Thank you to I am Frank at the Sands @TDA for the amazing chapter image!
The Yule Ball was scheduled for the first Saturday in December. An icy chill had filled the halls, keeping most students huddled around the fireplace in the common room, bickering over who sat in the armchairs closest to the fire. James and Sirius had traipsed outside in the middle of a blizzard to have a snowball fight. When they returned, they received five detentions apiece from Filch for “letting in a draft” and “tracking snow through the corridors.” Knowing them, they purposely dragged through buckets of snow into the castle and emptied them in the entrance hall.
While the dynamic duo busied themselves making snow angels, I spent a few hours in the library working on a potions essay. Potions was the one subject that I tremendously struggled with.
***Remus Lupin’s Current Potions Grade***
A pounding headache wasn’t improving matters. On my seventh failed attempt at constructing an essay, my hands were dotted with ink and I was surrounded by crumpled pieces of parchment. Five books scattered the table, open to various pages.
The chair on my left was pulled back. I glanced up to see a small, mousy, Hufflepuff, whom I had learned only recently was named Nymphadora Tonks. I had often spotted her in the library late at night, finishing last-minute assignments, although we had never formally spoken.
“Tonks is the name,” she said, sticking out a pale, slender hand. “Nymphadora Tonks to be exact. I would prefer Tonks, though.”
“Remus Lupin,” I replied, feeling the heat rise to my face as I shook her hand.
“You need some help?” she asked, eying my failed attempts at constructing the potions essay.
“I could use a little help,” I admitted sheepishly, embarrassed to be asking a fellow student for assistance.
“If it’s a Transfiguration, I’m afraid I won’t be of much help.”
“Potions,” I replied. “It’s due tomorrow.”
“That’s right up my alley,” Tonks said, practically bouncing up and down in her seat with a newfound excitement. Even I didn’t display such enthusiasm when faced with the prospect of completing an essay. For the next three hours, the two of us skimmed a large stack of books, scribbling relevant information on scraps of parchment.
“Are you going to the Yule Ball tonight?” I asked her, lowering my voice to a whisper when Madam Pince shot me a disapproving glance. I have no idea what forced the words out of my mouth. I hadn’t been meaning to say them.
“Of course,” she replied, as I tucked my complete homework neatly into my bag.
“Are you going with anyone?” I asked, my cheeks gradually reddening to match the Gryffindor scarf I was sporting. It was true. I still hadn’t found a date. To be honest, I had never expected to find one.
“Oh, um ... I’m really sorry, but someone else asked me this morning and I agreed to go with them,” she said, her face falling slightly.
“It’s okay,” I replied, my face flushing an even darker shade of red.
“Maybe another time,” Tonks said, her face brightening once again.
“Sure,” I said, attempting to conceal my disappointment as Tonks began gathering up her books. My stomach lurched and I was overwhelmed with a sudden wave of dizziness.
“I need to talk to Professor Dumbledore before the dance about the Transfiguration homework he assigned,” I managed to say before darting out of the library. I had one destination: the hospital wing. The full moon was only two nights away, and I could already feel the effects of the illness associated with the transformation. It always began with a headache, which gradually grew worse as the dreaded evening approached. Coughing, nausea, and dizziness ensued, followed by a fever and lack of appetite. Lastly came the weakness and fainting. There were some equally unpleasant after-effects, as well.
I staggered up four flights of stairs and through the hospital wing doors. Madam Pomfrey looked up from where she was folding linens as I clutched at the door frame for support. I was relieved to discover that the hospital wing was otherwise empty. Madam Pomfrey dropped a pillowcase and rushed to my side. With her assistance, I managed to hobble over to my usual bed in the corner before collapsing from the effort. Bile rose in my throat as I struggled to draw another breath.
“You’re in luck, Mr. Lupin. I brewed a fresh batch of Chelidonium Miniscula just this morning,” Madam Pomfrey said as she walked to her cabinet of herbs, salves, and draughts.
***The Effects of Chelidonium Miniscula***
Chelidonium Miniscula is a thick, lumpy, yellow potion given to lycanthropes prior to the full moon in order to lessen the transformation side effects.
