Actions

Work Header

On Becoming the Marauders

Chapter Text

Moony: "An Invitation"

~~*~~

Peering over an essay in neat yet boyish handwriting, Hope smiled affectionately as she watched her son work through an especially challenging math problem that was quite above what his traditional grade level would be. Remus’ brow was furrowed in deep concentration as he chewed absentmindedly on his lower lip, his pencil whizzing with calculations, erasing errors, and making adjustments.

Suddenly, he dropped the pencil and held out his work in front of him. Hope watched as his eyes moved critically over the page, checking his work before a self-satisfied grin took over his countenance and his eyes met hers. “I think I got it!” he announced proudly, handing it to his mother to check and stretching his arms over his head from the mental exertion.

Hope took the paper--before the incident, she had been an accountant herself and often crafted her own algebraic equations for Remus to solve. As difficult as it had been to secure an accounting position as a woman, Hope never thought she would end up a stay-at-home mother, educating her son herself. Yet she didn’t feel embittered by it, especially as she watched with gratification how Remus’ intellect and curiosity grew each day. She knew he needed her, and there was something incredibly rewarding about the journey; it pained her only that Remus could not attend a real school where he would surely thrive. As his magical outbursts became more frequent, she worried too how he would be educated in controlling them, as Hope was not a witch herself, and they relied upon Lyall’s Ministry salary. No letter had arrived from Hogwarts when Remus had turned eleven weeks ago now, not that either of them had expected one to. Perhaps they would need to switch roles soon, and she would need to return to work while Lyall stayed with Remus.

“Is it wrong?” Remus asked, reading the sudden concern on his mother’s face.

She smiled swiftly, “No, sweetheart, it’s perfectly correct, and I did my best to trick you!” she told him. “I think this calls for a break, don’t you?” she asked, rising to make them lunch.

A knock on the front door distracted Hope and Remus, too. Jumping up, Remus was eager and curious to see who it was.

“I’ll get it, mum!” he announced, but Hope rested a hand on his shoulder before he could move forward.

“Hold on, love. We don’t know who it is,” she said, wearily--they rarely, if ever, entertained visitors anymore. “Let me,” she said, “I’ll be right back,” she assured with a somewhat guilty smile as she read the slight disappointment in her son’s expression. She knew he was starved for company, especially from those his own age. Hope worked diligently to provide Remus with whatever he might want for, but that was something she could never really compensate.

Crossing through the living room, Hope opened the door and was surprised--but not quite as surprised as the average Muggle would be--to find a man with a long white beard and purple robes standing before her. She recognized the wizard robes from her husband, but was surprised at the guest all the same, as she couldn’t fathom who this was or why he was here.

“Good afternoon,” she greeted hesitantly, her expression weary, “Can I help you?”

Albus Dumbledore slowly turned to face Hope a few moments after she had answered the door.

“Pardon me, I found myself lost in admiration for your little garden here. Are those Night-blooming cereus? So very lovely, and rare, you know.”

Hope eased somewhat as the aged wizard showed an interest in one of her favorite hobbies, “Yes, my husband and I got the seeds from a trip to Hawaii, it was for our honeymoon,” she explained with a smile.

“Ah, where are my manners. You are likely wondering who is this eccentric stranger nosing about in your garden,” Dumbledore said with a playful twinkle to his eye. “I am Albus Dumbledore. The newly appointed Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”

Hope's smile faded into another look of surprise--she had read about Albus Dumbledore in the Prophet, and Lyall had remarked that he had him as a Transfiguration professor when he was in school and found him to be brilliant. Just from reading of his career, the inventions, the battle with Grindelwald, even Hope felt a little starstruck that he was suddenly at their home.

“Hope Lupin,” she responded after a beat, collecting herself. She extended her hand, “It’s a pleasure to meet you...I’ve read about your career. It’s quite remarkable,” she complimented. “I’m afraid Lyall isn’t home, though,” she told him, assuming he was here to see him on Ministry business, though Hope couldn’t help but note that no one as high profile as this had ever come to visit. No one from the Ministry had ever visited, in fact. Lyall kept his work strictly separate from his home life.

She bit her lip, considering what to do. He had clearly come all this way, it would be rude to send him right off. Yet she worried about Professor Dumbledore seeing Remus--surely he would have questions about his schooling, and she lived in constant worry of someone from the wizarding world declaring them unfit to care for Remus and taking him off to God knows where. Dumbledore seemed so kind, though she was hesitant to take any risks with her son.

“Perhaps you would like some tea, though?” she offered after a moment.

“I would be honored,” Dumbledore replied, humbled.

He followed Hope into their quaint, yet cozy little home. He glanced around the home, noticing the loving pictures of all three Lupins mounted all about the house. Wearing a small smile, he choose to sit in an armchair. He noticed a magazine, ‘English Home’, on the coffee table and flipped through it with interest.

Hope felt apprehensive at still not knowing quite what Dumbledore wanted. She entered the kitchen to put on the tea kettle, where Remus still sat, looking at her eagerly once she entered.

“Who is it, Mum?” he asked curiously.

Hope hesitated--she wasn’t sure that she wanted to tell Remus it was the headmaster of Hogwarts, lest that get his hopes up. Remus was endlessly curious about Hogwarts, reading as much as he could about the school’s history and curriculum, asking his father endless questions. Remus seemed to accept that he would not be attending, but that hadn’t dampened his interest in the school, and she rather suspected he still clung to the notion that his letter might still be coming.

“Someone for your father. I believe they might work together,” she said vaguely, putting the kettle on.

“Really?” Remus said excitedly, walking over to her. “Another wizard?” he asked quietly, “Can I meet them?”

Hope frowned, “Remus, I don’t know…”

His expression dimmed instantly, though he attempted to regather it and appear understanding, “It’s okay, mum...I know they might not...you know. Like me,” Remus admitted, and it nearly broke Hope’s heart. They rarely talked about how the outside world perceived people like Remus, though it was the constant elephant in the room. Hope carefully guarded Remus from this prejudice, sheltering him completely and even censoring certain Prophet articles by placing them right into the rubbish bin.

“Remus, of course he would like you. Anyone would like you, it’s just--” Hope paused. How could she explain to him that she was worried he might take him from her without scaring the boy who was already so over-burdened?

“Really, mum,” he said, smiling, “I understand.”

The kettle whistled. Hope frowned. “Give me a moment, dear…” she said and poured three cups of tea, handing one to Remus.

Re-entering the sitting room, Hope feigned a smile, though feared the strain and guilt on her face was apparent. “There you are,” she said, handing a cup to Dumbledore.

“Ah, so very kind of you,” Dumbledore declared, putting down his reading material to relieve Hope of the cup of tea.

He sipped idly for a few moments before glancing at Hope. He asked the question before she could.

“Will Remus be joining us?” A small trace of a smile could be seen from behind the tea cup.

Hope looked alarmed that Dumbledore already knew his name, “Ah…” she began, wishing to seem as natural as possible, but not knowing quite how to accomplish that. She took a gulp of tea to stall. “Did Lyall tell you about Remus?” she asked. “I’m just...curious how you already know his name,” she admitted with a glance to the doorway. “I suppose...I mean, if you would like to.”

Dumbledore watched Hope, unfazed by her discomfort. “It occurs to me now that the intentions of my visit were not made clear. Must have slipped my mind,” he began pleasantly. “I am here to speak with Remus Lupin. That is if you approve, of course.”

He glanced at the doorway, noticing Remus discretely watching. He winked swiftly in response before turning back to Hope.

Hope hesitated, glancing over at Remus, too, knowing it would be difficult to shield him when he so obviously was going to hear everything anyway.

“Well...alright,” she said nervously, meeting Remus’ eye from across the room. “Remus, dear? Would you join us, please?” she asked. Remus entered eagerly, peering curiously over at Dumbledore as he took a seat beside his mother, glancing at her; he felt a twinge of nervousness at seeing her obvious anxiety, then he looked back over at the purple-clad wizard.

“Hi,” Remus greeted, finally.

“Hello, Remus,” Dumbledore smiled, standing up and bowing his head slightly in greeting.

“Would you care to play a game of gobstones?” He asked, and then went on, “Alas, it’s quite out of fashion now and so you may not know how to play. I once competed in an international tournament, for which I am still mocked,” Dumbledore explained as he procured the wooden gobstones case from deep in his purple robes.

He proceeded to set up the board on the coffee table without waiting for a response for Remus. The gobstones, which closely resembled marbles were set on the board--Fifteen for himself and fifteen for Remus.

“I love gobstones!” Remus told him--he was familiar with all nature of wizarding and Muggle board games, being one of his primary modes of entertainment. Remus deftly moved the marbles across the board, eventually taking a point from Dumbledore, which caused a foul-smelling liquid to squirt in the professor’s face. Remus let out a cautious laugh as even Hope smiled, gradually feeling some measure of trust as she watched Dumbledore’s kindness towards her son.

Dumbledore laughed genuinely whenever the liquid squirted at either himself or Remus. In the end, Remus conquered his final gobstone, leaving Remus the winner.

“You are quite the accomplished opponent!” Dumbledore smiled, his sharp blue eyes searing into Remus' soul. “Good game, Mr. Lupin,” he beamed, shaking Remus’ hand enthusiastically.

Dumbledore expanded his attention to include Hope. “Now I would like to discuss a rather important matter with all of the Lupins present. I would like to wait for your husband. He should be arriving in…”

He pulled a golden pocket watch from his sleeve and adjusted his half-moon glasses to view it.

“Ah, yes. Three...two...one…”

And there was a crack in the fireplace just after Dumbledore counted to one. Lyall emerged from the cramped space, carefully brushing floo powder and soot off his robes. Remus looked in amazement between his father and Dumbledore.

“Wow!” he burst. “You were right!” Remus grinned, looking at Dumbledore. Hope, too, looked perplexed--it was not a spell she was familiar with.

Lyall, straightening, smiled at Remus, then turned towards who he was speaking to, expecting to see only his wife, but was stunned to see Albus Dumbledore sitting in their living room, wiping gobstone muck from his face.

“Professor Dumbledore!” Lyall greeted in amazement, “How--how are you?” he asked, not quite believing his eyes. “What brings you here?”

Hope’s brows drew in, surprised that her husband had not, in fact, been expecting him. She turned towards Dumbledore herself.

Dumbledore stood up and shook Lyall’s soot-covered hand.

“I came to meet your son, who happens to be a superb godstone player,” he began, swiftly sending Remus a look of warm respect.

“Other than drinking your tea and reading your magazines I’ve also come to speak with all three of you on an important proposition. As headmaster of Hogwarts the decision to extend Hogwarts attendance invitations lies in me. I am here to extend one such invitation to Remus,”

His gaze shifted slowly from Lyall and Hope and landed squarely on Remus.

Remus’ eyes widened; he could hardly believe what Dumbledore just said. His chest swelled with excitement as he played the words over again in his mind, affirming that he had heard him correctly. Remus had long ago resigned Hogwarts to nothing more than a dream--he understood why he’d never be able to attend, but it hadn’t stopped him from wanting it.

“Really?” Remus asked in disbelief, but the hope and excitement was tangible in his voice and expression.

His parents looked between Dumbledore and each other equally stunned. Looking pointedly at Hope for a long moment, Lyall spoke up.

“Professor Dumbledore…” he started, and Remus turned anxiously towards his father to see what he thought. “I can’t say--I’m not sure I can ever really express how much this means to us,” he began, catching Remus’ eye--his son’s hopeful grin made it hard to continue, but he knew it was up to Hope and himself to ask the difficult questions. He had to assume that Dumbledore knew about Remus’ condition, that that was why he had visited personally. “But how...I mean, how could you ensure that Remus would be safe and…welcome?” he asked, then paused, “And that the other children--that they would also be…” Lyall’s jaw tightened, again looking at Remus whose grin had diminished. “My son--” he began, his throat catching to his great embarrassment.

Hope reached across the couch, taking her husband’s hand. She continued for him, “He is the kindest, gentlest boy I think any parent could hope for. Remus would never, never willingly hurt another...but how could you ensure there was not...an accident?” Hope continued after a great struggle. She knew her son was not a danger, and refused to refer to him as such, but realistically, she knew certain...precautions would need to be taken.

Remus looked down, embarrassed.

Dumbledore listened intently, nodding gently to comfort them. When Lyall could no longer go on, he politely took his turn to speak up.

“Mr. and Mrs. Lupin, I have known about the truly terrible incident that befell Remus for quite some time now. The previous Headmaster may have had other opinions on this matter, but when I was appointed, I came to the firm conclusion that nothing should keep Remus Lupin from being a part of our school--should he choose to accept, of course.”

“I have taken great lengths to ensure the safety of both Remus and the entire study body. A secure location has been set up in Hogsmeade village where Remus will safely visit once a month. To further his safety and secure his placement in the school, I strongly advise that Remus’ affliction be kept a secret from everyone.” His eyes fixed pointedly at Remus for this last bit, his expression far more serious.

“Complete discretion is of the utmost importance, for your own safety,” he stressed.

“You've--you’ve already done all this for Remus?” Hope asked, amazed, her eyes beginning to fill with tears. She would do anything for Remus herself, but she did not expect the rest of the world to be so kind.

“Everything is ready for him,” Dumbledore smiled sympathetically.

Both Lyall and Hope turned to their son, who looked equally stunned, but in a more sober way than before, as he began to realize this was real--thought through and planned by none other than Albus Dumbledore.

He swallowed, looking between Dumbledore and his parents, before he settled on their familiar gaze, “I want to go,” he said, something almost desperate in his voice.

Dumbledore clapped his hands together triumphantly and stood up abruptly.

“Then it is settled!” He declared, taking Remus’ parents disbelief as consent. “I look forward to seeing you on September the first, Mr. Lupin. Enjoy the remainder of your summer, young man,” he said patting Remus on the shoulder.

“Now I must be off! I thank you again for your gracious hospitality, Hope. And best of luck on the poltergeist outbreak in Cork, Lyall,” he shook both of their hands feverishly then vanished before any of them had even an instant to respond.

Hope and Lyall shook his hands, dazed. Hope was just about to thank him, struggling to find words to express the depth of her gratitude, when suddenly he was gone.

She looked at Remus; while she could see some apprehension in his expression, he looked happier than she had seen him in a very long time. Hope felt the tears she'd been restraining fall down her cheeks.

Remus frowned, “Don't cry, mum. I'll write every day, and I'll come home for every break.”

Hope pulled Remus in for a tight hug, crying a little more before taking a shaky breath. She pulled back and cupped her son's face.

“It isn't that, though you better,” she said, flashing a watery smile. “I'm just...I'm so happy for you,” she told

Lyall pulled Remus into a tight hug, his eyes still holding a few tears. He then released him a bit and surveyed his son’s face. Lyall had never forgiven himself for bringing this life upon his child. He knew how lonely Remus had been, how badly he craved a normal life. For the first time since the attack, Lyall found a spark of hope. Perhaps Remus could live a happy life, after all.

“I love you, Remus. You’ll be great,” he said firmly, his face cracking into a smile.

Chapter Text

Wormtail: "A Superhero"

~~*~~

Peter, dearest! Come down for breakfast, my kitten!”

As if a fuse had been lit, Peter emitted a gasp, instantly waking, and rolled himself out of bed. His heavy footsteps thundered across his bedroom, down the staircase, and finally into the cramped kitchen.

When he arrived he beheld a true breakfast feast--steaming bacon, eggs, sausage, tea and coffee.

Although thrilled by the glorious display, Peter knew breakfasts like these came with unsavory news. His hunger outweighed his suspicion, though, and he began to fill a plate with food.

His mother returned from the pantry with a plate of scones. She was a very petite woman, in stark contrast to Peter. Her dusty blond hair was styled in uncomfortably tight curls and she wore an equally tight smile. She placed the scones on an empty section of the table and stroked her son’s fine hair.

“Good morning, my dove,” she cooed. Peter momentarily glanced up from his feast and flashed her a bacon-and-egg smile.
“Morning, mum. What’s with all this food? We don’t have another hair appointment, do we?” he groaned.

Mrs. Pettigrew laughed. “Nothing gets past you, bunny. But no dear, not today. That’s next week,” she explained, cleaning his grease-covered face with a handkerchief from her apron pocket.

“Today we must go to Diagon alley to gather your school supplies. Now, there are going to be a lot of people there and I know how nervous you get in crowds--but I’ll be right by your side the entire time, pumpkin,” she assured him, anxiously stroking his hair. “You’re a very brave boy.”

“Right…” Peter replied absentmindedly, dirtying his face once more as he went for a third helping.

“We won’t be long. We’ll follow the list to the T and then I’ll whip you up a nice lunch, all right?”

“Mhm…”

Mrs. Pettigrew headed over to the sink where she anxiously began to scrub clean plates (she always preferred to clean herself, magic just wasn’t as precise.) She stared out the window as she worked, gazing out at the countryside with concern evidenced by her pursed lips.

Mr. Pettigrew had died from a freak accident at the Owl post office when Peter was a toddler. Ever since, Mrs. Pettigrew had vowed to protect Peter completely from all harm. She wanted him to have a warm and comfortable life, and for eleven years she had been able to control that (even when it meant switching Peter’s school six times).

She nearly had a heart attack when Peter received his Hogwarts letter (secretly hoping that he did not possess magical abilities). And now there were just a few weeks left until he would leave her side and go off to Hogwarts.

She turned and watched her son finish up the last piece of sausage.

’He’s a strong boy’, she reminded herself. ’He can take care of himself. And if he can’t I’ll go right up to that school and take him safely back home.’

~~*~~

Evan Rosier was bored and making a show of it--he didn’t want anyone to mistake him for one of those wide-eyed, awestruck mudbloods, like that daft redhead girl he saw at Flourish and Blotts. A trip to Diagon Alley was nothing special for Evan, whose family often frequented not just this magical shopping district, but traveled to many better ones around the world. Even if this was his big Hogwarts shopping trip, Evan did not want to seem over enthused and, thus, slipped into a real lethargy in Quality Quidditch Supplies.

He surveyed a new, top of the line broomstick with a sour expression, remembering that first years weren’t allowed broomsticks.

Turning to the right, Evan noticed a portly blonde boy looking at the same line of broomsticks.

Evan smirked--finally, entertainment had found him.

“Nice isn’t it?” Evan asked innocently enough, smiling even, “Unfortunately, I heard they don’t make them for people over fourteen stones.”

Peter had been gazing at the sleek, polished broomstick with an expression of wonderment glued to his cheery round face. His mother had never let him go this close to a broomstick before. Even the one’s for kids that barely let you fly three feet from the ground.

He had been so lost in the glory before him that he had not even noticed that there was another boy adjacent to him.

Peter turned and listened to the boy, returning his smile.

By the end of the boy’s statement, his brow furrowed in confusion.

“Er, well, maybe they can buy two?” Peter eventually suggested with a vague smile, not catching the insult.

Evan sneered, “That doesn’t even make any bloody sense, you twit,” he spat.

Peter frowned a bit in response but suddenly his eyes fell upon a book the boy was carrying :‘Standard book of spells grade 1. His eyes instantly swelled in size and his face lit up pink.

“Are you heading off to Hogwarts too?” Peter asked excitedly. “I am! My name is Peter Pettigrew. That’s my mum over there,” he said, pointing to the counter where his mother was purchasing all of the flying safety equipment the shop had in stock.

Peter’s excitement was then met with a vicious smirk, “I am,” he confirmed lifting his chin, “Though I doubt we’ll see much of each other--or at least, I bet you’ll hope we don’t.”

Peter was forced to acknowledge this threat, his ears turned pink from shame and he cast his eyes downward onto his trainers.

A loud snort emitted from the other side of the aisle. James, who’d been feigning interest in the snitches, had really been eavesdropping the whole time.

“If you tried a little harder at sounding all tough, you might actually accomplish it one day,” James remarked evenly, snitch still in his palm. As if reflecting further, James frowned, “But you were already trying pretty damn hard, weren’t you?”

Evan’s twisted smirk vanished the moment his eyes fell upon this new boy. Several Hogwarts students in the shop had been gleefully watching Evans pick on the heavy blond boy, but now their attention turned to James, rapt.

