A/N: I hope everyone had a good Halloween! A little girl dressed as a vampire told me I was pretty and made my week. Our cast is back at Hogwarts now, and I've got some more shenanigans planned for their new term. Let me know what you think of this one!
LG14, thank you! The Dumbledore scene was really last minute but I'm glad it seems to have gone over well. Anonymous, thank you, I hope you continue to enjoy it! ForeverACharmedOne, I wish there had been more inter-house friendly teasing in the book, honestly, but Harry surrounded himself with like a million Gryffindors, ha. Also, I am most certainly here to deliver the feels.
His hazel eyes lit up and he ruffled his hair, giving Lily a smile that she was sure he thought was charming. She thought it was obnoxious.
Chapter Twenty-Seven: I Solemnly Swear
Students had climbed back on the train (Remus practically clobbering Sirius, James, and Peter with the new suitcase they had gotten him for Christmas, with the name "Professor R.J. Lupin" printed on it) and returned to school a week prior. One pin-up calendar gifted from Sirius was taken down and replaced with another pin-up calendar gifted by Sirius. Bodies sleepily returned to classrooms and the new term was officially underway.
Today was the first Friday of term, which just so happened to be Severus Snape's birthday. Unwilling to let this day pass in peace, the Marauders had set up a few gifts for their least favorite Slytherin.
First, when Severus took a drink of his morning tea, he soon found that his entire mouth was coated black, and everything he ate tasted bitter. The Marauders, who had shown up late for breakfast, insisted they all overslept and had no idea how that happened.
Having no proof, there was no punishment, and James and Sirius smirked with the same intensity that Severus sneered.
Next, in History of Magic, Severus was annoyed to find that absolutely none of his books would open. After several failed attempts, Severus resigned himself to simply taking notes, and found that none of his quills would hold any ink.
Lily loaned him a spare, which thankfully worked.
By the time lunch rolled around, Severus seemed to have relaxed, seemed to have assumed that would be the end of it for the day. This was when he found himself unable to set his goblet down, the cup stuck to his palm. Emma Vanity tried about five spells before his hand was released and he headed to his next class late.
When classes ended, Severus was coated from head to toe in glitter, and several candles sat stuck in his hair. Every time he put them out, they simply re-lit, and wax dripped mockingly down his forehead.
The joy James felt in this was short-lived however, as he stood watching Severus across the entrance hall, sitting on a bench as Lily fussed over him, wand in hand, using every counter-curse she could to free him of his waxy, glittery, flammable trap. She kept giggling, joking with him as she went.
"C'mon, Prongs, what's the hold-up?" Sirius said, leaning inside from one of the great doors leading out to the grounds. Remus and Peter were already outside. They had promised Hagrid that they would finally stop by to have tea with him after weeks and weeks of not being able to due to detentions, study groups, homework, Quidditch practice, or prefect duties.
Sirius followed James' gaze and saw Lily and Severus, who were completely unaware of the Marauders watching them.
"This was not supposed to happen, Padfoot, this was not supposed to set up quality time between the two of them or something," James scowled.
"Come on, sulk about it on the way," Sirius said, jerking his head in the direction of the grounds. James sighed heavily before following Sirius outside, picking up their pace a bit to catch up with Remus and Peter.
Peter was carrying a chocolate cake they had picked up from the kitchens, as James had realized ages ago that if they brought a cake along, they didn't have to pretend to eat the rock cakes that Hagrid always served when he made tea.
It also helped them appear to be thoughtful guests, which somewhat eased the guilt of not being able to properly visit in so long.
Tea and cakes were not on James' mind at this present moment, however.
"I don't even understand why she's friends with the git, there's nothing redeeming about him," he was saying.
"They've known each other since they were little kids, yeah? Stockholm Syndrome, maybe," Sirius shrugged, sounding bored.
"I mean, is that what she likes? Grease?" James said.
"It's not like they're dating," Remus said, wand out and melting snow as they walked to form a path.
"Yeah, well he sure would like that to change," James mumbled.
Peter was struggling to burrow deeper into his scarf while his hands were full with the cake. "Yeah, but I mean, if she doesn't want to date him then that doesn't really matter right?"
"But she's friends with him. How far of a leap is it from dating to friends?" James said, looking slightly nauseous at the thought.
Sirius rolled his eyes. "Right, Prongs, I can't even count the number of times I've almost started dating you by mistake. I mean our friendship is so strong and all."
"That's not what I meant!"
"No one's lining up to date Snivellus," Peter said. "And I say that as someone that no one is lining up to date."
"Yeah, if Evans wanted to date him, surely she would have by now? You have this crisis about once every couple of months, they're still not dating," Sirius said.