Madam Pomfrey returned with a vial of the repulsive substance and lifted it to my lips. I had to draw upon my final reserves of strength to force the potion down my throat. It tasted like doxy droppings. Yes, I have had the pleasure of sampling it in my first year when James convinced me that it would improve my performance on the upcoming exams. It was not a pleasant experience and one that I did not wish to undergo on a regular basis.
After the vial had been emptied, Madam Pomfrey lowered it from my mouth, setting it gently on the bedside table. Within a few minutes, the pain in my head had lessened considerably, the room had stopped spinning, and energy flowed through my previously exhausted limbs. I felt my heartbeat slow, returning to its normal, steady pulse.
“Feeling better?” Madam Pomfrey asked, scribbling a note on her clipboard. The page would surely be added to my extensive file, which was three times larger than that of your average seventh year student, even surpassing Sirius’ rather thick file. Now that
was an accomplishment.
“Much,” I replied, finally regaining the ability to talk. I had bitten my tongue during my trip to the hospital wing. The metallic taste of blood filled my mouth as I shakily got to my feet.
“You’re free to go,” Madam Pomfrey told me once I had taken several steady steps. “Come back immediately if your condition worsens. I expect to see you here again tomorrow morning for another dose,” she said, escorting me to the door.
“Thank you,” I said, grateful once again for the kindness she had shown me. My kind was consistently exiled from the wizarding world because we were considered hazards. Few people could look past that, and Madam Pomfrey happened to fall into such a category.
“It was no trouble at all,” she replied, softly shutting the door behind me.
In the distance, I heard a clock toll 6:30, the loud chimes seemingly rattling the picture frames I passed as I returned to the portrait of the Fat Lady, who was sporting an ancient, debris-covered ball gown in honor of this evening’s festivities.
“Password?” she demanded, sipping a beverage that looked mysteriously like a Margarita. She had received specific orders from Professor Dippet that all alcoholic beverages were strictly forbidden within the walls of Hogwarts, even among the paintings. The Fat Lady turned us a blind-eye when James and Sirius snuck Firewhiskey into the common room for parties, so none of us confronted her about the matter. If we did, she would most likely refuse to admit us to the common room, even if we knew the correct password.
“Riddikulus,” I replied, waiting patiently for her portrait to swing forward.
“Incorrect,” she said, followed by a drunken giggle. “The password changed at noon.”
A sense of frustration overcame me. For all I knew, everyone could have already left for the Yule Ball by now, and I would be stuck out here for hours. Taking a deep breath, I forced myself to think rationally. James and Sirius had made it their life’s ambition to show up fashionably late for every semi-important event for the rest of their lives. Their early departure would be an oxymoron.
“Could you tell James that I’m out here?” I pleaded, wiping my sweaty palms on my jeans. I was in no mood to spend the evening sitting out here.
“And what, might I ask, am I expected to tell him?”
“Tell him to meet me at the portrait hole.”
“Very well,” she muttered with a distinguishable sigh of annoyance before disappearing from her picture frame. She had the ability to travel from her portrait to any of the various paintings lining the walls of Gryffindor Tower The only occasion when she willingly obliged to act as a messenger when she was in an outstanding mood or exceptionally drunk. In this case, it was the latter.
The Fat Lady returned just as the portrait hole burst open, and James stumbled out. His hair was sopping wet and hung in his eyes. His sweatpants and faded Puddlemere United sweatshirt appeared to weigh five or six additional pounds due to the seven liters of water they had absorbed.
“Moony!” he exclaimed, running over and enveloping me in a rather damp bear hug. “I was starting to worry about you. Where’ve you been?”
“I took a stroll to the hospital wing,” I replied, disentangling myself from his grip.
I couldn’t be sure, but I thought I saw concern cloud his eyes for a split second. He was aware of the upcoming full moon. He masked his anxiety quickly with an expression of giddy enthusiasm. “You missed out on all the fun. Sirius and I paid a visit to Hogsmeade to purchase new dress robes for tonight. The snow banks in the village are considerably larger than the ones here.” Well, that would explain his soggy garb.
“I really should deduct points for sneaking out of the castle without permission,” I told him, not actually intending to carry through with the threat.
“Aw, you wouldn’t do that, Moony,” James grinned.
“No, but Lily would.”
“Touché,” James replied with a shrug. “Any particular reason we’re standing in the middle of the seventh floor corridor?”
