Chapter 6: Worst Fears
They kept their heads down for the next two weeks while Sirius, James, and Peter served their detentions. Baines insisted on supervising every single one, sitting in the corner and glaring at them the whole night and occasionally shouting that they weren't working hard enough. Remus stayed up late with them to help with their homework, which they struggled to complete in the short time frame.
On the last day of detention, Remus was sitting in the common room as usual, waiting for them. He was surprised when Peter clambered into the room alone.
"Where are Sirius and James?" he asked when Peter had dropped his bag and collapsed into the armchair across from him, exhausted. It was late, and the common room was almost deserted except for a few fourth years in the corner playing a game of chess.
"They told me to go on ahead," he said. "They said there was something they wanted to do."
Remus frowned and was about to ask another question when the portrait swung open again, and James and Sirius walked in, laughing their heads off.
"What did you do?" Remus asked.
James sat in the remaining armchair and Sirius perched on its arm, beaming.
"We left a little present in the trophy room," he said with an evil grin. "Hopefully Baines picks it up, but I'll take Filch, too."
Remus set his Charms essay, which he had been trying to finish all night, down on his lap and sat forward in his seat. "What kind of present?"
"You know those Exploding Gunk Bombs from Gambol and Japes?" James asked.
Remus groaned. "You didn't."
"We did!" Sirius said, leaning back against the chair and letting his legs droop lazily over the sides. "As soon as someone picks it up it'll explode. They're going to get a face full of smelly black gunk."
"You guys!" Remus said over their laughter. "Anyone could pick that up!"
"I can't wait to hear about it," said James.
"I suppose two weeks detention wasn't enough for you, then?" said Remus, picking up his quill again and going back to his essay with renewed vigor. "You want to be cleaning the trophy room all year?"
"Relax, Remy," said Sirius, "they won't suspect us. Why would we want to mess up something we've been cleaning for two weeks?"
"That's exactly what I was wondering."
"It's harmless, Remus," said James. "The stuff smells bad but it's not poisoned or anything. Lighten up, we won't get caught. How's the essay going?"
Remus rolled his eyes but decided to let it go. "I've just about finished. What about you guys? Did you do any while I was in Ancient Runes earlier?"
"Nope," said Sirius. "I didn't even know we had an essay."
Remus sighed and tossed them some parchment. It's the last night, he thought to himself. It's the last late night, and then things will get back to normal.
They passed by the trophy room at breakfast the next day and found it still spotless, Sirius and James's 'present' nowhere to be found. They were disappointed at the lack of commotion they appeared to have caused.
"I say you're lucky," said Remus as they entered the Great Hall. "At least you're not going to get caught."
"But I thought something was going to happen," complained Sirius, sitting down. "That thing cost me ten Galleons!"
"Well maybe now you'll learn to spend your money on more productive things," said Remus.
Sirius and James groaned. "Like what, books?" asked James.
"Come on, we're bringing spirit into the castle," said Sirius. "Someone's got to have a bit of fun around here, and I think we're the ones to do it!"
Halfway through breakfast, everyone was surprised when Dumbledore stood up at the head of the Great Hall. He looked out at the students, his silver beard shining in the morning light.
"An announcement from Mr. Filch," he said. "Exploding Gunk Bombs are now banned from Hogwarts, and anyone found in possession of one will find themselves in detention."
He scanned the Great Hall, his eyes raised slightly. His gaze seemed to rest on the four boys for a moment longer than necessary.
"And to whoever visited the trophy room last night, I would thank you to refrain from leaving things behind. It's quite unpleasant to come across them on midnight strolls, I've learned. Thank you."
He sat back down. The hall burst with conversation again, but the four boys stared at each other, silent.
"You got Dumbledore," Remus said, his voice very low so no one would hear them.
"We got Dumbledore!" said James, his eyes wide.
"And we got the Exploding Gunk Bombs banned!" said Sirius with a broad grin. "Oh, we are so good!"
"You got Dumbledore," Remus said, still stunned.
"We're going to get in trouble!" squeaked Peter.
"No, we aren't," said James, grabbing some toast. "If they knew it was us they would have announced it. I expect we'd already be in McGonagall's office."
"I wonder what else we can get banned," said Sirius, piling eggs on his plate. "Let's try and get as many things banned from Hogwarts as we can!"
