Chapter 5: Starting With a Bang
Luckily for Remus, he missed the next Defense class, as it was the day of the full moon. Sirius, James, and Peter had to sit through it, though, and had to sit through Professor Baines's stories of all the times he killed trolls and zombies and werewolves- the list went on and on. By the time they left, Sirius was seething.
"We didn't learn a bloody thing!" he exclaimed. "I don't care about all his stupid experience."
"It's going to be a terrible year," James sighed.
Once all their classes were over, they headed up to the hospital wing to visit Remus before the moon came up. Madam Pomfrey let them in with a frown, but she had learned not to argue with them anymore. They always managed to perk Remus up, and indeed, he did sit up with a broad smile when they came in.
"Hey, guys," he said, "how was Defense?"
"Terrible!" Sirius said, falling back on the bed with his arms thrown out. "Absolutely terrible! He's a first class prick."
"Did you know he killed two trolls with his bare hands?" James asked, rolling his eyes.
"Why would he want to kill his parents?" Sirius asked.
All four of them burst into laughter. Remus felt a lot better now that his friends were there; he hadn't felt particularly poorly that day, but the thought of sitting through another Defense lesson on the day of the full moon was unappealing. He was positive that Baines would have been dropping hints, and Remus didn't want to deal with it.
The three boys stayed and chatted with Remus until it was an hour before the full moon, and Madam Pomfrey swept over to tell them that visiting hours were over. James patted Remus on the back with a supportive smile and Peter gave him a wave as they all left.
"Right, then," James said as soon as they were outside, "time to get cracking. I've already checked out every book on Animagi the library has, and I managed to get a few more over the summer. I reckon we'll be able to pencil out a final plan tonight and then get started on it."
"How long does it take to become an Animagus?" Peter asked, nervous.
"Well, if you follow all the directions it takes a minimum of two or three years," James said. "A lot longer if you aren't trying to rush it. They recommend taking your time, but-"
"We need to get done as fast as possible," Sirius said, nodding. "We won't be any use to Remus if we figure out how to do it seventh year. Come on."
They hurried back to Gryffindor Tower before curfew and headed straight up to their room to get started. They were up half the night, checking and double checking to make sure they had all the steps correct, using the different books for reference. At half past one, James dropped the book he was reading and smiled, tired.
"There," he said. "That's the plan."
They all stared at it. It was a single piece of parchment with writing scrawled all over it, with detailed instructions of what they had to do.
"Hold a Mandrake leaf in our mouth for a month?" Sirius asked, pointing at one of the later steps. "How the hell are we supposed to do that?"
"I thought those were poisonous!" Peter said.
"No, they're just disgusting," James said. "Besides, loads of people have done it before. Think of it as a game."
"A game?" asked Peter, doubtful.
"Yeah. I'll bet I'll be able to transform before either of you," James said, grinning.
"Um, no!" Sirius said, "I'll transform way before you do."
"I'll bet you ten Galleons I'll do it first."
"You are so on. Peter?"
Peter looked back and forth between the two before sighing. "Oh, alright."
"Excellent," said James. "Come on, let's get this all cleaned up; we don't want Remus coming back and finding out what we've been doing."
"Surely he'll be grateful?" Peter asked, scrambling to his feet and helping them hide all the books in their trunks.
Sirius snorted. "No, we'll just get a lecture about how dangerous it is and how he isn't worth it. We'll tell him once we do it, then he'll have no choice but to deal with it. I can't wait to find out what I transform into."
"Probably a bunny," James said.
Sirius whacked him on the arm with one of the books. James yelped and hit him in the stomach.
Thus launched the fiercest book-war in history. Peter tried to stay out of it, but they managed to rope him in about halfway through, and it was three in the morning by the time they had finally managed to clean up and had limped to bed, bruises already forming on their arms and legs. When they visited Remus the next morning in the hospital wing and he had asked where they had gotten them all, they had muttered something about wrestling, grinning at each other behind his back.
"Um… banana with chocolate sauce?" James asked, chewing thoughtfully.
Sirius dropped the peel. "Damn it! How are you so good at this?"
James lifted the tie that they were using to blindfold him and grinned. "Professional taste buds, mate. Remus's turn."