Evan noticed the shift in their attention. And his cockiness had caught the attention of several more shoppers. He shifted his weight uncomfortably

Peter’s eyes bounced up from his trainers and landed square on James, looking at him as if he were some kind of rare magical creature.

“This isn’t any of your business, four eyes,” he hissed with a self-satisfied grin. He looked around to see if his viewers appreciated his cleverness, which went unmet. Unfortunately most of his friends were still purchasing their textbooks in Flourish and Blotts. He should have been patient and waited with them.

Instead of bristling at the gibe, James laughed out loud, “Four eyes? Really?” he questioned after the laugh subsided, raising an eyebrow, “I mean, I could kind of tell you were bad at this, but I didn’t think you were that bad.”

Evan’s face turned red. What’s worse, he could hear the not-so-subtle listeners sniggering at him as they studiously leafed through textbooks on the most efficacious broomstick care techniques or intensely stared at bottles of quaffle polish.

“You’re a nobody,” he grumbled at James, trying to keep his voice down. “Try standing up for your girlfriend like this at Hogwarts. We’ll see how that turns out.”

Before James could destroy him about with another response, Evan turned on his heel and fled the shop. Several students dropped their guise to watch him exit from the window.

Several moments after he was gone, Peter turned away from the door and locked his eyes onto James once more.

“Wow…” he said, still in a daze. “Er...T--thank you…?” he said with uncertainty.

James lifted a shoulder nonchalantly, but his smile was earnest, “It was nothing,” James assured, “Can’t let purist twats like that run amok or they’ll ruin Hogwarts for the rest of us. He’ll get what’s coming to him if he really wants to see how that will turn out.”

Peter gave James an oversized, giddy smile. “Yeah, right... He sure will,” he replied vaguely with an overly-enthusiastic nod, though it was clear he wasn’t exactly sure what he was talking about.

Peter had heard about what muggles called Superheros. He wondered if James could be one of them.

“I’m James, by the way,” he said, “So you are just starting Hogwarts then? Me, too.”

“I...Yes...I am,” Peter stuttered, suddenly feeling like he was in the presence of a celebrity. “I am...Peter.”

“Nice to meet you, Peter,” James says, letting the snitch go as he does and without even taking his eyes off Peter to focus on it, he catches it again just before it has a chance to leave his peripheral.

Peter gasped as he watched the catch as if James had just performed a magic trick.

“How did you do that?” he asked, his mouth agape. “Do you play quidditch? I’ve never seen a real match, my mum says they are too rowdy for little boys. I’ve never even been on a broomstick.”

James couldn’t help but grin--if he was being honest with himself, James could see how Peter was prime material for bullying. Who admitted that their mum thought Quidditch was too rowdy for little boys? Still, there was something about this kid James kind of liked--maybe he just didn’t want to stoop to Rosier’s level...or maybe it was the ego boost. Possibly both. Regardless, James chose not to acknowledge that unfortunate admission.

He shrugged, “Good reflexes, I guess. And practice, you sorta get used to how a snitch moves the more you play with one,” he said, smiling some more, energized by talking about Quidditch. “My parents have taken me to loads of games and he lets me fly with him. Sometimes we kind of play, but we usually don’t have enough people for a full game. And my dad’s, well...he’s kind of old, so it’s not really like playing Quidditch, but it’s better than nothing.”

“Wow,” Peter replied, appearing almost windblown. “Maybe you could teach me! Then we could play together,” he suggested, his smile becoming sheepish.

“I’d like that!” James said and meant it. The truth was, his parents didn’t know many people with young kids, and he was eager to start making some real friends. Peter was possibly kind of a nerd, but between him and Rosier, James would take Peter anyday.

Peter beamed as if Christmas had come early. He’d had some friends as a kid, if his mom liked them, but James was by far the coolest friend he ever had. Peter felt cool just standing adjacent to him.

“Peaches?” Mrs. Pettigrew called from across the shop. “Come and try on these thigh paddings, they’re supposed to help with chafing.”

“Coming, mum!’ Peter replied, then turned back to James.

“I’ve got to go, but I’ll see you at school!” he said with a smile. “Thanks again for sticking up for me.”

“Anytime,” James smiled.

Chapter Text

Padfoot: "House of Mirth"

~~*~~

Sirius Black was in a particularly foul mood. Not that his mood often improved, truth be told, but this one was especially crabby. He stood on a red velvet footstool at the center of the red velvet-asphyxiated, Twillfitt and Tattings: The obscenely overpriced dress shop in south Diagon alley that catered primarily to the supremely vain and loathsome of Wizarding-kind; like his mother, for instance.

Sirius was being fitted for his Hogwarts robes, which were exactly the same wherever purchased. Mrs. Black’s true motives in dragging Sirius there were: a. To be seen entering the shop by both friends and enemies alike and b. So she could purchase an unnecessary and outrageously expensive outfit to be seen by both friends and enemies alike. Sirius was only a prop, really.

His presence was only begrudgingly agreed upon because his mother refused to take him to Ollivander’s until he donned Wizarding attire fit for the heir to the house of Black.

“Now simply stretch out your arms, my darling handsome boy. We must make sure you scoot off to Hogwarts looking truly pristine!” Crooned the dresser, who wore a massive fuschia headdress attached to which were three dead doves.

"The school girls will just drop dead when they see you! I'm sure of it!"

“You mean just like those birds did when they caught sight of that headdress?” Sirius asked, deadpan.

The dresser's face would have been drained of color from the shock had it not been caked in several layers of bronzy foundation.

“It...It’s from Paris (she pronounced it ‘Pa-rhee’). Exclusive high fashion...A piece from next summer's collection, even…”

“Ah, magnifique! Va te faire foutre*,” Sirius replied cheerfully with a smile.

The dresser stared at him in bafflement, not actually knowing a lick of french. She elected to smile and nod in response.

Luckily for her, at that moment Mrs. Black emerged from her dressing room as if she was the prima donna of an opera. She wore Black Bear fur dress robes and had a martini in hand.

The dresser appeared relieved to abandon Sirius’ side and immediately fluttered over to Mrs. Black, gasping with astonishment and going on about how pristine she looked (‘Must be her favorite adjective,’ thought Sirius. ‘That or the headdress is constricting her blood flow.’)

Unluckily for Sirius, a little bell chimed indicating that a new patron had entered the shop.

”Walburga!, You look simply divine. Truly divine.”

It was unmistakably the voice of Sirius’ aunt Druella. Groaning in misery, he turned his head just enough to see that all three of her daughters had accompanied her.

Druella kissed both of Walburga’s cheeks, then pinched Sirius’--perhaps a little harder than was truly affectionate, “Sirius, darling, don’t you look dashing. A future Slytherin prefect in the making, I’m sure,” she simpered.

Sirius rolled his eyes automatically and glared at her darkly with blatant detest. He had decided that if for whatever ungodly reason he was sorted into Slytherin he would fake his death and live out his days with the mountain trolls. They were far more civil company. He turned and looked at Andromeda, nonverbally expressing his suffering with a sigh.

Andromeda flashed Sirius a sympathetic smile from over her mother’s shoulder, while Narcissa and Bellatrix were all sweet smiles; Narcissa’s dimmed once her eyes settled on Sirius, while Bellatrix’s morphed into a rather unsettling smirk.

Druella’s attention shifted back to Walburga, all interest in Sirius gone. “I heard a most intriguing bit of gossip. Do you know who that is over there?” she asked, nodding her head in the direction of an older couple and a young boy across the room.

Walburga’s smile from being worshipped by her sister-in-law vanished when her cold eyes fell upon The Potters. She had been severely disappointed to learn that they had somehow managed to conceive an offspring. The House of Black had been so very close to having that stain removed permanently.

And it was almost as if Euphemia intentionally sought to slight Walburga by giving birth not very long after Sirius was born.

The last thing her wayward heir needed was a blood traitorous Potter corrupting him.

“Oh, why, those are the Potters!” The dresser announced, craving to be included in this conversation. Walburga and Druella shot her nasty glares.

“Get out,” Walburga declared to the dresser, who instantly obliged.

“We’re leaving!" She huffed and then finished her drink. "Clearly this shop no longer has the class it once possessed. The children shouldn’t be subjected to such filth. Who will they let in next? Ghouls? Criminals? or worse--Muggles? ” Walburga stated, loudly.

Andromeda shifted her weight uncomfortably as she watched on with a frown--her discomfort was not merely due to how rude they were towards the Potters, though that was certainly part of it. The Potters were technically pureblood, as far as anyone seemed to know, and if this was how her mother and aunt treated them, she could only imagine how they would react to Ted. She bit her lip at the thought, looking between her family--Andromeda knew the secrecy hurt him, but the consequences still scared her too much.

The young boy looked over in their direction, his eyebrows drawn in with a look of confusion tinted with indignation. His mother, meanwhile, merely lifted her eyes in their direction, then gave them a pointed role.

“Ah, Walburga, always so dramatic,” she droned from where she sat on a plush couch, “But by all means, the door is right here,” Euphemia indicated gesturing towards the exit as Fleamont watched on with the expression of someone who was too grown to care what others thought. He did, however, look with concern up at his son, whose new dress robes were still magically mending themselves. James looked aghast, having never heard someone speak to his parents like that. They usually commanded respect.

Sirius witnessed this exchange, instantly falling in love with Mr. and Mrs. Potter.

“COME, SIRIUS,” Walburga barked, still glaring at Euphemia.

“I can’t leave, mother,” Sirius replied cooly, enjoying this moment. “I'd be arrested for stealing. Wouldn’t want to tarnish the name of Black again,” he smirked.

Walburga’s face suddenly became the color of a beet. Her melodramatic exit was now sullied. Usually this was followed up with banshee screams. However, being publicly humiliated had humbled her. She avoided everyone’s gaze as she tilted her nose skyward and stormed into the back of the shop to pay for their items of clothing.

Before Druella could grab him, Sirius slipped past her and hurried towards the Potters. He approached the son with impressively unruly black hair and glasses and his two parents (the father had equally impressive unruly black hair.)

“Take me with you!” he pleaded, gesturing towards his aunt and her two younger daughters who were all grumbling insults about blood traitors and slime.

All three Potters grinned a bit in amusement.

“I’m afraid I think that’s what they call kidnapping,” Euphemia remarked, “But it looks as though you are starting Hogwarts? So is James,” she said.

James looked down at Sirius for a moment, but was distracted by the chorus of insults. He zeroed in on the older black haired girl.

“You better be careful that your face doesn’t stick like that,” he said. “Oh, wait, I think it already has.”

Andromeda gave out an involuntary snort at the gibe, but Fleamont reprimanded his son with a firm, “James.”

“They’re not worth it,” Euphemia added.

Sirius eyed James with admiration. “She was born that way, anyway,” he sniggered. And then the entire shop and street beyond were filled with an ear splitting sound:

“SIRIUS BLACK GET OVER HERE THIS INSTANT. DARE YOU DISGRACE ME AGAIN AND YOU WILL BE HOME SCHOOLED FOR ALL ETERNITY. ELEVEN YEARS OF SLAVING AS A MOTHER AND TREACHERY IS WHAT IS RETURNED TO ME. WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE SUCH AN UNGRATEFUL SWINE OF A SON."

Walburga Black had returned.

The Potters stared in bewilderment at Walburga. They had never spoken to James in such a way.

“Is that really necessary?” Euphemia asked indignantly.

Sirius sighed, unfazed, and turned to James.

“See you at school, then?”

“I guess so,” James said, a bit dazed.

He sulked towards the exit, giving Bellatrix and Narcissa the finger as he passed in front of them. He looked back at the Potters and mouthed: 'Save me' before being shepherded out by his mother.

Druella harrumphed once they were out of the store, “Those Potters,” she spat in disgust. “They think just because they have money that everyone should worship them,” she sneered,

“Well, let me tell you, money can’t be class.”

“So true,” Sirius agreed.

Chapter Text

Prongs: "The Potter Secret"

~~*~~

“Take that!” James boomed to no one in particular--to no one at all, actually, since he was complete alone in his bedroom, waving his new wand around in outlandish moves that he assumed was what dueling looked like. After promising his parents not to touch it, James was waving and jabbing and doding over his bed with such great gusto that multi-colored sparks were shooting out in every direction from his new wand. Fortunately, he couldn’t do much more than that.

With knock at the door and a, “James?” James immediately snapped into an upright, almost martial-esque position with his wand hidden riggedly behind his back.

“Er--yes? Come in?”

Fleamont bit his lip before opening the door to his son’s room. He still wasn’t entirely certain that he should be doing this--it was a Potter tradition, of course, to pass down the invisibility cloak to the first born, but he doubted any of the past Potters were quite like James.

He had been reflecting a lot recently over his own use of the cloak. Late nights to the kitchen, sneaking out to parties at the Quidditch pitch--the cloak brought him some of the best times of his life, but Fleamont had never been nearly as...rambunctious...as James. Poor Mrs. Fister from three houses down still croaked like a bull frog spontaneously in mid-sentence. She’d been croaking for nearly a week now. She wasn’t the the most pleasant of people, granted, and Fleamont hadn’t truly been overly upset when he heard.

Yes, James had always had a knack for finding his way into trouble--nothing serious, of course, but he couldn’t imagine that Minerva McGonagall would appreciate having her slippers replaced with two catfish.

’He’s a good boy’, Fleamont reminded himself as he entered the room and immediately noticed the look on James’s face. In no time at all his eyes traveled to James’ hands hidden behind his back.

“Hand it over,” Fleamont said lazily with the trace of a small smile, hand outstretched. He had eleven years of training in James Potter mischief--he was now a sensei in the art.

James hesitated, turning his wand around in his fingers, trying to think of a way to get out of this. Seeing no escape route, James signed dramatically and handed his wand to his dad, thrusting it out in front of him as if he was being compelled.

“I was just playing,” he insisted.

“Mhm,” Fleamont replied with his eyebrow raised, unconvinced as he slipped James’ new wand into the pockets of his deep blue robes.

“It’s very dangerous to play with wands before you learn how to wield one,” Fleamont lectured for the umpteenth time.

This act of defiance might have lead Fleamont to further question his next move, but he could still recall the first time he held his wand--all those years ago. Reliving that with James was one of the happiest moments of his life.

He couldn’t blame him for wanting his wand back at his side.

“Now, James,” he began, clearing his throat as he took a seat on the edge of James’ bed. The quilt had the symbols for every UK Quidditch team knitted into it--a birthday gift from James’ mother three years back.

“There’s something I would like to talk to you about,” Fleamont continued carefully, patting the space on the bed beside him.

“I know you’re very excited to go to Hogwarts--as you should be--and I also know you’ve promised your mother hundreds of times that you’ll stay out of trouble,” he looked into James’ hazel eyes, ones that mirrored his own.

“And we both know that’s a load of dung,” he said, cracking a grin.

“I’m sure you’ll break that promise moments after you hop onto the train,” Fleamont’s grin widened.

“But I do want you to promise me something,” his expression became more serious. “Remember the difference between good fun and real, serious trouble. Hogwarts will be the very best time of your life, but it can also be dangerous.”

“Can you promise me that you’ll be careful?”

There was a part of James that thought this was going to be The Talk about the pygmy puffs
and the hippogriffs--needles to say, he was relieved to find it wasn’t, since James still largely believed that girls had cooties. In fact, James even cracked a smile and laughed, feeling like his dad was letting him in on a secret.

He considered the question--somehow, it felt like a big promise, but James supposed he would prefer some good fun to serious trouble.

“I promise,” James said, finally.

Fleamont nodded in response, satisfied.

“Then I have something for you,” he explained and then lifted his wand, flicked it, and stated a swift: “accio chest,”

A small oak chest with large brass hinges floated into the room. Fleamont scooted over so that it fit between him and James.

“This has been in our family for ages and ages,” he explained, flicking his wand again to open the chest.

“Take a look,” he instructed James excitedly.

Curiosity peaked, James peered into the chest and saw--well, at first it was hard to see anything, and so he reached inside and was surprised when his fingers touched a light, almost watery material. Squinting, James noticed that there was some type of fabric in there, it was just camouflaging with the rest of the chest.

James pulled it out carefully, it was--the strangest cloak he had ever scene. James couldn’t figure out what color it was--it seemed to be made up of many and none--and he also had no idea what material it was made out of.

It also seemed entirely too large for me.

“It’s a...cloak?” James asked, uncertainly--he didn’t want to let his dad down, but we also didn’t really know what to make of this.

Fleamont chuckled at James’ reaction. He had a similar one when his father presented it to him.

“It is,” he stated evasively. “Put it on then take a look in the mirror,” he grinned.

“Err….seems a little big,” James remarked, but obliged his dad, sweeping the cloak around him--it moved in an unnaturally riple-like way.

Turning to the mirror, James’ jaw dropped--he was a floating head, no body in sight.

“How’s it doing this?!” he asked, turning sharply towards his father. Thinking for a moment, his eyes widened even further, “Wait...is this an invisibility cloak he asked, even knowing it clearly was.

Fleamont was laughing heartily.

“Indeed it is!” he declared and stood next to James’ floating head in the mirror.

“It’s a family secret!” he explained. “We’ve had it in the family for generations. We have a tradition that it be passed down to the first born child before they go to school.”

He smiled down at James with pride, putting a hand on his invisible shoulder. “So now I pass it on to you, son. The cloak is all yours now.”

As Fleamont spoke, James indulged in spinning around in the cloak and watching it swirl in its float-y, liquid-y way. In the mirror, it just looked like James’ head was spinning around in mid-air like some kind of perverse spinning top.

James stilled when his father rested his hand on his shoulder, reflecting on the importance of this. This cloak was something that had been passed on to everyone in his family--he felt weirdly connected to them all.

“This is brilliant, Dad, thanks!” James beamed, reluctant to take the cloak off in spite of how weird he must look. His head was practically swimming with all the mischief he could get up to in Hogwarts with this thing.

Looking closely at the expression on his dad’s face, James had a feeling he wasn’t the only one--he asked, “What’s the most wicked thing you ever did with this?”

Fleamont sighed, basking in the nostalgia and then gave James a coy smile.

“We’ll swap stories one day, when you’re older. But let’s just say that a certain purist Slytherin still recalls a nightmare where they saw me and my friends’ heads on the floor singing ‘Hoggy Warty Hogwarts.’” Fleamont winked at James and ruffled his hair affectionately.

“Just remember your promise,” he advised, raising his brow again.

James laughed readily at the image, suddenly filled with excitement about the new friends he’d make and the adventures they would have.

Smiling, he said, “I will.”

Chapter Text

The platform was bustling around the Lupins; boisterous reunions between friends, a few tearful goodbyes from parents and younger siblings, and many squawking owls and hissing cats.

Hope kept a firm grasp on her son’s hand--as happy as she was for Remus, she found herself reluctant to let go.

Remus, for his part, was also reticent to let go--even if it made him feel slightly embarrassed to admit that. This was the most he’d ever been around people his own age in as long as he could remember, and it was at once exciting and entirely nerve-wracking.

Dutifully adjacent to Remus, Lyall wheeled along a rickety trolley carrying an aged and battered old trunk. His eyes darted nervously from one family to the next. It was a blur of hugs and swishing robes, and screeching teenagers; all along with the occasional hiss as billowing smoke emitted from the Hogwarts express’ steam pipe.

Platform nine and three quarters was exactly as it had been when Lyall was a student, and yet it couldn’t be anymore different. Remus had been kept away from other children for so long to protect him. The children who did meet Remus had never been very kind to him. He had never been an ordinary child--Lyall loved who Remus was deeply, but other children had not felt the same.

After leading his little family to a clearing close to the phoenix-red train, Lyall bent a knee to reach Remus’ height. He surveyed Remus’ anxious little face with a reassuring smile and ran his hand playfully through Remus’ thick mop of hair.

“It alright to be nervous,” Lyall assured him, resting his hands on Remus’ small shoulders.

“I was nervous too, my first time” he explained. “In fact, I begged my mum not to go,” he grinned.

Remus’ brow furrowed as he tried to sort through his emotions, which were entirely too complicated for an eleven-year-old boy.

