The Marauders may be confused as to which version of 1970s Hogwarts they are currently in, but even that cannot prevent them from wreaking havoc. With special guest appearances by Lily Evans, Bellatrix Black, Albus Dumbledore, Professor Flitwick, the Mirror of Erised, James's toy snitch, and Remus Lupin's temper.
Rated PG for frequent usage of the word "torrid."
The Small Green Bottles of Doom
"Merlin's beard," sighed the tall, handsome, well-dressed, messy-haired, bespectacled, lean-and-tough-as-a-Seeker, droolworthy James Potter, as he threw himself dramatically back onto his bed and shut despairing eyelids over his brilliant blue eyes. "Lily Evans hates me!"
"She does?" Remus Lupin looked up from the enormous tome Secret Love Life of the Hinkypunk, absent-mindedly rubbing at one of the half-healed, strangely attractive scars on his face, scars which had clearly been made by a werewolf's lethal fangs. "But I thought she'd been the fifth Marauder for three or four years now, and regularly bosses us all around. What with being a secret Multimagus and turning into a hawk or a fox or a tiger or a skunk for my … you know. During the full moon." He blushed hotly, and momentarily looked like a tomato instead of a pale, half-starved, gentlemanly waif.
James waved a dismissive hand. "Nonsense, Moony. What's wrong with your brain? Lily hates my guts because I'm so arrogant, even though I've adored the ground she treads on ever since first year." He heaved a sorrowful sigh, gazing up at the canopy of his bed through tormented blue eyes. "Whatever can I do to make her notice me? I've pulled every trick in our repertoire on her, and she just ignores me!"
Short, chubby, watery-eyed Peter Pettigrew, sprawled on the bed in the far end of the Gryffindor dormitory, piped up, "But if she ignores you, how do you know she hates you?"
"Oh, Peter, you just don't understand." James sat up and gave his friend a kind, forgiving smile. "But that's all right. It's just because you don't know what it is to be in love, since you've never had a girlfriend."
Peter blinked. "But I've been going out with Mabel from Hufflepuff since –"
"And of course Remus doesn't have these problems," James continued, "since he's gay and all that."
With the agile, graceful speed of a seeker, James leapt across the room and slapped his werewolf friend on the back. "Breathe, Remus! Breathe! There's nothing to be afraid of!" His warm brown eyes shone with sincerity. "It's all right – you know we still love you – we don't care that you're likely to lose your mind and turn predatory – attack us in our beds –"
Secret Love Life of the Hinkypunk slid from Remus's nerveless, scarred fingers and struck James on the toe. James's handsome face twisted in sudden agony.
"Aagh! Merlin's thumb!" The heart-breakingly charming Head Boy rolled across the floor, clutching his foot with both hands. "My toe! It's broken!"
White as a hard-boiled egg, Remus knelt beside his injured friend. "James! Prongs! Are you all right? I'm so sorry – I never meant – oh, I should never have come to this school – I knew I'd hurt someone – Prongs, please, say something, forgive me!"
James swallowed hard and squeezed his gray eyes tightly shut. Manfully, he took a few deep breaths and managed a level tone. "It's all right, Remus. It wasn't your fault."
"It was," Remus insisted, wringing his hands. "I'm sorry, Prongs, I'm so sorry …"
"It's …" James gasped a few times, then forced his eyes open. "It's just a broken toe. I'll live." He managed a ghastly smile. "Just a flesh wound, right?"
Too distraught to speak, Remus nodded weakly. "I'll help you to Madame Pomfrey," he began, but James raised a hand to ward him off.
"And let Lily see me injured? Never!"
Peter, hovering over Remus's shoulder in ineffectual, slightly squeaky concern, blurted, "Wouldn't seeing you hurt make her feel tender-hearted and compassionate toward you?"
"How little you know about girls, Wormtail," James sighed, letting Remus help him to his feet.
