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Chapter 14 : Getting One Back
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“What’s wrong?” Remus asked, slightly groggy as he rubbed his eyes. The glow from the September sun was fighting its way through the curtains on the windows, bathing the room in a dim half-light.
“IhaveanideaonhowyoucangetJamesback,” Peter whispered very fast, as though afraid of being caught or something.
Remus stared at him; he had no idea what Peter had just said. He wasn’t even sure it was English.
“You know,” Peter pressed on, “for the water.”
Remus still stared, having absolutely no clue what Peter was talking about. What water?
“Remember?” Peter pleaded a little desperately. He was beginning to look distraught. “You said you were going to get him back and I want to help. I’ve an idea.”
“Get who back?” Remus asked, still confused.
“James,” Peter said, giving Remus a funny look. “For the water.”
“Oh!” Remus exclaimed, as the memory of this time yesterday morning broke free from the hold his sleepy brain had on it. Remus was relieved that he was now on the same wave-length as his friend. Peter smiled, instantly seeming less nervous.
“What’s your idea?” Remus asked eagerly, all tiredness leaving his body.
Peter’s smile grew as he held up a flask of thick yellow liquid and a bag full of feathers, the feathers that had been part of his pillow until it got ripped during the antics of yesterday morning. Remus looked at Peter, then grinned broadly. He liked Peter’s idea, he liked it a lot.
“C’mon,” Remus whispered, throwing back the bed-covers. “We should wake Sirius.”
“No!” Peter protested, slightly alarmed.
“Why not?” Remus asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Sirius scares me,” Peter admitted, staring at his shoes.
“Sirius isn’t scary,” Remus said, nearly laughing at Peter’s comment.
“I think he is,” Peter muttered feebly.
“Ah, he isn’t,” Remus said, dismissing Peter’s words. Remus knew scary things very well, and Sirius most definitely wasn’t scary. True he was very loud, and perhaps a little intimidating at times, but he most definitely wasn’t scary. So Remus crept across the dormitory, being careful not to make any of the floor-boards creak, and called Sirius’s name. He didn’t reply.
“Leave him sleep,” Peter whispered anxiously.
Remus ignored this, and whispered Sirius’s name a little louder, before he started to shake him awake. Sirius moaned, rolled over and put his pillow over his head. “Leave me alone,” he yawned. “S’too early.”
“I’m going to get James back for the water yesterday, want to help?” Remus said excitedly.
Sirius emerged from under his pillow, stretched and looked at Remus. “What’s the plan?”
“Well, it was more Pete’s idea really,” Remus said, holding up the flask and the bag of feathers.
Sirius grinned and let out a cry of delight, before jumping out of bed and running straight at Peter. Peter leapt back against the wall in fright and he looked positively alarmed to have Sirius advancing at him like that. But Sirius didn’t attack him or anything. Sirius just took his hand and shook is vigorously. “That’s genius, my friend,” he said grinning broadly, “pure genius!”
Peter looked shocked, but also pleased. He smiled back. Then Sirius turned to Remus. “So, how to do you want to do this?”
For the next ten minutes, while trying to suppress sniggers that were determined to escape their bodies, Remus, Sirius and Peter very carefully poured treacle from the flask over James’s face and neck, and whatever exposed piece of flesh they could reach. Several times James twitched, or let out a loud snore that caused them all to jump, and the more times this happened, the more convinced Remus was that Peter was going to have heart-failure. The boy kept grabbing Remus’s arm so tightly it hurt.
Once James was adequately covered in treacle, they began to place the feathers on him very gently and very carefully. Remus thought it was a bit like trying to tickle a sleeping dragon – it was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. As the seconds passed, James looked more and more like an oddly-shaped, sleeping hippogriff. Then Peter placed a feather on James’s nose, which prompted the sleeping boy to move his hand and open his eyes. Panicking, Remus, Sirius and Peter jumped and scrambled back to their beds. Peter actually tripped over James’s trunk and let out a howl of pain.
“What in Merlin?” said James, pulling feathers off his face and staring at his hands in disbelief. The dormitory exploded with laughter. Remus was laughing so hard he was finding it difficult to breathe. Sirius actually fell out of bed and started rolling around on the floor. Peter had tears in his eyes, though Remus couldn’t tell if they were because of his hurt foot or because of James current resemblance to a chicken.
Then James leapt out of bed with the speed of a Bludger. “I’m going to kill you all!” he roared, half-furious, half-amused, as blobs of treacle and feathers slid off his body and hit the floor with a splatter.