He handed off the tie to Remus, who tied it around his eyes so he couldn't see anything. There were a few shuffling noises and then Sirius said, "Okay, open."
Remus opened his mouth and tried not to flinch when a spoon was shoved inside. He took a big bite of the gooey stuff on it and wrinkled his nose, trying to place the taste.
"It's sweet… what is it?"
"That's the game, isn't it?" James's voice said. "You have to guess."
"No," said Sirius.
Remus swallowed it, the thick, sugary liquid coating his throat. He remembered what his mother used to give him whenever he had a sore throat. Tea with-
"Honey!" he said.
The boys cheered as Remus lifted the tie and tossed it to Peter for his turn.
It was late in the night later that week, after Remus had finally been released from the hospital wing. Professor Baines had been particularly hard on Remus, yelling at him in front of the whole class for his 'abysmal essay', and the boys had decided to bring him down to the kitchens to cheer him up. Sirius had had the bright idea of playing "Hey, What's That In My Mouth?", a game he had just invented. Across the kitchen, some of the house elves had stopped their work to watch them, their huge eyes wide and curious.
"Alright, Peter," James said when Peter had tied the blindfold around his eyes, "open wide."
He shoved a piece of food in Peter's open mouth. Remus frowned, unsure of what it was, as Peter yelped and spit it out.
"That's horrible!" he said. "What was that?"
Sirius and James were on the floor laughing, clutching their stomachs. "It was just a biscuit," James laughed.
Peter took the blindfold off. "No, what was on it?"
"Vinegar," Sirius said, still cracking up.
Remus couldn't help but chuckle. Peter pouted and dropped the tie on the table as his friends laughed.
"Hey, that's no worse than that yoghurt James gave me," Sirius said, clambering back into his seat and wiping tears out of his eyes.
"I like yogurt," Remus said, taking a sip of his hot chocolate.
Sirius gagged. "What's wrong with you?"
"Excuse me, sirs?"
One of the house elves was standing there, staring up at them with luminescent green eyes. He held up a plate of cookies.
"Are yous hungry?"
"Oh, cheers, mate," Sirius said, taking the plate from him.
"You don't have to call us 'sirs'," James said, smiling at the elf. "I'm James, and this is Sirius, Remus, and Peter."
The elf looked a little confused, but he bowed his head. "Of course, sir- I mean, James."
He hurried away without looking at them again.
Sirius set the plate on the table and said, "Listen, James, I know your parents don't really believe in house elves, but coming from someone who's family has owned them since their first case of inbreeding- and that was a long time ago, mind you- it's best to just let them be. They like serving people, and calling them sir and all that stuff. Telling them otherwise will just confuse them."
Remus frowned, grabbing a cookie. "I don't think that's right," he said. "How could someone truly be happy spending their whole lives serving others?"
"I dunno, they just do," Sirius said, shrugging.
"Maybe they only thing they like it because that's how they've been trained," Remus said, glancing over at all the house elves washing the dishes and getting prepared for the next day's meals.
"What, are you going to make it your mission to liberate the house elves now?" Sirius asked, raising an eyebrow.
"No," Remus said, defensive. "I just… I don't know, it's hard to wrap my mind around. I didn't know much about house elves before I came to Hogwarts."
"The Hogwarts house elves are lucky," James said. "Dumbledore treats them really well. Other house elves… well, I pity them."
"My family's horrible to them," Sirius said. "My mom kicks Kreacher all the time and he actually apologizes for it. 'Sorry for scuffing your shoe, madam, let Kreacher get that for you-' it's disgusting." He took a big bite out of his cookie, glaring.
The other boys were quiet, as they always were when Sirius started talking about his family. They weren't quite sure how to handle it.
"Anyways," Sirius said, either oblivious to the awkward silence or deciding to ignore it, "I was thinking that we need to do our first prank for the year. I mean, it's already been two weeks, and I know the full moon kind of impeded any of the plans we had originally, but I feel like McGonagall and the other professors have been getting just a little bit too comfortable. Last year we'd already done a few by this time."
"I know who we should prank!" James said excitedly. "Baines!"