Remus looked up at the professor's table. Dumbledore was chatting to McGonagall, who was sipping a cup of tea. As though he felt Remus's eyes on him, he glanced over and met his gaze. A small smile crossed his face, and he winked before turning back to his conversation. Remus looked away, his cheeks burning with embarrassment at being caught staring.
Divination got steadily more ridiculous with each class. Once they had 'mastered' tea leaves, they moved on to reading shapes in clouds and steam from tea kettle. Remus began pulling out his other homework during class and getting it all done, which earned him a lot of teasing from his friends.
"Remus Lupin, not paying attention in class?" Sirius gasped at him across the table as Professor Romanie floated around at the front of the classroom, simpering on and on about how the heat of the steam arouses the 'gift'. Remus was doing his Ancient Runes homework under the table.
"I don't need to pay attention," Remus muttered, his voice low. "It's all a load of nonsense."
James was messing with one of the candles on their table, blowing on it just hard enough for it to flicker but not hard enough for it to go out. He looked up at him. "Listen, Remus, from someone whose days are numbered- appreciate what's in front of you while you still have it. Don't spend your life wishing you were somewhere else. Enjoy what you have."
Sirius sniffed and pretended to wipe a tear from his eye. "That was so beautiful, James."
Remus rolled his eyes. "You're not going to die, James."
"I know I'm not," said James, "but she doesn't know that."
Professor Romanie had found the Grim for James twice more at this point, once in the clouds and once in the shoeprint he left on a piece of parchment he accidentally stepped on. She seemed to be on a roll with him. The other students had taken to speaking very quietly around him, as though he were on his deathbed and fetching him anything he needed as long as he looked faint while asking for it. He loved the attention, and encouraged it by growing ill with fear and expectations every time Romanie spotted the Grim.
Remus was tired of it.
"I wonder if I could drip some wax in the shape of the Grim on this desk," James said. "D'you reckon that's too far?"
"Nothing's too far with Romanie," said Sirius, flipping through his textbook. "I think she knows exactly what you're doing, but doesn't want to stop you because it's giving her such great publicity. She's practically royalty amongst the rest of these guys."
"She's a fraud," Remus scowled, watching Professor Romanie drape her arms over a Gryffindor girl and warn her to write home immediately. The girl squeaked in fear and scrambled to pull out a piece of parchment.
"Why do you hate this class so much, Remus?" Peter asked.
"It's a waste of my time!" said Remus. "I could be studying, or taking another class. Heck, I could have taken Muggle Studies or something and it would have been a much better use of-"
"Mr. Lupin, am I interrupting something?"
Romanie swept over, her tie-dye scarf floating behind her, and peered down at Remus in the dim light from the candle.
"No, Professor," he said.
"We were only talking about this candle wax, Professor," said James, pointing to a glob of wax on the table. "You don't… you don't think it looks like the… the…"
"The Grim?" Romanie asked, her voice heavy. The class gasped. Remus rolled his eyes.
James swallowed, looking faint. "Yes, Professor."
"Let me see, dear, let me see." Romanie bent over the table and examined it. The rest of the class waited with bated breath. Remus looked at the wax, which was a shapeless white lump on the table.
When Romanie rose, her face was pinched. "Oh, my dear, my dear… another one… please, for your own sake, watch your step…"
She patted James's head as she swept back to the front of the classroom. The other students watched James for a moment longer, horrified, while he stared at the candle wax, the flame reflected in his glasses.
"Nice one, James," Sirius said in a low voice.
"Why don't you just have the stupid Grim tattooed on your forehead?" Remus asked, irritably going back to his homework.
"Relax, Remus, I'm just trying to have some fun," James said, grinning. His face grew very serious. "While I still can."
"You're an inspiration to us all," said Sirius, laying a hand over his heart.
Remus scoffed at them.
As they walked to Defense Against the Dark Arts, they were, for the first time, a little bit excited. It was finally time for their practical examination against the Boggart, which Baines had pushed back because of the fireworks incident and had even threatened to cancel. But it was finally the day, and an anticipated silence fell on them as they approached the door.
There was a wardrobe sitting in the corner of the classroom when they walked in. The handles had heavy chains on them, keeping whatever was in there locked up, for there was something in there- the wardrobe shook every few minutes, making anyone in the vicinity gasp.
