Disclaimer: Hm, I put 'disclaimer' at the top of my chapters. But the tiny print at the bottom of any page on this site says that I'm not JKR anyway. So I'm telling you twice. Why? Just because I like seeing how witty I can be (or how unwitty I really am). Either way, you probably skipped this blurb so you could go into the main chapter. How right am I?
18: From Letters to Words
We are delighted your experiences at school are going so well! We are so proud of you. Your father and I simply love hearing about all of your friends and especially your relationship with Lily Evans. She sounds so lovely from the descriptions you have provided about her. When the decision was made about sending you to Hogwarts, I initially had some reservations, but now I see that this was probably the best decision we have ever made as a family.
Your father and I are doing just fine. Nothing much has changed since your letter three weeks ago. Speaking of which, I thought we agreed you would write more often. It is not childish to write to your parents. Just humor your old mother, won’t you? I’m sure no one would make fun of you for doing your best to appease your parents.
The Christmas holiday is fast approaching. We just had our first major snowstorm a few days ago, which has brought out the holiday spirit in all our neighbors- magical and Muggles alike. We can hardly wait to see you once the term is over and you are returned home to us.
We miss our son and cannot wait to have him back. Please keep us updated with your performance at school as well as any and all good news. We cannot wait to see you again!
With all our love,
Mum and Dad
James reread his parents’ letter a few times over his Friday morning breakfast. His eyes were drawn to the last paragraph. He understood what his mum was trying to tell him without revealing his secret. She missed calling him James. She wanted to know when he would drop his charade.
“Is that a letter from your parents?” Lily asked, wiping her mouth on a napkin.
“Yeah,” James said, passing Lily the letter. A few of the straggling owls were just making their way out of the Great Hall.
Lily blushed momentarily as she read the first paragraph. Her smile only widened as she read down through the letter. “Awe, your mum sounds so sweet,” Lily said as she finished. “She’s right, you know. You should write to her more often.”
“Yeah,” James agreed half-heartedly.
“If you’re embarrassed about going up to the Owlery, I’d be happy to send the letters home for you,” Lily went on. She winked. “Or we could go up together for some alone time. Would that also work?”
“Yeah,” James said brighter.
Lily giggled. “Is ‘yeah’ the only thing you can say?”
Lily refolded the letter into thirds, put it back into its envelope, and playfully bopped James on the top of his head. The two laughed together.
“YES! YES! IT HAS ARRIVED!”
The normal chatter in the Great Hall paused for a moment as all focus turned to Sirius Black, who just so happened to be standing on his bench with a stack of parchment gripped in his hands.
“What could make you this excited?” Nancy asked as many of the students went back to their normal conversations, obviously used to the loud and dramatic outbursts from the self-proclaimed hottest Marauder.
“The Minister probably created a Sirius Black day in his honor,” Laura guessed.
“Professor Dumbledore agreed to his proposed sport of Slytherin Hunting Saturdays?” Peter asked next.
“He got Professor McGonagall’s home address?” Remus shrugged.
“No, ladies and gentlemen,” Sirius said dramatically, sitting back down as Remus was reaching up to pull him down anyway. “I got a letter from James Potter!”
That stopped the laughter from the group. Nancy and Laura gaped at Sirius in identical expressions of bewilderment. Peter choked on his cheese omelet. Remus tilted his head slightly. Even Lily gasped, his complexion paling slightly.
James couldn’t believe his ears. Sirius just said that he received a letter from James Potter? But James didn’t send Sirius anything. What was his best mate trying to pull?
“Here, I’ll read aloud and prove it to you,” Sirius said dramatically. “Eh-hem.
‘Miss me yet? I bet you’re chasing your tail round and round, wondering when I’m coming back. Well, no luck so far yet, mate. But tell Wormtail to lay off the cheese- he doesn’t need that much food. And remind Moony that only girls should be that obsessed with chocolate. You, Pads, can stay just the way you are! That’s why you’re my best mate!
‘It’s been a crazy three, going on four months, that’s all I can say. I’m technically not supposed to write this, since it can be intercepted by Death Eaters and they’d find out where I am. And if they find me, we might as well just kiss the world as we know it goodbye! But as long as I stay hidden, the world is safe! I am only in hiding to keep you and our fellow Marauders safe from harm! I am that important!
‘Me and my parents have been practically everywhere. And you know what? It’s awesome! I’ve met so many interesting people in so many interesting countries. The Greenlandians were probably the best. I just wish they had a different favorite color besides green.