For the next ten minutes, shouts rent the air. James chased them around the dormitory, trying to rub treacle and feathers on them. Remus couldn’t stop laughing. He had never had this much fun in his whole life. Suddenly, James caught Sirius as the latter tried to scramble over his bed, getting his feet caught in the sheets. James smeared his face with sticky feathers, laughing with delight. Five minutes later, he had cornered Remus between the window and the wardrobe, and rubbed feathers in his hair. Then he turned his attention to Peter, who let out a scared little squeal and ran from the dormitory into the common room, James hot on his tail.
Still laughing, Sirius and Remus followed. By now the whole tower was awake. Students were sticking their heads out of doors, rubbing sleepy eyes as they saw three feathered blurs chase a non-feathered blur down the spiral staircase. When Remus and Sirius had reached the common room, James was jumping over furniture as he doubled his efforts to catch Peter. Peter just ran around and around, always twisting out of James’s reach. Laughing, Sirius joined in, chasing Peter too. Remus hesitated for a moment, then tore after Peter as well.
Very quickly, there appeared out of nowhere a very large audience. They laughed and clapped and cheered Peter on as Remus, James and Sirius tried to catch him. The walls, carpet and couches were soon oozing with feathered treacle. Feathers, flecks of dust and dirt were clinging to Remus’s pyjamas as he scrambled over armchairs and tables, trying to catch Peter. Suddenly, Peter tripped over a foot-stool and fell face first into the carpet, Remus tripped over him and in a vain attempt to stop himself falling grabbed a hold of James’s pyjama-sleeve, which only caused James to fall too. The three of them rolled around on the floor in a mix of feathers, treacle and limbs, laughing their heads off. Sirius was laughing too from his position on the couch, and not wanting to miss the fun he jumped and landed on top of James who let out a small cry of pain before resuming his laughter.
The crowd of people who had been watching cheered enthusiastically, some picked up stray feathers and tried to stick them on their friends, or else threw them over the four first-years who were laughing and breathless on the floor. Remus saw Lily and her friend Mary giggling among the crowd at the sight of the four of them covered in feathers on the carpet. Everything was going great. Everyone was laughing. Everyone was having fun. Until...
“What the hell is going on here?” roared a very loud and very angry voice.
Robert Downing, the rather pompous prefect, had materialised on the stairs. He looked furious. Almost instantly the crowd went quiet, all the laughter and cheering dissipated. Panic began to spread through Remus. He was afraid he was in trouble. He was having so much fun that he didn’t realise what he was doing. He cast a glance around the common room, taking in the feathers that were clinging to the walls, carpet and furniture. They had made a right mess of the place, that’s for sure.
The knot of people clustered around the four first-years retreated, leaving the boys very exposed. Remus and Peter stood up slowly, no longer laughing. Guilt and shame replaced the fun that had gripped Remus moments previously. He felt ashamed of himself. His parents had promised Dumbledore that he would be no trouble and here he was, only two days in Hogwarts and he had already destroyed the Gryffindor common room. And what made feel even more guilty was that he had actually enjoyed destroying the common room, he had enjoyed creating chaos with his three new friends. Did this make him a bad person? Had he let his parents and Dumbledore down? He didn’t know the answer to those questions.
James and Sirius were still laughing, as they pulled each other to their feet. Robert descended the stairs towards them, his face red with rage. Remus felt afraid and instantly looked at his bare feet. He felt bad, like there was some hot, guilt-ridden monster munching on his insides. But James and Sirius were grinning at the sight of Robert, their eyes containing a strange mischievous gleam.
“Acting the maggot!” Robert roared. “Waking up the whole tower at the crack of dawn! Befouling the common room! I’ve a right mind to give you all detention.”
Horror rose inside Remus – detention! What would his parents say? He had let them down. He had only been here two days and already he had let his parents down.
“Ah, leave them be, Rob,” said a cool voice. Frank walked forward from the crowd of onlookers. “They were only having a bit of a laugh, and there’s no real harm done.”
“No real harm?” Robert replied affronted. “Look around, Frank, the common room is a mess, you can’t expect this type of vandalism to go unpunished!”
“It’s only a few feathers,” Frank said, withdrawing his wand from the pocket of his dressing-gown and flicking it. Almost instantly, all the feathers disappeared into thin hair, as if they had never been there. Remus stared down at his now spotless pyjamas and then looked at Frank in amazement. He can’t have been older than sixteen or seventeen, and he could vanish all those feathers with a casual flick of his wand. He really must be a great wizard.
“It’s not a question of how easily the feathers can be cleaned up,” Robert said, still angry.
“They have vandalised the castle, and woken up the whole tower! Antics like that can’t go unpunished.”
“They’re only first-years, Rob, c’mon, let them off this once.”
Glaring at Frank, and then at Remus, James, Sirius and Peter; Robert opened and closed his mouth several times, as though torn. “Fine!” he snarled eventually. “Fine! You lot get one free-pass and this is it, any more messing about and I won’t think twice about sending the four of you to detention!”
