Jamessensedthe projectile sailing towards him and blinked his eyes open. A pink bean landed with a sharp thwack against his pillow, barely missing his head. His gaze shot right as he scanned the room for a culprit.
Sirius, clad in flannel pajamas, was lounging on his four-poster bed with the hangings partially open; one hand remained poised in mid air; the other clutched a box of Bertie Bott’s.
“About time you woke up,” he said, a bold grin etching his face. His overlong fringe tumbled carelessly over his forehead and a few motorbike magazines he’d picked up in London over a previous holiday littered his bed.
“About time you start hitting your targets,” retorted James as he indulgently stretched and yawned away a good night’s sleep with balled fists. “Besides, those are my beans.”
Sirius grinned and popped another one in.
James shifted his head on his pillow to hide his smirk. He felt far too satisfactorily warm and rumpled beneath his covers to scuffle for the sweets. Besides, he’d share anything with that dog, truth be told.
“I’ll buy you another box,” Sirius consoled, rattling the carton to coax out another bean.
I hope it’s tripe flavored, James mused as he lay on his side, eyes open, lazily gazing at a shaft of bright sunlight. It streamed into the room from the dorm window, illuminating swirling dust in its path before setting a mullion-patterned rectangle aglow on the worn floorboards below.
“What time is it?” James asked, reaching back to the nightstand, his fingers groping for his grandfather’s old planispheric watch.
Sirius glanced at his wrist. “Ten-thirty.”
“Thaaat late? James flailed up onto his elbows and checked the two beds on the other side of the room. Between the split in the hangings, he could make out Remus's scattered coverlet.
“Where are those two?"
“Went down to breakfast over an hour ago,” Sirius shrugged, flipping through a magazine.
"They left us behind on a Saturday?" puzzled James.
“Surprised me too,” said Sirius, closing the glossy magazine and pausing. “I think Moony might be trying to get a head start on exam studies this weekend.”
James pushed aside his usual chagrin over Moony’s pursuit of perfect marks to prove himself. “How long have you been awake?” he asked.
Sirius released a slow budding grin. “Long enough to decide I’m definitely getting a bike this summer. S’been long enough.”
James whole-heartedly agreed. Fortunately, they’d finally solved the dilemma of ‘How and Where in Godric’s Hollow will we store the thing?’ And Sirius had a bit of gold now.
Sirius rose from his bed, grabbing the nearby blankets and wrapping them around himself like a cape as he went. Their tails scattered the magazines as they swept regally from bed to floor. At the tower window, he stopped and gazed out wordlessly.
“Moony still convinced he needs better marks?” James asked.
Sirius nodded without breaking gaze.
“Wish he’d let us help a bit more, then,” James frowned. “S’not like we miss class every month.”
In lieu of the expected agreement, silence ensued. James glanced over to where his friend stood at the window.
Sirius’s dark features had become motionless except for his eyes. Even the crescent-shaped laugh line to the side of his lips lay smooth. No doubt Mrs. Potter would kindly offer him a hair trimming when they next arrived home, but for now, his shaggy fringe cascaded toward the bridge of his nose. Underneath, grey eyes scanned the landscape casually yet keenly.
James pushed back the covers and swung his pajama-clad legs over the edge of the bed. The cool air prickled against his toes. He set his bare feet down on the wooden floor, tucked his hands under his armpits in defiance of the sudden draft, and joined his friend at the pane. A few seconds of comfortable silence ensued as they scanned the grounds together.
“S’nice out,” pronounced James.
Sirius nodded. “I could use some sun for a change.”
The weather had been terrible of late: It had rained nearly every day for two weeks— and even on clear days, squelching walks to the greenhouse had rung with the girls’ complaints of muddy shoes. Finally, the sun had forced arrival in Northern Scotland again.
“Looks like a good flying day,” observed James, as he glanced toward the canopy of leaves to estimate the wind.
On the other side of the glass, daredevil swallows darted under the eaves on the way to their spackled mud nests. In the background, the Giant Squid, seldom seen during the cold months, flailed an arm lazily above the surface of the lake. It, too, appeared to be enjoying the improvement in the weather. James placed his hand on the pane and felt warmth ooze into his skin.
“Quite a lot of people out swimming already,” Sirius remarked, pointing.
James reached for his glasses, threaded them on, and leaned in for a better look. His expression wrinkled as he focused on the lake, where colorful dots punctuated the surface. “Is that— ?”
Sirius directed his view along with James’s and studied the swimmers.
“Gryff girls, I think,” he pronounced.
Gryffindor girls... Swimming… A flash of spring fever flared in James’s chest.
Sirius’s shaggy fringe touched the pane as he leaned closer in observance. “Let’s see… that looks like Bonnie…maybe Florence... that’s definitely Evans. Yup, I’d say that’s them.”
