When Lily’s kisses were not forthcoming, James demanded that they extend the bet to last the whole year. Sirius, in turn, said that in that case it ought to be worth double the galleons, which turned Peter white. Remus once again registered his disapproval of the whole thing, and demanded that they count him out.
He had much better things to spend his time on – and would not be spending any more money than he needed to. The others would have to be happy with a chocolate frog each for Christmas, because he simply couldn’t spare the cash. Remus knew that he would need every last knut the moment he turned seventeen, in order to begin his mission to find Greyback.
His investigation had so far been fruitless. He had gathered up as many old editions of the Daily Prophet as possible, from the library and lying about the common room. Some of the more recent editions had articles which mentioned werewolf packs – but there was hardly any detail, and no names mentioned. In the end, Remus was forced to conclude that nobody really knew anything solid. He imagined werewolves were hard to find, especially if they were ordinary wizards most of the time.
Asking Ferox seemed like the next most sensible course of action. The Care of Magical Creatures teacher had suggested that he knew more than he’d initially revealed to Remus last term – only Remus hadn’t had the presence of mind to ask, still reeling from the news that Ferox had worked for Lyall. He needed to work up the nerve before going back, however, and plan his questions carefully enough so that Ferox wouldn’t suspect anything.
October began and ended with a full moon that year, which seemed very unfair, especially as it meant Remus would miss the Halloween feast. Still, the weather was unseasonably warm, and the marauders spent most of their free time enjoying the grounds under a fair blue sky, surrounded by the golden reds and browns of the most beautiful autumn Remus could remember.
On weekends he would settle down in the quidditch stands with several books, parchment and a quill, and complete his homework and advance reading, occasionally glancing up to watch one of James’s drills, or cheer on poor Peter, who often got stuck as the stand-in keeper. Sometimes Marlene practiced with them, which made the afternoons even more pleasant as Lily and Mary would inevitably pop by.
Sirius was unable to sit still at all during these sessions. He alternated between trying to focus on his homework, to hopping on his broom for a race with James, to scribbling down complex tactical plays he thought the Gryffindor team ought to use in their first game, scheduled for November.
“We’ve got to thrash Slytherin this year.” He kept muttering. “Got to show ‘em.”
Slytherin had won the quidditch cup the year before, and it was an immensely sore point with the Gryffindors – particularly Sirius, as both Narcissa and Regulus had been on the winning team. This year it was only Regulus, who had replaced his older cousin as seeker. Remus only knew this from James; Sirius had mentioned nothing.
“You need to lean into your broom more, when you take a swing,” Sirius was telling Marlene, who had just sat down for a rest. She was red in the face, fair hair plastered to her damp temples, and not in the mood for Sirius’s commentary.
“I hit the bludgers nine times out of ten.” She replied, panting, “Ten times, in my best games. Even Mulciber can’t manage that.”
“Don’t try to be better than the competition,” Sirius admonished, piously, “You’ve only got yourself to beat.”
“Look, Black, if you think you can do better, we’re trying out for beaters on Tuesday.”
“Nah.” He waved a hand, looking away. “You beat me, fair and square.”
“Two years ago.”
He didn’t respond, and Marlene just shrugged, then staggered to her feet and headed back to the pitch, where James was calling for her.
Remus had been reading his book throughout this exchange, and hadn’t wanted to interfere. He shot a glance at Sirius, who was leaning forward on the barrier, his chin resting on his arms as he watched the practice. Peter made a decent save, and Sirius’s eyes lit up. Remus bit his lip, and thought hard, before saying quietly,
“There are two beaters on a quidditch team, you know.”
“Bloody hell, Moony,” Sirius replied sarcastically, not taking his eyes off the pitch, “Four years and you’ve finally learnt something about the game.”
Remus ignored that, only tutting under his breath.
“You know your problem?”
“And you’re not?”
“Maybe. But I’d make a shit beater, wouldn’t I?”
Sirius went quiet again. Remus sighed, heavily, closing his book, packing it into his bag, “Look, you’re going to hate yourself later if you don’t have another crack at it. You just going to sit here cheering James on for three more years?” He stood up, “I’m freezing, off to the library. See you at dinner?”
“Yeah, see you Moony.”
That Tuesday, Remus went along to watch the Gryffindor team trials, and said nothing when he saw Sirius arrive, broom in hand. He didn’t even smile smugly, though he dearly wanted to. Two hours later, Gryffindor had their new beater, and Remus realised that he now had to share his dorm with two James’s.
-- Except for one very important difference – while Sirius was undoubtedly full of passion for the sport, he appeared to lack James’s discipline. Particularly in the mornings.
“Wakey wakey!” James chanted, brightly, as he exited the bathroom, hair shining and wet – the only time it ever lay flat on his head. He pushed on his glasses and flicked his wand at Sirius’s bed, drawing back the curtains.
It was a week after trials, and this scene was becoming commonplace. Remus was already awake, almost dressed for breakfast, planning to get in an hour’s reading before lessons started. He was tying up his shoelaces as he watched James and Sirius begin their new morning routine.
Sirius, who was little more than a shapeless lump under the duvet, groaned like a disgruntled troll.
“Piss off, Potter,” he hissed, burying his head under his pillow.
“You wanted to be on the team, Sirius me ol’ chum. C’mon, up you get… Leviocorpus!”
With that, Sirius’s body flew into the air, seemingly yanked by some invisible force, leaving him hanging upside down in mid-air while James laughed hysterically.
“I can’t believe that worked! Been trying to do that since last Christmas.”