‘I know you’d want to reply, but my dad put a complex spell on us so no owl can get back. It was hard enough to find the owl I used to get this letter to you in the first place. I know that you, Wormtail, and Moony are making enough mischief to make me proud, wherever I am. But, on the off chance that you run out of ideas (even though I know you’re full of brilliant ideas, Padfoot), I’ve included a few prank ideas that I think you and the others would enjoy pulling on our favorite target House. But please, feel free to modify them to your heart’s desire- my pranking skills are second only to yours.
‘Well, after I send off this letter and hope the owl makes it to you in one piece, we’re going to have to get moving again. I hope that in a few months I can get something else to you. If I’m still alive, that is. Let’s keep our fingers cross, shall we?
‘P.S. Can you show this part to Evans for me? Hey Evans? I love you! WILL YOU GO OUT WITH ME WHEN I GET BACK?’
Sirius put the letter down on the table, then beamed around at all his fellow Gryffindors.
“How did I know the letter would end that way?” Nancy asked dryly.
“The same way I knew all those pages wouldn’t be all part of the letter,” Laura said, lifting the first page to reveal a complicated-looking diagram.
“So, what do you all think?” Sirius asked. “James is alive! And he’s still thinking of us!”
“At least, he was alive when he sent this letter,” Nancy commented dryly. “No promises about his present state.”
Sirius shoulders slumped a bit. “He is still alive. I know it.” He looked to Peter and Remus. “What about you two?”
“I don’t know what to think,” Peter said before shoveling more cheese omelet into his mouth.
“I’m curious as to why Prongs didn’t tell you to deflate that enlarged ego of yours,” Remus commented. “And I am not obsessed with chocolate.”
“Well I think it’s obvious why Potter didn’t say anything about Black’s enlarged ego,” Lily said, her lips set in a thin line, reminiscent of McGonagall. She snatched the letter off the bundle of papers and grasped it tightly in her hands, her eyes skimming the words Sirius just read. “I knew it.” She crumpled the letter and threw it in Sirius’s face. “This letter was actually written by Black, not Potter.”
While Remus and Peter didn’t seem surprised to hear this, Laura and Nancy were shocked enough for the four of them. “Sirius,” Nancy said sternly, “did you think this was funny? Because it’s not! What if something actually happened to James Potter? What if he’s in danger? You’re just making fun of the fact that he’s not here.”
“Why did you do it?” Laura asked.
By now, Sirius’s lower lip was trembling. Looking like a kicked puppy, Sirius dramatically cried out, “Because I miss my best friend! No one talks about him anymore! I want my Prongsie back! Waah!”
“Lily,” Remus said slowly, “how did you know Sirius wrote it in the first place?”
“Easy,” Lily said, glaring hard at the still-whimpering Sirius. “Potter’s in hiding. He’s not as stupid as Black when it comes to blowing his cover. He’d be smart enough not to send anything. Or at the very least, his parents would have stopped him. The handwriting is also not Potter’s. I should know- I’ve received dozens if not hundreds of sappy love letters from that git in the past. And while they might be best mates, Potter wouldn’t encourage Black to stay as he was. Potter would have made several lame jokes at Black’s expense. He would never admit Black was a better prankster because Potter has his own ego issues. And finally, I saw the owl that delivered the letter. It’s one of the several owls I use to send letters home to my own parents. There is no way Potter would have been able to get his hands on it.”
“You figured all that out on your own?” Nancy asked, smirking. “Very nice. Do us all a favor and become a Hit Witch after Hogwarts. Or better yet, become an Auror. Yeah, that’s the job for you.”
Lily rolled her eyes. “Honestly, I can spot a Marauder prank a mile away. That doesn’t mean I have any special skills.” Lily looked away to her own best friend. “Danielle, you knew it couldn’t be from Potter, didn’t- hey, what’s wrong?”
The other six also looked at the last member of the group. Danielle sat with her head bent low, her eyes reading over her own letter that she received over breakfast.
“Nothing,” Danielle breathed, her fringe blocking her eyes from view. “Just a letter from home.”
“Anything bad going on?” Lily asked tentatively, placing a hand on Danielle’s back as a way to offer her support. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“Nothing to talk about,” Danielle insisted softly. If anything, her head tilted forward more, making it harder to see anything but golden blonde strands. “I just have to stay here for Christmas this year, that’s all. I’m not invited home. Excuse me.” Danielle grabbed her bag and shuffled out of the Great Hall. Her letter and half-eaten breakfast remained resting on the table, both forgotten.