"But me and Mabel from Hufflepuff –"
"Ouch! No, Wormtail, no need to apologize." Wincing, James managed to hobble a few steps with Remus's support, then smiled benevolently at his short, chubby, somehow rat-like and untrustworthy friend Peter. "We don't think any the worse of you for failing to be a chick magnet like the rest of us."
Remus let go of James's arm suddenly, and the heir to the Potter fortune collapsed into an armchair. "Yes, about that 'chick magnet' matter," Remus said slowly. "Did you just say … did I hear you correctly just now … when you implied that I …"
James leaned forward, his hazel eyes bright with acceptance and understanding. He laid a hand lightly on Remus's shoulder. "Yes, Remus … we know you're a werewolf."
Tears welled up in Remus's sad eyes. "You can't know how much that means to me … how lonely I've been … the nightly tortures I've endured, imagining the rejections I might have to undergo … how painful to me my constant lies and prevarications have been … not to mention how much of an idiot I looked when I went to funerals for five grandmothers within as many months … how much I've feared being forced to leave Hogwarts … wait. Didn't you and Sirius deduce that I was a werewolf back in second year?"
"Actually it was at the end of first year," Peter said helpfully, "and I was the one who figured it out when –"
"Of course we did, Remus! That's why we're Animagi now, remember? Merlin's kneecaps, can't you stop mooning over that American transfer student for one minute and apply your brain?" James scowled, pulled a snitch out of his pocket, and began to toss it from hand to hand. "Honestly, you're as bad as Sirius, the way he's always running after that Slytherin girl Narcissa."
"But she's his cousin," Peter said, "and what I was saying about Remus being a werewolf was that I was the one who figured it out even though you and Sirius thought he was a vampire–"
"Hey! Speaking of Slytherin, I have the greatest idea for a prank!" James leaned forward, blue eyes glowing with mischievous delight. "We can sneak down to the kitchens, and figure out which pumpkin juice will go to the Slytherin table tomorrow, and we can put this in it!" With a triumphant flourish, he held up a small bottle of dark green glass. The snitch, unnoticed, flew out the window and began orbiting Gryffindor Tower. (Years later, it found its way onto the middle of the Quidditch field during a hotly-contested Ravenclaw-Gryffindor match and sparked a five-decade feud spanning three generations, but that is a story for another day.)
"What is it?" Remus asked dubiously.
"It's a potion." James regarded the bottle affectionately. "This is going to be hilarious. I can't wait to see that slimy git Snape's face!" His hand tightened in a sudden spasm of anger and he scowled furiously. "This'll teach him not to go snogging my girlfriend in the potions classroom!"
Remus started violently. "Snape's snogging Lily?"
Peter's mouth dropped open. "Lily's your girlfriend? When did that happen?"
"Grow a brain, Wormtail! We've been going out ever since the Sorting Feast, when I told her all about saving those Muggles from Lucius Malfoy and his Death Eater goons over the summer. Didn't you notice that time we were making out in here and you walked in on us –"
The door banged open. In strode the tall, handsome, broad-shouldered, pale-eyed, slightly-scruffy-but-nonetheless-utterly-scrumptious Sirius Black, his swagger and black leather outfit competing for attention with his artfully disarranged, completely un-greasy curtain of black hair. "Hey, Jimmy," he said with a lazy grin. "Remy. Petey."
James waved at him. "Merlin's toenails, where've you been, Sirius?"
"Oh, buzzing the squid with my awesome flying motorbike. After making out in the Astronomy Tower with three Ravenclaws, two Hufflepuffs, four transfer students, and Madame Pince," Sirius said cheerfully. He grabbed James by the collar and started to drag him out of his armchair, then paused in surprise. "Hey, since when do we have armchairs in here?"
"Frank Longbottom transfigured your Firebolt broomstick model into it," Peter said helpfully.
Sirius gazed at him blankly. "My what? There's no broomstick called the Firebolt!"
At the same moment, James asked, "Didn't Frank Longbottom graduate six years ago?"
