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With Half the Flick and Twice the Magic (Day One)

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Sirius looked frantically right and left, with the countenance of a man mere moments from tearing out his own hair. "WHERE'S THE CAR?" he screamed. "WHERE'S THE SODDING CAR?"

There was a pause – a long, still moment in which Sirius continued to clutch at his hair and make pained, gurgling noises in the back of his throat. All around him there was calm, eerie quiet.

Finally, James spoke. "Too much?" he asked, looking over toward Remus who was watching the proceedings with a calculating air.

"A little," Remus said, thoughtfully. "I'm not sure McGonagall will understand the cunning reference to Muggle television, no matter how closely our own escapades match those on The Sweeney."

Sirius looked deflated. "We have got to make use of a getaway car before we leave this place," he said, emphatically. "Otherwise my manhood will shrivel and die and I will live my life as a eunuch, singing at weddings, and dying alone." He paused. "Of shame," he threw in to make his point especially clear.

Remus raised an eyebrow. "Can't have your bits shrivelling," he said. "Think of the general heartbreak when that news got out."

"Thank you," said Sirius, nodding his complete agreement.

Peter raised his hand. "Are we still doing a kitchen run?" he asked plaintively. "It's been at least an hour since dinner. At least."

Sirius huffed. "I'll go with you. I'm going to need double my usual share of all things treacle if I'm to get over my shocking disappointment." He plastered a mournful look upon his face. "And no pudding for you," he added, gesturing toward Remus.

"Not even if I help you with the hex you've been fudging?" asked Remus innocently. "The one to make someone's trousers fall off, tie themselves in a bow, and begin singing ''You are My Sunshine' to the nether regions of the poor unfortunate who's now exposed?"

Sirius drew in a breath. "You know how to do that?" he asked, his voice quavering with sudden, stunned reverence.

"Of course," Remus shrugged.

"Oh, I will bring you pudding," murmured Sirius, quivering with joy. "I will bring you pudding! Peter! This is now a moral imperative. This is urgent! This must be done right away."

"Peter's already gone," James pointed out.

"Right," said Sirius, and bolted for the door.

~*~

It was the great guarded secret of all things Marauder that Remus Lupin was the Supreme Overlord of all things prank. While James and Sirius were powerhouses of original thinking, and even Peter could be counted on for the occasional prank or two (provided they involved food, the use of women's undergarments, or both) it was Remus who possessed the cool intellect to refine abstract suggestions into world-class mischief. James had often wondered if it wasn't prudent to be the tiniest bit terrified of Remus. Peter certainly was, but then there wasn't much that didn't terrify Peter on some level or another. James merely had a very strong and passionate respect for someone as criminally devious as Moony McPrankster (a nickname James had concocted and liked to keep to himself, thank you very much).

It was Remus, for example, who had suggested that if you were going to make people dance on the tables in the Great Hall, the least you could do was enchant their robes to turn into authentic bull-fighting costumes at the sound of a castanet. And it was Remus who thought (in one of his most brilliant moments, James felt) to alter Flitwick's favourite combustion charm so that when cast as a blanket spell over the entire castle it made everyone, including Dumbledore -- including Dumbledore! -- fart at exactly the same time.

James sighed happily whenever he remembered that day. There'd been a small inquiry at the Ministry about the incident - having heard the noise, several area Muggle families had called local newspapers, convinced the Woolly Mammoth had returned to Scotland. And the smell - oh how the smell had lived on in memory and singed nostril hairs for months afterward. The Fart Prank was such a work of terrible genius it was hard to pick the best part (despite the fact that the Marauders voted on the question with stunning regularity) - the Ministry being unable to identify the instigators of the affair, or the smell of ripe goat cheese, cat food, and sulphur that permeated everything for exactly thirty-one and a half days.

When Remus became a Gryffindor prefect, Sirius and Peter had worried that their plans for school-wide domination, a place in the history books, and infamy for all time would come to naught. James, however, had very nearly swooned in his awe.

"That clever bastard," he'd whispered, mouth agape in shock as he read Remus' owl at the supper table one evening.

"James?" his mother had asked cautiously, spooning out spinach. She adored Remus, but had a natural and healthy inclination to be wary of anyone her son respected.

"That brilliant -- HOW DID I NOT THINK OF THIS?" James had cried in response, flinging himself from his seat and thundering up the stairs to his room. He'd slammed the door shut and fallen dramatically to his bed, allowing himself just a moment to collect himself before scrabbling for a quill and parchment. His reply to Remus had been just the tiniest bit incoherent:

LUPIN YOU ARE A BRILLIANT ARSING ARSE AND I WANT TO HAVE YOUR
BABIES! GERAGJJKIRRRR! DO YOU REALIZE? DO YOU EVEN UNDERSTAND? UNLIMITED
ACCESS! OH GOD IN HEAVEN THE PREFECTS BATHROOM! BUBBLES!

When Remus met up with the rest of the Marauders at Platform9 ¾ on September 1st, he had a shiny new badge and a plan.

"You gave me an idea, James," he said, pronouncing 'idea' as 'ide-er,' which he only ever did when he was too excited to even wet himself.

Sirius stopped bouncing (thankfully he had limited himself to the balls of his feet on this occasion - none of them were anxious to repeat the pogo-stick incident of the year before) and pricked up his ears as much as any human could. "Idea?" he asked, vibrating gently. "Idea? What idea? Tell, tell, tell."

"Bubbles," James said, nodding like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

"No," Remus corrected. "Unlimited access."

There was a short silence as the other three Marauders looked at one another blankly.

"Sex?" whispered Sirius at last.

Remus rolled his eyes. "I have unlimited access to nearly everything that is off-limits to you lot. That means everything. Potion supplies, advanced charms work, the restricted section in the library."

