Part 3 of 'Of Secret Passages and Pixies' & 'Letters'. Everyone must someday meet their Waterloo, and like Napoleon, surrender to a superior force. The tribe comes home for the holidays – oh, what possibilities….
A/N: I deeply appreciate everyone who has enjoyed these & my other little dabblings, and especially those who sent such nice reviews- they are addictive. I try to be good & get enough time to get to other people's fiction – now that I have two weeks off; I hope I can repay you all appropriately. I think I stopped having time to read around page 230 of this list; and we're getting close to 300 – ugh!
And to Lori – what can I say but thank you so much & I am humbled by your exceptionally kind words. I hope your husband doesn't get too insane about the phone bill some of the longer bits of 'Veritas' are probably incurring. Don't like referring to me as 'Thing1'? Not a 'Cat in the Hat' fan? My other nickname is actually X – is that any better? (My boyfriend feels that I should point out that I'm not being difficult –it really is X. Think about X-mas, you'll get it.)
Happy Christmas (or whatever is your preference) to everyone!!
There was little talking on the train, but more from exhaustion than animosity. Roarke was sleeping soundly, curled up against Malcolm's shoulder, and Malcolm spent most of the ride just watching the scenery and grateful that he had three weeks free from papers, potions, and disruptive Gryffindors. Well, most of them. Griffin and Annie sat across from him having a silent conversation writing notes back and forth to each other. Only Tarquin and Gary talked, really, and that was another endless conversation about Quiddich. Malcolm was very happy to be getting home for Christmas, his favourite time of year anyway, and happy to be back home with his parents. He finally drifted off to sleep himself, after whispering to Tarquin to keep an eye on Annie and Griffin, and not to fall asleep himself, if he knew what was good for him.
In London the conversation was a bit more animated.
"Sirius, do stop fidgeting! The train will be here when it gets here and you driving me mad won't make it get here any sooner!"
Hermione laughed quietly and gave a small cough. "I'm with you, Sirius; maybe if we go fidget somewhere quietly together the train will get here faster."
Ron laughed at her and shook his head. "Are you sure you want Gary back here that soon?" He teased, picking up one of the twins so she'd stop trying to kick her sister.
Liz did laugh at Ron, and gave Sirius one last exaggerated glare, but he wasn't paying her any attention. He'd been on edge the whole week waiting for Griffin to get home and now these last minutes of waiting for the 'blasted train' as he kept growling, were really starting to bother him. Remus finally stepped up next to him and gave him a bemused but sympathetic look.
"Padfoot, I know you've missed him. He'll be here soon."
Sirius sighed. "God, Moony, it's been so damn quiet. On one hand, I'd be lying if I didn't say it's been great having Liz 100% to myself, but…." Remus chuckled and nodded.
"Yes, I know the feeling."
"Do you think they miss us as much?"
"In their own way, yes."
"Liz is emphatic that I apologize to Malcolm for helping the youngest with that last little 'incident'."
"Katie already told Malcolm that we have something to talk to him about. But Sirius, this is Malcolm. He's not going to be upset. If anything, maybe we need to watch our backs for a while."
Sirius laughed. "Good point."
The Hogwarts Express finally arrived, and young witches and wizards streamed off it in a rush to meet their respective families. Sirius forced himself to stand still next to Remus, who was waiting quietly and patiently as always on the far side of the platform. Malcolm was first to appear, leading the way to the point where he normally met his parents, and he went straight to Remus, beaming at him. Annie, Roarke, Griffin and Gary followed closely.
Sirius grabbed Griffin and held him tightly, before he looked up at Malcolm, who was smiling at him. "Welcome come, Noah."
Malcolm raised an eyebrow. "Yes, good to see you, too, Sirius."
Griffin and Annie chuckled for a moment, until they each caught their mother's respective glances. Griffin covered by moving to hug his mother.
"You are not fooling anyone, young Mr. Black," she whispered in his ear, but Griffin could feel his mother was smiling.
