part one of the Paint the Sky anthology
by lone astronomer
Summary: Sirius' ill-thought-out prank, according to James Potter. First in the Paint the Sky arc.
Disclaimer: Characters belong to J.K. Rowling, and if I'm making a profit off of this, it's just my own perverse enjoyment, no money.
Note: Just a big thank-you to Zsenya (as always), this time for making me feel less rusty in terms of writing. J
Conceited, she had called him, and arrogant, and thoughtless. He was angry, yes, and a little hurt, but he was also used to the names, especially from her. It didn't make things much easier, considering that however much he tried, some part of him still liked her, still wanted to be with her. Quite frankly, it was irritating that he had so little control over himself and his emotions where she was concerned. He couldn't seem to give up. She didn't appreciate his pranks, his sense of humor, his Quidditch skills, his friends, or even his smarts, and he didn't understand her at all.
James Potter put his feet up on the low table in front of the armchair he was sprawled in and hid a yawn with one hand. Lily's little tirade had landed them both in detention on a very inconvenient night of the year- a full moon. His friend, Remus Lupin, would be undergoing a terrible ordeal alone for the first time in a little over a year. As a werewolf, Remus was doomed to lose control of himself once a month, but James and two others, Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew, had found a way to accompany him with little danger to themselves- they were all three Animagi, capable of transforming at will. Peter was attending an advanced Potions laboratory and Sirius was who-knew-where, exercising a most annoying affinity for not being caught out of Gryffindor Tower after curfew. James sighed and slid lower in his chair, ready to let sleep take him.
He didn't know how much later it was when the portrait hole squeaked open and Sirius sauntered in, looking mighty cocky. Most people would hardly notice the expression on the young man's face, as it seemed to be his appearance of choice, but James sensed that there was something different about it, this time.
"Padfoot, what mischief have you wrought this time?"
Sirius' grin broadened. "Let's just say we won't have to worry about being snitched on from a certain sniveling Slytherin any longer."
"Sirius, killing people is against the law, even for a member of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black," James intoned tiredly, resting his head back on the armchair.
"Relax, Jamie-boy. I've not killed anyone- yet. Snape's just going to get a good scare- and possibly get expelled in the process. One can only hope."
Something about the way he'd said that made James' hair stand on end. "And just why would Snape be willing to risk expulsion, and why would he be expelled?"
"Oh, something about his insatiable curiosity," Sirius replied, still gleeful. "And he'll be expelled because that's what happens to people who venture too close to Dumbledore's favourite, albeit somewhat violent, tree."
James' blood ran cold. "Sirius. What did you tell him?"
His friend did his best to look nonchalant. "Nothing really. Just gave him the means to answer his own questions about where the four of us run off to every once in a while..."
"You absolute bloody prat." James couldn't even yell, he was so disappointed and angry with his friend. "Do you have any idea what you've done? You just used Remus as a method of personal disposal! Sirius, that's- go tell Dumbledore what you've done right now." He'd just caught sight of a shadow moving outside the window, headed straight for the Whomping Willow.
Sirius, turning a little pale, protested, "But I didn't mean for-"
"You'd better think next time, Sirius. Now go."
Sirius scampered. James Summoned his broom and blasted open the window. The moon was out. Remus had already undergone his change.
The night air was chill, and there wasn't even a breeze, but the branches of the Whomping Willow had never been in such a frenzy. A tall, thin shape was approaching it with a stick, aiming for the knot-
-James landed several feet away just as the branches stilled, and Severus Snape slipped down between the roots. If no one else does, I'm going to kill Sirius.
He had never run so fast in his life. He dove down the hole with nothing guiding him but memory and blind luck, and rolled after his nemesis. "Snape, stop-"
The other boy turned around and sneered. "Why, Potter, can't take it that now you've got to share your little secret? So this is where you and your bodyguards take your weekend retreats-"
"I mean it, Snape, don't go any farther!" James' breathing was heavy, and he looked down at a gash in his leg. Still, he limped forward. "Look, I'll explain later if I have to- our lives are in danger-"
"Great acting," Snape commented, never slowing but neither turning his back to James. He was almost to the entrance to the Shack, now. And any minute he would-
James dove for his legs when he reached his hand up to unclasp the latch. Horrible snarling filled the passageway. James thought, I'm too late, but somehow the Wolf stayed above; Snape lay sprawled on the ground. Before it could leap at him, James pointed his wand and shouted, "Stupefy!"
The Wolf barely slowed, but it was enough to slap the trap door shut again and latch it. "You stupid prat," James muttered, levitating Snape's body. "You couldn't have left well enough alone- you know how Sirius hates you, why did you go anyway..." James wished he could levitate himself as well. Now that the rush of adrenaline had mostly faded, his leg was really starting to throb. Every step took a Herculean effort. "You damn well better appreciate this when you wake up, you meddlesome ass."
A light appeared at the end of the tunnel and hushed voices floated towards him. "We're over here," James called weakly, leaning against the dirt wall. "We're-"
The next thing he remembered was Madam Pomfrey binding the wound on his leg and insisting he spend the night in the hospital wing for observation. Dumbledore saved him from his fate- or condemned him. "Poppy, I would like to see the boys in my office first, if that's alright with you."
The nurse drew an audible breath as if to protest, but a meaningful look from Dumbledore caused her to exhale again without making a fuss. "I suppose you'll do what you think is best, Headmaster."
When the reprimands were finished, James and Sirius walked in silence back to the hospital wing. But when the door shut, James felt a tirade of his own coming on. "What in the hell were you thinking, Sirius? Someone could've been killed!"
"Look, I wasn't thinking, alright? My temper got the best of me. I said I was sorry-"
"I'm not the one you need to apologize to!" he fumed. "Think about what you did! You used your best friend as a weapon. I know you're sick, Sirius Black- and thoughtless as well- but I never thought you were heartless. Did you ever think about how he would feel? Did you?"
"What do you want me to say? I'm already being punished- I'm sorry as it is-"
"Sorry isn't good enough, Sirius. You could have been a murderer. Worse, you would have made your friend an accomplice! For what? A stupid grudge? A blood feud? God, you're arrogant." And thoughtless.
Sirius was quiet, left the hospital wing without another word in his own defense. Severus Snape listened quietly in the darkness, resentful for the defense. And James Potter, for once in his life, finally understood Lily Evans.
How's that for a change.