A stony silence pressed down on the whole room after that, but it was soon broken by James. “That’s funny,” he said, grinning. “Because I didn’t even know you had the brains to think about things once!”
“Don’t try and get smart with me now, boy, you’ve just narrowly escaped punishment,” Robert said curtly.
“But, in all honesty now, if I did – say – decide to get smart with you, how would you know I was doing it, seeing as you’re not too smart yourself?” James continued causally.
Remus stared at his friend in disbelief. He was caught between horror and adoration. Remus would never say anything like that to any authority figure. James had a lot of guts, a lot of them. Sirius seemed to agree as he sniggered, and Remus could have sworn he saw the corners of Frank’s mouth twitch as well.
“You’ve just earned yourself a detention,” Robert snapped, glaring at James.
“I don’t think he’s earned it,” Sirius injected, scratching his chin as though he were thinking. “Now, if he called you a blathering aul tosser with a power-complex, then he would have earned it.”
There was more covert laughter. Remus looked from Sirius to Robert and back again, his heart hammering. He couldn’t believe he had said that.
“What’s your name?” Robert asked, rounding on Sirius.
“Sirius Black,” Sirius replied, showing no hint of fear, shame or remorse.
“Well, Black, you and your smart-mouth friend there will be doing detentions tonight, and I’ll be speaking to Professor McGonagall about you as well, but for now you and your mates can straighten up all the furniture you displaced with your hooligan behaviour.”
With that he swept from the room. People descended on James and Sirius, clapping them on the back and shaking their hands, congratulating them for having the guts to say all those things to Robert. Remus looked at Peter and knew Peter was staring at the pair of them with a look of adoration on his face. Remus just felt confused, caught between two opposing emotions. Were James and Sirius bad? They had just embarrassed Robert in full view of everyone, for no reason other than the fact that they could. They broke rules and didn’t show prefects respect, and they didn’t care about the consequences.
They’re not bad, piped up a voice inside Remus’s head. They defended you against Severus. They want to get revenge on Peeves because he attacked you. They aren’t bad. They’re good, they just like having a laugh, that’s all. They’re your friends. They aren’t bad.
Remus pushed those bad thoughts to the back of his mind. He liked James and Sirius a lot. They were his friends. They defended him and stuck by his side. They weren’t bad. They weren’t bad at all. Right?
Remus and Peter started pulling the over-turned furniture up and put each item back in its rightful place; and once the crowd had gone back upstairs to get ready for class, James and Sirius came over, still basking in the glory of their supposed great triumph over the Robert the prefect.
James punched Peter on the arm. “Class idea with the feathers, Pete,” he said, grinning. “You’ve got a great head on your shoulders, I’ll tell you that.”
Peter smiled back and the smile was very big. Remus wondered if this was the first time anyone had ever paid Peter a compliment. He seemed to grow several inches upon hearing James’s words. Then the four of them continued straightening the furniture, the occasional laugh bursting forth in the silence as they all reflected on the morning’s events. Then Frank came down the stairs, fully dressed and helped with the cleaning up.
“Listen,” he said seriously to the four of them, once the common room was back to normal. “I like you lot, I do, you’re nice lads and you can sure as hell make me laugh, but next time just try and keep your games more low-key, I don’t want you lot to wind up in Dumbledore’s office or expelled, alright?”
“It was only a bit of a laugh,” James said, messing up his already-messy hair. “I poured water over Remus yesterday, so he stuck treacle and feathers on me today, so I chased him and Sirius and Peter around, trying to stick feathers on them. It was just a bit of fun and even you have to admit, it was pretty funny.”
“Yeah, it was,” Frank admitted, though a little begrudgingly, “but just because it’s funny doesn’t make it right. I just want you lot to be careful, right? I don’t want to see you in trouble. Now, why don’t you and Remus call a truce? Now’s a good time to end it – he’s got you, and you’ve gotten him back, you’re all square.”
“Fair enough,” said James, extending his hand to Remus. Remus nodded and shook it.
“Also,” Frank pressed on, more urgently. “I know more than most that Robert can be a bit pompous and full of himself, but all that said, I still don’t think it’s a good idea to clash head on with him like that.”
“I just don’t like the way he thinks he’s better than us because he has a badge and we don’t,” James explained, “I mean you’re not like that and you’re a prefect too.”
“Sometimes in life you just have to learn to live with people like Robert, opening hostilities with him could land you more than detention. His father is one of the school governors. You could lose more than House Points fighting with him.”
“Right,” James said slowly. “We’ll bear that in mind.”
“Good,” Frank said, clapping his hands and making for the portrait-hole. “Well, see you later, lads.”
