The wand hunt proved frustrating, even with Remus's help. Sirius and James both assured him that he did not have to come at all, but he insisted. Even though he was still groggy from his afternoon nap, Remus somehow ended up in charge of the search. It was he who suggested that the four of them begin in the entrance hall -- a useful central location -- and try the exercise they had previously used for discovering hidden magic.
"You know what your wands feel like," he told them. "You use them every day. Try to feel for that same energy."
It took a while, and there were several false starts and stops, before they began to sense the familiar tingle. But as they moved from floor to floor and wing to wing of the castle, it was nearly impossible to judge whether the faint vibration was getting nearer or farther away. Sirius was becoming annoyed, but stamped down on the emotion. Remus wanted him to learn control. Instead, he closed his eyes and reached out with his mind for what felt like the hundredth time.
By supper, they had not made much progress. Remus almost fell asleep over his soup, and Sirius and James took turns kicking him under the table every time his eyelids drooped. They ate quickly, skipping pudding, in order to have more time to search before curfew.
But it was no good. Their progress was even slower than before, and Remus, looking very pale, had to sit down and close his eyes every time they stopped. When he stumbled and James caught him, Sirius decided that enough was enough.
"We can try again tomorrow," he said. "We'll just keep using the school wands for now."
Professor Flitwick had supplied them with wands in Charms that afternoon, but school wands were as unsatisfactory in their way as school brooms were. The sooner they were reunited with their own wands, the better.
Back at the dormitory, James and Peter got out their school work. Sirius was just in the middle of making Remus a mug of tea when James gave a startled cry. Turning around, Sirius saw his best friend staring at the wand in his hand.
"What -- is that yours?" Sirius asked incredulously. "Where was it?"
"Under my pillow."
Peter gave a surprised huff of laughter, and Sirius rushed over to his own bed and yanked the pillow away. There was his wand. He snatched it up and flounced down onto the bed.
"I cannot believe we spent three hours looking for them, and they were here all along," said James, shaking his head.
"Gandolfsson probably thought he was being so funny," muttered Sirius. "What's he playing at?"
"It's probably his idea of an important lesson." Remus sat on his bed, wrapped in a blanket, sipping tea. "You know, 'don't ignore what's right under your nose,' or something like that."
"Well, why didn't he just say that?" Sirius complained.
"If he'd hidden them anywhere else, we would have been looking for a week at least," said James.
Sirius sneered. "Only because he never bloody taught us how to find things."
"He never teaches us anything," said Peter. "I don't think I've learned a single thing in Defence so far this year. Have you?"
"I've learned to keep my mouth shut," James smirked. "And I hope by now Black has, too."
Sirius shot him a dirty look. "Gandolfsson can't be bothered to teach us anything useful. The Prewetts won't let us into their stupid club. How can we learn if no one will teach us?"
"You could start your own club," said Remus.
James looked sceptical. "Who would join? Everyone who cares about Defence is probably already in the Prewetts' club."
"You really think you're the only ones below OWL year who care about Defence?" Remus asked. "If there was a club, I would join it."
"Me, too," said Peter. "And the Prewetts said Egbert Bones wasn't allowed into the advanced club because he's only a fourth year. I bet he would join."
"But we're only second years," said Sirius. "Who'd listen to us? Anyway, we don't even know what the rules are for starting a club."
Remus yawned and set his empty mug on the nightstand. "It shouldn't be hard to find out. McGonagall could probably tell you. You can ask her tomorrow, since you won't be busy looking for your wands."
"Just stand back and try to breathe through your mouth," Sirius whispered.
Remus's face had a faint greenish cast to it. "We're supposed to be working on this together."
"We are," said Sirius. "You took the notes and measured the dry ingredients, I'm chopping up the squidgy bits and mixing the potion. Eugh. Don't get too close to that," he advised Remus, pouring viscous fluid into the cauldron, "it's vile."
Their assignment for the afternoon's Potions lesson was to make a batch of Doxycide, after a particularly virulent infestation had been discovered inhabiting the Hogwarts guest wing. The potion was noxious enough to Sirius's nose. No wonder if Remus was feeling ill.
Sirius gave his Potions partner a sideways look. "If you have to spew, just don't do it in the cauldron, all right? This stuff is bad enough as it is."
Remus closed his eyes, panting through his open mouth, but valiantly managed to keep his lunch down.
After the lesson, James was impatient to get back to the dormitory. "It's not raining and there are still a couple hours of daylight," he said, practically dancing circles around his roommates. "This might be my last chance to get out and do some flying before spring!"
