Chapter 4 : Chapter 4: Picnics and Polyjuice
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Although it only took a few days for Emmalena’s ankle to heel, Remeus had made a point of visiting her daily, cradling in his arms a cluster of parchments with notes from the classes she was missing, and flowers from the grounds of the castle. The warm sun brought beautiful blooms to the school’s bountiful gardens and lined the hedgerows and pathways in light pastels and vivid fragrances, which Remeus brought in to her bedside.
This tradition had continued on that morning when Remeus presented her with a bouquet of larkspur he had found by the lake. It was a weekend and the group had decided to make the most of the summer by having a picnic together and swimming in the cool, fresh water. The girls had made the food, and had laid out a magnificent spread of sweet and savoury treats in multi shaped dishes and plates, over the gingham chequered rug they had set out under the shade of one of the school’s broad oak trees. Kayleigh had invited Ben, who had obliged carrying the basket of cupcakes she baked from the main building. Although Peter had been reluctant to attend, murmuring here and there about the risks associated with deep water and the diseases one could catch from the reeds, the teens were largely content, happily dressed in their casual clothes, rather than the mass of black cloaks and starched white shirts.
Watching the happy couples side by side, Ashli sighed slightly. She had sat herself next to Sirius, or rather pressed herself between the former and James all too willingly. Now that Kayleigh and Ben had officially been dubbed an item, she was the only one of the group not to have a date for the ball. “Well Peter hasn’t either,” Lilly had reminded her, though she had ignored this, primarily because she still hoped that Sirius might ask her to go with him. She knew well, that despite his insistent defiance, that the shaggy haired boy would be wasted on hiding in the side-lines as James went after Lilly; and she was determined that he should be her date.
As it stood now however, Sirius seemed completely oblivious to her, having set his eyes on a number of food items. She was tempted to nudge him sharply with her elbow, but it would do little good. Sirius was not as eloquent with knowledge as Ben who was discussing at length a rare species of butterfly with Kayleigh. Nor was he was honest and romantic as Remeus who was holding Emmalena's head in his lap stroking her long soft brown hair as she read to them both. He was to a point as flamboyant as James, though he seemed more interested in pastries and switching his bottles of lemonade for Butterbeer when he thought none were looking.
It would be far easier to find a boy who returned her gaze, and a number of boys had expressed interest in her from the Gryffindor common room, or even a few Hufflepuff boys who had nodded toward her across the Quiditch pitch when the school houses competed for sporting glory. But here she was smiling and sighing as Sirius continued his antics. Love she decided was complicated, and it would take more than a few tarot cards and the recommended scholarly thesis for her to understand it.
Hearing her friend sigh, Emmalena sat up, leaning forwards to the spread of food, to whisper into her friend’s ear. “You okay Ashli?”
Ashli nodded, numbly, mustering what she hoped was a convincing smile.
Emmalena acknowledged her and picked up one of the bread rolls from the rug, a small plan already circulating in her mind. Drawing a paper napkin underneath the roll, she discretely jotted a few notes down using the small pocket quill she kept in her pocket, with a soft smile; determining to tell the other girls later. It was time to do a little detective work.
That night, sitting at the foot of their beds, Emmalena, Kayleigh, Lilly and Ashli were sat in animated conversation, a selection of books from their potions classes and the library had been propped open, including Moste Potente Potions by Phineas Bourne. This book was usually in the restricted section of the school library, but thankfully Emmalena’s role as a Library Prefect came in very useful for sourcing the more obscure material including how to make Polyjuice Potion.
What took more persuading was asking Lilly to help brew it. Although it would take a month to prepare. it was fair to say that out of the four of them, Lilly was the best at Potions class. In addition, whilst she would not admit it, she was exceptionally good at sourcing ingredients due to her friendship with a fellow sixth year, Severus Snape – who was in Slytherin. Since she had started becoming close to James, this friendship had weaned a little in the past year or so, but she could still count on him to help her, although none of the others were exactly sure why.
Still, Lilly was more concerned about the nature of their task, presenting her inner conflict as both wanting to help Ashli and being caught out especially with the decision by their headmaster to bring forward the recommendations of students and staff for the posts of Head Girl and Boy. A role, she was hoping to claim for herself.
Kayleigh on the other hand, had insisted to her of how accomplished she was at spells, and should not panic, as they were unlikely to be caught out if they were sensible, and stuck to their positions and duties in this mission. They were after all, not known in the school as the Marauder Girls for nothing.
The girls had initially drawn lots to decide who would take the potion. Having experienced the sickly smell of a brewing pot via Slughorn’s demonstration in their sixth year, they all remembered with a slight grimace the fate that would befall one of them. Ashli reasoned however, that it would be pointless her attempting to ask Sirius herself; pretend boy or not she had a habit of fidgeting with her glasses, in a manner that was instantly recognisable. That, and she most likely would have found herself tongue tied if trying to talk to her crush. Lilly had also escaped the duty, since she would need to brew and hide the potion, using a number of follow on spells to mask the odour in their room, should it cling to the girl’s dormitory like a stubborn stain.