"Perfect!" Sirius said, but Peter and Remus both frowned.
"He'll kill us if he catches us," said Peter, but James waved him off.
"Nah, McGonagall won't let him actually kill us, we'll just get a few detentions," he said.
"Besides, we're not going to be caught!" Sirius said.
"I don't know if it's worth it," Remus said, quiet.
"He's not going to get away with picking on you just because of your furry little problem," James said, "and he needs to realize that. Come on, then, let's brainstorm."
They stayed in the kitchens for another few hours, going through two more plates of cookies and planning out their prank. Finally, when they could eat no more, they stood and left, waving and thanking the bowing house elves on the way out.
"They're good elves," Sirius said as they snuck through the corridors, hidden under the invisibility cloak. "They never tell the teachers we go down there, even after hours."
"They wouldn't want to get us into trouble," James said, keeping his voice low so they wouldn't get caught. "You gotta love house elves."
"This is a bad idea," Remus muttered into his parchment, not looking at his friends.
"Nonsense," said James, digging around in his bag to make sure he had all the supplies. "It'll be great."
They were in the Defense classroom a few days after their kitchen expedition, ready to do their prank. James had been eager to finally use some of the stuff they had bought in Diagon Alley, but Remus wished they hadn't decided to go so… big. He would have felt much better if they were just setting off a few Dungbombs, but their goal was to really disrupt the class.
Well, they're going to achieve that, Remus thought, worried.
"Settle down," Baines said when class had started, sweeping into the classroom. He turned to glare at them and they all sat up straight as he inspected them.
"I hope you all managed to get your homework finished," he said, turning around and shuffling through some papers on his desk. James pulled something out of his bag and tossed it to Sirius, who quickly hid it under his desk and continued staring at the front of the classroom, his face blank. "And I do hope you put some actual thought into it this time." Baines spun around and glared at Remus, who fixed his gaze on his desk and didn't meet his eyes.
When Baines turned around and started writing on the chalkboard, James tossed something to Peter as well and slid his wand out of his pocket. Looking at his friends, he gave a sharp nod and waved it under the table. Remus watched them do the same thing out of the corner of his eye, his forehead creasing with worry. None of the other students had noticed a thing; they were too busy taking rapid notes as Baines began to speak.
"Today we'll be wrapping up our unit on Boggarts," he was saying, "and next week we will have a practical exam on them. I hope you all know your stuff by then."
James held up three fingers to his friends, then two, then one, and they all tossed what they were holding to different sides of the classroom, keeping them low to the ground. A couple of their students looked around at the slight thumps, but none of them saw the small objects sparking in the corners.
"Boggarts can only be beaten by one thing: laughter," Baines said, turning around and fixing each of them in a sharp glare. "The incantation is-" he pointed at the chalkboard, where he had written the word 'Riddikulus' in big, blocky letters, but at that moment, a large explosion interrupted him. Fireworks started going off in the back right corner, shooting huge red and gold sparks everywhere. The students near it shrieked and jumped off, running to the other side of the classroom.
"What is going on?" Baines shouted over all the noise, but at that moment, another firework went off in the other corner, this one blue and green. The students all started screaming, grouping in the center of the classroom, and Sirius and James were struggling to try and blend in.
As Baines ran towards the first firework, his eyes blazing and his wand out, the last one went off, golden sparks shooting everywhere. Peter couldn't help the small look of pride on his face as the students all screamed again, falling over each other in fright.
While everyone was distracted, James elbowed Remus, who grudgingly picked up his wand. Pointing it at the chalkboard, he whispered an incantation and the piece of chalk lifted into the air, writing over the spell already there.
"Professor Baines is a big slimy git," a student read over all the noise.
The classroom erupted into laughter when they realized what was going on. Sirius looked particularly smug; the words had been his idea, although they had given that job to Remus because he knew the spell the best.
Baines looked at the board, fury on his face, and then pointed his wand at the firework. "REDUCTO!" he shouted. There was a burst of red light and the firework was reduced to a pile of ash. The class went silent as he shouted twice more at the other two fireworks and then at the board- "REDUCTO!"
His spell blew a big hole through the chalkboard, which smoked around the edges. The students stared at it in horror, grouping together in the center of the room out of fear.
