Chapter 69 : No Next Year
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No Next Year
Peter was gone from school for a week and a half while he helped his mother with the necessary arrangements for his father’s funeral and to allow himself some time to take to grieve. In the meantime, his friends kept up his schoolwork for him; they planned on teaching him whatever material he missed so he would worry himself about catching up when he returned. With the NEWTs approaching, however, the professors were mostly reviewing material Peter should already know. When it came time for Peter to actually leave school, the boys knew enough to respect their friend’s wishes and not accompany him home. When he said he had to do this alone, he meant it. He didn’t want any of them with him. He had to face his father’s death by himself. That was the only way it would feel real to him. And when Peter finally returned to the castle, he didn’t want to talk about it.
They hated that Peter had to go through this. He was only seventeen. Yes, he was considered an adult by Wizarding standards, but a seventeen year old still needed his father. There were so many life experiences Peter would have that his father should have been a part of. It just wasn’t right that the man’s life had to be cut so short.
With the end of their school career so near, the seventh years were scrambling to tie up any loose ends they might have left untied. They had to study for the NEWTs and work on setting up interviews in places like the Ministry or St. Mungo’s, or even some of the shops in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. They had to decide whether they were going to stay with their parents over the summer or move directly into a new home with friends. Some seventh years were using their spare time to roam the castle, discovering rooms they had never been in, new paintings with horrible personalities. They wanted to do everything possible to make their last few weeks within the castle memorable.
“Have you guys heard?”
James, Sirius, Remus and Peter, who had been sitting out by the lake studying for their exams, glanced up to see an excited Lily Evans hurrying towards them, her red hair flapping in the light breeze behind her. “Hear what?” James asked, idly turning the page in his Defence Against the Dark Arts textbook. “Can you believe Hayes is leaving?”
“Why is he leaving again?” Sirius asked curiously, looking up from his Charms notes. Their professor had made the announcement three days ago during class and it had been received with little to no shock. The students were far too used to their professors leaving by now to care. There was disappointment, of course, as Hayes had been a brilliant teacher, but the Hogwarts students expected these announcements by now. What would shock them would be a professor who lasted more than one year.
“Says Beauxbatons wants him to work there and since he lives in France during the summers, he thought it would just be best to live there permanently and take the job.” James shrugged. It was a reasonable move, no one could deny that.
“It’s better than what’s happened to some of our other professors,” Remus reminded Sirius, peering out from behind his Transfiguration textbook. At least Hayes wasn’t fired or run out of the school doing back flips. Though Remus seriously doubted Sirius minded the latter outcome, as he had received quite a lot of gold from that.
James nodded, glancing at Sirius as well. “True.”
Lily cleared her throat loudly and irritably. “I was going to say something.”
James’s cheeks tinged red as he diverted his attention to his forgotten girlfriend. “Oh, yeah, sorry, what were you going to say?”
“Alice and Frank are getting married!”
“What?” the four boys shouted loudly, sending a flock of birds that had been milling through the grass flying away. They really shouldn’t have been so surprised. Alice and Frank had been joined at the hip for years now; it was only a matter of time before Frank popped the question. Though they knew it really wouldn’t be much of a question, as Alice would obviously say “yes.” She would be mental not to. What surprised them was that they were so young. Alice and Frank were both only eighteen and were just coming out of school. They hadn’t even graduated yet! They supposed this all had something to do with what Sirius had once said – everyone was afraid they won’t wake up the next morning, so they’re doing things they might never get a chance to do. Marriage would on the top of the list.
“Alice just told me,” Lily told them gleefully, kneeling down beside James, whose mouth was still hanging open. It was only when he saw Lily kneel down that he gained the presence of mind to shut it. “She’s so excited.”
“W-when are they getting married?” Sirius stuttered. Surely they would be having their wedding soon.
“In July, obviously once school’s over. Alice is so thrilled. Of course, everyone knew it was going to happen, but not so soon.” Lily looked so excited; it was almost as if she was thinking about her own wedding rather than her best friend’s. After a moment, Lily got up again, announcing that she had to go speak to Professor McGonagall.
