Sunday 2nd January 1972
“Brilliant!” James exclaimed, slamming his hand down on the bathroom counter, “Completely brilliant!”
“You’re so clever!” Peter gushed.
The four of them were crammed into the small shared bathroom. Sirius was standing in the bath, fully dressed, holding an umbrella over his head, while Remus pointed his wand at a grey storm cloud hovering just above that. It was pouring rain. Sirius shuffled up and down the bathtub, but the cloud stayed firmly above his head, following his every move.
James and Peter had arrived back from their Christmas holidays only two hours ago, and as soon as dinner was over Remus and Sirius had dragged them upstairs for a demonstration.
“Lupin gave me the idea, but I looked up the charms to do it,” Sirius beamed, proudly, “He won’t know what’s hit him!”
“When can we do it?!” James was jumping up and down now, ready to explode with excitement. “First thing tomorrow? Breakfast? Potions?”
“Dinner,” Sirius shook his head, “More of an audience.”
“Yes, dinner,” James nodded, wisely, as if the idea had been his own. “Seriously, you two, I’m so bloody proud.”
“Cheers,” Sirius raised an ironic eyebrow. Then he looked at Remus, “Um… Lupin? You can probably stop now. My feet are getting wet.”
“Oh!” Remus shook off the charm, seeing that he had produced more rain than the ancient plug hole could manage, and Sirius was now ankle deep in cold water, the bottom of his robes soaked. “Sorry.”
“It’s fine,” Sirius laughed, stepping out of the bath and squeezing out his robes, “Just make sure you do the same to Snape.”
“So, Lupin’s doing this one?” James asked. Sirius shrugged,
“He’s better at it. I can do it too though, if we get interference.”
* * *
Monday 3rd January 1972
The first day of lessons after Christmas was a very strange one. James, Sirius and Peter were full of nervous energy in anticipation of the practical joke. Remus was looking forward to that too – though somewhat nervous as it was he who had to pull it off. But he had another reason to be excited. It would be the first school day in his entire academic career that he would be able to read.
Sirius had shown him how to perform the spell, and it was very difficult – in the end Remus just had the other boy perform it for him most of the time, deciding to devote more time to learning how to do it himself later. His magic was still slightly wonky following the full moon, liable to overreach and ‘go off’ if he concentrated too hard. It didn’t seem like a good idea to turn his wand on himself until the moon waned enough and he had more control.
The first half of the day was everything he had hoped it might be. He couldn’t read the blackboard, but Charms was mostly practice based, and it amazed Remus how much easier everything became when he could just consult his text without having to remember everything Flitwick had said about softening charms. He was the first in the class to get his brick to bounce – much to the consternation of Lily Evans, who was usually the top Charms student.
It was in the afternoon, during Potions, that things began to go awry. It began with Slughorn returning their essays on the twelve uses of dragon blood. Remus had completed his before Christmas with help from Sirius, and the marauders as a whole did fairly well. As usual, Snape got the highest mark and earned five points for Slytherin. Lily was second and got a point for Gryffindor. She had only beaten Sirius by a few marks.
None of this was at all out of the ordinary – but apparently the tension of anticipation had grown too much for Sirius, and he couldn’t resist getting a shot in,
“Wonder if it’s worth cosying up to Snivellus just for a one measly house point.” He grumbled, loud enough for Lily and Snape to hear. Lily spun around, two bright pink patches on her cheeks,
“Shut up, Black,” she hissed, “No one likes a sore loser.”
“Hardly losing when your boyfriend lets you copy his work.” Sirius whispered back, venomously.
“I do not copy him, and Severus is not my boyfriend!” Lily’s face was getting redder.
“You’re blushing, Evans,” Sirius smirked, pleased with himself. He nudged James, “Isn’t that sweet?” James sniggered, nodding along.
“Ignore them, Lily,” Snape whispered, without turning his head, “They’re just jealous.”
“Jealous of what, Snivellus?” James jumped in, still trying to keep his voice down, “Jealous of a slimy greasy git like you? Keep dreaming.”
Sirius laughed, pleased to have drawn James in. Peter laughed too, so as not to be left out. Slughorn was still oblivious, now with his back to the class as he scribbled instructions on the blackboard.
Severus finally turned in his chair. He turned his beady black eyes on Sirius,
“I hear you had a very quiet Christmas, Black,” he said, his voice low and full of danger, “Your family couldn’t stand to have you around for more than a few days before packing you off back to school, is that right?” His lips curled, cruelly, “All of the pureblood families are talking about it – the Black’s black sheep.”
Sirius clenched his fists, Remus saw his knuckles turn white.
“Shut. Your. Face.” Sirius growled, through gritted teeth.
“Yeah, watch it, Snape,” James was frowning, “You’d better be careful what you say. Never know what might happen.”
“Is that a threat, Potter?” Snape replied, sounding bored, “Forgive me if I’m not quaking in my boots. Going to set Loony Lupin on me again?”
Remus, who had been half-listening to the posturing and half-listening to Slughorn’s instructions, flinched involuntarily. He’d had that nickname before. It was actually impressive that no one at Hogwarts hadn’t said it yet, especially when he knew he had a reputation for being a bit odd. Had everyone been calling him that, behind his back?
