Friday 2nd November 1973
Remus peered around the dorm room door quietly, and – finding the coast clear – crept inside. He carefully opened his trunk and shoved the package inside, covering it up with an old pair of jeans.
“Hiya, Moony,” a voice behind him gave Remus such a fright that he dropped the trunk lid with a heavy *THUNK* and spun around. James was emerging from the bathroom, his dark hair wet and his glasses steamed up.
“Hi.” He said, hoping he didn’t look like he was up to anything.
“Are you up to something?” James squinted at him.
“What are you doing?”
“Is it Sirius’s birthday present?”
Remus’s shoulders sagged, he sighed.
“You don’t have to hide it from me, Moony,” James laughed, easily, throwing his towel onto his bed and beginning to get dressed. “I won’t tell him.”
Remus just shrugged awkwardly. He’d really only wanted to hide the fact that he had spent the past two hours in the fourth-floor girl’s loos trying to wrap the stupid thing, with Moaning Myrtle cackling overhead, giving no useful advice at all.
He was also trying to avoid any awkward questions about where he’d got the money. His stash of stolen cigarettes was now almost entirely depleted, and he had just about enough money left over to buy Christmas gifts for his friends and – if he was prudent – something for himself. He didn’t have his heart set on anything, but Remus rather liked the idea that he could just go ahead and buy something if it caught his fancy.
“Lucky it’s a Saturday this year,” he said to James, relaxing a bit, “D’you know what we’re going to do?”
“Well obviously, we’ll have to sing ‘happy birthday’ at breakfast,” James said, very seriously.
“Obviously.” Remus agreed.
“And lunch, and dinner. I’ve got quidditch practice in the morning, but I got Hooch to let me have an extra half an hour on the pitch before the Ravenclaws go on, so we can do a bit of flying.”
“Oh, good,” Remus said, with a little less enthusiasm. It wasn’t his idea of a good time to sit in the quidditch stands alone on a cold November morning – but it was Sirius’s birthday, after all. Maybe he could bring a book.
“Then I suppose he’ll have to do that afternoon tea thing with Regulus and Narcissa. So, we’ll have to find out when that ends before we can sort out a proper party. D’you think the others ‘ll mind if we use the common room?”
“Nah,” Remus shook his head, with confidence. No one could deny James and Sirius anything – especially a very noisy birthday party. This was true at any given time during the year, but especially this week, when the marauder’s popularity appeared to be at its peak.
Remus had hardly been able to walk down a corridor since Wednesday without hearing a cheer, or getting a pat on the back from fellow Gryffindors, Ravenclaws or Hufflepuffs. The Slytherins still scowled, still glared daggers if he passed them – but they couldn’t say anything. A few tried, of course. For the first two days after Halloween, the occasional ‘angelic sweetie pops’ or ‘honey fluffkins’ could be heard – and met with raucous laughter. Snape had even lost his temper completely during their Friday Charms lesson and called James a ‘lovely little poppet’, which nearly killed Sirius with laughter, and mortified Lily.
The best part of this prank, which Remus hadn’t even considered when he’d planned it, was that none of the Slytherins could complain to the staff about the spell – because that would mean explaining which words had been replaced. So, it was a slow and immensely enjoyable process to watch as the Slytherin students tried to figure out the counter curse by themselves.
“Serves them right,” Marlene giggled, early that morning, “If they were Hufflepuffs they’d all have lifted the spell by now.”
Overnight, the marauders had gone from being class clowns – well-liked and cheerfully tolerated – to heroes of the house war that had been brewing all year. Remus tried not to think about the long-term effects this might have, and focussed instead on Sirius’s upcoming fourteenth birthday. Somehow, fourteen sounded even more mature than thirteen – you were definitely definitely a teenager at fourteen.
Mary sat with them at dinner that evening, yet again. Once or twice, Remus had thought about asking James how he felt about this new arrangement, but stopped himself. After all, James seemed not to care at all, and carried on as usual. And Mary wasn’t doing anything wrong by sitting on her own house table.
Truthfully, Remus had not yet been able to put his finger on why her presence bothered him so much, except that she always sat next to Sirius, which he thought was a bit of an obvious display. Sirius’s continued coyness about the whole subject was just as infuriating. Remus didn’t like other people keeping secrets.
“What time will you be free tomorrow, Black?” James asked, as they tucked into crispy golden battered cod and thick cut chips.
“What d’you mean?” Sirius asked, liberally splashing vinegar over his, before passing the bottle to Remus. Mary, who had been reaching for the vinegar, shot Remus a funny look.
