A/N: Once again, I love reading your thoughts, please consider leaving me a review if you like what you read! I'm having so much fun writing this, I hope you guys are enjoying reading it, too. You should be getting regular updates for quite a while with this one. Also, don't forget I'm on tumblr, check out my bio for usernames.
ForeverACharmedOne, I enjoy that the lightning bolt can reference both Bowie and Harry Potter, lol. And I'm glad you like the McGonagall scene, there's another this time around, too! I'm really liking working on her and her relationship with the Marauders. Thank you for your review, as always.
LG14, Thanks so much for the review! Glad you're liking it so far, I'm having so much fun with the Marauders. The 70s stuff has been fun to look in to as well.
"The answer is moose."
"That wasn't an option."
Chapter Four: Keep Your Friends Close
Classes were now well underway and O.W.L.s year was already proving to be overwhelming. It seemed that every professor felt the need to remind them nearly every class of how important the exams were for their future.
Lily's heart raced every time. Ever since Professor Slughorn had told her during her first year that she would make a grand healer, she'd had that career option lingering in the back of her mind. With the attacks going on outside Hogwarts and the growing number of students showing interest in dark arts within it, however, it would be a lie to say that the notion of being an auror hadn't crossed her mind.
But while becoming a healer was challenging, becoming an auror was downright intimidating. Lily had helped Alice, who had declared she would be an auror during her second year, study for some of the O.W.L.s the year before. There was so much to do, so much to remember to get the marks needed just to get into the N.E.W.T.s classes necessary.
Lily didn't understand how Alice could be so confident when it came to those exams but have to run away at the notion of speaking to Frank Longbottom. Lily's exams were still months away and her palms sweat every time they were mentioned.
Thankfully, McGonagall seemed to realize she had the whole rest of the school year to stress them out about O.W.L.s and today only mentioned briefly that it was important not to overlook even the most basic of spells, as one never knew what would turn up on the exam.
She was lecturing now on reversing unsuccessful transfigurations. It was more of a review than anything, mostly due to the fact that half the class had failed spectacularly in their attempts to turn books into mice the previous week.
To Lily's left, Marlene was pretending to take notes, all the while actually filling out a quiz from the latest issue of Witch Weekly. In front of her, Remus and Sirius were playing a game of hangman on a scrap piece of parchment between them, both having successfully achieved their transfigurations the previous week.
Peter was taking messy notes, mouth twisted into a frown in concentration. James was sketching out a representation of what appeared to be McGonagall's animagus form, occasionally scrawling some notes on a separate piece of parchment.
To Lily's right sat Severus, taking the occasional note and mostly checking his shabby old watch.
It seemed she wasn't the only one whose mind was wandering.
Carefully taking a spare sheet of parchment, she scribbled out the following:
Missed you on the train and we haven't gotten to talk much since classes started. How was the end of your summer?
She slid the parchment between herself and Severus. She'd spend the last two weeks of summer on holiday with the McKinnons, only coming home long enough to pack and leave again. That left little time for her family, much less her old friend.
Severus carefully slid the parchment on top of his notes and began to write a reply. When he was through, he passed the note back to her.
-The usual. Seems beyond my parents' grasp of courtesy to stop shouting at each other when I'm trying to sleep.
Lily frowned at the response and wrote back.
Did the earplugs I got you work at all?
"Reparifarge can undo the effects of what, Mr. Potter?" McGonagall said, approaching the boy in question, still more focused on his sketch rather than any form of note taking.
Severus seemed to light up at the notion of James being caught drawing rather than listening on the lecture.
"A partially transfigured object. It can't be used to de-transform something that's been fully transformed, you need a specific counter-spell for that," James said without missing a beat.
"Very good, Mr. Potter. Do try and take some notes. Now, this poses a dilemma when an object is nearly fully transformed…"
Severus scowled a bit as James smirked and returned his attention to his drawing. The Slytherin scribbled out a response before sliding the parchment back to Lily.
-Not really. I need some magic ones.
It seemed any time Lily suggested Severus use something to solve one of his problems—ear plugs, a needle and thread, an aspirin, dry shampoo—Severus always would retort that he ought to try the magic equivalent instead.
She wrote back.
Maybe there's some in Hogsmeade. We can check next visit, Em was saying at breakfast that she needs more of her curl setting potion anyway.
