First Impressions (The Marauders Year One)

What Does a Squid Eat?

Potions continued to go badly for Remus as the next couple of weeks passed. On their second lesson, he managed to explode his cauldron, showering the rest of the class in boiling liquid.

Peter, who had been standing next to Remus, received a faceful. He instantly broke out into a terrible, burning rash and had to be taken to Madam Pomfrey.

"This is the second time I've been to the Hospital Wing now," grumbled Peter, once Remus had finished apologising and they were on their way back to lessons. "And it's only been a week."

"I'm sorry, Peter, honestly," said Remus, wringing his hands. "I don't know what happened... I just- Oh, hello, Professor."

The two boys stopped suddenly in the middle of the corridor.

Professor Octavius, their Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, had just emerged from an empty classroom, looking dazed and glassy-eyed. He didn't even notice Peter and Remus until they stepped out in front of him. "Oh. Er... Afternoon, boys. Excuse me, I really must-" He hurried past them, still looking vague.

Peter stared after the professor as he disappeared down the corridor. "What's up with him?"

Remus shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe he's late to a meeting..."

"He could've lost something," suggested Peter. "He's always being forgetful. Come on," he tugged Remus' arm to get him to move. "It's dinner in a couple of minutes. Potions will be over soon."

Remus nodded and the pair of them returned to the dungeon, where Professor Slughorn dismissed them.

The four boys ate dinner in the Great Hall, before heading up to the common room.

"Anyone want a game of Exploding Snap?" asked James, pulling a pack of cards from inside his bag.

"Why were you carrying those around with you?" Peter asked in surprise, watching James shuffle the deck.

James shrugged. "Frank had some in his bag. He said it was useful to have them for History of Magic. So I packed some this morning."

"Fair enough," shrugged Sirius. He took the cards from James and began dealing them out. "Who wants to go first?"

"You can start," said Remus, putting aside his book. "But we should make this game quick. We've got that essay from McGonagall to do. And we have Astronomy homework, too."

Sirius rolled his eyes and passed Remus a stack of cards. "Who cares?" he said. "We've got ages to do that stuff. And it's only our second week."

"So?" said Remus defensively. "We've had plenty of time to get settled in, haven't we? We need to start working!"

"Uh. No, Remus. We don't."

Remus opened his mouth to argue, but Sirius got there first.

"Look, mate," he said, sighing and folding his arms. "I don't even know the way to breakfast properly yet. And all the stairs keep moving... I nearly fell off one of the staircases on Wednesday. It swung around when I wasn't ready and-"

"Okay, okay!" cried James, beginning to get impatient. "We get the point, you two! Stop bickering and let's play. We'll still have time to do the work if you stop wasting time."

Remus and Sirius both shook their heads at each other but turned their attention to their cards.

Sirius had the first turn, then Peter laid his card on top of Sirius'.

"So," said James, halfway through the game, over the noise of their fellow Gryffindors. The common room was now packed with people. "It's the weekend tomorrow. What shall we do?"

"Let's do some more exploring," suggested Sirius brightly. "Hagrid's cabin was great - but, at the end of the day, it's just a cabin... We might be able to find some passageways."

"How are we going to find the passageways?" asked Peter, placing down another card.

"By looking? I dunno..." Sirius glanced over his shoulder and caught sight of Lily Evans sitting hunched in a corner. She had her nose buried in a book. "Hey, what's Evans doing? Why isn't she socialising?"

James looked over at her too. "Maybe she hasn't made friends with anyone in Gryffindor, yet. Whenever I've seen her, she's been with Snivellus. D'you think we should invite her to talk to us?"

"I... Well, you could give it a go, I guess."

James raised his voice to shout across the room at Lily. "Oi, Evans!"

Lily looked up, saw who it was and scowled, her green eyes narrowing. "What do you want, Potter?"

James ran a hand through his hair and tried his best to look offended. But really, his heart was pounding. "Oh, nothing. I just wondered if you were bored over there, you know, on your own."

Lily snorted and dropped her eyes back to her book, pushing a long strand of her red hair behind her ears. "Not as bored as I would be if I went to sit with you."

Sirius smirked and nudged James. "Ouch!"

"Shut up, Sirius," muttered James, glaring at his friend.

Sirius winked. "Whatever you say, mate."

James tried again, this time trying to keep his voice polite. "Sure you don't want some company?"

"I'll take Remus' company," snapped Lily, not looking up. "But not yours."

Peter, James and Sirius all turned to glance at Remus.

