"Are you sure you know what you're doing?" Sirius asked, peering at the arithmancy book propped open between them on the library table.
"Yes," James said. "Now will you shut up and pay attention before Madam Pince asks us to leave again?"
"That wasn't my fault. You're the one who enchanted your chocolate frogs to yodel."
"They weren't yodeling. They were demonstrating arithmantic principles using the musical scale."
Sirius shook his head with a profound skepticism. "Madam Pince thought they were yodeling, too."
"Then Madam Pince is tone-deaf," James mouthed cautiously, since Madam Pince's hypothetical inability to distinguish pitch certainly didn't prevent her from hearing almost every sound uttered in her library. He resumed his whisper: "Why didn't you just ask Remus to help you with your homework earlier today, since you refuse to believe that I understand it?"
"I should have..." Sirius said thoughtfully.
"Oh, ta very much!"
"...only we were talking about our plans for the summer, and I didn't think of it." He shrugged. "And I wouldn't be doubting you at all if I didn't have it on the best authority--namely, my own--that you've spent the past two Arithmancy lessons helping me come up with an improved dung bomb recipe rather than paying attention to Vector. And if I can't make heads or tails of this assignment, I'd like to know how you can do any better."
"Simple," James said smugly. "One: I'm better at arithmancy than you are; and, two: I got Remus to go over his notes with me yesterday afternoon. Today's lesson was mostly review."
"I wondered where the two of you had snuck off to. Peter had a marvelous idea for a prank on the Slytherins, only it would have taken three wands, so we couldn't try it right then."
"He didn't say anything about it today."
Sirius shrugged. "It was so marvelous that Aloysius Pucey thought of it first and used it eight years ago against Gryffindor. Peter found it mentioned in the library this morning and came back devastated."
"Shame, that. Maybe it can be modified, or something."
"I tried telling Peter that, but he just wants to wallow right now." Sirius tapped his fingers restlessly on the tabletop. "It doesn't feel right," he said suddenly, "him being the only one with Remus tonight."
"No," James agreed. "Still, you can't say Remus was wrong to insist on your getting caught up on your schoolwork. There's a limit to how far even you can procrastinate and still pass your courses, Padfoot. And it's not as though it were actually the full moon."
"Well, no, but the day after's no picnic for him, either."
"All the more reason to let him rest. You know, sometimes I wonder at Remus's forbearance. I'm not sure I'd want you in the room for more than, say, five minutes, if I were ill."
"Oh!" Sirius said indignantly. "I'm the soul of consideration. Just ask Remus."
"And what are you smirking at?"
"I'm not smirking. I just..." James reached out a hand to touch Sirius's cheek, and somehow Sirius knew that James didn't intend to tweak his nose at the last minute, and so kept still, and then remained still as James leaned closer and hesitantly touched his lips to Sirius's. James's mouth was soft and warm, and when after a moment he licked Sirius's lips, Sirius opened his mouth to let him in.
James's tongue slid against his, and Sirius shuddered. The hand that cupped his cheek slipped down his shoulder and side to settle at his waist. James was a surprisingly good kisser.
Everything narrowed to warm, wet, endless kisses that left Sirius gasping with shocked pleasure. The hand clasping his waist burned even through his robe, and its soft pressure was echoed by the tremor of Sirius's flesh.
"Gentlemen," Madam Pince whispered fiercely, making them jump apart. "Must I remind you yet again that this is a library?"
"We're being quiet," Sirius protested.
Her cheeks took on a faint rosy tinge. "You're distracting the other students."
In fact, every student at the surrounding tables was staring wide-eyed at the two of them.
"Sorry," James muttered, gathering both their books into a messy pile. "We'll go now."
Madam Pince's face relaxed into what might almost be called a smile. "Thank you. I look forward to seeing you again when you're ready to work," she said dryly.
James just ducked his head and hurried out into the corridor, Sirius half a step behind. The door to the library swung quietly but emphatically shut.
"So..." James said, not quite meeting Sirius's eyes.
"Um, back to the common room? Or down to the kitchen?"