“I want to go,” he said truthfully. Remus was beyond excited for his classes and all the new things he would learn there--he knew his mum always did her best, but it was hard to compete with Hogwarts. He was also excited at the prospect of having friends...it was just the idea of making them that he wound intimidating.

“But I’m just--I’m also kinda scared,” Remus admitted, meeting his father’s eyes.

Lyall smiled sympathetically. “Everyone’s a little scared.”

Just then he heard the noise of open sobbing distinct from the normal bustle of the station. Lyall turned, expecting it to be a child, but was surprised to find that the noise was emitting from a small woman with very tight curls. She was gripping her blonde, overweight son as if he were going off to war.

Lyall looked back at Remus and grinned, “See, everyone is a little nervous,” he sniggered.

He turned back to look at the son who looked miserable as he was being suffocated by his mother.

Lyall and Remus could hear the boy consoling his mother: “It’s going to be fine, mum…I promise I wont get in any potentially fatal situations...”

“It looks like that boy could use a friend,” Lyall said to Remus with a pointed look.

Remus watched the scene in front of him, chewing on his lip contemplatively as he listened to his father.

“I’m not far from that,” Hope admitted, resting a hand on Remus’ shoulder. He looked up at her, and she smiled.

“Go on,” she encouraged.

Taking a deep breath, Remus approached the blonde boy who’d just managed to break from his mother. “Hi!” he squeaked, having never heard his voice go that high before. “Er--I’m Remus--I was just wondering--are you going to be a first year?” he asked all in one breath.

Peter turned toward Remus and beamed, exalted. Mrs. Pettigrew, however, surveyed Remus and his smiling parents with scrutiny.

“Yes, Peter is a first year,” Mrs. Pettigrew answered for Peter, eyeing Remus.

“My name’s Peter!” Peter clarified. “Have you anyone to sit with on the train? I made a friend in Diagon alley whose a first year just like us two but I haven’t spotted him.”

Remus paused--he hadn’t really thought about who he would sit with on the train, he was still trying to wrap his head around the idea that this was all really happening.

“No...I haven’t, maybe--would you like to?” he asked nervously, but then Peter turned away to scan his surroundings, looking for James.

Locating anyone proved to be next to impossible with all the commotion and movement in such a small space. In all honesty, Peter couldn’t entirely recall what James looked like. But he did have black hair and glasses, Peter remembered that.

He spotted a young boy with black hair standing a bit closer to the groaning train.

“I reckon that’s him!” Peter declared, grabbing Remus by the sleeve and furiously made his way through crowds of families towards the boy. His aggressive efforts caused three stubbed toes, one cat hiss and several discontented grumbles from parents and students alike.

Finally they reached the boy. His back was to them and so Peter reached up to prod him repeatedly on the shoulder with his finger. Peter noted that he was already wearing his Hogwarts robes.

The boy turned and Peter recognized that although this boy did have black hair he was missing the glasses. He looked at Peter with irritation as if he’d just been having a row with someone. His grey eyes had such a sharp look about them that Peter nearly forgot why he was there.

“Er...James Potter?” Peter asked, figuring he had made it this far.

The boy’s irritated look softened, clearly familiar with the name. Before he could open his mouth to speak a towering black shadow stepped between Peter and the boy. Peter glanced over at Remus, wondering if he too had just been swallowed by darkness.

And then the darkness spoke: “My son does not know any Potters. And he will not be knowing any gelatinous swine or grubby destitutes either...”

Remus blinked a few times, confused--was he the grubby destitute one?

Peter clenched his eyes shut as the woman spoke and grabbed Remus’ hand.

“That’s not James,” he explained to Remus.

”Mum, piss off! The boy hissed from behind.

“...And if I find out that either of you so much as approach my son I will have both of you permanently removed from Hogwarts.”

Peter gasped at this and opened one eye to look over at Remus.

“Do you think that means she’ll kill us?” He asked, not very quietly.

“I don’t think we should stick around and wait to find out,” Remus said in an undertone, very pale now and shaken by the whole encounter.

“OFF WITH YOU.” The dark woman screeched. Peter sprang into action, grabbing Remus once more by the wrist and running towards the train. He was about to open the door and hop in when he heard his mother’s voice:

“PEACHES, WAIT!” she bellowed desperately, tears streaming down her cheeks.

Peter turned back, panting, and waved at his mother.

“Bye, mum! I love you more than goblins love gold and owls love mice!”

The Lupins trailed behind Mrs. Pettigrew; the looks of apprehension on their faces matched their son’s as the blonde boy pulled him ever closer towards the train.

As if all three had resigned themselves to the fact that prolonging this would only make it more difficult--and more likely that they would miss the train--Remus offered a small smile that his parents returned.

“Have a good term, son, we love you,” Lyall said.

“Write as soon as soon as you get there!” Hope beseeched, “And...make good friends.”

Remus cleared his throat to keep his voice from cracking, “I will, bye!” he said, and with a cry of the last warning whistle, Remus followed Peter onto the train.

~~*~~

The trains aged wheels began to churn as it slowly exited the platform, sending Peter crashing into one of the car doors before he fell to the floor. The compartment door Peter smashed into slowly slid open, revealing a tall older boy with long, pale blonde-white hair. A gleaming prefects badge was proudly displayed on his robes. He stared down at Remus and Peter with a glacial sneer.

“This one’s taken. By the looks of it he will need a compartment all to himself,” he said, his gaze lingering on Peter for a moment before the door slammed shut in their face.

Peter frowned from the floor, being helped up by Remus.

“So far no one at Hogwarts seems real nice,” he said, his expression doleful as he and Remus carefully walked further down the train.

“Well, except for you!” he perked up. “What’s your name again? Ralph?”

Remus was feeling profoundly nervous by the hostility, and even this connection to Peter felt tenuous...what if he found out what Remus really was? But Remus was just here to learn, he resolved...on the other hand, his mum had told him to make friends, and he wanted them.

Trying to fix his face into a smile, Remus corrected, “It's Remus, actually. Like from the legend of how Rome was founded?” he offered, “Remus and Romulus?”

“Right…” Peter replied vapidly.

Remus made a note that ancient Roman mythology was--apparently--not exactly a conversation starter.

Peter glanced into a nearby compartment to ensure that it was empty of contemptuous upper-years.

“This one’s empty!” he declared with relief, sliding open the door. Peter settled himself onto one of the cushioned seats by the window, leaving his truck to take up most of the narrow floor space.

“Have you got any snacks?” Peter asked Remus hopefully. “I ate all mine on the trip over to Kings Cross. I’ve never really been outside me town before all this.”

“Oh, yes,” Remus said, digging into the front of his trunk and pulling out a bar of chocolate, which he offered to Peter. “I haven’t traveled much either,” Remus admitted, “Except for a few trips with my parents.”

Peter’s eyes became as round and wide as two galleons when his eyes fell on the chocolate bar. He snatched it from Remus and inhaled it, leaving greasy chocolate stains on his face and sticky fingers.

“Yeah I agree,” Peter replied, having been too mentally and emotionally involved with his snack to listen to Remus.

Remus frowned--both at the incongruent response and the fact that he hadn’t meant to offer the whole chocolate bar.
Still, at least he had someone to sit with.

Just then, the compartment door banged open, revealing the not-James boy whose mother is basically a dementor. Sirius quickly surveyed the two boys, his face cracking into a grin when he saw Peter.

“Hello, Peaches,” he greeted Peter with a half-smirk, leaning casually against the doorway.

“Oye!” He called out over his shoulder. “Found one!”

James followed after Sirius, still somewhat flustered at getting yelled at by the redheaded girl.

Upon entering the compartment, a look of recognition settled over his face as his eyes landed on Peter.

“Oh, hey!” James said by way of greeting, “We met at the Quidditch store, yeah?”

Peter was so bemused by this rapid intrusion that he didn’t recognize James until he finished speaking.

“Wha--Oh! James!” he cried out, throwing up his hands. He then leaned over and poked Remus across from him. “It’s him.” he explained.

Remus flinched slightly at the poke, and looked bewilderedly over at James, trying to discern what was so special about him.

Sirius kicked Peter’s obstructing trunk out of his way and shoved Peter over so that he could have the window seat. He flopped down onto the cushion and kicked his polished leather shoes onto the seat across from him, right next to Remus

“Got yourself a fanboy already,” he sniggered to James. A dark glint in his eye matched his smirk.

“Am not! Me and James are friends!” Peter protested, but his courage shriveled up once he met Sirius’ gaze. Everything about him was intimidating. He scooted further down the seat so that there was a space between him and Sirius for James.

“...Right, James?” he squeaked meekly, turning to look at him.

James’ lips curled up into a look of amusement--he could have teased him for that, and he reckoned he would have gotten a laugh out of Sirius, which, for some reason, he relished the thought of. Still...James gave in to a nagging part of him that said to go easy on this kid; he had suggested they could be friend at Diagon.

“That’s right,” James said, nonetheless with a bit of swagger as he sat next to Sirius. “And it was...errr...Paul?” he asked, genuinely forgetting.

Peter briefly considered not correcting James. Instead he worked up his nerve to mumble his actual name inaudibly under his breath while his eyes were fixed on his trainers.

“Sorry?” James said.

Sirius scoffed at Peter’s timidity and rolled his eyes dramatically. Peter bored him already.

“I’m Sirius Black,” he said boldly and without hesitation.

Peter’s eyes widened at Sirius’ surname. No wonder he and his mother were so scary. His mother would definitely not want him sitting with someone from the Black family.

“What about you?” Sirius asked Remus pointedly, nudging his shoe into Remus’ leg.

“You got the tongue-tying curse or something?” he added, raising his brow.

“Oh...uh...er...no,” Remus said nervously, not much better than Peter, “Er...it’s Remus. Remus Lupin,” he clarified.

“James Potter,” James said, with considerably greater eased as he lounged in the seat beside Sirius.

Sirius had already decided that he wasn’t interested in Peter but the jury was still out on this other scrawny kid. He removed his feet from the cushion and leaned his elbows forward on his knees so that he was closer to Remus.

Then, while giving Remus an unwavering stare he said:

“They try to beat me, they try in vain. And when I win, I end the pain. What am I?”

Remus swallowed hard when Sirius leaned in close with that penetrating stare, but he didn’t flinch--Remus didn’t scare very easily, despite a nearly constant undercurrent of nerves.

Chewing on his lip for a moment, brow slightly furrowed, Remus concluded after a beat, “Death.”

Sirius continued to stare at Remus for a few long moments after he had answered, then half-smiled and sat back, satisfied.

Peter glanced nervously from Remus to Sirius to James. He wanted to make sure that he was a permanent member of this group.

“Er..So which house do you all think yo--”

“I’m sick of this bloody question,” Sirius interrupted, “It’s boring. Let’s talk about what we’ll do when the castle goes to sleep.”

He looked at the three boys excitedly with a toothy grin. “I hear there’s a forbidden forest. What do you think they’ve got in there to make it so off limits?”

“I bet it's…” James trailed off, pausing for dramatic effect, “...werewolves,” he finished, his voice taking on a spooky tone, and even if he suspected he shouldn’t get amusement out of it, he couldn’t help but smirk at the little squeak of a cry that Peter let out.

Glancing at Remus then to see if he shared in his amusement, James saw that he, too, had turned pale white, staring at James with a look of deep apprehension.

“Ah, lighten up, what do I know?” James reasoned. “Whatever it is, I’m sure Dumbledore can handle it anyway,” he shrugged, then considered Sirius’ question some more, “Besides...I don’t think you need to go all the way to the forest after hours anyway. There’s loads of stuff inside the castle, just begging to be explored. My dad told me a couple of stories…” he said vaguely, thinking of the invisibility cloak, but not sure if he should confide in them about its existence. Even James understood how valuable it was.

“Well, i’m in,” Sirius replied eagerly.

“And you lot?” he asked, looking from Peter to Remus expectantly.

Peter was slumped over in his seat, looking utterly miserable as he actively avoided Sirius’ gaze. Being James’ friend was proving to be rather stressful thus far. He couldn’t say no and disappoint James, obviously. And besides, how bad could the castle be, really. Children lived there, after all.

Without looking up he shrugged. He was sure they would soon forget all about this unsavory business.

Remus was just glad they weren’t talking about werewolves anymore...plus, exploring the classroom did sound fun, he’d read a lot of legends himself, and Remus never imagined he’d get to actually be there and explore them.

“I’m in,” he said swiftly.

~~*~~

Chapter Text

~~*~~

Sirius had become lost in the swirling midnight blues and blacks of the bewitched night sky of the Great Hall. The rain that had let up since their boat voyage across the lake and Sirius could now spot several constellations in the magical sky. He grinned when he found his namesake star.

“Black, Sirius!”

Sirius’ attention snapped downward, first towards Professor McGonagall who had shouted his name and then outward to the sea of silent black-robed students who were all watching the sorting ceremony. He automatically stepped forward, observing all eyes shift to him in an unaffected way. Some whispers followed him as he confidently approached the dilapidated sorting hat.

He then lifted up the hat and took a seat on the bench. Just before he lowered it over his head he caught sight of Narcissa. He winked at her swiftly with a wry smile before letting the inside of the hat consume his vision.

“Ah, another Black..” a small voice in his head began to say.

It’s Sirius, actually Sirius corrected.

“Right you are,” chuckled the hat. “Not entirely like your family, are you?”

You could say that

“The Black cleverness is there, indubitably. And skill, certainly. Temper, absolutely.”

Sirius rolled his eyes.

“But there’s something else...Oh yes, it’s overwhelmingly potent…”

Get on with it.

“Courage--An astounding degree, in fact . And loyalty, too. Unbridled loyalty. Yes, the choice is rather obvious, isn’t it. Rather obvious indeed. Really, there is no contest at all…”

“GRYFFINDOR.”

Sirius removed the hat from his head. He felt a bit bemused, looking around the vast room filled with weak clapping. His gaze found the Slytherin table, which was as silent as death. His cousin’s expression was a mixture of shock, devastation, and humiliation. Sirius grinned.

He turned around and flashed James, Remus and Peter a beaming smile before heading over to the Gryffindor table to take the first open seat on the bench.

Remus nervously caught Sirius’ eye, a faint buzzing ringing through his ears as his anxiety mounted. He hadn’t imagined that he would be sorted in front of so many people--in fact, Remus hadn’t imagined that there would be so many people at all, but the Great Hall was filled with them, and everyone’s eyes were fixed on the sorting.

He did not relish the thought of all those eyes on him.

“Lupin, Remus!” Professor McGonagall called, and Remus gave a start. Hesitantly, Remus approached the sorting hat, feeling queasy at the idea that this hat--according to legend--would be able to peer into all his secrets...Remus could only hope it wouldn’t share any of them.

And yet, Remus found the nerve to move forward and say himself on the stool.

“Ahhh, what do we have here?” the hat in toned inside Remus’ head. “A natural love for learning...and intelligence to match--good qualities for a Ravenclaw.”

Remus felt a rush of excitement--he had always liked the idea of Ravenclaw.

“But there’s something else in there, isn’t there?” The elation swiftly turned to dread--Remus didn’t want the hat looking anymore closely than was necessary. “Yes….courage. It takes a lot of courage for you just to be here, doesn’t it? And it will take even greater courage yet for you to thrive at Hogwarts. Better make it….GRYFFINDOR!” the hat called out.

Remus was stunned; never, in all of his research into the Hogwarts houses did he ever think of himself as a Gryffindor. Fear had always been such a regular part of his life that not once had Remus ever considered himself brave.

Sliding into the seat next to Sirius, Remus was greeted by much warmer applause than Sirius.

“Why did they seem so surprised at your sorting?” Remus asked Sirius curiously, before he could stop himself.

Sirius turned to Remus with an ecstatic grin. “Well, I’ve just broken a timeless tradition of Blacks becoming Slytherin rulers of the underworld. My mother will be devastated. I’ve never been happier in all my life.” he then turned towards the Slytherin table and waggled his fingers at his sullen-faced cousin.

~~*~~

The sorting ceremony continued and the Gryffindor table grew as Mary Macdonald and Marlene McKinnon joined Remus, Sirius and Lily. Mary, a round-faced girl with wild curly hair immediately squeezed in between Sirius and Lily, and would giggle with overenthusiasm at anything Sirius said. Marlene, a small girl who had her thick blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail was more interested in talking about the Banchory Bangers Quidditch team with the older students than anything else.

Peter stood in line, waiting his turn to be called to the sorting hat. It had been taking a rather long time, he thought, and he did wish that they could have started with the feast. He had been deep in his fantasy of how comfortable his new bed would be when a boy with greasy black hair and a hooked nose poked him quite hard on the shoulder.

“I do believe that your name has been called three times,” he sneered.

Peter blinked rapidly, turning his attention to a flustered looking Minerva McGonagall.

“For the last time…Pettigrew, Peter,” she droned.

“Err… that’s me!” Peter squeaked, which subsequently led to scattered laughter throughout the hall.

Peter jogged over to the hat and accidentally knocked it and the stool it sat upon over onto the floor when he went to wipe the sweat from his forehead. The laughter grew louder.

Peter swallowed hard and looked back at James for encouragement. James gave him a small nod of encouragement which was more than enough to lift Peter's spirits. With that, he flopped onto the stool and buried his head in the hat.

The hat stayed silent for several long moments as Peter sat in darkness.

“...Well now…” it finally began, clearly uncomfortable.

“...Yes, well...here we are,” it continued.

“Please put me in Gryffindor!” Peter whispered aloud.

“Gryffindor?” the hat asked with confusion. “Why Gryffindor?”

“....Well, I’m brave and strong…and loyal” Peter lied.

“Are you now?...”

“Yes! I have brand new friends and they’re all in Gryffindor and I love them very much and am brave with them!”

“Yes, I suppose that first bit could be true…to some extent” the hat mused.

A long stretch of silence ensued. Peter sat with his hands clasped in prayer.

“Please, please, pleaaaaase, Mr. Sorting hat. I’ve never had friends!” Peter pleaded.

“I won’t lie, dear boy, I’m currently leaning towards Slytherin…But even that...” the hat replied, seeming entirely unsure of itself.

“James Potter is my best friend and I love him and I know he’ll be in Gry--”

“Quiet, boy!” barked the Hat. “I need a think!”

The awkward silence continued for nearly over five minutes. At first the Great Hall was so silent that you could hear a pin drop, but after a few minutes the crowd was beginning to become restless. Groans of hunger could be heard throughout.

All the while, Peter kept his hands clasped in prayer the entire time, imagining himself in Gryffindor with his friends to help the hat along.

Finally, after basically an eternity, the hat emitted a long exasperated sigh.

“You love your friends, do you?”

“YES! More than anything. Sincerely, I swear! I swear on my whole life!” Peter explained.

“...Right, right. There it is….inside your head. I see it now…absolutely…”

“GRYFFINDOR..” the hat emitted, sounding confident and completely sure of its decision.

Peter screamed with joy, threw the hat to the floor and skipped over to the Gryffindor table.

Lips pursed, McGonagall picked up the sorting hat, glaring in Peter’s wake.

With a huff, she glanced back down at the list and called, “Potter, James!”

Upon hearing his name, James sauntered up to the sorting hat, oozing confidence with a self-assured grin set across his face. As he situated himself on the stool, McGonagall had barely lowered the hat on his untidy head before it cried out.

“GRYFFINDOR!”

Beaming, James bounced off to the Gryffindor table to raucous applause. There was one person who was not cheering, though; Lily Evans sat with her arms crossed, scowling at James as he passed. He, in turn, stuck his tongue out at her before sliding in next to Sirius and across from Remus and Peter with an ease as though he had done this a hundred times before.

“What were the odds, huh?” James asked, looking pleased that they all ended up in the same place.

“It must be fate!” Peter replied quickly with a nervous smile.

“Oh, yeah. We must belong together,” Sirius sniggered, eyeing Peter.

He turned back to James, his face cracking into a beaming grin.

“But, honestly, this is gonna be wicked,” he said excitedly, looking amongst the three of them.

