It started out as an ordinary Thursday, or so Remus thought. Although, when two of your best friends were the biggest troublemakers in the entire school and the third tended to eagerly follow whatever the other two were doing, 'ordinary' tended to take on a rather broad definition.
Today it meant that the castle was still standing, nobody had been rushed to the hospital wing with their knackers hanging from their ears, and they managed to avoid detention when Sirius transfigured Caspian McGillicutty into a phoenix during their Human Transfiguration lesson. Sure, Caspian had spontaneously combusted and was rushed to the hospital wing, but he didn't have knackers hanging from his ears. In fact, at the moment he had neither ears nor knackers, poor sod.
"Well, then," Professor McGonagall said, glaring at Sirius as she swept the remaining ashes into a small bowl with a curt wave of her wand, "I suppose we've had enough excitement for the day. For homework, I want you all to write two feet on the inherent dangers of human transfiguration and how to avoid incidents like today." Ignoring the collective groan from the class, she continued, "Mr Black and Mr Potter, you will each write four feet, with a particular focus on how and why Gamp's Law of Transfiguration specifically cautions against attempts at human transfiguration into highly magical objects and animals."
"But Professor, I didn't—"
"I'm fairly confident you did indeed, Mr Potter. Four feet, with appropriate footnotes and indices, on my desk Monday morning. Class dismissed." She picked up the bowl of ashes and left the classroom without another word.
James scowled and turned around to glare at Remus. Sirius whispered something to James, and when James started to complain, Sirius smacked him in the shoulder. Remus quickly glanced at Peter beside him. Peter was looking at him with an expression that clearly said 'this won't end well', and Remus ducked his head, taking a sudden interest in a bright turquoise feather that had settled next to his foot. He picked it up and admired it, ignoring the chatter around him. It was perfectly proportioned with a firm, smooth rachis, and he was about to put it in his bag when it was unceremoniously plucked from his hand.
"I'll need that back, Lupin," Lily Evans said, rubbing her head behind her ear with her other hand. "Bugger. I think I've got a bald spot. I'm going to kill Potter."
Remus smiled up at her. Oh, Prongs, why must you be such a bloody pillock? "Would have made a nice quill. You should keep it that colour when you put it back."
Lily wrinkled her nose. "A bit ostentatious, don't you think?"
"Nah," James said, walking over and flicking Remus on the forehead with his fingers.
"Ow." Did I say pillock? I meant tosser.
"Hush, you big girl. You're the one should be doing this bloody essay." James turned to Lily and smiled brightly. "You were a brilliant peacock, Evans, if I do say so myself."
"Don't flatter yourself, Potter, or didn't you realise that peacocks are male birds, you arse? I swear to God, if you buggered up anything changing me back ..."
"But peahens are so dull. You—you're far too vibrant. You have 'peacock' written all over you."
Lily glared at him. "The only benefit to partnering with you is that when it was my turn, I was going to transfigure you into a flobberworm. Only now I'm going to have to rethink that, because a flobberworm is far too good for the likes of you. And you," she added, pointing as Sirius came up behind James. "What the hell did you two do to poor Caspian? And why aren't you in detention for life?"
"Quidditch match Saturday," James said, shrugging. "Besides, I didn't do anything. It was your darling Lupin here who—"
"Oh, fine. Blame Remus for your immature antics."
Yeah, you tell him, Lily. Even if he is right.
"What Prongs really wanted to say," Sirius interrupted, clapping his hand over James' mouth with one hand and holding James around the middle to secure his arms with the other, "is that McGillicutty had it coming. Ever since you went to Hogsmeade with him last weekend, he's been spouting off the most intriguing—"
Sirius winced as James stomped on his foot, and Remus had to cover his own mouth with his hand to keep from laughing out loud.
"I mean horrid. Yes, horrid tales. Nasty, ugly rumours, if you ask me," Sirius said, waggling his eyebrows. "Which of course you haven't," he added, seeing Lily's expression. "Really, Evans, I'd have thought you'd have more discerning taste in men since you keep turning Prongs down. At the very least, you should consider dating someone with better grammar and penmanship, because that poem McGillicutty wrote on the wall of the fourth floor boy's toilet?" Sirius shook his head and sighed. "If one could go so far as to call it poetry. Well, I suppose 'arse' and 'farce' do rhyme, but 'bountiful' and 'mouthful'? That's pretty questionable even if he had spelt them correctly."
Lily's face grew redder and redder until Remus feared she might spontaneously combust herself. The feather was squeezed tightly in her fist, bent and dishevelled and no longer perfect, and she kept opening and closing her mouth, gaping like a fish out of water. Remus reached out and tried to free the feather from her grip, but she whirled on him and he shied back, nearly falling out of his chair.