Sirius watched James's mouth as he talked, distantly noting that he still had a white-knuckled grasp on his and Sirius's books. His eyes were a bright, shiny blue behind their lenses. After five years as best friends, James's face was more familiar to him than his own; even seeing it in a new light couldn't change what James meant to him. But it could allow him to recognize that James was beautiful. When Sirius leaned forward, it all felt as slowly inevitable as it had in the library, only this time it was he who kissed James, he who coaxed James's mouth open with his tongue and embraced his warm, slim body.
The books wobbled between them and nearly fell, and James pulled back quickly. "Or maybe...the Astronomy Tower?" he asked, breathless.
"Oh, yes," Sirius agreed, grabbing his books off the unwieldy stack in James's arms before they both sprinted down the hall.
Twenty minutes later, they stumbled through the portrait hole into the Gryffindor common room under the watchful glare of Frank Longbottom.
"And if I catch you again it's ten points each. For God's sake, you share a bedroom," he added disgustedly. "Learn a decent silencing charm and don't break the bloody rules for no good reason."
James and Sirius blushed and darted glances around the room, which was luckily empty save for Peter, who was watching them intently from the sofa. With a few additional muttered imprecations, Longbottom stomped off.
Sirius cleared his throat. "How's Remus?"
"Asleep. What was all that about?"
"Oh, well..." Sirius looked suddenly off-center. "You want to take this one, James?"
"Pansy," he muttered, then giggled suddenly. "Oh, right. Anyway, Longbottom caught us in the Astronomy Tower and docked us five points each."
"Caught you doing what?"
"Sirius, I haven't the faintest idea what you and James usually do in the Astronomy Tower."
"Not what we usually do there," James put in helpfully, "what other people usually do there."
"Namely, snogging," Sirius said, to make it even more abundantly clear.
Peter's mouth dropped open in an "o" of surprise. "Each other?"
"Yes, each other. And now I think we're going to take Frank's officious yet sensible advice and go upstairs for more of the same." He paused thoughtfully. "And possibly--"
James clapped his hand over Sirius's mouth. "Good night, Peter."
"Good night," Peter said in a half-questioning tone.
Sirius shook free irritably. "What are you accosting me for, then?"
"I knew what you were going to say," James said kindly, "and both Peter and I would really rather you not."
"Oh, fine," Sirius said as James took his hand and started pulling him up the stairs. "Peter, let Remus know why we're late for breakfast tomorrow morning," he called over his shoulder. "Ow!"
"We're not going to be late for breakfast." James's voice drifted down the stairs.
"Says you, and would you stop hitting me?"
"Just as soon as you stop deserving it."
The bedroom door shut.
"What?" Peter said blankly.
"Sirius," Remus called, dropping into his seat in the Great Hall and reaching thirstily for his glass, "what's this mad story I heard about you and James kissing in the Astronomy Tower?"
"Oi, didn't Peter tell you, then?" Sirius asked.
"No, tell me what?"
"James and I are dating."
Remus spewed pumpkin juice across the table.
"Eww," said Emily Brocklehurst, wiping pumpkin juice splatters off her arm.
"Sorry," Remus muttered distractedly. He turned on Sirius. "What are the two of you playing at now?"
Sirius looked faintly hurt. "We're not. At least, I'm not, and I really hope James isn't."
Questions crowded Remus, and he sat there helplessly until they at last coalesced into something reasonable. "But...why?"
The expression on Sirius's face made it clear that he didn't find the question so reasonable. "What do you mean, 'why'?" he said irritably. "We like each other."
"You like me and Peter, too, and neither of you has ever gotten the urge to snog one of us," Remus pointed out.
"Well, of course not. You're different. It's just...I'm attracted to James."
"Oh," Remus said quietly. "Well, if that's what it is. All right, then."
Sirius nodded eagerly. "Right. It's not as though anything has to change, really, just because I like boys, since it's only the one boy. We can still be friends same as always, can't we?"
Remus smiled at him. "Of course we can, Sirius. Stupid to think otherwise."
"That's what I thought," Sirius said, satisfied, and he reached across the table to briefly touch Remus's hand. "Just as I thought," he said more firmly. Then his eyes shifted to look over Remus's shoulder. "James! Here by me."
"I'm coming," James said patiently. "Morning, Remus."
"And a very good morning to you," Sirius said, turning to peck James's lips. "I told you we'd be late to breakfast."