"What do you think yours is going to be?" asked Sirius as they sat down.
"I dunno," said James. "I'm not really scared of a lot of stuff. Although zombies really freak me out. My dad took me to a Muggle movie once about a zombie and I had nightmares for weeks."
Remus was quiet. He had a feeling he knew what his was going to be. He knew his worst fear, or at least the core of it: the full moon. He wasn't sure what would appear- the moon itself, a wolf, himself transforming- but he had a very bad feeling about facing the Boggart, and he expected Baines was going to make him do it.
When everyone was finally seated, Baines came in and barked at them all to push all the desks and chairs against the walls to clear a space in the center of the room. When they had rearranged everything he pulled the wardrobe closer. It rattled, and all of the students backed away from it.
"If you've paid any attention at all in this class, you have nothing to fear," Baines said. "However, if you have spent the last few weeks goofing off, you are in for a bit of trouble." He flicked his wand, and the chains fell off and slid to the floor with an ominous clunk.
A Slytherin boy stepped forward, holding his wand out in front of him. He was trying to keep his expression blank, but his eyes were slightly wider than usual.
Baines waved his wand again and the wardrobe doors opened.
There was a moment of terrifying silence when their own trepidation hung in the air around them. Then, smoke started to pour from the wardrobe, spilling out onto the floor. Zabini stood there, his wand shaking in front of them, as a white figure emerged from the depths of the wardrobe. It floated just in front of him, surrounded by the tendrils of smoke, and fixed wide, clear eyes on him. Then, it opened its mouth and began to scream.
All of the students clasped their hands over their ears as the banshee wailed. It floated slowly towards Zabini, who had both his hands over his ears to try and block out the sound.
"The spell, Zabini!" shouted Baines, his voice almost lost amidst the scream.
Zabini swallowed and raised his wand. Remus couldn't hear him, but he saw his mouth move. "Riddikulus!"
The banshee's voice trembled, growing softer and softer, before there was a loud croak, and it stood there, grasping at its throat and croaking like a frog.
The smoke sank into the ground and disappeared. Zabini smiled victoriously as the class erupted into nervous laughter.
Lily stepped forward, her jaw set and her wand raised. The banshee gave a final croak before there was a loud pop and a new monster took its place. The mummy gave a loud groan, rolling its head with several pops and creaks. Its grimy bandages were unwinding in several places, revealing black, rotting flesh. It swung its yellow eyes on Lily and shuffled forward, its mouth falling open in a rattling groan. Several maggots crawled out.
Lily blinked several times, petrified for a moment, before she swung her wand and shouted, "Riddikulus!"
The mummy stopped where it stood. One of its bandages lifted into the air and gave a sharp tug, and it started spinning in place, moaning the whole time. After a second there was only a pile of dusty bandages, and Lily beamed at it.
"Well done!" James shouted, clapping loudly. Lily shot him a withering glare as stepped back into the crowd, rejoining Severus.
Peter's boggart turned out to be a vampire. He stood there, quailing before the looming monster, and flinched when a drop of blood dripped from its fangs to the floor. It took Baines a full minute of shouting for him to finally stammer, "R-riddikulus!" The vampire turned into a bat and started flying in circles, obviously confused.
After several more students, James was called forward. He swaggered forward, a cocky grin on his face, and faced the boggart as it popped and twisted, taking the shape of the zombie he had predicted. A putrid scent filled the room as it groaned, one of its eyes popping out of its sockets.
James's grin was replaced with wide eyes. He raised his wand, trembling, and jumped when the zombie's hand snapped off and clattered to the floor. "Riddikulus!" he shouted, and the zombie broke into several pieces, falling to the floor at his feet.
"That wasn't too hard," he said as he walked back over to his friends, a shaky confidence returning to him.
Another few students, then-
"Lupin," Baines snarled.
Remus walked forward, clutching his wand in his sweaty hand. He saw Lily smiling supportively at him out of the corner of his eye, but he kept his gaze fixed on the flopping fish in front of him, which had been a terrifying merman only a second ago. He stood there as the fish flopped one way, then the next, and then flew into the air with a loud pop.