Remus blinked in surprise. "Frank's been sharing a dorm with us all along –"
Sirius, bored with the conversation, tipped James out of the chair. He let out a cry of pain and clutched at his injured toe. Remus started forward to help him, guilt written in every feature, but Sirius got there first, looking shaken and terrified for the first time since the other three Marauders had met him – to the best of their recollection. "James!" he cried. "What's wrong? If that bugger Snape has poisoned you again –"
James groaned in agony.
Sirius shook him in helpless distress, hissing, "I'll never forgive you if you die! You selfish prat, don't you remember that you're the brother I never had, except for that spoiled Death Eater git Regulus, whom I've hated since the day he was born?"
Screwing open his clear gray eyes, James whispered, "It's my broken toe – but I'll live. Unless my heart breaks over my desperate love for beautiful Lily, who so wrongly despises me."
Relieved, Sirius rocked back on his heels and raked one manicured hand back through his glistening, grease-free hair. "Wrongly despises you? Well, we can't have that!" He winked at the other three boys. "I've got just the thing." With a dramatic flourish, he whipped a small, dark, green-glass bottle out of his pocket. "A love potion!"
Peter's eyes widened until they were almost normal size. "Wow!" he gasped. "Sirius, you're brilliant! That's the perfect plan! I would never have thought of that! I wish I were as smart as you. But aren't love potions illegal?"
Sirius waved an airy hand. "Psha! Since when are Marauders worried about illegality? We live to break rules! Except for Peter, who's too much of a coward to do anything but squeak. Not that we don't love you anyway, Wormtail."
"But I run right up to the Whomping Willow every full moon, and I've gotten seven bones broken helping you with pranks already and I haven't complained once," Peter began indignantly.
"Maybe he'd be a bit braver if he could get a girl," Sirius said thoughtfully to James. "That'd be a great project to take up after we make Lily realize that she's fated to marry you."
"But I've been dating that Hufflepuff Mabel ever since –"
"Do you really think we can get her to fall madly, passionately, uninhibitedly in love with me?" James asked wistfully, polishing his glasses on a corner of his non-regulation Shampoo if You Love Gryffindor t-shirt.
"Sure thing," Sirius promised. "Within half an hour of guzzling this little concoction down, she'll be dancing the tango with you in the Prefects' Bath, if you know what I mean." He winked broadly.
"Thanks, Sirius," James said sincerely. "You have no idea how much this means to me."
Remus, who had been looking increasingly anxious, broke in with, "But Peter's right, Padfoot. Love potions have been illegal since 1106, when Humphrey Bowgrave of the East Lancashire Perilous Potions Committee introduced a bill to the Wizengamot moving that such drastic behavior-altering potions –"
"Honest, Moony, what do you do, memorize your textbooks?" snorted Sirius. "You ought to just get by on pure talent and skillful cheating, like me and Jamesy. Personally, I haven't cracked open a textbook since third year, and that was because James told me that Minerva McGonagall had slipped a love note into my Charms book – which was a foul lie, James, you cruel, cruel fiend."
"You shouldn't have fallen for that, Sirius," Remus said, looking shocked. "A teacher making a pass at you – that's been illegal ever since the other Founders caught Godric necking with Primula Longbottom in the Owlery –"
"Teacher?" Sirius stared blankly at his werewolf friend. "But Minnie's just two years ahead of us."
"Honestly, Moony, you worry too much!" James slapped Remus on the back, winking one sapphire eye. "We're not going to get caught."
"But they're illegal!" Remus protested, wringing his hands again. "What if you get expelled and leave me all alone here …?"
"Of course they're not illegal." Sirius rolled his eyes. "I mean, the whole school knows about that time fifth year when Snape slid that love potion into your champagne during the Yule Ball and you ended up having that torrid romance that broke up because you found out he was just using you to get at James –"
"Torrid romance … ? Urk!" Remus turned a strange shade of green and clutched at his throat.
Peter looked bewildered. "I thought they broke up because Snape was cheating on Remus with Lucius Malfoy?"
