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A Conspiracy of Cartographers: Year One [+podfic]

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Dear Nat,

My roommates are driving me MAD. They don't ever study, and they're noisy and nosey and always losing House points for Gryffindor. I have to pretend to go to sleep really early to get them to leave me alone. They keep borrowing my notes (and they don't even ask first) since it seems like they never take any themselves.

Black (the sulky, nosey, stuck-up one, remember?) is friends with Potter (the goofy one) now, so he's not sulky anymore, just nosey and stuck-up. Now that they're friends, they're ganging up on Pettigrew (the nervous one) when they were both sort of friends with him before. That means I'm the one who has to step in when they cross the line. I hate it. I don't want them paying me any more attention than they would normally. But I can't just let it go, can I? Pettigrew is sort of pathetic, and he can't really defend himself.

Everything's back to normal here since I wrote to you on Halloween. Well, as normal as it can be at a school for magic. You know how I told you last week about what Potter and Black did to the Slytherins? They've stopped farting now, and their robes are all black again. They're still really angry about it, though. I'm glad they don't think I had anything to do with it. It was kind of funny.

Lily didn't think so. She's really clever (not as clever as you, of course, Sis) and I like her a lot. She didn't think much of the prank because her best friend is a Slytherin, and she was sort of embarrassed for him. I'm not sure what she sees in him. He's rude and nasty and unless you count sarcasm, he has even less of a sense of humour than Mum (don't tell her I said that). I study with them a lot in the library, but I think he wishes it was just the two of them.

This week in class we've been learning how to make things fly, which I'm glad to say is going much better than when they try to make ME fly. I managed to float a feather on the first day! Well, not float, but it definitely moved. Lily was the only other one who could do it. Of course, by the third day, Potter and Black decided it would be funny to try floating Professor Flitwick, our Charms teacher. He's really tiny so it's not as hard as it sounds. It was pretty amazing how well he took it once he was back on the ground. I expected Gryffindor to lose about a thousand points, but he didn't take any at all. Lily didn't think that was funny either, but I kind of did. It wouldn't've been if we'd lost points.

Tomorrow Lily and I are going hunting for potion ingredients on the edge of the Forbidden Forest. I'm still rubbish at Potions. The smells in that classroom make me dizzy and give me headaches before the full moon, and make me sick to my stomach after. But Lily's been really nice about helping me, and I'm not completely ruining every single potion anymore. Doesn't sound so great when I say it like that, does it?

I miss you loads. Give my love to Mum and Dad, and write me back soon! I want to know all about how school's going for you, and what books you're reading.

Your Affectionate Brother,

His Defence Against the Dark Arts notes were missing. Again. Remus sat back on his heels and sighed. Just in case, he had checked twice, but if he was not able to lay hands on them immediately, there could be only one explanation, and that was Black.

Pettigrew always asked first, and more often than not, Potter did, too. Black, though, had a bad habit of treating everything in their dormitory like his personal property, and for some reason this seemed to apply most especially to Remus's things.

Remus wasn't sure why this should be, since Black -- though his attitude had improved remarkably since the instigation of his friendship with Potter -- still made occasional snide comments about the cheapness and worn state of Remus's possessions. He suspected that it was just Black's nature to push until he found out what the limits were. Since Black had known Pettigrew for some time, he already knew his limits, and Potter didn't appear to have any when it came to outrageous behaviour, which only left Remus.

What Remus's limits were, even he was not certain. What would it take before he would tell Black to shove off? The last thing he wanted to do was make a scene, or draw attention to himself, but as long as he kept his mouth shut and his temper in check, it seemed that Black would just keep on encroaching. Only the other day, Remus had found him sprawled on Remus's own bed, reading one of his books. Since there was no imaginable way Black enjoyed Muggle fiction, Remus could only suppose that he was being deliberately maddening.

"What're you looking for?" Black peered over the edge of his bed to where Remus was rummaging through his trunk.

Remus didn't look up. "My Defence notes. Have you seen them?"

"Probably." Black's voice was thoughtful.

"What d'you mean 'probably'?" Remus asked, giving Black a narrow look. "Have you got them or not?"

Black shrugged. "I had them earlier. Gave them to James."

"So, Potter has them?"

Another shrug. "Dunno. That was hours ago."

Remus bit back his first half dozen responses to Black's goading and went with, "D'you think you could maybe ask next time before you borrow my things?"

"You were asleep."

"And you couldn't wait until I woke up? You needed to study that desperately?"

