Remus gazed around at the empty dorm, feeling a strange hollowness in his stomach. This room had been his home for seven years, and it was hard to believe it was the last time he’d see it. The beds were bereft of blankets, trunks all hauled downstairs to the Common Room, Quidditch pennants and magazines and crumpled parchments and dirty socks all cleared away. He blinked and sighed and tried to shake himself into a better mood. He wondered if Sirius had got his note, or if he was too busy saying maudlin farewells to his blonde bird to pay attention to notes from his mate. James, as was becoming usual these days, was nowhere to be found.
Sirius had got Remus' note, and wasn't in the dorm with Remus because he spent some time trying to unstick it - he and Peter had got into a 'throw whatever's lying around at each other' war, and while he was trying to pry the paper off the trunk to transfigure into a bird that would dive-bomb Peter with paper droppings, he'd taken a barrage of old dirty socks that Peter had somehow been hoarding. Finally, his nose could take no more, and Sirius shouted truce and bounded up the stairs to the dorm to escape death by smelly sock.
Of course Sirius got my note, Remus thought as he was staggering forward from the impact. “Oof. Suppose I ought to know better than to stand right in front of the door,” he commented, turning to grin at his best friend. “Is someone chasing you? Should I be prepared to hold them off while you climb out the window?”
Sirius laughed, reaching out to steady himself against Remus after tripping into him, breathless from his sudden sprint up the stairs and smiling. "I think Peter's gone back to looking for his shoes now," he said.
Remus laughed. “Which you hid?” he guessed, automatically lifting his hand to steady Sirius’ arm. Then he caught himself at it and dropped his hand awkwardly. “Where’s James?” he asked, to cover it.
"'Course I did," Sirius said, shifting away from Remus and dropping his hands. "Haven't seen James, but c'mon, mate, you know he's got to be with Lils. Dunno where else he'd be if not with us." He smiled again and thumped Remus on the shoulder. "So, I got your note."
Remus smiled briefly, then went to sit on the floor against the wall. He couldn’t quite bring himself to sit on one of the naked beds. “Do you know what’s going on with James?” he asked, trying to sound casual. “He’s been acting all dodgy lately.”
Sirius followed, sitting next to Remus on the floor. He wished he could be Padfoot in here, but it would be too easy for someone to walk in and wonder how a dog had got all the way up in Gryffindor tower. And that'd probably get Remus in trouble. Sirius was learning to consider things like that. Slowly.
"Well..." Sirius shrugged, thinking if there were one person he could confide in and not have half the school knowing in ten minutes' time, it was Remus. "He's just been really wound up over Lily lately. Things are getting very serious, you know."
Remus snorted. “I’d say so,” he agreed, thinking of how he’d actually caught James attempting poetry some time ago.
Sirius leaned in conspiratorially, grinning. "Yeah but, more than just serious. He wants to propose."
Remus gave a squawk of surprise and stared at Sirius. “Are you--propose?” His voice cracked on that word and his face heated. “Really?”
Sirius laughed, watching Remus. "Yep. He refuses to say anything to anyone in case she says no, but he asked my advice. I said of course she'd say no. That's why my hair was purple last week."
“Oh, that’s why,” Remus said weakly. “Merlin. Propose.” He slumped back against the wall, staring across the room blankly. “That’s bloody strange.”
Sirius tilted his head, scrutinizing Remus' suddenly dazed expression. "What?"
“To think of one of us,” Remus said, gesturing vaguely, “y’know, married.” He glanced at Sirius. “Can’t imagine you married.”
Sirius choked. "Bloody hell, no, there's no way."
Remus laughed. “Well,” he said, shrugging. “Anyway…I mean, I like Lily, who doesn’t? But…it wouldn’t be the Marauders anymore, would it?”
"I told him it was a daft idea," Sirius said, shrugging. "Told him it wouldn't be the same. Only that apparently pissed him off and he shouted at me." He rolled his eyes.
“Yes, well, girls like to be married, I suppose,” Remus said doubtfully. “I mean, perhaps he thinks she’ll bin him if he doesn’t propose.”
"Lil?" Sirius asked dubiously, then shrugged. "You never know, I suppose. Birds are all barmy."
“I didn’t say I thought she would,” Remus pointed out. “D’you really think she’ll say no?” He frowned.
"Probably." Sirius grinned. "Who'd marry James?"
Remus considered this. “Point,” he said. “Wonder if she realizes most of the dirty socks we had to clean up today were his. And the way he leaves his used pants on the floor would probably drive her mad.”
"Oh yes. There's no way. I think the Marauders are safe." Sirius laughed.
“Speak for yourself,” Remus said, giving him an offended look. “I don’t leave my dirty pants lying about.”
Sirius arched a brow. "What, going to ask her next?" he teased.
“I think not. James would kill me.” Remus grinned. “Anyway, I expect you’re wrong. I think she’ll agree. I’m just not certain he’ll work up the courage to actually ask her.”
"True. James is a bit silly about Evans. Can't imagine he'll actually do it."
Remus sighed. Well, he had his answer as to why James had been acting so strangely. It didn’t really make any difference. He’d already known things were going to change now that they were leaving school. He glanced sideways at Sirius, then looked away again. He just wished things between him and Sirius wouldn’t change. He didn’t want Sirius to find some girl to be…well, serious…about. He didn’t want Sirius to go off and get married. He shoved down that thought and squashed it ruthlessly. Stop thinking about things that are too stupid for words, Lupin, he told himself.