Remus, James, Sirius and Peter watched him leave for a moment or two, before heading up to their dormitory to get changed and head to breakfast. James and Sirius laughed the whole way down to the Great Hall, trying to shove each other into suits of armour. Then the pair of them started plotting more covert schemes to annoy Robert. They really hadn’t listened to a word Frank had told them. They just saw his warning as a challenge, a challenge to come up with more secretive and stealthy ways of embarrassing the prefect. And as Remus stood there listening, smiling at some of the suggestions, and throwing in a couple of wild ideas himself, he couldn’t shake the thought from his head and two of his new friends were bad. He really liked James and Sirius and he had had so much fun playing with them, and that scared him somewhat. He had had fun destroying the common room. He had wanted to laugh at James and Sirius embarrassing Robert, and he even, though he hated to admit it, wished he could come up with clever and witty responses like James and Sirius had done. Did all that mean he, Remus, was becoming bad?
“Why did you go get yourself detention?” Remus asked James quietly, once they were all seated on the Gryffindor table. He was not sure if he was questioning his friend or reprimanding him.
“I was just having a laugh,” James said, shrugging as he pulled a plate of scrambled eggs towards himself.
“But don’t you think you took it a bit too far, you’re in detention now, won’t your parents be mad?”
James laughed. “They won’t care. In fact I reckon my dad would be proud!”
“Proud?” Remus said disbelievingly.
“Yes, proud,” James said firmly. “I put that prefect in his place.”
“But you didn’t! You just made him mad and got detention!”
James dropped his knife and fork, looking exasperated. “Merlin, Remus!” he half-shouted. “You can’t honestly be that naive!” Remus felt himself shrink away from James, his insides shaking. He had said the wrong thing again.
“That prefect goes around thinking he’s better than everyone else because he has a stupid badge,” James continued. “No one is better than anyone else! We are all the same, all the damn same! It doesn’t matter if you’re a teacher, a prefect or a first-year. It doesn’t matter if you’re pure-blood or Muggle-born. We are all the damn same! I just hate people that strut around thinking everyone around them is inferior. His head needs to be deflated. He needs to be taught a lesson.”
Remus stared at James. He had thought that James had said those things to Robert just to be cool and funny; but there was so much more to it than that. Everyone was the same; Muggle-borns, purebloods, prefects and first-years. Everyone was the same and that was what James had wanted to show with his sarcastic comments. Everyone was the same. We are all the damn same. Remus then wondered if, perhaps, James would include werewolves in the category of ‘everyone’.
“If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals,” Sirius added pointedly. *1 “Respect can’t be demanded like that, you’ve got to earn it. Take my mother, if you are not a pure-blood, she thinks you’re filth. She walks around thinking just because she’s a Black she is bloody royalty. I don’t want to become a person who thinks like that, so I wasn’t just going to stand aside and let stupid Downing show off in front of the whole tower. He had to be put in his place and if that means I’m in detention, I don’t care.”
Remus stared at his two friends and at that moment his felt his adoration and likeness for James and Sirius increase ten-fold. They had gotten in trouble, they had back-talked a prefect, they had landed themselves in detention and right now Remus thought they were nothing short of heroic, they were simply fighting to show that everyone was the same.
Peter was staring at them too, wide-eyes and in awe, as if he had not met anyone so admirable in all his life. Then he tore his eyes from them and continued to eat his breakfast. A few minutes later, the post arrived, and so did James’s newspaper. Remus wondered why he got the newspaper because he never seemed to read it. Remus sat staring at the paper for about ten-minutes, as he tried to read the article on the front page upside down.
“If you’re that interested in the paper, you can have it,” James said, thrusting it at him.
“Cheers,” he replied, opening it up, and scanning the articles for any piece of information about this war that was supposedly coming.
“What did McGonagall want last night with you anyway?” James asked Remus suddenly, as though he had just remembered.
Remus felt himself grow hot and remained hidden behind the newspaper for several seconds. “Em...” he began, buying time as his brain frantically tried to come up with some sort of believable story. “To tell me off for getting lost the other night,” he said, putting down the newspaper.
“But didn’t Dumbledore already let you off for that? Getting lost is hardly a crime,” Sirius said, as he glanced up at McGonagall at the staff table.
“Yes ... he did ...” Remus continued slowly, his whole mind panicking to come up with some way of making this excuse plausible. “But McGonagall just wanted to warn me against doing it again – because – because she says it’s dangerous.”
“Come off it,” Sirius added. “If there’s nothing dangerous in here during the day, there is nothing dangerous at night.”
“Peeves is pretty dangerous,” Peter added.
