Remus never did find out exactly what is was Mary had done, or had had done to her over the summer holidays. Whatever it was though, it had given her a certain amount of status amongst the other girls in their year group which was hard to ignore.
On Thursday, their first lesson of the new term with Professor Ferox, Remus arrived at the classroom to find a cluster of girls whispering near his desk. He elbowed his way through, grumpily, reclaiming his work space next to Mary. The girls tittered and resumed whispering. Mary, of course, was at the centre of the group, holding court and – by the looks of it – having a thoroughly marvellous time. Marlene, sitting by, was watching on with a look of envy and respect.
“And it didn’t hurt..?” A Ravenclaw girl asked, in a hushed tone,
“Nah, it’s fine if you relax,” Mary replied, with a bravado that reminded Remus of James.
“Do you think you’re going to… you know… with Darren..?” Another girl asked, her voice practically trembling with excitement,
“Well, I…” Mary started, but at that moment Professor Ferox emerged from his office, announcing his presence with a cheerful salutation,
“Welcome back, class! Seats, please!”
The girls all hurried into place, some looking very red faced and others unable to stop giggling. Remus frowned, trying to ignore them, and sat facing the front, back straight. Ferox gave him a friendly smile and nod, and Remus nodded back, smiling uncontrollably.
Ferox had clearly had a fantastic summer – his fair hair was a shade brighter, no doubt bleached by the sun. It was longer, and he now wore it twisted back in a long, knotted tail. His face was even more weather-beaten, and his nose rather red and peeling slightly from sunburn. He’d rolled up his sleeves, as usual, revealing sun browned arms and the odd burn mark.
“Good summer?” He asked the class, who all nodded and murmured in the affirmative. He grinned and clapped his hands together, “Excellent! I hope you all had a nice long rest, and you’re ready to begin work on XXXX rated creatures this term! First, let’s do a quick recap of last terms work, then see who’s done their summer reading…”
Remus himself had only just finished the reading that morning – and hadn’t even started on the extra texts Ferox had lent him. He sorely regretted wasting the whole summer being reckless now, and had already had to plead with professor McGonagall to let him have an extra week on his Transfiguration notes. He suspected that she had only relented after a conversation with Madam Pomfrey, which made him feel guiltier still, as he knew he was capable of beating most of the class even after his very worst transformations.
“You’re being too tough on yourself,” Sirius told him, as they were chased out of the common room the night before by prefects telling them to go to bed. “It’s the beginning of the year – if you’re going to fuck up, you may as well fuck up now.”
Remus had just glared at him,
“Easy for you to say! Some of us actually have to work for our grades! Plus it’s OWLs next year! I can’t drop my standards now!”
“Argh, please don’t mention OWLs,” James said, coming between them quickly in a less than subtle attempt to prevent an argument, “McGonagall and Flitwick have already put the fear in me. And why did we decide to do Divination?!”
“I quite like Divination,” Peter said, thoughtfully, dumping his pile of books, “Prophecies and that. It’s exciting.”
“It’s nonsense.” Sirius gave the smallest marauder a withering look. “You only like it because you’re good at Astronomy.”
“It’s not just that,” James said, slyly, changing into his pyjamas, “Noticed that Pete’s got a new partner this year?”
“Ohhh yes!” Sirius smirked, “The divine Desdemona Lewis, of Ravenclaw!”
Remus glanced up at Peter in surprised and watched him turn a shocking shade of scarlet from his blue pyjama collar to the roots of his yellow hair.
“Shut up.” He mumbled, climbing into bed, “She’s just a friend.”
“James,” Sirius said, in a very solemn voice, “What on earth are we going to do if Petey-boy here gets a proper snog before any of us?”
“Well, your reputation would be in tatters, for one thing.” James replied, in the same serious manner.
“What do I have, if not my reputation?” Sirius grinned back, getting into bed himself.
Remus huffed with disapproval, and pulled hard on his bedcurtains, returning to his book and hoping they all got the message. If they did, it didn’t matter.
“Of course, if I got a snog before you, that wouldn’t hurt.” James said, “I’m on the quidditch team.”
“You don’t have my animal magnetism.” Sirius replied.
There was a loud *fump* and an ‘oi!’, and Remus assumed that James’s pillow had crossed the room and made contact with Sirius’s head.
“I bet you—“ James started,
“Oh no…” Peter groaned, “Please don’t…”
“… I bet you TEN GALLEONS that I can get a girl to snog me within a month.”
“Ten?!” Peter gasped.
“Done!” Sirius called back. “Just you wait, Potter.”
Remus, who had lost all ability to concentrate on his book, huffed loudly again and decided to sleep. Pathetic. It wasn’t just the girls any more, now even the marauders were obsessed with snogging. It probably would be Sirius who won the bet – though James had a fair point about the quidditch team.
He felt sorry for Peter, who had gone very quiet. Remus tried not to think about the fact that none of his friends had made any comment on his likeliness to get a snog. He must rank even lower than he thought.
Remus was troubled by this all week, right up to his Care of Magical Creatures lesson, which he now found himself daydreaming through.
As Ferox’s lecture drew to a close, Remus realised he had made no notes at all. He looked down, panicked, and saw a neatly folded piece of parchment. Who had put that there? He glanced around, furtively, then opened it.