“Let me down you wanker!”
“Let me down!”
Sirius landed on the floor with a thud, and leapt up immediately, rubbing the arm he’d landed on.
“Bloody hell!” He grinned at James, “That was amazing! Now let me do it to you.”
* * *
Bodily levitation did not become a regular fixture of the fourth year boys’ dorm, but trying to drag Sirius out of bed did.
“Just one day off a week, Potter, I’m begging you!” He groaned at the breakfast table, one early Sunday morning. He barely opened his eyes, his lolling head propped up on his elbow.
“You’re the one who wants to destroy Slytherin.” James replied, cheerily, buttering some toast and sliding it over to his friend. Sirius glanced down at the offering disdainfully and looked away, closing his eyes again. James sighed, “Not just you, either. The whole school wants to see them beaten. Think of it as doing your bit for the war effort.”
“I thought you were doing your bit by hexing them in the corridors.” Remus said, helping himself to a slice of Sirius’s toast.
“Exactly.” Sirius grunted, eyes still closed. “And that can be done at a reasonable hour.”
“This is the only time we can fit practices in,” James said, starting to sound a bit annoyed now, “There’s no point going after dark, the pitch gets booked up in the evenings and lessons start at nine.”
“Even if they started at twelve you’d have trouble getting Sirius up.” Peter said, mouth full of porridge.
“We should get time turners.” Sirius yawned, without a trace of humour, “Students who need their beauty sleep should be issued with them.”
“What’s a time turner?” Remus asked, taking Sirius’s second slice of toast.
“Turns back time, obviously,” Sirius said, scathingly.
“They’re illegal.” James said, quickly, “Without ministry permission. And really, really dangerous.”
“I’m dangerous if I don’t get enough sleep,” Sirius grumbled.
“Matron used to make us all get up at six on weekends,” Remus said, thoughtfully, swallowing the last of his toast. “She thought it was healthy, or something. One of the older boys got into her room once and fiddled with her alarm clock, though, and we got away with an extra two hours in bed every day for a week before she noticed.”
“Muggles are ingenious.” James chuckled. “But stay away from my alarm clock.”
“Mmm.” Remus murmured, deep in thought. He could feel the beginnings of an idea coming on.
“Oh no, we’ve lost him.” Sirius said, watching Remus. “Probably daydreaming about nogtails and nifflers again – I swear Care of Magical Creatures is the only subject he cares about any more.”
“Leave Moony alone and eat your breakfast.” James castigated. “I want you on the pitch in five minutes.”
“Fine…” Sirius sighed heavily, and looked down at his plate, “Oi! Where’s my breakfast??”
“Got to go,” Remus said, suddenly standing up, “Library. See you in Potions.”
Early mornings were Remus’s favourite times in the library – everything was so neat and tidy, and he usually had the place to himself. Very few students were in the mood to study first thing, but Remus had found that during certain phases of the moon he barely slept five hours a night anyway, and so he was a regular visitor.
The idea took a while to form properly, but he wanted it to be clear and complete before bringing it before the other marauders. Then at least it would be fully his prank. Remus felt the need to make his mark on something this year. Everyone else seemed to be focussed on other things – the war, or quidditch, or ‘the great snogging race’, as Sirius had so eloquently dubbed it. They hadn’t even tried to sneak to Honeyduke’s once. Remus felt very strongly that the marauders needed a prank – and a big one.
He wasted half an hour researching complex and convoluted time spells; incantations to stop time, speed it up, slow it down, or even bend it. (He wasn’t really sure how bending time worked, but it didn’t sound pleasant, or within his scope of ability). Eventually, he came to the conclusion that he was overthinking it, as usual. This was not a magical problem – it was mechanical.
By the time the school day was about to begin, Remus had located the passage he needed in Hogwarts: A History, and was satisfied that he’d have a plan by the end of the week. He left for Potions in a pretty good mood – one which was quickly shattered when he realised he was being followed.
The feeling of being watched had been pricking the back of his neck while he’d been in the library, but as it was generally a quiet and solitary place anyway, he’d put it down to an overactive imagination. And there was always the chance that Madam Pince was lurking behind him, standing guard over her precious books. By 8.45 the hallways were crowded with students hurrying to their lessons, chattering and giggling, hurriedly eating breakfasts on the go, or scribbling down last minute homework. Although this year Remus’s policy had been never to travel alone, he was satisfied that it was busy enough and there were enough Gryffindors around to be safe.
However, as he began to descend the first set of stairs leading to the dungeon, the prickling feeling returned once more. As a rule, Remus tried to ignore instincts like that – they belonged to the wolf, and he resented the intrusion. But he couldn’t shake it, and reached for his wand, gripping it tight.
Finally, only a corridor away from the Potions classroom, he made a deliberate wrong turn and darted behind a tapestry. He waited. Sure enough, only a few seconds later, Severus Snape peered around the corner, looking confused. Irritation boiled up in Remus’s throat, and before he could think about it reasonably, he pointed his wand at the Slytherin and chanted,
Snape went rigid, a look of surprise on his face that would have been comical, if Remus wasn’t so angry. The black-haired boy fell to the ground, arms and legs straight as a board, completely paralysed. His beady black eyes stared around, frantically, as Remus stepped out from his hiding place. He gave him a kick – not too hard, and only in the shin – and smirked down at Severus.
“Stop following me, you creep.” He said. “Didn’t I warn you?”
Snape stared helplessly up at him, and Remus laughed before heading for Potions with a spring in his step.