With a quick glance at the others, Lily reached forward and read the letter. Her own shoulders slumped as she read.
“What does it say?” Nancy asked, wincing. She glanced at the boys sitting with them. “Do you want to take this elsewhere?”
“It’s not too bad, objectively speaking,” Lily said hesitantly. She refolded the letter and put it in a pocket of her robes.
“What are you girls so upset about?” Sirius asked. “You act like someone died.”
“Quite the opposite,” Lily said. “More like someone’s getting married. Danielle’s dad and step-mum are invited to a wedding on her step-mum’s side.”
“What’s the problem then?” Nancy asked. “Why does it sound like an invitation wasn’t extended to our favorite blonde? No offense, Derek.”
Lily shook her head. “Danielle’s step-mum’s family isn’t exactly on the best of terms with Death Eaters, remember? If anything bad happens at the wedding, her parents don’t want Danielle to be caught up in anything.”
“So by protecting her, she has to miss out on a fun holiday,” Laura summed up. “Well, that sucks. And she was looking forward to spending Christmas in Paris too.”
“The trip’s been postponed until summer, apparently,” Lily recalled from the letter. “That’s three times now that this Paris trip has been bumped back on Danielle.”
“Wait a tick,” Sirius interrupted. “Since when was Danielle going to Paris? Why didn’t any of us know this?”
“Because you three started latching onto us only starting this year,” Nancy pointed out. “It’s only now that we outnumber you five to three that we allow you to eat with us on occasion.”
“Mostly when we can’t wedge ourselves between two other groups of students,” Laura added.
“Anyway,” Nancy continued, rolling her eyes, “us girls don’t discuss everything in front of you boys.” She stood up. “Time for Divination, Laura.”
“See you at lunch,” Laura said, mostly to Lily and James as she got up to follow her friend.
“Wait, I’m confused,” Peter confessed, walking out of the Great Hall with four of his five Potions friends. “Nancy said the girls outnumber us five to three, but-”
“She never said ‘us girls’ when talking about the ratio, Peter,” Lily said. “Derek isn’t a Marauder. He is free to spend as much time as he wants with us girls. You boys?” Lily rolled her eyes. They landed on Sirius. “You’re obviously quite lost without your precious James Potter.”
“I’m not lost,” Peter said, sounding confused. “Besides, I can always check my location on the Map-”
“Wormy!” Sirius yelped angrily. “You have other stuff to do this morning besides spilling all of our Marauders-only secrets to a girl and him.” Sirius pointed up the nearest staircase. “Now go on, get moving!”
“What did I say?” Peter wondered. But he did as he was told, retreating up to Gryffindor Tower for his free period while the others went down to the dungeons.
The door was already open for their classmates to enter when the four arrived. Danielle had her cauldron out with her Potions book resting beside it, ready to be opened to today’s instructions. Her eyes stared vacantly at the book cover, unfocused.
“Hey, Danielle?” Remus asked, sitting beside Danielle as usual. “There’s no way you can go home for Christmas?”
“Oh, I suppose I could go home,” Danielle said dryly. “But no one would be there. And who would want to spend the holidays in an empty house all alone?”
“Not me!” Sirius answered brightly.
Lily glared at Sirius, shook her head, and twirled her finger around while pointing downwards.
Sirius took the hint and turned away from his friends at the table behind him, his shoulders slumping slightly.
“Maybe you can go to a friend’s house,” Remus offered. His cheeks turned the faintest tinge of pink. “I’m sure my parents wouldn’t mind a houseguest for Christmas.”
But Danielle shook her head slowly, her eyes still unfocused. “Thanks, but no thanks.”
“Really, it wouldn’t be any issue-” Remus started to press.
Remus never got a chance to convince Danielle to change her mind. Professor Slughorn soon arrived and directed the students to begin the day’s potion. They needed to finish the first part before the end of class today and leave it to brew over the weekend.
As usual, James worked in silence as his attention was fully focused on making a potion without adding parts haphazardly. But unlike most days, no one else at the table spoke much either. Danielle actually worked slower than James, her usual energy gone. Remus kept an eye on Danielle, seeming torn between leaving Danielle alone as she obviously wished or continuing his argument that she should spend the holiday with a friend. This left Lily without anyone to speak with. But she seemed fine. A few times when she caught Danielle’s eye as they shared ingredients, she offered her best friend an encouraging smile.