And there it was, hanging low in the sky in front of him. A big white orb, clouds drifting in front of its full form. Remus felt his wand drop as helplessness overtook him, his body going rigid with fear. There he was, back in the shack, waiting for the moment that the moon crested in the window, waiting for sharp pain to spread across his body, for his mind to be completely taken over, to transform into a monster that could tear his friends apart without a shadow of guilt, waiting for-
"Come on, Remus!"
It was James. Remus blinked a few times, his gaze refocusing. He wasn't in the shack. It wasn't the full moon. He was in class, and he needed to get rid of this Boggart.
"Riddikulus!" he said, his voice much stronger than he felt.
There was a loud pop, and the moon was punctured like a balloon. It zoomed around the room with a loud wheezing noise, making several students laugh in delight.
"Well done," Sirius said, clapping him on the shoulder as he returned. Remus's knees felt weak, but he managed to smile.
He looked back over at Baines, who was standing in the corner with his arms crossed. He was watching the moon with a sharp glare. Then his gaze shifted and he met Remus's eyes with a sneer.
"Black!" he barked.
Sirius straightened, lifting his chin defiantly in the air. He marched forward and stood in the center of the room, waiting as the moon finally lost its air and dropped to the ground in front of him, a limp pile of white plastic. There was a loud pop, and a new figure loomed there, her hair pulled back into a sharp bun, her sharp, proud features twisted with hatred.
"Traitor," she hissed at Sirius, who had gone white with fear. "Muggle-loving scum, good-for-nothing waste of space, disappointment, freak, blood traitor-"
Her voice rose with each insult she hurled at him. Sirius drew away as she stepped forward, her heel cracking sharply against the stone floor. He winced with every step she took. Her eyes flashed as she raised her hand, pointing at him.
"Imbecile, weak, disappointment to the family name, crazy-"
His voice was quiet but firm. Sirius met the Boggart's eyes, which shone with dislike, and watched as she stopped, drew back a few steps, and lowered her head. When she lifted it again she was a clown, a bright red smile painted on her face. There was a smattering of laughter from the assembled students.
The Boggart had had enough. It turned and stumbled toward the wardrobe, falling inside as the students laughed louder behind it, driving it away. Baines leapt forward and slammed the door shut, trapping it inside.
The room went silent. Sirius was still in the center of the room, staring at the wardrobe with a blank expression. No one seemed to know what to do.
"You all performed with surprising competence," Baines said, turning back around. His dark eyes fell on Sirius for a second, a frown on his face. "Five points each to everyone who faced the Boggart. This is the end of our unit. No homework for tonight. You are dismissed."
He turned and left the classroom, leaving the crowd of students standing there. No one moved for a few moments before someone chuckled nervously, causing all of the others to laugh and start moving again, collecting their things. The wardrobe was still in the corner, motionless.
James, Remus, and Peter slowly walked towards Sirius, who hadn't moved yet.
"Sirius?" asked James. "Are you alright?"
Sirius turned and pushed past them, grabbing his bag and hurrying out the door. James started to go after him, but Remus held him back.
"Let him go," he said. "He needs some time to calm down. It will do him no good if we try to push him now."
James nodded, but he looked worried.
Remus turned and saw Lily standing there. Severus skulked behind her, a scowl on his face. He hadn't faced the Boggart, but Remus wasn't sure if he was irritated about that or the fact that Lily was talking to a friend of James's.
"Lily!" James said, his worried expression fading into a smile. "You did wonderful against that Boggart. You know, I always thought that mummies were terrifying, as well. Something about the way they walk-"
"Sorry, I don't mean to pry, Remus," Lily said, ignoring James, "but I'm just curious; why was your Boggart the moon?"
Remus swallowed, casting about for some excuse. "Um…"
"The moon?" James threw an arm around Remus's shoulders and laughed. "Why would he be afraid of the moon? No, that was a crystal ball." He looked at Remus with his eyebrows raised. "I told you your future is going to be fine, there's nothing to be worried about."
Remus nodded wordlessly. Lily looked surprised. "A crystal ball?"
"Yeah," said James, "Remus is scared that he won't succeed in life. Of course, it could also mean he's just really terrified of the Divination professor."
"I am not," Remus said with a scowl, but he felt gratitude bubbling inside him.
"Oh, I guess I see it now," said Lily, thoughtful. She smiled at Remus. "You don't have to worry, Remus, you're going to do fantastic in the future."