When Lily had hurried away, Sirius turned meaningfully to James. “You know what this means, don’t you, Prongs?” he said in his most serious voice.
James thought for a moment and shook his head slowly. He had no idea what it meant. “No… what does it mean?”
“Alice is getting married; Lily is all excited about it.” Sirius was saying this in such a way that it made James feel ridiculous that he didn’t know what his friend was hinting at. Lily was just excited for her best friend. That was natural, wasn’t it? When Sirius saw that James wasn’t going to make the connection any time soon, he burst out, “She’s going to be expecting you to pop the question!”
“WHAT?” James blurted out in horror. He almost jumped to his feet, but settled for sitting up straight on his knees. A couple of third years who were sitting not too far away sent the group strange looks.
Sirius ignored the third years. “That’s how girls think, mate!”
James’s eyes were round behind his glasses, a look of the utmost terror in them. He was only eighteen. He wasn’t getting married! He didn’t care if Alice and Frank were, he wasn’t. “But… but we’ve only been going out for a few months! How could she be expecting me to ask her that? I’m only eighteen, Padfoot!”
“Frank and Alice are only eighteen too,” Sirius pointed out, obnoxiously cheerfully. He was enjoying James’s horror far too much.
“Yes, but they’ve also been together for longer than I can remember. For them it was only a matter of time. For me and Lily… it’s a miracle she’s tolerated me this long!”
“Sirius, will you stop making him hysterical?” Remus begged. He was trying to study and James’s frantic ranting wasn’t helping.
“I’m just saying what I think, Moony,” Sirius said, leaning back on his elbows so he could read Remus’s notes from over his shoulder. “Will we have to know the human Transfiguration bit?”
Remus nodded jerkily, underlining some helpful information he would need to know later. “I would think so.” He set his book down, shutting it on his quill so he wouldn’t lose his place. “How many more days until this is all over?”
“Not enough,” James replied, still dazed from what Sirius had told him. There was no way Lily was expecting him to propose, no way. They had just started going out! It had just been a few months, hardly enough time to make such a life altering decision, no matter how much or how little time they thought they had! He knew that everyone was filled with uncertainty lately, and he understood that. But Lily was smart enough to know she would make it through this war until an appropriate age to get married. There was nothing to be worried about, nothing at all. She was just excited for her friend. That was all.
“I can’t believe school is ending,” Sirius said, now looking towards the castle that had been their home for the past seven years with a sentimental longing in his eyes. He had never considered Number Twelve Grimmauld Place his home. Hogwarts was the first home he ever had and now he was leaving it. “It’s going to be strange… not coming back next year.” Every year Sirius counted the days until the train would leave from Platform Nine and Three Quarters, now he had no days to count because the train would be leaving, but they wouldn’t be on it. Trying to get his mind off this depressing idea, he decided to ask, “When are you moving in, Moony?”
Remus, who had opened his textbook once more and was currently reading, again, shrugged. “When is good for you?”
“Any time is good for me.”
“Day after we get back from school fine?”
“Sounds fine to me.” Sirius then turned to Peter, who was distractedly plucking up blades of grass and tearing them between his fingers, appearing to not be listening to their conversation at all. “You know the offer’s still open, Peter.”
Not bothering to face his friend, Peter shook his head before plucking out another blade of grass and ripping it methodically between his fingers. “I need to stick around and help my mum. She needs me right now.”
Sirius said nothing more. He understood why Peter would want to stay around for the summer, maybe even for autumn. His mother was devastated over the death of her husband. From what Sirius heard from the Potters and the Lupins, sometimes she would find it difficult to do the simplest of tasks. Peter wanted to be around to help her do them. But Sirius didn’t believe that Peter had to. His mother would understand if he wanted to move out. He was an adult, after all. Then again, Sirius never understood family ties; he really had no idea what Peter was going through.