In fact, the four of them were still just finishing up their potion by the time their classmates were all packed up, their own potions set aside to brew in peace. Sirius, the first to finish, paced back and forth beside their table, not bothering to hide his boredom.
“Don’t you four like to outshine the class with your brilliance?” Sirius whined as they finally left class together. “What is wrong with you lot?”
“Nothing’s wrong,” Danielle insisted. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I should tell my parents that I got their letter, so they don’t have to worry about me spending Christmas at King’s Cross.” Danielle picked up her pace and practically flew up the stairs.
As Lily and the boys arrived on the main floor, they saw Nancy, Laura, and Peter standing at the landing looking like they just saw a non-Hogwarts ghost fly by.
“Danielle’s still upset?” Laura asked.
Lily nodded. “I just wish I knew what we could do.”
“Laura and I were talking about it during class,” Nancy said. “We would have been more than willing to stay here for Christmas with her, but both our families already have holiday plans.”
At this, Lily perked up. Eyes wide and twinkling, she asked, “What did you just say, Nancy?”
Confused, Nancy repeated slower, “We would have stayed here if our families didn’t already have plans for us-”
“That’s it!” Lily exclaimed. “Girls, you’re brilliant! My family has no such plans! I can stay here for Christmas! Brilliant!” Lily turned away from the Great Hall and dashed up the stairs in much the same way the blonde had done just minutes ago.
“You mean you four didn’t suggest that during Potions?” Laura asked James dubiously.
“It was a very complex potion,” Remus insisted. “We didn’t talk a lot.”
“They were sitting at the depression table,” Sirius said. “I was sitting at the fun table! The Hufflepuffs just love me!”
Nancy snorted. “Well, I’m not going to miss a meal just because you four want to talk about how miserable your lives are. Let’s eat.”
But when Nancy and Laura sat down, there was no room for James to sit. His fellow Marauders sat further down the table with plenty of seats open around them. After a minute of internal debate, worrying if his actions would reveal his identity, James shrugged his shoulders and took a seat next to Peter.
“Wow, Gardens, who said you could sit here?” Sirius complained loudly.
“You’re an idiot,” Remus remarked.
Sirius turned to Remus. “That’s the best witty response you could come up with?”
“No, just stating a fact. Where do you propose Derek sits? On Laura’s lap?”
Sirius looked at the two girls. “I don’t think anyone would mind if I sat on the lap in question.”
“There is one thing I wanted to ask you about,” James said, glancing around quickly to see if anyone was listening in on them.
“Hold that thought,” Remus suggested. He withdrew his wand and cast a nonverbal muffling charm around them. “Okay, proceed,” he said. But before he put his wand away, he lazily aimed at Sirius and enchanted Sirius’s hair to turn pink.
“What did you do that for?!” Sirius screeched, pulling at his fringe to see the least manly color hair he could possibly have.
“To make others think I had a reason to take out my wand besides giving us a private conversation.”
“But why pink?!”
Remus smirked. “I like bubblegum pink hair on people.”
Sirius crossed his arms. “Why must you pick on me?”
“Easy target,” three voices said in unison.
“Getting back on topic,” James said, his smile fading, “what was with that letter from ‘James Potter’? Do you really want Lily to strangle me when my identity comes out?!”
“I thought I told everyone,” Sirius said, uncrossing his arms but keeping an expression of childish annoyance on his face. “I miss my best friend!”
“I’m right here,” James said dryly.
“Fine. I also wanted to see Lily’s reaction to hearing about you,” Sirius said. “You know, so we’ll know just how mad she’ll be when she learns who she’s really been snogging.”
“There are better ways you could have gotten that result,” Remus said, rolling his eyes. “Now the girls think you’re more insecure than usual.” He paused. “And I used to think that couldn’t be done.”
“They’ll understand once James reveals his identity,” Sirius argued. “No one will blame me at all for anything.”
“They’ll only blame your lack of intelligence, as usual.”
As Sirius and Remus got into another verbal battle and Peter got out a bit of parchment, the first forgetting his hair was pink, James’s mind wandered to Lily (as usual). If Lily was going to stay with Danielle at Hogwarts over Christmas holiday, James figured he could do the same. This way, they would have a few weeks to get over the shock of Derek being James without classes interrupting them or being separated by going home.
Or, at the very least, James would be able to spend the holiday in the Hospital Wing instead of St. Mungo’s.
