“Great to have you back, Lupin.” Sirius grinned, pulling back the invisibility cloak as they entered the (previously locked) Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom.
“What d’you mean?” Remus replied, watching James climb the ladder in the corner of the room to reach the highest shelf, where stood a cage of sleeping pixies. “I haven’t been anywhere.”
“Come on, mate,” Peter said, holding the ladder for James, “It hasn’t escaped our notice that you’ve been avoiding us like the plague.”
“I haven’t.” Remus twisted his mouth, “Just been busy. You know, studying and stuff.”
“Well I hope you’re over that phase now,” James laughed, slowly climbing down, clutching the huge cage in both hands, “I’d really appreciate it if you stopped working so hard – it makes me have to work hard, you see, and I’m not used to the competition.”
“Oh, do one, Potter.” Sirius snarled, rummaging through drawers and inside desks.
Remus had decided that this prank wouldn’t be too bad – it didn’t require him to use any magic, anyway. If he was completely honest with himself, he had really missed all of their mischief. Being a swot was all well and good, but it wasn’t half boring. No wonder Evans was always frowning.
“How are we going to get them into the dining hall?” He asked, bending down to gaze at the tiny blue creatures, still sleeping, curled up at the bottom of the cage. There must have been about fifty of them, which Remus felt was rather cruel. Much better to liberate them.
“Under the cloak,” James replied, spreading it wide now so that they could all get under, “Come on Sirius,” he rolled his eyes at the long-haired boy who was now on his hands and knees under the teacher’s desk.
“What are you even looking for?” Peter asked, muffled under the cloak.
“One of the Ravenclaws told me there was a trap door under here.” Sirius sighed, getting up and dusting off his knees. “Liar.”
“This is Black’s newest obsession,” James explained to Remus as he closed the cloak over them and they headed for the door, “Finding secret doors.”
“Hogwarts: A History says there are loads of undiscovered passages!” Sirius said, defensively. “Like that one you found, Lupin. There are definitely more, I want to find at least one before we leave.”
“There’s also supposed to be a monster hidden somewhere in the castle.” James whispered back, as they made their way along the halls towards Gryffindor tower. Peter shuddered.
“A risk I’m willing to accept,” Sirius replied, and Remus could hear the grin in his voice, “My legacy is much more important.”
“Typical,” James laughed.
* * *
The next evening at dinner, James was grinning like a maniac, trying to look like he wasn’t hiding fifty sleeping pixies underneath the table and failing miserably. Peter, who was good at Astronomy, was busy checking over the other marauders’ homework, which was to label every star on their chart.
“Honestly,” Peter groaned, scribbling something out on Sirius’, “You’d think you’d get your own bloody star right…”
“What can I say, I’m hopeless.”
“You have your own star?” Remus frowned, once again finding himself on the back foot. He never paid any attention in Astronomy – he knew the phases of the moon and that was plenty.
“’Sirius.’” Peter replied, “Come on, Lupin, we’ve done this. It’s the brightest star in the sky? The dog star?” He sighed, looking at Remus’ work now, “Yep, you’ve missed it too.” He groaned.
“I just thought it was his name.”
“The Noble and most Ancient House of Black has always been a bit arsey with its naming conventions,” Sirius mused, “Half of us have astronomical names – there’s Bellatrix, of course; my dad’s Orion, my brother’s Regulus… Mum isn’t a star, I think she’s an asteroid – pretty apt, if you’ve ever seen her in a bad mood. Then there’s good old uncle Alphard, uncle Cygnus… Andromeda’s named after a whole galaxy.”
“Wizards are so weird.” Remus sighed.
“Remus,” James sniggered, “You do know that Lupis is a constellation too, don’t you? The wolf.”
“The what?!” Remus felt his heart skip a beat and he nearly choked on his dinner. Sirius slapped him hard on the back, deftly changing the subject;
“If you’re nearly finished telling us all how stupid we are, Pete, can we get on with releasing the you-know-what’s? My lovely cousins have just started eating, I’d call that perfect timing…”
It really was perfect. James gave the cage a sharp kick to wake up the pixies before sweeping away the cloak and whispering a quick unlocking charm on the cage. There was an explosion of noise and colour and chaos.
Remus hadn’t really known what to expect from the pixies – they’d seemed perfectly harmless all night and day while they’d been locked up sleeping under James’ bed.