"Er, just out of interest, why Remus' company?" said James.

"Why do you think?" Lily sighed. "Because he's got some common sense. But he can't have that much of it or he wouldn't be hanging around with you three."

Remus shifted uncomfortably.

"Oh, come on!" James cried, abandoning pretence. "We're not that bad!"

"Peter isn't. But you and Black are."

"Fine!" James turned his attention back to the game, just in time to see the stack of cards explode and singe his eyebrows. He swore loudly - and Sirius, Peter and Remus giggled.

"Nice look, James," Remus teased as James rubbed at his eyebrows, muttering under his breath and scowling.

"Shut up!"

"Ooh, a bit grouchy today, aren't we?" said Sirius, leaning across and waggling his own eyebrows at James. "Upset that Evans rejected you? Maybe she'll like you better with no eyebrows..."

Even though he was still a bit fed up, James grinned. He picked up Remus' quill and threw it at Sirius.

Sirius caught it easily in one hand, waving it tauntingly at James. "If you want it back, you're going to have to come and get it!" he laughed, as James made a swipe for the quill. "Aw, no! You missed. You're going to have to try harder than that-"

"Give - it - here!" James yelled, now doubled up with laughter, trying to snatch the quill from Sirius' hand. He groaned and slumped back into his seat, sighing. "Whatever. You know, it's Remus' quill. You can keep it, for all I care."

It was Remus' turn to grab the quill now and he had just as little success as James. "Sirius, please can I have my quill back? Please? I need to use it to do my homework. And, if you're not going to give it back, I'm just going to go upstairs and get another one."

"Oh, all right." Sirius sighed and handed over the quill.

They spent the rest of the evening playing Exploding Snap and, in Remus' case, doing homework.

Then, after their fourth game of Snap, they decided to go to bed. After all, it had been an exciting day. And they were looking forward to exploring tomorrow.

James, however, had another motive for going to bed slightly earlier than usual. He hadn't yet had an opportunity to use his father's invisibility cloak and was keen to use it as soon as possible.

Tonight seemed like a good idea.

But, of course, he would have to wait until the others were asleep.

It seemed like ages until the moment finally came. Frank didn't come up to the dormitory until half-past ten and he then had a lengthy conversation with Sirius about their Astronomy essay.

Eventually, however, when Sirius had stopped arguing that the essay was easy, the two boys fell asleep.

Peter had drifted off half an hour ago and his quiet snores rumbled around the room.

Thinking it was safe to get out of bed, James swung his legs over the side of the mattress and stood up. Everything was pitch black.

He used his hands to feel for his glasses and his trunk, fumbling with the lid until it finally swung open. Then, with great difficulty, he extracted the cloak, the material slipping over his fingers like water.

He picked his wand up from the bedside table - or, at least, he tried to.

His hands closed around empty air, instead, and he accidentally knocked one of his textbooks to the floor. It landed on the wooden floorboards with a load crash and James froze as someone mumbled in their sleep.

He reached for the fallen book with trembling fingers, desperately glad that no one had woken up.

But just as he felt the book's thick leather spine beneath his fingers, there came the rustling of blankets and a slightly hoarse voice whispered, "James?"

"Who's there?" James hissed back, straightening up and dumping the book back on the table. "Remus, is that you?"

"Lumos," Remus' wand tip lit up, illuminating the scars on his pale, tired face.

Was it James' imagination, or did Remus look paler by the day?

"James," said Remus quietly, blinking in the sudden light. "What are you doing? Are you all right?"

James nodded. "Yeah, he said, casting a nervous glance around the rest of the room. Three gently-breathing lumps told him Sirius, Peter and Frank were still asleep. "Sorry, did I wake you?"

Remus shook his head. "No, I was already awake. I heard you moving around and wondered if you were sleepwalking. But obviously you're not." He glanced at the cloak balled up in James' hand. "Is that your invisibility cloak?"

James looked down at it too. "Uh, yeah," he said sheepishly. "I was thinking of going for a... a walk, you know. Want to come?"

Remus hesitated. "You want me to- to sneak out at night? With you?"

Flushing slightly under Remus' raised-eyebrow gaze, James looked at the floor. "It was just an offer. I wouldn't want to get you into trouble."

But when James looked up again, he saw that Remus was smiling. He had also stood up, holding his lit wand aloft.

"Of course I'll come. Where were you thinking of going?"

James' face broke into a grin. "Oh, anywhere, really. I'm not fussed, I just thought I'd take the opportunity to look around."