Baines turned to them, his upper lip curling. "Who did this?" he asked, his voice barely above a whisper.
Nobody said anything. The four boys were staring at him, genuine fear and shock on his face, so they blended in with the other students.
Baines fixed his gaze on Remus, who felt the back of his neck go cold. "Lupin!" he barked. "Front and center!"
Remus walked forward, his legs shaking. He passed his friends, who were all staring at each other, horrified, and Lily Evans, who was watching him with worry.
"This was your doing, wasn't it?" Baines growled.
"N-no, sir," Remus said, his voice trembling. His knees felt weak under the glare he was getting.
Baines pointed towards the door, his face murderous. "Outside."
Remus turned and walked outside without questioning it, wishing that he could run. The class burst into whispers as Remus stepped into the hallway, followed by Baines, who slammed the door shut behind him.
"I didn't do it, sir," Remus said as soon as Baines turned on him, but quailed under the look on Baines's face.
"Don't play games with me," Baines sneered. "I know all about you, Lupin. You're dangerous, and though I may not agree with your position here at school, I have to teach you. But you do not have the right to disrespect me in class- you'll be in detention for months."
He grabbed Remus's wrist in a vice-like grip and started dragging him down the hall, where Remus knew his office was. Remus resisted the urge to struggle out of the grasp, knowing that would just get him in more trouble.
Just then, the door to the Transfiguration classroom opened and Remus nearly passed out in relief when Professor McGonagall poked her head out.
"What's going on?" she asked, scowling. "I heard noises, and-"
Her gaze fell on Baines and Remus, and her eyebrows shot up. She stepped out into the hall and shut her door, turning on the two of them, her eyes narrowed.
"Professor Baines, unhand Mr. Lupin immediately. That is not how we treat students here."
Baines glared at her for a moment longer before letting go of Remus's wrist. Remus pulled it back and brought his hand up to rub it, feeling a bruise already forming.
"Now, what in the name of Merlin is going on?" McGonagall asked.
"This young man disrupted my class and was behaving very disrespectfully," Baines said. "I was taking him to my office to give him his punishments."
McGonagall looked at Remus, surprise on her face. She didn't think that he would do anything like that; his friends, yes, but not him. Remus stared at her with wide eyes, trying to convince her to help him.
"Well-" she said slowly, but was interrupted by a loud bang as the Defense classroom door flew open.
"Professor Baines!" Sirius shouted, running out into the hall. James and Peter were right behind him, looking rather pale. "Remus didn't do it, Professor- it was us!"
"Yeah!" James said. All three of them stopped, staring at the two professors and their friend.
"What?" Baines asked, glowering at them.
"We did it," squeaked Peter. "We threw the fireworks and wrote on the board, Remus didn't know anything about it."
"He would have tried to stop us otherwise," said James. "We kept it a secret."
Remus opened his mouth to say something, but McGonagall broke in. "Well, there you have it, Professor Baines," she said, nodding sharply. "Mr. Lupin is not to blame. As for you three, I'm surprised and astounded in you. Twenty points each from Gryffindor, and I'm sure Professor Baines would agree that two weeks of detention will be necessary."
Baines didn't look too happy, and he was still glaring at Remus, but he said, "Yes, Professor McGonagall, I quite agree."
McGonagall nodded. "Now, why don't you all return to class so I can teach mine in peace?"
"Yes, Professor McGonagall," Sirius, James, and Peter said, turning and hurrying back to the classroom. Remus turned to the two professors, still determined to speak up, but McGonagall said, "Mr. Lupin, I'd like a word with you in private."
Still glaring, Baines turned and stalked back into his classroom, slamming the door shut behind him.
"Professor-" Remus started, but McGonagall interrupted him.
"Are you alright, Mr. Lupin?"
"What? Oh- yes," Remus said, massaging his wrist, which was still quite red. "Professor, I-"
McGonagall held up her hand to stop him. "The matter is resolved, Mr. Lupin, I don't wish to hear anymore. But I would like you to pass this on to your friends…" She leaned in closer, her eyebrows raised warningly. "Professor Baines is not a teacher to cross. I would think twice before pulling anything like this again." She stood up and stared down at him until he nodded.
