Tuesday 30th October 1973
With Halloween and the traditional Hogwarts feast looming, Remus was keen to have the word-swapping spell perfected in time in order to have maximum reach.
“It’s fine, Moony, we all know what we’re doing.” James said, returning from quidditch practice covered in mud and soaking wet. The evenings were getting darkest and Remus hardly ever went to watch the team practice any more, though Sirius and Peter usually did. Mary always went too, to watch Marlene. She was following them everywhere, these days.
“I just think we should test it,” Remus bit his lip, watching Sirius cast a drying spell on James.
“Oh no.” Peter said, folding his arms, “I won’t be your guinea pig this time. Last time I couldn’t get rid of that patch of purple hair for weeks!”
“I’d forgotten about that,” Sirius said, dreamily, “That worked really well, once we’d figured out the kinks.”
“Do it on him.” Peter pointed at Sirius, “It’s his turn.”
“Don’t whinge, Pete,” Sirius groaned. He flopped down on his bed. “Do it on me, Moony, I’m not a coward.”
“Ok, fine,” Remus withdrew his wand. Sirius leapt up,
“Wait, you want to do it now?!”
“Well, the sooner the better…”
“What about the counter-jinx?!”
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’ve got that sorted,” Remus let a smile creep onto his face. He knew for certain that the counter-jinx worked, but it was too much fun to watch Sirius squirm.
“Oh for goodness’ sake.” James sighed, getting out of his quidditch gear, “Do it to me, Lupin, I don’t mind. Only I don’t want to say any of the words on that awful list of yours. Can you do it for something else?”
“If you like,” Remus replied.
“Yeah, about this list, Moony…” Sirius said, picking it up off the bedside table,
“Well… it’s really long.”
“Yeah,” Remus raised an eyebrow, “What’s your point? They’re all insults for non-purebloods, aren’t they?”
“Yeah,” Sirius said, scratching his chin, “Yeah, they are, but, um… well I just didn’t think there were so many. Never seen them all written out like that. And anyway, where did you hear all of these?!”
“Where’d you think?” Remus met Sirius’s eyes, deliberately. He’d been waiting for something like this. “Don’t be a girl about it, Black, it doesn’t bother me. Right, James, what word do you want to swap?”
“Evans.” Sirius said, suddenly, “Sick of hearing that come out of his mouth.”
“Ok,” Remus smiled, “Then change it to what?”
“Don’t tell me!” James said, “We’ll do a blind test so we know it definitely works. Pick something Black hasn’t come up with yet.”
Remus nodded, scribbled something onto a piece of parchment, then raised his wand, concentrating. He flicked his wand sharply at James and uttered the incantation.
All four of them stood by, silently, watching.
“Er…” Remus said, “Did you feel anything?”
“Nope.” James looked down at himself, as if he expected to see something different.
“Well, say it, then!” Sirius urged.
“Her full name,” Remus added.
James cleared his throat theatrically, squaring his shoulders. He outstretched one arm and placed a hand on his chest as though he were about to make some grand announcement,
“LUMPY ELEPHANT DUNG.” He proclaimed.
Peter burst into a fit of giggles so strong he almost fell off the bed. Sirius whooped with laughter, and James turned bright red,
“I didn’t know you were going to pick something like that!” He said, “That’s my future wife!”
“Who’s your future wife?” Sirius asked, quickly,
“Elephant dung.” James replied, then clapped his hands to his mouth. “Lupin!”
“You said you didn’t mind,” Remus replied, business-like, “Now, try saying ‘Evans’ again, but really really try to break my spell, ok?”
“Elephant dung.” James said, promptly. Then with more force, “Elephant dung.” He screwed up his eyes, “Ele-phan-t… d…dung. Lumpy elephant dung.” He hung his head, sadly.
Peter could hardly breathe for laughing now, and Sirius had to lean on the bedpost for support.
“Excellent.” Remus smiled. He put down his list. “Hey, it’s six o’clock. Shall we go for dinner?”
“Yeah, just do the counter-jinx first.” James said.
“Oh no,” Remus shook his head solemnly, “Sorry Potter, but I want to test the spell thoroughly – we need to be sure it won’t wear off too quickly. I’ll un-jinx you tomorrow morning.”
“What?!” James roared,
“Oh yes!” Sirius gasped, wiping tears from his eyes.
“Sorry,” Remus said again, not sorry at all, “Just be glad we didn’t pick a common word, I s’pose.”
“B-but, what if I run into elephant dung?”
“Oh I don’t think you will,” Remus gave a small smile, “Hardly any elephants in Scotland.”
“You know what I mean! Lumpy! Lumpy elephant dung?!”
“Don’t yell her name? Come on, I’m starving!”
* * *
“James! Look who it is!”
“Shut. Up.” James gritted his teeth and looked stonily at his dinner plate. Sirius shook his head disapprovingly, the picture of piety.
“That’s no way to greet… what’s her name?”
“I’m not rising to it, you know. I’m stronger than that.” James said, viciously cutting into his steak and kidney pie.
“She’s right there, mate,” Sirius said, trying to control his smirk, “How will she ever notice you if you don’t call her?”
“Oi, Evans,” Remus said, suddenly, waving at the redhead, “Want to sit with us?”
She stopped and looked at them, warily,
“You’re a Gryffindor, we’re Gryffindors…” Sirius said, getting up to give her his seat next to James, “We’re supposed to sit together. Plus, it’ll really bother Potter.”
“Well in that case.” Lily sat down. Sirius pushed Remus up to make room beside him. Lily looked at James curiously, who had turned beetroot red. “Why do I bother you, Potter?”
“You don’t!” He said, quickly, “They’re just being prats.”