“Final score: thirty-seven to two,” Peter announced, breaking James out of his thoughts.
“Huh?” James blinked and saw Remus withdraw his wand and change Sirius’s hair back to normal, then lift the muffling charm.
“Remus had the bright idea earlier this year to keep track on how much he picks on me,” Sirius grumbled. But he didn’t seem to mind as he examined as much of his fringe as possible.
“No,” Remus said, taking the parchment from Peter, “I wanted to see how often you back down or give illogical arguments to support an already-flawed thought process. And congratulations on getting two points today. You’re improving.”
James sighed in exasperation. “You two are mental.”
“So says the transfer student with blond hair,” Sirius snickered. As he led the way out of the Great Hall and down to Herbology, he gave his friends a clear view of the back of his head. And the patch of pink hair he was still sporting.
“Make that thirty-eight to two,” Peter giggled.
The boys met the girls outside the greenhouses. Danielle was looking a little better as Lily spoke rapidly with her. Nancy and Laura were all smiles as they chimed in every now and then.
“Did you hear what Lily’s doing for me?” Danielle asked brightly at the boys joined the group. “She’s staying at Hogwarts with me during Christmas! Isn’t that wonderful?”
“No one should spend the holidays alone,” Lily said, hugging her best friend. “We’ll have a great time!”
“If you don’t mind me saying,” James said, “I was thinking during lunch-”
“Yeah,” Sirius interrupted, “he wasn’t much fun at all.”
“-and I’m sure I could get permission to stay at Hogwarts during Christmas as well,” James finished as if he weren't interrupted.
“Really?” Danielle detached from Lily and wrapped her arms around James. “Your parents won’t mind?”
James shook his head. “They’ll understand.”
“Besides,” Sirius said, shrugging, “it’s our last year here at school. As long as there’s no homework to do or classes to attend, it’s the perfect place to live.”
“But you don’t do homework and you barely pay attention in class,” Remus pointed out.
“Thirty-nine to two,” Peter said.
“Wait, you’re staying too?” Danielle asked skeptically. She released James to gawk at Sirius.
“Why not?” Sirius shrugged. “I can’t exactly go to the Potters’ anyway, remember?”
James kept quiet. He had forgotten that Sirius had nowhere to go if his family was supposedly in hiding. It actually made the most sense for Sirius to just stay here. It would look highly suspicious if he went home with Derek Gardens’s family.
“I suppose I can stay as well,” Remus shrugged. “Um, my furry little problem tends to be a bit more difficult during Christmas, so having extra support will help me so my parents don’t have to worry about it.”
“And yet this morning you offered Danielle to go home with you,” Sirius said slyly.
Remus shifted a bit on his feet, fully aware that the girls had no idea what they were really talking about. “I would have worked something out about Havoc.”
“Thirty-nine to three,” Peter said softly. Louder, “I know my mum won’t be happy about it, but she would let me stay at school too, especially if she knew I would be with all of you.”
“All you boys are staying behind this Christmas?” Danielle asked. “Just for me?” Eyes brimming in tears of happiness, she dashed to Sirius and gave him a quick hug. She then hugged Peter. When she got to Remus, she hugged him a bit longer than necessary before leading her fellow girls into the greenhouse that Professor Sprout had just opened.
“Wait,” James said to the Marauders. “You’re all staying now? Not just me?”
“Exactly,” Remus said. He checked to make sure the girls were out of earshot, then continued, “Someone has to be around to pick up the pieces after Lily turns on you.” He shrugged a shoulder before entering the greenhouse.
“Ooh, I can’t wait to tell Minnie the good news!” Sirius yelled, running in after Remus. “I want to see the look on her face when she realizes that I’m staying!”
James looked down at Peter, the only two still standing outside. “Do you think McGonagall will actually cry in front of Sirius when she finds out?” he asked the shorter boy.
“I don’t know about crying,” Peter laughed, “but she’s going to laugh when she sees the back of his head.”
However, Peter’s prediction seemed to be premature. As they joined all their other classmates, Sirius stood between the seated Nancy and Laura, eyes wide as he yelled, “What do you mean I still have pink hair?! REMUS!”
A/N: Happy Halloween, everyone! At least, it’s the day before Halloween when I posted this chapter. So, anyone have any favorite parts of this story? I would love to hear them! Hearing anything back from you guys makes me an incredibly happy writer!
Write a Review Goodbye James, Hello Derek: 18: From Letters to Words