“Nah, he isn’t,” James said. “He just likes making chaos, we can’t really blame him for that. And speaking of Peeves, we better get practising on that spell so Remus can get one back on him.” He turned to face Remus, “You still want to get him back, don’t you?”
“Em...” Remus replied slowly, looking at James. If truth be told he didn’t want to go near Peeves again. He didn’t want to start some sort of revenge war with the poltergeist, and after nearly destroying the Common Room this morning and narrowly escaping detention, Remus wasn’t sure he wanted to push things any further. He didn’t want to get thrown out.
But before the conversation could advance any further, a small brown projectile landed head-first into the juice jug, sloshing the contents out over the rim and onto the table.
“What is that?” asked Peter, retreating back slightly from the brown ball that had just rocketed out of the jug and was darting around and around their heads before it handed on Remus’s shoulder.
“Gawain!” Remus exclaimed, stroking the owl’s feathers. There was a now damp and juice-stained letter attacked to the owl’s leg. Gawain nibbled Remus’s ear, before landing in the middle of his breakfast, waiting for Remus to take his letter.
Excitement rushing through him, Remus carefully began removing the letter, but it has hard because the parchment was damp and liable to rip. Finally, he extracted the letter and began to read, as Gawain started to help himself to Remus’s unfinished breakfast.
Thanks so much for your letter, it was a lovely surprise to be woken at five in the morning by Gawain tapping frantically on the bedroom window! He was so excited about delivering his first real letter that it took your dad fifteen minutes to calm him down enough to get the letter off him. We are both very proud of you for getting into Gryffindor. I’m even more proud than your dad, would you believe. You really are my clever, brave little boy now – even the Sorting Hat saw it!
We are also delighted to hear that you are making friends. James, Sirius, Peter and Lily sound really nice, and even Severus sounds like an amusing character. Your dad told me to tell you to remember to just be yourself and everyone will like you just for being you. Remember, that was how you got Plumpton’s badge after all. You really are a great kid Remus, and we are both so happy that other kids your age are starting to see that too.
Not much news here we’re afraid, house is very strange without you, very quiet. We both miss you very much, but we are glad that your first evening in Hogwarts went so well. I’m actually thinking of going out and finding a job, just something to keep me busy during the day. I’m thinking of applying to Flourish and Blotts to see if they would take me on. How great would that be if I was working there? I’d be able to get you all the King Arthur books you wanted then!
We’ll write to you again soon,
We are so proud of you,
Mum and Dad
Remus read the letter through twice. It was so nice to see these words on the page, words his mum wrote just for him. He then experienced a strange guilty feeling. In the excitement of starting school and making new friends, he hadn’t given his parents much thought. He didn’t even think he missed them. Did that make him bad too?
“Letter from your parents, is it?” James asked, and if Remus was not mistaken there appeared to be a slight note of jealousy in his voice.
“I was hoping my parents would have written to me today,” he said, a little crestfallen.
“You only sent the letter yesterday,” Remus said fairly, “you need to give it time to arrive, and time for them to write back. I’m sure you will get a letter tomorrow.”
“Hmmm...” James said, twisting his rasher around and around his fork.
“You just be grateful they’ll be sending you a letter and not a Howler,” Sirius added darkly.
Remus continued to pet Gawain’s head as the owl finished Remus’s breakfast, before nibbling his finger and taking off, though Remus noticed that the owl flew around Lily’s head, before heading off to the Owlery for a well-earned rest. Once Gawain had left, Lily turned around from her place at the Slytherin table beside Severus, searching the Gryffindor table. Then her eyes found Remus and she beamed, waving brightly at him. Remus waved back, but stopped once he saw the livid look on Snape’s face. It appeared things had not cooled down between him and Severus in the slightest.
As the weeks moved on, Remus found himself settling into the routine of school very well. He and his three friends had a fairly good grasp on where everything in the castle was now, though James still remained convinced that there were secret passages yet to be discovered. One of Remus’s favourite places in the castle soon became the library. He was awe-struck when he first walked in and saw selves upon selves of books, each looking more interesting than the last. Even the smell was nice; it was old and dusty, but also strangely pleasant.
His classes themselves became more and more difficult and Remus was grateful for this because while he was buried in his school work, he had less time to ponder the fast approaching full-moon or Fenrir Greyback. James and Sirius soon developed a reputation for being some of the best students in the year. Lily was great too. Remus was alright. He wasn’t as good as James and Sirius, but he wasn’t as bad as poor Peter. Peter was really struggling with every new spell they were learning. It took him twice as long as anyone else to master it, and he appeared to cause more mishaps than anyone else. In Charms when they started levitating feathers, Peter somehow managed to set his on fire. James and Sirius laughed their heads off at this, and Peter just looked miserable. Remus did his best to try and help Peter in any way he could, but it didn’t seem to make much of a difference.