“The password supposedly changed while I was gone.”
“Right. Pigfarts,” James told the Fat Lady, who swung in to admit us.
“I don’t even want to know who created that one,” I muttered, evoking a mischievous grin from my companion. Traditionally, the two prefects from each house were responsible for creating a new password each week. My prolonged stays in the hospital wing rendered me ineligible for the task, and Lily was over-scheduled with her duties as head girl. Therefore, Professor Dippet had given the job to none other than the Dynamic Duo. The passwords they created were certainly obscure and tended to be lengthy.
***Some Examples of Gryffindor Tower’s Past Passwords***
1) All hail Peeves, the new Gryffindor ghost
3) It’s National “Hug a Slytherin” Week
4) Beware of the Itty Bitty Ickle First Years
“Hurry up!” James shouted as he darted past me and launched himself up the spiral staircase to the boys’ dorm at a full sprint. I followed as quickly as my aching joints would allow, stumbling into the dorm several seconds after James. The pair of seeker gloves that someone, *cough*, James, had left lying in the doorway did not improve matters.
Sirius was standing before the cracked, full-length mirror in his new, emerald dress robes, carefully combing his shoulder-length hair. The mirror wasn’t originally cracked. It was in perfect condition until our second year when Sirius decided to release a bludger in the dormitory. The mirror, along with about half of our possessions, were destroyed before Madam Hooch noticed the bludger had disappeared. James and Sirius were banned from the team for the rest of the season.
“Oi, move it,” James ordered Sirius. “You’ve been fussing over your hair like Laura obsesses over her makeup. You’re not the only person that needs to use the mirror.”
“Shut up! You’re disrupting my productive hair styling session,” Sirius whined, throwing his comb against the wall.
“Sod off,” I told James as he opened his mouth to respond with another sarcastic retort.
“At least you weren’t here to witness Sirius’ hair lecture,” James snapped, peeling off his soggy shirt and sweatshirt. “He only uses Madam Poof’s Frizz Reducing Shampoo on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays because it has the potential to dry out his hair and is only available via owl post through Witch Weekly’s Special Edition magazines. It must be ordered on Sundays to ensure that there are enough bottles in stock to last him the entire week.”
“Maybe you should give it a try, then,” I told James, glancing pointedly at his hair, earning me a pillow to the head.
“Be quiet and change,” James demanded, stripping off several more layers of clothing until he was standing in his boxers.
***A Brief Note***
This was nearly a daily occurrence.
After seven years, I had become somewhat accustomed to his peculiar habits. Within moments, I had pulled on a pair of navy blue dress robes. They were relatively new and had purchased over the summer, but they appeared to be approximately four sizes too large and hung limply off my shoulders. I had evidently lost a considerable amount of weight since then. I felt James’ gaze follow me as I stepped out of the bathroom and placed my neatly folded clothes in my dresser.
“Get a move on it,” I told Sirius, who was standing exactly where he was before I changed. Now, he was smoothing out his dress robes and pivoting from side-to-side, admiring his appearance from different angles.
“How do I look?” he asked, straightening his robes one last time.
“Like an idiot. Now move,” James said, shoving him out of the way. He took one glance in the mirror, ruffled his hair, and stepped away.
“Where’s Peter?” I asked, suddenly noticing the boy’s absence.
“He’s spending the holidays with his folks and couldn’t find a date for tonight. He received permission to leave a couple days early,” Sirius informed me. The three of us traipsed down the spiral staircase to the common room, where Lily was telling off a third year for attempting to turn the fire in the grate a vibrant purple.
***A Most Unpleasant Stench***
The aroma of burnt curtains filled the air as they emitted puffs of smoke. That is why little children should not wield wands without adult supervision.
“Oi, Evans!” Sirius called, causing her to turn in our direction. She was still wearing torn jeans and her hair was tied back in a messy bun. “Running late?”
Lily glanced at her watch, cursed, and spat, “You’re not helping matters, Black,” before hurrying up the staircase to the girls’ dormitory.
“Making friends, I see,” Laura announced her arrival from her position behind us. She was dressed in a black, strapless dress that would, to the majority of the world, be considered a medium to long shirt. Her five inch stilettos brought her head well past my shoulder as she approached us. Laura’s blonde hair was secured in a twisting, complex up-do. The four pounds of makeup made her eyes appear bigger and more vibrant.