Hermione and Ron were quizzing Gary about his first semester as they all started to move towards the exit. Gary was deliberately avoiding answering questions about what he and Griffin had been doing when they were caught on top of the astronomy tower. Annie was chatting with Liz about Ravenclaw, agreeing that they did tend to be a much more subdued bunch than all these rowdy Gryffindors they were constantly surrounded by.
Griffin grinned at her. "Poor Annie. I guess I should just leave you out of it then."
Annie seemed totally nonplussed. "Tobias thinks you're a terrible influence, you know."
Griffin instantly went sour at that comment and ignored her for the rest of the walk, instead talking with Remus and Sirius. Malcolm caught his father's eye and gave a wink. Sirius didn't miss the exchange and mumbled at Malcolm, "As if your sister could possibly be influenced by anything she wasn't of a mind to be influenced by."
"Try convincing your boy of that."
A few days after everyone had returned for the holidays, Katie Lupin found her oldest curled up in the window seat of the kitchen by her fires, reading something. She smiled at him and brought him a cup of hot cider.
"Your father must be out then."
"What makes you say that?"
"You're in here visiting me," she teased. Malcolm pretended to look hurt.
"Mum, Dad's in his study. Don't be mean."
Katie just smiled and went back to working on the potions she set up that morning. "Where are the others? I thought Griffin and Annie might be about."
"Griffin hasn't put in an appearance yet. I think Sirius wants to spend as much time with him as he can. Annie's gone for a ride. Roarke's practicing Quiddich in the paddock. Tarquin has lit a fire under the team, and they are determined to win the cup this year."
"So your father confessed to being a silent partner in Annie and Griffin's latest adventure?"
"I live in fear of the day your father and Sirius start telling them about some of the truly hair-raising things they used to do to each other, you know."
Malcolm raised an eyebrow at this, but just smiled at his mother.
"Bit of an unfair advantage, them helping Annie and Griffin."
"Well, I've a bit of an unfair advantage myself," commented Malcolm, vaguely.
Katie stopped what she was doing and calmly raised a questioning eyebrow at him. Malcolm didn't even blink as he smiled quietly at her. "Well I'm older, aren't I? And I've tried most of the things they're up to." He winked at her and went back to his book as she rolled her eyes and shook her head.
"Honestly, I don't know what to do with you lot. All of you."
"Well, Roarke seems to be reasonably well behaved."
"Reasonably, yes. She just does what she wants, rather than seeks ways to deliberately break rules. Headstrong vs. crafty; a fair trade. At least she's not part of this little war you seem to have set in motion. Yes, don't look like that, my little marauder. You started it with the pixies, didn't you? Ugh. And now Moony and Padfoot have gotten involved. Interesting situation"
"I thought they were banned from such activities."
Katie gave her eldest a bit of a look. "Malcolm, sweetie, please. Liz and I would never, to begin with, do anything so draconian as banning anything. And at 17 you should have figured out that people's personalities don't change just because you tell them to. We asked that they not deliberately stir anything up. And they didn't deliberately do anything. Just made a few suggestions. Which is, by the way, exactly what we thought they'd do. I would remind all of you, however, not to underestimate me. Or Liz."
Malcolm had a far off look on his face now, and he stood up from the window seat slowly, then put whatever book he had been reading neatly back on his mother's shelf.
Putting his hands in his pockets, he ambled casually out of the kitchen.
"I'll just go see what dad's up to, I think."
Griffin wandered into the kitchen to ask his mother when lunch would be ready.
"In a bit. What are you and Mr. Black up to?"
"Just talking. Dad seems to be in one of his moods."
Liz nodded and padded him on the back. "He didn't sleep well last night. He's been so worked up over you coming home, I think he wore himself down and you know that gets to him. He'll be fine; he just gets a little sad sometimes, you know that."
"We should do something to cheer him up."
Liz smiled at that. "Your being home is about the best thing I can imagine to cheer him up, Griffin. I'm very happy to have you back, too."
"Yeah, I know. In spite of myself," he smiled at her.
Liz laughed at him and handed him two cups of hot chocolate. "Exactly. That should tide you two over until lunch, and your father could do with some. Now, go off and scheme something together. Just don't break anything."
