Wednesday 15th September 1971
The next morning James and Sirius could barely contain their excitement and hurried their dorm mates down to breakfast before any of the other Gryffindors. They were the first students to reach the great hall, other than a few Ravenclaws bent over their NEWT revision books with huge mugs of black coffee.
“Perfect,” Sirius beamed at the empty benches, “Front row seats!”
“Bet no one shows up for hours.” Peter groaned, half asleep, propped up on his elbows.
“Oh cheer up,” James poured them all large mugs of tea, “Don’t want to see the fruits of our labour?”
“Not at six in the morning.” Peter replied, slurping his tea. Sirius winced at the sound and pushed a plate towards him,
“Have some toast and stop whinging.”
Remus took some toast too and cut it into four pieces. He spread marmalade onto one quarter, jam onto another, butter on the third and lemon curd on the last. He ignored the look of amusement Sirius was giving him. Remus had never had so much choice before, and was determined to make the most of every meal.
Fortunately, they did not have to wait too long before the other students began to trickle in for breakfast. The first Slytherins arrived just as Remus was finishing his toast. Three boys and two girls; third years. They walked over to their table, quite unaware of the four eager Gryffindors watching them intently. For a few moments it was as if nothing was different. Sirius sighed with disappointment. But then. The tallest boy shuffled slightly in his seat, rubbing his arm. Another seemed to be looking for something in his pocket, but from Remus’ viewpoint he was clearly scratching his leg furiously. The third kept using his wand to rub behind his ear.
“It worked!” James whispered, breathless with excitement. Even Peter looked cheerful now.
As more and more Slytherins filtered in, their problem became more obvious – and more hilarious. By seven o’clock the Slytherin table was full of squirming, writhing, scratching boys, and horrified looking girls. Amycus Carrow, a burley sixth year, eventually ripped off his robes, his school jumper and even his tie to claw at his chest which Remus could see was already red raw. He almost felt sorry for them.
But then Snape came in. Whether it was karma or sheer luck, Severus seemed to have reacted particularly badly to the rosehip seeds. He walked in with his head bowed, hair falling over his face, but his nose was still visible and clearly bright red.
“Oh Merlin!” Sirius wheezed, laughing so hard he was holding his stomach. “Tell me we got his face!”
“Oi, Snivellus!” James yelled out, suddenly, to get the other boy’s attention.
Snape spun around, looking up; his hair parted. The left side of his face was covered in an angry red rash, from his temples all the way down to his neck, disappearing under his uniform. His left eye was red too, the lid swollen and irritated.
“Looking good!” Sirius crowed, and all four boys dissolved into giggles as Snape stormed out of the room.
By the time breakfast was over, the entire castle was buzzing with rumours about what exactly had come over the Slytherin boys. Sirius and James looked as though all of their Christmases had come at once, and even Peter had cheered up remarkably – reminding them all that he had kept lookout, after all, making the entire venture possible.
“It was all Lupin’s idea, though,” Sirius returned, slapping Remus heartily on the back, “What shall we do to celebrate, eh? Exploding snap? Raid the kitchens?”
Remus shook Sirius off, smiling politely.
“Well, whatever you do, you’re doing it without me,” he replied, “I’ve got double detention.”
“Yeah, and McGonagall. And Flitwick, but that’s tomorrow. Then my Herbology detention is over the weekend.”
“Bloody hell mate,” James frowned, “You going for a record or something?”
Remus shrugged. He was always being punished at St. Edmund’s – all the boys were. Detention didn’t bother him. Though exploding snap did sound like a lot of fun.
“Maybe you’d better start doing your homework?” Sirius said, gently. Remus rolled his eyes, getting up from the table.
“C’mon,” he said, “It’s Defence Against the Dark Arts first, thought you two loved that.”
* * *
Later that day, Remus was on his way to his detention with Slughorn, when he ran into Lily Evans. He was perfectly happy to keep walking, but she smiled and fell into step with him.
“Are you going to the dungeons?”
“Me too. I have to tell Slughorn that Severus can’t make his detention.”
“Did you hear what happened to the Slytherins?”
“Yeah.” Everyone had heard – it was all they’d been talking about all day, even during lessons. Fortunately no one had a clue yet who’d done it. It had been a good idea, attacking the entire house at once. Who could guess who the target had been?
“Crazy, isn’t it?” Lily continued, “Poor Sev was allergic to whatever they used. Madam Pompfrey gave him a sleeping draught while the swelling goes down.”
Remus sniggered, without thinking. He glanced at Lily, who was looking back at him with reproachful green eyes. She shook her head.
“Look, I know he wasn’t very nice to you. The other day in Potions or on the train. He’s… well he’s a bit of a snob, ok?”
“But I wanted to say sorry.” Lily pressed on, “I need to stand up to him more. Shouldn’t let him get away with it. He’s actually a really nice person when you get to know him.”
“If you say so.” Remus stopped walking. They were outside Slughorn’s office now. The door was closed, and there were raised voices on the other side.
