Monday 4th November 1974
“I dunno.” Peter said, wringing his hands again. “Professor McGonagall says we shouldn't mess about with time.”
“We won’t be,” Sirius groaned, having already explained the plan twice. “This is a muggle prank, Peter, get it through your thick skull!”
“Don’t.” Remus frowned, feeling sorry for Peter, who had been sulking all day anyway because he’d been left out of their night time planning. “We’re not messing about with time, Pete,” Remus explained kindly, “We’re just messing about with clocks.”
Peter looked at Remus, then at James for confirmation.
“Ok.” He said, slowly. “I think I get it.”
They’d agreed to do it as soon as possible, and struggled to get through their lessons that day with the mounting anticipation for their devious scheme. Remus had to shush James and Sirius more than once when their excitement got the better of them - they were hardly subtle at the best of times.
“It won’t work if anyone else knows about it.” Remus hissed at lunch when Mary asked what they were whispering about. “So shut up! I know you lot can keep a secret if you really try.”
They could hardly wait for night to fall and the castle to grow still and quiet. It had been a long time since they’d all been out of bounds together after dark, and even though it was a very simple task, all them wanted to go.
There was one problem. It was much more difficult to get all four of them under the cloak than it had been three years ago.
“Peter, you stay here.” Sirius said, after their third attempt.
“Why me?” Peter protested, “Why am I always the one left out?!”
“We’re not leaving you out, idiot, this is purely a logistical concern.” Sirius rolled his eyes.
“I’ll stay,” Remus offered. “I’m the tallest, it’s my fault.”
“But it was your idea,” Sirius whined, “You can’t miss out!”
“There’ll be lots of times. We’re doing this more than once.”
“Even with three it’s a squeeze.” James said. “Black, Pettigrew, sit this one out.”
“Why me?!” Sirius and Peter both cried at the same time.
“Because.” James’s said, lips curling, “It’s Moony’s idea and my cloak.”
It took a little more squabbling, ego massaging and many promises that every night they would take it in turns, just to be fair, before the two rejected marauders conceded. Soon afterwards, Remus and James were creeping through Gryffindor common room under the cloak, tiptoeing past a few sleeping seventh years lying unconscious on their NEWT textbooks.
“Hopefully they’ll stop squabbling if we give them an hour alone.” James whispered, as they left the portrait hole and entered the dark empty corridor.
“Why is Sirius being such a dickhead to Peter, anyway?” Remus asked his own voice as low as possible. They didn’t want to disturb Peeves - or even worse, Mrs Norris.
“All the girls know about the Great Snogging Race,” James replied, moving slowly so that Remus could keep pace, “Sirius thinks Pete told them.”
“Why would he think that?”
“You know Black,” James said with a smile in his voice, “Loves jumping to conclusions. Usually the wrong ones.”
“You don’t think it was Peter, then?” Remus asked, innocently,
“Moony.” James snorted, “I know it was you.”
“Doesn’t bother me,” James laughed, quietly, “If anything it’s improved my chances of winning the bet.”
“Marlene offered to snog me,” Remus said, suddenly, “But I told her I wasn’t in the bet.”
He wasn’t sure why he’d chosen to tell James - or why he’d picked such an inopportune moment to do so. He supposed he just wanted somebody to know. Maybe it was a boasting thing - they were the ones who hadn’t included him in the running in the first place.
“Ha,” James said, “Don’t tell Sirius, he’ll never get over it.”
“She’d snog you.” Remus added, charitably, “She told me she would.”
“Alas, it’s not to be,” James replied, casually. Remus was thoughtful for a little while, but they’d reached the clock now, at the bottom of the grand staircase.
It was very big and very beautiful, with a vast mahogany frame carved with various magical creatures and plants, the face and hands cast in shimmering gold.
Remus pulled out his wand and concentrated carefully on unbinding the protective charms placed there by a great wizard long ago. It took a long time; they were complex and intricate, braided together fine as lace. But slowly and surely, one by one, he felt the magic unfasten with a gentle pop somewhere in his midsection. He smiled at James.
“There we go.”
James waved his own wand at the clock, and the longer hand rolled backwards five minutes. He looked down at his own watch, and they both saw it synchronise. James chuckled under his breath.
“See Moony, I knew it had to be you. C’mon, better get back.”
They crept back up the stairs, quicker now, giddy with triumph. At the top, Remus had to pause for breath for a moment. He rested a hand on James’s shoulder to steady himself, and the other boy waited patiently.
“Are you really going to lose the bet to Sirius for Lily’s sake?”
James’s back stiffened slightly, but he didn’t sound annoyed.
“Might not lose.”
“But Lily’s never going to--”
“I’m the one taking Divination, Lupin, not you.”
“Yeah, but she hates you.”
“She doesn’t hate me.” James chucked. “Lily Evans doesn’t have a hateful bone in her body.”