Sirius looked worried a moment. There was always the insane possibility that Lily would say yes, and then things would be different. But he was still determined to hang on to Moony. "So when are we going flat-hunting?" he asked abruptly, expression lightening again.
Remus smiled, cheering up a bit. “Mum and Dad are coming to London to meet the Express,” he said. “I thought I’d tell them then that I’m not coming home. What are you doing?”
Sirius shrugged. "Sod all." He loved not having to do anything. "Until I go into training, anyway. Just leech off James a bit longer till we find a place."
“So when do you want to go looking for a flat?” Remus bit his lower lip, hoping Sirius would say soon. He didn’t really want to have to go home and listen to his parents try to guilt him into staying with them instead of living with Sirius.
"As soon as possible," Sirius said, becoming excited. "I've been looking through adverts in the Prophet. There are some places in London that don't sound too bad. We could go take a look at them."
“You sound like an overgrown puppy,” Remus said, amused. “In other words, I could take a room at the Leaky Cauldron for a night or two and then we’d have a new place to call home?”
Frowning at the overgrown puppy comment, Sirius tried to settle down. "I'm sure you could stay with James and me," he said. "Just for a few nights? The Potters wouldn't care."
“Well, I wouldn’t want to impose,” Remus said uncertainly. “They wouldn’t even have any advance warning. And not everyone wants a werewolf in their house. His parents probably know, don’t they?”
"I don't know, but it doesn't matter. You've spent the night before," Sirius pointed out. "You know how the Potters are; they're letting me live with them. They won't even notice if you're there."
“Well, I mean, we aren’t kids anymore. I just…” Remus sighed. “I don’t want to be everyone’s charity case.” He looked away, embarrassed.
"You don't have to stay with us if you don't want," Sirius said doubtfully, and gave Remus the puppy eyes.
“It isn’t—oh, blast.” Remus glared at Sirius, the expression gaining strength when he saw the puppy eyes. “It isn’t that I don’t want to stay with you,” he said, “it’s that I don’t want to be a bother to the Potters.”
Sirius smirked, then thought for a moment. "Okay. Then we'll both stay at the Leaky Cauldron."
Remus sighed. “Padfoot,” he began, then sighed. “Why are we arguing about this? It’s silly.”
Sirius arched a brow. "Are we arguing? Why can't I stay at the Leaky Cauldron too? It's closer to where we need to go to look at places."
Remus laughed helplessly. “I don’t care where you stay, Padfoot,” he said, giving up. “If the Potters invite me, I’ll stay with you. Otherwise, I’ll stay at the Leaky Cauldron, and you can stay wherever you please.”
Sirius eyed him, then let out a sigh. "All right. But we're going first thing in the morni--afternoon, so we can do plenty of looking and find a great place quick."
"First thing in the morning?" Remus said, giving Sirius a wicked little grin. "Sounds brilliant. Six o'clock all right?"
Sirius snorted. "You won't be up at six o'clock either, you berk."
Remus raised his eyebrows. "Who says?" he demanded.
"You aren't ever up at six!" Sirius protested.
"How would you know?" Remus asked, grinning. "As if you're ever up to see."
"No but I'm up to see you snoring away."
Remus laughed. “All right, what about eleven, then? We could see at least one place before lunch that way.”
"All right, eleven." Sirius nodded, and made a note to set his alarm. "That's decent."
“Merlin, we’re really leaving, aren’t we?” Remus breathed, looking around the room again. It seemed mournful without all the detritus of four eighteen-year-old boys strewn about.
"Yeah." Sirius looked around, shaking his head. "I think it won't properly sink in for me for a bit. Doesn't feel real yet."
“I suppose it’ll feel real enough when we’re asked for a deposit on our flat,” Remus said wryly.
Laughing, Sirius nodded. "Bet you're right about that."
“I suppose we ought to go see if Peter’s found his shoes,” Remus said, feeling a pang of regret. “Or if James has reappeared from wherever he and Lily got to.” He didn’t move.
Sirius snorted. "I know Peter hasn't found his shoes; unless he's checked the Quidditch pitch."
"Sirius!" Remus exclaimed. Really. Sirius, at least, would never grow up.
Sirius grinned. "You reckon I should tell him before the train leaves?"
Remus just gave him a look.
Sirius sighed and sluggishly got to his feet. "All right, all right. I'll stop him from throwing his smelly socks at Sarah Hepplewhyte."
“You know, some day you’re going to prank the wrong person and end up really in trouble,” Remus said, tilting his head back and trying not to let anything in him thrill at the way Sirius’ dark hair slanted across his eyes.
Sirius snorted, shaking his head at Remus. "Just harmless pranks, Moony. No one's going to do anything to me. You worry too much."
"Only because it's you," Remus said without thinking, then bit his tongue hard and jerked his gaze away from Sirius' as he stood up.
"Yeah, yeah, think I'm reckless and need looking after, don't you." Sirius thumped Remus' shoulder and headed for the doorway to the stairs. "Some people find me charming."
"Can't imagine why," Remus shot back, glad that had gone unnoticed. He followed more slowly.
"Melanie finds me charming," Sirius countered, heading slowly down the steps.
Remus made a face but didn’t say anything.
"Oh Merlin," Sirius uttered as he stopped at the bottom of the stair. "Peter! Leave Hepplewhyte alone, she doesn't really have your shoes!" he called out above girlish shrieks of terror, and sprinted across the common room.
Grinning suddenly, Remus hurried down the stairs and joined in the chaos one last time.