The rest of the afternoon was nothing short of chaotic – and Remus knew that Sirius and James, wherever they were, must be having the time of their lives. Every single bathroom in the castle had been mysteriously affected by the foam flood, and no one seemed to be able to stop it for very long. Huge drifts of bubbles clogged the hallways like pink snow, and those students who didn’t want to play in it did not appear to mind being forced out onto the grounds to loll about on the grass and spend their last day in the sunshine.
Remus, who had already had to sacrifice his lunch hour, still needed to get to the library and return his books, help Sirius pack (though, actually, he told himself, as he pelted up the stairs to Gryffindor tower, he had done quite enough to help Sirius for one day) and see Madam Pomfrey for an end of year check-up. He also needed to get to the Great Hall early to help James and Sirius with the final phase of their plan. It was not complex magic, but it was strong, and ideally needed as many wands as possible.
Library first, he thought to himself, purposefully as he entered the now desolate common room. At least there was no one to hold him up now. One of the others had obviously been in the dorm room since Remus had last left it, because it was even messier than before and the invisibility cloak was now missing.
James, who was probably the tidiest of all four of them, had packed all of his things the night before, and neatly made his bed. Remus’s space was tidy only because it was now entirely empty except for his pyjamas and book by the bedside table. Peter had apparently tried to pack at some point, but been disturbed halfway through – his trunk was flung open, various items of clothing hanging out of it, a pile of textbooks on his bed, and his red tie hanging from the frame. Sirius’s bed was by far the worst. He must have come up looking for something at some point, because every draw in his dresser was open, his bedsheets had been ripped back, and his trunk stood completely empty.
Remus grabbed his book bag and left straight away – he would think about it later. He wished he still had the invisibility cloak as he dodged Peeves once more. The poltergeist was in his element, diving into the piles of foam, then bursting out at unsuspecting students and teachers. Remus briefly remembered what McGonagall had said that morning about his father ‘boggarts, poltergeists…’ he wondered what his father – his duelling champion, Ravenclaw father who had a temper – had thought of Peeves.
“Good afternoon, Madam Pince,” Remus said, quietly and respectfully as he entered the library. It was almost entirely empty, and the pinched faced old librarian was sorting through a towering pile of recently returned books with her wand, firing them back to their shelves with great relish.
“Lupin.” She said, not even turning her head to greet him.
He placed his books carefully on the counter furthest from her.
Though the library no longer frightened him, exactly, Remus was still pretty nervous around Madam Pince, who would clearly have preferred that no students be permitted to touch her precious books at all. “Is that all of them?” She said, sharply, “I shall know, if not.”
“Definitely all of them.” He said, backing away slowly.
“Mr Pettigrew has not returned Poisonous plants of the British Isles, and the elder Mr Black has three overdue transfiguration books.”
“Oh, ok… um… I’ll let them know when I see them.”
“I shall be writing to their parents if I don’t have them by five o’clock.”
“I’ll tell them.” He repeated, almost out of the door. Sighing with relief, he made his way to the hospital wing at a leisurely pace, fighting the urge to throw himself headlong into a snowball fight the Hufflepuffs were having against the Slytrherins with the foam.
It seemed that the spell was still going strong – even more bubbles were emanating from the bathrooms he passed, and if he wasn’t much mistaken, they were growing larger. He had no idea where Sirius, James and Peter were at that moment, but he knew they had to be enjoying themselves immensely.
“Remus, dear!” Madam Pomfrey smiled as he entered the hospital wing. “Thank you for stopping by – I know you’d much rather be having fun with your friends today.”
He shrugged with a small smile,
“I don’t mind.”
“Just a few things before the summer begins, shall we go in my office?”
He followed her in, and accepted the plate of biscuits she offered him gratefully – his stomach was growling from having missed lunch.
“Now,” Madam Pomfrey sat down, conjuring up his patient notes from thin air, “I’ve tried contacting your Matron at St Edmund’s a few times… it seems she’s not clear on how the post works. Keeps trying to get me to speak to her on some muggle contraption. I told her, we don’t have a telling-bone at Hogwarts, but I don’t think she believes me…”
“No,” Remus stifled a laugh, “she wouldn’t.”
“Anyway, between us we’ve managed to agree that I shall be present before and after your confinement for both full moons. I’ve explained to her that your condition has become… more difficult over the past year, but that there should be no danger to anyone else at the school.”
“Right.” Remus nodded. Now that he was used to the idea, he was quite glad Pomfrey would be there, however briefly, over the holidays. It would make the full moons slightly less grim, anyway.
“I want you to make sure you look after yourself in the meantime. Eat full meals and get a nice balance of rest and exercise.”
Remus didn’t have the heart to tell Madam Pomfrey that he had very little say in when he was allowed to rest and how often he exercised while he was living at St Edmunds. No one at Hogwarts seemed to understand what sort of an institution it was.
After that, she checked on a few of his wounds from the previous moon to ensure they were healing properly, then performed some diagnostic spells. It was almost four o’clock by the time he was walking back to Gryffindor for what felt like the hundredth time that day.
Filch had had no success yet in taming the foam, but it had at least stopped spurting from every tap and drain in the castle. The others must have got bored and moved onto something else. As Remus climbed the tower, he saw a few students flying past the windows on their brooms. It was a gorgeous day outside, the other marauders were probably out there making the most of it too.