"Well at least I can't get an owl sent from home," grinned Griffin.
Liz laughed again, shaking her head. "No, my darling terror; you and Annie are owl free here. And your father is so much more continently accessible for hints, is he not?"
Griffin's grin turned a little sheepish at that, but he opted not to answer, having just had a thought he was sure his mother would be furious about. Thanking her for the chocolate, he hurried back to his father's office. Sirius smiled when Griffin handed him the cup of chocolate and then settled back into the chair across from him by the fire, throwing his legs up over the arm and resting his head on the other side of the chair.
"Mum says this will hold us until lunch is ready."
Sirius went back to reading the paper, but Griffin was no longer interested, having had a thought as to what he might do to cheer up Sirius.
"Thanks for the help with Malcolm. It was brilliant, really. You should have seen the front hall; looked like a lake. Took Mr. Ravenswood all night to finish cleaning it."
Sirius chuckled and winked at Griffin. "Help you? Griffin, you know that your mother forbids my helping you in anyway. I can't imagine what you're talking about."
"Yeah, right. Look, we're even now, but I think we should make plans as to what's next. You can talk to me now, right? Technically I'm not at Hogwarts, so why would it be any different that anything else you and I have ever done?"
"Griff, I'm not involved in this one. This is you and Malcolm. Be careful."
"What if we got Malcolm and Remus?"
Sirius lowered his paper slowly and eyed his son with a small smile.
"Now, why would I want to drag Remus into this?"
"You still owe him for hexing your robes before that meeting last summer, right?"
"So Annie and I owe Malcolm, you owe Remus. And we've all this time when we're not actually violating any house rules. Come on, Dad. Say yes."
Sirius laughed. "And your mother thinks I'm the one leading you astray."
Griffin smiled wickedly and stood up, reaching to get a piece of parchment off of Sirius' rather cluttered desk. He quickly wrote a note, then walked over to the owl sleeping on its perch across the room.
"I'll send a quick note to Annie to come over tomorrow, and we'll get to work on it." He woke up the owl and tied the note to his leg.
"Thanks, Wausau. Take that to Annie and come back with a response, will you?" He opened the window and watched the owl fly over the neighbour's roof in the direction of Exeter. Griffin laughed, wondering what the muggles next door would say if they ever got a good idea what went on over here. London was an exciting place to live, but sometimes Griffin couldn't help but think those people never really understood just how exciting it could really be.
Wassau arrived at the Lupins and delivered Annie her note shortly after lunch. Annie quickly read it, wrote a hasty response on the back, and sent the owl back up to the City. Sirius was going to help them get Malcolm and Remus! This was too good an opportunity to pass up. She had no idea that at that very moment, however, Malcolm and Remus were in Remus' study having a similar conversation about the possibilities of catching out the three of them.
Remus gave his oldest a rather dangerous smile. "What about a compelling potion? Very tricky, but I think you and I can handle it together very nicely."
"What are we going to compel them to do?"
Remus jumped up and started looking over books on the cases behind his desk. Malcolm ambled over to stand near him and take the books his father started to pass to him as he pulled them down.
"For a month," said Remus, now grinning from ear to ear, " every time you ask 'is that true', they'll be compelled to affirm or deny."
Malcolm stood there, looking at his father with a rather surprised, but pleased, expression.
"Well, A few weeks at least."
"Does mum know about this spell?"
Remus laughed and sat back down after taking the books Malcolm held and carefully setting them on the desk. He took the top book, a small black leather-bound volume Malcolm was forbidden to touch when he was little, and started carefully flipping through the ancient pages.
"Of course she does. Why?"
Malcolm came to lean over his father's shoulder and look at the book. The writing was a beautiful old script, and the pages were covered in scrawled notes from generations of wizards by the look of it. Remus finally stopped flipping through the book at a page illustrated with a rather dangerous looking illumination of a wizard brewing something in a large cauldron.
"Did you and mum use this when we were little?"
"Malcolm! Of course not! It would have taken all the sport out of parenting." Remus smiled at him, and Malcolm just shook his head.