“Think I’d rather swim than fly today,” ventured James, more casually than he felt. “You?”
The ghost of a smile flitted across Sirius’s face. “Sure, I could do with a little Fanged Frisbee now that you’ve finally woken up.”
Sirius turned and headed toward his trunk wearing the same mickey-taking tinge of amusement, while James remained standing at the pane a moment longer, quietly surveying the scene, until spurred by the the realization that he, too, must locate long-forgotten items such as swim trunks, towel, and Fanged Frisbee.
“Want to round up Moony and Wormtail on the way?” James asked, taking one last look at the sunny scenery and deciding it would be high treason not to include their friends. He veered toward his bedside table and slid open a drawer.
“Yeah. You checking the map?" Sirius asked, glancing up.
James slipped out a well-worn, eggshell-colored parchment, unfolded it, and before looking elsewhere, scanned the dots in the vicinity of the lake. His eyes slid loosely over several before settling on the exact one he was looking for:
A stroke of wist flickered through his chest as his gaze lingered on it. If only it were as simple as reaching out for the tracking dot...
But it wasn’t.
And it had got a whole lot harder ever since she’d told him off a year ago.
Pushing back pangs, he switched view to the library on the fourth floor and located his two friends: ‘Remus Lupin’ and ‘Peter Pettigrew’, seated on opposite sides of a wooden four-person table.
“They’re in the libraaary!” he wailed.
“Not for long,” Sirius sang back cheerfully.
James vaguely noted a dot labeled ‘Madam Pince’ before folding the map back up. Inwardly, he shuddered. That was no way to spend a Saturday—within a hundred yards of that hideous vulture—exams or no exams.
“We need to swing by the kitchens at some point. I’m starving,” said Sirius, kneeling on the bare floorboards as he pawed through his belongings in his trunk, previously embellished with the Black Family Crest until he’d recently succeeded in vanishing it.
“Me too,” agreed James. He rounded the foot of his bed, flipped open the lid of his own trunk, and began to unload a pile of items onto the floor: spell books, a spare pheasant feather quill, his liquidy silver Invisibility Cloak, a dog-eared astronomy chart, a stash of Butterbeers for their next dorm meeting, a coconut, assorted Zonko’s products, and—aha—trunks! Now all he needed was…
He pawed in vain until he reached the bottom of his trunk.
“Wait—did some tealeaf steal my Frisbee?”
“No, pillock. Filch confiscated it, remember? When you tossed it up the staircase and it took down the whole lot of Christmas garland.”
“Oh…right.” James grinned widely. “Not like it was hard to put back up.”
“Well, for Filch it probably was,” Sirius countered.
“True… We’ll borrow Wormtail’s for now. He won’t mind.”
Moments later, the two Gryffindor boys loped down the hall side by side, feet squeaking in Filch’s fresh polish, swim towels hanging round their necks.
“We probably won’t even need our own Frisbee,” James ventured optimistically.
“We will if the girls pack up before we get out there. Or don’t let us play…”
“Mmm, I guess so.” James had to admit, to himself at least, the idea of playing with the girls far surpassed the four of them playing by themselves. It would be the perfect excuse to talk to her.
"Speaking of swimming, wonder if your dear mum ever succeeded in taking down any of the posters in your old room?" An expression of purest relish slipped onto James’s face as he pictured the trio of bikini-clad girls—a blond, brunette, and a redhead—which Sirius had picked out at a Muggle record and poster shop two summers ago—and a stony old Walburga confronting them.
Sirius cracked a smile. "I think it's as likely that Regulus goes in and lusts over them when no one's looking, the elitist little punk. I told you, Prongs, I used a very good Permanent Sticking Charm." He paused as though playing out a satisfying memory of it before switching topic. "So y’think your Frisbee’s locked in Filch's office? Or y’think he makes an annual bonfire with all his confiscated items?”
“No, it’s still there,” James shook his head blithely. “If anything, he’s probably baited the shackles with it.”
Filch kept a set chained up over his janitorial desk like a positive coat of arms; James had seen them when reporting for a detention once. “He’s probably clamped one of the cuffs around it…Y’know, like the hair trigger of an anti-theft device.”
Sirius snorted. “Believe me, I know about anti-theft devices…Wonder how much stuff he’s got in there…”
At the end of the corridor, they reached the top of The Great Staircase and began trotting down it stride for stride. At the start of the second flight, Sirius hopped up onto the impeccably polished marble railing and slid down by the seat of his pants, the smooth fabric of his trunks squealing as he went. He hopped off just before reaching the next volute and waited on the landing for James to catch up.