“Friends? Haven’t got any of those,” Sirius replied sarcastically.
“Wonder why,” James snored. “While you two keep up the warm and fuzzy chit-chat, Remus and I shall be departing for the Yule Ball.”
“Don’t even drag me into this, James,” I muttered, sighing.
“As I was saying, Remus and I shall be departing for the Yule Ball,” James said with a smile, not missing a beat as he grabbed my arm and began pulling me toward the portrait hole.
“It’s not like you have anyone to go with,” Sirius called across the common room, causing James to freeze in his tracks and turn to face him.
“You’re one to talk,” James shouted back. Excellent. Our personal lives were being flaunted before the entire Gryffindor House. James and Sirius evidently had no respect for a word known as “privacy.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Sirius retorted, his face spread widely in a grin. “I’m going with Laura.”
“Let’s see which one of you murders the other one first, then,” James replied calmly and with an air of utmost superiority.
“We’ve signed a mutual agreement for the evening that we shall put our differences aside and enjoy several hours of fun before we resume our long-lasting feud,” Sirius responded, retrieving a wrinkled piece of parchment from the inner folds of his dress robes which, presumably, was the “signed mutual agreement.”
“Ohh...someone’s in love,” James taunted him as he continued to drag me to the portrait hole.
“Not that you would know anything about such a concept. Can’t even ask a girl on a date,” Sirius murmured, grabbing Laura’s hand and tugging her after James and myself.
“Undeniably, my one true love remains myself,” James countered, leading our motley crew toward the Great Hall. Several minutes into the walk, James and Sirius had taken to lobbing homemade water balloons at any student wearing a green article of clothing. These requirements pertained to the majority of the Slytherins, and, unfortunately, Lily Evans, who had caught up to us only several seconds before she was hit squarely in the face with a bright, red water balloon.
Her livid expression wiped the smirk right off Black’s face. “You arrogant pig,” she shrieked, stomping toward him.
An exasperated glance from Laura provoked an almost immediate reaction on my part. In seconds, I had retrieved my wand from my dress robes and, with an elaborate flourish, cast a shield charm between the two.
Two angry stares and some choice words from Sirius that would make Professor Dippet’s hair stand on end.
“What the hell did you do that for?” Sirius demanded angrily, his voice blending with Lily’s equally poison-filled voice, which shouted something along the lines of: “I don’t have time for this Remus, so quit wasting it. Move aside and stop being such a jerk.”
“A jerk?” I asked, raising an eyebrow. “That’s a pretty low blow.”
“I give up,” Lily shrieked, tossing her hands up in the air before spinning on her heel and storming back the way we had come. My shield charm faded out of existence as Sirius’ face changed from one of glee to one of confusion.
“Was it something I said?” Sirius asked, blinking in astonishment.
“Oh, I don’t know, perhaps it was the water balloon to the face,” James, who had been oddly silent throughout the exchange, suggested casually, continuing merrily on his way to the Great Hall, determined to reach the buffet table before all of the delicacies had been devoured. The last thing James Potter would eat for dinner, unless is was forcefully shoved down his throat, was skimpy, wilted lettuce leaves, fruits, vegetables, and any edible substances that could be considered “healthy” in any way, shape, or form. The words “healthy,” “diet,” and “nutrients” had not yet penetrated his thick skull and wound their way into his smaller-than-average vocabulary.
***So how, then, might you ask, does James not weigh 500 pounds?***
The answer is, simply, Quidditch. His position as Gryffindor Quidditch Captain gave him complete control over the exercises performed during practices. Let’s put it this way: the team had nicknamed him the “Quidditch Nazi,” a name that they all used behind his back, including Sirius. His muscular, well-toned body also seemed to have an endless supply of energy, which was not particularly helpful when one was attempting to revise a charms essay at 3 o’clock in the morning. And, the most annoying aspect of the matter is his chipper, energetic attitude the following morning. I still fail to believe he meets the criteria to be deemed “human.”
“Hurry up,” James whined, suddenly noticing that none of us had followed suit as he skipped down the hallway.