“You know, what time do you think your Black family tea will be finished? For your birthday?”
“Oooh, is it your birthday, Sirius?” Mary smiled, “You never said! I would have got you something!”
“Would you?” Sirius looked at her, mildly puzzled. He turned back to James, “I don’t think the tea is happening this year. Haven’t had a note.”
“Oh, really?” James raised his eyebrows, which always gave him a bit of an owlish expression, “Are you… I mean, is that ok?”
Sirius snorted, looking at his food,
“Why wouldn’t it be? Like I give a toss.”
“Well… great, then.” James grinned, shooting a look at Peter and Remus that only they would understand, “We can crack on with planning you the messiest party Gryffindor tower has ever seen.”
“Yeah!” Peter added, for good measure.
“Am I invited?” Mary asked, sitting up straighter.
“Obviously.” Remus said, his voice more sarcastic than he meant it to be, “Everyone’s invited.”
“Look, maybe don’t make a big fuss.” Sirius said, playing with his peas, “I don’t feel like it much.”
“Oh, why not?” Mary cooed, “It’ll be fun! We’ll make it as good as Remus’s birthday last year – even better!”
Sirius said nothing, and James threw another look at Peter and Remus. They ate the rest of their meal in almost total silence.
* * *
Saturday 3rd November 1973
Remus woke up alone on the morning of Sirius’s birthday, finding a note pinned to the bathroom door, written in beautiful cursive.
Gone for quidditch practice – knew you wouldn’t want to come so let you lie in. See you later. S.
Remus showered and then decided he may as well go to the library. He had finished his essay on class XXX magical creatures, and wanted to get a head start on class XXXX creatures. (He had recently learnt that he, skinny, thirteen-year-old Remus Lupin, was classified XXXXX, alongside manticores and dragons.)
They were going ahead with the party with or without Sirius’s consent – a decision made by James and backed up by Remus. Even when he had a case of the blues, Sirius could not resist being the centre of attention and making as much noise as possible. Peter had been put in charge of decorations and – with some help from Mary and Marlene – had come up trumps, hiding a trunkful of streamers and balloons in the third year girl’s dormitory. James handled the invitations – which as far as Remus had seen involved shouting at various students telling them they’d better be there or else. Remus was responsible for food – something which was simple enough when you had access to the map and invisibility cloak.
He ate a quiet breakfast by himself with his book. Mealtimes were a much more peaceful affair since the Slytherins had been temporarily muzzled. Even those that had managed to break the spell were keeping their mouths shut, at least for a while.
The book Remus was reading was so interesting that he couldn’t put it down, and instead continued to read as he meandered his way slowly towards the library, occasionally sticking his hand out to avoid crashing into any pillars or doorways. So, it was completely his own fault when he bumped headlong into Regulus Black, knocking the younger boy to the floor.
“Oh, sorry!” Remus said, dropping his book and automatically offering a hand to help him up. Regulus glared at him, and narrowed his eyes at the scars criss-crossing Remus’s wrists. He climbed to his feet unassisted, brushing himself off, sniffing at Remus with his inherited Black dignity.
“Watch where you’re going.” He said, icily.
“I said sorry.” Remus replied, a bit annoyed. He didn’t want to start anything, he just wanted to get to the library without any trouble.
“What are you doing wandering about alone, anyway,” Regulus asked, suspiciously, “Planning some other hilarious assault on our freedom of speech?”
“I could ask you the same thing. Where’s that creepy little Crouch kid? Anyway, you can’t prove we did anything.”
“No,” Regulus’s lips curled, “But I know my brother was involved.”
“Yes. I didn’t get the same words as everyone else.”
“Hmm?” Remus tried to look unconcerned by this – but he’d had no idea that Sirius had cursed his brother differently.
“Every time I try to say my house’s name, it comes out…” Regulus glanced furtively about himself, as if afraid he might be overheard, “Go Gryffindor Go!”
Remus burst out laughing, under Regulus’s imperious glare.
“Sorry,” Remus said, for the third time, “It’s… well it is quite funny.”
“Of course you think it’s funny.” The younger boy sniffed. He was shorter than Remus, but somehow still managed to look down his nose at him, “You… your kind can’t possibly understand what my brother is putting a stake. I’ve done my best to hide the worst of it from our parents, but he has to keep pushing it…”
“So is that why he’s not invited to your stupid Nancy tea party?” Remus asked, angry on his friend’s behalf.