They all watched the remainder of the sorting. The greasy, hooked-nose boy was last to be sorted. The hat announced that Severus Snape (the snivelly boy’s name, apparently) was to be in Slytherin. Sirius and James exchanged grins as he walked passed the Gryffindor table.

“OYE, what’s it like to have a nose bigger than your knob?” Sirius shouted to Snape, shooting James a smirk.

James let out a booming laugh as he got a closer look at that Snape’s kid nose--it was big. “Looks like a hook!” he remarked. Across from him, Remus smiled in a vague, uncertain way.

Lily, however, was glaring daggers at Sirius, her head snapping in his direction at the outburst. She was already sick with disappointment that Severus had been sorted into the same house as her, and this wasn’t helping.

Excuse you,” Lily shot at Sirius and James.

“Oh, you again,” James smirked.

Snape merely glared stonily at Sirius and James. His eyes softened with sadness when they fell on Lily. He then continued to walk past them with his hooked-knob nose up in the air.

“Attention please, I have a public safety announcement,” Sirius stood up and announced to the Great Hall. “Make sure no one walks too close to Snively over there!” He shouted with his hands cupped around his mouth like a megaphone. “You might get sucked into his nostrils!”

Laughter could be heard scattered throughout the hall. Sirius watched with satisfaction as Snape’s fists tensed and quivered as he continued to walk.

“Nice one,” James snickered.

What is your problem?” Lily snapped with vehemence, equally angered at Sirius’ taunt as she was by how he’d ignored her. “You don’t even know him,” sne sniffed, sparing a disgusted look for James, too.

“I can’t help myself,” Sirius explained with an amused smile. “My mum says I’m a barbaric miscreation. I was born like this.”

“She’s right,” Lily said fiercely, then turned her back aggressively to the boys, focusing instead on the girls who’d been sorted along with her--Marlene, Dorcas, and Mary.

“What’ve you got to say for yourself” Sirius asked James with a grin.

James stuck his tongue out at her back, then winked over at Sirius, “My mum says I’m trouble, but I think we’re just being honest here.”

“Exactly! We're being transparent. Some might even say saint-like,” Sirius grinned at James.

Still grinning wickedly, James turned to Peter and Remus, “How about you two?”

“Errr……” was all Remus could managed. He’d never even had an opportunity to tease or be teased before, but he felt instinctively that he was much closer to the “be teased” side of things. Shrugging, he decided it was better to be honest than make a fool out of himself for trying to be something he wasn’t, “I’m just trying to get along with people.”

“Boring,” Sirius replied curtly then moved onto Peter.

Peter had been too distracted by starvation to attend to what transpired with Snape and the subsequent conversation. He blinked rapidly when he realized Sirius, James, and Remus’ eyes were on him and quickly stopped rubbing his stomach with his chubby hand.

“...I agree with James,” Peter replied with shifty eyes that avoided Sirius in particular.

“Of course you do,” Sirius said sardonically, rolling his eyes exaggeratedly. It was clear that Peter was not a highly valued member of the group in Sirius’ eyes.

Remus, meanwhile, was beginning to expect he wasn’t very valued either--but then again, this could be going a lot worse. If that’s how Sirius reacted to Snape’s nose, he couldn’t imagine what he’d really of him if he knew what was below the surface.

Nervously, he grabbed a dinner roll, shoving a piece in his mouth so he had a reasonable excuse not to speak.

Grinning, James didn’t seem to mind Peter’s endorsement.

At the opposite side of Great Hall adjacent to the sorting hat, Professor Dumbledore attempted to secure the attention of the loquacious student body by standing and coughing loudly into his fist. His efforts went unnoticed, which didn’t particularly perturb him.

Hagrid, however, was deeply perturbed. The colossal figure of a man with an equally impressive beard shot up so quickly from his enlarged wooden chair that he knocked poor professor Flitwick halfway down the long table where the Professors and staff sat.

“OYE, THE LOT OF YOU BETT’R QUIT YER CLUCKIN’ ‘N LOOK UP ‘ERE. Yer Headmaster is try’n’a speak! Show some respect, would ye!”

The entire Great Hall, including the four first year Gryffindor boys froze in place and turned their attention to the front of the hall.

Dumbledore smiled warmly at Hagrid’s outburst.

“Thank you, Hagrid. Your loyalty and dedication, as always, is profoundly moving. And now, Madame Pomfrey, if you would be so kind, please escort dear Professor Flitwick to the hospital wing. It appears that he has a fork lodged into his left ear.”

Madame Pomfrey swiftly jumped up and bent low to the ground then wrapped Professor Flitwick’s arm around her shoulders and led him out from the hall.

Dumbledore smiled then returned to the four house tables filled with students, all of whom appeared shocked and confused.

“I shall keep my words to a minimum as I am rather peckish and the steak and kidney pie is calling my name. It is my great honor to offer a warm welcome to all of our first years,”

Dumbledore sent Remus his own personal wink.

“And an equally warm welcome back to all other students. Before we begin our banquet it is my important duty to inform everyone of our newest beautiful yet deadly addition to our magical botanical collection here at Hogwarts. Our newest addition is the whomping willow, which is located at the center of the grounds. I warn all to avoid it at all costs, lest you receive a fatal beating from it which would leave you gravely disfigured at best.”

Peter’s jaw dropped. He looked at James, Remus and Sirius with his mouth agape.

“He’s joking, isn’t he…?”

“I hope not!” Sirius grinned.

“Might have to take a look at that,” James said, arching an eyebrow at Sirius.

Sirius flashed James a devious sideways glance accompanied with a small smirk, indicating that he agreed with him completely.

Remus stared grimly at his plate, privy to the tree’s real purpose and already dreading its use.

“And now,” Dumbledore continued, not missing a beat, “We feast!”

It was hard to look grim, however, once the food magically appeared on the table. There were a few audible gasps up and down the table, and while those likely came from Muggleborn students, even James who had grown up with magic seemed in awe--though, that may have just been over the food selection.

James didn’t waste anytime, taking a helping of virtually everything before him and shoving large portions of it in his mouth with great speed.

“Sowhere’reyehllfrom?” James asked, mouth full of food.

“Oh, gross,” Lily scowled, turning her head pointedly away from the boys.

Remus couldn’t help but sympathize with the redhead girl, but answered with “Yorkshire.”

Sirius sniggered at Lily’s display of disgust while he energetically dug his own spoon into the bowl of peppermint humbugs.

“I’m from London,” Sirius explained almost bitterly as his mind momentarily flicked to number 12 Grimmauld place.

Mary McDonald turned back toward Sirius so quickly that her giant curly whipped him in the face.

“I’ve been to London! With my mum and dad. We had a brilliant time!” She batted her eyelashes at him profusely.

“We’ve all been to London,” Sirius explained dully. “That’s where we got on the Hogwarts Express.”

The sparkle in Mary’s eye dimmed and she left the boys to return to Lily, Marlene and Dorcas with another swift turn of her head which once again smacked Sirius in the face. A little harder this time.

Lily had turned back to Sirius, however, her penetrating green eyes narrows into a most distasteful glare, “You don’t have to be so rude,” she told him, utterly fearless.

James gaped at her, uncertain whether he was feeling anger at her reproach of Sirius--who he was fairly certain was becoming his best mate--or…..something else entirely.

Peter looked up from his explosion of a plate with his mouth filled with potatoes and chicken.

“Ifivfinfropsfriar,” Peter declared incomprehensibly, spraying Remus with chunks of food.

Though Remus wrinkled his nose in distaste, he carefully brushed the food off his beloved new school robes without complaint and continued to eat quietly.

“Where?” James asked, brow furrowed.

Peter was about to respond to James when he suddenly noticed a steaming bowl of bacon near Marlene. He grabbed the entire bowl and was then lost to the world.

Anyway,” James interjected, “I’m from Godric’s Hollow, so I reckon it only makes sense I was a Gryffindor after all,” he said, sounding rather pleased with himself.

Lily, who couldn’t help but overhear James’ load, boastful tones, gave a snort and an eyeroll.

“Where are you from then?” James asked, irritation at being mocked quickly overriding whatever that little flicker had been earlier.

“Cokeworth,” she said simply, her eyes barely meeting James’ in a clear sign that she had no desire to continue this conversation.

“Oh,” was all James could manage, utterly unfamiliar with the predominantly Muggle town.

~~*~~

After several more helpings of dinner, dessert, and a guest appearance from Nearly Headless Nick who had swooped dramatically down the table and made Peter shriek, the remnant food suddenly disappeared and the first years’ attention was commanded by a tall, impressive fifth year boy.

“Alright, you lot, my name is Kingsley Shacklebolt, and I’m one of your Gryffindor prefects,” he told them, and though he smiled, a sharp, no-nonsense tone cut through his voice that signaled he was not to be trifled with by the likes of a first year. “If you need any help adjusting to the school, finding your classes, or any other problems, feel free to reach out to me anytime,” he told them, a bit more warmly this time. “I’ll be leading you up to the Common Room, so if you all would follow me,” he gestured with his hand.

The boys clambered from the bench lethargically, all of them sleepy from the obscene amount of food they had just consumed. Peter needed to be pulled out from the bench by poor Remus.

They followed Kingsley through the castle, James and Sirius hardly noticed a single word he uttered while they excitedly observed the magical staircases, giggling portraits, and a ragged-looking cat that followed them through the shadows as they walked. Kingsley stopped to point out several of his favorite suits of armor and elegant tapestries on the way. Remus’ nerves and anxiety gave way to excitement, too, overwhelmed by an acute sense of place and how he was actually here, seeing all the things he had read and heard so much about. He couldn’t contain a broad smile, that was matched by the other boys in his year as they exchanged looks.

Kingsley finally brought them to face a giant portrait of a fat lady.

Sirius scrutinized the portrait of the snoring woman, disinterest quickly descending upon him.

“And here we have a sleeping cow. What a gem of a painting,” he sneered. “Can we get on with this art history lesson? I’m over it.”

“Why, I never!” the Fat Lady jerked suddenly awake, her voice shrill and highfalutin; her expression softened as it landed on polite, handsome Kingsley. “Surely, Mr. Shacklebolt, there must have been a mistake with this one,” she sneered at Sirius. “In my time, a chivalrous nature was an essential Gryffindor trait, I would never imagine a Gryffindor boy would speak to a lady such as myself in such a fashion,” she preened.

Kinglsey only smiled and shrugged, “Sorry, ma’am, hat’s orders,” he said.

The Fat Lady harrumphed, looking down her nose at Sirius, who flashed her a toothy smile.

“As I was saying,” Kinglsey continued, “The portrait opens by password, and your prefects will inform you when it changes, so it’s important that you remember them,” he said, casting a warning look down at Peter who he already suspected of being a bit slow. “The current password is Siba's Sunday Trifle.”

At his word, the Fat Lady swung open to reveal a rounded passageway that the first years crammed through, Kingsley still leading away. There were several ooooh’s and ahhhh’s scattered around as they took in the lavish accommodations. Lily could hardly believe this was a school at all, accustomed as she was to the more clinical and institutionalized style of the Cokeworth government schools.

The excited murmurings ceased as Kinglsey continued. “The first year boys’ dormitory is up the stairs to the right, and girls’ is too the left. Don’t even think about entering the girls’ dormitory, gentlemen, the stairs won’t hear of it,” he smirked.

Peter ran to catch up with the group in the common room, having been delayed after he tripped when climbing through the passageway.

“Wha’d I miss?” he panted.

“Your room’s up that way,” Sirius explained, pointing to the girl’s staircase. Peter watched the girls walk towards the staircase with some confusion, then followed after them.

Sirius then turned to James and eyed him excitedly.

“Race you to the dorm?” He asked with a grin.

James nodded eagerly, a wicked grin alighting his own face as he heard Peter give a holler after taking a tumble down the stairs which turned into a slide once he step foot on them. Momentarily distracted, James had to run extra fast to catch up to Sirius.

The boys pushed and shoved their way to the top, both claiming victory in a boisterous, good-humored argument.

Remus and Peter joined a few minutes after, Remus having stayed behind to help a befuddled Peter off the ground and into the correct dormitory. Peter was either too scared of James and Sirius to tell them off or too happy to see his bed, as he charged for the place that had his things and collapsed onto it still fully clothed with a contented sigh as the bed groaned underneath him.

Quietly, Remus made his way to his own things, carefully checking his trunk for his professions and removing a framed photo of himself and his parents, placing it on his nightstand. James, meanwhile, was busy positioning his Falmouth Falcons poster.

Sirius climbed up onto his four poster bed adjacent to James’ and began to jump all over it, testing out its springiness. His robes bounces along with him.

“These beds wouldn’t fit a toddler,” Sirius declared.

He then leapt from his bed onto James’, his robes flapping out behind him like a cape. He then commenced jumping on James bed to compare bouncing potential. After sufficient testing, Sirius kicked off his shoes and sat cross-legged on James’ bed.

“Did you notice that cat following us in the corridors?” he asked James, still panting from his recent physical activity.

James grinned widely, joining Sirius for several jumps, then plopping down beside him on the opposite side of the bed.

Thinking for a moment, James nodded. “Mangy thing, wasn’t it?” he asked. “I felt like it was trying to get our scent or something...do cats do that?”

“Dunno,” Sirius replied eagerly, “I don’t know much about cats. But it was definitely watching us. I think we should follow it. Maybe it has like ways to report us or something.”

“Do you think it could be an animagus?” Remus asked, his curiosity peaked.

Sirius spun around to look at Remus laying in his bed across from James’

“I hope so! I’ve never met one before.”

“No, me neither,” Remus mused. “I hope it’s not a professor in disguise.”

“That would definitely be shit,” Sirius said thoughtfully. “But we’re going after it anyway,” he concluded.

~~*~~

Chapter Text

Typically not an early riser, James found himself too eager to sleep the night before his first day of classes--or maybe that was just Peter's thunderous snores keeping him awake. Indeed, it was an odd feeling for James to grow accustomed to sharing space with three other boys, having been raised an only child. In any case, James was dressed and ready with time to spare for breakfast, beaming at himself in his Gryffindor robes.

He was a bit disappointed that Sirius was still asleep….and Peter, he supposed. Remus, he noticed, was already gone, and so James set out to find him at the Gryffindor table for breakfast.

“‘Lo, Remus,” James greeted, ruffling his hair absentmindedly as he slid into the seat across from his reserved housemate.

Remus looked up with a smile, a trace of apprehension tugging at the corners, “Morning,” he greeted. “I got up early to write my parents,” he confided, face beating slightly as he considered whether or not that was uncool to admit to, but then James’ eyes widended.

“Oh, bugger, I've got to do that, mum'll kill if she doesn't hear something soon,” he muttered, rifling in his school bag for ink and parchment and scribbling off a hasty letter to his parents. James’ hand slowed, however, as he described his sorting with great care, relishing in the pride of following in his parents’ footsteps, imagining how pleased they would be when they read this.

Checking his watch with a frown, Remus peered down the Great Hall which showed still no sign of Sirius or Peter.

“Should we check on them…?” he suggested.

James looked up from sealing his parchment shut with a lick of the envelope, his face soured from the unpleasant taste. He couldn't wait until he could do that sort of thing magically.

“I reckon, though dunno how Sirius could sleep through that racket.”

Just then, the tremendous doors of the Great hall opened with a bang. A doe-eyed Peter wearing his Gryffindor sweater inside-out could be seen dragging a miserable Sirius by the arm through the doors. Sirius’ Gryffindor tie was loosely knotted, which unfairly and effortlessly worked for him.

C’mon, Sirius,” Peter urged, tugging harder. “I.Can’t.Miss.Breakfast!"

Sirius glared at Peter as he allowed his body to be dragged down the aisle of tables.

“I hate you,” Sirius grumbled to Peter as they reached James and Remus.

Without even a hello to James and Remus, Peter hastily plopped onto a spot on the bench next to James and began to eat hash and sausages straight from the platters.

Sirius collapsed next to Remus and let his face fall onto the wooden table, dead asleep.

Remus was quite alarmed by this, casting an inquisitive look down at Sirius, uncertain if he should check on him or just leave him.

“Errr….” Remus began, giving Sirius a trepid shake, “Are you alright?”

“Don’t wake him!” Peter warned exasperatedly.

“I would’ve left him,” he went on in a whisper between bites, “But I forgot how to get back here. How’re we supposed find our way around at all? Without even a map or anythin’!”

Marlene stopped chatting with Dorcas and Lily and turned towards the boys.

“You know, he’s right. A map really would be brilliant. Took me twenty minutes to find the girls toilet down here.”

She then noticed sleeping Sirius and bit her lip. Bending across the table, Marly lifted the bottle of syrup and slowly dripped some over Sirius’ head.

“This is for Mary,” she giggled quietly.

“What did he do to Mary?” Lily asked sharply.

“He was a wanker to her last night. We can’t have that,” she explained, shooting James a warning look.

“Why are you looking at me?” James asked incredulously, but Lily seemed uninterested in his denial of involvement. She glared heartily at the pair of them.

“Well, I think that does serve him right,” she sniffed.

“Maybe we should put syrup in your hair then, see how you like it, Ms. Perfect,” James shot off.

Excuse me?”

As James and Lily bickered, Peter licked the bowl of eggs clean, the bell rang, indicating that it was time to head to class. The students began to groggily disperse from their tables and shuffle out through the Great hall.

The boys followed suit and began to clamber out from the bench. Sirius woke with a loud yawn and slowly stood up.

“...How’d I get here?” he grumbled, looking around the Great hall.

“...You wanted Breakfast!” Peter explained quickly.

Sirius opened his mouth to disagree when he happened to touch the back of his head with his hand. He quickly pulled his hand back, revealing thick, gelatinous globs.

“WHAT THE…?” Sirius exclaimed as he behold the goo oozing from his head with shock and disgust.

The first year girls walked past the boys, giggling amongst themselves.

“They did it,” James said quickly, glaring at them as he passed. “Don't worry, we'll get them back.”

“I don't know if that's a good id--” Remus began to say, but was cut off.

“We'll get them back.”

“They’ll regret this,” Sirius declared as he licked some of the syrup from his hand. As the boys followed the crowd out through the Great Hall, Sirius would continuously wipe his hand upon any student's robes in close proximity to him.

“Where’s our first class?” Peter piped up anxiously as they meandered through the halls. James and Sirius had formed their own exclusive group a bit ahead of Peter and Remus now, which disheartened him greatly.

When it came to locating classes, Peter was actually paired with just the right person. Remus had read Hogwarts: A History enough times to have a fairly good imagining of the castle's layout even without a map.

“Transfiguration, it's on the first floor,” Remus instructed, just as James and Sirius were about to step foot on the staircase leading up to the second floor. They exchanged somewhat embarrassed looks, then stepped back down, allowing Remus to lead the way.

Recovering his pride as they entered the classroom, James told everyone, “You know, my parents were taught by Albus Dumbledore!”

Severus looked up from his Transfiguration year 1 text to eye James with a scowl.

“Right, that explains where you got your brainlessness, then,” he smirked. Avery, Evan and Mulciber, Snape’s new housemates sniggered loudly.

“His mum must be ancient as death, what do you think she used as a surrogate?” Avery asked with a twisted smirk.

“Based on his unbearably irritating voice I would say a Mandrake,” Severus replied.

James, in a word, was stunned by these retorts--never in his life had he heard Albus Dumbledore or his parents spoken of so derisively, and he had personally never thought of his parents as particularly old until right about now.

Sirius, meanwhile, had heard more than enough by this point. He grabbed his new wand out of his robes and stormed over to where Severus, Avery, Evan and Mulciber sat.

“Shut the fuck up you greasy turd.”

“And what do you plan to do with that, Black?” Severus asked eyeing Sirius’ wand, unfazed. “Shoot sparks at us?”

Sirius looked down at his wand as Avery, Evan and Mulciber sniggered. He then let it drop to the floor and instead punched Severus square in the face.

Peter shrieked and dodged under the table, even knowing Sirius obviously had not been aiming for him. Remus looked distinctly uncomfortable, and opted for kneeling down to comfort Peter for something to do and to avoid the fray.

James was spurred into action by Sirius, and made a charge for Avery, but was pulled backwards by the meddlesome little redhead.

