Chapter 29 : Chapter 104
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Everyone reunited at dinner that night, with Remus returning from his visit with Madam Pomfrey, and Peter returning from Hogwarts with the rest of the seventh years - including the girls. Since Sirius had not been able to make it to Hogwarts, Gillette took the initiative in making sure their team bought the bouquets and chocolates for James’ team. The prizes were handed out with much pomp and circumstance, leaving the rest of the school, not for the first time, wondering what was going on. James was spared being given a bouquet, only to have the girls from his team "take pity" on him and each spare a flower to put in his hair, which Remus kindly braided into a crown (the flowers, not the hair), garnering jokes, not only about James’ head adornment, but also about how Remus even knew how to braid.
Much of the last week at school was spent in this fashion – with teasing and laughter – the only interruption being that halfway through the week was a full moon. The Marauders, except for perhaps Remus, were looking forward to this. It was their last chance to run free and howl at the moon – figuratively and literally – and they made the most of it; and the best part was that, with no more classes to attend, the Marauders were free to sleep the following day away.
As the week came to a close, there was an air of anticipation hanging over the castle. Not only was everyone excited to leave for the holiday, but the student population expected the Marauders to pull at least one final stunt before leaving.
For their part, the Marauders remained fairly quiet during the last week. This was the first year in quite a while that Gryffindor was in the lead for the house cup and they didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize their chances of winning. They figured they were honor-bound to help their house at least this once. It had helped that James and Lily, fellow Gryffindors, were also the Head Boy and Head Girl. Not that Lily was more lenient on her house than any other, but rather she had a taming influence on one of the chief trouble-makers of the school who, consequently, didn’t cost his house quite as many points as he usually did. He, in turn, tamed the other chief trouble-maker, who didn’t find things as fun when he was doing them alone – not that Sirius couldn’t have found someone to pull pranks with, but "someone" was not James.
So with the arrival of the end-of-the-year feast, anticipation was high among the student body, and the Marauders were almost giddy with excitement. The House Cup winner was always announced at the beginning of the feast and the usual honor that was bestowed was having their colors displayed for the entire evening.
Dumbledore stood at the front of the student body to give his traditional end-of-the-year speech. "As yet another year comes to a close, I look back on our class of departing seventh-years with particular wonder. You entered school young and innocent," here Dumbledore glanced briefly in the direction of the Marauders. "Mostly anyway," he said with a smirk. "And you’ve had to overcome a mountain of obstacles – not unheard of, but certainly not the norm. You have all suffered tragedy – from the loss of parents and loved ones, to fellow classmates – friends. As you step into tomorrow, remember to be wise in your choices, work hard for what you believe, be strong and courageous when you face trials, and be shrewd in your dealings." Though his voice remained light and had the quality of a grandfather passing wisdom to his grandchild, his eyes flashed with hidden meaning, imperative in its warning. "Remember this: we are – all of us – wizards here." There was the barely hidden sound of scoffing that emanated from one side of the Great Hall. And while several pairs of eyes flickered in that direction, an unspoken agreement kept anyone from acknowledging it. "So go forth and create that brighter tomorrow we all hope to see. Now," the mood shifted and the spell was broken. "It is time for the awarding of the House Cup. This year’s winner is..." Dumbledore flicked his wand and the school banners fluttered in a magical breeze. "Gryffindor!" The banners changed from the usual school coat-of-arms to the red and gold Gryffindor standard and cheers broke out in the hall.
The cheers had just about died down, when another breeze blew through the hall, causing the banners to flutter. A sonorous roar shook the room, and suddenly the gold embroidered lion from each banner leapt off the material and began prancing and prowling around the hall. This caused a few of the more skittish students to initially scream, but most students ooo-ed and awed the glittery lions as they moved about the hall, some occasionally pouncing playfully like giant kittens which, to Sirius’ dismay, caused several girls to giggle and coo at the lions.
"They were supposed to be ferocious man-eaters," Sirius harrumphed, crossing his arms over his chest and making Gillette laugh.
"They’ve matured so much over the last seven years, haven’t they," she said teasingly to Lily, who also chuckled at the pouting Sirius.
A quick kiss wiped the pout off his face, and it was his turn to tease. "Mmm. Maybe I should pout more often."
