“Last year this year boys!” Sirius jumped onto the duvet next to James and flung an arm around his shoulders. “We need to make it special. What are we gonna do?”
“We should make a list.” Peter suggested through a mouthful of cake.
“Why?” Sirius asked. “What would be on the list?”
“Our goals for this year.” Peter said.
“You mean all the things we’ve wanted to do in the past but never had the time or spell-power to do before?” James asked.
“Yeah. And other stuff that we want to do as well. Like, Sirius eating James’ homework. So that we can use the ‘a dog ate my homework’ excuse without actually lying.”
“Remus, start writing.” Sirius ordered.
“Why me?” Remus sent a crumpled piece of paper flying into Sirius’ face.
“You’re the only one who can write fast and still have neat handwriting.”
“Please.” Sirius huffed.
“A dog ate my homework.” James started. “What else? Officially the worst students McGonagall’s ever had.”
“The most detentions given out to a group of students.” Sirius said. “And that would be me and you, James, coz Moony’s sneaky and Peter’s a wuss.”
“Oi! And I’ve got an idea. Let’s sneak down to the kitchens every night for three nights in a row without being caught!” Peter suggested.
“Is that just get down to the kitchens and then back again, or is that get a load of food from the kitchens and then come back?” Remus asked.
“Get a load of food, obviously.”
“We should steal all the Quidditch balls out of the Quidditch kit room and hide them all over the castle the weekend before a big match!” James had jumped to his feet. “But not before one of our own matches. Slytherin V Hufflepuff.”
Sirius nodded. “Bludgers all over the Great Hall, can you imagine it?”
“And if we were to put the Quaffle in the middle of one of the corridors.” Peter suggested. “And put Muggle police tape around it.”
James clicked his fingers. “Most report cards. That’s it. We’ll break into the office and count how many- which one of us has the most?”
“It’ll be me or you, mate.” Sirius said.
“Probably James.” Remus and Peter said at the same time.
“Probably me. We’ll count how many I’ve got and then we’ll ask Filch if someone has ever had more report cards than however many I have and if someone does, I’ll beat them.”
“Do you think Peeves gets report cards?” Peter wondered.
Sirius sorted with laughter. “Can you imagine that? McGonagall trying to give him a report card for putting glue in someone’s hair?”
“I hope not.” James said. “Coz if he does, I don’t stand a chance of ever beating him. Did you hear that story of back in the 1800s or something when he went on a rampage across the castle for like three days and they had to evacuate until they got him to stop if as long as he got a weekly swim in the boys’ toilets and mouldy bread crusts every day? That was what I think happened anyway.”
“Three day long evacuation?” Remus asked. “Three day long evacuation for- was it for the whole school?”
“I think so.”
Sirius let out a long breath. “Can you imagine what would happen if we ever managed to make an alliance with Peeves?”
“All hell would break loose.” Remus said at the same time as James said: “We’d run the school!”
“Let’s not make an alliance with Peeves.” Peter said. “He scares me.”
“Everything scares you, Wormtail. It’s coz you’re a wuss. You need to be a bit more- you need some more Gryffindor in you!” Sirius encouraged. “Besides, there’s no way Peeves would ever make an alliance with us. He doesn’t find us cool enough.”
“How do you know that?” James asked.
“We asked back in fifth year.” Remus said. “You were in the hospital after Lily gave you a troll’s nose and Peter was in detention because he forgot to turn in an essay for Slughorn. He said we were a bunch of weirdos and all a bit pathetic.”
“And then he said something rude about werewolves so I hexed him.” Sirius said. “It’s why he throws bubblegum at my hair nearly every week. He’s still annoyed about it.”
James began listing more ideas. “We could paint the doors of the Great Hall, and we could set fireworks off in…”
By the end of the brainstorming session, which lasted until one in the morning, their list had 17 things on it waiting to be completed.
The list went something along these lines, although with rather more crossed out items and rude words in the margins:
- Dog ate my homework
- Worst students
- Most detentions
- Kitchen raids
- Quidditch balls
- Most report cards
- Set off fireworks
- Finish the map
- Great Hall doors
- Pretend to drain the lake
- Enchant the stairs
- Muddle up the library books
- Put on a play
- Run extra-curricular lessons for first years
- Turn up to lessons on a Saturday
- Flood the Slytherin common room
- Get the Fat Lady drunk
“I think we’d get expelled just for having this list if one of the teachers ever found it.” Remus yawned. He received no response; everyone else was already asleep.
James spent two seconds on the brief essay outline they were planning on using.
“What essay is it for?” Peter asked.
“The one for Slughorn. It’s the most boring one. You ready, Padfoot?”