“Oh, honestly,” she sighed. “You’re just going to make it worse,” she told James, who managed to break free but had lost his rhythm out of sheer shock at her unexpected intervention.

Lily’s eyes then landed on Snape. “Severus, that was really rude,” she reprimanded, but her expression was more puzzled than angry--although Severus had been unkind to Tuney on occasion and she therefore knew him capable of the occasional jibe, Severus had always spoken well of Dumbledore, and he’d just implied he was an inept teacher.

Aggressively clicking heels broke up the scuffle, though, as Professor McGonagall seemed to materialize out of thin air--the rest of the class, including Peter and Remus, gaped in her wake, as they had just seen her transform from a cat into a human the moment Sirius punched Severus.

“Quite the entrance and first impression you boys have made,” she remarked sternly, surveying the group. “Ten points from Slytherin for provocation and twenty from Gryffindor for rising to the bait,” she said, as though ticking off a list. Her eyes appraised Lily, a slight glint of approval, though her expression remained thoroughly displeased. “And five points to Gryffindor for defusing it from turning into a much worse fight,” she awarded Lily, evening the playing field somewhat.

“Black, detention,” she concluded.

“WHAT?” Sirius burst out indignantly.

Snape, Avery and Mulciber exchanged smirks, silently congratulating each other.

“But that’s not fair!” James burst out, “They-

“I’m well aware of what they said, Potter, my hearing is twice as good as yours in my animagus form,” McGonagall cut him off swiftly, “But words and actions merit very different punishments. If you object, perhaps you could join Black for attempted fighting.”

“I will!” James burst indignantly. McGonagall raised an eyebrow.

“Oh, don’t be a martyr. Besides, the class has only just begun--there’s plenty of time for you to earn your own detention if that’s what you’re after,” she said, then after beat, Take a seat. Well away from one another, mind you.”

Grumbling, James slouched in a seat beside Peter, as Remus quietly took one next to Sirius.

“Bloody ridiculous,” Sirius grumbled, shooting Snape a dark glare. Snape met Sirius’ look with a triumphant smile before turning to focus his attention on McGonagall.

Turning on her heel, McGonagall’s robes billowed behind her as she walked up the aisle once more. “Let that serve as a transition into reviewing the rules and expectations of this class--Transfiguration is a vitally important part of your magical education, and you are kidding yourselves if you think petty fights--verbal or otherwise--will be met with indulgence. I will tolerate no tomfoolery in this class. Such behavior will be met with swift and proportionate punishment,” she said, turning back to face the class, eyeing the Gryffindors now, “Regardless of House.”

Sirius rolled his eyes exaggeratedly and sat back in his chair with his arms crossed.

McGonagall then turned to face her desk and with a light flick of her wand suddenly transformed the desk into a turkey.

The class gasped with glee--well, most of the class, that is. Sirius was still sulking.

McGonagall then began a complex lecture on Gamp’s law of elemental Transfiguration. Most of the class were already a full scroll of parchment into notes within the first five minutes. Peter would desperately peer over at James’ notes, continually losing track of the lecture.

Eventually, the lecture paused (a sigh of relief could be heard throughout the classroom as the students massaged their wrists) and matches were levitated towards each student.

“Now take what you have learned and attempt to turn your match into a needle,” McGonagall instructed.
James’ brow furrowed in concentration as he swallowed his own frustration and set to the task at hand--though he was still embarrassed and annoyed at Evans for undermining his revenge punch, he was beginning to think that showing up the Slytherin crew in Transfiguration might be a pretty good come back.

“James….James,” Peter whispered frantically, “What did she say after--” James shushed him.

“I’m trying to focus,” he said--and though it took him about five attempts, on each one, his match began to look more and more like a needle. On his sixth attempt, he mastered it.

“Very good, Mr. Potter, you’ve redeemed yourself and classmates,” McGonagall said in a moderately pleased voice, “Five points to Gryffindor for being the first done,” she said, and James cast a pointed look over at the Slytherins.

Snape actively avoided James’ glance, clearly peeved that James had finished before he did. Snape’s needle was nearly complete, his match had turned metallic but he was struggling to sharpen the edges.

Sensing the building tension there, McGonagall added, “Why don’t you help Mr. Pettigrew master it now?”

Peter looked up at McGonagall and James, his match had propelled itself into his nose.

“Erm, could I have another, Professor?” He asked meekly.

McGonagall sighed and summoned over the box containing the remaining matches, figuring Peter may need more than one.

Peter took a match out of the box and placed it before him on the table.

“Alright…” Peter said as he aimed his wand at the match. He squeezed his wand as tightly as he could and glared at the match so hard that his eyes turned red. James observed this all with a look of horror, plainly afraid that a match would soon be catapulting up his own nose.

Just when he thought nothing was going to happen, a flame erupted from his wand, which turned the match, and the surface area on the desk surrounding the match, to ash.

Peter looked up at James with ash powdered on his face.

“Erm...Not quite right…”

“I don’t think you’re supposed to squeeze it so hard…” James pointed out.
Sirius sniggered from a few rows behind Peter but suddenly scowled when he heard the Slytherins laughing from across the room. In response, he tossed his fully transformed needle towards them. It landed next to their confused matches.

“Thought you might need a few pointers,” Sirius offered.

James gave a hearty laugh and then sent his needle soaring towards the Slytherins too, where it landed in Severus’ hair.

“Going to take a while to get that out of there. Be a miracle if he can find it,” James boasted loudly to Sirius.

“He might even have to take a shower,” Sirius said, loudly. “Wouldn’t that be a cause for celebration.”

Snape continued to stare at his match, attempting to ignore the Gryffindors for the sake of staying on McGonagall’s good side. Their remarks were certainly being noticed, though. As evidenced by his pasty white cheeks glowing red.

The bell rang, but James and Sirius weren’t quite finished. Sirius stuffed his belongings into his bag and looked up to notice Snape’s beet-red cheeks.

“I didn’t know the circus was in town, James,” he said, his eyes shifting playfully from James to Snape to ensure that he was listening. “Do you think the clown will dance for us if we give it some gold?”

“I reckon so,” James sneered, “Maybe then he could buy himself some shampoo.”

Peter let out a hearty laugh at this, while Remus frowned as he moved things around in his bag with no real purpose--he knew, theoretically, the right thing to do would be to tell James and Sirius to back off….but Remus also knew he desperately wanted to make friends with them.

Sirius flicked a shiny galleon at Snape as the boys left the classroom. Snape’s entire body was shaking at this point, but a swift glance towards Professor McGonagall communicated that he wasn’t about to retaliate in front of her.

The boys began to walk down the bustling corridor in a tight-knit group as the headed to their next class. As they made their way, Peter turned and glanced at Sirius.

“I’ve never seen anyone punch someone else like that before…That was pretty brave,” Peter said, looking at Sirius in awe.

Sirius shrugged. “It’s nothing, really. No one gets away with hurting my friends,” he explained, shooting James a brief look of affection.

Peter decided then that even though Sirius was scary and rather rude, he was very important to have as a friend.

James returned the look with a smile, “Yeah, thanks, mate, that was brilliant. I would have had a go too if it wasn't for Evans throwing me off,” he said, still miffed. “Don't worry, I'm sure I will end up in detention soon enough to keep you company,” he smirked, but then considered more about what Snape had said, “Why d’you reckon he thought we'd be daft for having studied under Dumbledore, though? Dumbledore's the greatest wizard that ever was!”

“Some people think he's...ah...unconventional,” Remus chimed in suddenly. “He's very liberal in his thinking...too liberal, for some.”

“And you can’t forget about the good ol' fanatical purebloods,” Sirius explained with an exasperated sigh.

“Dumbledore’s an active supporter of muggle rights and defeated Gellert Grindelwald--So, you know, purists aren’t huge fans. They come up with whatever excuse they can to shit all over him. It’s a favored cocktail party topic,” his face twisted into a grimace.

James listened to Sirius curiously--was he speaking from experience, James wondered?

With Remus’ guidance, the boys made their way down to their next class: Potions, which happened to be located way down in the castle Dungeons. As they descended down the Dungeon staircase, the temperature notably began to drop. By the time they hit the bottom step Peter had procured his Gryffindor scarf from his bag and wrapped it around his head.

Although it was still morning, burning lanterns mounted to the stone walls were lit all through the corridor due to the ever-looming darkness down there. The shadowy dimness gave the Dungeons an eerie feel. Even the portraits had dodgy looks about them--ghoulish eyes followed the boys as they walked past. Remus pointed out the oversized, peeling wooden door to the potions classroom.

“Erm...Question” Peter piped up, “Why does Hogwarts even have a dungeon?” Peter asked uneasily as he situated himself directly between James and Sirius while they walked.

“Torture chambers,” Sirius whispered dramatically as he pulled open the door.

“You can’t be serious?”

“I am, actually,” Sirius sniggered playfully.

Peter stopped moving to stare at a particularly unpleasant portrait of a hollow-eyed upside down woman who would cackle ominously at random. When he looked forwards he realized that the other three had already entered into the classroom. He stood alone, staring down the long, shadowy corridor with his lip quivering.

"Run piggy," the upside down woman whispered from a new portrait situated very close to Peter's ear.

He shrieked in response and burst through the classroom door.

~~*~~

Chapter Text

Later that afternoon the day had become atypically warm. The first years had a break period and being that most of them could not recall how to return to their respective common rooms, the majority had gone outside to lounge in the clock tower courtyard. Severus stepped outside, immediately becoming blinded by the sun. As he shaded his eyes with his right hand he scanned the sprawling, grassy courtyard and was struck by the bestial nature of his cohort. Girls huddled together, chattering loudly like a flock of jabberknolls, boys tumbled through the grass, chasing flying paper dragons; and in the only spot of shade to be found luxuriated Potter, Black, the sickly one and the fat boy. Clearly social dominance had already been established in this pitiful animal kingdom.

Severus quickly assessed that he had no interest in spending another moment in the courtyard and turned on his heels to head back inside.

Lily was just emerging from the castle as Severus turned, nearly colliding into her. At first her eyes widened, but then her expression warmed into a smile upon seeing Severus. Marlene and Mary stiffened behind her--while they may have not been sure about their own Gryffindor boys yet, they really weren’t sure of the Slytherin ones.

“Hi, Sev,” Lily greeted, “Have you met Marly and Mary, my roommates?” she asked, turning to them, “Marlene, Mary, this is my friend Severus, we grew up together!”

Severus couldn’t help but smile when his eyes met Lily’s. It faded a bit as he turned his gaze to her two new friends. It was only the first day and already Severus felt more distance between him and Lily thanks to being in disparate houses.

Marlene appraised him curiously at that--learning that Lily was muggleborn, she wouldn’t have expected her to have a childhood friend who was a wizard. Not only that, this sullen boy wasn't exactly the type of person Marlene envisioned Lily befriending.

“It’s nice to meet you,” she said, more or less genuinely, Mary nodded her agreement. “Are you muggleborn too?” she asked.

“No,” Severus replied curtly, automatically glancing around to check who was nearby. He had already determined what the leak of his muggle ancestry would do to him as a first year Slytherin.

“I..I mean no, we just live in the same town,” he corrected, shooting Lily and apologetic frown.

Mary stared at Severus while twirling a finger through a strand of her thick, wild curls.

“Are you and Lily boyfriend and girlfriend?” she teased playfully.

She had overly large brown eyes that Severus mentally compared to deer caught in a car's headlights: blank and vapid.

Severus gaped at Mary in response, his eyes darting to Lily’s sheepishly.

“Wh--what?” he stammered uncharacteristically. “N--no, we’re… just friends. Best friends.”

Marlene rolled her eyes, “Mary, you already asked Lily if she has a boyfriend.”

Mary shrugged in response with a devious smile. “Just wanted to double check. He looks at her like their more than friends…don’t you think”

Severus had become so anxious at this point that his mouth had gone dry. He dug through the pockets of his robes for his water pouch and began to drink copiously. For some reason it felt like he became more thirsty after drinking and so lifted the pouch to his lips to continue to drink more. He drank until every drop of water was gone.

Lily's face had gone beat red as well, which was uncharacteristic for a girl who was normally at ease with herself, never worrying too much about what others thought. But the question made her feel funny--or made her ask uncomfortable questions of herself. She was used to thinking of Severus as her best friend, almost brotherly...but, then again, she hadn't really had those sorts of feelings yet for any boy. Could she one day feel that way about Severus? Did she already, and she just didn't know how to tell the difference between the love you felt for your friends and being in love.

"Errr...right, now that we've cleared that up, could Severus and I have a minute alone?" she asked.

"Ooooooohh!" Mary grinned wickedly, "I see how it is! Not boyfriend and girlfriend, my arse."

Marlene let out an exasperated sigh, looping arms with Mary, "Don't worry Lily, I'll get her out of here," she said, winking at the pair of them.

Once they were out of earshot, Lily groaned, "I'm sorry that was so embarrassing, Mary seems to struggle with the idea of co-ed friendships."

“It’s fine…” Severus responded distantly, avoiding Lily’s eyes. “She’s just insipid and ignorant,” he said, bluntly. He scratched as his throat a bit, still feeling uncomfortably thirsty.

Lily raised her eyebrows at that, "I actually like her, I think she was just teasing us," she said. "Anyway, how was your first day?"

“Mhm…” Severus replied, unconvinced. He then reflected back on his day with a sigh. “Well, my Slytherin housemates are a group of meat-headed morons and your male housemates are as pleasant as the plague. But, hey, at least the food is good,” he replied with a small smile.

Lily laughed at that, "That sounds about right," she agreed, then frowned slightly, "You really don't like your own housemates though?"

Severus opened his mouth to respond but he was suddenly overcome by a deeply unsettling twisting, bubbling and burning sensation in his stomach. He looked down at his stomach with confusion as it began to audibly groan.

“OYE, YOU FEELING ALRIGHT THERE, SNAPE?” Potter bellowed from across the square. He and Black were sitting up straight wearing twin grins.

The eyes of the entire courtyard turned towards Severus, who by this point was doubled over in pain, grasping at his stomach while sweat dripped down his hooked nose.

“LOOKS TO ME LIKE HE MIGHT SHIT HIMSELF.” Black called in response.

Severus’ eyes widened in horrific realization. He knew then what was happening and who had done this to him.

Laughter and gasps of horror began to fill the courtyard. Girls covered their mouths and wrinkled their noses in disgust. Avery, Mulciber, and Rosier stood huddled together, exchanging disapproving glances.

Severus’ nervous system kicked into emergency mode. He had to get out. Still hunched over and gripping his stomach, Severus began to run through the grass back towards the castle doors. His peers were howling with laughter and several shrieked as the moved out of Severus’ way.

“RUN, SNIVELS, RUN,” Sirius called as he and James rolled on the grass, howling with laughter.

Severus sprinted through the castle double doors, and desperately surveyed the corridor for a bathroom. The bell rang and upper-year students began to flow out from their classrooms. Now limping and hunched over, Severus pushed through the mob of older students, all whom eyed him reproachfully once they got a good look at the state he was in.

At last Severus found bathroom. It was a girls bathroom, but at this point Severus couldn’t care. All eyes were on him as the girl’s bathroom door swung behind him.

~~*~~

A little while later, Severus sat against a dusty bookshelf in the library next to Lily with his eyes shut tight. His face was still beet red.

He overheard two girls speaking a few bookshelves behind them:

“I can’t even tell you how utterly revolting that was,” one girl whispered. “I seriously almost lost my lunch. I literally can never step foot into that bathroom ever again…”

Lily was beat red as well, but it was indignation rather than humiliation coloring her cheeks.

Leaning back in her chair so that she could get a view of the whispering girls, Lily glared at them. “Well, you’ve Potter and Black to thank for that, now why don’t you go gossip somewhere else, this is a library,” she snapped, letting her chair fall back to the ground with a thud.

“You really ought to tell Professor McGonagall or someone what happened. They can’t just get away with this.”

Severus sighed and leaned his head back against the bookshelf.

“I don’t think it’s worth it…Getting detention and howlers just glorify them more.”

“I knew they were idiots, but now I know they’re also infantile neanderthals. I mean really didn’t this prank cease being funny after age five…” Severus opened his eyes and stared distantly out one of the library windows, fighting back tears.

“I thought Hogwarts was going to be filled with smart, hardworking students who were invested in their study of magic. But all they seem to care about is following along with whatever halfwit they decide is popular.”

Lily frowned as she saw how much this affected Severus. Reaching across the table, she laid her hand over Severus’ in a gesture of comfort.

“There are gits everywhere,” she sighed, “But there are still plenty of smart people who care about magic rather than who’s popular,” she flashed a reassuring smile, “There’s us.”

Severus turned to look at Lily and smiled warmly as he looked into her stunning green eyes. Maybe them being in two separate houses wouldn’t be so bad after all.

“Thanks, Lily. I’m really glad we’re here together,” he said sheepishly.

“Me too,” she smiled.

~~*~~

Chapter Text

~~*~~

James lay sprawled on his bed, breathless from laughing at Sirius’ reenactment of Snape’s frantic exit once the laxative set in. As the laughter quieted, James took a moment to just take it all in--he was at Hogwarts, in his very own dormitory, and he’d already made a brilliant friend. To make things even better, their first weekend at school stretched before them with all the glorious free time that it offered.

Filled with restless energy, James sprang up into a sitting position on his bed.

“So, how’re we going to spend our first Friday night at Hogwarts?”

Sirius dropped from his standing position on his bed, the bed groaned as he bounced several times. Once seated pretzel style, he began to remove his school uniform: First by ripping off his tie and tossing it across the room and then by pulling his sweater up over his head.

“Dunno!” Sirius said excitedly while still finding his way out from the sweater.

Once he escaped he looked over at James with a grin.

“Hang on. I heard some girls whining about how there was a ghost who haunts the girls toilet on the second floor! It must be terrifying! Perhaps it needs a haunting of its own.” He finished with his mouth twisting into a smirk.

Peter grimaced as he listened from his bed across the dormitory. He has been writing his mother back in response to the three letters she had sent him that day.

“Why would anyone want to haunt a bathroom? They’re so disgusting…”

“Only after you use them,” Sirius retorted, both mockingly and seriously.

James guffawed at Sirius’ retort, “Don’t feel too bad, Petey, I’m sure it wasn’t nasty as Snape left it.”

Peter smiled at James with affection then shot Sirius a reproachful glare.

Remus’ brow furrowed, the ghost story peaking his curiosity. He peered over his book.

“I wonder why a ghost would haunt a bathroom when there are so many hidden passages and spookier places in the castle.”

“There’s only one way to find out,” Sirius replied suggestively, an excited glint flashing in his eye.

“This is daft,” Peter groaned. “It’s after-hours, we’ll get caught!” he said to James and Remus, pleading for reason. “Don’t forget that he got detention before our first class even started! Not to mention it’ll be dark and we don’t know where we’re going!”

Sirius crossed his arms and sat back, watching James and Remus.

Remus pursed his lips, contemplative. He’d wanted to see Hogwarts for so long without any real hope of having the opportunity, and now that he was here, well...he wanted to see more, like the legends he had read about. Sure, a ghost in a girl’s toilet might not exactly be legendary, but it could lead to other explorations.

“I’m in,” he said decisively, ignoring Peter’s reasonable concerns.

James hesitated for a second--but only a second. This was his dad’s cloak, a treasured family artifact, and he probably shouldn’t shouldn’t show it off lightly. Then again, his dad hadn’t made him promise to stay out of trouble--he’d just made him promise to stay out of real, serious trouble. He wasn’t sure what hunting a ghost in the girl’s loo qualified, but...it didn’t sound that serious. There were ghosts all over Hogwarts, after all.

Looking at Peter, James smirked after a beat. “I might have a way around all that, let me show you…” he said, and then reached into his trunk, pulling out a carefully folded cloak of a light material and peculiarly indistinct color. Remus looked on curiously.

With a dramatic flourish, James pulled the clock around himself and vanished.

The moment James suddenly disappeared Sirius’ mouth dropped in uncharacteristic shock, Remus’ brow furrowed, deep in thought and Peter emitted a pig-like squeal.

“WHERE DID HE GO?” Peter demanded, holding his breath.

