Chapter 15 : A Momentary Lapse of Reason
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“So how do you intend on fixing this, James?”
James didn’t even flinch at Remus tone, he was too fixated on his reflection. From where he stood, Remus could see the physical embodiment of that notorious English idiom. The stiff upper lip was in place, flagged by a resolute chin and hard eyes. He’d been staring into the dormitory mirror practically all night, once they’d returned from animagus practice. Now that the morning sun was streaming into the room, Remus felt he had no choice but to snap James out of his stupor, however harshly it may take.
“I think he’s gone off the deep end, mate.”
Cucumbers grown in Antarctica had nothing on Sirius, leaning against his bedpost in that unflappable way of his that so many tried and failed in emulating.
“Then bring him back,” Remus said through gritted teeth.
The dark purple bags under their eyes were the only clear indicator of how they spent the night. Understandable, considering if one had a pair of antlers on their head, paws for hands and a tail, which was what James, Sirius and Peter had respectively.
The food fight three weeks ago brought James’ idea of synchronized detentions to life, an inspired if not entirely sound endeavour. It, however, proved to only be a short-term solution. They had overlooked the fact that, because of the Marauders’ less than spotless reputation, prefects were disinclined to trust them and subsequently kept an even tighter watch on them.
The going became difficult for a time but one night, as they were running and hiding from the caretaker, they quite by accident stumbled upon a vestibule that led, not just into the detention rooms but a very isolated, large circle-shaped room. Adjacent to the room was a passage that they soon discovered was a favourite corridor for the prefects and caretaker to prowl for troublemakers.
To their delight, not only was the room sound-proof, but there was a small opening on the wall that gave them an unobstructed view of the passage but those in the passage couldn’t see into the room. It was then they conceived a strategy together, even more brilliant than James’ initial plan. They would still get detentions but once they completed them, they would use the detention escape route to go through the vestibule and into the circle-shaped room and that would be where they’d practice their animagus transformations.
This proved to be a rousing success, made even more so by Remus making sure to patrol the prowling passage. The transformations vastly improved and Remus’ faith was restored, his qualms diminished. That is, until two nights ago.
It had been his time of the month and unbeknownst to him, the other Marauders wanted to surprise him with a trial run. Had he known, he would have told them such an attempt so soon would be foolhardy and discourage it. That Saturday night, James, Sirius and Peter were forced to pay a price for their recklessness, an unwanted token of the night.
“James?” Sirius gripped his best friend’s shoulder.
“I’ve got antlers on my head.”
“It really isn’t that bad.”
For the first time since last night, James swivelled his head away from the mirror, fire alight in his sleep-deprived eyes. “Not that bad? NOT – THAT – BAD! I have antlers on my head, Sirius. Antlers! Not padded feet for hands or a worm-like tail attached to the bum. Gloves and trousers can hide those. How in Merlin’s senile mind am I supposed to hide these – these massive prongs!?”
“A nice, sturdy hat perhaps? You still have yours from first year, don’t you?”
James looked like he was about to have an aneurism. For all their sakes but especially for James’ health, Remus stepped in.
“We can fix this.”
Before James had a chance to retort, Peter offered his thoughts. He was the only one in bed, squirming in his seat as his rat-tail wriggled unceasingly beneath him.
“Why not Pomfrey?” When they all stared uncomprehendingly back at him, he became flustered and tried to elaborate. “I mean, we could just go to Pomfrey, can’t we? She’d be able to fix us.”
“Right, and she’d be a good enough sport about our illegal activities and certainly won’t report us to Dumbledore or the Ministry,” James replied caustically.
“Unless we go to the hospital wing and not see her.” Sirius’ eyes twinkled impishly. Comprehension dawned on James’ face at Sirius’ cryptic suggestion.
“Are you saying what I think you’re saying?” said James.
“I think you do.”
Remus turned to Peter. “Are you as lost as I am?”
“More so,” said Peter.
“We’ll go see Pomfrey now, before class starts. Tell her that James got hit with an antler jinx. While she’s preoccupied, I’ll quietly duplicate the infirmary key. Then tonight, we break into the infirmary and poke around for something to cure us,” explained Sirius.
“Sirius, you’re a genius! Almost on par with me.” James cracked his first smile all weekend.
“Why must all our plans have a criminalist element?” Remus’ lament went ignored.
Newly invigorated, James took Sirius’ earlier suggestion and donned his hat to conceal the antlers. It did a poor job but would have to do until they got to the infirmary. James bounded out the door, followed by Peter who had used a makeshift tourniquet to strap the tail to his leg to keep it from writhing too much. Sirius took Remus’ gloves from his trunk.