"Seems a little dark, Dad."
Remus gave a huff. "Pay no mind to the overly dramatic presentation in here; this was the style of the day when this was written. Actually, this is a 16th century equivalent to "Basic Book of Potions Grade One. Well, perhaps Grade Two."
"I don't recall any such useful spells showing up in my second year texts, Dad."
"I should hope not. There's been a lot of editing over the years, as you can imagine. You should actually get to these next semester or early next year. When you can handle such spells properly."
"Like we're doing now?"
Remus carefully closed the book, and stood up to face Malcolm. He put a hand on his shoulder and leaned in to give him a conspiratorial look. "To avoid exactly what is about to happen now, my little marauder."
Malcolm winked at him, and grinned wickedly.
"Right, we can start on this at the end of the week. Roarke and I are going to see the Cannons the day after tomorrow, but you can start reading the spell and make a list of what we need. I'll procure items if you take responsibility for brewing. It's hardly a secret that I'm rather awful with potions."
Malcolm reached to take the spell book and suddenly looked back up at his father. "You know, Dad, Roarke's really good at potions. Better than me."
Remus nodded, smiling. "A talent she's inherited from your mother. I sincerely hope she becomes a healer as well."
"I think she's leaning that way. Anyway, why don't we ask her to join us in this? She and Griffin have been butting heads more than usual this year, I think she might enjoy it. She's become very quiet of late; I think she could do with a good laugh."
Remus started towards to doors leading to the back garden. "Let's just ask her, shall we?"
Remus and Malcolm found Roarke out in the paddock practicing Quiddich feints. Katie's horse and the ponies stood sulking under a large oak to one side, well out of the way of the lunatic speeding about throwing things.
"Firecracker, come down here for a moment," called Remus, smiling up at his elder daughter. Roarke immediately dropped down to hover in front of them, but didn't actually get off her broom.
"Hi, Dad; hi Malcolm. What's up?"
"Oh, Sis, all kinds of things," grinned Malcolm, happily.
Roarke smiled at them. "Malcolm only gets that look when he's up to no good," Roarke hesitated as she saw her father shoot Malcolm a quick surprised look. Malcolm shook his head, though and they both turned back to her. Roarke laughed quietly.
"Or when you're both up to no good."
"Roarke, we're going to teach Griffin and Annie that it's not wise to think they can get away with messing with me. How'd you like in on the action?"
Roarke laughed at this and started to rise higher off the ground, moving away from them.
"Not a chance. I have to live in that tower and it's bad enough with Griffin without my having to really be worried he's after me."
Remus reached out to grasp her hand and stop her from going any higher as she reached eye level with him. "Actually, we're planning to get all three of them. Griffin, Annie and Sirius. Always fun to get on over on Padfoot, right?"
She still looked unconvinced. "We know that Sirius is feeding ideas to Griffin, and you want me to get them both after me? Dad, really."
"But Firecracker, you've got me, don't you?"
Roarke's grey eyes shone with amusement as she looked into her father's matching eyes but she shook her head. "Yeah, well, don't take this the wrong way, but this has never been my cup of tea, so I'll just leave it to the experts. But can I ask what you're going to do?"
Malcolm chuckled. "A little potion that will compel them to answer the question "Is that true" for a month. Fat chance getting away with anything."
Roarke laughed at him, then gave her father's hand a squeeze before dropping it so she could go back to her Quiddich. "Well, at least January will be interesting."
Malcolm shrugged at Remus, who was watching Roarke start up her drills again with a slightly concerned expression.
"Dad, it's hardly a surprise she didn't want to. Roarke's participation in this sort of thing has always been sporadic. Let's go."
"Okay. No ideas on what's upsetting her? It's hard to imagine my Firecracker getting quiet, you know."
"She's thirteen, dad. It happens. Besides, I'm sure Mum knows all about it and has everything under control."
Remus had to smile at this and they started back to the house. "Excellent point. I'm sure if it's anything more than 'being thirteen' she'll tell me."