As she passed the note back to Severus, she smiled at the memory of the conversation in which Emmeline complained of her hair that wouldn't keep a curl without magical interference, and Dorcas complained about her own hair, which was just the opposite. Marlene had suggested they find some kind of enchantment to just trade.
Severus passed the parchment back.
-That's okay. I don't want to intrude on your cosmetic collecting mission. I was planning on going to the Hog's Head with some of my housemates anyway.
Lily made a face. The Hog's Head?
Are you sure about that, Sev? The Hog's Head is so sketchy.
Severus slid the note under his things as McGonagall walked by, still lecturing. "… which is overall different from vanishing. The incantation for the vanishing spell is, of course, Mr. Black?"
"Hm? Oh, uh, 'evanesco,' Professor," Sirius said.
"Very good. Also, 'The greater a man's talents, the greater his power to lead astray,' put the hangman away," McGonagall said.
"What the hell is that from?" Sirius said, glancing at the quote beneath the hangman on the page that McGonagall had just solved.
"Brave New World, Aldous Huxley. Put the hangman away," McGonagall said again. "Or it'll be five points from each of you."
"You're such a nerd, Moony," Sirius mumbled, stuffing the parchment in his bag.
Lily carefully took the parchment back from Severus once McGonagall's back was turned to read his response.
-Less likely to run into Potter and his friends there. Might actually enjoy myself.
After a quick glance back at McGonagall, Lily wrote back.
I was going to say you likely wouldn't run into them while we go on our "cosmetic collecting mission" but Black has to be using something in his hair, right?
Severus stifled a laugh.
"Something funny, Mr. Snape?" McGonagall said.
"Something in my throat Professor, sorry," said Severus.
"Perhaps a cough drop," she said skeptically.
As soon as McGonagall went back to her lecture, Severus set quill back to parchment.
-I think he's started wearing eyeliner as well.
He certainly has. He's very dedicated to being the prettiest boy on campus.
As though on cue, Sirius leaned back in his seat and ran his fingers through his hair as Lily slid the note back to Severus. He returned it shortly.
-I think he's trying to be the prettiest girl, too.
Lily glanced at Marlene, widely regarded as perhaps the prettiest in their year, with her big hazel eyes and fashionable platinum curls.
Don't tell Marlene. She'll take it as a challenge and they'll spend all year trying to out-pretty each other.
Lily swore Severus rolled his eyes before writing his next response.
-That won't be hard. McKinnon would rather lick a toad than talk to me.
The girl frowned. The conversation had been going so well for a moment there, everything was so light-hearted.
"…which would be what, Miss McKinnon?" said McGonagall.
Marlene glanced up from her magazine, eyes wide. "Um…"
McGonagall watched the girl expectantly.
"Er, sorry, Professor, what was the question?" Marlene asked.
"Five points from Gryffindor. The next time you bring a magazine to my class, you'd best be transfiguring it," McGonagall said.
"Why didn't James get points taken for drawing? Or Remus and Sirius?" Marlene demanded, slightly outraged.
"Because, Miss McKinnon, they were still clearly listening to the lecture. Now, Mr. Pettigrew, same question."
Peter stammered. "An example of what you were talking about would be… um…" He shuffled through his notes frantically to find the answer. James subtly gestured to something he'd scribbled on the corner of his own parchment. "The animagus reversal spell."
"Very good, Mr. Potter," McGonagall said. "Five points from Gryffindor, your friends will learn nothing if you just give them the answer. Let me remind each of you that it is not shameful not to know something or to ask for help or clarification. Unless, of course, you were blatantly not paying attention, Mr. Mulciber. Five points from Slytherin, do put your magazine away."
Lily waited a full five more minutes into the lecture to be sure that she would not be caught for passing notes and not paying attention before writing a response to Severus.
In Marlene's defense, last time you spoke, you did imply that her brother was in Hufflepuff because he was too stupid to qualify for the other houses.
Severus' response was quite short.
-Was I wrong?
Lily furrowed her brow.
Michael's a lovely person.
-You dated him last year. You know he's an idiot.
Lily frowned once more. Yes, she had dated Michael McKinnon the previous year. He had been her first boyfriend and Marlene had wanted them to get married so that Lily could "officially" be her sister.
But it hadn't worked out. There were no hard feelings.