“Mind if I borrow these? I seem to have misplaced mine.”
“Yes.. Err, no, have at it,” Remus replied helplessly as his friend donned the prized gloves. He never got around to telling any of them where he got the gloves from. No one bothered to ask anyway. Even so, a tinge of resentment surged through him as Sirius slipped the gloves on in an infuriatingly cavalier manner.
“Where were you?”
After being admonished by Binns for their tardiness and getting five points docked each, Sirius only had to jerk his head and the poor sap vacated his seat so that Sirius could sit in front of Dollie. While it may appear like bullying to most, it was really about exerting his influence. When he heard her hiss, he tilted his chair on two legs and leaned it against her desk. She could have easily pulled her desk and watch him fall back. As it were, he only heard the furious scratching of quill on parchment.
“Urgent Marauder business. Sorry,” he said apologetically.
“I suppose it has something to do with Potter? Seeing as he’s missing class.”
“There were complications he had to rectify.”
He jingled the replica infirmary key in his pocket. Mission accomplished. The feather of her quill tickled his head, his hair most probably obscuring her page. He cupped his hair in his hands, partly to lounge better but mostly to get it out of her way.
“You’re blocking my view.”
“Of what? Binns is just spouting nonsense like he always does.”
“Hurmph.” More scratching followed this annoyed grunt.
Curious, he turned around to find Dollie poring over a notebook, scribbling away. ‘A History of Magic’ textbook, opened at the chapter on Giant Wars, lay under her arm. It baffled him that she derived pleasure in the dullest subjects, like History of Magic and Astronomy, rather than the conventionally exciting ones like Defence against the Dark Arts or Care of Magical Creatures.
“Hey, is that new? I’ve never seen it before.”
He pointed at her notebook. The page she was on was already filling up with her spiky handwriting while the page beside it had illustrations of lumbering giants bludgeoning each other with clubs. When she saw him studying her work, she snapped the book shut.
“It’s nothing.” Her eyes fell on his hands. “Why are you wearing Remus’ gloves?”
“I was feeling a bit chilly and since you weren’t around to hold my hand, these gloves had to make do.”
“So the castle’s temperature-controlling charms are too cold for you?” she said with a smirk.
“Guess that makes me cold-blooded.”
“Apparently so. What a revelation.”
They laughed together before Binns told them to be quiet, making her lapse into guilty silence. Once she returned to the world of giant wars, Sirius collapsed on his desk and caught some much needed sleep. The advantage of having paws was that the padding made for comfortable snoozing. It wasn’t as though he could take notes anyway. He couldn’t even hold a quill.
He woke up with a jolt at the screeching of pushed back chairs, the universal signal that class was over. Catching sight of Dollie’s blonde head out the door, he grabbed his bag off the floor and raced after her. He found her just outside the classroom with Vivian and Lily.
“I told you, we don’t have to do anything,” Dollie was saying, her arms folded.
“Yes, we do!” said Vivian, aghast. “It’s a special occasion.”
“What is?” Sirius came up behind them.
“Nothing,” Dollie said quickly.
“Don’t tell me he doesn’t know,” Vivian said to Dollie. She directed her next words to him. “That’ll undoubtedly get you disqualified from the ‘boyfriend of the year’ award. It’s Dollie’s sixteenth birthday in a few weeks.”
Was this true? Dollie refused to meet his enquiring eye.
“When?” he asked coolly.
“That’s three days after Remus’ birthday.”
He was too deep in thought to notice Vivian nudge Dollie. “Is it really? What a marvellous coincidence.”
“Isn’t it?” he smiled enigmatically. “I have to go now. Talk to you later, Dollie.”
“What do you suppose he’s playing at?”
He chuckled at Lily’s words, imagining their bewildered expressions at his abrupt exit. They’ll know soon enough.
“Were we supposed to take a left after Dahlia the Distraught?”
Dollie sighed in frustration. “Just look out for Lachlan the Lanky. The stairs will be beside it.”
“No need to get testy. They all look the same in the dark.” Vivian sniffed.
Vivian was right. One could hardly see a thing through the pitch black darkness of the castle’s labyrinth. That explained why the two were dressed to match it. Blending into the dark was almost as good as being invisible. Dollie had even vetoed against using lit wands to guide them. It would make getting spotted less likely. Besides, Dollie’s insomnia had allowed her to have a good enough idea of the castles’ layout over the years.
It had been at Vivian’s insistence that they go to the Hospital Wing at night to procure a pregnancy test. It was a ridiculous and wholly unnecessary plan that Dollie had reluctantly agreed to, though for the life of her she couldn’t remember why. Then again, it wasn’t like she had anything else to do, like sleep.