"Dirty pictures?" Peter said hopefully.

Remus ignored him. "I think," he said, "we should make a map."

And that was the moment. Once the idea of the Marauders Map was born James gave it up for nothing and declared Remus the Supreme Overlord of all things prank.

~*~

"Do you really know the finer points of the trouser-singing hex?" James asked, leaning against his own bedpost while examining a sheet of meticulously neat notes on voice-swapping spells. (Remus might have been a criminal mastermind, but he was first and foremost an anal retentive geek who liked to colour code Marauder research and separate things into labelled piles).

"James," Remus said. "I practically invented that hex."

"Cocky bastard, aren't you?" James said absently, his eyes scanning the columns of numbers and letters. Ancient Runes had been a godsend; less than half the flicking action and twice the magic. "You know, I'm not entirely sure we've got the middle part right. Seems to me there should be something hereabouts." He pointed and Remus came to stand at his side, peering over his shoulder. "Doesn't seem likely it would jump straight from . . . "

"You're right. I hadn't thought of that," Remus cut in. "We should -- fuck! We've been working on this one for weeks!"

James clapped him on the shoulder. "Easy, man. I know. It's frustrating. But we must march on! With only two brains working on this instead of our usual three -- "

Remus flopped back on the mattress. "Right. What is with Sirius, lately? He used to be so handy when it came to matters of enormous criminal import."

James walked round the bed and plucked a quill from Peter's desk. "It's your arse, mate. He's gone mad for it."

Remus sighed deeply. "Oh, haven't we all?"

James thoughtfully scratched his nose with the quill. "You know what we haven't worked out?" he asked.

Remus propped himself up a little. "What?"

"Whose voices we're swapping." He wiggled an eyebrow, communicating an emotion that seemed stranded somewhere between devilment and the terribly pressing urge to pee.

Remus smiled, slowly. "Ahh, the piece de resistance."

"Snape and McGonagall," suggested James.

"McGonagall would have us publicly flogged. Naked. Except for tattoos reading 'I am a total bastard.'" He paused for effect. "She would flog us herself."

James couldn't work out if he was amused or horrified by the thought, so settled for choking. "Snape and Irene Fester?"

"Hmmmm." Remus chewed his lip thoughtfully.

"Too shrill?" asked James, thinking fondly of Irene's high-pitched and surprisingly piercing Welsh brogue.

"No, no, I like the idea of Irene . . . "

James sighed, sitting on the edge of Peter's bed. "Oh please don't tell me you're about to get scruples. Morals, manners, whatever the hell you call those things."

"Scruples are not a disease, James."

"They bring Sirius out in hives."

"Well, yes, but he's a very special case, isn't he?"

James gave a wry smile. "You're going to veto Snape, aren't you?"

"I do rather think that after last week's frilly apron and chipolata sausage incident, the boy has earned a brief respite."

"It's the fact that we got the sausages to actually sizzle that I love," said James, fondly. His eyes glazed over as he relived the memory.

"That and the fact that we managed to pierce his ears from half-a-mile away without him noticing," offered Remus, poking James in the side.

"Alright." James nodded emphatically, snapping back to attention and the battle plan at hand. "Snape cannot be our singular target for at least a week. So who else?"

"Everyone," said Remus, happily.

"Everyone?"

"Everyone," Remus repeated.

James felt himself sweat a little with admiration, and resisted the urge to squirm in his trousers. "Except us?"

"Even us. If we're the only people in the school speaking with our own voices, everyone will know we're at fault."

"Brilliance," breathed James, casting his eyes about for a paper bag in case he should hyperventilate. "People will sing songs about us after this. They will re-enact our escapades, and there will be villagers in every scene. Bards will -- "

" -- experience a sudden renaissance after several hundred years of being unemployed?" asked Remus, amused.

" -- will memorialize us, and your arse for which everyone is mad," said James, grinning.

Remus smiled. "As long as my arse is remembered in proper fashion, I can ask for no more."

~*~

Working out the rest of the Runes took three days, a little longer than scheduled on the plan Remus had stuck to the back of their bedroom door. The delay made Remus huff, forcing James to eventually point out he was being an absolute girl.

The spell was almost beautiful in its simplicity. Originally the Runes were meant to transfer magic from a stronger source to a weaker one. The swapping portion of the spell was easy enough to re-write; all it took was a bit of tweaking that narrowed the items being transferred, a couple of calculations to ensure the voice-swaps were random, five very large bars of Honeydukes chocolate for group sustenance, and fourteen quills (because Sirius had a terrible habit of snapping his in anticipatory joy). After that it was merely a matter of organization.

"Complete list of castle residents?" asked Remus, consulting his checklist.

"Here!" said Peter, holding up the twenty-seven closely written sheets of parchment he'd stolen from the Mysterious Office of Mostly Useless Information on the third floor.

"Each resident given magical identification symbol, often with filthy, secondary meaning?"

"Done!" said Sirius, whose gift for double entendre was a thing of legend.

"Runes re-written to substitute symbols for last number on each row?"

"Urgh," said James, exhausted. This task had fallen to him, and he was tired, speechless, and cross-eyed from the effort.

Remus looked up, eyes shining with an almost manic glee. "We're ready," he announced.

"Arrkal," said James, grinning as he fell over in a stupor.

They cast the spell right before breakfast the following morning. James rather suspected that Supreme Overload Moony McPrankster knew a little more about the spell than he was letting on, but let that suspicion drift away on a tide of excitement and a particularly satisfying wrestling match with Sirius under the Gryffindor dining table. Sirius was, above all else, a wriggly little bastard, and James took an elbow to the eye before he was able to inflict a dubiously legal knee to the belly in return.

"You flea-bitten fucksack!" James swore.