"Should we wake the others?"

James glanced at the still-sleeping forms of Peter and Sirius. He hesitated. "Nah, let's just make it you and me. Too many people would wake the teachers. Besides, it's nice to have some alone time, don't you think?"

Remus nodded and moved a little closer to James, making almost no sound on the creaky flooring.

"Get under here." When his friend was close enough, James threw the cloak over both of them, hearing Remus' tiny gasp as the cool material touched his skin.

They were free. Free to explore the whole of Hogwarts.

"C'mon," James muttered to Remus as, moving very slowly, they slipped out of the dormitory and down the spiral staircase. "Let's go."

"This feels so strange," whispered Remus, looking down at his body. "I can still see myself, but I know that no one else can. I've never felt anything like this before."

James laughed, but stopped pretty quickly; even their quiet voices sounded too loud in the deserted corridors. "I have. I've used this cloak loads of times - without Dad's permission, of course."

They passed a ghost wearing a ruff, who was going in the opposite direction.

"I think that ghost's called Nearly Headless Nick," said Remus, turning back to watch him glide, pearly-white, around the corner. "Apparently, he was hit forty-five times in the neck with a blunt axe and his head didn't come off properly."

"That must've been painful," said James, but he was hardly listening. The sound of mewing had reached him from the end of the long corridor. "What's that noise?"

They both stopped, breathing hard.

"It sounds like a cat," whispered Remus. "Who do you think it belongs-?" The last word died in his throat.

A low, wheezing voice had joined the cat's meows, coming closer and closer while the two boys stood in the dark. "I've told Dumbledore that he's too soft with the students. Nasty little blighters, they are... But he doesn't listen."

Remus squeaked with alarm, sounding uncharacteristically like Peter Pettigrew. He regained a grip on himself, however, and breathed, "It's Filch the caretaker. With his cat, Mrs Norris. What are we going to do?"

James shivered in the gloom.

They hadn't met Filch properly yet, but they'd seen him terrifying some of their fellow first-years, a pair of Ravenclaws who'd been going back to their common room. Filch had threatened to have them whipped if they accidentally walked into him again.

It was common knowledge that he hated the students.

"Shh! Let's just stay here. Hopefully, they'll just go past us and we can carry on our-" James gripped Remus' sleeve very tightly. The sound of cackling was coming from the corridor on the floor above.

Remus let out a moan. "Oh, no... Oh, no... Can this situation possibly get any worse? It's Peeves! Oh, Merlin! It's Peeves the poltergeist!"

Known as the Mater of Chaos, Peeves enjoyed nothing more than bouncing around the school, wreaking havoc on anyone who happened to stray into his path.

Filch loathed him. And Peeves loathed Filch back. Combining the two was about as safe as combining a toad with a nearly-hatched chicken egg.

As though the cackling was a trigger, Filch flung himself around the corner and into sight, his pouchy eyes bulging in their sockets. "PEEVES!" he bellowed, so loudly that both Remus and James jumped out of their skins. "Peeves, what are you doing? Where are you? I'll get you, Peeves, I'll get you!"

For a few seconds, he looked around wildly, seeing absolutely nothing except the deserted corridor.

Peeves' cackling became more pronounced than ever. It sounded as though he was bobbing in an empty classroom, directly over their heads.

Mrs Norris, meanwhile, had whisked around the corner after her master, her moth-eaten fur bristling. Her lamp-like eyes, so like Filch's, were fixed on the spot where James and Remus stood invisible.

James felt a prickling feeling creeping up his spine. Could cats see through invisibility cloaks? This cat was clearly an enemy. If she alerted her master to their presence...

Just then, however, a deafening crash echoed through the castle, causing the ceiling of their corridor to vibrate. Peeves could be heard screeching with wicked pleasure; he'd clearly knocked something over.

Filch hissed under his breath and hobbled as fast as he could towards the disturbance, snarling threats and allowing the two boys to relax once more.

"Phew!" breathed Remus, once Filch and Mrs Norris were safely out of sight. "That was close. Did you see the way the cat was looking at us? I thought we'd had it for sure."

"So did I," said James, rubbing the back of his head, feeling very relieved. "Do you know if invisibility cloaks work on cats?"

"They might do, I'm not sure. I've never exactly tested it."

James laughed and, in doing so, caught sight of his friend's shivering frame. "Come on, let's get out of here. You look freezing."

Smiling thinly, Remus rubbed his arms and looked down at his bare feet. They were starting to turn blue.