Reflexively, he picked up his wand. Snape saw, and his smirk grew even meaner,
“Oh my, have you actually learnt some magic, Lupin? I’m impressed. Mind you, I’ve heard they can train some monkey’s to perform basic tricks, so I suppose it’s no real achievement.”
Remus raised his wand, but Sirius grabbed his wrist and pushed it down on the desk.
“Not yet,” he muttered.
Remus clenched his jaw and looked back at the blackboard, seething internally. Snape chuckled and turned away too. Remus heard Lily whisper angrily,
“There’s no need to be so horrid to him!”
Remus could barely concentrate on the rest of the lesson. He knew he shouldn’t care what Snape thought of him, or anyone, for that matter. But the Slytherin boy’s barbs dug in and could not be shaken loose. Sirius didn’t help; he kept murmuring ‘we’ll show him!’ under his breath, throwing dark looks in Snape’s direction.
By the time dinner rolled around, Remus was white hot with rage and the desire to prove himself. He barely ate a thing, and it was Shepherd’s Pie, one of his favourites. He glared at Snape from across the room. This did not go unnoticed, and Severus nudged the boys around him, pointing at the marauders and laughing. Remus thought he could make out the words ‘loony Lupin’. James and Sirius scowled at them. Lily noticed too,
“You lot just leave Sev alone, ok?” She squeaked, “This stupid fight is going to go on forever if none of you can be mature enough to—“
“Give it a rest, Evans,” James rolled his eyes, “Bad enough you have to be friends with the tosser, now you’re trying to defend him? Where’s your house loyalty, eh?”
“This has nothing to do with houses,” She snapped, “It’s a ridiculous spat over nothing.”
“He insulted Remus!”
“You all pick on him all the time!”
“He started it!”
“Oh yeah, so you have to finish it, right, Potter?!” She stood up, suddenly, picking up her bag, “God, you’re so full of yourselves!” She walked away, her patent shoes clicking angrily on the flagstones.
“Loves a fight, that one,” James grinned.
There was a yelp of laughter from the Slytherin table and Remus decided he had had enough. He stood up too, pulled out his wand and pointed it at Severus.
It was instantaneous and perfectly glorious. The raincloud shot from Remus’ wand with the speed of a bullet, so no one could even see where it had come from. It rested over Snape’s head, thick, grey and heavy. There was a low roll of thunder, and the downpour began.
He didn’t know what was happening at first, covering his head with his hands and looking up. The students sitting either side of Snape stood up and backed away, not wanting to get wet. Then Snape stood up, trying to dodge the cloud, but it followed him, hovering persistently, rain bucketing down.
People were laughing now, and pointing. Everyone was looking around, trying to see who had done it, but no one had seen Remus cast it, except for his friends. He sat down, but kept his wand trained on Severus, grinning as he watched the boy still trying to run away from the mini-storm.
“Yes!” Sirius’ hissed in his ear, “Bloody yes, Lupin, you beauty!”
The immense satisfaction Remus felt was compounded by the laughter echoing around him. Snape was such a nasty, spiteful boy, even some of the Slytherins looked pleased to see him get what he deserved. The more Remus thought about it, the more he wanted to punish him, and the harder it rained. In fact, the cloud seemed to darken and swell.
Snape was completely soaked now, his hair plastered to his head, getting in his eyes. His skin was pale and his robes shining with water, a puddle forming beneath him. Remus grinned as he watched Severus try desperately to escape, looking more and more like a drowned rat.
“Stop it!” Lily was screeching at James, “I know it’s you! Stop it now!”
James kept laughing and held up his hands to show that he wasn’t doing anything. Lily looked close to tears.
Severus made to run, arms over his head to stop the rain pelting him, but his robes were so heavy and so waterlogged that he half tripped, half slid and collapsed to the floor. Remus would have laughed, but his concentration deepened. The rain fell harder still, until it was difficult even to see Severus through the grey sheets. The cloud was bigger too, and crackling with thunder and lightning – it had never done that when he’d practiced on Sirius. But then, he hadn’t been as angry at Sirius.
“Stop it! Please!” Lily was sobbing now. James had stopped laughing. He touched Remus’ arm,
“Er… Remus? He’s had enough, mate…”
Snape wasn’t getting up. Remus realised that no one was laughing any more, and a few people were screaming.
“FINITE.” A voice boomed out over the dining hall.
At once, the rain stopped. Everyone was silent. Dumbledore stood in the entranceway – Remus hadn’t seen him since Halloween. He looked perfectly calm, despite the chaos he had just ended. The headmaster swept into the room, vanishing all of the water with a wave of his wand, and bending over Severus.
Remus put away his wand and shrank into his seat, watching Dumbledore whispering over Snape’s prone body. Lily was still sobbing, and ran over to stand beside Dumbledore, trembling and frightened.
“Everybody to your dormitories, please,” Dumbledore spoke quietly, but was somehow heard by everyone in the huge hall, “Miss Evans, please fetch Madam Pomfrey.”
Lily ran from the room, and the other students began to file out, obediently. James, Sirius and Remus all shot nervous glances at each other before hurrying to join the rest of their house.