Soon it would be time for them to leave the school, to go on with their lives. The four boys were excited at the prospect, but terrified by it at the same time, though they would never openly admit it. James and Sirius had already submitted applications to St. Mungo’s and the Ministry of Magic and were waiting to hear back. Remus’s teaching plans were put on hold until a position opened up. As it was, Dumbledore had already filled the Defence Against the Dark Arts position and, as he privately admitted to Remus, he wouldn’t give the job to such a young boy, especially one he liked. Peter was in a bit of an understandable slump. He was focused on helping his mother rather than searching for property to establish a store. He would start on that in a month or two, when everything at home was as close to normal as it could be.
The NEWT examinations finally arrived and an eerie hush fell over the castle much like in their fifth year when they were due to sit the OWLs. The seventh and fifth years, who were sitting their OWLs, walked about on edge with their noses buried in their notes and textbooks at all times. The students had several ways of going about releasing their nerves. Some went into stony silences that would only be broken once the exams had concluded. Others boasted that they knew so much they didn’t have to study a bit, but they could be seen studying intensely at all hours of the night. Still others bought black market medallions that were supposed to enhance their brain power but really only caused them to visit the bathroom a few more times than was necessary.
No matter how hard they all tried to hide it, it was evident that they would be immensely relieved once the exams were over.
Unlike when they sat for the OWL exams, the seventh years knew what to expect this time. They took the written exams in the morning for the next two weeks and the practical bits in the afternoon. Those that had carried on with Astronomy would be taking their practical bit at midnight on Tuesday. The fact that they knew what to expect still didn’t make the tests any less nerve-wracking. In fact, it made it worse because the seventh years would feel moronic if they did poorly on their exams. During the written portions, the Great Hall was only filled with the sounds of scratching quills. There wasn’t even the sound of breathing to be heard unless someone listened specifically for it. During the practical bits, there were just the sounds of spells uttered, their results and the occasional cry of victory or defeat.
The night the exams ended was supposed to be a cheerful one filled with the utter relief of the burden being lifted and the beginning of the night was, indeed, cheerful. It was when James, Remus, Sirius and Peter attempted to sneak to the kitchens for sweets when it all went horribly wrong. Filch had been out to get them ever since they mailed him a fruit basket where the fruit tried to eat him. He wanted those boys in trouble one last time before school ended and he was going to get what he wanted. If he had it his way, they would all be hanging by their big toes from chains in the dungeons. Filch knew they had some way of avoiding him and he was going to find out what it was.
The boys had accidentally left James’s Invisibility Cloak behind in their dormitory when they set out, not realising they had until they were too far away from Gryffindor Tower to go back and get it without being spotted. But they had the map; they should have been able to avoid any unwanted visitors, at least that’s what they thought. They would have been able to accomplish this, had it not been for the fact that Sirius had drunken one too many bottles of Firewhiskey. He was more hyperactive than he usually was and much more uncoordinated, making it nearly impossible to keep him quiet.
“Padfoot, shut it before we get caught!” Remus hissed furiously, stumbling to the side as Sirius fell sideways into him, tripping over his own feet. With great effort, Remus pushed his friend so he was standing upright.
“Moony… you’re hilarious,” Sirius laughed, his voice a higher octave than it should have been.
“I’m not trying to be funny! Shut up. Filch is dying to catch us at something! I’m not getting detention days before we graduate!”
“Ouch! Sirius that was my foot!” Peter snapped loudly, elbowing Sirius so he toppled sideways into Remus again.
“Quiet, Wormtail!” James ordered, abruptly coming to a halt and holding an arm out so his friends could walk no further. Well, that was his intention, at any rate. Sirius managed to crawl under James’s arm. James groaned, placing his forehead in his hand. They were doomed. “Sirius, get back here!” Sirius had grabbed hold of the Marauder’s Map right out of James’s hands and was reading it as he crawled across the cold floor.
“Filch has such a funny name,” he chuckled, pointing to a place on the map that they knew said Argus Filch.
Remus’s eyes widened. “Filch is coming!” Without a moment’s hesitation, he hurried after Sirius, kneeling down and yanking the map out of his hand so he could clear it. “Mischief Managed!” But before he could shove the map in his pocket, a pair of feet had marched up to him. He could see the long, moldy brown tattered robes of Argus Filch. The caretaker had won – he had his last opportunity to stick the boys in detention one more time before they graduated.