Sirius disentangled himself quickly, pushing his hair out of his eyes. "My God, you sound just like . . . " He clapped his hands over his own mouth. "I sound just like . . . "

"It's working," Remus murmured in an eerie, sing-song voice as he glanced about the Hall. All around them students and teachers began clapping hands over their mouths and clutching at their throats, horrified expressions fixed upon their faces. Over at the Hufflepuff table someone fainted.

Sirius and James poked their heads up from under the table. James goggled in Remus' direction. "You! You sound like..."

Peter watched everything wide-eyed. "Did it work on me too?"

All three remaining Marauders faced him, open-mouthed.

It was a red-letter day.

~*~

McGonagall paced her office, her normally neat and precise appearance more than a little rumpled and haggard. "I don't know how you did it, but I want you to undo it. Right. Now."

It was hard to take the good professor seriously when the voice coming out of her mouth was no longer hers, but instead the raspy baritone of Earl Berstrode, the eighteen year old, Slytherin sixth year, who was seven feet tall and had more body hair than most land mammals.

James sunk his teeth into his lower lip, trying to bite away the smile and the rather suicidal urge to laugh.

Sirius shifted in his seat and beamed up at the professor, the very surface of his skin slick with charm. "Professor, I assure you; we had nothing to do with it." And wasn't that just abso-bloody-lutely the most surreal and beautiful thing James had ever witnessed? McGonagall's voice coming out of Sirius's mouth. He steadied himself as his eyes threatened to roll back in his head in ecstasy.

"Mr Black, please don't talk until this entire . . . thing has been taken care of and everyone has regained their proper and intended voice." McGonagall raised a fierce eyebrow at them all.

Sirius continued to smile in a deranged fashion. "Of course, Professor! And may I just pledge my unwavering support in finding the dirty scoundrels who did this? I will not rest --"

"THANK YOU, MR BLACK!" McGonagall boomed, sounding not unlike an enraged dinosaur. Sirius snapped his mouth shut.

"Ma'am," Remus hedged. He was most likely trying to adopt the voice of one who frequently dealt with small, frightened animals, but had (poor, poor bastard) ended up with Snape's oily drawl. "Might I suggest something?"

McGonagall, eyes bright and murderous, inclined her head toward Remus. Somehow even her nod communicated unmitigated fury. "Mr Lupin?"

Remus' face fell into what had, among the Marauders, become known as The Prefect Mug. His eyebrows rose slightly, suggesting an innocence that simply didn't exist. His mouth set into a responsible line, with the tiniest, mocking upturn at the corners if you knew how to spot it. Which James did.

Remus Lupin was such a fraud.

"It seems obvious that this is a spell based upon the Alphuzhirrim principle in Ancient Runic law," Remus offered. "And as we all know, any Alphuzhirrim incantation has a very limited shelf life."

"Because of the built-in paradigm of Locksley's Return...." murmured McGonagall, nodding sagely.

Good God, he's actually seducing her with bloody Runic theory, thought James with dumbstruck admiration.

"Exactly," continued Remus. "That means that this spell cannot last more than...." He frowned, as if puzzling out a particularly difficult calculation. "I'm sorry Professor, remind me of the rate of dissipation during the first quarter of the moon?"

"Two days at the most," said McGonagall, tapping one finger against her chin. "I see your point."

"It would perhaps be better to let the spell run its course," affirmed Remus. "And conduct a thorough search for the culprits rather than a hasty one?" He shuffled his feet before artfully arranging his features to suggest the distant threat of tears. "I cannot be more anxious than you to regain my own voice," he said, the sound of Snape appearing to cause him actual pain. He gestured feebly toward his throat

McGonagall eyed them all narrowly, suspicion writ plain upon her face. "I'll take your suggestion under advisement, Mr Lupin," she said, much of the sentence sounding rather like a series of catastrophic belches. "Now go," she continued, waving her hand dismissively. Peter bolted for the door like a greyhound released from a trap.

"And dear Professor, please don't hesitate to call on us if we can be of further assistance," smiled Sirius, his voice coloured by a sensual note that came from Minerva McGonagall's most private and guarded reserves.

"OUT!" yelled their Head of House, her thunderous roar causing several flagstones to crack.

James counted them all deliciously lucky that Hogwarts staff were prohibited from turning students into toads.

~*~

"Peter Pettigrew!"

Peter thanked several universal powers of peace and harmony that he'd just used the bathroom, and therefore could not actually pee with fright on the stairwell. His ability to lie, evade, dodge, and mislead had grown by leaps and bounds under the patient tutelage of Messrs. Potter and Black, but the voice of Albus Dumbledore always threatened to undo every finely tuned layer of Marauder training as if it had never existed. "Sir?" he answered, fearing to turn around and face the Headmaster. Summoning his Gryffindor courage, Peter thanked God he had been blessed with Lily Evans' effortlessly respectful voice. He shuddered to think how a person would muster the proper level of supplication in the face of wrath if cursed with the voice of a Narcissa Black or a Will Forster (Ravenclaw, sixth year, desperate halitosis).

Someone whapped Peter up the back of the head. "Mornin' Pete," said Dumbledore, as the cheerful face of Andromeda Black came into view.

"Oh!" Peter took a couple of seconds to piece everything together, squinting at Sirius's older cousin. "You got Dumbledore?"

Andromeda gave him a cheery thumbs up. "Bloody brilliant, isn't it?" She tilted her head. "And you're Evans?"

Peter nodded. "It's a bit weird, sounding like a girl." He grinned, thinking of James's flabbergasted reaction. "But it's kinda fun."

"I kinda like sounding like a bloke," mused Andromeda. "But then I 'spect that has something to do with which bloke you sound like, huh?" She patted her lips with the fingers of her right hand. "Dead strange to hear old Dumbly's voice without all those damn whiskers in the way, mind."