He got a shock when he reached the dorm.
“Hiya Moony,” James grinned at him. He was alone, on Sirius’s side of the room. He was packing. “Nice job getting the umbrellas.”
“Yeah, well done on the foam. Filch is fuming.” He rubbed the back of his head, feeling awkward, “Where’s Sirius?”
“Doing something mental on his broom, I think. Thought I’d sort this out for him.”
“Do you want help?”
“Nah, don’t worry. Didn’t you want to read a book or something?”
Remus shrugged. He felt a bit embarrassed now. It seemed right that James do it, after all – James was Sirius’s best best friend.
“S’ok, I’ll help you.” He said, casually, as if it didn’t matter much either way. “You know I hate flying.”
“Nice of you,” James smiled easily, gathering up some of Sirius’s mess and sorting it quickly. Remus started tidying up the records, stacking in alphabetical order because Sirius liked it that way. “Put those in my trunk,” James said, nodding at the box of records, “The muggle books too. Said I’d look after them for him. Y’know, the way things are with his mum and dad.”
Remus nodded, carrying them over to James’s bed.
“Going to be a rubbish summer, without you two,” James remarked, sounding genuinely sorry.
“Yeah.” Remus replied, not really sure what else to say.
“Sirius thinks… he thinks he might not be coming back in September.”
“What?!” Remus looked up, suddenly, alarmed. James frowned,
“Yeah, he reckons with this betrothal thing… they might send him to Durmstrang. Keep him out of trouble until they can get him married. Pretty drastic, I think, but I wouldn’t put it past them.”
“The betrothal ceremony might not happen, though,” Remus said, quickly, “I have a feeling… I just feel like Narcissa won’t let it happen.” He didn’t want to tell James anything yet – because James would tell Sirius, and Sirius might get annoyed that Remus went behind his back to talk to his family. And what if it didn’t even work? He couldn’t get anyone’s hopes up.
“Narcissa?” James looked at him curiously, “What are you talking about?”
“I just know she doesn’t want to marry Sirius any more than he wants to marry her, that’s all.” Remus shook his head. “Shall I pack his muggle magazines in your trunk too?”
* * *
“What a wonderful year it’s been,” Dumbledore beamed at the Great Hall as the final scraps of the end of year feast vanished from their plates. Remus was going to miss the food more than anything, and had had three helpings of pudding. Ravenclaw had won the house cup that year, and the hall was decked out in royal blue and bronze silk banners. Every time the Ravenclaw table had cheered during the meal, Remus had felt a tug behind his navel and thought of his father.
Dumbledore’s speech continued, “I am immensely proud of all of you, of course. Now we are all well fed, I have a few words I would like to say…”
“Ready, lads,” Sirius whispered under his breath, so low that only the marauders could hear. Dumbledore continued,
“…congratulations once again to Ravenclaw…”
“…winning this year’s house---“
There was a shriek from the far end of the hall, and everyone spun around to watch every single goblet on the Ravenclaw table to suddenly spurt red and gold bubbles. They fired upward in great geysers, hitting the ceiling and bursting in a shower of bright droplets, which fell like rain onto the students below, staining their robes with streaks of Gryffindor crimson.
“Keep going!” Sirius whispered, his voice high with excitement, as the marauders flicked their wands using every ounce of concentration. At once, the goblets on every other table erupted too, causing the same effect as students shrieked and began to duck for cover, their hair, skin and clothes staining vibrant red and gold.
Not even the Gryffindor table had escaped – not wanting to miss out on the fun, James had insisted on it. Lily Evans had brought her umbrella, and grinned slyly at Remus as Mary and Marlene fought to cram underneath it with her. In the far corner of the hall, Remus caught sight of a furious Narcissa hiding underneath the table, her long white hair streaked with red and gold which clashed awfully with her porcelain complexion.
She was glaring at her wayward cousin so hard that Remus wondered how Sirius did not drop dead on the spot. But he comforted himself with the thought that this incident can only have cemented the idea in her mind that she must escape marriage to Sirius at all costs.
“Omnistratum!” Dumbledore said, calmly, aiming his wand at the ceiling.
At once, the bubbles burst and evaporated into nothing, as though a large force field had suddenly appeared over their heads. “Scourgify!” The headmaster smiled pleasantly, now waving his wand over the whole hall. Instantly, the red and gold paint had vanished from the tables, floor and students. Order was restored.
“Aw.” James sighed, sounding disappointed.
“An excellent way to celebrate Gryffindor’s victory on the quidditch pitch this year,” Dumbledore cleared his throat, as students clambered back into their seats, eyeing their goblets nervously. “And while I welcome and encourage displays of house pride, I would like everyone to remember that true sportsmanship lies in the ability to gracefully cede victory. Please join me in raising your glasses to Ravenclaw, winners of the Hogwarts house cup 1973.”
Remus had the uncomfortable feeling that though Dumbledore did not look in the marauder’s direction, they were absolutely the intended audience for this admonishment. He felt a little ashamed – but only a very little. It was hard to feel too sorry when there had really been no harm done, and he was so full of excellent food.
James and Sirius were already planning next year’s finale, Peter grinning and nodding along like a simpleton. Lily winked at Remus as they raised their goblets, and he hoped that nothing would ever change.