Malcolm chuckled as he opened the back door to the kitchen. "Now I know where the worry-wart gene came from."
The next afternoon, while Liz was out at work, Sirius, Griffin and Annie started talking about what they might do. They decided not to get to grand, as that might get them in real trouble with Katie and Liz.
"Something simple and sweet, children," said Sirius, flipping through a spell book while Annie and Griffin stood next to him.
"Something in the spirit of the season? Snow indoors?" offered Griffin.
Annie shook her head and crossed her arms. "No, Malcolm's done that one, and even Dad was bent out of shape over it. Not a good idea. Course, Dad then just felt bad for a week for yelling at Malcolm."
"Well we could turn them into birds"
"Not very Christmassy," said Annie absently chewing on her hair.
Sirius suddenly started shaking with laughter.
"Okay, since it's Christmas, how about we turn them a nice Christmas colour? Personally I prefer green, as it's harder to make go away. It'll take days for their hair to turn back, trust me. Especially Remus' cause it's all grey now. And a potion is better for 'terrorist actions' than a charm in this case."
Griffin and Annie chortled merrily at this and agreed.
"Y'know, Roarke's really good at potions. And I bet she'd love to have a go at Malcolm. He's got the best of her a few times, too," Annie said thoughtfully.
Griffin looked unconvinced, but Sirius grinned. "You know, maybe Firecracker would. Let's ask her, shall we?
"She'll just tell Remus, you know it. Don't tell her we're looking to get him, she won't stand for it."
Sirius shook his head "Griffin, you're being unfair. Roarke's pulled a few fast ones in her day, believe me. I think she'd help us. And even if she doesn't, she'd never tell Remus. She's not like that." Sirius grinned. "She and I have gotten the best of Remus once or twice."
Griffin looked a little dark for a few moments, and then shrugged. "Okay, let's ask her. She is really good at potions, like Katie.
Sirius found the page he was looking for and set the book down so he could write. "Now, let's work out a list of things we'll need, and you two get what you can from Katie's greenhouses. I'll set the cauldron up here to brew on the fire, so your mum shouldn't see it."
The next day, Sirius went over to the Lupins. He didn't find anyone in the front room when he arrived, and wandered out to see where everyone was. He found Roarke in the kitchen.
"Ah, Roarke. Just who I was looking for. Your brother isn't about is he?"
"Your younger godson has gone off somewhere. Mum can't find him either. Why?"
"No reason; like I said, I wanted to talk to you anyway. What are you up to today?"
"I'm just waiting for Dad. We're going to go see the Cannons play."
"Oh, is that today? Have fun and say hallo to Ron for me, won't you? Listen, Roarke, how would you feel about helping old Sirius in a little ruckus, as my wife puts it. We need an exceptional potion brewer."
"Griffin, Annie and myself. Going to get one over on Remus and Malcolm. Can we tempt you?"
"Ah. That would explain why they've been beetling about the greenhouses this morning. Mum nearly caught them when she went to get a few things before she left for work. What exactly are you going to do to my dad and my brother?"
"Make them look more festive."
Roarke raised an eyebrow.
"A little trifle of a potion, really. Turns them green for a few days."
Roarke laughed, but shook her head. "Have fun, but count me out."
"Roarke," drawled Sirius, "it's Christmas."
"I thought I'm supposed to be good or Santa won't bring me any presents."
"I've a lovely gift for you, Firecracker, so don't worry about Santa. Come on, play with us!"
"No. And you'd best shut up about it, as Dad's just coming. Good luck, though."
Remus walked over to Roarke and Sirius. "Padfoot. What's up?"
"Nothing, nothing. Just chatting with Roarke. I'm taking Annie and Griffin to see Mr. Kyles' new horses. They've just gone to get their things."
Remus laughed and took Roarke's hand. "Try not to get eaten, Padfoot."
"I make one acerbic comment and it follows me for the rest of my life. Honestly."
Remus and Roarke left, and Sirius went to find Griffin and Annie. They were coming out of the last greenhouse when he caught up with them.
"Oi, you two. Roarke said Katie nearly caught you in these things this morning. You know you're all banned from going in here."