Please tell Sirius I think he’s gorgeous. Effie Scunthorpe x
Heat flared up his neck as Remus screwed the note up into a ball and shoved it in his pocket. That settled it. Everyone had lost their minds.
* * *
As well as contending with the raging hormones which now seemed to infect every one of Remus’s social circles, there was another noticeable change in the atmosphere at Hogwarts. Even if James had not explained to him that the wizarding world was at war, Remus thought he would have worked it out for himself this year.
The Slytherins – who had always considered themselves a cut above the other houses, and had therefore maintained a certain distance – had retreated even further into themselves now. They gathered in huddles in the classrooms, kept to their common room and moved through the corridors in ominous groups. Muggleborn students were also travelling in packs, Remus had noticed, and the teachers seemed to be making their presence known more than they had in previous years.
This did not stop certain incidents from taking place, however. Anyone who was not a pureblood quickly became adept at defensive spells, and even the marauders had swapped pranks for protection.
“Where are the bloody prefects when you need them?!” James complained, having just fired off a few well-placed engorgio charms at a group of sixth year Slytherins who were tormenting a first year Hufflepuff. The green robed teens were running away, now, clutching their various rapidly swelling extremities.
“I think even the prefects are scared,” Sirius replied, leaning against the wall, looking bored as James helped the Hufflepuff to his feet. “Cowards.”
“All they can do is hand out detentions and take house points,” Remus added, “And I don’t think the Slytherins even care about those any more. I heard Mulciber last week saying that they should all put up with ‘trivial punishments for the promise of a greater reward.’”
“Mulciber said that?” Sirius arched an eyebrow, “Bloody hell, he’s more eloquent than I gave him credit for.”
“Yeah, or he’s parroting back something someone else has told him,” James countered, watching the Hufflepuff scurry away down towards the kitchens.
“What d’you think the reward is?” Pete asked, scuffing his toe on the flagstones.
“Money? Power? Life eternal?” Sirius sighed, rolling away from the wall and swaggering up the corridor. “Godric knows. They won’t get it, though.”
“Because, Petey-boy, we’re going to win.”
* * *
By the end of September, Snape had still not made his move. This put Remus somewhat on edge – and he wondered whether that was the intention. Their only shared lessons this year were Potions and Arithmancy. Arithmancy was fortunately a relatively quiet class, which mainly involved taking down notes and figuring out equations. Potions, being more practical, gave Snape (and the Slytherins as a whole) scope for much greater interference.
As they had agreed on the first day of term, Lily and Remus became partners, sharing a cauldron and dividing up notes and directions. This clearly infuriated Snape, who barely took his eyes off them the whole time. However, Remus had to admit that this appeared to have less to do with him than it did with Lily herself.
“Have you two fallen out or something?” Remus asked, one afternoon as Severus shoved his way past to leave the dungeons. Lily sighed, wearily,
“No, not exactly.” She said. “He got annoyed when I had Mary and Marlene to visit over the summer, that’s all. Thinks they’re not the right ‘sort’. I have to keep reminding him that I’m muggleborn too.”
“Why’d you put up with it?”
“I don’t, really,” She replied, sounding sad, “I always have a go at him when he spouts that pureblood nonsense, and sometimes I think he listens to me. But… well it’s not easy for him, you know.”
James was not making things easier; anyone could see that. He and Sirius had conveniently set up their own cauldron next to Remus and Lily’s, and ever since they’d made their bet James’s pursuance of Lily had dialled up a notch.
Now, James Potter was a true star on the quidditch pitch – that much could not be denied. He was elegant and graceful; he thought tactically and moved with simple subtlety.
When it came to Lily, he was none of these things.
“Give us a snog, Evans!” He tried, during their first lesson.
Lily was so appalled that she swished her wand fiercely through the air, upturning the contents of Potter’s cauldron. He and Sirius were stained bright blue for an entire week.
The following week, undaunted, James tried again. This time he had consulted his father, who had suggested that he try complimenting the object of his affections.
“I really like your hair,” he said, confidently, as soon as she approached the work bench.
“Mm.” She responded, not looking up.
“Yeah it’s so… um… ginger.”
Remus saw Lily’s jaw tighten. She hated being called ginger – she’d told him once that she’d been teased for her hair in primary school. Remus took a step back, seeing Lily reach for her wand as she turned towards James with a false smile.
“Like it that much, do you?” She asked. Sirius, who had been watching Remus, took a step back as well. Poor James was too excited to finally have her attention, and nodded vigorously,
“Oh yeah, I think it’s—”
“Rufusio!” Lily whispered, pointing her wand at him.
Sirius guffawed so loudly that half of the class turned to look, and Remus had to cover his mouth to hide his own laugher. James’s confusion made it even funnier, until Marlene handed him her compact mirror so that he could see his newly bright red hair.
It took forty-eight hours to wear off, but it was no good. Even after two full days of being called ‘ginger nut’ and ‘carrot top’ (among some slightly ruder nicknames) wherever he went, James remained completely unshaken in his adoration.
“Just got to be patient,” he said, dreamily, running a hand through his messy auburn locks, “Nothing worth having isn’t worth waiting for.”
“It’s kind of impressive.” Sirius whispered loudly to the others, “I sort of don’t want to win the bet, ‘cos he’s made it too easy.”
“Yeah,” James snorted. “That’s why.”
“Oh, suck it, copper knob.”