“Leave her,” I told Sirius, who was still staring at Lily’s receding back. Gently grabbing his arm, I pulled him after Laura, who had begun walking toward James. He was glowering at us impatiently, his face twisted into that of a child who just discovered that Christmas had been cancelled. Sirius tensed for a moment before wrenching his arm out of my grasp and stomping moodily toward the Great Hall. Within minutes, he would forget the entire incident, anyway. His short- and long-term memory was pathetic. The occasional event or two that he did manage to retain often tended to involve the public humiliation of James or myself.
With a sigh, I set off after the trio, James and Laura cheerfully conversing, and Sirius sulking slightly behind them. Several minutes later, I had reached James’ side as we stepped through the large, oak doors leading into the Great Hall. It had undergone a seemingly overnight transformation.
The Great Hall was dimly lit by innumerable, floating, wax-less candlesticks, which drifted above the heads of the twirling figures on the dance floor. They flickered, casting wavering shadows along the familiar stone walls. The ceiling reflected a clear, evening sky. Stars were visible and the nearly full moon shone brightly, as if I needed yet another reminder of my upcoming, nightmarish ordeal.
A photographer stood behind his camera and tripod, snapping pictures of couples as they entered the Great Hall, his camera emitting a thick cloud of blue smoke with every picture. A live band played softly in the background. They could be seen above the crowds on a raised platform. A lively conductor flourished his baton wildly; his jerky movements would, most likely, be considered a safety hazard to those around him, especially a flute player at the front of the band that was about three seconds away from losing an eye.
Against the far wall, the Jammin’ Hippogriffs were evidently preparing for a performance. Cords were unraveled, guitars tuned, sound systems checked, and more hair spray applied to the head of the lead singer, who mentally envisioned himself as the next Elvis Presley. The hair and dance moves were failing miserably in the Elvis department, to say the least.
***To give you an idea of their music, here is the title of their most popular hit single***
Mama get the hammer, there’s a fly on Papa’s head
Predictably, James immediately angled himself toward the buffet table, where the wafting smell of food made me feel sick to my stomach. The Chelidonium Miniscula supposedly cured the majority of lycanthropy symptoms, including nausea, but it did not improve my total loss of appetite.
Sirius would have been half a step behind James to clear out the buffet table, but Laura insisted they have their picture taken. I still remember that picture: Laura was smiling pleasantly, clutching a bouquet of flowers, where Sirius’ face was twisted into a scowl, his facial expression leading one to believe that he was a half-crazed lunatic.
James returned to my side, clutching the nearly untouched platter of pumpkin pastries. “Want one?” he asked, his voice surprisingly clear for having just stuffed an entire pumpkin pastry in his mouth merely seconds beforehand.
“No, thanks,” I declined politely, as James devoured a second and a third. The plate would surely be licked clean in ten minutes time. Who knows what he would get his hands on next. I felt bad for anyone who had been considering any dessert. James could eat every single platter on that table and still complain about extreme hunger. I haven’t even mentioned to him the poor, starving children in Africa. He wouldn’t understand the reference anyway, let alone make any connections.
“Aren’t you going to eat?” James asked incredulously when I made no attempt to walk like a civilized human being to the buffet table.
“Not very hungry,” I shrugged, watching him in disgust as he shoveled down the last of the pastries. They certainly lasted awhile, compared to the pumpkin pie he had devoured the previous evening.
“Well, I’m famished,” he said with a grin, shoving the empty golden platter into my hands and weaving his way through the crowds back to the buffet table.
“Why am I not surprised?” I muttered to myself, still clutching the plate. Associating myself with James and Sirius had pushed me to the brink of insanity; holding two-sided conversations with yourself would certainly not be considered “normal” under any circumstances. I handed the empty plate to a passing house elf, who bowed, his long nose nearly brushing the floor, before he retreated through the crowds.
“Help me,” Sirius’ voice whispered in my ear. My head snapped in his direction, and he shot me a pleading glance over Laura’s shoulder.
“No, you’re not going to gorge yourself within the first ten minutes of our arrival,” I heard Laura demand forcefully.
“Okay, I’ll wait for eleven, then,” Sirius grinned.
“It’s the Yule Ball
, not the Yule Feast
,” Laura countered.
With one last defeated glance, Sirius finally gave in. “Fine. I shall attempt to ignore my gnawing hunger. Would you care to dance before I slowly starve to death?” he asked, extending his arm.