"Malfoy graduated years ago," Sirius said dismissively. "All right there, Remus?" he added curiously. "Do those funny dying-fish noises you're making have something to do with your lycanthropy?"
Remus transferred his clutching fingers from his throat to his hair, and located his voice. "I've never had a romance – torrid or otherwise – with Severus Snape!"
The other three stared at him. "You haven't?"
"I'm not even gay!" Remus shouted.
For a moment, silence reigned in the Gryffindor dormitory. Then Sirius let out a choked, "Oh, Moony," and sat down suddenly, burying his face in his hands. His shoulders shook with silent sobs.
James blinked, his dark brown eyes openly concerned behind his glasses. "Remus," he said gently, "are you all right? Has one of the Slytherins given you a potion, or obliviated you, or something?"
"No," Remus hissed.
"Because, you know," James went on, patting Sirius anxiously on the shoulder, "I think you're breaking his heart. He loves you so much, you know, and you've been together since first year – love at first sight, and all that, and then in fourth year he finally confessed how he felt about you, after that time in third year when he first realized how you felt when you snogged him wildly in the Hospital Wing after your traumatic experience in the Shrieking Shack – I remember it vividly because you'd hated each other so much until then your affair with Snape sixth year made Sirius realize how much he was missing out on –"
From behind his fingers, Sirius sobbed, "How could you do this to me, Remus? How could you forget, after you saved me from killing myself after my family rejected me and we had that lovely snogging session in Professor Vector's office?"
James stared at Remus accusingly. "After you've been making all those strange yet remarkably explicable noises behind closed bed-curtains every night for the past four years?"
"After I proved to you how your werewolfism really didn't matter to me?" Sirius sniffled.
"Er," said Peter, "I thought you were the one making strange noises with Sirius behind closed bed-curtains, James. I heard you one night when Mabel and me came in – you know, Mabel, my girlfriend ever since -"
"I don't know where you morons are getting these crazy ideas," Remus growled. His yellow eyes glowed with the feral light of a werewolf, and he bared his too-long incisors in a growl. "But you'd better get rid of them really fast, because I'm about to lose my temper, and you know what that does to a werewolf, DON'T YOU?"
The others backed away warily as Remus stalked stiff-legged toward them, his fingers curled like claws.
James pushed Sirius and Peter behind him and faced the advancing werewolf, wand at the ready. "I know this isn't really you, Moony," he said steadily. "You can fight the wolf. I know you don't want to attack us like this – ack!" He went over backward as Remus leapt, and his wand clattered away across the floor, to come to a rest by Peter's stuffed pig Gertrude. "Sirius!" he screamed, struggling to hold off Remus without injuring him, "Get help! Get Dumbledore! Merlin's vertebrae, get him off me!"
"I won't leave you!" Sirius shouted stubbornly.
"You idiot! Werewolf bites are contagious in human form too!"
Sirius ran. Peter gave a frightened squeak and dived under his bed, taking Gertrude with him for comfort. James gripped Remus's throat, barely keeping the other Marauder's snapping teeth away. Even though he only weighed ninety pounds dripping wet, Remus had a werewolf's unnatural strength.
And then, suddenly, the wild gleam left Remus's eyes, and he collapsed like a limp balloon. James helped him over to his bed and covered him up with a fuzzy blanket, bravely ignoring the pain from the scratches Remus had inflicted on him. "All right now, Moony?" he asked gently.
Remus buried his head in his pillow and sobbed.
Half an hour later, Sirius tip-toed back in, alone. "Is he all right?" he asked softly, listening to Remus's hitching breaths.
"Fell asleep ten minutes ago," James answered ,mopping at a scratch on his cheek. "Did you fetch Madame Pomfrey? 'Cause we don't need her after all."
"Was I supposed to get Pomfrey?" Sirius asked doubtfully. "I ran into that transfer student from Durmstrang – Snape's nicer and better-looking twin, you know, and she wanted to tell me how worried she was that her brother was going to join Voldemort, and I couldn't run off and leave a pretty girl crying alone in a corner, could I?"