Potions had its good days and its bad days, but Remus seemed to have some sort of mental block when it came to the subject. He was never able to great the mixture right, no matter how well he read the instructions. Potions was also the only class that James and Sirius could not claim the top spot in, that crown went to Severus and Severus alone, though Lily could give him a run for his money sometimes. Slughorn simply adored the pair of them, which seemed to annoy both James and Sirius. Things had far from cooled between Severus and Remus, James, Sirius and Peter. Right now both sides were just boycotting the other, pretending they didn’t exist, but Remus knew that wouldn’t last and that hostilities would break out sooner or later, especially when Severus kept smirking every time Slughorn praised him for his excellent potion brewing skills.
Narcissa had also taken to ignoring Sirius too. She would give him nasty looks whenever their paths crossed in corridors, but she would never say anything. This seemed to suit Sirius down to the ground, in fact he said it was big improvement to how things usually were. Remus shuddered to think how bad things would have to be if you considered someone ignoring you and shooting you nasty looks an improvement.
Transfiguration, Herbology and Astronomy got more and more interesting too as everyone progressed, and the first-years also had flying lessons to attend as well. James really could fly as well as he had claimed, maybe even better. Remus was alright, so was Sirius, but Peter didn’t have a clue what he was doing and fell off his broom more times than most. Severus was equally dreadful, a fact that made him very angry and irritable the more time went on. Remus even suspected that he had been throwing dirty, jealous looks in James’s direction when James impressed them all by doing loop-de-loops and boasting that there was no way he wasn’t going to make the Gryffindor Quidditch team.
History of Magic very soon became Remus’s least favourite subject. The way he saw it, Professor Binns was committing murder. He was killing his subject, and this annoyed Remus a lot. So he spent most of those boring, dull classes reading A History of Magic and making notes for himself, or else reading one of the history books he had gotten from the library. James, Sirius and Peter told him he was wasting his time, but Remus didn’t listen. Occasionally though, he did ask them what they planned on doing come exam time when all their history notes consisted of nothing more than crude drawings of Golden Snitches, broomsticks, Professor Binns in various dresses, and about a hundred finished games of hang-man. But they didn’t listen and continued with their drawing games in each class.
Professor Newlyn’s classes, on the other hand, were anything but dull. In fact they had descended into chaos. Newlyn had no idea how to control the class. He had tried shouting, but no one listened. He had tried just teaching, in the hope they everyone would quieten down eventually and start paying attention, but no one did. He must have deducted about fifty house points but even that had no effect. Once, he gave the whole class detention, but no one heard him. Severus was still using the disorder as a cover so he could read his strange books without being discovered. Remus tried to ignore this because he didn’t like to think about why Severus was so intent on reading books like that. But the pandemonium of Newlyn’s classes usually distracted Remus from what Severus was reading. He just felt sorry for Newlyn to be honest. Several times, himself or Lily raised their hands to ask a question to see if that would get the class started, but Newlyn seemed too afraid of what they were going to ask to let them speak. The classes were so bad in fact that Peeves had taken residency in the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, adding his own forms of mischief to those created by the students. He would blow raspberries at various intervals, or else throw chalk around the place, or fly through the blackboard at odd moments, giving Newlyn near heart-failure. And it wasn’t only the first-year classes that were like this, every year it was the same, except with the sixth and seventh-years, who were too worried about their NEWTs to even contemplate misbehaving.
Whenever they were not in class or doing their homework, Remus, James, Sirius and Peter could be found in their dormitory practising a rather difficult spell that James had discovered in The Standard Book of Spells Grade 1. James and Sirius were starting to get the hang of it now, and so was Remus, but Peter, unfortunately, was not.
“Honestly, Pete, are you even trying?” Sirius said, a little exasperatedly, after they had been practicing for two solid weeks.
“I am,” Peter snapped back, a little testily. “I’m just not as clever as you, James and Remus!”
“Come off it,” James injected, “you’re plenty smart – you just aren’t concentrating hard enough.”
“I am concentrating!” Peter protested.
“Well, concentrate harder,” Sirius said, dully. “I’m already getting bored of this spell and soon getting revenge on Peeves will lose all its appeal. We have enough chewing gum, and me, James and Remus know the spell, can’t we just do it tomorrow?”
“I’m not leaving Peter out!” James said stubbornly.
“Neither I am,” Sirius replied, looking at Peter and grinning. “He will have the most important part in the plan – he will be the one that lures Peeves to us.”
“I thought Remus was going to do that, seeing as Peeves was the one who attacked him?” James said, looking from Remus to Sirius.
“He was, but now Peter’s going to,” Sirius said, with an air of finality in his voice.