"Yes, Professor McGonagall," he said quietly.
"Now then, back to class," she said, shooing him towards the Defense classroom. "And do try to keep your friends in order."
Baines held Sirius, James, and Peter back after class to discuss their detentions, and glared at Remus until he left the classroom. Outside, he paced back and forth, twisting his hands together in worry.
Remus spun around to find Lily standing there, looking worried.
"Are you alright?" she asked, stepping closer so she wouldn't be trampled by all the students.
"I'm fine," Remus said, glancing at the closed classroom door.
"Listen," Lily said, gaining his attention again, "I don't know why Baines has it out for you, but- just don't let him get to you, okay? He's wrong." She smiled supportively at him and then glanced at the door, frowning.
"Thanks, Lily," Remus said, smiling. Lily always knew what to say.
She nodded and gave him a little wave before turning and heading off to her next class.
After a few more minutes the door opened and Remus's friends emerged.
"Git," Sirius said matter-of-factly when the door had shut. He fixed his bag. "We're going to be cleaning the trophy room for the next two weeks. How imaginative of him."
"We're lucky we only lost sixty points, though," James said. "Good thing McGonagall was there."
"You alright, Remus?" Peter asked, turning to their friend.
Remus stared at them incredulously. "Why did you do that?" he asked.
"Because you weren't about to take the fall for us," Sirius said.
"But I helped, too!"
"Yes, but you didn't want to," James said, "we forced you into it. Besides, Baines doesn't need more of a reason to hate you. You would have been in detention alone for at least a month-"
"He didn't hurt you, did he?" Sirius asked, frowning.
"No," Remus said, "but I'm going to tell him that I helped you."
"Whoa!" James said, catching the back of Remus's robes as he turned and started marching towards the door. "Don't you dare!"
"You're acting like you want detention!" Sirius said, scowling.
"I do!" Remus said. He shook his head. "I mean, I don't, but I'm not going to let you three take all the blame while I get off with nothing."
"It's okay, Remus," said Peter, "we don't mind, really."
"You'll get plenty more detentions by the end of this year," Sirius said, clapping him on the shoulder. "We'll even let you pick how we get the next one. I say we get Baines again. Did you see his face when the first one went off? Priceless."
"Are you mad?" asked Remus.
"A little bit. Come on, we're going to be late for Herbology."
Remus didn't stop thanking them for the rest of the day. That evening, in the common room, James finally lost it.
"Remus!" he exclaimed, "Stop thanking us! Seriously, it isn't that big of a deal!"
"And you don't owe us anything, either," Sirius added. "We're your friends, that's what we're here for. Just get us really good Christmas presents, okay?"
"I feel like we need to make a new rule," James said before Remus could say anything else. "About our pranks. If only one of us gets caught, the others need to turn themselves in. There's got to be at least two people caught. And if one person gets off, like Remus did today, they don't have to turn themselves in. There's no need for us all to be in detention; we need someone to do our homework."
"I like that," Sirius said. "So, no one gets caught alone, and if there's one or two of us that don't get caught, don't turn yourselves in."
"No buts, Remus. I also think we need a team name," said James.
"A team name?" asked Peter.
"Yeah, something to sign our pranks with, so we're known but still anonymous," James said, grinning around. "Any ideas?"
"The Great Quartet?" Peter offered.
"No, that makes us sound like an orchestra," James said.
"The Ultra Fantastic Pranking Team of Brilliancy?" Sirius offered.
"No, too long. We need something short, sweet, and to the point," James said.
Remus was quiet, thinking about different names. After a while and a few more terrible suggestions, they decided to give up and give it some time.
"We're bound to think of something," said James, getting up. "Now, come on, let's go to bed. I, for one, am exhausted from our amazing prank."
A/N: Hey everyone! If you didn't know, I recently started a new story called The Marauders Read. It's basically about Sirius, James, and Remus getting sent a letter telling them to read The Prisoner of Azkaban. I have the prologue and first chapter up, so you can check that out if you want! Just click on my page and you'll find it there. The Marauders all have the same personalities as they do in this series.
Thanks for the continued support; leave a review telling me what you think!