Black flopped over on his back and let his head and shoulders hang off the bed, fingers brushing the floor. "I just wanted to see if you wrote down the name of that hex Tynedale mentioned -- the one for sticking someone's eyes shut? -- so I could look it up."

The door opened and Potter and Pettigrew came in.

"Have you got my Defence notes?" asked Remus without preamble.

Black sat up. "You should've seen us just now, James!" he grinned. "Lupin and I had a whole conversation! Words and sentences and everything!"

Potter swooned theatrically against the door, hand pressed to his brow. "An historic moment!" he declared, as Pettigrew giggled.

Remus scowled. "Has anyone seen my Defence notes?"

Potter rolled his eyes and pulled a crumpled and much-folded sheaf of parchment from the pocket of his robes. "Don't get your knickers in a bunch, Lupin. I've got them."

Remus took a calming breath -- the notes were definitely the worse for wear -- and said, "Thanks. Just -- ask next time, OK?"

"You hear that, Sirius?" said Potter. "Ask next time." And then they were giggling again.

Remus spent a few minutes attempting to flatten out the worst of the creases in his notes, and then gave it up as a bad job. It was probably best if he just recopied them later. They were the notes for the previous Wednesday's class, which he had spent in the hospital wing, only borrowing and copying Lily's later in the week. Writing them up again might help make the lesson stick.

Apparently his absence from Wednesday's classes had either gone unnoticed, or had already been forgotten by his roommates, which was fine with Remus. Lily was the only one who had asked where he had been, after prodding him awake when he had almost fallen asleep in Astronomy. He hated lying to her, but there was no help for that, and he had rather lamely mumbled his prepared line about his mother's supposed illness. He had been especially nervous of telling Lily, since, unlike his roommates, she might actually know things about Muggle illnesses, but she had been tactful and sympathetic, asking no further awkward questions.

Remus was grateful for Lily. In some ways, she reminded him of his sister. He could breathe easier around her. He felt like he could trust her -- as much as he could trust anyone. And most importantly, she didn't drive him stark staring mad.

With a last look from his ruined notes to his roommates, who had pounced on Pettigrew, and were tickling him mercilessly, making him shriek and squeal, Remus pulled on his winter cloak and scarf and went to keep his appointment with his friend.

"I'm going to need to borrow your Defence notes again," he greeted her in the common room.

"Potter?" she asked as they turned towards the portrait hole. "Or Black?"

He rolled his eyes. "Both, this time. But mostly Black."

She shook her head. "Someone needs to take them down a peg or two. They think they're so hilarious, when all they're doing is causing trouble for the rest of us. Do they take anything seriously?"

"Meal times," Remus replied. "The Prewetts. Quidditch."

"Maybe we could ask Fabian to talk to them," Lily said thoughtfully. "He's a prefect, after all. It's his job to keep order."

Remus snorted. "Good luck with that."

Halfway down the main staircase into the entrance hall, Remus caught sight of a bundled-up Severus Snape waiting at the castle doors.

"You didn't say he was coming," said Snape by way of greeting, his usual scowl deepening.

Remus, who had been thinking something similar, had the tact to keep his mouth shut.

"I didn't say he wasn't, either," Lily said tartly. "Come on; we've only got an hour or two before dark."

They walked down the grounds through the late autumn evening to the edge of the Forbidden Forest, Lily carrying most of the conversation, telling Remus what she hoped to find, her friendly, cheerful chatter doing only so much to stem the tension between the boys who walked on either side of her. Remus conversed mainly in questions, and Snape was monosyllabic. Fortunately for Remus, the outing was more in the nature of Herbology than Potions, so he didn't feel quite such a dunce.

It was the second week of November, and there was not much green left to be found in shade of the leafless trees. There were a few hardy, low-growing plants, and several sad, wilted yellow and brown things that were past identification.

Snape was attempting to disentangle a vine from a large oak tree when Lily gave a cry of delight. "Cobalt caps!"

She ducked into the treeline and began gathering the tiny, blue mushrooms, carefully depositing them in a cloth bag she had brought with her. Remus moved to join her, but Snape shoved him roughly back with a hand on his chest.

"Leave her alone," he hissed in a low voice, black eyes glinting malice. "Just stay the hell away from her."

"What?" Remus was more surprised than anything else. "Why? She doesn't belong to you."

"There's where you're wrong," Snape snarled. "You and the others -- you're turning her into a Gryffindor -- turning her against me. She should've been a Slytherin."