He's not an idiot. He's not the most studious, sure, but he was very kind and he could read people so well.
Michael always knew when someone was upset, when someone needed to be left alone. Truthfully, Lily got along so well with all the McKinnons. Marlene had been her first friend she'd made at Hogwarts, staying up late that first night to talk about classes and the castle.
-It doesn't matter. He's an idiot for breaking up with you.
Lily cast Severus a brief, frustrated glance.
It was mutual! We were better as friends.
Severus flipped the parchment over, having run out of room on the front.
-Anyway, McKinnon doesn't like me regardless of what I say. Anyone that thinks Potter and his friends are funny pretty much has to hate me, seeing as I'm the butt of all their ruddy jokes.
Lily glanced at the boys seated in front of them. She truly did have a hard time figuring out what it was about them that everyone found so charming and funny. Sirius was handsome, sure, but he was such an utter jerk sometimes that it sort of ruined it. James, well, he was annoying and convinced that he was God's gift to wizardkind. Peter felt so strangely out of place, sort of like a charity case.
And Remus, well… Remus was actually just lovely. He was smart, he was charming in a bashful sort of way, and he was rather funny. She completely understood why people enjoyed his company. She wasn't sure how he'd gotten caught up with the others.
I'm sorry, Sev. But I'm a prefect this year, I'll try to get them to lay off.
Maybe she could talk to Remus. Maybe they would listen to him.
-Don't do that. You'll make it worse. It'll look like I need you to fight my battles.
Lily furrowed her brow again.
But I'm your friend. I want to help.
-Please don't. I'll never hear the end of it.
Lily wasn't sure why the thought of her helping him was so bad. Was it because she was a girl? Because she was a prefect?
It couldn't be her blood status, right?
Knowing she likely wouldn't be able to change his mind, Lily simply wrote: Fine.
And that was the end of that. Severus tucked their note away before McGonagall could notice it and Lily tried to focus on the lecture.
But unless McGonagall was about to talk about why the hell Severus couldn't deal with her helping him or when hanging out at a sketchy place like the Hog's Head became more appealing than spending time with her, Lily doubted she would be able to find it in herself to be interested.
Weren't they best friends? Weren't they supposed to help each other and spend time together? He had stopped tagging along with her to Hogsmeade the last few months of fourth year. Emmeline, Marlene, and Dorcas didn't seem to mind, glad that they could engage in traditionally feminine activities without Severus commenting on the shallowness of the Witch Weekly article on a potion that would keep eyeshadow in place all day or complaining about Madam Puddifoot's disposition.
And honestly, it wasn't as though Lily didn't love gossiping over a sugary drink at Puddifoot's or browsing through magical beauty products with the girls… but she did miss when she and Severus would take turns buying butterbeer and doing impressions of whatever dumb thing James Potter had said the previous week.
It seemed so long ago. It was only third year.
The bell rang and Severus was walking out the door and talking with his housemates before Lily even had a chance to pack her bag. She frowned again, remembering when he would insist on waiting with her and walking with her to her next class, even if it was out of his way. He's wanted to fit in with his housemates for years, she reminded herself, trying to be happy that he finally got what he wanted.
"Witch Weekly says I've got commitment issues," Marlene said, still gathering her things as well.
"I could have told you that," Lily teased. Marlene had gone on dates with quite a few boys the previous two school years. Hardly anyone got a second date, and she called none of them her boyfriend. It left several of those boys angry that Marlene would humor them for one date, get bored, and move on to something else. Marlene simply lamented that she liked the attention, not the boys, and once she spent time with them properly, she lost interest.
"True, true, I am the school slut, after all," Marlene said with a roll of the eye.
"You're not a slut, Marlene, you've just harmed too many fragile egos and calling you that was the only way to retaliate," Lily said, patting her friend lovingly on the shoulder.
"Thanks for not taking any points for drawing, Professor," James could be heard saying to McGonagall, handing her the parchment he'd been drawing on.
"Yes, well, you've made it clear you can draw and listen at the same time, Potter. Is this for me?" McGonagall asked, examining the drawing in her hand.
"I think it helps me focus more, honestly. And yes," James nodded.
For a brief moment, McGonagall seemed taken aback, and for a longer moment she allowed herself to look touched. "It's lovely, Potter, thank you."
Remus let out a cough that sounded suspiciously like, "Teacher's pet!"
