“So.” James said on Sunday evening, “How are we going to get them back?”
“Get who back?” Peter asked without looking up, searching through his notes for something.
They were in the Gryffindor common room, trying to do their homework for McGonagall. Fourteen inches on the basic laws of transfiguration. Sirius and James had finished theirs, Peter was at least six inches in, and Remus hadn’t started.
“The Slytherins.” James hissed, “Keep up, Pete.”
“Not all of the Slytherins,” Peter asked, sounding worried, “Only Snape and Mulciber, right?”
“All of them.” Sirius confirmed. He had just appeared from under the desk they were sharing, and presented a piece of parchment, “This what you were looking for?”
“Thanks!” Peter grabbed it, relieved, “I’ve nearly finished…”
“Have you done it, Lupin?” Sirius looked over. Remus had opened his book, but hadn’t so much as looked at it. He’d considered cloistering himself away in the library one evening and trying to read it properly – he could read if he really, really focussed. But the opportunity hadn’t presented, and if he was honest; he just didn’t want to. Ever since the Potions lesson the four of them had become real friends, and Remus didn’t want to miss out.
“Nah,” He shrugged in response to Sirius. “Can’t be bothered.”
“Let us know if you need help.”
“You can copy mine if you want.” James pushed his across the desk. Remus pushed it back, gritting his teeth.
“I’m fine. I’m not stupid.”
“No one said you were.” James replied, casually. Sirius was looking at him, though. Remus wanted to hit him, but he was trying not to lash out so much – James and Sirius sometimes play wrestled, but they never actually tried to hurt each other, like he had with Snape. Forcing himself to swallow his temper, Remus opted instead to change the subject.
“We could put itching powder in their beds.” He offered. Someone had done that to him once. He had a rash for a full week, and on the night of the full moon had torn at his skin more than usual. “Or on their clothes… if we could figure out who does the laundry, anyway.”
This had been a matter of great concern to Remus – their dirty laundry appeared to just vanish and then resurface, cleaned and folded in their trunks. He’d never caught anyone else in their room, and couldn’t understand it at all.
“I like it.” James replied, chewing his quill, “Anyone got any itching powder, though?”
The three boys shook their heads.
“Could order some from Zonko’s.” Sirius put in. “If you let me borrow your owl, James, Mum confiscated mine after the sorting.”
“I s’pose,” James replied. “Wish we could do it sooner, though. You know, strike while the iron is hot.”
“Don’t need to buy itching powder,” Remus said, suddenly, having a brainwave, “Do you reckon they have rose hips in the greenhouse?”
“Yep,” Peter spoke, head still bowed over his homework, “For healing potions – arthritis, I think.”
“The hairs inside make you itch, really badly.” Remus explained, excited, “Matron – the woman who runs the children’s home – she grows them, and if you get in trouble she makes you seed them without gloves on.” His fingertips itched just thinking about it.
“That’s awful.” James said.
“Good idea, though!” Sirius grinned. “Next break, we’ll go and get a load of them. Then we can seed them – with gloves on – and put them in the Slytherin’s bedsheets. Excellent!”
“How are we going to get into the Slytherin dorms?” Peter asked, finally finishing his work.
“Leave that to me,” James smirked, mercurially.
* * *
Getting the rose hips was easy. They sent Peter, who was the only one of them who hadn’t been given a detention yet, and was therefore under the least observation. Peter was small and good at going unseen; he crept into the green house unnoticed during morning break and returned red faced and gleeful, with a jar full of rose hips under his cloak.
Then they’d all locked themselves away in their shared bathroom to seed all of the buds. Under Remus’ close instruction, they all wore their heavy dragon hide gloves to do this, taking extra care not to touch the seeds or fine little hairs.
“I can’t wait to see the looks on their faces.” Sirius was grinning, sitting cross legged on the floor next to James.
Remus watched, sitting on the edge of the bath tub, James and Sirius’ two dark heads bowed over the work. He was a little bit jealous of their friendship. They had so much in common – being raised into magic, both growing up wealthy, both completely mad about quidditch. In addition, it was clear that after only three weeks James and Sirius had managed to secure a reputation as joint kings of the first years. Everyone listened to them when they spoke. Everyone laughed when they were funny. No one even got annoyed if they lost house points.
“I still don’t know how we’re going to get into the Slytherin dorms – even Peter isn’t that sneaky.” Sirius glanced at James. He’d been trying to get him to reveal his plan ever since the bespectacled boy had mentioned it.
“Let me worry about that,” was all James said.
The seeds and hairs were then decanted into another jar, while the boys ended up eating the leftover rosehips over the course of the week.
It was Tuesday evening when they finally had their chance. James decided that they would have to do it before everyone went to bed. He also decided that they ought to go to the Slytherin dorms separately, to avoid being seen together and discovered. Remus personally thought this was overkill, but went along with it, not wanting to ruin the other boy’s fun.