"You dog, you," James said, elbowing Sirius playfully in the ribs. "So, how about that potion, then? How are we going to get it into Lily's cup?"
"Trust me." Sirius gave a blinding, confident grin. "I'll handle the whole thing. She'll never notice." He took the bottle from his pocket, plucked out one of James's wild black hairs, added it, and set the bottle on the edge of his dresser. "We'll do it at breakfast."
Peter yawned enormously.
"Guess it is time to turn in," James admitted. He kicked off his shoes, shut the window, doused the light, and flung himself down on his covers. "Good night, all."
For several hours, the only sound in the seventh-year Gryffindor dormitory was that of four boys breathing in deep sleep, and a practice snitch buzzing disconsolately outside the window. Then a blood-curdling scream broke the stillness.
"Merlin's spleen!" James shouted, shooting off his bed. "What's happening?"
"Oh, God," quavered Peter, "it's Death Eaters. We're all going to die. Don't hurt me – hurt them! They're the strong ones! I'm not a threat, I'm a nonentity! A nothing! A myth! A figment of someone's imagination!"
"Lumos," croaked Remus.
Light filled the room, and they could see Sirius thrashing in the throes of a terrible nightmare. James bounded across the room, his hair even more disarrayed then usual, and shook his suffering friend by the shoulder. "Sirius! Padfoot, wake up!"
Sirius woke with a shudder, and clutched James's sleeve. Compassionately, the Head Boy patted his back. "It's all right, Sirius," he said quietly. "Your family can't get to you here."
"Ugh," Sirius groaned. "No, that's not what I was dreaming … I thought … ugh! I dreamed I was snogging Snape!"
Peter shuffled his feet nervously. "But didn't you have that brief and ill-starred time of passion at the beginning of sixth year, brought to a devastating close when you sent your Sevvie to the Whomping Willow after Remus because you wrongly suspected him of falling for your brother Regulus?"
"Peter?" said James gently.
"Do I take it from that," Remus said slowly, "that my nightmare, which was much quieter and more dignified than Sirius's, was a real memory?"
"Well, was it?" Sirius asked, unobtrusively scrubbing away his tears with Peter's furry stuffed pig.
"My nightmare about you and James informing me that I have apparently been regularly snogging you since second year?"
"Merlin's tie-dyed underwear!" James's mouth fell open in shock. "Remus, have you been snogging Sirius? And you didn't tell me?"
Sirius blinked. "Not that I'm not flattered, Moony," he drawled, "but you're really not my type. I'm dating that incredibly hot sixth year, if you remember – Dumbledore's granddaughter? The one who prophesied that I'd die a terrible death after a lifetime of pain, then assured me that we were soulmates?"
Remus fell back on his pillows. "Right," he said. "Never mind. Nox."
Several more hours of peace followed. Then a shadow moved in the darkness. It swung its feet to the floor, padded silently to a trunk, and drew something out.
"Psst!" said a voice. "Prongs, that you?"
"Keep it down, Padfoot! Don't wake up the others."
"Right. Where are you off to?"
"Kitchens. Got to put something in the Slytherins' breakfast."
"Brilliant!" Another shadow rolled off of its bed. "Why don't we all go?"
"Peter's a wet blanket anyway. We don't need him. And Remus should rest after the full moon last night, and also he might want to take points off of us, being the prefect and all."
"Full moon wasn't last night," Sirius muttered in puzzlement.
"Wasn't it? Oh, must have been some other night. Anyway, get over here under the cloak with me and let's go."
"Hang on. I'm going to get my love potion – maybe I can bribe one of the house-elves to put it in Lil's goblet, eh? That'd be a great way to do get it to her."
"Sure, whatever," said James, distracted by visions of Slytherins screaming in horror the next morning. Soft-footed, the two boys crept away, each clutching his bottle of potion in his hand.