"Look, mate," Remus tried a conciliatory tone, "I'm sorry about the stunt my housemates pulled, but I had nothing to do with it. I promise you, no one is trying to turn Lily against you."

"I am not your mate," hissed Snape, and just like that, his wand was in his hand.

Remus held very still, warily regarding the wandpoint a few inches from his chest. He didn't know that much about Snape, except that he knew about a million hexes, and was not terribly stable. Not a good combination in Remus's present position.

"Your Gryffindor friends need to watch their backs," Snape spat. "And that goes double for you, Lupin."

"Sev?" called Lily's voice, and instantly the wand dropped into Snape's sleeve. "What're you doing?"

"Nothing," Snape muttered. "Just talking."

Lily looked to Remus, but he just shrugged. He knew how inexplicably fond of Snape Lily was, and he wasn't about to make a scene between the two friends. Remus would just have to keep his eyes open, and hope that, given time, Snape would see reason.

After supper that evening, Remus settled down on his bed with his Herbology textbook, looking up the plants they had found that afternoon, and doing his best to memorise their Latin names and uses. He had already recopied Lily's Defence notes, but he wasn't sure how much of the information had sunk in, since his roommates were being especially noisy and distracting. Black was busy being loudly indignant about the letter he had just received from his parents.

"Listen to this." He put on a high-pitched, snooty-sneery voice. "'Allowing oneself to be made a Gryffindor is one thing, but circulating defamatory rumours concerning one's own family is something else entirely.' All I did was tell them Narcissa's a tart. They don't even believe me!"

"There must be some way to prove it," said Potter, peering over Black's shoulder to read the rest of the letter. "Bloody hell, mate! Your own mum actually called you a blood-traitor?"

Black flushed bright red and snatched the letter away from Potter's prying eyes. "She just said you lot were turning me into one," he mumbled.

Potter polished his nails on his pyjamas and looked smug. "My work here is done."

"Don't see how you could prove it," said Pettigrew. "Don't see how you could ever prove that sort of thing unless she got herself up the duff."

Black scowled. "The Prewetts found out somehow. We could ask them."

"Sure," chuckled Potter. "Defaming Slytherins is almost as much fun as turning the snooty heirs of pure-blood families into blood-traitors."

Black pounced on him with a whoop, letter forgotten, and tried to force Potter's face into his armpit. "Take it back!" he cried, mock-outraged. "I am not snooty!"

"Glah!" gagged Potter. "You stink, Black! Even blood-traitors take showers, y'know."

"Had one yesterday," Black said huffily. He let go of his friend and raised his arm for a critical sniff. "It's not that bad. Do I stink, Pete?"

Pettigrew had time for more no more than a quick "Urk!" before being grabbed by the collar of his pyjamas and forced into Black's other armpit. He struggled weakly and mumbled something unintelligible before Black let him out.

"What was that?"

"I said," repeated Pettigrew, looking distinctly red and rumpled, "'Let me out, it reeks in here'."

"That's two to one, Black!" Potter hooted.

"Hang on a sec," said Black. "I need another opinion."

With a bounce, he landed in the middle of Remus's bed, narrowly missing his newly-copied Defence notes. Hastily putting the notes out of harm's way, Remus eyed the other boy warily.

"Do I stink, Lupin?" Black asked.

Unlike with Potter and Pettigrew, Black did not try to grab him to force the issue, for which Remus was grateful. Having been raised with a younger brother, Black had been instilled with a certain amount of casual physicality then it came to people he considered "his". His hands-off treatment of Remus meant that Black still considered him an outsider, but Remus had never cared much for being touched by people he wasn't comfortable around, and that still very much included all three of his roommates.

"You're mad. You know that, right?" Remus told him.

"Not what I asked," Black said, raising his arm, and leaning in closer than Remus cared for.

Knowing full well that resisting Black's insane demands would only make the other boy more insistent, Remus obligingly raised his head and sniffed delicately.

"Well?" demanded Black.

If he was honest with himself, Black did not really smell all that bad. Heightened sense of smell being a side-effect of lycanthropy, Remus had grown used to recognising the people around him by scent, as much as by sight or sound. Black smelled of exuberant boy, sticky toffee pudding and toothpaste, none of which Remus found to be particularly offensive.

He shrugged. "Not so you'd notice. I'm thinking of putting up a sign on my bed that says 'Trespassers Will Be Hexed'," he added conversationally.

Black ignored the broad hint and turned back to the others, sticking out his tongue triumphantly. "Lupin doesn't think I stink."