"Did— Is he—?"
Remus nodded and tried to look solemn as Lily flung the feather aside, pulled her wand from her pocket with such force that copper sparks shot from the tip, and stomped out the door, muttering, "I'm going to rip his bollocks off and shove them so far up his ...."
The moment she was out of earshot, Remus burst out laughing and covered his face with his hands. He was laughing so hard that he didn't even mind when James smacked him in the head. He wiped his nose on his sleeve and looked at Sirius, grinning madly. "Excellent execution, Mr Padfoot. Fifty points to Gryffindor."
Sirius grinned back and winked. "Of course, Mr Moony. Did you expect anything less?"
Remus' stomach did a little flip. Having a mad crush on your best friend had its ups and downs, but at the moment, everything was up. Maybe a little too up, he thought with a jolt. Thank Merlin for loose-fitting robes.
"Oi!" James said, interrupting the moment. "You'd better write that essay for me, Lupin."
Go away, Prongs. He turned to James, mustering an innocent expression. "How is it my fault McGonagall always suspects you? Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, she's right, you know. Besides, you should be glad, considering it was revenge for Lily's honour and a sight better than your idea, I might add."
"What's wrong with hanging his knackers from his ears? You thought it was funny when we did it to Rosier," James said, indignant. "And Avery. And Wilkes. And Beedles." He sighed. "Fine, your idea was more original, happy now?"
"Then do my essay."
"Not even if you begged, on your knees, and promised to rub my feet every night for a year."
"But four feet! C'mon, Moony! I've a match this weekend and practice all afternoon tomorrow. Even if I write really big ... It's McGonagall. She won't have any of that. That only ever worked with Binns."
Remus shook his head. "Hard luck. I've a Prefects meeting tomorrow night."
"Hello? You don't think the bloody Head Boy has to be at that meeting? I begged Evans to reschedule it, but noooo. Honestly, what's the point of being Head Boy when I'm constantly overruled by the Head Girl?"
Whinge, whinge, whinge. No wonder you can't pull her.
Sirius snorted. "Begged her? In your dreams, Antler Boy. You've been sucking up to her all term trying to get on her good side. How's that been working for you so far?"
"I have not been sucking up to her! I mean, it's not like she's been unreasonable or anything. And she's complimented me twice, I'll have you know."
"'You're not as big a toe-rag as I thought' is hardly a compliment."
"She said it nicely! I'm telling you, she's warming up to me."
"Like breathing on a glacier. At this rate, it'll only take a few centuries before she starts to thaw," Sirius said. "Come on, let's go."
Remus stood up and tried to grab his bag, but James put his hand on Remus' shoulder.
"Wait. Remember that time last term when I took that detention for you? You owe me."
"Owe you? You got caught red-handed because you insisted on admiring our handiwork. It's not my fault I was smart enough to run when Wormy told us Filch was coming. Don't blame me for that one."
James crossed his arms and huffed. "I still think you and Sirius should bear the punishment together for this one, seeing as you were the grand architects of the plan."
Remus twitched. Me and Sirius. Alone together. For hours ... writing four bloody feet of essay with footnotes and indices. Bugger that!
"It's like breaking our code of honour," James added.
"We have a code of honour?" Peter asked.
James glared at Peter. "Oh, sure, now you speak up. Why haven't you said anything until now? And why aren't you taking my side?"
Peter looked at Remus, then back to James, and over to Sirius, who seemed to find the entire exchange amusing. "You're not yelling at Padfoot, and he didn't take your side either," Peter said.
"Because I already know he's on my side. Right, Padfoot?"
Remus glanced at Sirius, and his stomach did another flip when he realised that Sirius was watching him, one side of his mouth turned up in a half-grin.
James elbowed Sirius in the stomach. "I said, right, Padfoot?"
Sirius grimaced and rubbed his stomach. "Huh, er, sure, Prongsy. Whatever you say. I'm starving. Let's go eat lunch."
"But I'm talking here! And Moony hasn't agreed to do the honourable thing yet."
Sirius threw his arm around James' shoulder and steered him towards the classroom door. "Leave Moony and his questionable honour alone. I want food."
Remus stared after them. "What do you mean my questionable honour? My honour is impeccable!" Well, most of the time. Okay, at least half the time. He rolled his eyes, picked up Lily's discarded feather and stuffed it into his bag, and turned to Peter. "C'mon, Wormy, let's go. We can kill them later. I'm hungry, too."
