"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage." ― Lao Tzu
"OI!" I hear shouted from somewhere in the massive crowd crammed on the platform. "Over here, Moony!"
I whip around to my right and see two black-haired boys jumping to get a better look over the heads of all the people, waving their arms frantically to get my attention. I chuckle, get a better grip on my luggage, and push past a few underclassmen to find James and Sirius standing next to the luggage car with the biggest smiles on their faces.
"Moony!" James yells, tripping over his own trunk in an attempt to throw his arms dramatically around me. "It's been too long, my friend!"
"Oh, shove off," I mutter, pushing him away and chuckling. "I'm happy to see you, too."
"No hug for me?" Sirius says mischievously, and at first I'm taken aback. This is not the man I remember from two months ago, unwilling to participate in any aspect of life, pain and loss tearing at every inch of him, threatening to completely destroy him at any moment; the Sirius I now see reminds me so of how he was at eleven years old. He beams, his curly tangle of hair bouncing in the morning sun, giving me a bracing, brotherly hug. I smile back at him, almost cautiously, not sure if I'm willing to believe the transformation yet. As I observe him more, my brilliant mind analyzes the man I've come to know so well, and realizes he's not completely back to normal. Only someone such as myself, James, or even Tonks could realize it, but every movement he makes is somewhat delayed, and even looks painful; if you would stand and watch his face for a few seconds, you would notice it flicker with distress, his eyes squeezing closed as if trying to ward off negative thoughts, and then completely disappear, replaced with his usual cheeky smile.
"So, uh…" I start, looking nervously at him. "How've you been?"
It takes him a few moments to answer this, his body language changing drastically, as if he was forgetting to make it seem like he was okay. His shoulders slunk and his eyes become unfocused as he thinks about how to answer this question.
"Um…" he starts, rubbing the back of his neck nervously. "Better."
"Just… better?" I ask, eyeing his every move.
"Just better," he confirms. He then lowers his voice and takes a step closer to me. "It's just been getting easier, yanno? Everything, I mean. The nightmares have gone away, and I can finally get a full night's rest without… well, you know."
I nod slowly, unsure of how to answer. "Brilliant."
"Thanks," he replies, stepping back into his spot next to James. "Oh! I forgot to tell you, I got a tattoo!"
"You what?!" me and James exclaim in unison. I turn to him, knitting my eyebrows together.
"You didn't know about this?" I ask him, incredulous.
"No, I had no idea, when in the bloody hell did you get a tattoo?!" James replies, as shocked as I am.
"A few weeks ago," Sirius replies, dropping his voice again. "It's in honor of her."
"What is it?" I ask, still shocked beyond belief.
"Her name," he explains. "Want to see?"
"Eh, no, not here," James exclaims, reaching out to stop Sirius from lifting his black t-shirt in the middle of the platform. "I can't be seen with you doing that…"
"Why not?" I ask, again surprised at my friend's behavior.
"Ooh, you didn't tell him, Jamesie?" Sirius says, elbowing him in the ribs.
"No, I've only just seen him," James replies, rolling his eyes. "I… got a letter this summer… I… fuck it. I'm Head Boy, okay?"
I stand in shock for a moment, this piece of news far more shocking than Sirius getting a tattoo. After staring at him for a moment, I break out in ravenous laughter, clutching a stitch in my side.
"What's so funny?!" he exclaims, looking murderous.
"Who in hell made you Head Boy?!" I reply, still trying to catch my breath. "I mean you, trouble-maker extraordinaire?"
"Formerly trouble-maker extraordinaire," he corrects, raising his index finger at me. "I'm a changed man, Moony."
"What do you mean?" I ask, the first whistle to board the train sounding. "You'll still... yanno, help me with my problem, right?"
"Of course," he replies, and I breathe a sigh of relief. I take my trunk and heave it onto the luggage car, then follow James and Sirius to the compartment where we said we would meet Peter and Tonks. "I'm just trying to be a better-all-around person, okay? Not harass underclassmen, don't blow up my cauldron on purpose in potions, and don't think I run the school, even though I do."
"I'll be very impressed if you can pull that off," I muse, entering the crowded train hallway. "Especially that last part."
"Remus, I'm an enlightened man," he chuckles, turning right into our compartment. "I now realize how wrong I was living."
"You're insane," I chuckle, taking a seat opposite them. "Completely and one hundred percent insane."
"That's what I said," Sirius agrees, taking a more comfortable position and lying down so he stares up at the ceiling.
"Why are you doing this anyway?" I ask incredulously, taking my bag off my shoulder as the second whistle blows.
He takes a moment to answer this, his face suddenly turning a brilliant red. "I want to live a better life, finish my Hogwarts career off-"
"OH! BULLSHIT!" Sirius suddenly exclaims, sitting up with a mad gleam in his eye. "I know exactly why you're doing this."
"Why then, oh wise one?" James retorts sarcastically.
"One word," Sirius says, a smile breaking across his face. "Evans."
I suppress a chuckle as James's face turns even a darker red and hides an embarrassed smile. "No, not at all."
