taught you, you've never once considered yourself to be subject to that expectation.
Well said, well said. :)

"I trust that you are aware of the stirrings in our world, of the dangers. I would advise you to not separate yourself from those who have proved to be good friends."
Once again, McGonagall shows her wisdom.

Because, in anger, everything is clear. And, now, nothing is clear, he doesn't know what he wants, or what he should want.
I've been in that situation more than once. I think it's a rather universal feeling.

But you and Peter and Sirius, you're different. And I can't just throw that away.
So true, and I'm glad Remus knows that.

I find it interesting that it took Remus so long to forgive Sirius. He didn't forgive him bright away, which means it took him some time to get over the betrayal. But of course he eventually does, because he's Remus.

Sirius wouldn't be sulking alone in the castle, and especially not in the library.
Hehehe :)

"Bollocks," James interrupts again. "You may be a sodding Black, but you're not one of them, Sirius.
Damn straight, and I'm glad James is telling Sirius that. I'm sure he's heard this before from Sirius, and he's not going to let Sirius say it again.

"You missed me," Sirius replies, grinning himself. "All this rubbish about Moony and family, and it's really just that you missed me."
They made me grin. All the heavy conversation about forgiveness and family and betrayal, and it comes down to this. ;)

The two boys quiet.

Are you using "quiet" as a verb here? Something about it sounds off to me. I think it would flow better as "the two boys ARE quiet".

Is there any particular reason you chose to write this in present tense? It works well, though I'm not sure exactly why. I'm just curious if that was a conscious choice or not.

Lots of good reflections on the nature of friendship and forgiveness here, but it's not overdone or sappy. Good job, Leah. :)

I love you and your long review! :) So much appreciation.

There is reasoning for the present tense! I've been writing quite a bit in present tense, of late, actually. I personally think that it works really well for getting inside characters' heads, because you're writing things as they figure it out, if that makes sense.

Well, your stories rock, so you deserve long reviews. :)

For whatever reason, the present tense works well in this story!

I meant to read this earlier, but I got caught up in registration chaos. ><;;;

I love that you explained the Whomping Willow incident, and how you explained it. It's exactly how I pictured it, that Sirius wasn't unnecessarily cruel, but that Snape had goaded him into doing it.

I love the scene when he's looking at Remus in the Hospital Wing. Just the way he feels for his friend remind sme exactly what it is I love about James Potter, and why I'd always been interested in this scene the first time I'd heard about it. Because it's obvious he feels for Sirius, but he feels even more for Remus because of the position Sirius put him in, and the whole situation is just incredibly difficult for him. James' loyalty is what I love best about him, and the fact that he'd do literally anything for his friends, and you capture this so well here.

When he punches Sirius, that entire scene just broke my heart. For both of them. I don't know if I said this already (I'm sure I implied it?), but your characterization is absolutely amazing.

'Prick Black, Potter bleeds' is what they say, isn't it? And it's true; I would know. So, I think that that is what's going on. You have some stupid idea that you ought to carry at least half the blame for Sirius' idiocy."
THIS, 100%. I love the line, "Prick Black, Potter Bleeds" especially because it's just... everything I think of James and Sirius' relationship. It's not exactly healthy, but it is what it is.

For a moment, he looks like the lost little boy James met on the train so many years ago – scared and unsure of the world. It's an expression he'd hoped to never see again on his friend's face, an expression that he and the other two Marauders had vowed to rid him of.
Awwwwwww. Have I mentioned I absolutely love the way you're portraying James yet?

Love that you used the line "embrace like brothers", straight out of PoA.

I love McGonagall, and picturing Sirius crying nearly made me cry.

And the ending really did make me cry (but happy tears).

Siriusly, this was beautiful, and exactly the way I pictured everything happening. The emotions, James' thoughts, Sirius' own dilemma... Everything was just so emotional and so real. Absolutely brilliant. Thank you so much for writing it.

Oh, thank you so much. I'm really, really glad you enjoyed it. And thanks for the lovely review/comment!

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