"And, I mean, it wouldn't change the fact that she doesn't want to date you," Remus said. James sighed heavily again.
"But the fact that our pranks are what's got her fawning and giggling over him is so—" James said.
"Ironic?" Peter said.
"Is that a proper use of irony?" Sirius asked.
"I'm not sure. I think it would be ironic if the goal of the pranks was to make Snape less appealing to Lily rather than to just harass Snape," Remus said.
"Thanks for the English lesson, then," James grumbled as they approached the door to Hagrid's hut and Remus swiftly knocked.
Muffled barks could be heard from the other side, as well as heavy footsteps. The door swung open and a grinning Hagrid stepped aside to let them in, holding on to the collar of his bloodhound, Spike.
"'Bout time! Nice ter see ye boys!" Hagrid said as they took out their wands and melted the snow on their shoes before stepping inside.
"You too, Hagrid, we brought cake!" Peter said, setting said cake down on the table next to the kettle.
"Aw, ye didn' have ter do that," Hagrid said, closing the door once they were all inside. Remus, James, and Peter each took a seat at Hagrid's table. Sirius plopped down on the floor nearby, scratching behind Spike's ears as the dog enthusiastically sniffed around his face.
"I missed you too, Spike, I missed you too," Sirius said to the dog.
"How was yer first week back?" Hagrid asked as he started pouring tea into mugs for all of them. Remus carefully pried the cover off of the cake so that he could properly slice it.
"Well, MacPherson is officially afraid of Sirius now," Peter said.
"What did ye do to 'im?" Hagrid said, glancing at Sirius, still on the floor, Spike now licking his face affectionately.
"Well, James and I may have drawn sort-of occult symbols all around his office to make it look like someone had performed some kind of ritual there before we went home for the holiday," Sirius said innocently.
"And then Sirius might have made a show of spilling his bag in class after stuffing it with candles, animal skulls, and a dagger," Remus said. "Where did you get those skulls, by the way?"
"Oh, those are plastic, Muggles use them to decorate for Halloween, they're not even anatomically accurate," Sirius said. "Anyway if he had taken ancient runes he'd know that I mostly just wrote numbers all around his office, it doesn't mean anything."
"You're just lucky you didn't get detention for the dagger," Remus said.
"I think MacPherson was trying to give him detention but got scared and just pretended none of it happened," Peter shrugged.
"Now ye all know I don't think ye should be pranking yer professors," Hagrid said, his voice as stern as he could manage. "That bein' said, if I have to listen to 'im talk about that ruddy play he was an extra in three years ago one more time, I'm gonna have to tear up that playbill o' his so I can shove the pages in my ears."
"He went on a tangent about that the week before the holiday," Remus cringed. "We don't learn anything in that class."
"Well, it's a good thing yer around then, eh?" Hagrid said proudly, ruffling up Remus' hair. "Got our own professor in the making."
"I just want everyone to pass their O.W.L.s," Remus said bashfully.
"Professor Lupin!" Sirius said tauntingly, reaching for the surface of the table and blindly feeling around for his mug. Spike was now sprawled out on his lap. Peter lifted the mug and handed it to Sirius.
"Shut up, Sirius," Remus sighed.
"Yer awfully quiet, James," Hagrid observed. James had barely touched his cake or his mug, eyes fixed to the fireplace in thought.
"Hm?" he said.
"He's having an Evans crisis again," Sirius said, lightly blowing on his tea as he rubbed the bloodhound's belly.
"I'm not having a crisis!" James groaned.
The others exchanged glances.
"I'm not!" James repeated.
"What happened?" Hagrid asked.
"We passed Lily hanging out with Snape on our way out here," Remus said.
"Ah," Hagrid said, brushing crumbs from his beard. "Like yer rivalry wasn't bad enough, gotta be after the same girl."
"See! Hagrid thinks he likes her too!" James said, gesturing to Hagrid.
"We never said we didn't agree," Sirius said.
Peter nodded. "We said Evans doesn't want to date either of you."
"Lily is a fine girl, but she isn' the only one," Hagrid said. "What about Marlene? She's on the Quidditch team with ye."
Sirius winced at the mention of Marlene. The others shifted uncomfortably.
"Yeah, probably not Marlene," James said.
"What happened there?" Hagrid said.
"I don't want to talk about it," Sirius mumbled.
"Ah," Hagrid said, as though Sirius being involved explained everything.
"Er, you going to the Quidditch game tomorrow, Hagrid?" Remus said, changing the subject.
"Ye know me, I'd never miss a good game of Quidditch," Hagrid grinned. "A couple of the teachers have got some bets going, I've got five galleons on Ravenclaw."