"No! Please," Lily rolled her eyes. "And no," she said, directing her statement at James, though concentrating on filling her plate with food, "It won’t work for you either."
The lions sauntered around the hall for approximately thirty minutes and, just when a few students were finishing up and preparing to leave, Remus muttered another incantation.
James prodded Sirius’ shoulder. "Here it comes."
The girls returned their focus to the lions and watched as they rose into the air, crouched simultaneously wherever they were, and then took off at a full run straight into each other. With a loud boom, the lions collided and exploded into a giant gold and red firework that sent sparkles fluttering lazily onto the heads of the rest of the student body, and for just a moment amidst the glitter, the words "The Marauders were here!" were visible hovering in the air.
Applause broke out among the students and even some of the teachers.
"You’ve got to give them credit for style," Dumbledore said to Professor McGonagall over his chalice.
"I must admit, that was not what I was expecting," McGonagall conceded.
Professor Flitwick, who had nearly toppled out of his chair in enthusiastic applause, said, "That was really quite an impressive display of magic!"
McGonagall raised her eyebrow. She had to admit it was impressive. The amount of control it took to create the lions, give them personality, and cause the explosion and mingle the words in with the illusion, was exceptional, but it was not what she was expecting the final prank of the infamous Marauders to be. Having been their Head-of-House for seven years, and having doled out more detentions than she could count, she had a sneaky suspicion that this was not the final word from the boys. But a short time later, they rose from the table and left, and she had to concede that might be all there was. She found herself feeling strangely disappointed. It appeared she owed Slughorn ten Galleons and a drink at The Three Broomsticks; after all, they’d be leaving in the morning.
Time was always short the morning everyone left on holiday, and it seemed the students were in a rush, only half paying attention to what they were doing and where they were going. The teachers watched with mixed emotions as the students wolfed down their breakfasts. They each had personal favorites, though they would never admit it, and McGonagall was no different.
Professor McGonagall felt an immense sense of accomplishment as she watched her seventh-years from the staff table. She knew that she had prepared them, to the best of her ability, and many would go on to achieve amazing things. She also felt worry for this particular class. Though the war had been going on for some years now, and a lot more had happened than the general population – and especially the students – had been privy to, this year the war seemed especially personal. Perhaps it was because several of the students she had come to know the best from this year had, almost all, been directly affected by the war. Miss Evans – well, she supposed she could refer to her by name now – Lily’s parents had been killed, as had Remus’. Sirius had been disowned for siding with the Order, or at least for holding to the same beliefs. And James was in the middle of it all, not to mention he’d been attacked defending his friend. And the whole group seemed to shelter the Pettigrew boy – allowing him to remain the most childlike and innocent. Or so it seemed.
She, of course, had other students from other houses that had been equally affected by the war, but these were her kids – her Gryffindors. She was especially proud of them. It was in the midst of these thoughts that she noticed the all-too-familiar behavior from the Marauders. They alternated between huddling together and trying to act normal, which meant they cast furtive glances at each other while trying not to laugh. She allowed herself a brief smirk as she realized she would not be owing Slughorn those ten Galleons after all. Since they were no longer officially students of hers, she decided to just sit back and enjoy the show.
- - - - -
Sirius glanced quickly at Remus, "Did you…"
"Yes!" Remus responded in an exasperated tone. "Honestly, one more word and I’m going to curse you so you go blind and miss everything."
Sirius frowned, but said nothing.
Gillette put her hand on Sirius’ knee. It had started bouncing, seemingly of its own accord, and the motion was making her nauseous. Deciding to focus on something far away rather than close up, hoping to ease the motion sickness, she looked over at the Slytherin table. "Oo, Parkinson doesn’t look too good."
Sirius’ head snapped up and he scanned the Slytherin table, a grin spreading across his face.
James, too, looked over at the table, grinning. "He’s not the only one," James whispered.
Remus, who was sitting across from James, and therefore had his back to the Slytherins, watched Sirius’ and James’ reactions to gage what was going on, while Peter kept casting glances over his shoulder.
There was a slight commotion as the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs also noticed that something was amiss. More and more Slytherins appeared to be falling ill. A few of them gagged, though none actually vomited. Then, ever so slowly reality seemed to shift, nauseating more than just the Slytherins. Watching the Slytherins was like looking at living works of art by Dali as their features melted and morphed into something else, or rather, someone else.