So, the duty had fallen to Emmalena and Kay. Pinching her nose Emmalena lifted her goblet in time with her best friend, quietly going over the fine details of their plan a final time. They were to become fifth year boys, using aliases from some of their textbooks. It was a risky plan, but with the exception of Remeus, the boys were unlikely to notice, since they were rarely glued to their studies, and usually dedicated their time to discussing Quidditch, pranks or playing games of Wizard’s Chess and Exploding Snap.
Then they drank.
Eyes blurring slightly in pain, Emmalena decided that the potion tasted far worse than it smelt. Once the burning had subsided, she rushed to the dormitory’s long mahogany mirror, giving herself a quick once over, grateful that they had already changed into the boy’s slate grey uniform. A pair of hazel eyes blinked back at her, under a mop of strawberry blonde hair. “This is…”
“Surreal,” murmured Kay, who had joined her, downing a glass of water from the pitcher on her bedside table. At least she hoped it was Kay, dressed in matching robes and dark black hair; and speaking in a reedy, nasal tone, quite unlike her natural voice.
Had this been another moment in time, the two might have giggled at each other, or taken a photograph, but not now. Tapping her watch Lilly assured them they would have an hour or so at most to find out what they wanted, so now was the optimum time to enter the boy’s quarters without arousing suspicion.
The first thing that greeted them in the opposite sex’s rooms was the smell. It was a grim, sickly scent comprised of musk, aftershave and hormones. Emmalena silently thought to herself that she should thank Remeus for always washing himself, rather than wasting his time on expensive liquors and seedy magazines. Working angles at different parts of the dormitory, they had planned to make their excuses at the 45 minute mark, allowing them enough time to slip back unnoticed.
Emmalena who had introduced herself as a boy named Newt had taken up a post with an unsuspecting Peter, over a game of Gobstones, whilst Kay had taken up a pair of Quiditch boots and was polishing them in a rather determined and vigorous manner. Although her eyes were downcast, she was keenly listening to everything around her, including the cluster of Marauders.
“So,” she said drawing a ruby coloured stone onto the board. “I heard that the girls have got really excited about that Yule Ball coming up.”
“Oh, umm, yeah,” Peter replied, scratching his head a little in such a vigorous manner that flakes of dandruff drifted onto the collar of his burgundy and brown gingham pyjama top. “I suppose so.”
“They’re gonna be dressed up real good.” Emmalena reassured him, “I was thinking of asking that Huston girl out, you know?”
“What Ashli Huston?” Peter asked, or rather squeaked, curiosity clearly getting the better of him. It was a rare thing for him to be involved in gossip or conversations with anyone directly, and he seemed to relish it; despite his nerves. His fingers twitched slightly as he drew his playing piece across the board.
“Who else?” Emmalena continued slowly. “She’s always been so kind and attentive towards me in the common room.”
“Oh yeah?” Peter answered again, nerves faulting him slightly, Kayleigh stepped in, hoping to steer the oblivious Marauder in the right direction.
“Ashli?” she repeated. “I thought that she was Sirius Black’s girlfriend right?”
Her eyes probing Peter’s for answers.
Again Pettergrew’s nerves faltered. “Oh..um, sort of.”
“Sort of?” Emmalena asked, quickly exchanging a glance with Kay, trying to supress a rather large grin.
Peter gulped. “Well, I don’t think he’s asked her out yet, but umm, umm.”
Emmalena mouthed quietly to Kay, “Got him,” over Wormtail’s shoulder.
Now they just need confirmation. Kay asked: “So he likes her then?”
“Uh, Yeah.” Pettigrew affirmed.
“Black likes who?” asked a voice behind them, as Sirius Black, James Potter and Remeus Lupin entered the Gryffindor Common Room.
James Potter’s sharp eyes narrowed in curiosity, no doubt both interested in the latest gossip, and determining to maintain his best friend’s image. This was slightly frustrating to the girls; given the time restraints imposed on them by the potion, but then had the shoe been on the other foot, they would have done the same.
James took the seat immediately next to Peter, studying the Gobstones board, his hands almost lazily moving one piece in a counter motion. “Careful Peter,” he whispered, loud enough for everyone else to hear, “You might give up the game too easily.”
Remeus chuckled, sitting next to Emmalena, slopping his body forward slightly as he leaned towards her. For a brief moment their eyes met, and Emmalena wondered if he recognised her, even in her new temporal form. Her heart felt like it would beat out of its chest, quickening with each thud, thud, thud. But if he did, he said nothing, instead looking to the board again. “Give the fourth year a break.” He said gently, moving the foremost ruby stone again. “They’re still learning.”