Potter rolled his eyes. "Lupin didn't have his conk smashed into your sweaty, nasty armpit."

"No, sorry," said Black, putting up his hands. "The subject is closed. We're back to proving my cousin is a tart now."

"Does sleeping with her boyfriend really make her a tart?" Remus couldn't help asking. The judgment seemed a little harsh to him.

Black snorted. "It does if she's pretending to be a good pure-blood girl. They're not supposed to do anything until they're married."

"You could do another potion," suggested Pettigrew. "One that makes anyone who's ever -- you know -- break out in blue spots, or something."

"Yes," Remus commented drily. "And then, after you've invaded everyone's privacy and sent Gryffindor into negative points, you can find out what happens when you're hit with fifty different hexes at the same time. I hear some of those Ravenclaws are quite creative."

"Well, what d'you suggest, Mr I-Never-Lose-House-Points?" asked Black.

Remus shrugged again. "Just that maybe if it's your cousin you're out to get, you could try targeting her specifically, rather than turning the whole school against you."

Potter grinned. "Isn't that sweet, Sirius? He cares about our well-being."

"And he talks when I sit on his bed," Black replied bouncing gleefully until the springs twanged.

Remus scowled and clamped his mouth shut, drawing his feet up the bed to avoid having them bounced on. He hadn't meant to encourage Black's disregard for his personal space -- he wasn't even sure how he had allowed himself to be drawn into the conversation -- but apparently it was too late now; Black considered him to be in on their latest attempt at an early grave.

He bounced around until he was facing Remus. "C'mon, Lupin! Ideas! The Sorting Hat must've put you in here for a reason."

I'm not reckless like you, Remus thought. I'm only brave because I have to be.

"I've got a camera," suggested Pettigrew. "We could sneak into Slytherin and catch them at it."

"Oh, brilliant plan!" sneered Black. "If we knew the Slytherin password and my cousin's shagging schedule."

"It would be a lot simpler if she just wound up preggers," mused Potter.

"She's probably on that birth control potion," said Remus.

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he regretted them. Control, Lupin! What the hell is wrong with you? All three boys were staring at him.

"What's a birth control potion?" asked Black, keenly interested. "Have you been withholding information, Lupin? Because that is not on."

"Definitely not on," echoed Potter.

"Just something I overheard Madam Pomfrey saying," Remus mumbled.

Black's brow creased. "You were in the hospital wing? When?"

"It was nothing," Remus told him hastily. He was going to have to tell them about the potion now, to get their attention off his slip-up. This is what you get for opening your mouth, Lupin. "I heard Madam Pomfrey tell a couple of girls about the potion," he said reluctantly. "I think she gives the recipe to all the girls."

"What exactly did she say? You can tell me, Lupin," said Black, leaning closer and fluttering his long eyelashes absurdly.

Remus eyed him warily. Madam Pomfrey would strangle him if she knew. He sighed. "She said not to add too much tansy oil, or they'd start to show signs of pregnancy."

"Tansy oil!" crowed Potter. "We can get that!"

Remus shifted further away from Black, who looked like he might pounce on him after all. "There's still no way you're getting into Slytherin," he reminded them.

That sobered them up for a moment.

"True," said Potter.

"You could ask your friend Snape to do it," suggested Black.

"Believe me," Remus told him, "we're not friends. He'd hex me as soon as look at me."

Potter snorted. "Thinks you're trying to steal his girl, does he?"

"Something like that," Remus mumbled.

Black laughed. "Lupin, the Gryffindor ladies' man. Who knew? Maybe you could seduce a Slytherin and sneak in that way."

Remus blushed, sending the other three into further gales of laughter.

Once they had calmed down a bit, Potter said, "But seriously --" which always seemed to make Black giggle "-- who can get into Slytherin but a Slytherin?"

"The professors," suggested Pettigrew. "They can go wherever they want."

Potter and Black gave him a Look.

"Sure," said Potter. "We'll just ask McGonagall if she'll do us a favour."

"I was just saying," mumbled Pettigrew. "What about the ghosts?"

"Ghosts can't carry anything," Black reminded him scornfully. "And it's not really the kind of thing we could ask Nearly-Headless Nick to do."

"Peeves could do it," Remus said sardonically. "Maybe you could make friends with him. You're as bad as each other."

Black stared at him. "I could kiss you, Lupin!"

"Please don't," said Remus.

P.S: Sirius Black is the maddest mad thing in the entire world, and he is probably going to end up getting me killed by a mob of angry Slytherins. So if I don't make it home for Christmas, that's probably why.