Sirius eyed the spot where James vanished intently, like a predator stalking its prey.

He ignored Peter and turned to Remus. “What is this?” he asked, already having come to understand that Remus knew most things.

Remus was gaping at James, who’d just removed the hood of the cloak to flash them a bodiless grin.

“It’s--it’s an invisibility cloak,” he said.

“Correct,” answered James’ head, “My dad gave it to me. It’s...going to be a tight fit, but I reckon we can all fit.”

“THIS IS BRILLIANT,” Sirius cried with excitement before launching himself off of his bed right into the empty space that was actually James’ body. He and James’ bodiless head crashed to the floor.

He then pulled the cloak around his own body so that he and James both had floating heads and rolled over to look into the mirror--immediately bursting into laughter at their reflection.

“Your DAD gave this to you?” He asked as he bobbed his head up and down to appear like it was bouncing off the floor. “Can you PLEASE ask him to adopt me?”

James couldn’t help but laugh back at the sight of himself and Sirius in the mirror.

“Yeah, he said it was a family heirloom,” James said and grinned, “Well, my parents do like kids,” he said, “Maybe you can meet them when we’re on holiday.”

“They’ll love me. I mean, how could they not?” Sirius grinned.

Peter could think of a few reasons why not.

Sirius and James stood up and Sirius opened up the cloak to make room for Remus and Peter.

“Well, get a move on!”

~*~

Navigating the corridors of Hogwarts with all four of them stuffed under the invisibility cloak was no simple task. Between the shoving, slips, Peter’s heavy breathing, and “OW THAT’S MY FOOT”’s, it was a miracle that cloak helped them remain undetected at all--but perhaps the real miracle was that Filch and Mrs. Norris happened to be stalking a different part of the castle that evening.

Not to mention, they would have been utterly lost without Remus, who seemed to be the only one of the four with any sense of direction at all.

As they approached the haunted girls’ bathroom, the sound of a young girl sobbing filled the hallway as water overflowed from the doorway.

“Wicked,” James flashed a mischievous grin.

Peter stopped dead in his tracks, nearly causing the invisibility cloak to come sliding off them all.

“I don’t know about this, guys….”

“SHHHH!” Sirius hissed, crossing his arms in such a way that jabbed short Peter in the throat. The intentionality behind this behavior wasn’t entirely unclear. He listened to the ghost carefully, anticipating terror and thrill.

“Is it...crying?” Sirius asked with confusion after several moments. His excitement was quickly draining to disappointment, “I thought ghosts were supposed to be scary…This is just...pathetic.”

The sobbing suddenly stopped. A stale silence filled the bathroom, amplifying the sound of the overflowing toilet. Suddenly, the ghost appeared. She was a portly, unattractive young girl with thick glasses and childish pig-tails. Her silvery, transparent facial features were contorted with anger. She looked around wildly for the source of the sound.

“Have you come to see the spectacle that is poor...pitiful...hideous Moaning Myrtle? All I do is sit here for eternity not bothering a single dead or living soul and all the while little pig-nosed boys like you line up outside my stall. I hope you are entertained by my eternal humiliation and suffering!”

She sniffled loudly and dabbed her swollen eyes slowly in turn with her pinky.

“I think I might just drown myself in my toilet. Be done with it.”

Sirius rolled his eyes from under the cloak. He had already experienced a lifetimes’ worth of melodrama.

“I wish you could,” he grumbled.

Myrtle responded by turning closer to the boys and openly weeping with her arms pinned to her sides.

“She’s mad as a bag of ferrets. Let’s go,” Sirius suggested, agitatedly.

“We can’t leave her like this,” Peter piped up, frowning. “She could hurt herself!”

Sirius stared at Peter, dumbfounded by his slow-wittedness.

"You do know that ghosts can't hurt themselves...right, Peter?" Remus asked.

“Are you alright, ghost?” Peter asked Myrtle, kindly.

“Do I look alright to you?” Myrtle snapped, blowing her nose into her ghostly robes, creating a trumpet-like sound. “Where are you, anyway? It’s so very cruel to be nasty to someone while hiding. You might as well be cruel to my face like all the rest.”

"But what if we're ghosts, too, and that's why you can't see us?" James teased.

Myrtle narrowed her eyes at the empty space where a new voice had just sounded.

“Well, then you should all go and find your own toilet to haunt. This one is mine,” She turned her nose towards the ceiling, indignantly, “and I haven’t a single bit of interest in sharing it with invisible boys as ungracious as yourselves.”

"What makes that toilet so special?" James inquired languidly.

“It’s where I died!” Myrtle proclaimed, with pride.

Peter gasped so deeply with horror that he nearly inhaled all of the oxygen in the room.

“LETSGETOUTOFHERE,” he shouted breathlessly, and turned around to abruptly that he knocked Remus hard in the ribs.

Taken aback, Remus slipped and fell into Sirius, who in turn landed on James. Shouting and groaning, all four boys toppled over onto each other and the rather solid stone floor. The invisibility cloak flew off of them, revealing the tangled four.

Myrtle giggled violently at she witnessed the display.

“It seems your ghost routine has a few kinks to work out…” She eyed the boys carefully as they struggled to free themselves from each other.

“Perhaps you should visit again, to test it out,” she added, eyeing Sirius in particular. She then swiftly disappeared behind her stall and a splash could be heard as she dove into the toilet.

“GEOVME,” Sirius grunted as he was being flattened to death by Peter. He then kicked him hard on the behind.

“I’M SORRY,” Peter exclaimed, stepping on James’ hand as he attempted to rise up.

In the midst of all this thunderous chaos, a skeletal cat with bulging yellow, lamp-like eyes had appeared in the doorway and was watching the boys with interest.

"Is...isn't that the cat that's always with the caretaker?" Remus asked hesitantly.

"Or that's not...McGonagall, is it?" James wondered, a shiver rolling down his spine.

“Well done, Mrs. Norris,” Said a sleazy voice as a long shadow filled the doorway. A man with a large, hooked nose and thin, stringy hair appeared wearing a triumphant grin.

“Who the fuck is this?” Sirius asked, not noticing the other boys’ looks of horror and defeat.

“...the caretaker...Mr. Filch,” Remus explained, staring up at Mr. Filch with all the color drained from his face.

“Don’t you worry, Mr. Black, I get the sense that we’ll be developing a long-lasting relationship,”
Filch smirked and took out four slips of parchment and a long, skeletal quill from his frayed robes.

Peter turned to James with his mouth agape.

“James!” he hissed, “Can’t you do something?”

Filch slowly began to write each boy’s name on the parchment slips.

Remus, too, felt his mouth go dry--it had only been a few days and he was already getting a detention? He’d never thought of himself as the type of student who got a detention, and Remus knew his parents didn't either. They were going to be shocked. And what if Professor Dumbledore decided he was more trouble than he was worth, after all?

James, bless him, actually decided to try something. He cleared his throat.

“Mr. Filch, I realize how this looks…” he began, tentatively, “But you see, my friends and I were just returning from the library after it closed, and when we were making our way back to the dormitory, and we heard a young woman crying. Since there were no professors around to alert, we just wanted to see if she was okay, but she sounded so distraught, we figured we ought to check on her...we didn’t realize she’s a ghost. We’re only first years, you see,” he explained, discreetly folding up the invisibility cloak behind his back as he babbled.

Sirius shot James a beaming grin from behind Filch and gave him two thumbs up.

Filch listened to James, wearing with a look of disdain.

“Well, Mrs. Norris, it would appear that we are in the presence of four saints...” he said, sardonically addressing the shabby cat while shooting James a smirk.

Sirius, meanwhile, gave the back of Filch’s head the finger.

“Studying in the library on a friday evening all night until it closes. And then chivalrously running to the defense of an apparition while conveniently on their way back from the library…”

“Mrs. Norris, would you say that this toilet is at all on the way from the library to Gryffindor tower?” His lip curled triumphantly, not removing his eyes from James.

Mrs. Norris was asleep in one of the marble sinks.

“...We got lost…” Peter whispered, both terrified and proud of himself for contributing.

“Got lost, did you! Well, we’ll see what Professor Dumbledore has to say about this!”

“You shall, indeed,” said a familiar, whimsical voice from the corridor. Albus Dumbledore then appeared in the bathroom doorway, wearing magenta, velvet sleepwear robes and a matching cap.

Remus began to shake--this was precisely the last person he wanted to see in his moment of shame. Even James, standing beside him, faltered a little.

“Er---hello, Professor Dumbledore,” James greeted nervously, “Do you--should I repeat all that?”

“Not necessary, Mr. Potter,” replied Dumbledore, smiling down at James. “Mr. Filch knows this castle better than anyone. So he likely forgets how easy it is to get turned around in these corridors when you first arrive. Even I find myself wandering into rooms I never intended on entering. Particularly when the aroma of food is present.”

He glanced from one horror-struck boy to the next with an indecipherable glint in his eye.

“I think we can give Misters Lupin, Pettigrew, Black and Potter this one pass. Can’t we, Argus?”

Dumbledore asked, glancing at Filch.

Filch rolled his eyes and grunted in displeased affirmation. “As you wish, headmaster,” he shot the boys reproachful stares. “Just.This.Once.”

He then sulked off into the shadows. Mrs. Norris awoke from the sink to chase after him.

“Now then,” Dumbledore said, startling each boy. “I will continue my journey to the kitchens for my midnight snack. I trust you four can make it back to the Gryffindor common room without arousing any other ghosts or staff members?”

“...Yes, Professor!” Peter piped up.

Dumbledore gave them a swift wink before following in Filch’s footsteps and disappearing down the corridor.

As the two men left, James turned to his friends and gave them a grand bow.

“You’re welcome,” he said.

“Nice one, James,” Sirius grinned.

“I helped too!” Peter proclaimed. “I told that hump-back bloke that we were lost!”

“I’m just glad that I didn’t get two detentions in my first week,” Sirius sighed in relief. “My mum has already threatened to home-school me. I’d rather spend the rest of eternity in Moaning Myrtle's toilet than that.”

“I think my parents would die of shock,” Remus admitted, the color finally returning to his face.

“Alright there, Remus?” Sirius asked with a grin. “I’d say it looks like you’ve seen a ghost but we saw one and it was boring as hell.”

“Can we please go to bed now,” Peter said with a scowl.

Remus merely shook his head, still analyzing whether or not Dumbledore looked disappointed in him.

“I suppose,” James said wistfully, “We probably shouldn’t test our incredibly good luck twice.”

“I wouldn’t be opposed..” Sirius shrugged as the boys filed out through the bathroom doorway.

“You’re definitely going to end up being home-schooled,” Peter replied, both joking and not joking simultaneously.

“Probably,” Sirius flashed him a grin, also both joking and not joking.

~~*~~

Chapter Text

~~*~~

The castle was brimming with excitement for the Halloween feast, and James couldn’t help but catch it. He’d heard incredible things about the feast, mostly about the food. Peter, of course, was practically giddy as he trailed after James and Sirius as they made their way down the hall along with Remus, who was looking peaky, but otherwise as happy as the rest of them.

As they entered the Great Hall, the space had been transformed to hold and impossible amount of floating Jack-o-Lanterns and candles. James let out an audible “wow” as he grinned up at the ceiling.
The boys made their way to the Gryffindor table, where Lily was already seated with her friends. James took a seat adjacent from her, and she merely glowered and turned her body so that she was facing Marlene instead.

James snorted, “Not a big fan of ours, that one,” he said.

“It’s because she’s jealous of us, obviously,” Sirius snickered as he squeezed into the bench next to James. A few upper-year Gryffindors shot Sirius and James dirty looks, likely from the 15 points a piece they lost Gryffindor for going to class late wearing jack-o-lanterns on their heads with brown yarn crudely constructed to mimic Professor McGonagall's bun hair-do.

Marlene glanced over at James a Sirius and rolled her eyes.

“You know, my brother told me that Gryffindor had won the house cup three years in a row before our year. Why do I get the feeling that we’re going to lose the next seven…”

Sirius glanced over with disinterest at the house points hourglasses behind the head table where the professors and staff sat. Gryffindor had significantly less rubies than the other three houses. Slytherin thus far was the clear winner, which tied a knot in Sirius’ stomach.

“Some of us don’t need cups to tell us that we are winners,” Sirius explained.

“Some of us are dickheads,” Marlene retorted and turned back to Lily.

“The House Cup is just a ploy to stop you from having fun while making you think you’re having fun,” James shrugged.

"Thank you!" Sirius said exasperatedly. "At least someone else sees the corruption being fed to us!"

Peter sighed loudly and loosened his tie from his pudgy neck.

“I hate Halloween. Bad things always happen on Halloween.” he frowned.

“Like what? Your mum forgetting to cook dinner?” Sirius asked with a grin as he rummaged through his robes for a half-eaten chocolate frog.

“No!” Peter crossed his arms. “Bad things always happen. Two years ago my mum let me go down the block to trick-or-treat with some girls from school. One house the door was open a little. The girls told me they had the best sweets so I couldn’t turn it down--”

“Merlin’s beard, so much about this is brilliant,” Sirius whispered in awe.

Peter ignored him and continued, “Anyway, I went inside to say trick-or-treat. The girls were gone, I was all alone. And suddenly this rabid dog came running towards me a hundred miles an hour! It had foam all over its mouth and it had red eyes like the devil!” He looked from James to Remus and then to Sirius dramatically.

“I knew I was going to die. I tried to run but my Peter Pan costume got stuck on a branch and ripped clean off. I ran down the block as fast as I could and there the girls were, laughing at me. It was horrible.”

James and Sirius exchanged a look before simultaneously doubling over. Sirius spat pieces of his chocolate frog across the table.

James howled in laughter, unable to contain himself. Remus tried to look attentive and sympathetic, but even his lips quivered into an amused grin.

“Pete, that was one of the best stories I have ever heard in my life,” he said, wiping away tears from crying.

Peter smiled meekly. He hadn’t meant to be entertaining but was happy to please James.

“What about you, Remus?” James asked after a beat, “Any Halloween disasters? Mine usually just involved my parents struggling to scrounge up some kids for me to play with,” he admitted.

Remus initially froze up at the question, but he was then surprised by how...familiar that sounded.

“Really?” Remus asked, “I--really, mine were rather the same, there weren’t a lot of kids around,” he said, which was a half-truth, but close enough. There were some kids in town, Remus just didn’t know any of them. “I wouldn’t have thought you’d have any trouble making friends, though,” he said.

“I don’t,” James frowned, “But...well...those Slytherin gits weren’t completely wrong, my parents are a bit older,” he explained. “Their friends’ kids are all like a lot older than me,” he shrugged, “But mum and dad would usually find a way to make it fun. Usually they would take me to a Quidditch game or something, or trick-or-treat in Godric’s Hollow.”

Turning to Sirius now, James grinned, “How about you? How did you spend your non-Hogwarts Halloweens?”

Sirius sighed exaggeratedly and tilted his head up dramatically.

“Well, trick-or-treating is for muggles, traitors and criminals,” he began in a high-pitched voice, crudely imitating his mother. “So like every other holiday Halloween was spent with members of the Black family since they are the only non-muggles,traitors and criminals in the universe.”

“While all of you were out running around in costumes, or apparently in the nude,” he paused to snigger at Peter, “I was wearing dress robes and being scolded by my sloshed mother whenever I opened my mouth. And Merlin forbid if I slouch in my chair.”

“Your mum is terrifying…” Peter shuddered.

“Nah, she’s just a crazed hag who literally has nothing else to do but scream,” Sirius shrugged.

“Like I said,” Peter continued, “Terrifying.”

"I mean, at least you guys have got the spooky part down," James grinned.

At that moment, a flurry of bats swooped from the walls and ceiling; a mad cacophony filled the Great Hall as the sound of thousands of flapping wings filled the air. Students all around gaspes and oohed and ahhed.

Peter screamed and covered his head with his robes.

Distracted momentarily, hardly anyone had noticed that the feast had materialized before them, but gradually the hall filled with cries of delight at the bounty before them. The table was stacked with candy-filled pumpkins, apples, black cauldrons of big lollipops, carrot cake, bats, orange streamers, goblets of colored candy, and pumpkin juice.

"Alright!" James cheered, "I have to admit, this is way more than anything you could get just trick-or-treating," he said, trying to get his hands on a bit of everything.

The boys savagely loaded their plates and inhaled as much sugar as their bodies could possibly hold while simultaneously joking and laughing excitedly. Even Remus was filled with the excited spirit of Halloween and consumed more sweets than he probably ever had in his entire life. It was a happy moment for him, he couldn’t remember ever having this much fun.

With his mouth filled with licorice bats that had turned his mouth black, Peter lowered his head and gestured for the other boys to huddle together. James, Sirius and Remus each lowered their heads and squished closer together.

“Guys, last night I went to use the bathroom but for some reason the door shocked me when I would touch it…” Peter began.

Meanwhile, Sirius and James exchanged swift, furtive knowing looks with matching smirks.

“...So I went downstairs to use the common room one and I heard something” he looked to each boy individually to build drama.

“Two fifth years were studying for Ancient runes…they were all alone...”

Sirius snorted. “Would you get on with it?” he snapped.

“Okay, okay!” Peter put his hands up in defence. “Anyway, they were talking about the Mark of Merlin on a treasure box. It’s a mark that Merlin put on a secret box filled with his treasure,” he whispered excitedly.

“I heard them say that there’s a rumor that it’s buried in the ancient ruins of the forbidden forest by the Hogwarts founders!”

“The Mark of Merlin treasure is a myth,” Sirius explained, losing interest. “For little kids,” he added.

Although Remus was usually reticent to contradict Sirius, the sugar high emboldened him.

“Well, actually, there is some credibility to the rumors,” Remus said, “Wizarding archaeologists write about and search for the box, too, and there are some artifacts that have been found with the mark of Merlin on them,” he said. “And the Founders...well, they were alive at the same time as Merlin, it seems...plausible that one great wizard might give some of his possessions to another group of great wizards,” Remus reasoned, “And if he had, well….where else would they keep it than at Hogwarts? Hogwarts was the safest place for magic then, since Muggles still knew of witches and wizards then and hunted them.”

“What’s supposed to be in the box?” James asked.

“That’s the mystery,” Remus said, “A lot of people speculate that it’s dark magic that Merlin wanted sealed away, but that might just be to scare people.”

“My cousins used to tell me that the treasure is cursed. Whoever opens the box would be haunted by an image of their own death wherever they go... for the rest of their lives,” Sirius explained in an ominous voice.

Peter gulped loudly. He made a mental note to not be the one to open the box.

“Are there any clues where in the ruins it could be?” Sirius asked Remus excitedly.

Remus considered it for a moment, “I’m not sure if there would be any in books, but...if it is in the Forbidden Forest, there are...creatures there who you can talk to, the Centaurs,” he explained. “I mean, it would be extremely dangerous...and they don’t like humans much, so I’m not sure if they would tell us anything, anyway.”

James grinned mischievously and turned to Sirius, raising an eyebrow. Sirius returned James’ grin and waggled his eyebrows.

“So this is clearly happening.” Sirius declared. There was an electricity in his eyes and his body was ready to spring out of the bench. “And it has to be tonight. It’s Halloween for fucks sake.”

“Err…” Peter opened his mouth to protest but Sirius cut him off before he could continue.

“We’ll need supplies. And the cloak. I say we run up to the dormitory and prepare. The feast is nearly over, no one will notice we’re gone.” Sirius gripped the bench tightly with anticipation. “We all have to be in on this. It’ll be much more complicated than the toilet ghost. Are you in?” He put out his fist and looked to the boys.

“You know I am,” James grinned.

Remus considered it--he knew this was dangerous and logically something he probably shouldn’t do, but...it also sounded like fun, and he was intrigued at the prospect of exploring the Forbidden Forest. Plus, James had that cloak which greatly increased their chances of getting away with it all.

“I’m in,” he decided.

Both boys put their fists against Sirius’ and then looked to Peter.

Peter groaned and begrudgingly added his fist with the other boys in confirmation.