"I don't know, Meadows is a fair keeper," Peter said. "I'm putting my money on Hufflepuff."
"Yeah, but Ravenclaw has better chasers overall," Sirius said.
"Hufflepuff booked more practice time this week," James said.
"Em said Ravenclaw's team has been strategizing nonstop between classes and late into the night, though, they apparently have a permanent set-up in their common room," Remus said.
"You can know everything there is to know about Quidditch and that won't make you a good player," Peter countered.
"It all comes down to the snitch anyway," Remus shrugged.
"Not every time," James said. "It should be a decent match, though, glad I get to watch this time."
"I hate essays, essays are so dumb. I hate essays, essays are no fun," Marlene sang as she followed Lily through the portrait hole so that they might find a place to sit and start Slughorn's latest assignment.
"Maybe you should leave the songwriting to Emmeline," Lily snickered.
"We don't know if she's any good! She only sang like two lines to us once," Marlene sighed.
"And those two lines were better than your two lines," Lily pointed out.
"Stop stifling my creativity!" Marlene said dramatically.
"Are these seats taken?" Lily asked Benjamin Burke, a tall seventh year that was sitting at a table between two empty seats and Frank Longbottom.
"Go ahead," Benjamin said, glancing up briefly from his star chart and offering them a kind smile. Marlene hastily plopped down in the chair directly beside him.
"I notice Alice isn't here," Lily said to Frank as she settled down and pulled out her potions book.
Frank glanced up from his transfiguration notes and smiled sheepishly. "Yeah, she's working in the library. We've learned rather quickly that we can't do homework together."
"They always end up studying anatomy instead," Benjamin mumbled to Lily and Marlene. Frank turned red. The girls snickered.
"We just—it's not—I mean—we get distracted, is all," Frank stuttered.
"I, for one, will rest easy knowing that someone so easily distracted is going to be hunting dark wizards for us," Lily teased.
"As long as said dark wizards don't have breasts then he should be fine," Benjamin grinned.
Frank could not possibly turn redder. "I—I am not—I am capable of—I don't—!"
"We're just teasing, you guys are cute," Lily said.
"So cute, but also you can sound-proof the curtains around the bed, you know," Benjamin said.
"You know, I think I left my transfiguration book in the dorm," Frank said, standing up so suddenly that he nearly knocked his chair over.
Marlene pointed to the book he was stacking his notes on top of. "Isn't that it?"
"Nope, different one, see you!" Frank said, piling his things in his arms before dashing off.
"Aw, I didn't mean to embarrass him that bad," Benjamin said, smirking. Lily's mind began to wander. If Benjamin was requesting silencing charms…
Were Alice and Frank just enthusiastic with their snogging, or had they moved beyond that? Her eyes darted to Marlene for a moment. Were all her friends going to go off and start having sex?
Alice might not have at all, and it's none of my business either way, Lily thought, though curiosity was still prodding at her.
Marlene was now eying Benjamin with her chin resting in her hands, a soft smile on her face. The table before her was bare, she hadn't even fished out her textbook yet. "Well, at least they're having fun?" the blonde said.
"That's true, I'd hate to hear her yawning or something," Benjamin nodded. Lily pulled out a ballpoint pen, unwilling to deal with a quill, and wrote her name at the top of her parchment, trying not to glance over at the two if she could help it.
Benjamin didn't seem to be paying much attention to his star chart anymore. He and Marlene were chuckling and concocting different, sad situations one might find a pair of bored lovers in.
Lily glanced over her notes, hoping to find something that would inspire a thesis statement so that she could at least get this essay started. Starting was always the difficult part. Once she started, she would be fine.
She kept glancing up every few seconds to make sure no one took notice of her pen. Usually her housemates cared little about the writing utensils she used, but she was unwilling to either explain what it was or defend her use of it right now.
No one seemed to pay her any mind.
"… you could overhear them saying 'dear, I can't sleep, tell me something boring… tell me again about when you realized you loved me,'" Marlene said, still having fun coming up with awkward situations with Benjamin.
"I feel like everyone can't have an amazing story for that, though, like, someone has to have realized they loved someone else while doing their laundry or something," Benjamin said.
Thesis statement, thesis statement, thesis statement…
Marlene snorted, "Is this someone a house elf?"
"No, but just think about it, like, if you've washed someone's dirty underpants and still want to deal with them, that's probably love, right?" Benjamin said.
"That's when you just make up something better," Marlene said. "Like, 'I knew I was in love with you when I saw you in that suit,' not 'I knew I was in love with you when I realized I was somehow not disgusted with you.'"
