Tap. Tap-tap. Tap-tap-tap. Taptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptap…

"I'm coming! I'm COMING!"

The brown owl looked anxiously behind its shoulder. A black owl was approaching rapidly, which registered as not good in the brown owl's mind. Its tapping became increasingly frantic. It didn't want to fail now….

Finally it spotted the letter's recipient, Remus Lupin, stumble into view. The black owl was almost there. Why didn't he hurry up and open the window?

Slowly, far too slowly, the window cracked open an inch. The brown owl didn't have much choice. The black owl was upping its speed. It would reach anytime now. The brown owl dived for the opening desperately, then squawked in annoyance. It was stuck.

The black owl was barreling full speed at the window. Failing to swerve in time, it slammed head first into the unfortunate brown one's back. A bleary-eyed Remus Lupin watched in astonishment as a heap of brown-and-black feathers tumbled into his living room. Was he imagining things, or was the brown owl really glaring accusingly at him?

Before he could blink he found himself eyeball to eyeball with the two feathered creatures. Both seemed to be sticking something in his face. He reached out his right hand to brush them away, but found the action no longer necessary because they had both made for his hand the moment it moved. Now they both had a leg in his palm and were trying to push each other's leg out of the way.

Remus untied the envelope attached to the black owl's leg first, then began untying the other's message. The black owl puffed out its chest, the very spectacle of an important and pleased owl, while the brown owl shot Remus a glare that could've rivaled Professor McGonagall's. It didn't take a genius to figure out that the brown owl was not pleased.

Remus turned the envelopes over. Both were addressed to him.

On the first envelope:

Dearest dearest dearest Moony, I love you, please

READ THIS FIRST

On the second envelope:

Moony, my best pal ever, you know you love me most, so please

READ MINE FIRST

Remus shook his head, grinning. He just knew there was something familiar about those two owls' behaviour. Nineteen years old, both accomplished Aurors (or so they said), and James and Sirius still managed to act like children. He ripped the letters open and began to read:

(James' letter):

Dear Moony,

How are you? As you can see, Padfoot and I have got new owls, and get this – they obey EVERY order you give! I managed to get the brown one first, it's the fastest owl there, you know. Padfoot will tell you his owl is better, just ignore him, he's just sour I got the best owl first. To convince Padfoot Godric –my owl – is indeed the better owl, I have instructed Godric to deliver my letter before Padfoot's at all costs. We've bet ten Galleons on it. Now you know how much money is at stake, PLEASE remember whose owl arrived first. And yes, before you ask, my owl is named after Godric Gryffindor.

(Sirius' letter)

Dear Moony,

How's things? I'm really excited about our new owls! (Prongs and I got them last week) Believe it or not, they're actually trained to obey instructions to PERFECTION. No kidding. Isn't that awesome! I got the smarter owl (Mine's black) and it's better-looking, too. Prongs thinks his owl is the best but I'm sure that you, being your reasonable, intelligent self, will undoubtedly agree with me that speed isn't everything. Besides, I've got a splendid name for it – Midnight, cause it's as black as night. As Black as me. And also as handsome and clever. I am currently awaiting Prongs to be proved wrong about the efficiency of our owls because I need his ten galleons to buy a new carton of Firewhisky, some of which will be used to celebrate his defeat. (That idiot had the nerve to name his owl Godric after one of the greatest wizards that ever lived, and remains convinced that his owl will live up to the name.)

(Continue James' letter):

Everything is going splendid at work. I've worked my way to the Ministry's top trainee Auror. You really should be proud of me, Moony! I'll let Padfoot think the place belongs to him, though, I don't want to see him devastated. Oh, and by the way, we'll be dropping by to visit you next Monday. I'll be coming over a little earlier to talk to you in private. Wake up earlier, won't you? Old Padfoot doesn't know I'll be early, so don't tell him. Till then, see ya!

Prongs

(Continue Sirius' letter)

Moony, you're going to be sooooo proud, I've made the Ministry's Top Trainee Auror! Prongs obviously thinks he's the one, don't believe him, he's badly mistaken. you know how he can get at times. Of course, I've been kind enough not to burst his fantasy bubble. Prongs and I are coming to see you in five days' time(Monday), pleeeease get some of those fabulous chocolate cookies, won't you? Don't bother with Butterbeer, Firewhisky will be great. Love you!