~~*~~

Back in their dormitory, the boys hurriedly searched through their trunks and drawers for anything useful. Half Sirius’ belongings were strewn across the room. Several of his dirty socks hung from Peter’s canopy.

“Okay,” Sirius announced, carrying his pack to the middle of the room. He squatted down and began to dig through it.

“I’ve got a pocket knife, seven smoke bombs, a lighter and…” he pulled out a small bottle with red liquid. “Ghost pepper hot sauce,” he grinned. “One taste of this stuff and any creatures after us will keel over.”

“What did you guys find?”

James appraised Sirius’ collection, impressed.

“Well, I’ve got some dung bombs, stink pellets, Dr. Fillibuster’s fireworks, and a few luminous balloons,” he said.

“Brilliant!” Sirius grinned, picking up the box of stink pellets and smelling it.

Remus was at a loss at the sight of all the contraband around them, “How did you manage to sneak this all in?” he asked.

James winked, “Oh, there are ways,” he said. “Slip it into the lining, hide it inside old socks...but mostly I just folded it all into the invisibility cloak,” he said.

“Smart,” said Remus, “Well...since I hadn’t fathomed doing any of that, all I have is chocolate,” he shrugged, “But it could be useful if there are any dementors in there.”

“Chocolate is smart!” Sirius defended Remus. He then turned to Peter. “What did you get?”

Peter upturned his robe pockets to the floor. Out popped two knuts, several pieces of lint, and a lemon sherbert.”

Sirius stared down at the useless junk, unimpressed.

He looked back to Peter with an accusing stare. "Really?" he asked with his brow cocked.

“That’s all I got,” Peter shrugged. “My mum packed my trunk.”

“Er--I suppose it will have to do,” James said doubtfully, and then pulled the invisibility cloak out.

“Shall we?”

Sirius threw his pack over his shoulders and hurried over to James. Remus and Peter followed, Peter dragging his feet tentatively.

~~*~~

The boys had more difficulty navigating their way out of the castle that night. It was Halloween night so students were excitedly roaming the corridors and Professors, too, were seen chatting happily rather than returning to their quarters and doing old people things. The boys nearly gave themselves away when they passed the lower west corridor near the great hall. Professor Sprout, Hagrid and Dumbledore were huddled together, listening to Hagrid tell a story.

“An’ thar I was, presentin’ the giant squid with thir’y pounds o’ kuruma prawn heads, just as he likes when he’s got the flu, ye see, an’ out o’ nowhere he whips out one o’ his tenticles out o’ the lake an’ grabs me by me ankle!” Hagrid flung his arms around wildly to imitate the giant squid, knocking Dumbledore’s hat clean off his head.

“I go flyin’ through the sky! An’ hit the wa’er hard. Next thing I see once I swim to the surface is poor Professor Sprout, laid out like a beached whale on the shore, soaked to the bone!”

“I was collecting Belladonna to refill the Potions stores,” Professor Sprout explained through fits of giggles, “Then suddenly I look up and see a massive tidal wave headed towards me! I thought that was the end of me!”

Hagrid roared with laughter, spilling his giant glass of firewhiskey all over himself.

The boys squeezed closer together and slowly inched past them. Peter gasped when he realized Dumbledore was merely feet away from them and stepped, hard, onto Sirius’ foot, completely crushing it. It took every amount of strength Sirius had to keep himself from screaming in pain.

Dumbledore turned around and looked straight at them. Peter swore that he saw him smile.

They made is through the main entrance doorway and out into the crisp October night. It seemed darker that night than most others, even though it was nearly a full moon.

Once out of earshot of the castle, Sirius jabbed Peter in the shoulder.

“Owe! You nearly broke my shoulder!” he hissed.

“That’s a bit of an exaggeration, Pete,” James said.

“...We were also nearly expelled,” Remus added.

“There has to be easier ways to get out of the castle,” Sirius groaned.

“Well, there are supposed to be loads of hidden passageways in Hogwarts,” said Remus as they made their way across the grounds. “Maybe we should try and find them next...it would be easier to use the cloak just to get to one and then use a passageway out,” he said.

“I like the way you think,” James said admiringly.

~~*~~

The boy trudged across the sweeping, darkened grounds of Hogwarts. At one point they had to climb down a steep hill, which is challenging without having three other people and a cloak attached to you. They all slipped on the grass and tumbled down the hill, colliding into each other at several points.

Once he had stopped rolling, Peter massaged his throbbing temple that had just collided with Remus’ and attempted to rub the grass stains from his uniform trousers. "My mum's going to murder me," he whispered with a groan.

Sirius, on the other hand, was laughing joyously on his back in the grass.

“This was a great idea, Pete,” he said happily. He glanced up at the shadow image of Hogwarts in the distance. There were still several lights illuminating the castle. From this distance the castle was particularly beautiful. It reminded Sirius of seeing it for the first time on the boat ride.

“Come on, you lazy blokes,” Sirius went over, helping each boy up from the grass. He located the invisibility cloak and stuffed it into his pack.

“I don’t think we’ll be needing this anymore,” he said and pointed to Hagrid’s hut in a few yards away which sat on the edge of the forbidden forest that now was just a wall of blackness.

They walked around Hagrid’s hut. Light poured from the window, but the boys knew Hagrid was still feasting merrily at the castle. He had left some of the gigantic pumpkins around the hut for decoration. One of them had the shape of a spider carved into it.

The four faced the edge of the black forest.

“No going back now,” Sirius said excitedly, putting his hands on his hips.

“Well, we technically still could...” Peter pointed out, biting his lip and clasping his hands tightly as he looked out at the forest.

“Would you really walk all the way back to the castle yourself, Pete?” James asked as they walked into the forest.

For all his bravado, even James felt a sort of shift the further they walked into the forest. Although it was already dark on the grounds, it felt darker in here somehow...looking up, James realized that it was probably no big mystery why that was; the trees were tall and numerous enough to block much of the moon and starlight out.

In the distance, they could hear something howling, and Peter stopped dead in his tracks.

“Wa...was…..was that a were-were-werewolf?” he stammered.
James rolled his eyes, “Don’t be stupid Peter, look up,” he said, “It isn’t a full moon.”

“So?” Peter inquired nervously.

“So, don’t you know how werewolves work? They’re only werewolves on the full moon, and it’s not one.”

Remus, meanwhile, had tensed up entirely and gone pale. This was the first time they’d ever discussed werewolves, and it jolted him back into a sudden and uncomfortable awareness of himself. What would they think if they knew they were with a werewolf right now? Remus was beginning to think of all three of them as his friends--much to his surprise, they included him in everything and the four of them were almost always together lately, and yet...Remus knew that would change if they ever found out.

James stopped, glancing back at Remus. He frowned, taking Remus’ fear much more seriously than Peter’s, “Alright, Remus?” he asked.

Remus looked over at James, feeling a nagging sense of guilt for his duplicity as he said, “Yeah...sorry...it’s just, you know, regular wolves can be dangerous, too.”

“Don’t worry, Remus, we have the hot sauce,” Sirius turned to Remus with a grin. He then dug his wand out of his robes and with confidence shouted: “Lumos!”

A light erupted from his wand, allowing them to actually be able to see some of their surroundings. Sirius beamed triumphantly at having mastered a spell that wouldn’t be taught to them until next year.

A lone owl called eerily above them. Sirius pointed his wand at it and it closed its eyes and cried with irritation. Peter clung to Sirius’ free arm, wanting to be as close to the light as he could.

“What do you guys know about Centaurs?” Sirius asked as they walked through a dense fog that was rolling through the black forest. “All I know is that they really hate humans and are prone to murdering them…”

“WHAT?” Peter yelled, which led to several rustles in the bushes and growth all around them.

“That’s true…” Remus said, “But they have strict rules about not killing children, so they’ll probably just be annoyed at us,” he assured Peter. “Usually they travel in herds, and...well, I think we’ll likely hear them.”

“We could probably also look for hoof prints,” James said. Inspired by Sirius, James took out his own wand and pointed it out the ground.

“Lumos,” he said, and with no small swell of pride, he watched it illuminate.

Sirius ripped his free arm away from Peter and gave James a triumphant high five.

~~*~~

The boys continued to stumble around in the dense woods having no clue where they were going or even if they were going anywhere beyond wandering in circles. Sirius attempted to use his knowledge of constellations to help guide them but the forest was often too thick to even get a glimpse of the night sky.

“Can we take a rest? I’m dying over here,” Peter groaned as he stepped into a deep puddle of bubbling muck.

“You’re also sweating like a hog,” Sirius pointed out, but even he had no qualms with taking a break.

Peter flopped onto the dirt and dug into his robes for his lemon sherbert, which was covered in lint. He popped it into his mouth and pulled his robes tightly around him, shivering.

Sirius crawled off through the ferns and moss to collect wood for a fire. Several moments later his wand light reappeared from the thicket and he emerged covered in dirt and leaves holding a bundle of loose wood. He dropped the wood in front of Peter and removed his lighter from his robes pocket.

He then paused, having no idea how to actually make a fire.

“Err.. Anyone ever been camping?” He asked the group.

“Yeah, but…my parents usually did that bit,” James admitted. “And they magicked our tent to pretty much be like a hotel room.”

“At least they were willing to go in a tent,” Sirius said as he flicked open the lighter and moved it towards the pile of sticks. “My mother would never even be caught dead in th--”

Just before the flame was about to touch the wood, a slow, unnatural and powerful breeze shook the trees and blades of grass all around them. When the breeze swept past the boys it extinguished the flame and both of Sirius’ and James’ wands. Sirius felt for his wand in the dark and attempted to re-light it, to no avail. He tried to adjust his eyes to this new blackness, but there was nothing.

“Er...Guys?” He called out, afraid for the first time. He crawled backwards, feeling around in the dark until he felt someone’s face. He felt glasses and figured out he was touching James. They heard Peter crying not too far away.

A loud, rumbling sound soon surrounded the boys, as it grew closer it became the sound of many huffs pounding against the ground, which the boys may have discerned if they hadn’t all been screaming at the top of their lungs.

The darkness lifted and the pale light of the moon returned through the trees. The boys could now see that they weren’t alone. All around them, standing beside knobby trees or within thick brambles were large creatures whose torso and face resembled men but clearly had the body of a horse: Centaurs.

“They are innocence, mere children,” A centaur with long auburn hair spoke.

“How innocent can they be? Trespassing on our lands, searching to obtain the treasure like many other adult humans.” Said another with bright green eyes that were practically glowing. He looked down at the boys reproachfully.

“...We don’t really care about the treasure...We’re just trying to have fun,” Sirius spoke up nervously, staring wide-eyed at the herd.

“And this one,” the third Centaur leveled a haughty look at Sirius, “This one nearly set forest fire with those peculiar, fire-bringing contraptions. We smelt the smoke,” he said.

“Err...sorry,” James said nervously, “We just...we were just curious if Merlin’s treasures really were hidden here by the Founders,” he said.

“Many wizards have hidden foul things in our forrest,” the Centaur said disapprovingly.

“If we get rid of it maybe humans will stop coming into the forest to look for it…” Sirius suggested.

“Have you consulted the stars, Bane? We cannot intervene,” Another Centaur pointed straight at James.

The Centaur apparently called Bane narrowed his eyes at James.

“We will let you live,” he told the boys. “But if you are still found in the forest by daybreak we will have to reconsider.”

As quickly as the Centaurs came, they were gone. Except for the one who may have just saved all of their lives.
“If you are capable of retrieving the box I will not stand in your way. Look in the ruins when the base of where fire meets water is illuminated.”

Then he was gone.

“Okay...why was that Centaur looking at me like that,” James said, “Do you think he wanted to eat me?”

Remus said nothing, focusing on what the last Centaur had said. So they didn’t lose the exact phrasing, he dug out a bit of spare parchment paper and a quill.

“Look in the ruins when the base of where fire meets water is illuminated,” Remus repeated as he wrote. He looked up at the other three, “What do you think that means?”

“Fuck if I know,” Sirius said to Remus, “But I’ve consulted the stars and have seen that James becomes king and holy savior of the Centaurs.”

James laughed, “Ah, yes, that was the look.”

“I...vote we go home,” Peter squeaked, still silently crying with eyes wide open with terror.

“No, come on, we can do this,” Remus interjected, “It’s only a riddle,” he said, “We know there has to be water nearby, and there are ways of finding water in a forest. The trees tend to thin if there’s a lake, and rivers and streams we could hear…” he said. “I know it seems kind of...too obvious, but is there a chance it means the part of the forest near the Great Lake?”

Sirius quit joking and turned to look at Remus, impressed with his motivation.

“Who knew you were such an adventurer, Remus,” Sirius grinned.

Remus looked up at Sirius, a wry smile stretched across his face, "Not me," he said. "I'm still not...positive that's what it means, but it's a start, at least."

“Let’s go check it out," Sirius continued, "We’ve already made it this far without dying.”

"Works for me," James shrugged, "Ready to move, Pete?"

Peter sighed loudly and stood up from the muck where he had cowered for the entire interaction with the Centaurs.

“At least we’re leaving this forest…” Peter grumbled.

“That’s the spirit!” Sirius shouted, slapping a muddy hand onto Peter’s back.

~~*~~

To be Continued...

Chapter Text

~~*~~

The boys cut through the Hogwarts grounds to make their way towards the edge of the lake that met the forest. James and Sirius took the lead, though Sirius was more interested in the freedom and thrill of this adventure than the actual riddle. The nearly full moon hung over the lake, casting a pale glow on the surface of the water. The group paused where the lake met the forest. While Remus was investigating, Peter bent over his knees, panting.

“Need some water, Petey?” Sirius offered kindly.

Yes Please” Peter grunted.

Sirius threw his pack to the ground and began to dig through it. He paused for several seconds before pulling out a bronze flask.

“Here you go,” Sirius handed Peter the flask. “It’s nearly empty..” he warned.

Peter dumped the remains of the flash down his throat. Immediately his eyes turned red and he spat out the liquid all over himself. Peter stuck out his tongue, his cheeks sunburnt red.

“I’ ‘URNS!!!” he yelled with his tongue still out before running at his wobbly full speed towards the lake. He flopped into the water and began to drink as if he had been dehydrated for weeks.

Sirius fell over onto the grassy bank, howling with laughter.

“I couldn’t help myself,” he laughed through tears, “I gave him the hot sauce.”

James guffawed as Peter flopped around in the lake.

“Careful, Pete, those mermaids in there are vicious,” he warned.

“Hmm...mermaids,” Remus said thoughtfully, still reading the puzzle over, “Maybe this isn’t quite so literal, what else can represent water?” he thought aloud as he watched Peter struggle in the water, but Remus was thinking more about the mermaids below and their tridents.

Tridents.

“Oh!” Remus said. “Maybe water is Poseidon…and fire is Hephaestus!” he said. “There’s supposed to be a statue of them together in the forest somewhere.”

“So we need to find out where in the forest there are a bunch of statues and ruins,” Sirius said. “If only there was someone nearby who knows these grounds so well that he could get around with his eyes closed…” Sirius’ eyes drifted towards Hagrid’s hut off in the distance.

“Hagrid wouldn’t help us!” Peter exclaimed, emerging from the water completely drenched.

“Maybe not on purpose,” Sirius cocked his brow. “I’ve got an idea. Pete, you’re not gonna like it…” he smirked.

~~*~~

“Why does it have to be me!” Peter whispered loudly. The boys were crouched against Hagrid’s stony hut, beneath a closed window. The hut was completely black inside, save two small lanterns flickering at the entrance.

Sirius surveyed Peter, who was soaking wet, shivering, and still somehow covered in dirt and sweat. His eyes were also wide with terror and innocence, and he appeared to be on the verge of tears.

“Because you’re a precious pudgy cherub and Hagrid will believe how scared and lost you are.” Sirius grinned. “He’d never believe me or James. And we can’t risk Hagrid taking Remus back to the castle. We need him to find the statue.”

Peter sighed loudly and looked to James on his other side, wanting to impress him.

“Fine,” he groaned.

“Remember to stay near the window so that we can hear you,” Sirius reminded him.

Peter slowly clambered through the dark grass towards the entrance of the hut, he looked back quickly and saw Sirius being boosted up by James to pull open the window. Peter walked up the steps and knocked softly at the door. After a few seconds he again looked at the boys who all nodded at him encouragingly. Peter turned back to the door and gulped loudly then knocked again, this time harder. Still he heard nothing move inside the hut and so began to knock harder and harder until he was frantically banging on the door.

Finally, lights streamed out of the hut windows and thunderous footsteps could be heard crossing the room inside. Hagrid ripped open the door, wearing periwinkle blue pajamas with images of small red, black and brown smiling cats all over them. He was holding a fire poker so large it essentially was a spear. When his eyes fell on poor, quivering Peter, his face softened and he put down the spear.

“Blimey! Yer one o’ the new Gryffindor firs’ years, aren’t ye? What are ye doin’ out here so late...You know ye’ shouldn’t be..”

Peter’s lip began to quiver and his eyes filled with tears. Luckily he was so afraid and exhausted that he didn’t have to fake being overwhelmed.

“I...I…” Peter’s mind went blank. James and Sirius had come up with an entire story for him but in that moment he just couldn’t recall it. Tears began to stream from his eyes.

Hagrid frowned and put his hand gently on Peter’s entire back to comfort him. “It’s alrigh’, we’ll sort this out, don’t you worry.”

He brought Peter into the hut and surveyed him with concern. “Yer soaked! You must be freezin’! Let me make you some tea.” Hagrid grabbed a red wool blanket from an impressively oversized olive green armchair and draped it around Peter’s shoulders and then went off towards the kitchen area.

Hagrid returned with two enormous, steaming cups of tea and a plate of biscuits.

“Made them me-self,” Hagrid said proudly, pushing the plate towards Peter.

Eyes widening in delight, Peter grabbed one and took a hearty mouthful--or tried to, anyway. The biscuits were hard enough that he nearly cracked his teeth. Undeterred, Peter then dipped it in the tea until it was soggy enough to chew and ate happily. Out in the forest, Peter thought he might just starve to death--nothing had tasted better to him than this rock biscuit.

The sight of Peter eating his biscuits with plain delight brought a twinkle to Hagrid’s eye. Setting his own mug of tea down, he surveyed Peter.

“Alrigh’, now what happened?” he asked.

“Erm...well, Mr. Hagrid...I...” Peter began, nervously. He glanced at the open window near the kitchen and focused his mind on James, Sirius and Remus listening below. ““I’m a sleepwalker. As a kid I used to end up waking up in the neighbor’s bushes or even down the block. My mum had to magically lock the doors and windows to keep me in. It wasn’t so bad here and I thought maybe I was cured. But then I woke up a little while ago in the lake!”

Peter kept his gaze at his mug of tea, his eyes shifting back and forth anxiously. “It was terrifying…” he added.

"In the lake!" Hagrid cried in surprise, "Tha' must've been a right shock alrigh'," he shook his head, but then took a closer look at Peter's wet clothes. "Yeh slept walk in yer uniform?" he said somewhat doubtfully.

Peter’s eyes nearly popped out of his head when he heard Hagrid. He bought himself some time by taking a deep sip of tea.

“I...Yes,” Peter said, trying to appear embarrassed. “I’ve been having a tough time with my courses,” he went on, which was true. “I’ve just been so exhausted by the end of the day that sometimes I just pass out on my bed without changing…”

Peter swallowed hard and offered Hagrid a small, nervous smile.

“I’m...still pretty shook up,” Peter went on. “Is it alright if we chat for a little bit? You know, to help calm me? Maybe you could tell about the grounds. I didn’t realize how big they were…” Peter glanced at the window again for courage. “...And the forest. There must be such... interesting things in there…”

Hagrid seemed to accept this rationale, though, as he nodded, "Stress can bring abou' the sleep walkin' too," he said, then his face lit up, eager to tales of the grounds forest, "Oh, yeah, there's loads of fascinatin' creatures in those woods. Centaurs and spiders bigger than this house!" he said. "Unicorns too," Hagrid added, then paused, thinking fondly of the forest.

Leveling a sharp look at Peter, he warned "But don't you go wanderin' off in that forest. Loads of dangerous stuff in there too, mind--things that'll kill yeh. Werewolves on the full moon, trolls, hodags, snallygaster, and hidebehinds...just teh name a few."