“Horace, whoever it was, they must have been a Slytherin!” It was Professor McGonagall, “Who else has the password?”
“Why would a Slytherin attack their own house, Minerva?!” The Potions master sounded very frustrated.
“You did say it was only the boys dorms affected. Perhaps it was one of the girls.”
“Well, who else? Peeves? He never enters the common rooms – doesn’t enter the dungeons, either, come to that – too frightened of the bloody baron.”
“We ought to place a ban on all Zonko’s products.”
“From what Poppy says it wasn’t a Zonko’s product. Rosehip, from the greenhouses.”
Lupin felt as trickle of fear run down his spine. If they knew that much, would they be able to find out who’d done it?
“Rosehip eh? Very clever.” Slughorn actually sounded impressed. McGonagall sighed,
“I suppose you’d like to blame the Ravenclaws now?”
“I just wish I knew who’d done it!” He sighed, heavily. “Perhaps the truth will out. I suppose it does seem more likely that it was one of the Slytherin girls than…”
“Than a gang of marauders creeping into the dungeons under the cloak of night with malicious intent?”
Remus could hear Slughorn’s chuckle at that.
“Now, I must be going.” McGonagall was saying, her footsteps approaching the door. “You will let me know if you catch the culprit?” The door swung open. Remus and Lily stepped back, guiltily. McGonagall looked down at them through her spectacles, “What are two Gryffindors doing so far from their tower?”
“Please, Professor, Remus and I were only—“
“Ah!” Slughorn cut off Lily’s nervous rambling, “Lupin, my boy – and Miss Evans! Come to offer Snape’s apologies, eh? No need, dear girl, no need. With everything going on today I think we can cancel the boy’s detentions, for now.” He came to the door and looked down at Remus severely, “If it is understood that there will be no more fighting in my classes? Or any classes, for that matter, hm?”
“Yes, Professor.” Remus nodded, solemnly, trying not to look too pleased.
“Excellent.” Slughorn beamed, locking the door to his office, “Then if you’ll excuse me, I’ve some enquiries to make.”
Remus and Lily had almost made it to the end of the hall when McGonagall suddenly called out,
Remus’ heart sank.
“Yes, Professor McGonagall?”
“That isn’t to say that your detention with me has been cancelled. Come along now, we’ll get an early start.”
* * *
McGonagall had him doing lines for an hour – not too bad, considering he was used to canings at St Edmund’s. He didn’t mind copying and repetition; it was soothing. I will complete all assignments set. Perhaps he’d swallow his pride next time and copy James’ homework. Or Peter’s, if he didn’t want to look too suspicious. But he knew that James would eventually want to know why Remus never read the set text. And if he told him, then he was equally sure that James and Sirius would try to get him to explain to McGonagall – both boys had unerring faith in the teachers of Hogwarts. Remus, however, had never met an adult he trusted. She’d have him sent back to St Edmund’s at once. What good was an illiterate wizard to anyone?
Once his detention was finished, he climbed through the portrait hole and into the common room to find his three roommates waiting for him. Peter and James were engaged in a very serious looking game of chess (of course the pieces are moving. Remus thought to himself, everything has to bloody move in this castle.) while Sirius was listening to one of his records through a very posh looking set of brand new headphones. Remus was dying to have a listen, but he hadn’t worked up the courage to ask yet.
He sat down next to Sirius quietly. The long haired boy pulled his headphones off at once,
“That was quick!”
“Only had to do one in the end,” Remus explained, “Slughorn let me off, too busy trying to sort out the itching powder thing.”
Sirius grinned broadly, leaning back on the couch with his arms folded under his head,
“That prank is just the gift that keeps on giving.”
“Snape was allergic and everything,” Remus said, smirking, “That ginger girl said he’s been in the hospital wing all day.”
Sirius laughed even louder. His eyes grew bright when he laughed, Remus had never seen anyone exhibit such pure joy. It made you want to punch him and be his friend all at the same time.
“Which ginger girl?” James looked up suddenly,
“Check MATE!” Peter cried.
“You know, the annoying one. Evans.”
“I don’t think she’s annoying.”
“Ok.” Remus shrugged.
“Let’s not talk about girls.” Sirius rolled his eyes, “This might be the most important day of our lives! This is the day we became legends; the day our friendship was forged in the fire of itching powder!”
“They don’t know it was us, do they?” Peter asked, nervously, tidying away his chess set. Remus shook his head.
“Slughorn reckons it was a Slytherin girl. Or a gang of marauders.”
“Marauders!” Sirius sat up, suddenly, “That’s it! Raise your glasses, boys!”
“We don’t have glasses.” James replied, amused.
“Well, just pretend.” Sirius shook his head, irritably, “From this day forward, we are The Marauders!”
He said this with such a dramatic flourish that it could only be followed by stunned silence. James was grinning, Peter glancing at him for direction, not quite understanding what was going on. Remus burst out laughing.
“What sort of poncey gang name is that?!”