Remus’ twelfth birthday fell on a Friday that year. Usually on Fridays after lessons James would force them all to go and watch the Gryffindor quidditch practice, and Remus would read quietly to himself. Sirius, however, had managed to convince James that he could miss just one practice – especially as he wasn’t even on the team yet – and that Remus might actually want to do something different on his birthday.
He was woken early in the morning by his three dorm mates piling onto his bed, all shouting, “Happy Birthday, Lupin!” They didn’t try to punch him, which meant that the day was already off to a head start as his best birthday ever.
At breakfast, James and Sirius marched ahead, pushing other students out of the way as they approached their usual seats, loudly announcing,
“Out of the way, please!”
“Birthday boy coming through!”
“Move along, nothing to see here!”
Remus wanted to hide under the table by the time they’d reached it. His three friends made a huge show of serving him his breakfast, rather than letting him get anything for himself. Peter poured his tea, James loaded up his plate while Sirius buttered his toast.
“Do you have to?” Remus groaned, horribly embarrassed.
“Absolutely,” James said.
“Definitely,” Peter nodded,
“Unquestionably.” Finished Sirius.
Remus shook his head, blushing hard and looking down at his food. When he had finished – which took a while, because he had been served double portions of almost everything – they all stood up, still grinning widely at him.
“What?!” He asked, twitching nervously. If they were going to do the birthday bumps, then he hoped it would be over with quickly. Perhaps there was a wizard version? He’d missed Sirius’ birthday after all, he didn’t know what to expect. Peter and James each put a hand on his shoulder, forcing him to sit down again. Sirius pulled a pitch pipe from his robes pocket and blew a long note. Remus squeezed his eyes shut. Oh no…
“Haaaaaaaaaahhh-ppy birthday to you!” The three boys bellowed at the tops of their voices, “Haaaah-ppy birthday to youuu! Haaaaah-ppy birthday dear Reeeeeeeeeee-mus!”
Now the rest of the hall joined in, and Remus covered his head with his hands,
“Haaaaah-ppy birthdaaaaay toooooo youuuuuu!”
“Hip hip!” James yelled, standing on his chair,
“Hooray!” The Griffindors chorused back.
“At least that’s over and done with,” Remus muttered, his face burning as they finished cheering. Peter looked at him with pity,
“Sorry mate, but they’re planning to do the same at lunch and dinner.”
* * *
They still had to sit through Potions as their last lesson of the week – Remus had found that even when he did all of his homework and understood all of the texts he still had no natural talent for potion making. On top of that, it was a boring subject, and Slughorn began to bang on about the five key components of sleeping draughts Remus began to doze off himself.
Snape didn’t bother him – actually, Snape hadn’t so much as glanced in Remus’ direction since the incident in the corridor. Lily flashed him a smile and wished him happy birthday, before rolling her huge emerald eyes as James and Sirius attempted to convince Slughorn not to give them any homework out of respect for the ‘occasion’.
At dinner Remus endured what he hoped was his final round of ‘happy birthday’, which became the loudest yet, largely because Dumbledore was present and began conducting the entire school, bellowing at the top of his own voice. He also received a few cards – one from the whole of Gryffindor house, another from Matron along with a new pair of socks.
After dinner they sat in the common room and Sirius lugged down his heavy record player and put on Electric Warrior for the hundredth time since Christmas.
“I was dancing when I was twelve…”
At some point, a cake was produced, with red and gold Gryffindor icing, and twelve pink candles. When Remus cut it open (all the while encouraged to make a wish, but not able to think of one single thing he wanted) he was amazed to find that it was made up of four different flavours – a quarter chocolate, a quarter lemon drizzle, a quarter Victoria sponge and a quarter coffee and walnut.
“Like your toast.” Sirius grinned, looking thrilled at the expression of surprise on Remus’ face, “Thought you might get bored if it was all one flavour.”
“So what do you want to do for the rest of the evening?” James asked, “It still looks light enough if you did want to go and watch the--“
“He doesn’t, James! Bloody hell, you’re going to have to start developing some other interests, mate, you’re getting boring.”
“I don’t mind if you want to go and watch the quidditch practice.” Remus said, hurriedly, “You’ve already done plenty, honestly. Three songs in one day, what more could a twelve-year-old ask for?”
“No,” James shook his head heroically, “Sirius is right, it’s your birthday, we’ll do something you like doing.”
They were all quiet for a little while, before James cleared his throat, “Err, Lupin? What do you like doing?”
Remus thought. He could very easily give a list of things he did not enjoy doing; football, homework, flying, potions. But no one had ever asked him before what sort of things he did enjoy. He liked watching telly, but so far he hadn’t discovered a TV at Hogwarts. He liked being able to choose what he ate for breakfast and dinner. He liked listening to Marc Bolan singing through Sirius’ record player. None of these things were really hobbies.
“Reading?” Peter said, trying to be helpful, “You read a lot.”
“Do I?!” Remus raised his eyebrows. He hadn’t thought about that, but it was true. Since Christmas, anyway, he’d finished all his set texts for the year and even a few books checked out from the library.
“Oh yeah, great,” James rolled his eyes, “Happy birthday, Lupin, let’s start a book club.”