The two boys moved along the corridor, keeping an eye out for Filch and Peeves, but they met nothing. Everything around them was silent.

As they passed the next window, James looked out at the inky black sky. A pale moon hung above the Forbidden Forest, hardly more than a week away from being full.

Remus noticed it too and he paled suddenly.

This time next week, he'd be facing his first full-moon at Hogwarts. Would his friends realise what he was?

"Let's go out into the grounds," said James, tearing his eyes away from the window. "It looks nice outside. We can see the lake."

They turned back the way they'd come, creeping towards the Entrance Hall under the cloak.

Halfway down the first-floor corridor, they passed Professor Octavius, who paid no attention to the sound of their feet as he hurried past.

Remus noticed that the teacher looked just as distracted as he'd done when he and Peter had seen him during potions, if not more so. He must've lost something else, Remus thought absently, not bothering to watch the professor duck into an empty classroom.

He and James moved on.

They reached the grounds fairly quickly and found that the front doors had been left unlocked. Slipping through them as quickly as they could to avoid making a noise, the two boys leapt down the front steps and sunk their feet into the lawn.

Remus wiggled his toes, feeling the damp grass between them. It tickled. He smiled to himself, trying, for once, to forget the looming prospect of the full moon.

James lead the way down to the lake, noticing how the moonlight was reflected in the water. The cool night breeze ruffled his hair and chilled him... But it wasn't an unpleasant feeling.

"Shall we take the cloak off?" asked James, keen to sit down and enjoy the night while they could.

Remus hesitated and James, sensing his thoughts, went on: "Look, it's dark. No one's going to see us and we're almost out of sight, anyway."

"Oh, all right." Remus sighed and helped James to remove the invisibility cloak.

Then the pair of them sat down for a minute.

"I love Hogwarts," said James softly, after a slight pause. The lake rippled like liquid glass around them. "It might sound cheesy, but it's true."

Remus smiled sadly. "I love it too," he said truthfully. "I'm so glad I got to come here." He wrapped his arms around his knees and stared out across the water.

"I'd hate it if I wasn't allowed to come," James continued. He picked up a smooth pebble from the lake edge and turned it over in his hand. "And I feel bad for anyone who is homeschooled."

There was another pause, then James voiced something he'd been wondering for a while. "Why did your parents not want you to come to Hogwarts?" he asked Remus. To him, the idea that any parent would want to send their child anywhere else was absurd.

Remus froze, staring up at the moon.

He couldn't tell James. It was out of the question.

"I- I just... They wanted me to... to..."

"It's okay," said James gently. "You can tell me."

"My... my mother gets ill often," Remus told him, the lie sending his heart into a pounding frenzy. This seemed to be the perfect excuse. It would explain everything. "I can't... be away from home for too long. Dumbledore said I could come and visit her, though, if I came to Hogwarts. So I was allowed to come."

James bit his lip, his eyes still on the pebble. "That's awful. I feel so bad for your mum. What's wrong with her, if you don't mind saying?"

Here, Remus was forced to do some more quick-thinking. "She... she's got some kind of incurable muggle disease," he said nervously. "It runs in the family."

"Does it affect you?" James wondered if that was the reason Remus looked so pale.

Remus hesitated. "Yes," he said, unable to look James in the eye. "Sometimes. But not too badly."

"Oh," said James, unsure what to say to this. He compromised by staring at the surface of the lake and changing the subject. "There's supposed to be a giant squid in here, did you know?"

"Yeah, I did," said Remus, turning his own attention back to the water. "Peter's terrified of it. He thinks it eats humans."

"Doesn't it?" asked James. "I don't know anything about squid. What do they even eat?"

Remus, who'd spent most of his childhood reading books, smiled thoughtfully. "Fish, mostly, I think. And occasionally other squids."

"This one must eat tonnes of fish!" laughed James. "It's massive! I guess we can tell Peter it's safe, then. The squid doesn't eat humans, after all."

"It might eat humans," said Remus. "But it probably doesn't. It might try to eat Grindylows, though."

There was the longest pause yet, while Remus watched the lake and James plucked up the courage to say something else.

"Remus?" he said eventually, turning back to his friend.

"Mmm?"

James swallowed. "If- if you ever need anything... I'm- I'm here."

Remus smiled and his scars were thrown into contrast against his eleven-year-old face. "Thank you, James," he said quietly. "You don't know how much that means to me."

A/N:

I've decided to do a double update this week :) I hoped you liked the chapter!