"Well, if you're going to be any teacher's pet, you ought to be Minerva McGonagall's pet," Sirius said, gesturing to her grandly.
"She's so wise!" James said.
"So beautiful!" added Sirius.
"The grandest professor in all of Hogwarts!" said Peter.
"Oh and by far the best head of house," Remus smiled, deciding to join in. Lily and Marlene couldn't help but snort at the display.
"Her eyes haunt me!" Sirius swooned.
"To be in the same room as her is an honor!" James declared.
McGonagall rolled her eyes. "Don't you lot have a class to get to?"
"Free period, we could definitely stay here and compliment you for the next hour and a half," Sirius said.
"Get out of my classroom," the professor said, gesturing to the door. As they began walking off, Lily glanced back and spied McGonagall smiling down at the drawing again.
Amazing. Even Minerva McGonagall, despite the detentions she'd given them and the headaches they'd given her, liked James Potter and his friends.
Sirius had barely been in the boy's dorm for more than three seconds before he'd discarded his books and his shoes and flopped face-first into his bed, his body sinking in to the plush blankets.
"My love," he mumbled into his pillows.
"Don't go to sleep, Pads. Full Moon planning session is underway," James said, taking a seat atop his trunk, placed at the foot of his bed.
Sirius groaned, rolling onto his back before pulling himself upright, as though it were the most difficult thing in the world. "Okay, okay."
"So, the full moon is Saturday," James said, gesturing to the calendar above Remus' bed. The date was circled in bold, red marker. As the calendar had been a gift from Sirius, who had grown tired of Remus' previous calendar choices which all featured generic, picturesque nature scenes, it boasted reprints of retro pin-up girls by a muggle artist.
This month's un-moving picture featured a grinning woman in the bath, kept modest by cleverly positioned bubbles.
"Right, which means I'm probably going to miss Friday, at least the afternoon classes," Remus said, sitting at the edge of his bed and already looking exhausted. "When I told Frank I couldn't patrol this weekend, he asked me why, and I had to dig out the 'my mother is ill' excuse again. And now he's writing to his mother to get me some kind of home remedy she swears by. I felt so guilty."
"What did you tell him she had?" Peter asked.
"I stayed vague, said it was some kind of muggle infection," Remus sighed.
"Well, the good news is, you only have to make excuses like that… once a month until June," Sirius said.
"And then again next year to whoever the new Head Boy and Girl are," James cringed.
"And then the year after that," Sirius said. "Unless you get that badge, too, then no worries."
Remus groaned slightly.
"I mean, I know you're going to say 'no,' but I bet Frank would cool about it if you just told him what was going on, he's a really stand up guy," James said.
"You guys aren't even supposed to know, and I still can't believe that you still like me after you figured it out," Remus frowned. "And I'm positive that Dumbledore is the only reason Snape hasn't said anything. To our knowledge."
He cast Sirius a glare.
"I said I was sorry!" Sirius said. "Like fifty-something times! And if Snivellus utters a word to anyone, you won't be the only one out of here. I'll be on my way to Azkaban for killing him."
"They'd best book a cell for two, then, because I'll be right there with you," James said.
"I'll, um, help hide the body?" Peter said with a nervous laugh.
"You'll have to stay here to make sure our legacy lives on, Pettigrew," James said with a nod. "Luckily, no one will suspect you."
"You'd better visit us there. Or at least write," Sirius said to Remus.
Remus snorted, finally smiling. "If any of you end up in Azkaban without me, I promise I'll at least write."
"We'll hold you to that," James said. "So when do you go down to the Shrieking Shack?"
"Promfrey walks me out at sunset. Wait until it's dark before you come out, that way she'll be gone and I'll already be transformed. I don't want you guys to see that, it's… not pleasant," Remus said.
"Any more unpleasant than that time we all got food poisoning?" Sirius asked.
"I still swear Snivellus did that somehow," James mumbled.
"Just wait until after dark," Remus said again. "Pete's small enough to hit the knot on the tree to make it stays still long enough for you guys to get into the passageway."
"And then we just follow that until we meet up with you," Peter nodded.
"It's absolutely essential you're transformed before you get there," Remus stressed. "And be sure to stash the cloak somewhere so no one knows what you're up to on the way there and back."
"We've snuck around campus after dark hundreds of times, and we'll be transformed. Don't fret so much," Sirius said.