"Thank you," Remus said.
Lily nodded at him, frowned at James, then spun around and left, taking Severus's arm as she went. Severus was staring at Remus, his eyes narrowed, but trailed after Lily.
James let go of Remus as Peter handed them their bags. "Thank you," sighed Remus, relieved.
"Don't mention it," said James. "Now, come on, let's go get lunch. We'll let Sirius calm down and talk to him later."
Remus didn't see Sirius until much later that day after dinner, as he had had Arithmancy after lunch. Sirius didn't come to dinner, and James told him that he had been quiet during Muggle studies, but had spoken to him briefly.
"He asked to be left alone for a while," James said, shoveling food into his mouth. "Said he just needed a little bit more time to gather his thoughts. I didn't like it, but I decided to wait until you were back before actually talking to him. You always know what to say when stuff like this happens."
They wrapped up some dessert for Sirius, taking all of his favorite things, and went up to the common room early. He wasn't there, so they walked up to the dorm, where they found him on his bed, staring up at the ceiling.
"Hey," he said without looking at them when they walked in.
"Hey," said James. "We brought you some dessert."
Sirius sat up, leaning back against the headboard, and accepted the food, setting it on his night table and not opening the napkins. Then he tipped his head back and kept staring at the ceiling.
James sat down on his bed next to Sirius, joined by Peter. Remus perched on the corner of Sirius's bed, staring at the floor.
"That was your mother?" James asked.
Sirius didn't look at him. "Yes."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
James fell silent. No one spoke for a few minutes, before Sirius said, "I'm sorry I've been avoiding you all day. I didn't mean to worry you, I just… I needed some time alone."
"We know," said Peter.
"Are you okay now?" asked Remus.
Sirius smiled slightly, taking a deep breath. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm good." He reached over and grabbed one of the napkins, unwrapping it and taking out several cookies. "Oh, brilliant, I'm starving."
"Remus wanted to bring you real food, but where's the fun in that?" James asked, reaching over and taking one of the cookies. "And then Peter was trying to bring you treacle tart, but I will have none of that in this dorm room."
"You're going to need to learn to love it if you want to date Lily," Sirius said, taking a bite out of his cookie. "Didn't you say that was her favorite?"
"Yes," said James with a heavy sigh. "When the time comes, I'll have to make those sacrifices. Until then, though, treacle tart is banned from our dormitory. Just the smell of it-"
"I know what you're getting for Christmas," Remus said with a grin.
James scowled. "Don't you dare, Lupin."
They all laughed, and Sirius looked almost back to normal as he ate. None of them spoke of the Boggart for the rest of the night.
At breakfast, an owl landed in front of Sirius carrying a letter. He frowned at it as he untied it from the owl's leg. It flew off, getting feathers in the porridge.
"What is it?" James asked as Sirius opened the letter and read it.
"Professor McGonagall wants to see me in her office first period," he said. He looked up at his friends. "What have I done?"
"I dunno," said James.
"You don't think this is about the Exploding Gunk Bomb?" Peter asked, his eyes wide.
"That was days ago," said Remus. "And why would it be just Sirius?"
"If it is about the bomb, you have permission to chew the rest of us out as well," James said. "Remember the rule- no one gets caught alone."
They wished Sirius luck as he went his separate way after breakfast. Clutching the letter, he walked through the corridors to McGonagall's office, getting there just after class had started. Taking a bracing breath, he raised his hand and knocked.
Sirius opened the door and stepped inside. Professor McGonagall was sitting at her desk, doing some paperwork. She looked up when Sirius entered and took off her spectacles, setting them aside.
"Ah, Mr. Black. Take a seat."
Sirius dropped his bag by the chair and sat down. McGonagall folded her hands in front of her and stared at him, a frown on her face. Sirius fidgeted in his chair.
"I didn't do it, Professor," he said.
"Didn't do what?"
"I don't know, whatever it is I'm here for," said Sirius.
McGonagall actually smiled, which surprised Sirius. "You're not in trouble, Mr. Black. I called you in here because I heard about what happened in Professor Baines's class yesterday."
"Oh," said Sirius. Then, "Oh."
"Hmm." McGonagall kept her gaze on him for another moment before she grabbed a tin and popped the lid off. "Biscuit, Mr. Black?"