Lily was just considering leaving Marlene to her conversation and going up to the dorm to work on her essay (perhaps she would figure out the thesis statement on the short walk) when the portrait hole opened and the Marauders piled in, mid-conversation.
Sirius, who had been laughing, stopped abruptly when his eyes fell on Marlene and Benjamin. A frown settled into his handsome features and he glanced away.
"It won't be long, is all I'm saying, he always retaliates," Remus said. Lily frowned as well. They were surely talking about Severus. It had taken her a better part of half an hour to get the wax out of his hair.
"We'll be ready, he's somewhat predictable, what's that spell he used last time?" Peter said.
"Hmm," James said, pulling out his wand. Lily reached for hers, knowing nothing good could come from this, but before she had a chance to even touch it, James had said, "Levicorpus!"
Marlene's conversation with Benjamin was swiftly halted as she was yanked by her ankle into the air, startling everyone around her with the sudden movement.
"What the fuck!?" she shrieked.
"Ah, okay, this is a decent spell," James nodded, keeping his wand steady and watching as Marlene turned to scowl at him.
"You okay?" Benjamin asked.
"Just annoyed," Marlene mumbled.
Lily stood up, glaring daggers at James. "Put her down, Potter."
An idea seemed to cross James' mind. His hazel eyes lit up and he ruffled his hair, giving Lily a smile that she was sure he thought was charming. She thought it was obnoxious. "I will if you go out with me, Evans."
Lily rolled her eyes. "Potter—"
"Go on, go out with me and I'll put McKinnon down," James said.
"You're an idiot," Remus sighed.
"Well, I'm sorry, Marlene," Lily said, turning to the blonde, whose face was growing redder the longer she stayed upside down. "I guess this is just your life now."
"Good thing I wore trousers today instead of a skirt, I suppose," Marlene said.
"You know, I think I know the countercurse," Benjamin said, pulling out his own wand.
"You're no fun!" James pouted.
"Liberacorpus!" Benjamin said. He rushed forward and quickly caught Marlene, who fell from the air. He stumbled under her sudden weight but managed not to drop her.
"Oof! Thank you," Marlene said, batting her lashes and managing to look sweet even with a red face and disheveled hair.
"Five points from Gryffindor," Lily said to James, sitting back down.
"You've got to be kidding, Evans!" James said, approaching the table.
"Do you want detention, too? Stop hexing random students," Lily said.
James rolled his eyes. "It's just a bit of fun, no one got hurt."
"Prongs," Sirius called from the door that led to the boys' dorms, gesturing James over. Sirius very clearly wanted to leave the common room, doing everything he could to avoid looking at Marlene, still in Benjamin's arms.
James' eyes darted between the uncomfortable Sirius and the unimpressed Lily before, finally, he ran his fingers through his hair one last time and headed to the dorms with his friends.
Remus mouthed "sorry" to Lily as he followed. She managed to smile softly.
Truthfully, the Marauders had little time to spare for Lily Evans, or Marlene McKinnon, or for Gryffindor's house points at the moment. Each night since returning from the holiday, they had been hunched over the freshly-drawn map, muttering incantations and watching as labeled dots appeared on each floor.
Tonight they were due to finally finish the map at last, with only a few spells left to go.
Remus had four small pins on his bedside table and was carefully waving his wand over them, muttering spells to sterilize them. James had dragged his table over where it was easier for them all to access it, and was carefully settling the folded piece of parchment on top.
The drawing of the castle on the cover had clean, crisp lines, and had been shaded with care. The words declaring their nicknames and the map's title had been elegantly written.
This was it. They were nearly done with their greatest project since they decided to become animagi.
Eagerly, the others gathered around the map, Remus handing each of them a pin.
"Ready?" Sirius said, bouncing slightly in anticipation.
"We'll just prick our fingers, then, when we have to add the blood," Peter said, looking anxious, but eager.
"The side of our fingers, though, there's all kinds of nerves at the tip," Remus cautioned.
"First the spell," James said, pulling out his wand. The others followed his lead. Each reciting the same, long incantation that James had taught them, four wands touched the parchment.
The ink faded away. The others looked to James, who took a deep breath and said, "Count of three."
He counted down and all at once, they recited, "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good," and tapped the parchment. They repeated this process over and over, until at their seventh try, the map blotted itself back into view.
Remus unfolded it slightly to be sure that all the other text and drawings had reappeared as well. After confirming it had, he folded the map again to show the front cover.
Sirius lifted his pin and the others followed suit. James and Remus found themselves having to apply more pressure than the others as they pricked their fingers, their hands calloused from Quidditch and lycanthropy respectfully.