Halfway to the kitchen, after a quick jaunt to escape Mrs. Norris, another to lure Peeves into a wandering closet, and a third to pin a sign reading Flitwick Can Charm Me Any Time to Professor McGonagall's door, the two Marauders halted by a half-open door. "Don't remember this being here before," Sirius said thoughtfully.
"No more do I, Paddy, no more do I." James clapped his friend on the shoulder and shoved him toward the door. "After you."
The room, barely as large as Gilderoy Lockhart's spare closet, contained nothing but a brightly-lit candelabra and an ornate mirror against one wall.
"Look! It's the Mirror of Erised!" James exclaimed, pointing dramatically with his potion bottle.
"The which?" Sirius eyed him as if he had gone around the bend.
"Merlin's back left molar, Sirius, don't tell me you've forgotten. It's the mirror that shows not your face, but your heart's desire. We found it first year. It showed me happily married to Lily with a family of bouncing black-haired, green-eyed Quidditch genius kids around us. Peter saw his name splashed across the front page of the Daily Prophet – poor little loser. Like that'll ever happen. Remus saw himself human under a full moon. Or a wolf under a new moon, can't remember which. And you saw Snape running into a bludger and breaking his nose." James stared at the mirror, and a goofy grin spread over his face. "Hey, I'm seeing exactly the same thing! Only this time Lily's snogging me … wow …"
"Still don't remember." Sirius shrugged, sighed, and stepped gamely up to the Mirror. He glanced into it, gave a yell of horror, and shoved James to the floor. "Get down!"
"What – oomph!" The breath rushed out of James's lungs as Sirius, diving for the safety of the ground in his own turn, landed on top of his friend. "Merlin's tonsils, what's wrong with you, you great stupid lout?" he gasped.
"Death Eaters! My family! Coming right at us!" Wild-eyed, Sirius glared up at the mirror. "You didn't tell me that thing was a Foe-Glass!"
"Sirius," James said patiently, "it's not a Foe-Glass." With his usual unfailing charm, the Gryffindor Seeker added, "Didn't know you were such a wuss, you old chicken-dog, you."
Stung, Sirius raised his head enough to peer back at the Mirror. After a moment, he remarked, "Oh. They're rushing toward us, slipping on the carpet of banana peels, and falling down hard enough to crack break their necks. Huh. Hey, my mother looks pretty funny with squashed banana all over his face."
"Right." James glared up at him. "Get off me now."
Sirius grinned, blatantly unapologetic. "Just think how grateful you'd be if I had saved you from my charging family of Death Eaters. You should be down on yours knees thanking me, really. 'I owe you my life – how can I ever repay you – oh, great wizard and peerless guardian!' Give it a try."
"In your dreams, Padfoot." James brushed off his magnificent snitch-studded pajamas, retried his wand from the floor, and suddenly realized that his bottle of potion had flown out of his hand when Sirius knocked him over. He glanced around for it hastily.
Beside him, Sirius was peering at the Mirror, muttering, "Oh, wow, you can change what you see … there's me with that really hot DaDA instructor … there's Bellatrix getting expelled … there's me as a dog chasing Mrs. Norris down the hall … mounting Kreacher's head on the wall … holding a baby? James, this thing's broken …"
James caught a glint of green glass in a corner, and retrieved his bottle gratefully. The stuff had been frightfully expensive, even for a Knockturn Alley concoction. "Come on, Padfoot, let's go. You can indulge your baby-loving tendencies at some later date."
With a final puzzled glance, Sirius let himself be dragged away. Halfway to the door, he paused. "My potion … ah!" He caught it up from where it had rolled up against the mirror's carved base and cradled it in his hand. "Whew! Would have been bad if I'd left this lying around. Imagine the consequences … Peeves might find it and conceive a desperate affection for you, James."
"Merlin's navel! Please, Sirius, there are some kinds of pictures that simply shouldn't be put in anyone's head. One of them is Peeves in love. Another is you dancing through the Great Hall wearing nothing but Peter's orange briefs and the Sorting Hat, but we said we'd never mention that again."