Sirius wagged his tail. James held out the parchment and Sirius happily ate it.
“You can turn back now.” Remus said.
Sirius turned back into a human and wiped his mouth with his sleeve. “Yuk. That was disgusting.”
“We’ve not got much time before class. Come on.” James glanced at his watch and they bolted down the stairs.
“Would one of you like to explain what this is?” McGonagall was seething as she pointed to the large red mark on the classroom wall.
“We tried to summon a demon so that Peeves could have a friend but it didn’t work.” Remus rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. “Sorry Professor.”
She pinched the bridge of her nose. “You are the worst students I have ever had the misfortune of teaching.”
“Really?” Sirius asked.
“Thank you!” James and Sirius chorused, beaming.
“50 points from Gryffindor, now please go back to your dorm and please don’t cause any more trouble.”
“We make no promises.”
“Oh, be off with you.”
The first night went perfectly.
The second night they nearly walked right into a Hufflepuff Prefect (trying to fit four large teenagers under an invisibility cloak intended for just one person and then walk is just as hard as it sounds).
The third night landed them in a month’s detention, as Professor Kettleburn was also collecting a midnight snack from the kitchens.
“We’ll need a distraction.”
Plans, diagrams and the Marauders map were spread across the floor of the dormitory.
Sirius put his hand up. “I’ll do it! I’m good at distractions.”
“No, you need to help James get into the Quidditch rooms because you know where the stuff is.” Remus pointed out. “Pete can cause the distraction, I’ll plant them, you two get them out of the office and to me.”
“Are we still going with the Bludgers?” Peter asked.
“Yes.” James nodded. “Let’s go.”
The corridor they used was closed off for a week until Dumbledore managed to get the Bludgers under control.
Following the Quidditch ball debacle, they realised it would probably be best if they didn’t do anything too dramatic with their next task.
Plans had been made to increase the antics of the stairs to confuse people, but instead Remus found himself walking around the castle under the cloak on a Thursday night making all the stairs static.
The shock, and then joy, to which this was treated was music to Marauder ears and was only made more distinguished by the muttering and hidden looks of admiration aimed in their direction from the staff table at meals that day.
“Boys, what are you doing there?” McGonagall yelled as she made her way through a crowd of students entering the Great Hall.
The Marauders looked up innocently.
“Are you talking to us, Professor McGonagall?” James smiled sweetly.
“Who else would I be talking to?”
“We were just waiting for the first years to get past so they wouldn’t get crushed.” Peter said.
“You’re causing more problems by standing there, go in!” she shooed them into the hall and along with the crowd. She didn’t catch sight of Sirius slipping his wand back into his pocket, but she did spot when the doors to the Great Hall turned bright pink.
“POTTER! BLACK! PETTIGREW! LUPIN!”
“Professor McGonagall,” James, at the head of the Marauders, sidled up to Professor McGonagall. “Would you mind doing us a favour?”
She sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. “What is it?”
“We want to know if I’ve got the most report cards in the history of the school.” James said, smiling as sweetly as he could manage. “Can we go into Flich’s office and count to see?”
McGonagall stared at them. “You do realise that there are three hundred years’ worth of report cards?”
“Why do you want- oh never mind. You can do it in my office on Saturday afternoon.” McGonagall said, slightly resignedly.
On Saturday, they arrived at her office armed with a tally chart and some self-inking quills called biro pens. They sat on the floor in the corner, going through 38 large boxes of cards Filch had brought in. Occasionally, they would make a noise of fascination and one of them would suggest they copy the antics of a previous troublemaker, but one look from McGonagall over her glasses would have them shutting up.
After several hours, they jumped to their feet and gave a loud cheer.
“I WIN!” James yelled.
They did it in the middle of the night, under the invisibility cloak.
The librarian’s scream the next morning could be heard through the school.
(“Maybe we shouldn’t have put the carnivorous books next to the dark magic one.” Remus muttered over Sirius’ shoulder as they peered over a fourth year at the carnage.)
“The Hufflepuffs have got Quidditch practice at seven tomorrow morning. If we talk loudly enough they’ll go running off to tell McGonagall and then we can just leg it back to the dormitory and hide!” Peter said very quickly one evening as he burst into the dormitory.
“Pete, how many times have we told you not to go overboard on the Liquorice Wands? They go to your head, remember? Make you say crazy stuff.” Sirius said.
“I haven’t had any liquorice wands! It’s about the thing on the list! Pretending to drain the lake!”
They all perked up.
Hufflepuff lost 50 house points for getting McGonagall out of bed at 7:15 am on a Sunday for what turned out to be a false alarm, although the portraits did seem to have been told to monitor the Marauders very closely for the next few days.