The four boys reached forward, allowing a drop of blood each to drip down onto the portion of the cover drawn in red ink. James grabbed a book from his bed, smearing a bit of blood on the spine as he opened it to a marked page. He tapped the map with his wand again and read a passage in the book aloud. It was in Latin.
When he was through, the drop of his blood had vanished, sinking into the parchment and away. He handed the book to Sirius, who did the same, his drop of blood sinking away as well. They passed the book until they had each read it aloud and their drop of blood had disappeared into the parchment.
Wands out again, James counted to three once more. "Mischief managed!" they each said, tapping the map. On the seventh tap, the parchment wiped itself clean.
They each held their breath, glancing around at each other, as though waiting for someone to try something first.
Finally, Remus touched the parchment with his wand. "Show me the map."
Words scrawled across the surface and they all leaned over to read them.
Mr. Moony is disappointed that Mr. Lupin would think it was that easy.
Mr. Prongs expected better of Mr. Lupin and suggests that perhaps Mr. Lupin should stop thinking about pretty Ravenclaws and focus.
Mr. Padfoot always knew he was smarter than Mr. Lupin, and doesn't think Mr. Lupin should beat himself up about it.
Mr. Wormtail agrees with his colleagues and would like to add that Mr. Lupin ought to consider asking for help… if he can find it in himself to admit he's made a mistake.
"Well, that part works," Peter grinned.
"I can admit when I've made a mistake," Remus said with a frown.
"Yeah, okay," James said, his tone condescending. "And I'm modest."
"Who cares? Let's see if the proper phrase works," Sirius said, tapping the parchment with his wand. "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."
The insults aimed at Remus faded away and the front cover that James and Sirius had labored over appeared. The boys cheered and with a quick, "Mischief managed!" James cleared the parchment again.
"We've done it! There will be no more Filch sneaking up on us, no walking right into McGonagall under the cloak," James grinned.
"We only walked into her the one time," Peter said.
"I still can't believe she didn't catch us," Remus said, remembering very well as the group of them, eleven years old at the time, their friendship new, huddled under the cloak after curfew and collided with their professor during her rounds. They had hastily spun around on the spot and dashed away, leaving her looking around, baffled.
"Nothing is off-limits anymore," Sirius said, a mischievous glint in his eye. "Look out, Hogwarts."
"It'll certainly come in handy tomorrow when we sneak off to the victory party," Peter said.
"Ah, yes, we shouldn't have any issue getting in and out of Ravenclaw tower past curfew with this," Sirius nodded.
"You mean the Hufflepuff basement," James corrected.
"The Hufflepuffs won't be throwing a victory party after Ravenclaw wins, they aren't that nice," Sirius scoffed.
"Don't you remember Ravenclaw getting flattened last year? Fourth place out of four in Quidditch!" James said.
"Yeah, and all their rubbish players graduated, their lineup is better now," Sirius said.
"I heard that too," Remus nodded.
James sighed heavily. "Really, Moony? This is the stag versus dog thing all over again."
"Either way, we get to go to a party, it doesn't really matter," Peter shrugged.
"Very true, and I am quite looking forward to it," Sirius said, that glint of mischief in his eye again.
"Yeah? What's so special this time?" James said, eying the other boy suspiciously.
"What's so special is that I'm going to have enough fun that I forget about Marlene McKinnon and her stupid face and her stupid body and her stupid—"
"Is this about her talking with Ben in the common room?" Remus said.
"Oh, they were doing more than talking. Unless she's 'just joking' with him, too," Sirius mumbled, taking a seat on his trunk. "Two can play that game, I can talk too. Lots of people would love to talk with me."
"Well, the important thing is that you haven't let this whole thing make you bitter," James nodded.
"Who's bitter? Not me," Sirius grumbled. "Anyway, it'll be a good opportunity for Moony, too."
"Er, how do you figure?" Remus said, cocking a brow.
"A certain pretty Ravenclaw is sure to be there," Sirius said, managing a sing-song voice through his earlier definitely-not-there bitterness. Remus felt himself turning red.
He had spent more time over the holiday than he would like to admit thinking about Emmeline Vance. He had found himself staring at the back of her head in Defense Against the Dark Arts, while James stared at Lily's and Sirius tried purposefully not to stare at Marlene's.
Still, he cleared his throat and said, "Y-you lot aren't still on that, are you?"
The others exchanged knowing glances.
"You like her," Peter said.
"As a friend," Remus insisted, perhaps too quickly.
"You're such a bad liar," James said. "I can't believe it took us until second year to realize you're a werewolf."
Remus simply frowned.
So, maybe he had a crush on Emmeline Vance.