Peter briefly wondered at Andromeda's insistence on shortening, altering, and generally mangling everyone's names. "Dumbly?" he said, askance.

"Yeah, Dumbly." She grinned. "Come on, don't you just want to pinch his cheeks and pat that snowy white head?"

Peter, who had never possessed the urge to pinch anyone on the cheek, much less the headmaster of the school, looked at Andromeda as if Nifflers were growing from her forehead. "You're mad," he managed at last.

"Family tradition," she chuckled, completely unfazed. "So - how'd you do it?"

Peter made a small 'O' of caution with his mouth as his Marauder training kicked in. "Who says we did anything?"

Andromeda tried to cackle, but the extra power of Dumbledore's voice simply made her laughter boom and echo off the walls. "Come on, Pete. I'm not bloody stupid."

Peter wrinkled his nose distastefully. He wasn't a Pete. He was a Pet-er, with a very important R, and was it really so hard to stretch for that second syllable? "I don't know anything," he said, lifting his chin and beginning to walk towards the DADA classroom. "I know nothing at all."

"Evans voice sounds good on you!" yelled Andromeda as her parting shot.

It took Peter a while to separate the sentiment from the voice, and to assure himself that one of the most powerful wizards in Britain wasn't suggesting he'd do better in life as a girl.

~*~

For her part, it took Lily Evans less than two hours to corner James in the corridor outside the Potions classroom and knee him in the bollocks. Writhing in pain on the stone floor, he allowed himself to think on how typical the situation was. Evans had always had a bit of a problem with rage, James felt. And even if she had ended up with Sirius's voice, she could at least try to see the humour in the situation.

"James Potter!" she yelled, her usual righteous and long-suffering indignation sounding completely ludicrous in Sirius's devil-may-care tones.

James rolled and sat up. He tried to take a deep breath, but no, his dick was still in his throat. "Evans," he wheezed. "Evans, you just killed my unborn children!"

"Then I consider it my good deed for the day," she spat, quite literally. James wiped the bit of spittle from above his left eyebrow, eyed her warily, and tried not to snort with laughter. She really did look and sound completely ridiculous.

"Um," he said.

"Are you LAUGHING? I'm in the choir, you insufferable PLANK! I have a solo in two days!"

"You don't even know that it was me!"

Lily rolled her eyes expressively. "Oh, don't I?" She grabbed him by the collar. "Fix this. And then go die." James watched fondly as she stalked down the corridor.

"I'm so in love," he sighed dreamily, oblivious to the preposterous sound of such words leaving his mouth in the most love-struck peep Professor Flitwick had ever produced.

~*~

By lunchtime a staff meeting had been called. It was an unusual occurrence, but then it was the most unusual of days.

"Friends, friends," said Dumbledore, in the girlish squeak of Primrose Stevenson, a first-year Ravenclaw girl. "It's mothe kind of you to athemble at thuch short notice." Primrose, poor benighted child that she was, had a lisp.

"This is an outrage!" snarled Belladonna Valerian, the Dark Arts professor. Her usually cultured voice snagged and jarred on the edges of Frank Longbottom's earthy burr.

"Agreed!" said Carnation Tronchbit, Professor of Divination, whose parents had applied the general principle of naming girls after flowers to rather tragic effect. Carnation could at least comfort herself with the knowledge that - unlike her sisters - she was not named Thistle, Cactus, or Privet. "I would appreciate the return of my voice. And I am quite sure Edmund Dunstable," - a third year Hufflepuff whose voice was only just breaking - "would like the return of his!" She coughed, her last few words having soared two octaves above all the rest.

McGonagall raised one eyebrow in Tronchbit's direction. "Could you not have warned us of this impending disaster, Carnation?" she asked, her usual sarcasm somewhat dulled by Earl's belch-empowered voice.

Tronchbit waved a lace covered hand in McGonagall's direction. "What is to be done?" she asked.

Dumbledore beamed, the mad twinkle in his eye suggesting he rather enjoyed sounding like an 11-year-old girl. "The thpell will run ith course," he simpered, rocking back and forth on his feet, hands clasped behind his back.

Velarian spluttered in outrage. "But the culprits must be caught and punished!"

"And we all know who's to blame," put in Slughorn, the Potions professor. He smacked his wand repeatedly into his palm, the gesture quite expressive of his displeasure at being afflicted by Andromeda Black's unrelenting cheerfulness.

There was a general grumble of assent. "James Potter," said Hortus Bentley, the groundskeeper. He smiled a little dangerously. It was a delicious thing, to point the finger at a student using that student's own voice.

"Potter, you thay?" said Dumbledore, all innocence.

"And Black," threw in Valerian.

Tronchbit nodded emphatically. "Perhaps even that Pettigrew boy."

Slughorn gave his palm a particularly hard smack. "Lupin."

There was an indignant rustle from the far corner of the room. "Remus Lupin is a Prefect and an upstanding student," said Poppy Pomfrey, bristling. She patted her throat as if to soothe Maleficus Parkinson's raspy bass. "I feel sure he had no part in this."

"Oh Pomfrey," said Slughorn, aiming for scorn but landing somewhere closer to the voice usually reserved for cooing over fat babies.

"She's right," said Tronchbit, who by now had closed her eyes and extended a trembling hand before her. "There is no mark of Remus Lupin upon this dastardly act."

"Nice lad, that Lupin. Doesn't seem the type." Bentley shrugged, clearly discomforted to find himself agreeing with anything Tronchbit said.

McGonagall felt a mad bubble of laughter rise up in her throat. "I think you underestimate the boy," she said, carefully, working hard to keep the laughter repressed. A laughing Earl Berstrode was a rare and disconcerting thing to behold, and at on previous occasions had been known to shatter glass.

