Rating: PG for language
Summary: Peter knows; James knows; but Sirius doesn’t know. October 11th entry for scarvesnhats.
When you are King, dilly dilly,
I shall be Queen
Who told you so, dilly dilly,
Who told you so?
'Twas my own heart, dilly dilly,
That told me so.
It took them nearly the entire month to build the tree house. Enormous branches, windfallen in the last of the summer storms, were hauled half by magic and half by bruised shoulders and calloused hands, to the wonderful fork-split oak that James had found. The Forbidden Forest was off-limits to students, blah blah blah, but they all felt that, the tree standing just out of view of the Hogsmeade road, this part of the forest was not so much Forbidden as Mildly Proscribed.
When it was built, they used a strategy of bribery, blackmail, and cunning to arrange a Friday night when they could sleep out in the tree house. Peter and James had been all for cooking over a campfire, but Sirius had persuaded them to leave after dinner (he referred to some incident with flaming sausages and vomiting oatmeal at James’ house that Peter and Remus were anxious to learn more about).
Over the past week, they had gradually carried over an impressive quantity of necessities: pyjamas, toothpaste, Striponimos, bottles of beer and whiskey, a box of Flaming Conkers, two hampers from the kitchen, a bottle of Evelyn Pilose’s Hair Tonic for Baldness, and Peter’s beloved Very Large Knife (a souvenir from an uncle in Saskatchewan). All that remained was to slip down to Hogsmeade through the secret passage leading to the old mill and walk back up into the woods. James brought his Invisibility Cloak just in case.
The woods were dark, but Peter had found a spell that let them see in the dark—safer than fires and lights, he’d said. They started in on the whiskey, which Remus had never had except on cotton for toothache, so they all expected good things from him.
James had found an immense coil of rope, and they fashioned a kind of rigging in the tree, leading up to the platform. Remus, undoubtedly due to the effect of the whiskey, was the first to disdain the ladder and climb the ropes to the platform, and called down the challenge:
“I’m the king of the castle, and you’re all dirty rascals.”
After a pause, following which James shouted up, “What are you on about, mate?” Remus explained the rules of the game.
When comprehension settled in, Sirius gave a whoop, and much drunken violence followed. They made horrible mocking versions of the rhyme and fell (were pushed), flailing, into the rustling leaves on the forest floor, which was much harder than it looked. Fortunately, they had enough whiskey in their bodies that they bounced like pickled eggs.
Remus finally clawed his way back to the top after a very long while of nothing but boots in the face, and the ragging began (well, not James, he was just coming back from taking a piss). Sirius nearly grabbed Remus’ ankle, but Remus made a clever twist away that resulted in Sirius dangling from his knees off a rope, his hair just brushing the ground.
Peter’s voice came out louder, perhaps, than he had meant, certainly drowning out Sirius’ curses:
“Lupin’s the queen of Hogsmeade town, boys queue up for him to go down.”
With amazingly good reflexes for someone seeing double, Remus dropped on him, flattening him to the ground, and his wand shook a bare fingers length from Peter’s face.
“Say that again,” he hissed, and Peter grinned up at him.
“It’s the bloody truth, everyone knows.”
Sirius somersaulted down out of the rope webbing and pulled Remus up by his collar, which probably saved Peter a good hexing.
“Have you absolutely cracked?” he said, shaking Remus a little. “Prefects do not jump on the heads of their dorm mates, it’s not done.”
Peter sat up, rubbing his shoulders, taking care to stay out of the range of Remus’ boots. “You said I was fat and stupid,” he said, still smiling at Remus with an odd light in his eyes.
“Well, you are,” Remus said. “Stupid, definitely.” Sirius tried choking a little more sense into him.
“You are,” Peter sing-songed back at him, “queer as an Irish galleon. And a slag, from what I hear.”
Remus wrenched away from Sirius, Disillusioning himself as he stalked off into the woods, so that it looked almost as if he had disappeared, like one of the wood-spirits in the fairy-stories.
James, his trousers undone, hurrying back bare-arsed from the bushes, made a grab for what he thought was Remus, but it turned out to be a tree.
“Oh, well done, Peter, that’s fucking brilliant,” James said, catching his underpants in the zip, which then refused to budge. “What the hell’s Lupin ever done to you?”
“It’s more the fact that he exists,” Peter said in a passable imitation of Sirius on a Snape-hunt. He pushed himself to standing.
“Well, it’s not like he is, right?” Sirius said, and two heads turned to him, dark hair and pale, with two identical comically-surprised face. “Bent.”
“Get your head out of your arse, Black, of course he is,” James said impatiently. He glared at Peter. “And you know Villosa just dumped him for that Hufflepuff girl who’s all fur coat and no knickers—“
“Well, Lupin got his, didn’t he? He and Evelyn Pilose.”
“And then,” James continued, “the Ravenclaw chaser proposed to hire Remus to do all his friends. It’s been a shitty week.” James shook his head. “After all the trouble we had with you and Portia-the-Merciless, you could be a little less an ass.”
Peter had turned pink. “I’ll go find him, shall I?”
“Good idea. Idiot,” James said, and Peter shoved his hands in his pockets as he headed off in the direction Remus had taken.
“What?” said Sirius helplessly, with that feeling that things were spinning out of control. “What, when?” he continued, determined to have this out. “Who, what?”
James grabbed the whiskey bottle in one hand, threw his arm around Sirius’ shoulders, and pulled him down so that they were sitting in a companionable huddle. “Sirius, mate,” he said, in mock solemnity, “it’s time someone told you the facts of life.”