Peter looked positively alarmed at having to lure Peeves into a trap. “It’s fine, I’ll just watch,” he said weakly.
“I’m not having that,” James said. “We are all Remus’s friends, and seeing as Peeves attacked Remus, we are all going to help him get Peeves back. That’s what friends do, they always have each other’s backs.”
Peter looked at James, then he turned to Remus and seemed to be silently pleading with him to do something, but Remus didn’t know what to do or say. If truth be told, he was getting bored of practicing this spell over and over too, and it was not a spell that was going to come up in an exam, so spending this amount of time mastering it was a bit foolish, plus it seemed to make Sirius very irritable and Peter very upset. It seemed best for everyone if they got this crazy idea of James’s out of the way and focused on better things, like the fast approaching Quidditch trials.
So the next day, the four of them had chewed their way through about twelve boxes of Drooble’s Best Blowing-Gum, courtesy of the sweets packages James’s parents sent him twice a week. Then they went to a long and remote corridor on the seventh floor and stuck the gum in rows in the grooves between the bricks along the walls. Once the ammunition was in place, they sent Peter off to find Peeves. Peter rose to his task with a new type of determination Remus had not seen in his before. He held his head high and clenched his fists as he went off in search of the infamous poltergeist.
Remus, James and Sirius passed the remaining time playing Exploding Snap, which was a lot of fun. They even made card castles, trying to build them as high as they could before the cards spontaneously exploded without warning. James was the best at it. He said that he and his dad used to play this all the time. Sirius was really bad at it, but kept blaming it on the fact that he had never built a card castle before. James didn’t believe him though, because he said that every wizard kid in the world had played this at some point. Sirius seemed to go oddly quiet from that point on, but Remus thought he was the only one that seemed to notice.
Suddenly, there was a shout from below, followed by the sound of cackling. Peter and Peeves were fast approaching. Remus, James and Sirius jumped to their feet, clutching their wands tightly in their hands. Remus’s heart was hammering in a strange mixture of apprehension and excitement.
A split second later, Peter came around the corner, his arms shielding his head, as Peeves threw the contents of a waste-paper bin at him.
“Ooooo, more ickle firstys! What fun!” Peeves exclaimed, spotting James, Sirius and Remus.
Peter ran behind his friends, completely breathless.
“You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us,” James said standing forward.
Peeves responded to James’s statement by blowing a loud, wet raspberry.
“We just want to make sure you’ll think twice before you throw a piece of chalk or a waste paper basket at one of us again,” Sirius said, stepping towards Peeves.
Peeves merely floated upside-down in mid-air, gazing at them all as if they were Christmas presents left there just for him. “Ickle firstys think they’re a match for old Peevesie, Peeves should teach them a lesson, that he should.” Then he swooped down upon them, ready to do Merlin only knew what.
“NOW!” James bellowed!
“Waddiwasi!” Remus, James and Sirius yelled, pointing their wands at the rows of chewing gum they had lined up on the walls.
The effect was instant. The chewing gum shot from the crevices like Bludgers and flew directly at Peeves. One flew up the poltergeist’s nose, another lodged itself in his ear, and several shot themselves into his mouth, robbing him of the power of speech. Peeves cart-wheeled in mid-air, as chewing gum assaulted him from all sides.
The four friends burst out laughing, enjoying every minute of Peeves’s suffering. Remus knew he shouldn’t laugh at other people’s misfortunate like that, but he couldn’t help it, especially when he remembered the night Peeves had chased him around the castle, pelting him with chalk, pulling carpets out from under his feet and grabbing him with tapestries. That, and the fact that once James, Sirius and Peter started laughing, Remus couldn’t help laughing too. Still trying (and failing) to shield himself from attack, Peeves cast them all a glaring look, before he sped from the scene, making a strange gagging nose as chewing gum clogged his throat.
“That’s what you get for pelting me with chalk!” Remus shouted vehemently after the poltergeist.
“Yeah, and for chucking paper at me!” Peter added triumphantly.
The four friends broke into fits of laughter again, holding onto each other in order to stay on their feet.
“Thanks, guys,” Remus said brightly, wiping tears from his eyes.
“What are friends for?” James said grinning.
“Befouling the castle with chewing gum! Using magic in the corridors!” bellowed a voice from behind them. They all jumped out of their skins with fright. Their little stunt had probably created more noise than was wise.
The four spun on the spot and found themselves face to face with the foul-looking, cantankerous Hogwarts caretaker, Argus Filch. He glared down at them all, a vindictive smile on is pock-marked face. One thing was for sure, they were in real trouble now.