"The thpell hath ith uthes," said Dumbledore, smiling benevolently. "Perhapth it will teach our thudents and thaff the blethings of tolerence. It ith no thmall thing to walk in another's thoes."

"Albus." McGonagall managed to sound reproachful, despite the obstacles arrayed against her. "Are you serious?"

"I am, Minerva." He tugged happily on his beard. "And bethides, after an illuminating converthathion with Profethor Prethagium thith morning, I believe we are thort on opthionth."

Nigel Presagium, master of Ancient Runes, nodded sagely. "It's true," he said in the grasping-for-courage tones of one Peter Pettigrew. "The spell was expertly done. The magic will fade within two days, and in the meantime?" He spread his hands. "We may do more damage in any effort at reversal than can be wrecked by weathering this inventive prank."

"Besides," put in Dumbledore, looking vastly amused. "I have an inkling whoth voices our thuspects bear. I believe the conthequences may be inthructional enough."

~*~

If there had been a better day in Sirius Black's life he was hard pressed to remember it. This undoubtedly owed something to the spectacular right-hook with which cousin Narcissa had greeted him between History of Magic and Potions. He had to give it to the Black women - they knew just how to bounce a bloke's head off solid stone for maximum effect. But the ringer of it all, the true topper that had periodically caused him to clap his hands over his mouth, muffling a most unmanly yet delighted piglet squeal, was the fact that he had been blessed with the voice of Minerva McGonagall.

Though every student knew that voices were not where they should be that day, there was no undoing the years of training that had taught them to jump to attention when they heard McGonagall's dulcet tones. Sirius of course, saw no reason not to take advantage of such a fact and had spent every spare moment of his morning hiding behind pillars, statues, suits of armour, and curtains, demanding ridiculous behaviour from anyone who walked past.

"Andrew Flinn!" he had shouted, in one particularly satisfying episode. "Do you think the rule that all seventh year boys should hold hands in the corridors does not apply to you?" And Flinn (who had once called first-year Sirius a snot-nosed dipshit) had grabbed for Dennis McTavish and run.

Sadly, by third hour, plaguing the life out of other students was losing its charm. Remus Lupin was where the game was at, Sirius mused - Remus Lupin whose nerves would be jangling so hard by now they'd be playing a pent-up symphony of discord that only a virtuoso like Sirius Black could truly appreciate.

Sirius knew few things satisfied Remus quite like a perfectly executed spell, and there was little doubt that the morning's prank had been faultless. The Runes ensured there was no way for the magic currently wrecking havoc on staff and student alike to be traced back to any of the Marauders, and if McGonagall (and everyone else) might be convinced of their guilt, it was only to be expected. Nearly five years of pranks and general mayhem had helped to develop that particular brand of paranoia.

Sirius grinned, smugly. It wasn't worry that would have Remus ready to crawl out of his own skin by now - it was lust. Chaos made Remus deliciously horny, and Sirius couldn't wait to help assuage that desperate state of affairs. All he had to do was sit back and wait.

"Hello, Sirius," came a voice right by his ear.

Sirius whirled, ready to pop Snape in the jaw, and saw Remus' arch smile instead. "Forgot," grinned Sirius, dropping his hands. "Brilliant how even I can forget."

Remus reached out, slipping a finger underneath Sirius's tie, right under the messily constructed half-Windsor and pulled delicately. The knot loosened on command and Remus smirked.

"It's bloody fantastic," he drawled as he deftly popped the top button of Sirius's shirt. His fingers brushed purposeful circles against the heated skin of Sirius's collarbone.

Sirius felt a flicker of concern pass over his face. It was disconcerting to be spoken to by Severus bloody Snape while harbouring the beginnings of a beautiful erection. But it was Remus who was looking at him with devilment in his gaze, and Remus who was - oh God - licking his lips in a slow, deliberate tease.

"My dear Remus," Sirius murmured in a voice McGonagall had surely never intended any schoolboy to hear, "may I show you my favourite cupboard-under-the-stairs?"

Remus hesitated for a moment, swallowing hard. "Um," he said. "Yes. Yes you may. But I think that maybe...."

"Not so much talking?" Sirius supplied. He anchored a hand on Remus' hip and guided him down the corridor, stopping in front of a crumbly-looking door beside the staircase leading down to the Hufflepuff dorms.

"Sirius, the Hufflepuffs will be scandalized." Remus regarded the door warily.

"They will not. Really, you don't give them enough credit," Sirius reached a hand around to poke at the buckle on Remus' belt as he ushered them both into the cramped store-room. "They won't even hear us," he whispered. Remus shuddered.

"You sound like McGonagall."

"Well, you sound like Snape, which any sane person would know is at least seventy-four times worse. Unless you're the owner of some kinky chip shop who gets off on mixing lard and sex." He grazed Remus' jaw with his teeth. "At least McGonagall has a nice arse. You can think of that if you must. What distraction have I got?"

"How about my arse?" Remus spluttered. "People have been known to go mad for my arse!"

Sirius snorted, his brain briefly threatening to explode at the praise Snape's voice had just heaped on Remus' behind. He settled for a half-mad bark of laughter. "You daft sod. I am mad for the Lupin arse. I bloody invented the concept. And all of this is completely beside the point when the point is less talking and more humping if you please."

Remus gave a gurgle of something that sounded like pain. "Oh God," he murmured, followed by a firm, "Lumos."

Sirius squinted into the bright light in front of his face. "This your new kink?" he asked, curious.

Remus set the wand down on the stone floor. "Sirius . . ."