Remus said nothing to this, knowing it was quite true. James continued, “It’s just not time yet, that’s all. But I don’t mind.”
“Oh.” Remus said. It struck him for the first time that James didn’t simply fancy Lily. It was something else altogether. Remus wanted to ask more questions, but he didn’t know how - he wasn’t Sirius, he couldn’t be that brazen.
When they got back to the bedroom, Sirius was pacing the floor, and the curtains were drawn around Peter’s bed. It could be assumed that they had not used the time to settle their differences.
“Well?” Sirius barked, eagerly, as James and Remus threw off the clock.
“Done.” James said, simply, yawning and heading for his own bed. He patted Sirius on the shoulder as he passed him, “Enjoy your five minute lie in.”
* * *
And so the prank went on. Every night that week, two marauders would creep downstairs under the invisibility cloak and perform the spell to move that minute hand back by five degrees, so that by Saturday morning, every clock at Hogwarts was running twenty-five minutes late. So far, no one seemed to have noticed, and James and Sirius were getting restless.
“The thing is,” Sirius yawned over breakfast, sleepy eyed in his rumpled quidditch kit. “We’re not actually getting an extra half-hour’s sleep, are we? We’re not going to bed any earlier.”
“No, well that wasn’t actually the intention…” Remus said, attempting to construct a marmalade and strawberry jam toast sandwich.
“Still, I think we ought to be getting something out of it.”
“The satisfaction of a job well done?” Remus responded, dryly, before biting into his creation. Sweet fruit jelly oozed from between the crusts, getting all over his fingers. Sirius grimaced - he had an aversion to sticky things.
The brilliance of their own genius was apparently not enough for Sirius, however. The next morning Remus woke up long before his alarm rang, and when he checked his bedside clock he saw that it was apparently still 7am. He went over and shook Sirius.
“What did you do last night?” Remus asked, once Sirius finally woke up, “You and James did the clock, didn’t you?”
“Fancied a bit more of a lie in, that’s all…”
“How much did you move it by?”
“I dunno, hour or two?”
“What??” Sirius looked genuinely surprised. “Isn’t that the whole point of the prank?”
“Well…” Remus sighed. What was the point? It couldn’t go on forever, anyway. “That’s still too much. I’m going to go and see if I can turn it forward a little bit tonight.”
Sirius shrugged, rolled over and went back to sleep.
A few people commented on how odd it was to wake up in broad daylight in the winter at seven o’clock in the morning, but as it was a Sunday anyway Remus thought they’d got away with it. That evening, Remus and Peter crept downstairs as usual, and Remus tried to correct Sirius’s recklessness.
“Can we make it so that we get up earlier next Saturday?” Peter asked, uncertainly - Remus still wasn’t sure that Peter fully understood what they were doing.
“Don’t see why not,” Remus shrugged. “Why do you want to get up early though?”
“It’s a Hogsmeade weekend and I was going to meet… um… no, nothing.”
“Please don’t tell James or Sirius!”
“Oh… No, I won’t tell anyone.”
Remus went to bed with a heavy heart that night. He felt he had lost every one of his friends now - the only one who didn’t constantly want to talk about their relations with the opposite sex was Lily. And he felt a bit guilty around Lily, since inadvertently ruining their Potions project.
To be fair, everyone’s in the class had been ruined;
“Oh dear,” Professor Slughorn had scratched his head, completely confounded by the useless girding potions everyone had produced. “Did everybody leave them to brew for the correct amount of time? It must be precisely twenty-four hours…”
Everyone had, of course. Or thought they had. It was really Sirius’s fault, Remus told himself.
Sirius, of course, found the entire episode immensely amusing, and it only inspired him to take even greater risks. The problem was, Remus couldn’t catch him at it. Every time it was Sirius’s turn to go down and change the clocks, he made sure he was going with either Peter or James. And whenever Remus volunteered to go, Sirius took a step back.
“I know what you’re doing.” Remus told him, when they woke up one ‘morning’ with the sun already at its’ highest point in the sky.
“And I know what you’re doing,” Sirius replied with a grin, “Goody two-shoes.”
It was true - Remus was going down every second night and trying to fix whatever havoc Sirius had caused, so that by the third week of November the clocks were all swinging wildly this way and that, sometimes altered by as much as four hours. The main problem was that Sirius wouldn’t tell him how much he was changing the time by, so Remus was having to guess at his corrections.
“What the hell is going on?!” Mary said, one morning at breakfast, after perhaps only four hours sleep - Remus regretted that, but it had been the only way to reclaim ground in Sirius’s ridiculous tug of war.
