"Next year's our last, mate," Sirius said jovially, plucking an apple from a tree and biting down into it. "Anything you want to do to kick off our last year?"
Before James had the chance to answer, Sirius said, "And don't go on about Evans. That date you two went on last year should teach you well enough that the two of you just aren't meant for each other."
"No," James sighed, finding a good spot beneath one of the flower-clad trees and flopping himself down. "I suppose were not. But you can't blame me for trying."
Sirius leaned against the tree, his eyes fading into a thoughtful expression. "Perhaps you tried too hard, you know. I mean, a woman likes attention but not at the amount you gave her."
"Oh, and you're an expert on women?" James shot, rolling his eyes. "You can't hold onto a girl to save your life!"
After a very meaningful finger went up to solute James' retort, Sirius tossed the apple core aside and sat himself down beside his friend. "D'you think it matters?" he asked after several moments of lazy silence. "Girls, you know. Love, relationships—the attacks have been rising, people gone missing. Do you think we'll have time for anything after school? I mean, what if this Voldemort bloke really is behind everything? What if things get as bad as the Ministry says they will?"
"I think they will," James said darkly, resituating himself so that the tree branch beneath him wasn't going directly into his leg. "But I don't think that means we should give up on life."
"Always the melodramatic one, Jamesy!" Sirius shouted dramatically, clapping James on the shoulder. "I don't mean we should give up! I just mean…."
"You just mean we should give up, mate," James provided, rubbing his shoulder.
"Yeah… but then what's the point? If we can't live how we want to live—if we have to fight because some bloke's got it in his head that he's some powerful overlord, what's the point of going back to school, pretending life is okay? Shouldn't we just go, then? Go fight this war?"
"Do you want to fight?" James asked.
"'Course I do! What, you think I'm just going to sit by and let the world go to hell?"
"No, I just meant… well, you're right, aren't you? We won't have a chance for anything else, whether we fight or not."
"I don't suppose we will… Merlin, you're always so upbeat, aren't you, James? I was looking for a little reassurance and all you're giving me is this hopelessness. What's gotten into you?"
When James didn't answer, Sirius let out a long sigh. "It's Lily, isn't it?"
James nodded and stood up, brushing the dust from his pants. "I mean, if I haven't got her in six years, what's the chance she'll realize her undying love for me next year? And after that, what becomes of us? She's a Muggle-born, Sirius! She's in more danger than anyone, and if I'm not there to protect her--!"
"Does it matter if you're together or not, James?" Sirius interrupted, staying where he was beneath the tree. "Will you fight for her if she runs off with Snivelly or some other git?"
"'Course I will!"
"Then give it up! Quit pining
after Evans and find another girl. You liked the Prewet girl you went out with last year, what happened? She too un-protectable for you? You have to be a hero?"
"It's not like that!"
"Whatever it is, then, find another girl who wants
your protection, you big bad beast, you."
"The way you're talking, I'd expect it to be you," James retorted, tossing a pine cone at Sirius' head and smirking when it hit him directly in the forehead. "Like you say anyway, there's really no point to it."
"Oh, of course there bloody well is. You and me've gotten along just fine and who knows, you could kick the bucket any time now and I don't hold it against you."
"Yeah," James said, apparently unable to find anything else to say. He offered his hand down and Sirius took it, pulling himself up from the ground.
"Mum will have supper ready by now," James said, as the two of them made their way back down the winding path.
"Your mum makes the best beef stew, you know. My mum wouldn't know what to do in a kitchen to save her life."
James laughed lightheartedly, speeding his walk so as to make it back to the house quicker. Once they'd found the path that led back up to the humble manor Sirius stuck his foot out, causing James to topple over himself as Sirius made a dash for the door.