"Oh no you don't . . ." Sirius knew that voice, and no level of oozing Snapeage could disguise it. That was the No Sex voice. That was the voice that Sirius hated most, and Remus was forever using it on nights when he had to study, or when they were late for breakfast, or that one time during the middle of that Potions exam. And now apparently he used in dark, under-the-stairs-cupboards, cupboards that bloody existed for sex.

In a blind panic, deciding to veto the tragic idea of No Sex before it began, Sirius shoved his hand down the front of Remus' trousers and pants, curling his fist tight and hot around Remus' half-hard cock.

"Ereheee!" Remus squeaked and Sirius walked into him, moving his hand awkwardly. He backed Remus up against the dusty wall, grazing some odd-smelling mopping supplies on the way. There wasn't much leverage, as he hadn't even bothered to undo Remus' belt and zip, but this wasn't about finesse. It was about convincing Remus that sex was always a Good Thing. A Bloody Fantastic Thing really, if you got right down to it, and Merlin they better.

"Oh . . ." Remus breathed, and tipped his head forward against Sirius's shoulder. He insinuated his hands between them, taking care of his own buckle and zip before moving to the waistband of Sirius's trousers. "Oh God," he moaned when Sirius began to move his hand more fully, pulling on his cock in languid, slow strokes. "That's... ah... good, Sirius."

Sirius cringed. He had assumed - felt it to be one of the fundamental laws of nature - that he would never hear Severus Snape's voice in the throes of passion. It seemed like it should have been one of life's few promises. "Ack," he said.

"What?" Remus panted, his own fingers creeping toward Sirius's erection, which seemed oblivious to the fact that Remus currently sounded like cobwadger oil going down the drain. Sirius bit his lip and throbbed in his pants in anticipation.

"Nothing. Just, you know. Snape." He snaked his free hand around to grope at Remus' insanity-inducing arse.

Remus ground their hips together, pushing away from the wall and making Sirius gasp and squeak. "Yes, well, McGonagall," he said pointedly, curling a hand around the back of Sirius's neck and pulling him close for a shallow kiss.

"Tease. Bloody cock tease," Sirius murmured, as Remus sucked at his neck and his knees threatened to turn to mush.

"Um . . . oh, sod all . . . " Remus said in a resigned voice and pulled away. His hands slipped from Sirius's waist, from Sirius's cock, and Sirius blanched.

"We have moved past the No Sex business, we have moved past it," he panted. "Where the hell do you think you're going?" He circled both fists around Remus' erection, effectively stopping all further No Sex movement.

Remus scrubbed desperately at his face with his hands. "It's... I just heard McGonagall say cock tease and that's --"

Sirius sighed, dramatically. "It's not as if I can help it." He narrowed his eyes and attempted to pull Remus closer.

"Sirius! Delicate bits!" Remus yelled, eyes wide, as Sirius tugged at his cock.

"Well, come over here!" Sirius tried to shuffle closer, but had forgotten about the trousers he wore so fetchingly around his ankles. He stumbled and pitched backwards.

"ARGH!" Remus quickly followed, and they rolled on the filthy floor until Remus was sitting up, straddling Sirius's hips. Sirius had ended up cramped in a corner, his head in a bucket, his hands miraculously still clutching at Remus' poor, abused dick.

There was a laboured quiet as both boys panted for breath.

"I hate you," Remus finally said, the weariness in his voice destroyed by Snape's oily scoff.

"You're still hard," Sirius pointed out, stroking Remus' stiff shaft to demonstrate his point.

"Christ," Remus said, reaching for his wand. "We have got to get you to stop talking!"

"You, too --" Sirius started, but was cut off by a wave of a wand and something muttered in Latin. He opened his mouth to question just what the bloody fuck was going on and why the hell it didn't include more sex, when he realized he couldn't. He tried again, slightly panicked. Still no voice. He looked up to find Remus smirking at him.

"Don't worry," Remus said huskily, and it didn't really matter that it was in an annoying git voice, because Remus was flushed and determined-looking, and most importantly he was steadily rocking his hips against Sirius's, their naked cocks brushing against each other every so often. "I know just how to shut Snape up." He slithered down Sirius's body, giving the latter a fraction of a second to gulp inaudibly before Remus took his erection in his mouth in one long, smooth swallow.

Sirius thumped his head back against the bucket and thought about the fact that Moony was fucking brilliant.

~*~

Peter wasn't really sure why it happened, but it did. Very often people completely forgot he existed.

He conceded that he was a simple sort - round and fond of food. He liked Quidditch, though he wasn't very good at it, and dirt, and snowball fights in the winter. He didn't like homework or being asked questions in class and being expected to know the answer, as he wasn't very fond of thinking (even though he did it pretty well when absolutely forced). Part of the very reason he pal-ed around with James and Remus and Sirius was they did lots of thinking for him, and that was a comforting sort of thing to have going for you in life.

As he plodded from the Great Hall to his first class after lunch, he mused again on the minor miracle of ending up a Marauder. He'd always suspected it had a lot to do with the luck of the draw, the consequence of being thrown into a dorm-room with three fledging pranksters who had a sense of compassion to match their talent for criminal deviancy. It didn't hurt that they needed to protect their plans, either, and by making him part of the group implicated him in everything they did.

Remus had always been the most generous, telling Peter he thought too little of himself and should learn to trust his instincts.

"It's true," James had drawled on the first night of fifth year, slinging an arm around Remus' neck and leaning close into Peter's face. "Deep within your breast beats the heart of a true delinquent. I've a sixth sense about these things, you know."

Sirius had agreed as he pulled an ancient and most noble-looking flask from under his pillow. "You'll have your day in the sun, mate," he'd said, giving Peter the first swig of bootleg firewhiskey. "You'll have your day."

He'd been right. Now, as Peter walked through the halls with a swagger, trailing behind James with an impish grin on his face, he thought of all the ways Sirius had been absolutely right. Despite his trepidation about its beginnings, today was his day. Today was the day no one could forget he
existed.