None of them had managed to achieve a full Animagus transformation yet, but Peter was already able to summon up a rat’s enhanced sense of smell. He found it useful, for example, in following the trail of an annoyed werewolf through the Forbidden Forest.
“Why a goddamned rat?” Sirius had said, but Peter had his reasons. Rats were small, capable of travelling in stealth, practically invisible. “Sneaky,” Sirius muttered, and Peter smiled to hold in a snarl. Of course, sneaky: it didn’t bother them when his intelligence let them prank the Slytherins, did it? Not at all. They just never considered that the intelligence might be flowing both ways. He, Peter, was clever. He just couldn’t figure out why he was what he was to them. Invisible. Or a joke.
“What have you got that I haven’t?” he asked Remus when he found him sitting by the edge of the lake. “What the fuck is it? Because we’re a lot alike, you and I, we’re neither of us like them. What makes you their chosen one?”
“Empathy and timing,” Remus said bluntly. “You haven’t either.”
“I have,” Peter said indignantly.
“You have when it’ll get you something you want,” Remus said, and he turned to look over his shoulder at Peter with eyes that were shadowed. “You don’t want anything from me personally, right now, so I’m not getting an apology, am I? And most people, if they weren’t planning on making an apology, would just stay the hell away. So, what do you want?” He raised his eyebrows. “Annoyed James, have you? You’d like to show James that you put things right.”
“Whatever,” Peter said. “Look, I am sorry, but I’m sick of always being sorry, you know? Who’s ever going to apologise to me? I try,” he said, bitter now, “I try so damn hard.”
“If you let them think of you as a clown, they’ll hear everything you say as funny.” Remus sighed and stood up. “Don’t ask me, I’m the one who can’t say no, aren’t I?”
Peter shifted on his feet. “Everyone doesn’t talk about you like that, I was just–” He shrugged.
“I know. Stupid git,” Remus said, almost fondly. “It’s them I can’t say no to. I’m a prefect, what am I doing out here in the middle of the night, getting drunk? But here I am.” He shrugged.
“You coming back?”
“Yeah.” Remus stood, stretching, his fingers laced and taut against the sky. “I’m sorry I called you fat and stupid. You’re not, you know.” He punched Peter lightly on the shoulder. “Muscle, see?”
“If I weren’t stupid I’d get out of this mess,” Peter said. “We’re never going to be like them, are we?”
“No,” Remus said. “You shouldn’t want it so much.”
“Ha,” Peter said, explosively, his natural instinct for over-doing things reemerging. “Neither should you.” He scuffed along through the leaves next to Remus, embarrassed at how pleasant it felt to have done this for James. “Is the rest of the night going to be all right?”
“Yeah.” Peter swallowed, glanced over at Remus. “I don’t like you, you know.”
“Considering,” Remus said dryly, “that you know all my secrets and I know none of yours, I try to stay on your good side.”
“Oh, well, fuck you, too.” But Peter was grinning, and the clearing was before them, and James was sitting on the cold ground with Sirius’ head in his lap.
“So?” James said, looking up.
“Refer not to That Incident of which We Will Ne’er Speak Again,” Peter said. “Who finished the whiskey?”
“It was Sirius,” James said with cheerful false sobriety. “The great lush. There’s still beer.”
“We need to play games, James,” Sirius said from his collapsed position, and snickered. “Hello, Remus. Hello, Peter. What aren’t we talking about?”
“Time for Stripominos,” Remus said firmly. “If you’d care to go upstairs. There are snacks, too,” he added.
“Nudity and food,” Sirius crowed, and allowed himself to be pulled upright. “Are there pickled eggs?” It was a measure of the general maturity of his bosom friends that not one said the words in all their minds, namely, “only you.”
There was a noble struggle with gravity that got them all up the ladder with nothing more than splinters. The snacks were messily appreciated and the game proceeded with much singing, a few animal impersonations, several major muscle groups strained, and, of course, an increasing sense of coldness. When they finally managed to persuade James out of his underwear (it was now missing a piece out of the front which was permanently embedded in his zip), making Peter the winner, there was a desperate scramble for pyjamas.
That was when James realised that there were no blankets. Clothes went back on on top of pyjamas and they all piled together in a shivering, body-heat conserving heap.
Only Sirius escaped the dreadful cold that the other three came down with. This perhaps had less to do with his stout constitution than the eight garlic-and-chili pickled eggs that he had consumed. Despite not being ill, oddly enough, he was widely avoided for several days. In particular, his downwind side.
They never stayed overnight at the tree house again. James took Lily there, and Peter took a Portia look-alike, and somehow the rumour of a hidden shelter took wing. The wooden beams became a tangled mass of engraved names, dates, initials, and crude drawings. The tree house was still standing years later, when Harry Potter attended Hogwarts, but the one time he was there he ran his hand over his parents’ names without even realising it.
The original song on which the nursery rhyme is based was popular in the late 1600s. It was called “Diddle Diddle, or The Kind Country Lovers,” and the last verses are:
And you will love, diddle diddle, my dog and I.
For you and I, diddle diddle, now all are one,
And we will lie, diddle diddle, no more alone.
Lavender's blue, diddle diddle, lavender's green,
Let me be king, diddle diddle, you be the queen.
Lavender's green, diddle diddle, lavender's blue,
You must love me, diddle diddle, ‘cause I love you.