“Narcissa didn’t think it was worth it, this year,” Regulus’s cold stare faltered, and he looked away. Remus had the impression that Regulus would have quite liked a chance to see his brother. “And this latest joke of his has just proved it. He’s never going to… to come back.”
Regulus shook himself and turned in the direction of the dungeons. Remus felt a surge of sympathy, and against his better judgement called him back,
Regulus turned, looking horrified by Remus’s overfamiliarity. But Regulus was such an ugly mouthful of a name. Worse than Remus by a mile. “Look,” he hurried, “We’re having a party for Sirius in the common room tonight, you can come if you—”
“Don’t.” Regulus said, sharply, looking anxious, “Don’t invite me, ok? Just… leave it. Tell him happy birthday for me.” He hurried away.
* * *
With or without Regulus, the party was a roaring success. Quite literally; every lion motif in the common room (and there were quite a few) had been enchanted to roar every time anyone said the words ‘birthday’ or ‘Sirius’.
The whole of Gryffindor house got involved, and Remus was pretty sure that some of the older students were passing around flasks of something a bit stronger than the butterbeer everyone else was drinking. Sirius’s record player was spinning wildly at double time, and lots of the girls had got up to dance. Mary tried to haul Sirius up for John, I’m Only Dancing, but he shook his head fervently and stayed on the couch with Remus and Peter.
“I only know the waltz,” he confided to them in a whisper, “And I’ll be fucked if I ever do that again.”
James did get up and tried to shake his hips as close to Lily as possible, but quickly tripped over a ruck in the rug and nearly went headlong into the fireplace. Sirius laughed heartily at this, and Remus was pleased to see that at least he wasn’t letting his family get to him today. He decided not to tell Sirius about his encounter with Regulus just yet – it wouldn’t make him any happier, so what was the point?
“You’re Lupin, aren’t you?” A girl leaned over the back of the sofa, her long black hair brushing Remus’s shoulder. He’d seen her before; she was a sixth year.
“Um, yeah,” he nodded, jumping up.
“My friend, Fariahah, says you’re selling—”
“Err, come over here!” He jumped in jerking his head wildly. He’d so far managed to conduct his business privately and without the other marauders knowing. “What’d you want?” He asked, once they were in the furthest corner away from Sirius and Peter.
“Two packs of whatever you’ve got.” She said.
“What?!” She exclaimed, “But Fariahah said it was five sickles a pack!”
“I’m running low on stock,” Remus said, disinterested, “supply and demand.”
“Ugh, fine.” She folded her arms and tossed her head, “A galleon.”
“Can’t get them now. Meet me here at seven tomorrow. AM.”
“On a Sunday?!”
“I have plenty of customers, y’know.”
“All right, all right…”
“What’s going on there, Moony?” Sirius eyed him as Remus returned to the couch. His suspicious look was identical to his brother’s. “Not another girlfriend?”
“Shuddup,” Remus kicked him.
“Who’s your girlfriend, Remus?” Mary sat up, looking interested. God, Remus thought, where did she come from?!
“I don’t have a girlfriend, Black’s just being a dick.”
“Good,” Mary settled down, smiling smugly, “Because if you did,” She twirled her corkscrew hair around one finger, “I know someone who’d be really disappointed…”
“Oh. Ok.” He replied, trying not to show her how annoyed he was.
“Who fancies Moony?” Sirius asked, nudging Mary.
“I couldn’t possibly tell you.” Mary replied, mimicking buttoning her lips. Remus wished she’d do that for real, for good.
“Girls.” Sirius said, with exasperation, “Nightmares, the bloody lot of you.”
Mary mock-pouted, but said nothing more. Sirius shook his head at her, but he was smiling. Finally, he returned to Remus, “So what are you selling? That girl said you were selling something.”
“Nope.” Remus said, innocently. “She had the wrong person.”
“I’ll work it out, you know.” Sirius said, a look of glee in his deep blue eyes. “Not that I’m not grateful for the truly excellent birthday present,” he nodded at the floor where his recently unwrapped Zonko’s Deluxe practical joke kit lay, proudly proclaiming; ‘Sure to complete the collection of any master prankster’. “But I’m going to figure out how you paid for it, eventually. I don’t believe this stuff about a dead aunt leaving you money.”
“Your dead uncle left you money,” Remus countered.
“Can’t touch it ‘til I’m of age though, can I?” Sirius said, shrewdly, “Nope, you’re up to something, Lupin, I know you – you’re not Moony if you don’t have a secret.”
“So let me have my secret then,” Remus turned his head, mysteriously.