“Nice one," said James, trotting the last three steps, "Watch this—”
Without breaking stride, he hopped up onto the third railing and began sliding down. Tucking his feet up just so, he gained critical speed and, as he approached the next landing, he scooted off and sailed through the air in a moment of fleeting glory before his feet planted with a satisfying smack against the flat landing; an echo reverberated through the chamber.
“Show off,” Sirius grinned, catching up.
“The perfect dismount has a particular ring to it,” James replied, eyes twinkling, his chin rising an inch as he gave the seared seat of his pants a cooling pat.
“Let’s just hope no one heard that.” Sirius glanced around surreptitiously for signs of Filch.
They trotted innocently down the last flight of stairs and stepped off at the fourth floor.
The wooden double doors of the library stood open on the left. Judging by the glow emanating from inside, the day's bright sunlight had already begun flooding through the multi-story stained glass windows of the massive eastern facade. The tantalizing mid-day sun was, in James opinion, as good a reason as any to leave studies until nighttime—and preferably after Quidditch practice, the rigors of which always helped him resign himself to a long night of idle studying in a hard wooden chair.
The two boys stuck their heads though the doorway, but left their bodies in the hall out of cautious habit. A careful look both ways revealed no sign of Madam Pince, though one could never be too sure.
A few dozen or so fifth years studying for O.W.L.’s scattered the wooden seats of the cavernous hall. James threw a glance toward the table at which he’d earlier spotted his friends on the map: The sun poured down onto Moony’s sandy hair as, head in hand, he stared down at his book, occasionally jotting notes on the roll of parchment at his elbow. Across the table, Peter lolled sideways while reading, looking as though he might doze off mid-sentence. James pointed them out.
The crease to the side of Sirius’s lips quirked upwards as he slipped out his wand. “I’ll take Wormtail if you want Moony,” he said, leaning against the doorframe like a casual sniper.
He silently took aim at Peter’s chair and set it vibrating for a split second. Wormtail sat bolt upright, clutched both edges of the wooden seat, and glanced suspiciously around the library—everywhere but towards the door. Meanwhile, Moony stared uninterruptedly down at his book, not noticing.
James stifled a laugh. He flicked his own wand to the left and lifted a lock of Moony’s hair into the air like a beetle’s antenna. Reading intently, Remus absently patted it back down and then broke into a small yawn.
Sirius sighed theatrically. “They do make it a bit easy sometimes.”
James stole a glance around the library for a sign of Pince, about to suggest that Sirius hover Peter, chair and all, into the air next.
"Pssst!” signaled Sirius, loudly enough that it sibilated across the library, thwarting James’s plans.
Errant heads popped up in curiosity, including Peter‘s and Remus’s. The foursome made eye contact. Recognition dawned brightly in Peter’s watery eyes.
Sirius flicked his wrist in a Frisbee throwing motion and waggled his brows enticingly. James inclined his head toward the hall as if to say, ‘Come on. Let’s go!’
Remus nodded eagerly; Peter shut his book with a slam.
“Covert,” commended Sirius, prompting James into a grin.
Remus and Peter hastened across the library, backpacks slung over their shoulders, backs slightly bent as they broke into a fast walk bordering on a jog past the vacant circulation desk. Finally, they emerged into the hall for the rendezvous.
“What’s going o—?”
“We’re going swimming. Get your trunks,” blurted Sirius.
“Excellent,” replied Remus. “I’d just about had enough of Golopatt’s Antidotes for today,” he quipped in a beleaguered tone, rubbing the side of his head as though to boost circulation.
“Me too,” agreed Peter, sleepy-eyed.
“High marks for subtlety back there, Pete,” said Sirius. James sniggered.
“Nevermind.” Sirius waived a hand airily. “We snagged your Frisbee,” he added, giving his back pocket a quick pat; it responded with an obstinate growl. “Hope you don’t mind.”
Remus shot a glance toward Sirius's hip.
“It was either that or try breaking into Filch’s office to get mine back,” James added offhandedly.
Peter responded with widened eyes and James couldn't help but appreciate how easily he bestowed appreciation for their petty misdeeds.
“Prongs and I need to grab some breakfast first," informed Sirius. “You?”
Remus shook his head ‘no’.
“Meet you in the Entrance Hall in ten?” ventured James as they started walking for the stairs.
The lot agreed and fifteen minutes later, the four boys exited the Great Oak doors together and trotted down the stairs, emerging into the bright sunlight of the Hogwarts grounds and the promise of an eventful day.
Author’s Note: A big thanks to my alpha reader. She knows who she is and in my mind, she’s a great friend. Another thank you goes to my beta reader, Sunrise Juliette, for carefully combing my words and pushing me to make this story better. And thank you in advance to any readers…