Peter leaned in as Hagrid spoke, listening eagerly. “Oh...I would never” he explained. “I’m too scared for all that. Looking Professor McGonagall in the eye is even too much for me,” he said, honestly. “I just love learning about magical creatures. I really love hearing about ancient ruins. Are there ruins in the forest?” he asked, his voice squeaking.

Hagrid gave a hearty laugh at that, "Ah, Professor McGonagall is a good woman, yeh'll see. She's strict, but fair, and she cares about all yeh," he said, then considered Peters question. "There's supposed to be somethin' out there that's got Merlin's rune on it," he said, "Least that's what the centaurs once said."

Peter leaned in even closer, sensing that he was getting close.

“How do you get to the ruins?” Peter asked daringly. “...My mum used to tell me exciting adventure stories like this...To relax me” he added, worrying that he may have been too bold.

Hagrid appraised Peter wearily, but then thought it unlikely that this kid would really run off into the Forbidden Forest on his own.

“Don’t tell that Black boy any of this...or Potter,” he warned.
“But Aragog--er--one of the spiders, he says there’s a statue of two Greek gods about three miles from there liar that’s got somethin’ special buried there. They reckon it might be the Merlin rune, but o’ course, spiders don’t have much use for that sort of thing, so he never checked it out,” Hagrid explained, then paused, thinking, “But I’ve passed that statue a couple of times after visitin’ Aragog….somethin’ unusual about it, that’s fer sure.”

“...Spiders?” All of the warmth that had returned to Peter’s face after eating and resting vanished once again. “You have to pass where spiders live?...” Peter was now intensely hoping that Hagrid would bring him back to the castle.

“Oh, yeah, great acromantula spiders, big as anythin’ they are,” Hagrid nodded. “Well, I reckon you could go around, but yeh’ll be near ‘em,” he said, then examined Peter closely, “Why’re you askin’?”

Peter stared at Hagrid with his mouth slightly ajar and his eyes round with terror. “No reason…” he squeaked. “I just really hate s..spiders and would never want to see a giant one. How do you know where to find them?...Just so I never end up there on accident” Peter asked tentatively.

“Ah, they’re not so bad,” Hagrid said, “Seriously misunderstood creatures, spiders,” he scratched at his beard. “Well...I’m rather fond of Aragog, so I go they’re pretty often. ‘Bout five files in ter the forest,” he explained. “Dark part where the trees are real thick, spiders like that,” he said. “‘Course, there’s no reason fer yeh to end up there on accident, ‘cause yer never goin’ in the forest in the first place.”

“Right, of course.” Peter laughed nervously. A small rock gently knocked against the window. James and Sirius were letting him know that they had all of the information they needed.

“Thanks for the stories, Hagrid. And the food and all. Is it okay if I slept here ‘till morning? I’m so exhausted I don’t think I can get out from this chair,” Peter fake yawned loudly and snuggled himself into the gigantic armchair.

“Ah, any time,” Hagrid smiled. “I wouldn’t mind at all, but I’m afraid it’s against the rules for yeh to be off the grounds all night,” Hagrid said and smiled sympathetically. “I can help yeh back to the castle, though, make sure yeh don’t get in any trouble.”

“Erm…” Peter’s eyes moved towards the open window. He had retrieved all of the information they needed to locate the ruins, which technically meant that he had made a substantial contribution. He thought of James and seeing how proud he was of him. And maybe even Sirius would be pleased with him. Perhaps he should push just a bit more and find a way to stay…

Peter opened his mouth to speak. And then he remembered the spiders.

“Well, if there’s no way around it then I suppose we can head back to the castle now,” Peter smiled.

“Alrigh’ then,” Hagrid smiled, and heaved himself up, shoving on a pair of boots. Hagrid crossed the hut, and held the door open for Peter, leading him out to the quiet, dark grounds--oblivious to the three boys who lied in wait outside his hut.

“So how’s Hogwarts been treatin’ yeh otherwise?” he asked.

“The food is fantastic,” Peter said happily, nearly breaking his neck to look up at Hagrid while walking alongside him. “And I have a best friend! His name is James Potter. We’re best friends.” Knowing that Peter would soon be safe in bed gave him new found energy.

Sirius snorted as he watched the pair walk off towards the dark castle from the bushes outside the hut.

“That weasel. He didn’t even try to stay with us.”

“He got us what we needed though,” Remus pointed out. “Hagrid said five miles in to the spiders, which...er...we really probably ought to try and avoid,” he said, “Then three to the ruins...it’s a long walk,” he looked at James and Sirius uncertainty, “Do we really want t do this?” he asked.

James shrugged, “We’ve come this far, haven’t we?” he said, turning to Sirius to see what he thought.

“You already know what I’m going to say,” Sirius grinned and straight away began to walk off right towards the forest.

~~*~~

To Be Continued...

Chapter Text

~~*~~

The boys soon learned that the farther one travels into the forest the darker and colder it becomes. The three huddled together for warmth, with only the light from James and Sirius’ wands to guide them. At times they stumbled upon a thick rolling fog, and then were essentially walking blind. At some point Sirius observed a long line of spiders headed together in one direction. They figured the spiders were headed towards the lair and so followed them to maintain a semblance of direction.

The further they followed the spiders, the more quiet the forest became. It was an eerie quiet. Sirius kept feeling as though they were being watched. He couldn’t recall the last time they had heard an owl or even a rustle in the thicket around them.

“Guys,” Sirius whispered. “I’m not gonna lie, being eaten by giant killer spiders is pretty high on my list of worst ways to die…”

Remus frowned, “Mine too,” he said.

“We could try going under the invisibility cloak?” James suggested. “I mean...I’m guessing spiders can’t see through it,” he said.

Sirius stopped walking and opened his pack to retrieve the cloak.

“It’ll definitely help,” he explained as he began to pull it out. “But they can still smell us.” He tossed the cloak to the dirt and pulled out James’ box of Filibuster fireworks.

“We need a backup plan,” he said, shaking with box with a smirk.

James grinned, "Stick a firework up the spider's arse if need be?" he asked, then tilted his head, "Do spiders have arses?"

“I guess we’re gonna find out,” Sirius replied, wearing a grin that mirrored James.

~~*~~

The forest became so thick that the bottoms of the boys’ robes were essentially shredded to bits. Trees became wider than Hagrid’s hut and their branches, broad and dense tangled above them. Navigating through the deep woods and brambles whilst hidden under the cloak without smashing head-on into a tree (which occured on several occasions) proved to be impossible. The small spiders were moving together in larger and larger amounts, indicating that they must be very close to the nest.

“Let’s break off here,” Sirius suggested, holding the light of his wand to his face so that James and Remus could see him.

“I feel like we’re getting a bit too close for comfort..”

As Sirius spoke, a shadow moved above him. Sirius noticed James and Remus’s faces tense and distort into pure voiceless terror.

“...What?” Sirius asked. And then he looked up.

The back of Sirius’ neck prickled and very slowly he looked up. Through the invisibility cloak he saw it: Two gigantic furry pincers, connected to a pale, decrepit body with two beady, soulless black eyes.

Sirius had never been so horrified in all of his nearly twelve years of life.

immediately he screamed and then grabbed one of the stink pellets from James’ robes, threw it out from the cloak then grabbed James and Remus by the arms and ran, still screaming through the woods.

James' arm hair was still standing on edge as they ran. Looking up and seeing that giant spider over them...he hadn't been sure if it could see them or not, but he sure didn't want to find out.

As they ran, another large spider scurried down the forest trail, heading for its lair. James yelped, but grabbed another pack of the fireworks, and as the spider barreled towards them, he pulled the detonator and tossed it at the spider.

With a shriek from the spider and a whirling popping noise from the firework, the spider was launched into the air...and likely exploded along with the firework.

"Okay, let's run faster!" James said, and Remus tried to pick up the pace beside him.

The once deadly silent forest had sprung to life. The legs of the many spiders could be heard drawing closer all around them. Word of their fellow spider family members' explosive deaths must have spread. The only reason the boys were probably still alive was because of the cloak, which constantly nearly fell off as they all ran. Walking synchronized under the cloak was difficult enough, sprinting under it was damn near impossible. Then again, this was life or death.

As James blew up spiders and forest with fireworks, Sirius would toss out the stink pellets as they sprinted to throw off their scent. But he was running low and James eventually was out of fireworks.

After sprinting for what felt like a century, the boys noticed streaming light up ahead. James, Remus and Sirius stopped behind a knobby tree to catch their breaths.

“We just have to make it to the light,” Remus panted. “They won’t go into the moonlight.”

Sirius dug into his pack and pulled out two remaining smoke bombs.

“Let’s make a run for it. The cloak will slow us down, I’ll use the smoke bombs to throw them off us.”

He looked from Remus to James with determination.

“Ready?”

“Ready,” James said, and Remus nodded.

Once Sirius threw the smoke bombs, the dark forest became shrouded in thick, hissing smoke. James threw the invisibility cloak off them and held it to his chest, running as fast as his legs would carry him. Sirius followed close behind him, followed by Remus.

James slowed as the smoke finally faded into the distance, and hopefully with it, the spiders.

Bracing his hands on his knees as he caught his breath, James looked around the clearly; still perpetually spooky in that Forbidden Forest sort of way, but it was lighter here...and quieter.

“Think we’re okay?” he panted.

Sirius dropped to the unruly grass, pressing his back against a mossy, ivy-covered structure and ran his hand through his sweaty hair.

“...I can’t believe we’re alive,” he said through raspy breaths.

“No kidding,” James breathed.

Remus surveyed this new area of the forest carefully. The structure Sirius was leaning against was actually a very, very old column that was weathered and broken off at the top. Remus continued to look around, the moonlight through the trees revealed pieces of broken and worn stone walls hidden all around them beneath overgrowth and moss.

He approached one of the walls and brushed away some moss and dirt. Beneath ages and ages of the forest overtaking this wall, Remus found a small trident engraved on the wall.

“I think we’ve found the ruins,” Remus said with quiet excitement. “The statue must be somewhere near here…”

Perking up, James stepped into the ruins, examining the columns and ancient markings with interest.

“Why d’you think this is all even here?” James asked. “Was this like...an abandoned temple or city or something?”

“No idea,” Remus said curiously as he inspected the area. Although they were most certainly still in the forbidden forest there was something more peaceful about this area. Insects were humming quietly, birds were beginning to arise, chirping gently. The air was earthy and nutty. “It’s not in Hogwarts, a history. We’ll have to check it out in the library. An adventure for another day,” he said with a tired smile.

“I think I’ve got something!” Sirius’ voice could be heard from off in the distance beyond a thick collection of berry bushes.

Remus and James followed after Sirius through the bushes and spotted him in the middle of a worn and battered statue. The left side of a statue stood the broken remains of two men, one was badly damaged, with most of its head and torso missing, though through the ivy and moss one could spot it: the trident. The other man was mostly hidden beneath undergrowth but Sirius climbed over to the statue and pushed aside the vegetation to reveal a hammer.

“That’s it!” Remus cried out excitedly and rushed over to the base of the statue. Sirius aimed the light of his wand at the base and pushed aside some ivy. The boys huddled together to each dust the base, anticipating that it would reveal the treasure. Their excitement faded when the base was cleaned and nothing but ancient stone was revealed.

“Hang on? Are you telling me that we made it all the way here, nearly dying several times for nothing?" Sirius asked, rage building.

Sirius threw his wand down in disappointment and kicked the statue out of frustration.

"What a fucking waste!"

Remus picked up Sirius’ thrown wand and held the light to the center of the statues’ base. He looked down at the empty stone with confusion. They’d done everything the Centaur said..Could he have been just tricking them?

“I don’t understand…” Remus said quietly then pulled the piece of parchment where he had written down the Centaur’s riddle.

“Look in the ruins when the base of where fire meets water is illuminated.” he read aloud.

“It needs to be illuminated,” he muttered. “But wandlight isn’t doing it…” Remus’ brow was furrowed in concentration. He looked up at the sky and gasped when he realized that the sun was rising. The forest floor around them was already brightening by the sun. The statue was surrounded by thick branches, blocking the sun from hitting it.

“Move the branches above the trident out of the way!” Remus said excitedly.

“What’s the point?” Sirius spat.

“Hurry!” Remus instructed.

Sirius sighed dramatically and then climbed up the remains of the statue.

"This isn't going to work!" he called down to them.

He then pushed the branches as hard as he could out of the way. Sunlight streamed down through the leaves, lighting up the statue and hitting the center of the base.

A circle with four ancient runes appeared at the center of the base.

“It’s the mark!” Remus exclaimed.

James leaned down to peer at the rune.

“Woah,” he breathed, then smirked up at Sirius, “And you wanted to give up,” he said.

James ran a hand along the base and felt a strange, tingly feeling at touching such an ancient piece of magical history. He attempted to lift the base, but it wouldn’t budge.

“How do we open it?” he asked

Remus hesitated, his brow knitting. He’d been reading ahead in his spell books too and trying some new things, but...he didn’t want to botcher it and damage the statue.

Maybe it was the magical feeling the rising sun glittering off the ruins gave him, or maybe he just felt emboldened by the night’s adventures and near death experiences, but Remus pointed his wand at the base and uttered, “Alohomora.”

With a click and a creak, the base lifted open.

Sirius jumped down, landing hard on the dirt and rolling over. He joined James and Remus. The three boys crouched together around the opening base stunned and silent and stared inside with mouths gaping and hearts hammering. Inside the base were three objects: a scroll held together by a coin with the same markings as the base and two identical mirrors in a thick silver frame.

Sirius swiftly grabbed for one of the mirrors and analyzed it with confusion.

“A...mirror?” He looked into the mirror and saw only his own dirtied face and stark grey eyes looking back at him.

Remus went for the scroll and removed the coin carefully. He unravelled the parchment and held his breath as he looked it over. The parchment contained a rudimentary sketch of the exterior Hogwarts castle. The varying styles of sketching suggested that more than one artist had worked on this rendering. The ink colors were still visible: red, blue, green and yellow. Gryffindor tower was circled in red ink. 900 A.D was written at the very bottom.

James took the other mirror and peered into it. Naturally, he’d expected to see himself, but he pulled back, startled to find Sirius peering back at him.

“Errr….Sirius?” he said, “I see you in here.”

“What?” Sirius said in surprise, “let me see!” When he moved his head to look into James’ mirror his reflection vanished from James’ mirror but once again appeared in his own.

“...Hang on…” Sirius moved back to his mirror and looked in, seeing James’ face.

“It must show what’s on the other end…” he said, stunned. He looked at James’ reflection in the mirror with his mouth gaping.

“...This is wicked!

James grinned at him through the mirror, though he easily could have just looked over at him.

"Wicked," James agreed.

Remus peered over his shoulder to see what they were talking about, "That's really cool," he agreed with a smile.

"What's that?" James asked, nodding to the parchment.

"I think it's an old map of Hogwarts...namely the positions of the Houses," he said, unfurling it to show James and Sirius.

“That’s cool,” Sirius replied with mild interest as he quickly surveyed the parchment. “But the mirrors are way better.”

He looked back down at his mirror, watching James look at the parchment.

“This is going to make detention way more fun,” Sirius grinned.

Remus bit his lip. Questioning James and Sirius always made him a bit nervous, but...well, he supposed it wasn't as bad as the spiders.

"Should we really take them, though? I mean...they're ancient artifacts."

James considered it for a moment, then shrugged, "They're not doing anyone any good here, though."

“Yeah, really. And if Merlin really didn’t want people to find them he definitely would’ve made it harder to open the base. And I've yet to see an image of my own death so I suppose we're not cursed.” Sirius shrugged and dropped the mirror into the pocket of his very tattered and destroyed robes.

Sirius got a glimpse at Remus' watch when he looked down and his face instantly contorted with terror as if another spider had found them.

“Guys...We have Transfiguration in an hour...If I’m late McGonagall is going to bring my mum in for a family meeting.” Sirius grabbed Remus and James’s sleeves to get them up. “I would literally rather be eaten by those spiders than experience that…”

"Guess we better run, then," said James.

~*~

And run they did. Through brambles and branches, past the spiders' lair of doom again, and all the way up to the castle. They'd barely stopped at all; lungs burning, sweat pouring from every possible crevice along the way.

When they finally entered the castle, Remus looked at his watch again, gasping for breath.

"We--have--fifteen--minutes," he said between gulping breaths of air, realizing then they'd just run for nearly forty-five minutes straight.

James badly wanted to sit down, but he said, "It'll take us about that long to get up there," James groaned, knowing they'd have to haul arse again.

He took the stairs two at a time, praying they wouldn't randomly change...mercifully, the staircases stayed put, affording them a straight path to Transfiguration.

They arrived with a minute to spare. Peter was already there, looking well-rested, if a bit nervous. He turned and gazed wide-eyed at their entrance…as did everyone else.

Sirius cheered loudly when he looked at the clock and realized that they had made it on time. He high-fived James and Remus and fell to the stone floor, gasping for breath with his likely injured lungs.

“I...Can’t...believe...we..d--”

“Black, Potter, Lupin!” Professor McGonagall’s sharp voice echoed throughout the room.

Sirius looked up at her from the floor.

“Professor! I’m on time, aren’t you proud?” Sirius grinned a muddy smile.

Just look at the state of you three!

James’ hair was so caked with mud that it stood nearly straight up, hard and stiff. His glasses were streaked with mud and askew. Remus entire face was black and he had an assortment of leaves stuck to his sweaty face. Sirius’ hair still looked unfairly perfect even dirty and sweaty but the rest of him was covered in dirt and blood. He hadn’t even realized that he had cut his cheek on a branch and was bleeding all over the classroom floor. The uniforms of all three were utterly destroyed. No spell could salvage their shoes, which quite possibly had transfigured into mud. Their muddy footprints littered the classroom and likely the entire castle.

Lily, Mary, Marly and Dorcas all pinched their noses and exchanged looks of disgust.

Snape grinned maliciously over his shoulder, relishing the fact that he would no longer be the stinky one, and that these gits had stolen that particular title.

Remus reddened under McGonagall’s scrutiny. This was not who he thought he’d be at Hogwarts--the kid who got in trouble--and yet...he was having a hard time feeling truly regretful.

“Errr…..” was all James managed for a beat, “We got lost….?” he offered.

McGonagall stared at James, unimpressed. “I would expect even you to know, Potter, that the only class you have to go outdoors for his Herbology. Go change and wash up now. All three of you. Then see me in my office this afternoon to discuss what you were really doing this morning.”

Sirius stared up at McGonagall, mouth agape. “But since I’m on time there’s no need to bring in my mum...right?” he asked. His posh accent that he constantly fought to cover up slipped back in due to anxiety.

McGonagall arched a brow, "You are barely on time, Mr. Black, and not at all prepared, so I think there is still very good reason to speak to your mother. Perhaps all your mothers, and ten points each for Gryffindor," she said.

"Tossers!" Marly called, throwing her hands up in defeat.

Remus and James gulped.

"I mean, never mind the filth, where are your books and quills and parchment?"

“...Fuck,” Sirius groaned and crawled towards the classroom door, leaving a trail or dirt and blood in his wake. “This is going to make everyone’s lives miserable. everyones.”

"My mum will probably send a howler," James sighed, strolling down the hall with no particular sense of urgency now that they were already late and punished.

"I don't even know what my mum will do," Remus admitted, "I've--errr--never really gotten into trouble before, so this will be new territory for her as well."

“My mum might literally murder me,” Sirius said as he walked beside the two, both joking and not joking. “At least you two will come out of this alive.”

The three walked through the quiet castle towards Gryffindor tower. Several portraits stared at them and some even covered their noses (despite not having a sense of smell) as they passed.

“Honestly though,” Sirius said after a few moments. “That was the best Halloween ever. Worth dying for,” he grinned.

"Oh, absolutely," said James, "And don't worry, I'll rescue you from your mum. Create a diversion," he winked.

"Agreed," Remus smile, after he'd had time to reflect; sure, he didn't love disappointing professors or his parents...but it was kind of nice having friends like these.

~~*~~