"D'you want to go outside, Moony?" Sirius asked.
Remus shook his head. He looked better than he had in Potions, but he still seemed exhausted and unwell. "I'm going to meditate for a bit," he said, voice barely above a whisper. "You can go. I'll be fine."
"It's too cold out for me," Sirius told James. "You go ahead; I'll see Moony back to the room."
"Pete?" said James.
Peter nodded eagerly, and the two of them ran ahead down the corridor, leaving Sirius and Remus to make their slower way back to the dormitory.
When they got there, Remus sagged onto his bed, closing his eyes.
"You sure you're up for meditation?" Sirius asked. "If you want to take a nap instead, I can always catch up with James and Pete."
Remus shook his head. "No, I'm just a little woozy. Meditation will help clear my head. You don't have to, though."
"Said I would, didn't I?" said Sirius, climbing up onto the bed beside him.
"All right." Remus drew his legs up onto the bed and turned to face him. "Do you remember how to start?"
Sirius didn't really. "We hold hands, don't we?"
"Sort of. Like this." He sat cross-legged, with his hands resting, palms up, on his knees.
Sirius mirrored the position, laying his own hand, palms down, on top of Remus's. As soon as he did it, it felt familiar. Maybe he did remember. "Like this?"
Remus nodded. "Now, close your eyes and just breathe."
He tried. He closed his eyes, inhaling slowly. He thought about their Doxycide, which had come out well. He thought about James and Peter, swooping across the Hogwarts grounds. He thought about Remus. His hands twitched.
"You have to focus." Remus's voice was rough but soothing, and held no trace of impatience.
Sirius opened one eye, and saw that Remus's were still closed. There was a serene look on his face.
"Empty your mind," the soft voice continued. "Think of something peaceful, if that helps. Still water. A tree on a calm day. The sound of your heartbeat."
Closing his eyes once more, Sirius tried to push away all thoughts about his day, his friends, their plans. Instead of thinking, he found himself listening. The only sound in the room was the quiet sigh of their breathing. As he listened to Remus's breath, slow and deep, his own lungs gradually fell into the same pattern. They breathed together.
"Good," murmured Remus. "Now I want you to remember what it felt like, searching for hidden magic, feeling for your wand. But this time, look inward. Find the magic inside you. Can you feel it?"
Sirius's eyes darted back and forth behind his eyelids, as if he were looking for something. "Where is it?" he asked. Did wizards keep their magic in their brains or their hearts or their bellies or somewhere else?
"It's not a place; it's part of you, in what people call the mind or the soul or the essence. The part of you that makes you Sirius, and not anyone else. The part of you that feels. Try to find it."
Sirius breathed again, looking inwards. He thought he knew now what Remus meant. When he was small, and first learning about the stars he and his family were named for, he had always imagined that they were stars, and someday, they would find their place in the night sky. Until then, they carried their light hidden within, secret.
There was something inside Sirius that sparked and sparkled and blazed with light. It had always been there, but this was the first time he had looked for it. A pool of brightness and warmth. He reached for it, and felt it flowing through him, down his arms and legs and up his chest to flush his cheeks with heat.
He could feel Remus's magic too, different but familiar, and close, just beyond the tips of his fingers. It was vibrant and powerful, almost like a living thing itself. Was it his tainting that made it possible for him to sense Remus like that? Or did his contaminated blood only make the sensing easier?
"Have you got it?" asked Remus's soft voice.
Sirius nodded, then remembered that Remus's eyes were closed. "Yes."
"Good. Now try sending a little of it out through your hands and into me. If it helps, imagine you're holding your wand, letting the magic flow through it for a spell."
Frowning, Sirius tried to nudge the rushing, sparkling light down his arms towards Remus, but it didn't seem to want to go. Urge and coax and push as he might, nothing seemed to be happening.
"That's all right. You don't have to get it the first time. I can show you what it feels like instead."
Hot, vivid energy poured in through Sirius's palms, and he yelped, jerking his hands away and rubbing them on his trousers. "I thought you said 'a little'."
Remus looked as if he were trying to suppress a smile of amusement. "It wasn't that much."
"Well, it felt like a lot." His body was humming with extra power, his heart pounding as if he'd just run a mile.
"Let's try a little spell work," said Remus. He went to his trunk and got out a candle, which he set on the floor, clearing the space around it. "Light it."
Sirius gave him an incredulous look. "That's first year stuff."
"Light it," was all Remus said.
He drew his wand and pointed it at the candle. "Incendio."