When the shifting ceased, everyone stared in awe at the Slytherins. The table had been divided into roughly four sections. In each section, the students sitting there now resembled one of the four Marauders, meaning that there were approximately fifteen Sirius look-alikes, fifteen Jameses, fifteen Remuses, and fifteen Peters. Once the shock of what they were seeing had passed, chaos broke out. The majority of the student body was laughing, but there were shrieks of horror from the Slytherins – most of whom dashed out of the hall, or attempted to. A few found their clothes were now too big for them, tripping them up; but the majority were in clothes that were entirely too small, making movement near impossible, though sitting still didn’t help either, as buttons popped and, in the worst cases, robes tore in the bodies’ needs for room to breathe. These wardrobe malfunctions only served to increase the laughter among the rest of the student body and the humiliation of the Slytherins. Then there were the few unlucky souls who had received a mixed dose of the Polyjuice Potion that laced every item of food and drink on the Slytherin table. Those students had to be escorted to the hospital wing because their features would not stop shifting, unable to decide which form to take.
When the Marauders finally got up to leave the Hall, those students who remained gave them a standing ovation and they took a bow. For the rest of the morning, students approached them to congratulate them or ask questions about how they’d managed it. James and Sirius, ever the storytellers and much more comfortable in the limelight, fielded most of the questions, but the train was waiting and no one could linger as long as they wanted.
The Marauders, Lily, and Gillette walked from the castle and down the road toward Hogsmeade. They watched as other students passed them, James reminding a few of the party at his house later that night.
"I feel like we should say something – take a moment and give some sort of speech about what we’ve learned and what our future holds," Lily said, looking back at the castle, as she walked hand-in-hand with James.
"Meh," Sirius uttered. "Dumbledore already took care of that."
"I agree with Lily," Gillette said. "It feels like a chapter of our life is closing. What will the next one bring?"
"Jobs," Peter offered.
"Adventure," Sirius added, his eyes glinting with excitement.
"Danger," James said, grinning, and mirroring Sirius excitement.
"I think that was a rhetorical question," Remus stated.
"Oh," Sirius looked downcast for a moment, then smiled again. "A Party!"
"Firewhiskey," Peter said, following Sirius’ lead.
"Marriage," James blushed shyly and glanced, sidelong, at Lily, who blushed back.
Sirius groaned and rolled his eyes, but couldn’t help the smile that spread across his face.
They really had a lot to look forward to. And with their best mates at their sides, and good women, they were out to conquer the world as they had the school.
As it turned out, due to the magical mishap at breakfast, this was the first year in the history of Hogwarts, that the scarlet steam engine was late in its departure. And the Marauders could not have been more proud.
- - - - -
A/N - Well, folks, that be the end. I feel like I should say something profound, but I don't really have anything. I cannot thank you all enough for your support and encouragement. Seriously, at the beginning I was not a trusted author and I think all three of my first chapters were initially denied for one reason or another. That was frustrating in itself, but then I was "only" getting one review a chapter (thank you MissLilyEvans for that one!). It was a little disheartening. But then y'all started to show up and wow! I have been so immensely encouraged by you all. You kept me posting and I can't tell you how much I appreciate that. Thank you!
I do have plans for a "Book Three" covering the years from school to November 1981. It is a matter of getting them on the computer. I don't want to promise anything, but I do really want to 'finish' the story - I just... lack discipline.
Anyway - Thank you all very much! Thank you Sal105, Gryffin Duck, dransinha, LynnHelven, rowenaravenclaw94, Tor Petty, suriusblack, HP DM 4eva, James and sirius 4 eva, fanwright19, Wicked Vixen, and doglover. Thank you to anyone I’ve missed. Thank you to all who come later and join this adventure. Thank you!
Thank you also to my betas. I literally could not have done it without you. You’ve inspired, corrected, suggested, helped me keep continuity and all around made the story better. You’ve also pushed, prodded, and nagged and I can’t tell you how much I’m grateful for it. (Seriously, if I ever do get to and finish book three, it’s because of Sifi.) Thanks for listening to my insecurities and a few out-there ideas. Thanks for being honest, too. Thank you – Mom, mei mei, and Sifi. *applause here*
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