Sirius paled, his icy blue eyes shadowed by the horror of memory, and pushed ahead down the hallway.
James's mission went flawlessly. The house-elves fell all over themselves to help him, pointing out the Slytherins' food with fingers that vibrated from eagerness, and James gleefully poured his potion into the vat of pumpkin juice. Sirius discovered the house elves could not guarantee the receptor of each goblet, and had to carry his potion away with him. "Nothing to worry about," he assured James as they left. "You can distract her at breakfast, and I'll just put a drop in her goblet. And then … snogs all around, my friend!"
"If that was a hint for me to give you a grateful kiss," James said darkly, "consider yourself enlightened. I'd rather kiss a Blast-Ended Skrewt. On the end with the blast."
Sirius blinked. "So that undying passion you declared for me in fourth year …?"
"Figment of your imagination," James said firmly.
"And that time we made wild love behind Greenhouse Two?"
"We what?" James rounded on him in panic.
Sirius grinned. "All right, I made that one up."
Two steps later, he added, "It was actually you and Snape."
They had to drag Remus out of bed the next morning. He was teary-eyed with grief. "I attacked you yesterday, didn't I?" he moaned, pointing at the faint scratches still visible on James's face. "I'm sorry … so sorry …"
Sirius wrapped a brotherly arm around his shoulders. "Cheer up, mate. I'm sure James thought a bit of rough-and-tumble like that was just what he needed to take his mind off his broken toe and his Lily-love's rejection of him, eh?"
James blinked. "Lily and I have been dating since –"
"No you haven't." Sirius brandished his green bottle significantly, and after a moment, James' brain re-engaged.
"Oh. Oh! Yes, of course. Right." He nodded back. Significantly. "Heh. Operation Snog-Creation is a go?"
"It's going to go, all right. It's going to go where no Potter –"
"What are you two talking about?" Remus asked suspiciously. "You're not planning some awful prank on Snape, are you? I keep telling you that he's a decent fellow deep down at heart, just needs to be loved, and to get some proper soap for his hair."
James blinked. "Snape, decent? Come on, Remus, you can't be serious."
"Oh, no," Peter groaned. "James, you said the s-word!"
On cue, Sirius swung in with a cackle. "Dead right there, Jamesie! He can't be Sirius because I am the ONE AND ONLY! Unless he took Polyjuice, but even then he would be a pale imitation, without my soul, my inner fire, my innate brilliance, and my pure studly charm!"
"At least I'd manage the animal magnetism," Remus drawled, and threw a Sirius-esque wink at a fifth year passing him. She fainted dead away.
"But you'd be seriously lacking in wit!"
"Look, we settled years ago that these puns are seriously bad," James interjected.
"Oh, don't be so serious, James!"
"I can't help it, you keep rubbing off on me."
Peter interrupted excitedly as they entered the Great Hall. "Over there, guys, see? The short blonde at the Hufflepuff table, the one waving at me? That's Mabel, my girlfriend since –"
"Sure, Wormtail, whatever you say," agreed James, clearly not listening as he scanned the seething mass of students for red hair. "I'm sure breakfast will be great. Look, Padfoot, there she is!" The two abruptly veered away to squeeze onto the bench on either side of the cool, aloof Lily Evans. Remus dove at the table and was instantly engrossed in a platter of bacon. Thus abandoned, Peter sighed, smiled at his girlfriend of four years, and slid onto the bench beside a second-year.
Over among the Slytherins, Bellatrix Black had scrambled up on the table to harangue her housemates, who sat open-mouthed and un-eating under the flow of her diatribe.
"LISTEN, my brothers and sisters in PURITY! The DAY OF OUR VINDICATION is at hand! We will FREE our world from the TAINT of IMPURE BLOOD and we will somehow accomplish all this WITHOUT BEING THROWN INTO A MADHOUSE! Down Muggles, UP SLYTHERIN!"