“Wait,” Dollie grabbed Vivian’s arm to stop her. They had come upon Lachlan the Lanky and the stairs. “Do you remember which one’s the trick step?”
“Bugger. Lily’s always the one who knows.”
“What are we supposed to do now?”
“Well... we could slide down the banister,” Vivian suggested.
Dollie thought of the long drop down from the stairs and literally broke into a cold sweat. “Over my dead body.”
It was Vivian’s turn to get frustrated. “Fine, what’s your brilliant idea?”
The stairs stretched endless in front of them as they silently contemplated what to do next. As Dollie examined each individual step, in the hope that she’d be able to distinguish the trick step, something stirred in her memory. Something to do with the stairs and books, books that had flown in the air while she fell as well, not to the ground but into waiting arms...
A gasp caught in her throat. That night had seemed so long ago, her first proper encounter with Remus. She recalled back everything at once: her stuck foot, the torrent of books, his arms around her, even the painting on the wall – wait, the painting! It had been beside her as she fell. If they found the painting, they’d find the trick step. Now what had the painting been of? There hadn’t been anyone it, she was quite certain of that. It was a building, a – yes – a tall tower, similar to that chess piece. It had been black and against a nature backdrop.
“I’ve got it.” She excitedly relayed her idea to Vivian, omitting how she could have recalled such a thing so vividly.
“That’ll do. But we’d have to use our wands to see properly.”
They found the painting and deftly avoided the trick step. Close calls were inevitable but a few well-aimed jinxes at a faraway suit of armour were immensely helpful. In spite of herself, Dollie couldn’t stop the adrenaline streaming through her veins that caused her heart to hammer against her chest. Even though she’d done this a thousand times over the years, she’d never illicitly travelled this far through the castle. The hospital wing was on the first floor, a few rooms away from McGonagall’s office ironically enough.
Sooner than Dollie was prepared for, they came to the door of the hospital wing. She was about to perform an alohomora spell on it when Vivian brashly turned the knob, revealing it to be already unlocked. She didn’t have enough time to be baffled by such lax security. Instead, she immediately crouched down to the floor, pulling Vivian down with her. She thought she’d heard something inside but when she peeked through the crack, nothing was there. No patients and no Pomfrey.
Although her instinct strongly told her to turn around back to Gryffindor Tower, she nevertheless followed Vivian into the infirmary. They crawled under the beds, stopping when Dollie thought she heard something. She even swore she saw a flash of faint light and something moving near Pomfrey’s office.
“Stop imagining things,” was Vivian’s only response.
The cabinets housed Pomfrey’s medical equipment, potions and solutions. They were next to Pomfrey’s office and had no signs to identify what was kept where. Once they were under the bed nearest to them, they pondered on their next move. They only had one option: they’d have to rummage through the cupboards until they found the pregnancy kit.
Once they’d gathered their Gryffindor courage, Dollie longer than Vivian, they got out from under the bed. A few feet away from the cabinets, they bumped into something and sent whatever it was backwards into the cabinet. The doors flew open and potions spilled onto the floor. Out of sheer panic, Dollie sent a stray spell that managed to hit a shelf of cups. The fumes from the mixed potions made Dollie’s brain and everything around her fuzzy. The shattering glass brought out Pomfrey in a face mask and curlers in her hair but Dollie only saw her for a split second before being shrouded in what felt like a plastic cloth.
“Run, Doll, run!”
Even tangled up in what Dollie eventually deduced was the hospital wing’s curtain from one of the beds, her legs still managed to somehow carry her out the hospital wing, Pomfrey’s cries bouncing off her back. The commotion had by now brought out McGonagall. Dollie never realized before how unsettling it was to see Professors in their nightgowns. It was a disturbing sight to say the least and one she was quite content with never seeing again.
In their confusion, coupled with the dark and the curtain, they couldn’t make out where they were going. More than once they’d collided with suits of armour. Common sense would have told them to remove the curtain wrapped around them but fear and adrenaline kept them running.
When it felt like Dollie’s side was going to explode with exhaustion, she spotted and subsequently pulled Vivian into a broom cupboard. As she collapsed on the floor, she saw through the under-door crack McGonagall, Pomfrey and Filch’s feet sprint past them. She squinted through the darkness to glare at Vivian lying beside her. With the curtain as a makeshift blanket and a mop-head as a pillow, Dollie grumbled incoherently under her breath as she fell into a weary slumber.
“No offence but you two look like something the cat coughed up.”
“And that’s after it supped on some dodgy fish and a saucer of sour milk,” James added.