But now he could see exactly why Sirius and James had been so excited. As they burst out from under the table, the tiny creatures scattered in all directions, chattering in high pitched gibberish and zooming back and forth across the great hall. They leapt into plates of mashed potato, squealing with delight, they grabbed plates and cutlery out of students’ hands and flung them across the room; they pulled ponytails and tore at parchment.
“Quick!” James ducked under the table, where they all crouched under the invisibility cloak, watching the anarchy unravel around them.
“Brilliant!” Sirius kept saying, “Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!”
“C’mon,” Remus said, nudging the other boys forward. Their plan had been to observe for a while, then sneak out of the hall as quickly as possible without getting caught.
All four of them awkwardly navigated their way out from under the table – which was made especially difficult by several other students attempting to dive for cover. Fortunately, pixies couldn’t see through invisibility cloaks, and they were left alone.
In the uproar, no one else noticed them either. Girls were screaming, boys shouting, everyone was trying to cover their heads to protect themselves from dive-bombing pixies, or else struggling to grab back their stolen items.
“OH YES!” Sirius suddenly gasped, bursting into fitful laughter.
Remus turned and saw Bellatrix, screaming at the top of her lungs, her wild hair being yanked from side to side by the tiny blue pests, another flutting above her had caught her wand and was waving it at her, zapping blue lightening.
“Get off me! You filthy—you disgusting—you—Aaargh!” She wailed. Narcissa was cowering under the table, clutching her own wand tightly.
Things escalated even further as Peeves the Poltergeist entered the room, zipping about gleefully and causing just as much havoc. He seemed to be directing the pixies, lifting tablecloths and screeching,
“Under here, piskies! Lots of ickle-firsties down here!”
Stifling laughter, the marauders fled from the room when they heard McGonagall’s shrill voice ringing out,
“She’s definitely going to know it was us.” Peter wheezed, as they made their way back to the tower, still under the cloak.
“Nah,” James replied, casually, “I bet she blames it on the Prewetts, they always do big stuff like that. Something to aspire to.”
* * *
“Please.” Sirius said.
“No.” Replied Remus.
“It would just feel… weird! I don’t want you to.”
“But it’ll be fun! I promise you’ll enjoy it.”
The conversation had carried on in much the same way for about three corridors now. Remus ended up trying to hurry ahead, and heard James chastise Sirius behind him.
“Leave Lupin alone, will you?”
“I will not! This is too important!” Sirius was in a restless mood, which tended to make him extra obnoxious – usually James was the only one who put up with him.
They’d had a long afternoon in the library, completing zodiac charts for their Astronomy revision. Exams were still months away, but James insisted on having a head start. Of course, Sirius had to compete, and Peter had to go anywhere James went. Remus didn’t want to be left out. They had been musing over their star signs, when it had come up that Remus was a Pisces. Sirius had quickly deduced that this meant his birthday was coming up. And so the pleading had begun.
“It’s obviously not that important to Remus,” James hissed at Sirius, “Do something for my birthday, if you have to, it’s not long after.”
“You’ll get your turn,” Sirius dismissed him. “But first – Lupin.”
“I really don’t care, Sirius,” Remus sighed, as they reached the portrait of the fat lady. “Don’t make a fuss.”
“But it’s your birthday!” Sirius replied, earnestly, “We should make a fuss.”
Remus didn’t see why. No one had ever made a fuss before. There was cake, of course, but sharing a cake with fifty other boys didn’t leave much. Plus all of the little kids insisted on getting a turn to blow out the candles too, so it took forever. Matron wrapped up a few gifts, but they were usually practical – new clothes, socks, underwear, pens and notebooks. Other than that, there was nothing special about the day at all. He was actually looking forward to being away from St. Edmund’s, because he thought that Sirius, James and Peter were probably too well bred to know about the ‘birthday bumps’ – a punch in the arm for each year of age (and one for luck – usually the hardest).
“Why does it matter so much?!” Remus huffed, climbing through the portrait hole. He couldn’t stand it when Sirius was like this – stubborn and persistent.
But when he turned around, he was surprised to see that Sirius was rubbing his arm, looking uncharacteristically hurt.
“You lot all did stuff for my birthday and… well it was really nice. I never much looked forward to it before but… well, it was great, wasn’t it?”
Remus suddenly felt guilty. He realised that Sirius didn’t just want to be the centre of attention again – he was trying to make Remus happy. As if that might make him happy too. Remus had never had much opportunity to give somebody what they really wanted. He relented.
“Oh… ok, fine. But not a big party or anything, just marauders, right?”
“Right.” Sirius grinned, at once his face was transformed, eyes twinkling like stars.