The wick flared up briefly before the whole candle dissolved into a puddle of wax, spreading over the stone floor.
Sirius stared at it in surprise. "What just happened?"
Remus's smile got away from him. "It's the extra power I gave you. You're used to only having your own. When you did the spell, you used a little too much, that's all. As you learn more control, you'll be able to conserve your magic and only use as much as you need. Let's try again."
He took a quill from his bookbag and set it on the floor.
"Come stand over here."
Sirius got off the bed and stood where Remus indicated, with the other boy standing close behind him.
"I'm going to help you direct your power this time," he said, using the same soft voice he had during meditation. He put his left hand on Sirius's shoulder, his right holding the wrist of Sirius's wand hand. "Now close your eyes and just breathe for a minute, like we did before."
Sirius closed his eyes, but somehow, it was harder to concentrate this time. Remus's breath, soft on the back of his neck, was distracting in a way that it hadn't been when they faced one another on the bed. His heart was still beating too fast to relax, and the extra power made him warm all over.
"Ready?" Remus asked.
"Sure," said Sirius, opening his eyes.
"All right. We're going to float the quill. This time, go slowly and only use as much as you need."
He nodded. "Wingardium Leviosa."
Slowly, the feather rose into the air. It hung there, vibrating.
He let Remus guide the actions of his wand hand, concentrating fiercely as the other boy murmured, "pull back," and "not so much," and "yes, just like that," in his ear.
The end of the quill went black, a wisp of smoke curling up from it, but still it remained aloft.
"Now we're going to set it back down," said Remus.
Slowly, he let Sirius lower his wand hand. The feather floated gracefully towards the floor. At the last moment, Remus let go of Sirius's wrist, letting him finish the exercise by himself. The quill dropped the last few inches, disintegrating into ash as it hit the floor.
"Sorry," said Sirius.
"That's all right," Remus told him. He sat down on the edge of the bed, looking pale. "I didn't expect you to get it the first time. But it might be better if you didn't try to do any spells on your own for the rest of the afternoon."
"Are you OK?" Sirius asked.
Remus nodded, flashing Sirius a tired smile. "Maybe I did give you too much. I'm not perfect at this stuff, either, yet. Was it boring this time?"
"No." Sirius sat down beside him on the bed.
"Did you learn something?"
"I think so. If meditation is so useful, why don't they teach it here?"
"Because it's not 'traditional'." Remus rolled his eyes. "It comes from Asia. You know how stuffy wizards can be about trying new things, or anything foreign."
Sirius nodded. "Where did you learn to do it?"
"I read a book about it. And my parents let me take a couple of classes over the summer. They were Muggle classes, but I still learned a lot."
"What do Muggles need meditation for?" Sirius asked, confused.
"It's not just for magic; it's good for mental focus and calm and all sorts of things," said Remus. "That's the end of tonight's lesson, I think. But I have an assignment for you."
"What?" said Sirius warily.
"Tomorrow morning in Defence, you're not going to let Gandolfsson get to you. If he does, don't let him see it. Just breathe like we practised, and keep quiet. Do you think you can manage that?"
"I'll try," promised Sirius.
Thursday Defence lessons were not as bad as Mondays'. The Monday classes were double lessons with Slytherin, but on Thursdays, the Gryffindors were by themselves, and the lessons only lasted for an hour. That did not mean the hour was necessarily pleasant, or that they were any less likely to wind up hexed in the hospital wing. James gripped his wand and grimly set his jaw, eyeing Gandolfsson with mistrust.
The Defence master floated on his carpet between the rows of desks. Students who knew what was good for them resisted the urge to lean away when he passed by.
"One should be wary of committing personal or vital information to writing, if at all possible," he informed them. "If it is unavoidable to do so, one should use circumspect language. Who can tell me what that means?"
Remus and Lily Evans raised their hands. As usual, Gandolfsson ignored the red-headed girl.
"It means talking around a thing, not mentioning it directly."
"Exactly so." Gandolfsson nodded. "For example, instead of using someone's name, I could say, 'the fool with the spectacles,' or 'the red-haired know-it-all'."
Gandolfsson did not look at James as he said this, but he felt the intended sting nevertheless, and gripped his wand even harder. Three seats away, Evans scowled, her lips pressed together in a McGonagallishly thin line.
The Defence master was still hovering in front of Remus, who stared steadily back at him, a look of nothing more than polite attentiveness on his face.
"It's nice of you to join us today, Lupin," said Gandolfsson. "Just because you have one of the more promising minds at this school does not mean you can skive off my classes whenever you like."