“Well, well… what do we have here?” he snarled gleefully, pulling Remus and Sirius up by the scruffs of their robes and snatching the map from Remus.
“It’s just some old parchment,” Remus muttered quickly, gazing at his feet. James groaned from behind him. Remus could never lie convincingly, he wasn’t able to look someone in the eye and tell an outright lie.
“Old parchment, aye? Then I don’t s’ppose you’d mind if tossed it into the fireplace?”
“No!” James and Peter shouted swiftly. They couldn’t let Filch destroy an entire year’s worth of work. The map allowed them to wander about the castle after hours, to get in and out of Hogsmeade without being caught. They weren’t letting Filch destroy it like it was just some useless sheet of parchment. Merlin, they were going to murder Sirius.
Filch’s eyes lit up dangerously. Clearly it was the wrong thing to do – to yell that he couldn’t destroy it. They made him suspicious. “Don’t want me destroying it, don’t you? Guess I’ll just have to confiscate it. I’ll figure out how it works.”
Filch had relinquished his grips on Remus and Sirius, who stumbled backwards so they were standing with James and Peter, both of whom were seething. “Now what does this do?” Filch mused quietly, tapping the parchment with a gangly, dirty finger. The boys glared daggers at him. They had never disliked the caretaker as much as they did right now. He was going to burn their map, their precious map that they had worked on for a year, the map they had put so much work into. Just because Sirius had ingested too much Firewhiskey and went stumbling and yelling about the castle! “What do you do?” Filch snarled, as if the parchment would answer him. “Come on, you must do something!” Filch was visibly frustrated. “Show me, Argus Filch, what you do!” Filch barked. After a moment, Filch said confusedly, “Eh? What’s this?”
The caretaker thrust the map into James’s hands and he looked furious. Sweet Merlin, they had forgotten about the security feature Remus had put on it.
Messer Moony would like to advise Argus Filch to mind his own bloody business.
Messer Prongs also wishes Argus Filch would mind his own business and would also like to add that he probably will never be able to figure out what this parchment is even if he thought so much his brain exploded.
Messer Padfoot would like to add that Argus Filch is a sorry excuse for a wizard and probably could not transfigure a beetle into a button if his life depended on it.
Messer Wormtail would like to wish Argus Filch a good day and advises him to bathe once in a while. The smell is nauseating.
The boys felt sick. They tried to refrain from using their nicknames in public, only using them when they were amongst friends, but who was to say that Filch hadn’t heard them before? He must have! They were as good as dead. Who would have thought they would make it so close to graduation before being chucked out? It must have been a school record. If students had ever managed to have been thrown out, it would have happened long before graduation. Not just days before.
They were dead.
“Bloody Zonko’s!” Filch roared, furiously stuffing the map into his robe pocket. “I knew you lot were up to no good when you came back from that last trip. Laughing and carrying those Zonko’s bags. Come with me, you’re getting detention!”
They were undeniably annoyed that they had detention the day before the Leaving Feast, but they were relieved that Filch didn’t connect the names on the map to the names of the boys he was disciplining. Their punishment could have been a lot worse if he’d managed that. In the end, the boys found themselves cleaning the entire Great Hall with the smallest toothbrushes Filch could find on such short notice. It wasn’t so much the detention that bothered the boys as it was the fact that their beloved map was confiscated. Filch had put it into his file cabinet for highly dangerous items.
They didn’t understand how he would know if it was dangerous or not, as he could not figure out how to make it work. He probably assumed that because of whom he had confiscated it from, it must have been harmful.
It was with heavy hearts that the seventh years sat down with the rest of the school for the Leaving Feast. Usually they would be happy, eagerly awaiting the announcement of the winner of the House Cup and chatting animatedly about what they were going to do when they came back next year. But there was no next year. They weren’t coming back to school; they were going out into the real word. They were going to have to learn to fend for themselves. They wouldn’t be coming back to Hogwarts in September to listen to the oddities that were Dumbledore’s speeches or hear the Sorting Hat Sort the new first years. James had to pass on the title of Quidditch captain to Alexandra Benz, leaving Professor McGonagall to harass her every year when it came to winning the Quidditch Cup.