"Oh, James," he crooned. "Won't you slow down? I can't possibly keep up."

Ahead of him James's back stiffened and he paused mid-stride before throwing a disdainful glance over his shoulder. "You're enjoying this a bit too much," he bit out before resuming his brisk pace.

Peter giggled quietly to himself. There were over one hundred fifty students at Hogwarts. A little more than have of them were girls, and seven of those girls were redheads. To end up with the voice of the woman James coveted . . .

For once he had something James Potter wanted and couldn't have, instead of the other way around. It was truly a gorgeous time to be alive.

~*~

Snape's hands curled into fists whenever he thought about it. It was Lupin, he was sure of it. Lupin and Potter and that insufferable Black, and most likely the short, fat one was involved as well. Snape kept close to the damp walls of the dungeons as he slunk back from his last class of the day and indulged in a series of appropriately lurid and murderous fantasies.

A part of him, a very small insignificant part, was almost impressed. Obviously the spell had something to do with Runes; when he held very still he could feel the pulsing magic hovering just inside his throat. It was a cruel twist of fate (or perhaps simply typical of his life thus far) that he had once scoffed at McGonagall's suggestion that he take Ancient Runes. Instead he had loaded up on advanced Potions and Defence, convinced that was where the most powerful magic could be found. He hated Potter and his cronies for implying with a stupid, schoolboy prank that he'd been wrong - hated them even more than usual.

Suddenly - Snape was sure of it - something grabbed for the back of his neck and he whirled, hissing high in his throat. He stumbled back, stunned all over again, a plaintive "meow" escaping his lips as he reeled with confusion. He felt a humiliating blush creep into his face and clapped a hand over his mouth, looking frantically around the deserted corridor.

Nothing.

Snape turned back toward the Slytherin common room and scowled. He vowed to glue his mouth shut as soon as he locked himself in his dorm.

~*~

They met, just the two of them, in the kitchens every Tuesday night at half-past ten. They called the trysts The Very Important Meetings of Debriefing and Running Down (which was absurdly long and involved but really, they felt confident they'd earned a lot of capital letters in their lives). James went because he never grew tired of deconstructing a particularly satisfying prank. Remus went because he had a demanding anal-retentive streak and James was the only one who would indulge it.

James tripped through the door at forty-two minutes past, flushed and panting. His eyes were the kind of sparkly-bright that usually only happened when aided by illegal substances. He slumped into the chair across from Remus and grinned at him beatifically.

"I love you," he said dreamily.

Remus blinked at the startling pitch of the confession, the voice thing still taking some getting used to. "You're late," he said, choosing sanity over any discussion of James's announcement.

James straightened, though the grin didn't leave his face. "Thought you'd be busy with Sirius. You know," he made a crude gesture with his right hand.

"Yes. I do," Remus replied. "We, uh, finished rather quickly. At lunchtime. The voices, you know . . . "

James's grin widened, and he reached for a grape from the platter of assorted cheeses and fruits that the house elves prepared for them every week. "Right. Of course." He practically choked with hellacious joy on his next thought. "He's McGonagall."

Remus nodded sadly. "Hard work, that." James threw his head back and laughed, the normally joyful sound exploding in Flitwickian titters that could shatter eardrums without too much encouragement at all.

Remus snorted. "Are we ready to begin?"

James sobered immediately. "Yes. Of course."

Remus nodded and turned to the house elf sitting next to him. "Benvy," he said. "We're ready to start now."

"Yes, sir. Is ready sir," the eager creature chirped excitedly, licking the tip of quill and poising it midair over a clean sheet of parchment titled, 'The Very Important Meetings of Debriefing and Running Down: Minutes.'

Remus turned to a different sheet of parchment in front of him and cleared his throat. "This Rundown Meeting --" he began, and then cringed. "Erm," he said and looked at James.

James nodded, understanding. "Seems wrong to have Snape do the talking, doesn't it?"

"Feels traitorous," Remus agreed. "Though," he added, "Flitwick's not much better."

"We could wait," James suggested.

"No, no. We need to get this down for the archives." Remus hummed to himself for a moment before shrugging and continuing. "This Rundown Meeting of the 9th of December, 1976 has now come to session. The time is fifty-one past the hour, and tonight's agenda is the Voice Swapping Charm: Post-Mayhem. Pros and Cons." He peered at James. "Did you bring a list?"

"Yes, of course." James stood up and fished a crumpled piece of folded parchment from the front pocket of his trousers. He unfolded it, flattening out the wrinkles along the edges of the table. Remus rolled his eyes.

"Pro:" James said, sitting down again and reading from the parchment. "It was bloody brilliant and we shall live on in legend, and are mad geniuses, etc., etc., so on and so forth." He leaned back in his chair, propped his feet up on the table, and folded his arms across his chest. Benvy scribbled furiously.

"Con," Remus countered. "It's hard to make your name as a legendary mad genius when you must pretend you didn't do it so as to avoid naked tattooed flogging, etc. in main courtyard."

"I thought McGonagall would only do that if we singled her out?" asked James.

Remus raised an eyebrow. "Earl Berstrode?" he asked.

"Good point." James chewed on his lip for a second. "Pro: a Hufflepuff fainted."

"Con: the transition work was sloppy. Some people swapped voices right away, but there were at least five Ravenclaws who didn't until fourth hour."

James scoffed. This was how their meetings usually went; James was always utterly convinced that everything they had done was brilliant and Remus nitpicked at every detail. "You arsed-minger perfectionist," he peeped. A slow smile crossed his face. "But I've got a pro for you - Snape's gone kitty."

Remus opened his mouth to counter with another con before snapping it closed again and looking at James, bewildered. "What?"