Sirius frowned, but reached in and took one. "Thank you, Professor."
"As head of Gryffindor house it is my responsibility to ensure that my students are safe and happy," she said, placing the tin back on her desk. "And as your professor, it is my responsibility to make sure that you are alright."
"I'm fine, Professor," Sirius said quietly, holding the biscuit with both hands and staring down at his lap.
"I have no doubt that you are," McGonagall said. "You're a strong boy, Mr. Black. While I don't approve of all of your actions-" she shot him a look. "I know that you're a very clever and good person, and you're going to go far."
Sirius looked up at her, his eyes wide. He opened his mouth to say something, but the words got lost on the way to his mouth.
"I won't ask any more questions than are necessary," McGonagall continued. "You are in good hands with your friends. But if there's ever anything you need to talk about- or if you would just like to sit down for a cup of tea and some conversation… never hesitate to stop by, no matter what the time."
Sirius clutched the biscuit in his hand, feeling crumbs break off and get all over his robes. "Thank you, Professor," he said, his voice quiet.
"Of course, Mr. Black. Now, off to class. I've already informed Professor Flitwick where you are. Go on, then."
Sirius stood up and grabbed his bag, turning to go. He stopped with his hand on the doorknob and turned back around. "Thank you," he said again.
McGonagall smiled lightly at him. "Go, Mr. Black."
"She just asked me about the bomb," Sirius told his friends as they left Herbology. "Then she reminded me again that they're banned and let me go."
"She suspects us, then," said James, nodding. He grinned. "But they're not going to catch us!"
"They are if you raise your voice every time you talk about it," said Remus, glancing around at the other students around them. "Be quiet."
"What's the point of pranking if no one knows it's us?" complained James. "Sooner or later someone else is going to swoop in and take all of our credit."
"But we don't want to get caught!" said Peter.
"That's why I still think we should have a team name," said James. "Something to sign off with, so it's anonymous but still builds up a reputation."
"You're right!" said Sirius. "All for 'The Sirius Black Experience', raise your hand!"
He threw his hand into the air. The other three rolled their eyes and kept walking.
"Remus, do you have any ideas?" James asked.
Remus shook his head. "It has to be something short. And catchy."
"Like The Sirius Black Experience."
"Okay, first of all, the whole point of a name is anonymity," said Remus. "Putting your name in it is going to give it all away. And second of all, I am not being on any team called 'The Sirius Black Experience'."
"I think it's clever," sniffed Sirius.
"Of course you do."
"Something will come to us," said Peter.
"I guess," said James, letting out a huff of exasperation. "Why do all of our good ideas disappear just when we need them?"
"I didn't know you had any good ideas, James," said Remus with a grin.
James narrowed his eyes and leapt forward, throwing an arm around Remus's shoulders and bending him down. He proceeded to give him a fierce noogie, a grin on his face.
"Concede!" he shouted.
Remus laughed and tried to squirm out of his grip. "No!"
Remus tried to back out, but James was holding him too tightly. He managed to choke out between his laughter, "Alright, alright, I concede."
James released him. Sirius and Peter were holding on to each other, laughing, and Remus mock-glared at a grinning James as he straightened up and fixed his hair.
"You're evil," he said.
"I know," James said. He ran a hand through his hair, making it stick up. "You know, I was thinking that Sirius might be on to something. How about we call ourselves 'The James Potter Experience'?"
"Hey, you can't steal my name!" Sirius said, his laugh dying.
"That's brilliant, James!" said Remus. "We can get t-shirts and everything!"
"Whoa, hold on a second- you're agreeing with him now? What about the Sirius Black Experience?"
"Don't be ridiculous," Remus said, waving him off. "That's stupid. Now, The James Potter Experience- that's catchy."
Sirius looked back and forth between Remus and James, who were nearly shaking with repressed laughter. "I hate you," he declared. "I hate you both. Come on, Peter, let's go start our own team."
He grabbed Peter's sleeve and dragged him away, leaving a laughing Remus and James behind him. The four of them ended up being late to Charms, but they took their lecture well, and when they sat down in their seats all four of them were still laughing.
A/N: I've been on a school trip for the past week, so sorry for not updating! I hope you enjoyed this chapter; please leave a review telling me what you think.
Thanks for reading!