Dumbledore’s final speech brought words of warning, especially for the departing students. He warned them to be careful, to keep their loved ones close and to watch their step. Of course, he had to remind the younger students to refrain from using magic during the holiday, lest they be at the mercy of the Ministry for breaking the Statute of Secrecy. The thrill of being able to use magic outside of Hogwarts had long ago vanished for the seventh years; it had become habit now for them to cast a spell whenever they could. Now the seventh years were encouraged to use as much magic as possible in order to protect themselves.
It was amazing to believe that their first year, and who knew how many more years afterwards, outside of school would be marred with this war.
The Hogwarts Express chugged happily through the rolling, green countryside. The lunch trolley was making its rounds, the students filling up on Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans, Chocolate Frogs and Licorice Wands. Some of the students who were anxious to get home were running up and down the corridors, suffering the wrath of the Prefects who didn’t want to be bothered on their trip home. James, Remus and Lily actually should have been chasing after them, telling them to calm down, but they wanted to enjoy their last trip home.
“Maybe you three really should go stop those two second years,” Sirius suggested halfheartedly as he saw the same second years that had hopped by their compartment ten times in the last three minutes pass by again.
“Why? They’ve got it taken care of,” James said, nodding towards two fifth year Prefects who were chasing after them, looking severely frazzled.
“I dunno, I feel kind of bad,” Remus said quietly, getting up and heading towards the compartment door before looking over his shoulder at James and Lily. “You two stay here; I’ll go take care of the second years.” Remus slid the door open and they could instantly hear his voice shouting loudly, “Oi! Get back in your compartment right now before I take points from your house for next year!”
Sirius raised his eyebrows at James and Peter. “Well… he’s gotten strict.”
“I believe we had something to do with that,” James said fairly.
Sirius nodded in a way that suggested he was just remembering that they were the reason behind it. “Well, we couldn’t expect him to let them all walk all over him.”
Peter, who had not been taking in a word of his friends’ conversation, suddenly got up. “I’ll be right back.” He left the compartment and began in the direction opposite the one Remus had taken, though he stopped to look and see that Remus was telling off the hyperactive students. As he headed towards the bathroom at the back of the train he was met with Severus Snape coming out of it. Almost at once a sneer broke out on Snape’s face. It was rare he ever caught Peter without James, Sirius or Remus around. The sorry excuse for a wizard was nothing without those three around. Though it disgusted him to do so, he often wondered how those three stood to have Pettigrew around. He didn’t match up to the talent he reluctantly admitted they had, though abused.
But Snape knew how to use Pettigrew’s apparent weakness to his advantage. He had been noticing lately that Pettigrew seemed to be distancing himself from those three. He learned that when Lupin offered to accompany Pettigrew home after his father’s death, the weakling denied the offer. He didn’t seem to be happy tagging along with them anymore. Most would attribute that to the fact that he was grieving over his father and wanted to be left alone, something very understandable, but Snape saw more than others. This had been happening since before seventh year started. Pettigrew wasn’t happy and when he wasn’t happy, Snape could use this to his advantage.
“Pettigrew,” Snape acknowledged coolly when he approached the boy.
“Snape,” Peter returned tonelessly.
“How have you been?” Snape almost laughed at the incredulous look on Pettigrew’s face when he heard the question. He never expected Snape to ask him that.
“Err… fine.” Peter couldn’t deny that he felt uneasy around the Slytherin, but also rather well… he didn’t know, really. He supposed he was surprised to find Snape asking him about his well being. His friends hadn’t done much of that lately. Well, he couldn’t say that they hadn’t asked at all. When he first came back to school after his father’s funeral they would ask, but not so much anymore.
Snape’s eyes narrowed, but not in a malicious fashion. They narrowed so he could closely inspect Peter. “You’re lying.”
“What makes you say that?”