“Well, that would be the point of the evening,” Laura muttered, taking his arm. The two walked onto the dance floor, most likely exchanging a barrage of snide comments. So much for the “signed mutual agreement.”
James returned, to my surprise, empty-handed. “What has this school come to? How do they expect us to survive in the absence of treacle tart? It’s absurd!” he exclaimed angrily, pushing his glasses further up the bridge of his nose rather aggressively.
“You should head down to the kitchens and protest,” I replied absentmindedly, my eyes glued to the swaying couples on the dance floor.
“May I have this dance?” James asked me, his face lighting up slightly, a familiar grin playing upon his lips.
“I don’t dance,” I replied, spitting forth a petty excuse to disguise my reluctance to dance - especially tonight, especially with James. My brother, Neil, had, in fact, taught me to dance when we were little, before my unfortunate ... mishap.
“Come on, I’ll teach you,” he said, his hand firmly clamping down on my shoulder and steering me onto the dance floor. “Besides, I learned all of my best dance moves from Mrs. Black.”
“That’s a comfort,” was my sarcastic reply as I tried to picture Sirius’ mother waltzing across a dance floor. Believe me, the vision was not something I would like to experience first-hand. I should have seen this coming. James couldn’t find anyone to attend the ball with, but he would consider the night wasted unless he crammed in some well-spent time on the dance floor. Unfortunately, hitting a bludger across the dance floor had been prohibited, so dancing was the next best thing. I was the unlucky victim that got dragged along for the ride.
***A Brief Comment on “The Ride”***
It was one bumpy hell of a ride.
James grabbed my hand and led me around the dance floor. I could tell he was immensely enjoying this by the stupid grin on his face. Believe me, the feeling was not mutual.
One of the first things I noticed regarding the dance floor was a seemingly nonexistent regard for something known as personal space. Bodies were pressed tightly together, elbows jabbed ribs, feet stepped on other feet. Additionally, there was a highly noticeable increase in temperature when James dragged me into the mob.
***What’s wrong with this picture?***
A claustrophobic person standing in the midst of a thick crowd.
Let’s just say the experience is not one I care to look back on. It would have taken more energy, which I didn’t have much of to begin with, to beg James to find another dancing partner. Being a werewolf had made me somewhat self-conscious, explaining my lack of courage when it came to discussing my claustrophobia, even with my three best friends. I had learned to cope with the feeling of people or walls closing in on me, but fear continued to grip me in such situations.
It was not, however, claustrophobia which caused a fit of coughing to wrack my body. The sleeve of my dress robe was shining with blood when I drew back my arm. I barely managed to break free of James’ grasp and blindly stumble off the dance floor before another round of coughing set my lungs ablaze.
***A Note from the Author***
I know, I’m evil. I’ve left you with quite a big cliff hanger. Luckily, for you, I already have the next six chapters written, so new chapters should be posted shortly. Please tell me what you think of this chapter. All reviews/comments/criticisms are more than welcome. I want your honest opinion as a reader. If you love it, tell me. If you hate it, still tell me. I promise it won’t hurt my feelings. And lastly, I wanted to say thank you to all of you for the 2,500+ reads.
***The Yule Ball, Part II - A Quick Sneak Peek!***
My knees gave way and I would have collapsed if James had not seize me, wrapping my arm around his shoulders and supporting the majority of my weight. I could hear blood pounding in my ears as James shifted slightly to account for our height difference.
“Let’s get you to the hospital wing,” James said, his words dripping in fake optimism. I knew he was trying to remain enthusiastic for my sake, but he was failing miserably. My palms began to sweat and my stomach churned as James half-carried, half-dragged me out of the Great Hall. A rattling sound escaped my lips each time I drew a breath.
“You’re in pretty bad shape,” James commented, glancing down at my face, which was twisted in agony, my forehead gleaming with sweat.
Without warning, James came to an abrupt halt, causing my heard to jerk up, despite my body’s protests. The tall silhouette of Lucius Malfoy swam in my vision. I could just barely make out his blurry, raised eyebrows and familiar scowl.
“And where, might I ask, are the pair of you going?” Malfoy drawled, his piercing, gray eyes resting on me.