"I was ill, Sir," said Remus blandly.
Remus was only a hair too slow getting his wand up before the chair went spinning out from under him, and he sat down hard on the floor.
Gandolfsson looked down at him disdainfully. "Someday, when you're an Auror, boy, you'll discover that sick leave is a luxury fit only for weak and unnecessary people. You won't get time off for anything short of grave injury in the line of duty. Anything less than that, and you keep going, understand? You can rest when you're dead. Don't miss another."
Only the slight tightening of the corners of his mouth betrayed that Remus had any feelings at all about Gandolfsson's words. "Yes, Sir."
James glanced sideways at Sirius, who had barely moved during the confrontation. His friend sat up straight, facing forwards. His jaw looked as tightly clenched as James's own, but apart from that, his face bore no expression. Gandolfsson seemed to notice this as well.
"Nothing to say, Black?" he asked.
Sirius breathed in deeply through his nose. "No, Sir."
"I see you and Potter have your wands back. How long did it take you to find them?"
James scowled, but all Sirius said was, "Only a few hours, Sir."
The Defence master narrowed his eyes, taking in Sirius's impassive face. "Did Lupin help you, or did you do it all by yourselves?"
"Remus helped, Sir."
"Fair enough," Gandolfsson nodded. "If Lupin has the patience to teach you a thing or two, you should stick with him. Maybe you won't end up a complete no-hoper."
Another breath. "Yes, Sir. I'll do that."
"Good," said Gandolfsson. He turned away and began moving through the class again. "It's good to keep written and spoken communication to a minimum. The best wizards learn to do magic silently, as well. Having to shout out spells all the time can cause one to lose a split second's advantage, or force one to give away one's location. Children of your age lack the discipline for silent magic, of course, but I hope to instill its importance in those of you who live long enough to attempt it.
"While I may not be able to make you any quieter, I can try to teach you to be unheard. To that end, today we will be learning the Imperturbable Charm, which, when performed correctly, can prevent eavesdropping."
The rest of the lesson passed without so much as a mutter or belligerent glance from Sirius. James was amazed.
"Who are you and what have you done with my best mate?" he demanded as they left the classroom, heading for Herbology.
"I'm just trying something Moony suggested," said Sirius, looking pleased with himself.
Remus clapped him on the shoulder. "Well done."
Sirius grinned. "I still wanted to punch him, though."
"There's nothing I can do about that, mate," said Remus, smiling grimly, "but you weren't the only one."
In spite of the fact that it was the other three who spent the most time talking and making plans for their proposed Defence club, it was Remus who ended up going to McGonagall to find out the rules and pick up the proper forms. When he came back to the dormitory with them, the others were waiting for him.
James tapped on a bedpost with his wand. "I hereby call the first official meeting of the Future Aurors Club to order."
"We're not official yet," Remus pointed out, waving the still-blank forms under his nose. "And we're not calling ourselves that. Not everyone who wants to learn Defence is planning to be an Auror."
"What else do we need besides a name?" asked Sirius, peering at the form over Remus's shoulder.
Remus looked at his notes. "We need to arrange a location and regular meeting times. Once a week would probably be good to start with. Since it's an academic club, we can get special permission from our Head of House to meet after supper if that ends up being the best time. Oh, and we can't exclude members on the basis of House or personal preference." He gave James and Sirius a meaningful look. "If Slytherins want to join, they can. Even Snape."
"As if he'd want to," muttered Sirius. "Tosser."
Remus ignored him. "All we really need to do is pick a time for the first meeting, get McGonagall's permission to use a classroom, and start inviting people."
"And we still need a name," James reminded them, "seeing as you didn't like my brilliant suggestion."
"What about the Hogwarts Defence Club?" suggested Peter. "It's simple and it does exactly what it says on the tin."
"Boring name," said Sirius. "We could be the Daring Defenders or something like that."
Remus laughed. "That makes us sound like comic book super heroes. Pete's right; we should give it a name that tells people what we do. What about the Junior Defence League?"
James nodded thoughtfully. "That's good. Simple but not boring. OK."
"We should vote on it, if we're going to be an official club," Remus pointed out.
"Right," said James. "All in favour of 'Junior Defence League' say 'aye'."
"Aye!" declared four voices.
"The motion carries," said James, plucking the form from Remus's hands and filling in the blank space at the top. He signed his name at the bottom where it said "founding members", and passed it around to the others.
He and Sirius grinned at one another in excitement. They were finally doing something.