Neither Dollie nor Vivian dignified the comments with a response though Vivian mustered enough energy to give them each a rude gesture before going to their Potions class. Lily hurried after her, the very embodiment of kindly concern. She’d excluded Dollie only because Sirius got to her first. Dollie made to enter the classroom as well but Sirius stopped her.
He hadn’t meant to be insensitive before but she really did look awful or perhaps more appropriately, she looked awfully... grimy. Without waiting for an answer, he wetted his thumb and rubbed the dirt off her face. Incredibly, she didn’t resist, not even flinch.
“There, good as new,” he said once he cleaned her up.
“Thanks,” she said with a faint smile.
For a moment, Sirius thought she almost eerily resembled Remus after one of his nights. Dishevelled, drained of energy, uncharacteristically docile. When she had missed breakfast, he had naturally come to the conclusion that she’d overslept. But when he overheard Lily saying Dollie and Vivian were missing from their beds when she awoke, his concern rose significantly. It was only after a heated discussion with James that he agreed to put off a search party until after their first class, Potions, something that was fortunately deemed unnecessary once Dollie and Vivian materialized.
“Before we go in, could I ask you something?”
He took a deep breath. “I was thinking –”
“Always a dangerous endeavour.”
“I’d really like to throw you a party. Well, not just you to be honest. You’ll share the honour with Remus, since the two dates are so close together. I tried to get James to go along with it, his birthday is at the end of March you see, and make it a triple extravaganza but he wasn’t too keen on the idea.” Actually, his exact words were that he’d rather swallow a dozen snitches, be carried off into the atmosphere and risk getting hit by a stray comet but Dollie didn’t need to know the details.
“I see,” she said thoughtfully.
“You only turn sixteen once.”
“And here I was always under the impression that that was the case with every age.” Her tired eyes scrutinized him searchingly. “Why are you telling me this?”
“Err, I don’t follow.”
“I would have thought a surprise party would have been more your style.”
“You’d have hated it.” He shrugged.
“What’s the matter?”
“You’re getting to know me too well.”
“What kind of boyfriend would I be if I didn’t?”
“So you’re fine with the party?” he asked, just to be sure.
It was her turn to shrug. “Why not. After all, how much harm could a party do?”
“Fantastic!” His mind ran through a list of things that needed to be done, most of which he’d delegate to Peter and more than a few to James, the latter for being a selfish party-pooper. He’d of course play supervisor to the entire operation while sparing Remus the workload. Who says he couldn’t be benevolent? The thought of Remus suddenly reminded him of something. “By the way, do you happen to know how I can get these mended?” He sheepishly handed her Remus’ gloves, the tips of the fingers shredded through.
Her eyes nearly bugged out her sockets. “How did this happen?”
“I had an unfortunate run-in with ‘The Monster Book of Monsters’. Vicious buggers.”
As much as he didn’t like lying to Dollie, he couldn’t exactly tell her that his claws were what ruined the gloves, seeing as he wasn’t supposed to have any, being technically human and all. He tried not to feel too guilty about keeping her in the dark about the animagus transformation. It was something completely separate from their relationship, thus rendering it irrelevant. A case of full disclosure and trust could be made but the best friend card would trump it.
Last night’s hospital wing break-in nearly went south of disaster but they’d managed to procure the right potions to fix their predicament before they were knocked into by a pair of black figures. Under the cloak and amidst the subsequent chaos, the Marauders had been unable to make them out although the two were wrapped in a cloak of their own, albeit not an invisible one. It was only through sheer cunning that the boys escaped undetected, if not entirely unscathed. All four boys suffered burns from the spilt potions but it was nothing some essence of Murtlap couldn’t heal. Still, the end result more than made up for it, now that Sirius could once again grasp objects and Peter could comfortably sit down.
She examined the damage quietly with pursed lips.
“Does Remus know?” she asked.
He shook his head. “Can it be fixed?”
“There might be a place in Hogsmeade. I’ll bring them there. They should be able to mend them.”
“Good,” he sighed in relief. The gloves looked new and quite expensive, he couldn’t imagine how Remus would have reacted if he’d found out what Sirius had done to them, albeit accidentally. “This stays between us, yeah?”
While her eyes simmered with disapproval, she couldn’t hold back a reluctant smile. “My lips are sealed.”
“I knew I could count on you, Dollie. Shall we?” He offered her the crook of his arm, which she sportingly took, as they joined the rest of the class.
A/N: Erm, so yeah, this has been done for awhile but I was hesitant to post it up. It seemed a bit off to me somehow. What do you think, dear readers? Too rushed? Bad filler? Suggestions for improvement? Please do let me know in a review! ^_^
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