They pulled this one off the week after the lake draining accident. They conned most of the other Gryffindors into thinking it was Friday and had them go down to the Great Hall for breakfast in school robes, at which point Dumbledore laughed, told everyone the truth and set the Marauders two weeks of detention.
“He can’t be that annoyed. He was smiling and laughing as he told us off.” Remus muttered as they walked back to the tower, accompanied by the glares of just about everyone.
“Everyone else is annoyed though.” James pointed out.
That was true, and resulted in more than one bucket of snails being thrown on their heads that evening.
“I’ve done it!” Remus flung his arms up in triumph and the map slid off his lap. “It’s finished, it’s done! We’ve done the map!”
They made a vague attempt at a script, then decided to just add-lib the whole thing.
Costumes were obtained from Lily Evans, who was more than happy to dress James and Sirius up in feather boas, lipsticks, wigs, heels, tight skirts and every other over-the-top piece of clothing she could get her hands on. They forewent a backdrop and ‘borrowed’ a duelling stage from Professor Mackenzie, the DADA teacher. Props were hastily transfigured out of the socks Peter’s mum had sent him for Christmas and a scenario for the performance was pulled out of the middle of Remus’ enormous light reading pile.
Then it was a mad rush down to the corridor where Lily was trying to keep the stage from toppling out of its hiding place in the wall. They arrived, set the stage up, climbed on and cast the sonorous charm.
Crowds soon gathered to watch Remus and Peter back away from the squabbling Jaqueline and Seraphina. The play reached an abrupt end when Seraphina transfigured Josephine into a rubber duck over the stolen sponge cake and after Dumbledore finally stopped leading the applause, the boys were able to slip into a secret passageway and get off scot-free.
It took Peter three hours to get a merchant in one of the portraits to agree to give the Fat Lady some barrels of wine, but, as most of the school would agree, it would have been thoroughly worth it.
During the course of her prolonged drinking session, she tried to climb out of her picture to kiss a fifth year, got in a row with Sir Hessetis the Hider, stole a giraffe and asked Flitwick to marry her, much to the great amusement of the pupils. She then fell asleep, her snores echoing down the corridors.
The next day, she had vanished, and word soon spread around the school that she had been summoned to Dumbledore’s office. It turned out that she had only just avoided being fired and returned to her post in tears, though soon cheered up when her friend Violet pointed out that she hadn’t quite finished all the wine from the day before.
“A house elf has just told me that you have had more detentions than anyone else in the school’s history.” Dumbledore did not look too pleased with James and Sirius. “Apparently the board of governors want you expelled.”
“We’ve almost finished our NEWTS.” Sirius pointed out. “Then we’ll be gone.”
“One more month.” James added.
“Do you promised to behave?”
“I don’t think I can physically do that.” James said. “Can you?”
Sirius shook his head.
“Do you promised to try?”
Sirius and James nodded.
“Alright. But one more detention…”
Compared to some of their other escapades, this was shockingly simple. All they had to do was bribe the password off a 3rd year, rush in, blast the panels that looked out into the lake and rush out again before anyone could catch them or they got caught up int eh flood.
Cleaning up the common room after McGonagall came and found them, read them the riot act, took a hundred points off Gryffindor and gave them three months of detention was not so simple.
Enchanted posters went on the notice boards and 17 students showed up at midnight on Friday. The sofas, armchairs and tables had all been moved to resemble a classroom and Sirius and James stood at the front while Remus handed out worksheets while Peter sat in a corner with a fire extinguisher and a book of reversal spells.
James cleared his throat. “Good evening, class.”
There was silence.
James turned to Sirius. “They aren’t going to say anything, are they?”
Sirius shook his head.
“Right, today we are going to be doing what an insult jinx is and different types of insult jinx. At the end of the lesson, we will- what is it Peter?”
Peter had gone very pale and was trying- and failing- to discreetly nod his head towards something behind Sirius and James.
Sirius spun around. “Hello Professor.”
“Back. To. Bed. There will be words in the morning.” Professor McGonagall snarled.
There were words indeed, most of them on the apology letters they had to write to the guardians of all the first years that had shown up to the lesson.
It was the last day of school.
It was the last day of school ever, not just for that year.
It was the last trick, the last mischief, the last of life as they knew it, the last hurrah.
Standing in the dungeons with a box of Filibuster’s Best Fireworks at their feet, they didn’t quite realise that they were ending their school lives and their childhood with a bang.
“You can’t get expelled on the last day of the year, can you?” James wondered.
“I guess we’ll find out.”
And with that, Sirius lit the fuse.