“Language, Potter!” Sirius said, severely, pouring gravy over his mashed potato and peas. “That’s no way to speak in front of a lady.”
“What’s going on?” Lily eyed Remus suspiciously, “Are you all making fun of me?”
“We’re making fun of James.” Peter squeaked, sounding as though he was having a hard time containing his excitement. For once, he was not the butt of the joke, and it was clearly a dizzying notion.
“I’m testing a spell on him.” Remus said, simply. Lily’s eyes flashed as she analysed the situation.
“And what was the spell?”
Her eyebrows shot up,
“Is that… oh my god, Remus, which word?!”
“Lumpy elephant dung.” James said, glumly. Peter spat out his pumpkin juice and knocked his fork flying. Lily giggled, nervously,
“What did you say, Potter?”
“Lll…Lumpy.” James strained to fight the spell, “Lumpy elephant dung… lumpy.”
“Lumpy...?! Oh, for pity’s sake!” Lily glared at Sirius, “It’s my name, isn’t it?”
“Don’t look at me!” Sirius grinned, holding his hands up, “It was Moony’s idea!”
Lily turned to Remus, her frown disappearing,
“Err… yeah, but it wasn’t meant to be offensive or anyth-”
“That’s amazing!” She said, “Really clever magic!”
“Wait until tomorrow!” Peter said, recovering from his hysterics. Sirius kicked him under the table.
“I’m so sorry, elephant dung.” James said, looking genuinely forlorn. This time, even Lily laughed.
* * *
Wednesday 31st October 1973
“Well they’re not going to start insulting each other, are they?”
“We have to push them into it. Pete, go and—”
“Oi, I’m pureblood!”
“Oh yeah, fair play. Um… Moony, go and trip one of them or something. Do it to Snivellus. Or my cousin, yeah, get Cissy!”
“No.” Remus said, quietly. Ignoring the fact that he actually had no problem with Narcissa, he didn’t want to be so obvious. “We’ll just wait. Patience, Black, patience.”
“But it might take days.”
“It won’t.” Mary said, stonily. “You three must be blind if you haven’t seen what’s going on around here.” That shut them up.
Mary was sitting beside Sirius for the second time that week. Remus didn’t mind – he liked Mary, she was funny and brusque and bolshie, but unfailingly kind and full of compassion. She was his friend. But. Well, she wasn’t a marauder, was she?! Her presence felt intrusive, somehow; didn’t quite mesh with their usual back-and-forth. And she always sat next to Sirius, which meant no one could talk to him without her listening in and batting her eyes. Of course, Remus knew that she fancied him and everything, but he wasn’t sure that Sirius knew that yet – or perhaps that was how you were supposed to act when someone fancied you.
“What’s been going on, then?” James asked, very seriously. “Do you get called stuff, MacDonald?”
She shrugged, sipping her pumpkin juice.
“It’s been worse this year. You must know, Remus?”
Remus nodded, vaguely, looking away, as if he was more interested in watching the Slytherins. It was the Halloween feast, and everyone was in high spirits. Professor Flitwick had enchanted glittering black bats to swoop over their heads, fine silvery cobwebs glistened from the rafters, and the Great Hall was filled with the autumnal smells of roast pumpkin, wood smoke and baked apples.
“So…” James continued, slowly, “Have all the muggleborns been getting it, then? Even… even elephant dung – oh for fuck’s sake, Remus! Please fix me!”
“If you’ll do my Potions homework.” Remus replied, quick as a dart.
“Fine! Anything! I’ll give you my bloody broomstick if you’ll just—”
“Finite.” Remus pointed his wand at James. James stared at him, looking stunned. He cleared his throat,
“Lily Evans.” He said, very clearly, then grinned,
“What now, Potter?!” Lily turned around, her conversation with Marlene interrupted.
“Will you go out with me?”
“No.” She turned away again.
“Wait.” Sirius said, “Wait just a minute. The counter-jinx was Finite Incantatum?!”
“But that’s just the standard counter spell!”
“I never said it was anything difficult. You pure bloods don’t have an ounce of common sense between you.”
Mary squawked with laughter, James choked on his roast potato and Sirius slapped Remus on the back.
“I swear, Moony. When it comes to evil schemes, none of us have got anything on you.”
Remus flushed with pride and shook him off, returning to his dinner.
“Look!” Peter cried, suddenly, pointing a chubby finger in the direction of the Slytherin table. A Hufflepuff second year had wandered too close to Mulciber, who stood up and was looming over them.
“Yes,” Sirius whispered, “Go on, you big troll…”
The Hufflepuff was trembling so much that they sloshed their drink, spilling most of it down their own robes, but also lightly sprinkling the toes of Mulciber’s huge black shoes. The snub nosed Slytherin grabbed the Huffllepuff by the tie – the rest of the Slytherins turned to watch, eagerly.
“Clean that up, you angelic sweetie-pops.”
Dead silence. The Hufflepuff looked confused, and let out a nervous laugh. Mulciber looked stupider than usual.
“What did you say, Mulciber?” Snape asked, staring at him.
“Angelic sweetie-pops!” Mulciber roared, red-faced. “No! I meant – darling sugar plum! No! Goody-gumpdrops!”
The entire hall erupted in laughter.
“Bloody hell,” Sirius said, under his breath, “Mulciber’s really got a mouth on him, eh? I didn’t think they’d use half of those.”
“Sit down, you idiot.” Snape chastised the bully, who had let go of the Hufflepuff’s tie, and was helplessly spouting cutesy nonsense.
“That was brilliant, Sirius!” Mary hugged him. Remus suddenly lost his appetite. Sirius just tossed his hair gallantly,
“Just wait,” he said, “That was just the beginning.”