Padfoot

(James' letter)

P.S. Padfoot will probably ask for Firewhisky, don't give him any. You know alcohol will NOT be good for him.

(Sirius' letter)

P.S. I'll try to sneak out on Monday when Prongs is still asleep to see you earlier. Need to ask you something without Prongs hearing.

P.P.S. Don't tell Prongs!

Remus finished reading his letters, a smile on his face. Those two were ridiculous. Well, that certainly explained the owls' erratic behaviour. Both had been told to make sure their letter reached Remus before the other. Godric hadn't given up glaring at him as if he had done something wrong. Oh, right. Godric would have been successful in completing its orders had he not been late in opening the window. Now Remus would have to tell James and Sirius that their owls had arrived at the same time. He had a feeling neither would be thrilled.

Five days later

At the ungodly hour of five o' clock in the morning, a "pop" can be quite deafening. And to the sensitive ears of a certain werewolf, the "pop" that had just sounded in his front yard was loud enough to wake him with a jerk.

But that, as he was about to find out, was just the beginning of the racket that would ensue.

"Bother this pitch blackness..." mumbled a familiar voice. "Lumos."

A dark figure appeared in Remus' front yard, silhouetted against the glow of its wand. It made for the front door.

Exactly five seconds later, there was another "pop" and another figure appeared in the yard. Both figures stared at each other for a long moment and said simultaneously,

"Damn."

The two figures, which by now had been identified as James and Sirius, sprinted for the front door and began hammering loudly.

"MOONY! OPEN UP!" The door shook as they battered on it mercilessly.

Remus hurried towards his door and hastened to open it. The bellowing and hammering was making enough noise to wake the dead. Remus hoped they'd been considerate enough to give the neighbours some sleeping potion before starting this rumpus.

"MOONY!"

Kick. Thump.

"Come on, Moony…open up whilst I'm still closer to the door…"

Bang! Slam!

"HURRY!"

BLAM! BOOM! BANG!

On second thoughts, Remus jumped back from the door. Not a moment too soon.

CRASH!

Remus stared in disbelief at the tattered remains of his door.

"Yes! I win!"

"No, you did NOT, idiot. I did."

"My foot crossed the threshold of the house first."

"My fist was ahead of your foot."

"Does not count."

"Does too!"

"Lily said in a race it's the foot that counts."

"You couldn't have got your big flat foot in if my fist hadn't opened the door for you."

"You mean battered my door down." said Remus dryly, emerging from the debris.

"MOONY!" cried James and Sirius together, identical grins spreading across their faces.

"Uh-oh." Remus decided it would be wise to start backing away. His judgment proved right.

The next instant the two men flung themselves at him, trying to smother him in a bear-hug. Remus found himself pinned to the floor with his two rather heavy friends on top of him. He groaned.

"Geroff me," he managed to gasp. James and Sirius complied, clambering to their feet.

"Whose owl was first?"

Remus had always wondered how they managed to say the same things at the same time.

"Well?"

"Don't be afraid to break the news, I'll keep Padfoot in check."

"So confident, Prongs?"

"Moony? Who won? Come on, don't keep us in suspense!"

Remus decided to get it over with. "No one. They arrived at the same time."

"WHAT?"

"Uh…guys? Why are you looking at me like that?"

"We TOLD you to remember whose letter came first!"

"TEN WHOLE GALLEONS, Moony!"

Remus didn't like the gleam in Sirius' eye. It always meant trouble. Last time he'd seen that gleam he'd ended up locked in a broom cupboard with Filch. Remus smiled reminiscently as he recalled the unsuccessful prank. They'd spent weeks in detention afterwards, but it failed to have any effect whatsoever. If anything, it only drove the Marauders to even more creative tricks. And now, two years out of school hadn't changed them much. All of them were still gamboling around like twelve-year-olds and relying on Remus to be the mature one.

Remus began to like it even less when Sirius caught James' eye and nodded. James and Sirius lunged for him. Instinctively, he ducked and ran, leading them in a cat-and-mouse chase around the house. James and Sirius were hot on his heels, wrecking the house in the process.

Remus groaned inwardly. He couldn't believe he was actually playing cat-and-mouse at the ripe old age of nearly twenty. Not that he had a choice. Stopping now would be suicide. Remus sighed. So much for being the mature one.