Annie shrugged. "Actually, it's Malcolm who got himself banned years ago, for obvious reasons. We can't get two of the herbs we need, so you're going to have to go to Diagon Alley or something. Don't ask Mrs. Noyes for help, as she has a standing policy to tell my mother about any strange requests."
Griffin handed his father a box. "Here's most of what we need. Is Roarke going to help us then?"
Sirius was examining the herbs and shook his head. "No. She wishes us luck, but doesn't want to play. Right, let's get back to the house and add these to our little pot."
The rest of the morning the three of them worked on starting the potion and Sirius went to get the last items they needed. He sent Griffin and Annie into the kitchen with the goza roots to clean them and cut them into small pieces. They had just cleared up and were on their way back to Sirius's office when the front door opened and they practically ran into Liz. Griffin quickly pulled the tea towel he had over their roots tighter about the plate. Liz caught the movement, however and looked at them sharply.
"Griffin! Annie! What is that?"
"Will I scream if I figure out what it is?"
"No, I don't think so."
Liz sighed and shrugged. "Fine, proceed."
They ran into Sirius' office.
Sirius quickly took the small cauldron off the fire and placed it carefully into the bottom drawer of his desk, just as Liz popper her head in.
"Who's here for lunch? All of you?"
Three immediate yeses made her hesitate for a moment.
"What are you up to this afternoon?"
"Dad's taking us to look at some horses down Mr. Kyles' stables."
"Well. Try not to get eaten by the beasts won't you, Mr. Black?"
"I'll certainly do my best, Mrs. Black."
Remus and Roarke got back from their Quiddich match late that evening. Roarke was beaming, and gave her mother a near play-by-play account of the match, her eyes shining and with many grand gestures. Katie laughed and listened intently. Remus was happy, seeing how animated and rowdy Roarke was, as this was more like he was used to seeing her. He offered few comments about the game himself, more content to watch Katie and Roarke, who were as boisterous and close as ever. Roarke wolfed down her dinner and then ran off to join Annie and Malcolm in the front room at a game of cards. Remus stared at the door for a few moments before getting up to help Katie finish putting away the dinner things. Pleased as he was to see Roarke in such a splendid mood, he was still worried that this was a temporary thing.
"Katie, love, what's wrong with Roarke?"
Katie waved her wand and sent the plates back into the cupboard with an almost inaudible clink. "Remus, what on earth makes you think anything is wrong with Roarke?"
"Well, apart from just now, she's been so quiet since she got home. That's not like her."
"Remus, she's thirteen. She's just growing up, I'm sad to say. I won't say she'll never go rambling through the woods with you and wade across streams, climb trees, break bones and the like ever again, but probably not as much as she used to. She's starting to think about what she wants to do with her life. No longer a carefree child. Love, she's got your looks, but my disposition. And I hate to tell you, but I sulked a lot at that age."
"She's not sulking, Katie. She's sad. I can't bear it." He turned his head to listen to the faint sounds of the children in the front room. He could just make out Malcolm saying something then being yelled at by the girls.
Katie glanced at the door, and then went back to finishing what she was doing. "Remus," she said quietly, "she's not sad. You're right, though, she's not sulking. She's just…thinking. Let her think, and do stop fretting. It will make her sad if she thinks you're upset. Leave it alone."
Remus leaned against the countertop and crossed his arms. "There is something you're not telling me here, Katie."
"Oh Remus! She's got a crush on Ford Mercutio, and she'd die of embarrassment if she knew I told you."
Remus had the good sense to look very surprised. Katie just raised an eyebrow at him.
"Oh, indeed. Is 53 so far removed from 13 that you can't remember how awkward and awful all that sort of thing was? I'm 50, and I still get pangs thinking back."
Remus grinned and wrapped his arms around her. "Do you now, love?" he growled softly, "Have I done such a poor job at making you forget every man in your life but me?"
Katie laughed and kissed him. "Well, I can't remember his name, but I do remember he broke my heart. All for the best, really, as I was just waiting for you to come along, obviously."