"I don't want to hurt you guys, and I don't want you getting caught. This goes beyond the usual pranks, you guys are breaking a couple really serious laws—" Remus started before Sirius cut him off.
"I only break serious laws," he said.
"Shut up," James groaned.
"Anyway, if you change your mind, I get it. It's not too late to back out, you're all risking a lot," Remus said, avoiding eye contact with the rest of them.
"We spent three years sorting this out for you, mate, we're not gonna back out now that we got it to work," James said.
"You wouldn't let us go the last few full moons last term because you wanted us to be good enough at transforming that we didn't need our wands and could do it like that," Sirius said, snapping his fingers, "And we're there, Moony."
"Check it out," Peter said, leaping off his bed and turning into a rat in mid-air. He seemed to have miscalculated, however, falling in a heap on a pile of socks rather than landing gracefully. He scurried around the floor, underneath Remus's bed, and dragged out a chocolate frog before turning back to his human form, seated on the floor.
"Give me that," Remus said, taking the frog back from Peter, who simply pouted before climbing back onto his bed. "Look, I'm just… I'm not going to be myself. I won't understand why you're there, I might try and fight you."
"Well then it's a good thing that James and I can turn into animals that can handle a fight," Sirius said.
"I've, um, well I've got pointy teeth as a rat," Peter said, trying to be helpful.
"I'll assert myself as alpha and that'll be that," Sirius said casually.
"What makes you think you'll be alpha?" James asked, cocking a brow.
"Why wouldn't I be?" Sirius asked.
"I turn into a bigger animal than you," James pointed out.
"You're a deer, it's not that vicious," Sirius shrugged.
"I have antlers! What have you got?" James demanded.
"Claws! Look, I could beat you in a fight as a person and as a dog, Prongs."
"I really don't think that's true. Back me up, Moony."
"Um," Remus said hesitantly. "I don't know."
"What do you mean you don't know?" James said.
"Sirius is scrappy," Remus shrugged. "I think… I think he'd probably win, honestly."
"But James has antlers," Peter said.
"Sirius has claws and sharper teeth!" Remus said.
"You're just on his side because his form is closest to a wolf," James mumbled.
"James is bigger and hooves can do some damage," Peter argued.
"Well there's only one way to settle this," Sirius said, getting off his bed and promptly turning into a large, black dog. He ran at James and jumped at him, effectively pinning the boy down on his bed. He leaned over James and growled.
"Oh, get off, I'm not fighting you in the middle of the dorm, the house elves already got upset with us last year over the fire you set," James said, unamused. Padfoot whined, disappointed, before jumping off of James and turning back into Sirius.
"I didn't mean to! And I haven't lit a cigarette in here ever since," he said.
"Let's just get some more feedback, then maybe you two don't have to actually fight," Remus said.
At dinner that night, they approached Lily and her friends in the hopes of doing just that.
Lily, Marlene, and Dorcas had decided to join the Ravenclaws over at their table tonight, finding that many of Emmeline's housemates had formed a study group and simply taken plates back up to the dorms with them in order to continue working there, so there was quite a bit of extra room.
The girls were taking advantage of less people being around by openly discussing muggle culture.
"I just don't understand why you think he's attractive," Marlene said before shoving a forkful of spinach into her mouth.
"Look at his cheekbones," Emmeline said, gesturing to a picture of David Bowie in a muggle magazine. She sighed dreamily. "And his hair. Merlin, his hair is so nice this era."
"He's wearing a lot of makeup," Lily said, looking at the picture in question. "I think when I see him, I think of him in much the same way I do when I see a girl with pretty makeup? That I might like to try doing mine that way at some point, just to see."
"I love that androgynous look," Emmeline sighed again.
"He is pretty," Lily nodded. "Not sure if it's for me."
"I miss the weird jumpsuits he used to wear, personally," Dorcas said. "Anything in there on Michael Jackson?"
"Yeah they did a little interview about the greatest hits album he put out," Emmeline said, glancing at the cover of the magazine briefly. "And Queen, too, I have a good feeling about their next album."
Emmeline paused a moment, then said, "Wouldn't it be great if Queen and David Bowie did a song together?"
"Merlin! Write them a letter, I need that in my life," Sirius said from behind Emmeline, causing her to jump in surprise. James, Remus, and Peter were not far behind.