“I’m not bad,” Emmalena replied, trying to maintain her composure. “It’s Pettigrew who is struggling.”
“Hey!” Protested Peter, almost feebly, though his response was overridden by the other Marauder’s laughter.
“He’s got you there,” Sirius replied, ruffling Peter’s hair roughly, then redirected his question.
“So who do I fancy?”
“I heard it was that Hudson girl,” replied Kay, taking a moment to glance at the clock. They had about five minutes to go, although she was already beginning to feel the familiar tingle she had during the transformation in her left foot. She stood sharply. “But, it’s just a silly rumour right? Come on Newt let’s go, I got to check the Owlery, Mum’s sent me some fudge.”
Emmalena nodded, taking the cue. She was just about to follow Kay out of the common room, when she felt a hand placed gently on her arm. Whirling round, she found Remeus stood before her, his other hand out stretching with the bag of Gobstones.
“Here, take these to practice with,” He murmured gently, his hazel eyes meeting hers, before whispering in her ear with a soft warm breath. “I know it’s you.”
Fear and shock immediately swept over her face, as Emmalena felt her cheeks begin to burn. But this was not the slight twinge she was expecting from the Polyjuice, merely a sudden rush of nausea. Remeus’ hand had subtly taken hers, Emmalena shook her head, and dismissing him in what she hoped was a convincing manner.
“I don’t know who you mean,” she answered quietly, more than definitely.
Remeus stepped back, releasing her hand. Confusion and hurt creeping into his expression. “Perhaps, I was mistaken.” He muttered, still trying to read her gaze.
“Moony come on,” came James’ voice, as he waved to him from the table, where Sirius and Peter were setting up a new game of Wizard’s chess.
“Coming,” Remeus replied turning back to them for a moment, before looking back for the strange young boy who had been trembling quietly beside him, who reminded him so subtly of the girl he loved.
But the boy, or Emmalena, or whoever it had been, had gone. The portrait of the Fat Lady swinging slightly with vocal protest, in his wake; and the Gobstones bag left on the ground, open slightly with its loosened golden thread.
Unsure of where Kayleigh had gone, Emmalena ran on blindly down the corridor, her robes were dragging slightly along the ground as her legs and arms changed back to their natural form. She determined not to call after her friend straight away, afraid that Remeus might be following her certain that she would not know how to explain herself if he confronted her now.
In contrast to the Marauder boys, the girls usually were less tricksters and more the thinkers of the group; and whilst the use of Polyjuice potion would no doubt demonstrate their shrewd thinking, she could not begin to guess how he might react knowing she had used a potentially dangerous spell on herself.
Tears welled in her eyes as she ran, Emmalena headed out onto the grounds, where she hoped to find Rubeus Hagrid’s hut. Although it had taken a little begging, the girls had asked him to look after their normal robes whilst they carried out their plan. Hagrid had been happy to help, if bemused and she looked in the dark of the night for the familiar flickering gold lamps that would greet her within the shack-like building.
Reaching out to wipe her face, she tripped on the large, baggy robes, slipping down on to the grass and landed with a slight thud. Temporarily winded she lay still for a moment, trying to reach for her wand from the inner folds of the cloak she was wearing, hopeful that she was far away from the castle to use a lighting spell to guide her onwards. But her fingers felt numb, closing she eyes she thought to count to ten; and give herself the composure necessary to go on.
Kayleigh brushed herself off as she straightened in front of the small cracked mirror in Hagrid’s hut, grateful at being back in her own clothes and the warm tankard of pumpkin juice that the groundskeeper had placed before her with a slight thud.
“So how did it go?” asked the giant, his large hands rummaging around with a spoon and a large pot of what she surmised was stew. The giant was only a few years older than herself, but he had always had a soft spot for the Marauders group who made a regular point of visiting him.
“Great, I think,” Kay murmured, trying not to pinch her nose at the taste of the drink, which was apt in colour if not in flavour to what she had been expecting.
“Yer like it?” Hagrid asked earnestly, turning to her, she smiled gulping a little, trying not to burn her throat. She nodded, breathlessly and decided to kindly deflect the question.
“We found out that Sirius does like Ashli.”
“That’s good,” Hagrid said satisfied, turning back to the pot. “But where’s Emmalena? Shouldn’t she be back now?”
Kayleigh turned her head, thoughtfully. “That’s true,” she replied. “I thought she was right behind me.”
Hagrid looked at her sharply, dropping the ladle with a sharp plop. “Ye mean she’s still out there?”
Kay nodded, standing to her feet. “We should go look for her!”
They had barely made the door when a sharp knock came from outside. Tearing it open Hagrid peered down to notice a breathless, but fearful Remeus Lupin who spoke in sharp raspy breaths.
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