Everyone kept to their respective tasks for the next few days, running about collecting ingredients, tending carefully hidden cauldrons, and keeping out of Liz and Katie's way. Both camps had decided, of course unaware of what the other was up to, to launch their respective pranks on Christmas Day, when there was a lot of food and drink going about and not being paid much attention to. So it was with even more than the usual good cheer that on Christmas Eve the Lupins and the Blacks settled down for their traditional formal dinner at the Lupins' home.
Liz and Katie had been working in a practically locked kitchen all day, refusing to allow anyone but Roarke in, so she could collect some lunch for Malcolm and Remus. Annie and Griffin had stayed with Sirius at the Black's house, but by four they had all gathered at the Lupins. Katie suggested they all go out and work off their annoying levels of nervous energy with a snowball fight. The four children eagerly set upon their fathers, and the scuffling and yelling lasted for several hours until they were told to change for dinner.
The first course Katie brought out was a rich red soup. Everyone dug in happily, and there was actually a little peace and quiet while they started in on their meal. Finally Katie addressed the collected audience.
"You've all been very busy these last few days. Up to no good are we?"
"Annie, sweetheart, do you find I've gone blind? Is my dotage on me so soon?"
Sirius laughed and glanced at Katie. "We promise no owls from Hogwarts this week, Katie-girl."
Katie gave him a dry look and said nothing, although she noted that Malcolm and Griffin were eyeing each other with bemused expressions.
The conversation picked back up as people started finishing their soup. Remus chatted with Liz about something they were working on, while Sirius and Katie debated about some new legal precedent the Ministry was working on. Not giving a toss about either conversation, the children talked rather animatedly amongst themselves about whether or not Malcolm was going to be Head Boy, and what that would mean for the other three.
"You've top marks, Malcolm. It's a sure bet."
"Ewan Castille is even with me, actually."
"But he's a Slytherin, Malcolm," complained Griffin. "You can't let him beat you out! I'll make the sacrifice…."
"Professor Malfoy was Head Boy, you know. And he was a Slytherin," Sirius broke in. "And he's alright, isn't he?"
Annie agreed with a vehement voice of support. Griffin, a little more reluctantly, had to agree as well.
Roarke added, "He's the best teacher we've got by far, Slytherin or no."
Liz put her soupspoon on her charger and leaned her head casually on her hand. "Well, Malcolm; you're the most qualified to answer on this, I think. Is that true?"
Malcolm suddenly got a rather strange look on his face. He glanced at Remus, then looked back at Liz, his eyes widening a bit.
"Yes," he said, in a strangled sounding voice.
Remus nearly dropped his spoon. He looked at Liz, who was now giving him a rather coy smile, then he glanced up the table at Katie, who grinned and waved her own spoon at him. Remus slowly looked down at his now empty soup bowl. Before he could say anything, however, Annie let out a little squeak.
"Turning green!" finished Griffin, staring at Annie and watching her slowly start to turn green.
It was Sirius' turn to look stunned, staring at his son and Annie and realizing he was, by now, probably the same shade. He turned to Katie who leaned close and patted him on the cheek.
"A lovely shade, Sirius. We commend you on your pallet."
"Sirius?" said Remus, looking at Annie, "why are you, Griffin and my youngest turning green?"
Malcolm figured it out first, looking at Liz with astonishment and a hint of amusement. "You…knew."
Sirius had to giggle now, in spite of his son's enraged expression. "Oh dear…."
Katie got up and went over to the sideboard, where she collected two small cauldrons and brought them back to the table.
"Remus, I believe that this one is yours. Is that true?"
"Yes," said Remus, then started to giggle himself.
"You were helping Malcolm make a compelling potion. Is that true?"
"Yes!" He was laughing outright now, shaking his head.
"And Sirius was to be included in this little prank. Is that true?" asked Liz.
"Yes," said both Remus and Malcolm in unison. They were looking at each other and both were laughing now. Sirius feigned indignation.
"Me? What did I do?"
Remus shook his head. "You and I are both guilty of aiding and abetting, Padfoot."