Snape ignored the question. “You know, just because you think they’ve been your friends doesn’t mean they’ll always be there for you. Have they been such great friends lately?”
Peter hated himself for doing this, but he was truly considering Snape’s words. Had James, Sirius and Remus really been the greatest of friends lately? They hadn’t come with him to his father’s funeral. Of course, Remus had offered… but was that out of pity or really wanting to be there for him? Of course, Peter had declined the invitation, saying he had to do it on his own. But a real friend would have kept insisting until Peter caved in. None of them had done that, they had given up after one try. Sirius was always making jokes at his expense. Maybe it was all in good fun, but it hurt nonetheless. James… James never did anything to stop him. The only one James tried to defend was Remus.
Finally, he admitted, “No… I suppose they haven’t been.”
For the quickest of moments, there was a triumphant sneer crossing Snape’s lips. He erased it before Peter could notice it. “You know… there are people who would look out for you at all costs, if you just did something for them.”
Peter eyed Snape suspiciously. Who was he talking about? “Who?”
“I can’t tell you right now, but if you ever feel like you’ve got no one else around, come find me. I’ll help you.”
“Why would you? You hate my friends.”
“Yes, I do. But I see something different in you. I believe you could do something your friends would never be able to do.” Without another word, Snape slid past Peter and vanished inside one of the compartments.
The Hogwarts Express pulled into Platform Nine and Three Quarters late in the afternoon and for a long time, the seventh year Gryffindors couldn’t bring themselves to get off it. Every year they would get off, excited to see their families and wait eagerly for the next September first when they would get back on the scarlet train and go back to the castle for another school year. That castle had been their home since they were eleven and now… now they wouldn’t be going back. If they got off the train, it would only make it official. For now they could pretend that the end hadn’t come, that they were simply going home for the summer.
In the end, they had to get off. They had to admit that the end had come and their careers at Hogwarts had officially concluded.
Dragging their trunks behind them, the seventh years stepped off the train and looked around for their families. Alice and Frank spotted their families right away and, after promising their fellow Gryffindors they would see each other soon, hurried off to share their good news of their engagement. Lily, James, Remus, Sirius and Peter spotted their parents standing in their usual place right outside the platform barrier. The group of adults looked horribly smaller without the presence of Mr. Pettigrew.
“Here they are,” Charles said upon spotting his son and his friends. “James, I talked to Hippocrates today, he says that if you go to St. Mungo’s tomorrow, they’ll have time for an interview with you.”
James grinned happily. “Thanks, Dad. I’ll do that. Oh, Mum, Dad, this is Lily.” Lily had been hovering uncertainly at James’s shoulder.
“Hullo, Lily. James has told us a lot about you,” Hannah said, smiling at her son’s girlfriend. Now visibly relaxed, Lily was able to greet the Potters wholeheartedly before she had to leave with Alice. She would be staying with Alice and her mother until she was able to find an apartment of her own.
“We’ve got to be getting home, Peter,” Maggie told her son, who readily agreed, saying a hurried goodbye to his friends before leaving.
“It’s strange… to think we won’t be going back next year,” Remus said, watching as the Hogwarts Express still puffed steam into the air.
“It is strange,” Sirius agreed. “But we’ve got to move on, I suppose. You’re moving in the day after tomorrow, right?”
“Yeah, I just need to pack.”
“I guess this is it then,” James said. “We should all probably be going.”
Without another word, they gathered their belongings and headed through the platform barrier. Hogwarts was in the past, now it was time to look to the future.
Excerpt from Chapter Seventy: Life on the Moon
“I wouldn’t say you ever get used to it,” Charles replied, his eyes focused straight ahead. “You just learn to accept it.”
James didn’t think he could ever accept it. But he would have to give it a try. They stopped outside of Healer Smethwyk’s door and Charles knocked n it. Within moments a man opened it, smiling at the two Potters. “Good morning, Charles,” he greeted happily. Then, holding out a hand, he added, “It’s nice to meet you, James.”
Despite his nerves, James confidently shook Smethwyk’s hand and replied, “Nice to meet you too, sir.”
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