"Snape," James said, gleefully, Flitwick's voice transmitting on new and frightening frequencies. "He's gone kitty!"

"What do you mean Snape's gone kitty?"

It was pure joy to listen to Snape inquire about his own person in such a befuddled and vaguely frightened voice. James sighed in satisfaction. "He got Mrs Norris."

"He -- what?"

"Mrs Norris. Snape got Mrs Norris's voice." James beamed at his friend, his eyes rather wet. He suspected he might cry from happiness. "Be sure you get this down, Benvy," he said to the house elf, who squeaked and assured him she would, writing double time.

Remus rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "That's . . . interesting. I didn't think we gave Mrs Norris a magical identification code."

James shrugged. "Peter must've. You know how he gets confused."

Remus nodded. "I do." He looked back to his parchment, as if ready to get back to the business at hand. "Con: the cycle of the Runes . . . . " He looked up again. "James . . . fuck!"

James kicked up, startled by the outburst, and toppled backward. He poked his head up over the side of the table. "What? WHAT?"

Remus stared at him. "If Snape got Mrs Norris . . . then who did Mrs Norris get?"

~*~

The question was just one of many that kept Remus awake that night, staring at the canopy above his bed. Speaking with someone else's voice had been, he had to admit, bloody exhausting. His brain felt sluggish, overtaxed, and weary from the constant mental shock of hearing another speak the words he had intended to say. He smiled ruefully - exhaustion didn't mean his brain would shut up, however. A litany of particularly priceless moments played on endless repeat in his mind - James as Flitwick singing Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds; Sirius as McGonagall, holding forth on the best ways to maim your enemy; Peter begging them all to go to bed and James nearly passing out from the shock of being pseudo-propositioned by Evans.

Remus shifted slightly, letting his eyes drift closed. He suspected he wasn't the only one lying awake - Peter and James were suspiciously quiet, a quiet that spoke of deep thoughts rather than deep sleep. The only noise in the room was coming from Sirius's bed - the long slide of a body between sheets, the knocks and dull thuds of someone fumbling for something on their nightstand, the mutter of Latin and the fall of a wand. Remus felt his jaw drop as he processed the muttered words.

"Lads?" he said, Snape's voice drizzling from his lips like oil. In the dark of the dormitory, it may as well have been Snape himself who spoke - there was nothing to indicate that wasn't the case.

"Sleep," peeped Flitwick.

"Yeah, sleep," agreed Evans.

Remus suppressed a mad attack of laughter as he heard the shift of fabric in the bed next to his. "I don't think any of us will be getting much sleep for a while," he offered.

On cue, McGonagall seemed to moan very low from Sirius's bed.

"Oh God," came Flitwick's whimper. "Sirius please, for one night . . . "

"He can't hear you."

"What?" James lifted his head, the shift barely discernable in the dark.

"He cast what he thought was a silencing spell," came Snape's amused reply. "But he must be feeling as muddled as the rest of us." He paused as McGonagall let out another aching, appreciative moan. "He cast a spell to prevent himself from hearing anything, instead of us."

"Oh no," moaned Evans.

Horrified but fascinated, they fell silent, the sheer lunacy of the situation stilling their tongues. The night air sparked with the sound of shifting fabric, the soft smack of a tongue against a palm, and Minerva McGonagall's delighted sigh as she fell back to the task of thorough self-love.

"Mmmmm," she murmured. "Oh feels so fucking good."

From his bed, James let loose a hysterical yelp, followed by high pitched giggles. The sound of Flitwicks's dainty laugh rolling in counterpoint to McGonagall's earnest moans proved to be the single most scarring and painful thing Remus had yet experienced in his young life. He pinched the bridge of his nose and tried desperately to have an out of body experience.

"Someone make him stop," pleaded Evans.

"Ohhh God, Remus . . . yeah, do that thing . . ." Minerva was apparently indulging a gift for truly filthy fantasy.

Of all the remaining Marauders, only Remus could have been counted on at any point to intervene in the case of Sirius Black with his hands down his pants. The sound of McGonagall encouraging him to perform a series of mysterious sexual acts put an end to that, however. He was completely paralyzed. "Eeep," he managed, which only made James laugh more.

Sirius's hand had gained speed. "Oh, when you touch yourself . . ." McGonagall sighed, right before her voice caught on the edge of something pleasurable and sharp. "Oh . . . when you let me watch . . . "

"Whatever you're doing, Mr. Lupin," Flitwick said from across the room, "you're doing it spectacularly well. My commendation. This boy's going to be done before he starts."

There was undeniable truth to the words - for the second time that day Sirius was clearly focused on completion rather than finesse. That was of little comfort to the boy in the next bed. "Ngghhh," Snape managed, caught somewhere between laughter and tears.

"That's it, Professor," Flitwick said in the general direction of Sirius's bed. "You show these boys how it's done."

"James that is NOT funny," Evans yelled. "You're scarring me, all of you, scarring me for life."

"You have the most beautiful cock," McGonagall moaned, voice increasing in volume and pitch. "Touch it . . . touch it . . . "

Snape let out a stunned squeak. "This cannot be happening. "

"Oh . . . oh . . . oh . . . "

Flitwick snorted. "Oh it's happening. And it's going to happen all over his hand in a second."

There was a muffled groan, then a shout of "Remus!" Sirius's bed shook, suggesting a particularly satisfying end to the fantasy. The shudders faded, and McGonagall let loose a thoroughly shagged out sigh. "Fucking brilliant . . . " she murmured, before a trembling hand grabbed for Sirius's wand. A few hastily spoken words of Latin followed. "Fucking brilliant . . ."

Snape was struck dumb, Flitwick laughed maniacally, and Evans burst into tears.

It seemed a fitting end to a completely absurd day.