Peter actually started trembling and James and Sirius were rendered mute, which was a feat within itself. Remus’s heart started hammering as all the laughter and fun drained from his body at a speed he didn’t think possible. His throat was dry and his insides were shaking. Filch was bad news. He hated all the students, and was constantly threatening wrongdoers with thumb-screws. Remus instantly withdrew his hands inside the sleeves of his robes, childishly thinking his thumbs would be safer in there.
“It was Peeves, Mr Filch!” Peter lied desperately. “It was Peeves, not us!"
“A likely story!” the caretaker spat. “Do you know how many of you students blame your misdeeds on that foul poltergeist? I’m not falling for that one, oldest trick in the book that, do I look like a fool?”
James looked at Sirius, clearly thinking that yes, Filch did look like a fool, but he wisely decided to keep that comment to himself. Walking like ones condemned, the four friends followed Filch down the marble staircase to his office. Sirius and James were not smiling. Peter looked near tears. Terrible and panicked thoughts just flooded Remus’s brain. What if he got expelled? How could he face his parents and Dumbledore after all they had done to ensure he could attend Hogwarts?
Filch suddenly turned a corner and opened the door of a very small, very decrepit office. The place smelled strongly of polish mixed with cleaning potion. Filing cabinets covered every inch of the walls, containing records of wrongdoers and their crimes; and now Remus’s name would be blackened by being added to that list. He had let his parents down. He had let Dumbledore down. He had let himself down.
With an expression of glee, Filch pulled a form from his desk drawer. “Names!” he barked as he dipped his quill in the ink well.
They all answered him in turn, and not even James dared to make some sort of witty remark.
“Your crime: befouling the castle – suggested punishment: two Saturday’s worth of detentions -”
James’s mouth fell open at this point, before he injected in a very appalled voice, “But Quidditch trials are this Saturday!”
“Should have thought about them Quidditch trials before you broke the rules, then, shouldn’t you?”
Remus’s heart sank, he had been looking forward to Quidditch trials. He wasn’t a bad flier and he had thought that maybe he might have a bit of a chance of getting on the team, or at least on the reverses, but now he would have to wait until next year. But all that said, Remus knew that as bad as he felt, James felt ten times worse. Quidditch was his life.
“Two Saturday’s worth of detentions,” Filch repeated, “cleaning the chewing gum off the desks in every classroom on the fourth floor, without magic.”
“That’s not fair!” James said, sounding appalled. “That’s child labour that is!”
“Yeah,” Sirius agreed, “just give us lines or something.”
“You don’t learn nothing from doing lines, boy,” Filch replied with a satisfied smile. “Hard labour, that’s the solution, then you’ll think twice before you dirty the castle with chewing gum.”
Ten minutes later they all left the office. It was a real low point for all of them. Peter kept his gaze on the floor, Sirius was strangely quiet, and Remus just felt the shame that went hand in hand with letting everyone you cared about down. But James was in the depths of despair, “Quidditch...” he moaned, banging his head dully against the wall.
“Sorry, mate,” Sirius said consoling, placing a hand on James’s shoulder. But James shook him off. “First-years never make the team anyway,” Sirius added, trying to cheer James up, but James looked beyond cheering up.
Remus’s insides were rattled with guilt. He had never gotten in trouble in his whole life. He was a good boy. What would his parents think if they found out? He had let them all down, and not only that, but it was his fault that James wouldn’t get to go to Quidditch trials. Quidditch meant everything to James, and it was Remus’s fault he would be locked in a classroom on Saturday cleaning gum, instead of out on the Quidditch pitch.
“I’m sorry,” Remus said a little desperately, as he tried to combat the guilt gripping his insides. He addressed James more than the others. “This is all my fault. I’m sorry.”
James turned around and fixed Remus with a piercing look. Remus wasn’t sure if he was going to hit him or not. “What are you talking about?” James asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Well, you were only getting one back on Peeves because he attacked me, so if you weren’t friends with me, then you’d be going to Quidditch trials on Saturday.”
“Don’t be thick!” James said heatedly. “You’re my mate, Remus, if someone hurts you they deserve to be punished – even if it means missing Quidditch and getting detention.”
“Yeah,” Sirius said, throwing his arm around Remus’s shoulder. “You do for your mates, end of story.”
“Definitely,” Peter said nodding.
A lump formed in Remus’s throat as he stared around at his three friends, hardly believing they were real, hardly believing they would say such nice things. Words could never describe how incredibly fond he felt of all of them right now. Never in his life had anyone, aside from his parents, ever thought he was worth anything, and there the three of them were saying he was worth getting detention for, worth missing Quidditch for. Remus simply grinned from ear to ear, right now the three boys standing beside him meant more to him than the Tornadoes, King Arthur and all the chocolate-frog cards in the world put together.
*1 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (UK Edition)
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