"Oh, don't you lie!" Sirius exclaims, now in a full-on laughter fit. "I know you were writing her all summer!"
"Shut up, Pads," James murmurs, chucking a book out of his bag at him.
"Ouch, dammit!" Sirius exclaims, picking up the book from the floor and throwing right back at him, knocking his glasses off. "I was right! I was right!"
"So what if you were?" James says embarrassedly, picking up his glasses. "At least I'm changing for a good reason!"
"I commend you for that, and will hold you to your word," I say mischievously as the third and final whistle blows.
"We're off already?" James says, eager to change the subject.
"Yes, James," Sirius says knowingly, the satisfied smile still on his face. "Now, back to-"
"No," James says, turning away from the window and back to Sirius. "We're not going to go there."
"But is she interested?!" he pleads as James turns away again. "That's all I ask!"
Again, red-faced James takes a good ten seconds to answer. "Yeah."
"Ooooooh, Potter finally hit the jackpot!" Sirius whoops, slapping him on the back in a celebratory fashion.
"Finally, only after six years!" I add, chuckling along with Sirius, but genuinely glad for him.
"Okay, enough harassment for one day," he chuckles, giving Sirius a look.
"He's right," Sirius agrees, sighing. "I mean, it's our last first day of school. Isn't that unbelievable?"
"Totally," James agrees. "I can still remember our first day clearly."
"Who doesn't have fond memories of their first day?" I add, smiling at the thought. "I wouldn't be the man I am if I wouldn't have decided to sit with you lot."
"That's very touching, Moony, thank you," James says, mockingly placing a hand over his heart.
"Oh, shove off, I was being sincere!" I exclaim, chuckling.
"I know you were," James replies, crossing him arms and sitting back. "But that doesn't mean I can't make fun of you."
"Did I miss something?" a voice suddenly interrupts from the open compartment door. All three of our heads whip in the direction of our intruder to find it's not an intruder at all. It's Tonks, standing and beaming at us, pink hair and all. "Wotcher!"
"Wotcher to you, too," I say slyly, standing and running over to pick her up and twirl her around the compartment as she laughs her bubbly, clear, euphoric laugh that I love so much. I set her down and place a kiss on her plump, pink lips, a flood of emotions coursing through me.
"We're still here, you remember that, right?" James interrupts loudly as we break apart.
"Oh, of course, Jamesie," she croons, releasing me to go hug him. "Good to see you. And you." She turns to Sirius, and her face suddenly turns apprehensive.
"Come here, chickadee," he says, opening his arms wide. She rushes over and fills them, beaming.
"How are you doing?" she asks, looking down into his eyes seriously.
"Better," he repeats the answer. "Just… better. Yanno, living."
"Living," she repeats, wandering over to rejoin me on the opposite bench. "Interesting choice of word."
"Hey, it's true," he says, shrugging. "What's there to do about it?"
I hope it's a rhetorical question because no one answers, and a heavy silence falls over the compartment.
"You know," James says, deciding to break the ice. "I could report you two for public display of affection."
"Oh, you have no authority," Tonks chuckles, immediately dismissing his claim. She then notices his facial expression and how dead serious he is. "Did I miss something?"
"Yes," James says, nodding. "You're talking to the new Head Boy."
"What?!" she exclaims, her reaction almost identical to mine. "No you're not, you're pulling my leg."
"Not at all," James smirks, rummaging in his bag for something. He produces something small and gold, and throws it over to us. It's his Head Boy badge, shiny and new in the morning sunlight.
"Holy shit," Tonks breathes. "I know this is going to sound rude but… why you?"
"I guess Minny saw 'a change in my behavior,' and how well I've interacted with other students, or at least that's what the letter said. I honestly have no clue why they would give such a prestigious title to someone like me."
"Who's the Head Girl?" Tonks asks, lacing her fingers with mine and relaxing. Sirius sniggers, and James gives him a very dirty look.
"Lily," he says quietly and almost embarrassedly again.
"Lily Evans?" she asks, smirking. "Your new love?"
"How do you know?!" he exclaims.
"I'm Lily's best friend, she tells me everything, James," she explains, her smirk growing wider as James's face gets brighter.
"Stop being such an ass about it," Sirius scoffs. "I don't understand why you get so embarrassed when someone mentions it. Everyone goes through this, I don't see why it's such a big deal."
"Because I really like her, okay Sirius?" he retorts, the blushing in his face slowly receding.
"Of course you do, mate, but that's no reason to cause such a fuss," I say slowly.
"Thanks," James responds, still not meeting our eyes. Another silence falls over us.
"Okay, well I don't know about you guys, but this is our seventh year, and I'm totally ready to fuck this bitch up," Sirius suddenly announces. "Anyone else?"
"Cheers to that!" Tonks exclaims, raising an imaginary glass. "Time to live!"
"That's the kind of attitude I like to see!" he exclaims, smiling broadly at her, following suit with the raising of the make-believe glass. "Come on, everyone!"
Begrudgingly, I raise my hand in a fake toast as James does the same, still not exactly over the torment we just put him through.
"That's right! Now, class of seventy-eight, are we ready to party?!"
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