"Hello," Emmeline said softly.
"See, if Bowie can wear all that makeup, I can definitely pull off eyeliner," Sirius said, gesturing to the magazine.
"Okay, but Bowie could probably dress as a goblin and pull it off," Remus said.
"I don't think even he would do that," Dorcas said, taking the magazine from Emmeline's grasp and searching for Michael Jackson.
"Anyway, we're not here to talk about music, we have a very important question," James said.
"No, Lily still doesn't want to date you," Marlene said.
"That's not—" Sirius started.
"Let her speak for herself!" James said, gently placing a hand on Lily's shoulder.
The redhead flicked his hand away, "I don't want to date you."
"Are you absolutely—" said James.
"That's not why we're here. Who would win in a fight between a dog and a stag?" Sirius said.
"What, um, I mean, w-what kind of dog?" Emmeline asked, fiddling with her hair.
"Good point," said Dorcas, glancing up from her article, "It isn't like, a Chihuahua is it?"
"Roughly German Shepherd sized," said Sirius.
"Why are they fighting?" Lily asked, buttering a dinner roll.
"Because they're idiots," Remus said.
"Okay… Stag," Marlene said with a nod.
"Stag," Lily agreed. James beamed and looked as though he might float away.
"Dog," Emmeline said.
"Oh yeah, dog," Dorcas nodded.
"How the hell would a dog beat a stag?" Marlene asked.
"Fangs and claws," Emmeline said, bewildered that this was an argument that they were having.
"Stags are bigger, though," Lily said.
"So? It's not like it's a moose. A moose would beat everyone. You don't fuck with mooses," Dorcas said. She paused. "Meese. Moose. What's the plural of 'moose'?"
"I think it's just 'moose,'" Emmeline said. "Anyway, dogs are scrappier."
"That's what I said," said Remus.
"A stag has antlers!" Marlene said.
"That's what I said," Peter sighed.
"Okay the stag has antlers, but the dog's got teeth and claws to work with. It's a little more versatile than ramming your head into something," Emmeline pointed out.
"But if you're an animal that doesn't have antlers too, the stag really only has to get you with his like one time, I'd think, because you couldn't hold them back," Lily said.
"Well this is getting us nowhere, we're still tied," Sirius sighed.
"The answer is moose," Dorcas nodded.
James frowned. "That wasn't an option."
"Oi! Longbottom!" Sirius called toward the Gryffindor table. "Who would win in a fight, a dog or a stag?"
"Stag," Frank called back.
"Oh, who asked you?" Sirius said, disgusted.
"… you did?" Frank said, baffled.
"Orpington! Same question!" Sirius called.
"Dog, definitely," Alice said.
"You're beautiful, Orpington!"
"Thank you, Sirius!"
"We need to ask someone else," Remus sighed.
"C'mon," James said, leading the four boys to the center of the staff table where Dumbledore was dipping biscotti into his evening coffee.
"Hello, Mr. Potter, Mr. Black, Mr. Lupin, Mr. Pettigrew. How can I help you?" the old man said gently. "You should get a name you go by collectively, by the way, you're always together anyway."
"We're the, er, Marauders, sir," Peter said awkwardly.
"Ah, very good," Dumbledore said, seeming delighted at the notion. "Now, how may I help you?"
"Who would win in a fight, a dog or a stag?" James asked.
"Why would they fight?" Dumbledore asked.
"Did Hagrid do something?" McGonagall asked from the seat directly beside Dumbledore.
"No, he didn't," Sirius assured her.
"Because the dog and stag are idiots," Remus said.
"What kind of dog?" inquired Dumbledore.
"German Shepherd-ish," provided Sirius.
"Hmm…" Dumbledore considered.
"Stag," McGonagall said with little consideration.
"I had thought so too," Dumbledore said.
"Ha!" James said to Sirius triumphantly.
"But then, I thought, no, probably the dog," Dumbledore nodded.
"'Ha' to you!" Sirius said to James.
"Albus, a dog would not beat a stag in a fight, a stag has antlers and dogs aren't very smart," McGonagall said.
"You are biased due to your time as a cat, Minerva, dogs can be quite wise, not to mention the claws and the teeth," Dumbledore said. "Now, if the animal in question had been a moose."
"Oh a moose would destroy them all, hands down," McGonagall agreed.