They ate dinner much more quickly than usual that evening, before getting up from the table one at a time and leaving the hall. Peter looked so nervous Remus thought he might panic at the last minute and give them all away. He made sure to stay close to the smaller boy, just in case he had to cover his mouth or pull him back at some point.
Sirius and James went first, of course, heading towards the girl’s loo’s on the second floor which Remus had told them led to the dungeons. He’d thought about keeping that particular passageway to himself, but as he’d already found a few other good hiding places by then he reasoned that letting them know about this one wouldn’t hurt. After all, how often would he want to get to the dungeons?
The ghost who lived in the toilets was fortunately in a quiet mood, though Remus could hear her sobbing softly in the last stall.
“Lead the way then, Lupin,” James gestured grandly, once Remus and Peter arrived. Sirius grabbed his arm,
“Wait, show us what you’re planning, first.”
James smirked that annoying grin he’d been sporting since Sunday.
“Oh… ok then, here, hold this,” he thrust the jar of rosehip seeds into Sirius’ hands, pulling back his robes.
He produced a very long, voluminous cloak, woven from the strangest looking fabric Remus had ever seen – silvery grey and shimmery.
“No.” Sirius gaped, “You haven’t, Potter, you bloody haven’t…”
James was grinning so broadly now that Remus thought his face might split in two. The gangly boy winked at them all, then, with a flourish, swept the cloak over his head, so that it covered him top to toe. He vanished.
“You jammy bastard!” Sirius whooped, “How come you never told me?!”
“You never told me, either!” Peter squeaked, “And I’ve known you forever. Where did you get it?”
James pulled the hood of the cloak down, so that his head appeared to float in mid-air. It made Remus feel a bit queasy.
“Been in the family for years.” He said, triumphantly, “Dad let me bring it, as long as I don’t tell mum.”
“Lucky git.” Sirius said, grabbing for some of the invisible material and rubbing it between his fingers, “My parents would do anything for an invisibility cloak.”
“I reckon we can all fit under it,” James demonstrated, pulling it apart and raising his arms like a bat, “C’mon, let’s all get nice and cosy…”
They all shuffled underneath the cloak, then tried waddling up and down the room a few times until they were able to walk comfortably together. Finally, trying not to giggle or whisper too much, the four invisible boys made their way to the dungeons. Remus showed them which tiles to tap in order for the floor to open up in the third stall from the left.
“How’d you find this, Remus?” James whispered, “It’s genius.”
“You come out behind one of them rugs they hang on the walls, in the dungeons,” Remus replied, “I just looked behind it.”
“Do you mean a tapestry?” Peter asked,
“Um… s’pose so?” Remus was glad none of them could see his face.
“Shut up, Pettigrew.” Sirius snapped. Remus felt a sharp kick hit the back of his ankle,
“Oi,” he hissed, kicking back twice as hard “Bugger off.”
“Sorry!” Sirius yelped, “Meant to get Pete, not you.”
“Be quiet, all of you,” James snapped, “We’re almost there.”
They waited quietly on their side of the tapestry, listening for footsteps in the corridor outside. Once James was satisfied that it was quiet, they all clambered out of the passage. The dungeons were cool, dimly lit and cavernous. There was a strange dripping sound coming from somewhere – perhaps the pipes.
“Where’s the entrance?” Sirius murmured.
“Behind that wall,” Remus pointed, hoping they could see where he was aiming. It was a plain brick wall.
“How’d you know?”
“I’ve seen them go in before,” Remus said, hurriedly. He wasn’t going to tell them that he knew there were two hundred Slytherins on the other side because the scent of their blood and their magic so strongly he could almost taste it.
“D’you know the password?”
“It’s not curfew yet, let’s just wait.”
So they did, rather uncomfortably. Though the corridor was dank, it was unnecessarily warm underneath the cloak, especially with all four of them so close together. Fortunately, two seventh years came hurrying through in the next few minutes. Unfortunately, Sirius knew them.
“Let’s see the ring again, Bella!” Narcissa Black pleaded with her elder sister. Remus felt Sirius stiffen, pressing himself backwards into the wall.
Bellatrix preened, extending a long, ivory arm. On her bony finger was an enormous, ugly silver and emerald engagement ring, which she’d been flashing about since the start of term. Everyone in the school knew that she would be marrying Rodolphus Lestrange, some wizard politician, as soon as she completed her NEWTs. Sirius had to go to the wedding.
Narcissa squealed when she saw it, though she’d probably seen it more than anyone else.
“Gorgeous!” She gushed, “Oh, I can’t wait to get married…”
“Wait your turn,” Bellatrix replied, with a voice like nails on a chalkboard. “Once Lucius has a better position with the ministry I’m sure Mummy and Daddy will agree to the match.”