"Well, that's fair, 'cause we were trying to get you too, Moony," Sirius smiled and winked at Remus. "But that was just for sport."
"You were going to turn me green?"
Griffin suddenly cheered up. "Wait a minute; that spell of Remus'. Does that mean he and Malcolm have to answer everything we ask them if we ask them if it's true?"
Katie and Liz nodded.
"Then that means…."
Liz held up a hand. "Don't get to excited, Griffin. You all get antidote at dessert. For everything."
There was a silent pause.
"Everything?" Sirius finally asked, looking at his wife with a carefully neutral expression.
Liz smiled. "Oh, there's more."
Remus looked a little nervous at this. "What do you mean 'more'?"
"Wait for it, love."
"Katie…." But Remus stopped talking, and looked puzzled. He seemed to want to continue, but unable to think of what he wanted to say. Malcolm's eyes suddenly widened and he turned to look at his mother. He tried to say something, but no sound came out.
"What was that, my little marauder? I couldn't hear you. Do speak up."
Liz and Roarke were now giggling heartily while the rest of the group visibly slumped. Katie picked up her glass and raised a toast.
"Silence. The worst curse of all in this house. You know, normally I forbid singing at the table, but I have a sudden urge for a few choruses of 'Silent Night'.
Remus put his head in his hands and started to laugh. At least, they could tell by the look of total merriment on his face and the shaking of his shoulders that he was laughing, but still no sound came out. Sirius, trying to look stern despite the fact that he was now completely green, glared at his wife, but couldn't keep it up for very long. Shaking his head, he seemed to be laughing quietly himself now, and then shrugged at Griffin and Annie.
Malcolm suddenly jumped up and ran towards the door. Katie looked surprised, but relaxed when he winked at her before he left. He returned after a few moments with a piece of parchment, which he held up for all to see.
Katie smiled. "We've known for a while, dear. It was hardly a leap of faith to even suspect the lot of you would be up to something like this." She winked at Roarke. "But we can't take credit. We were simply 'aiding and abetting' ourselves. Isn't that right, Firecracker?"
Malcolm wrote something on the other side of the parchment, and this he held up to Roarke with a large grin on his face.
YOU EVIL GENIUS.
Roarke laughed and wiggled her eyebrows at him. Remus and Sirius both looked at her with surprised expressions. Griffin and Annie looked completely furious, however, and scowled at each other in silent commiseration. Malcolm added another comment.
YOU SAID YOU DIDN"T WANT TO HELP US.
Roarke grinned. "I didn't. Any of you. I didn't say I'd keep out of it."
Remus started laughing harder, tears now forming in his eyes. Sirius leaned over to give her a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
Liz raised her own glass now to toast Roarke. "Bravo, Roarke. I think you've struck the mightiest blow ever. Five in one shot. Excellent! Your mother and I will be honoured to help you again in the future, should the need arise."
"Thank you, Liz."
"And no owl! I'm so proud," added Katie.
Roarke just laughed. Malcolm had one more comment to make.
IT WAS FUN WASN'T IT?
Roarke blushed and glanced at Remus, who smiled at her.
Malcolm gave her a salute. Annie finally had to smile, and offered a salute of her own. Griffin slumped, obviously still furious over being caught out, but finally gave a small smile himself, shaking his head. Then he took the pen from Malcolm and added his own note to Roarke.
YOU'VE RUINED YOUR NETURAL STATUS
Liz looked at the comment. "Keep in mind who her allies are, young Mr. Black."
Sirius got up and walked round to stand behind Griffin and add his own comment.
MR. PADFOOT WOULD LIKE TO SAY, WELL DONE, AND SUGGESTS TO MR. MOONY THAT WE OFFER SINCERE APPOLOGIES FOR CAUSING A RUCKUS.
MR. MOONY AGREES WITH MR. PADFOOT, AND WOULD LIKE TO ADD THAT THEY WILL BE MORE CAREFUL IN THE FUTURE.
Katie raised an eyebrow. "More careful not to cause a ruckus, or more careful not to get caught?"
Remus and Sirius just grinned at her.