"Why is everyone caught up on the non-existent moose?" James said, frustrated. "Come on."
They went up and down the staff table, the Ravenclaw table, the Hufflepuff table, and the Gryffindor table posing their question. They even asked Emma Vanity, a friendly enough girl on the Slytherin Quidditch team.
They were still tied.
"We have to just test it out," Sirius said as they left the great hall.
"It's the only option! Let's go now while everyone is at dinner," James said.
"Or you could just not fight each other since you're friends and all," Remus said.
"Nope, nope, we've got to settle this," James said.
"What if one of you really hurts the other?" Peter asked.
"I'll go easy on Prongs, don't worry," Sirius said, pushing open the great front doors of the castle.
"I have antlers!" James exclaimed.
"Shhh," Remus said, glancing about to make sure no one heard before following them out to the grounds.
Remus and Peter took turns explaining to their friends that what they were doing was both stupid and probably dangerous the entire walk to the Quidditch pitch, which James knew wasn't booked until the Slytherin try-out on Saturday. Thankfully, with the moon nearly full, lights were unnecessary.
"Don't kill each other," Remus sighed. "It'll be really hard to explain to your families what happened."
"My family wouldn't care unless it was Regulus," Sirius shrugged.
"Your uncle kind of likes you," James said.
"Okay, my uncle and maybe Andromeda would care. But it doesn't matter because I'm going to destroy Prongs and then take his place as the Potter son," Sirius said matter-of-factly.
"I'm going to destroy you and keep your hair as a trophy," James said, stepping forward and transforming effortlessly into a stag. He craned his neck as though to emphasize how tall he was. Sirius rolled his eyes before promptly transforming into Padfoot, much shorter but still not all that small.
Padfoot growled and Prongs bleated in response. For a moment, they went back and forth.
"Didn't they talk enough shit on the way here?" Remus sighed, watching them "speak" to each other. They had learned early on that in their animagus forms, Sirius, Peter, and James could understand each other pretty easily. It didn't sound like English, it still sounded like barking, squeaking, or bleating, but somehow they still knew what the other meant.
Remus would be lying to say he hadn't wondered long and hard over whether or not they'd be able to understand him and vice-versa when he transformed. He certainly hoped so.
Once they had each "said" their piece, Prongs trotted to the other side of the pitch, turning back and lowering his head, baring his antlers. Padfoot growled, body low to the ground and ready to attack.
"This is so stupid," Remus said.
"Do you remember the first aid charms Flitwick made us look up in detention last year?" Peter asked.
"Most of them."
"Good, because I do not."
A moment later, Prongs and Padfoot charged. Remus and Peter took a few steps back as the stag and dog before them sprinted full speed at one another, cringing the closer they got.
Remus flinched as they made contact with a loud crack! Peter covered his eyes.
Padfoot had managed to miss every point of Prongs' antlers, which was all well and good, except that their skulls had crashed full speed into each other. They collapsed in a heap, each letting out a distressed noise before stumbling back to their feet, shaking their heads as they went.
"Are they dead?" Peter said, eyes still covered.
"Not yet," said Remus.
Padfoot clumsily jumped at Prongs, knocking him over. The two rolled about the field, nipping at each other and shoving at each other. Prongs stomped at Padfoot. Padfoot swung a claw toward Prongs. Everything seemed half-hearted since the initial impact, and they knocked each other over only two or three more times before each of them rolled off to the side.
Prongs was the first to turn back into James.
"Time out, time out, my head is killing me," James said, clutching his skull.
Padfoot turned back into Sirius and immediately rubbed at his head as well. "There are no time-outs in the animal kingdom! Fuck… but me too, Mate."
"Do you two idiots still remember who you are?" Remus asked. Peter lowered his hands from his eyes.
"Of course, I'm Sirius Grey and he's John Potter," Sirius joked before flinching and rubbing at his head again.
"Draw?" James asked, offering Sirius his hand. "We're too evenly matched."
"Draw," Sirius said, shaking James' hand before they shakily got to their feet.
"Matched in stupidity, maybe," Remus said, approaching them. "You need to see Promfrey?"
"… maybe," Sirius said, throwing an arm around James' shoulders so they could help keep each other upright.
"Yeah, we might have concussions," James added.
"Let's go, then," Remus said.
Peter sighed, "I wish one of us could turn into a moose."