The two young women were standing before the brick wall now. Bellatrix was the taller of the two, but they looked very alike. They had long, black curly hair – much like Sirius himself, and that same perfect Black family bone structure.
“Mundus sanguine,” Bellatrix announced. The wall slid aside to let them in, and the four boys hurried after, as fast as possible before it closed.
For the first time since he had been at Hogwarts, Remus was truly glad he had been placed in Gryffindor. The differences between their warm, comfortable common room and that of the Slytherin’s was stark. It was built like an enormous banquet hall, rather than a sitting room. The walls were richly decorated with yet more elegant tapestries, the fireplace was huge and ornately carved, and a ghoulish green pallor hung over everything. More than that, the place felt somehow wicked. Remus tried not to shudder.
The other boys seemed as uneasy as he was, and they all froze still until James prodded them forward, up a flight of stairs which they all hoped led to the boy’s dormitories. On their way they passed Severus, sitting alone in a corner, hunched over his potions textbook. At the top of the stairs, they entered the first open door which was, thankfully, a bedroom.
James threw off the cloak,
“Keep a look out, eh Petey?” He said, hurrying into the room, “Reckon one of these is Snape’s bed?”
“This one might be,” Sirius pointed, “Sheets look greasy enough.” All four boys snickered.
“Quick then, lads, gloves on,” James whispered, unscrewing the jar. Remus and Sirius pulled on a dragon hide glove each, grabbed a handful of seeds and began scattering them underneath the bedclothes.
“They’ll see them!” James said, sounding disappointed. It was true, the bright red little seeds stood out clearly against the white sheets, even in the dark.
“Well… they’ll still get it on them trying to brush them out,” Sirius offered.
“Hang on…” Remus had a sudden idea. He didn’t know how it had occurred to him, or why, but somehow he was just sure it would work. He pulled out his wand, bit his lip and waved it gingerly over the bed he had just scattered with seeds. “Obfuscate.” He whispered.
And just like that, the seeds were gone. Well, he knew they were still there; but no one would be able to see them now.
“Blimey!” James stared, “How’d you do that? Flitwick hasn’t taught us that charm yet, has he? Was it in the reading?”
“Nah,” Remus shrugged, “I saw some of the fifth years doing it yesterday to some sweets they bought in the village. S’not hard to copy.”
Sirius and James immediately attempted it themselves, over the seeds they had just scattered. It didn’t work the first time – or the second, but after the third, James had managed to vanish most of his.
“You’d better do it, Lupin, or we’ll be here all night.” He decided.
“Yes, please hurry up!” Peter hissed from the doorway, white with fear.
Sirius tried a few more times before giving up and letting Remus take over.
“You’re going to show me exactly how to do that as soon as we’re back on neutral territory.” He said. Remus nodded, though he wasn’t sure how to explain it. He really had just done it because he thought he probably could.
“Next room,” James announced, pulling them back to the entranceway.
“Do we have to?” Peter asked, hopping from foot to foot, “Isn’t that enough?”
“Not even close!” Sirius replied with a laugh, tossing his head, “What if we haven’t even got Snape’s bed yet? We have to get them all, Pete. Are you with us or not?”
“All the boys, anyway,” James said, as they entered the next bedroom, “I don’t fancy our chances getting into the girl’s – remember what happened to Dirk Creswell last week?”
They worked quickly and managed to get every single boys room. Even the last one, which had three sleeping students in it – sixth years. Even Sirius had begged off going in there, but Remus was giddy with the excitement of the prank now, and threw on the invisibility cloak to go in himself. He even scattered the rosehips over the pillows of the sleeping boys.
By the time they had finished, it was getting late and more and more Slytherin’s were heading upstairs for bed. Barely able to contain their glee, the four Gryffindor’s hid under the cloak and slowly crept back down the stairs, flattening themselves against the wall anytime someone was coming, then through the enormous stately common room and out through the wall they’d come in.
As James had instructed, they all kept as quiet as possible until they were within spitting distance of Gryffindor tower, and it was finally safe to remove the cloak once more.
“Widdershins!” They all chanted at the fat lady, who swung open for them.
It was bliss to be back in the warm, bright Gryffindor common room, and they all threw themselves into the nearest available sofa, grinning inanely at each other. Frank Longbottom called to them from his desk, where he was tidying up revision notes,
“Cutting it fine, lads, been somewhere interesting?”
Peter looked uncertain, but James just waved a hand,
Frank shook his head, though he was smiling,
“I’m sure I’ll hear about it soon enough.”
“I wish I could be there when it all kicks off!” Sirius whispered, his eyes shining with joy, “And I wish even more we could have got my cousins.”
“It’s just the beginning, Sirius mate,” James replied, slapping the other boy’s knee, “Between the four of us I reckon we could go even bigger next time. Excellent first mission, men!”