Sirius sniggered. Pete looked annoyed,
“Well I don’t know! Other than reading, you seem to really like detention, Remus.”
Remus laughed at that, holding his hands up apologetically,
“Sorry lads, I reckon I must just be really boring.”
“What about when you disappear off?” Sirius asked, suddenly. Remus balked.
“What do you mean?! I told you, I’ve been sick, I go to the hospital wing.” He hurried.
Sirius waved a hand,
“No, not then – sometimes you go off after lessons, or while we’re watching the quidditch. What are you doing?”
Remus felt himself go red. He’d been wandering off by himself less and less, but clearly his friends had still noticed. They all looked at him, expectantly. He bit his lip,
“I just sort of… walk around.” He said, lamely.
“Where, though?” Peter asked, “In the grounds?”
“Everywhere,” Remus shrugged, “I just like to look about. So I know where stuff is.” He pulled the map out of his back pocket, “It’s stupid, I started adding stuff to the map they gave us at the beginning of the year and whenever I see something interesting I put it in.”
James took the map and unfolded it. The three boys peered over to see. They were quiet for a while. Sirius looked in awe,
“You’ve added all of the portraits… and labelled them and everything.”
“My spelling’s rubbish,” Remus blushed harder, wanting to snatch it back.
James’ face was scrunched up.
“What’s that?” He pointed at a mark Remus had made on one of the staircases.
“One of the trick steps,” Remus replied, “That’s the one you can sink into. That one,” he pointed to a mark on a different step, “is the one that vanishes. The staircases with arrows are the ones that move. I colour-coded so you can see where they end up.”
“Merlin!” Peter exhaled, “D’you have any idea how much time this would save me?! I swear I get trapped on the wrong corridor twice a week because of those flipping stairs.”
“And me,” James said.
“Sod getting to lessons on time!” Sirius burst out, “Please try to recognise the extremely important implications of this map. The possibilities now available to us for practical jokes.”
A smile spread across James’ face, then Peter’s. Remus snatched back the map, folding it up,
“It’s not finished yet. There’s loads to do. I wanted to do some spells on it, once I figure out how.”
“What sort of spells?” Sirius asked eagerly.
Remus hesitated. It wasn’t that he didn’t appreciate Sirius’ interest, or his excitement – but Remus has really wanted to work the map out for himself, as silly as it sounded. After all, Sirius had come up with the reading spell, and the raincloud incantation. For reasons he couldn’t quite explain, Remus had a strong desire to prove that he was just as clever – or just as able – to put in the legwork this time.
“Just some improvements,” he said, cautiously. “You’ll think it’s silly.”
“No we won’t,” Peter replied, earnestly, “We can help!”
“I s’pose… it’s my map, though.”
“Of course it’s yours,” James smiled, soothingly, “Like the cloak is mine, right? But in the service of mischief…”
“It’s the marauder’s.” Sirius finished, his eyes twinkling.
“The marauder’s map.” Remus repeated, still not one hundred percent comfortable with handing over his private project.
“It’s still yours, Lupin,” Black continued, “We’ll put your name first and everything!”
“Not sure if we want our names on it…” Peter said, nervously.
“Our nicknames then.” Sirius shrugged.
“We don’t have nicknames.” Remus replied, “Well, I s’pose I sort of do, but I really don’t want ‘Loony Lupin’ written on it.”
The other three burst out laughing. After that Remus decided that it wasn’t so bad, letting them in on his secret. He was actually relieved; he’d been starting to wonder if it wasn’t just some private insanity of his – tracking and logging everything in the castle, getting it down, making sense of it. James, Sirius and Peter seemed less interested in the satisfaction of the task, and more keen on planning their next prank with it.
The rest of the evening was spent under the cloak, roaming the halls. The cloak, in Remus’ opinion, was not strictly necessary, as they were all planning to be back before curfew. But James and Sirius never missed an opportunity to turn even the smallest trip into a full-scale mission, and Peter just enjoyed sneaking about unseen. All became clear, however, when Sirius produced five dung bombs, which they entertained themselves with en route; creeping up behind unsuspecting snogging couples, or dropping them into the pockets of older students hurrying to the library.
Remus showed them what he’d worked out so far, the passages and shortcuts he’d discovered, and even a few of his hidden places (not all of them, of course, just in case). He even told them his plan to put some kind of tracking spell on Mrs Norris, Filch’s cat, so that he’d be able to see her coming. They loved that idea.
“Why stop there?” Sirius whispered, as they turned a corner back to the common room at the end of the night, “Why not track everyone?”
“Yeah, then we’d know when anyone was coming, we could get away with anything.”
“I dunno.” Remus replied, uncomfortable with the idea. What would happen when his friends saw him travelling down to the Whomping Willow every month? How long before they decided to follow him and got themselves killed? For the first time, Remus realised that the map was not as harmless as he’d first thought.
But James and Peter were busy agreeing with Sirius, saying it was an excellent idea; already imagining being able to see what Dumbledore was up to, or where Snape was lurking. Remus firmly believed that given enough time, Sirius Black and James Potter truly could do anything they wanted – it was just who they were. He just hoped that it would be a long time yet.