Breakfast had become a very odd event - it seemed that the house elves in the kitchen were more confused than anyone else about the time of day, and were in disagreement over which meal they ought to be serving. As such, scrambled eggs were being served alongside mashed potato and gravy; legs of lamb accompanied cornflakes, and once or twice everyone had arrived for dinner and nothing at all had appeared. Sirius and James were loving every minute of this, of course.
“What do you mean?” James asked, nonchalantly. Sirius was not speaking that morning, only yawning and occasionally scowling at Remus.
“Isn’t anyone else sleeping really badly?” Mary asked, desperately. She was starting to look quite frazzled - her dark hair was coming out of her braids in thick corkscrews, and her eyes were slightly bloodshot. “And what’s up with the weather?”
“Yeah, it was really dark yesterday,” Marlene yawned, “But today it started getting light at six or something.”
“Hogwarts is a very mysterious and magical place.” James said. “Who are we to question its inner workings?”
Meanwhile, Remus was very concerned about the upcoming full moon. He thought it was due soon, anyway, he couldn’t really be sure. If Sirius didn’t slow down, he might lose track altogether and just have to lock himself in the shrieking shack for a week. He didn’t know how to explain that to Madam Pomfrey - but if he didn’t do something then he ran the risk of transforming somewhere in the castle.
* * *
Wednesday 27th November 1974
By the fourth week, Remus didn’t think that any of the marauders knew what on earth the time was supposed to be - even in the vaguest sense. He’d given up trying to correct Sirius at all, and instead thought it best to just let things play out. Things finally came to a head when, while yawning their way through a Transfiguration lesson, Peter suddenly looked out of the window with a gasp.
“What is it, Pettigrew?” McGonagall snapped - she had been much more irritable than usual. Actually, everyone had, and Remus resolved never to muck up anyone’s sleep pattern again.
“N-nothing, Professor.” Peter looked down, hurriedly.
But it was too late; the whole class, including McGonagall, was now staring out of the window too - and watching the sun rise at eleven o’clock in the morning.
“Oh for goodness sake!” McGonagall said. “Class, I want all of you in the Great Hall at once. I’m getting the Headmaster.”
Less than an hour later, Remus was feeling extremely nervous surrounded by the rest of the school as they waited for Dumbledore to address them. He hadn’t seen much of the head teacher that year; the old man was often absent from meals now, and McGonagall had said he was simply out on business for the ministry. Still, he was here now, and Remus couldn’t stop the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach as the white haired wizard approached the lectern.
“What’s going on, d’you think?” Lily asked Remus. Mary was snoozing on her shoulder.
“No idea,” he replied, hoping he sounded convincing.
“It seems,” Dumbledore began. He spoke very softly for a teacher, Remus had always thought - but somehow everyone fell quiet anyway. “That we have some pranksters in our midst.”
At once, everyone in the room turned to look at Remus, Sirius, James and Peter. Remus kept staring ahead, ignoring them; Peter began to shake his knee anxiously, glancing at James, who smiled back at his audience in an affable manner. Remus couldn’t see what Sirius was doing, but it was sure to be ridiculous and highly disrespectful. Still, Dumbledore made no accusations, only smiled pleasantly and continued, “Rest assured that the clocks are now being corrected, and measures taken to ensure that this cannot happen again. In the meantime, I think we could all do with a bit of rest - I am cancelling the rest of today’s classes, to be resumed at our usual - and correct - time tomorrow morning.”
There was a collective murmur of appreciation at this news.
“Yes!” Sirius hissed, “Result!”
“Now,” Dumbledore raised his arms, “Off you go, use this time wisely!”
Everyone in the hall got to their feet and began to trudge wearily towards the doors. The marauders were just about to follow suit, when McGonagall appeared behind them, placing a hand on Sirius and James’s shoulders.
“Wait.” She said. “Not you four.”
Remus gulped, as the rest of the school vacated the room, until it was just the four of them, Dumbledore and McGonagall.
“So,” Dumbledore smiled, kindly, “Which one of you came up with the idea, eh? Or was it a collective effort?”
The four boys looked at each other, then down at their laps. Dumbledore chuckled, “Admirable.” He said, approvingly, “Then we shall have to treat you all equally, hm? I think ten points each from Gryffindor, do you agree, Professor McGonagall.”
“At the very least!” She nodded, “And detentions!”
“I shall leave that in your capable hands, then. Just one thing, boys.”
They all looked up, wincing as they braced themselves for the telling off.
“You’re all clearly very gifted wizards,” Dumbledore continued to smile. Peter gave an odd sort of squeak. “That much is clear. It was a simple spell, yes, but highly effective. That kind of thinking will take you far. But perhaps a little more forethought and planning next time? You might not have been discovered quite so quickly.”
“Three weeks isn’t bad!” Sirius blurted out. James kicked him, but Dumbledore laughed. McGonagall turned red with anger,
“Then it shall be three weeks detention, Black!”
Sirius quickly bowed his head, and James muttered under his breath,