"We should take the shortcut by Whimworthy's portrait and get there first. Better not let Prongs near the food unsupervised. If I were you, I wouldn't eat anything he's even looked at, either," Peter said.
Remus sighed. Who needs enemies? "Maybe I should just nick something from the kitchen and eat up in the dormitory instead."
"Oi, Moony," Sirius called, clapping Remus on the shoulder as he caught up to him on the way to the Quidditch pitch.
Remus whirled, startled, and sighed with relief. His nerves were completely shot.
"Tetchy little thing, aren't you? Where've you been hiding? We've barely seen you for two days, you haven't been to any meals except breakfast yesterday, and—" Sirius stopped walking and tugged Remus around by the arm to face him. "What's wrong with you? Are you ill? You're as pale as a ghost."
"M'fine," Remus said.
"And I'm the bloody Queen, mate. Moon's not until ..." Sirius paused for a moment and furrowed his brow. "Two weeks, or just about. So it's not that."
"I know when the moon is, thanks. I told you, I'm fine. Come on. We don't want to be late. Prongs'll kill us if we miss the match." And I don't need him narked at me over anything else right now. "Wormtail's already there."
Sirius rolled his eyes. "His Headship will keep. You look like death warmed over."
"Can always count on you to brighten my day." He shrugged Sirius' hand off his shoulder and resumed walking. I must really be in a foul mood to do that. Oh, god, I need sleeeeeeep.
"Moony! Hey, wait up." Sirius caught up and nudged him with his shoulder. "Christ, Prongs hasn't poisoned you, has he? He'd have told me if he was planning to."
Remus narrowed his eyes. "And would you have told me if he had?"
Sirius hesitated for the briefest of moments, and Remus snorted and picked up his pace.
"Would you stop? I would too tell you! You don't think I'd let him actually poison you, do you? We're mates. Now, if he was planning to poison Snivellus ..."
Remus sighed and kept walking. He really wasn't in the mood for this right now. By suppertime after that dratted transfiguration class the entire school had been buzzing with it: "Didya hear? Potter and Black tried to off McGillicutty. Potter's on a rampage because they botched it, and it was Lupin's fault. Wouldn't want to be him right now, the unlucky son of a bitch. No wonder he's not here. Best keep out of Potter's way." By the next morning, people were surprised to see Remus was still alive when he turned up for classes.
"C'mon, Moony. We're not going to poison anyone, no matter how badly they might deserve it. Bugger the rumours. You know they're shite. Besides, Prongs has hardly even hexed anyone this year, the boring sod. Trying to look good in front of Evans and all that rot, though I have to admit, Dumbledore was a sly old bastard, making him Head Boy. That's why I need you."
This was true. Not that James had completely gone over. He just made sure not to do anything while Evans was around. They still had their constant run-ins with Snape and Rosier and that lot, but with the exception of the Welcome Feast, which was tradition, James had clearly been lying low on the mischief and mayhem front. Maybe ...
He paused beside the stairs to the Quidditch stands, one hand on the banister. "He's still being a stroppy cow about McGonagall's essay."
Sirius raised his eyebrows. "Is that why you look like shite?"
Remus shrugged, and Sirius narrowed his eyes.
"When's the last time you slept, you git?"
Remus turned away and cleared his throat while muttering, "Wednesday."
Sirius poked him in the back with his finger. "Dumb arse."
"Dumb? You've lived with the same James Potter I have for more than six years. You don't think I know how he operates by now? I haven't slept in more than two days because I've been waiting for him to hex me in my sleep, and I haven't been to the Great Hall for meals because I don't want to give him the opportunity to poison my food. Happy now?" He started up the stairs.
"Noticed you took the map, too. Sounds to me like you need a guard dog. Wonder where you could find one of those."
Remus snorted and stopped mid-climb, looking over his shoulder. If only. "Yes, but I'd require one who wouldn't co-conspire with the intruders."
Sirius put his hand on his heart. "You wound me, Moony."
"I know you, Padfoot. Been living with you just as long. When's the last time you said no to Prongs about anything?"
Sirius gave him a long, level look. "You'd be surprised. Besides," he said, waving his hand in dismissal, "he's not actually going to kill you, you know. Probably just a wee bit of temporary maiming is all. You know his obsession with displaced bollocks. You'd think he was a bloody poof the way he goes on about that." He jogged up the stairs. "C'mon, let's go. I can hear Ramesh announcing the teams."
Remus watched him pass without replying, feeling a bit unnerved by the look Sirius had given him. He sighed deeply. Bloody poof, indeed. But Sirius did have a point. You should trust your mates, after all, and he did. Most of the time. He shook his head and followed Sirius up the stairs. Guard dog. Hmph.