The Lestrange brothers applauded politely, and up at the staff table the current Head of Slytherin enthusiastically followed suit. "Really, Albus," squeaked Professor Flitwick disapprovingly, "Is it wise to allow displays like that?"
Albus Dumbledore directed a benevolent twinkle at him, and gave a smile that unfortunately missed the "enigmatic" mark and swung wide into "fatuous." "Come now, my dear old friend – what harm could it possibly do?"
Flitwick considered the matter briefly. "Well, she might unite her housemates behind her in support of a murderous, violent maniac, thus ruining the good name of Slytherin House forever."
"Now you're just being ridiculous," said Albus Dumbledore. "Lemon drop?"
At Gryffindor Table, Sirius ignored the familiar spectacle of his cousin orating, and sent a devastating smile in Lily Evans's direction. It failed to devastate her. "What are you up to now?" she demanded darkly. Hurt, Sirius looked past her at James, wordlessly requesting a distraction.
"Good morning, Lily!" the usually irresistible gray-eyed Head Boy chirped. Lily's glare whipped around to him, and she put back her hand to check that he had not taped a Kiss Me sign to her back.
"It was a good morning, wasn't it? Right up until I noticed you. What a shame such a promising day has been ruined."
Nothing daunted, James forged on. "How about that last Quidditch game, then? Did you see the way I whipped that snitch out from under Rosier's nose?"
"No, I did not." Lily's eyes glinted with ire. "And I hope I never will, given that you're a Chaser, James Potter, and have no business whipping snitches out from under anything!"
Sirius deftly tipped the last drop of his potion into her pumpkin juice and adroitly slid the empty green bottle up his sleeve. "Right, mate," he chirped, looking as innocent as a newborn lamb. "Lily's Seeker, remember? And Rosier graduated two years ago."
"Rosier's right over there," Lily snapped, pointing an imperious finger at the Slytherin table. "And don't you dare talk to me, Sirius Lee Black! Where were you last night?"
Sirius tried not to look guilty. It didn't work.
"Ha!" Lily's hand flashed out and slapped his cheek. "I knew it! You were with some floozy! Probably that horrid gilt-haired half-veela Malfoy girl from Slytherin! How dare you treat me like that?"
"Like what?" Sirius faltered. "And I thought my middle name was Orion …?"
"You stood me up!" Lily screamed. "Our nine-week-anniversary, and you stood me up!"
James's dark brown eyes widened in shock. "Sirius!" he cried in anguish. "How could you date Lily behind my back? You know I love her!"
"Oh, grow up, James, we're all mad about Lily – er, that is, I mean – what, me fancy Evans? Never!"
Lily choked on a scream of rage. Her face reddened until it made her hair look normal, and James slapped her back, alarmed. "Lils! Get a hold of yourself! Don't choke, darling, please! Here, drink this." He poured her pumpkin juice down her throat, and after a moment she faded from brick-red to mere crimson, gave a breathless shriek, and slapped Sirius's face again.
"You – you – you cad!"
James glared over her head at his best friend. "You deserved that. Merlin's tongue, I can't believe this, Sirius. You're dating the girl destined to marry me! Bloody hell, I thought you were my friend."
"So did I," Sirius mumbled, rubbing his bruised cheek. "That Evans, she's some Beater …"
"She's a Chaser," James began hotly, and then Lily turned into a walrus.
There was a momentary lull in the conversation.
"Huh," Sirius finally said. "Somehow that's not what I thought a love potion would do." He noticed that James had turned a ghastly shade of white, his turquoise eyes widening in mute horror behind his spectacles, his unruly hair making a determined effort to stand on end. "James, something wrong?"
"That's my potion," James croaked. "I was going to turn the Slytherins into walruses. Lily's going to kill me. Twice. And then she'll hate me forever. How in the name of the Giant Squid did this happen?"
Sirius inched slowly back from the walrus, which seemed to be testing out the sharpness of its tusks on Lily's pile of eggs and crumpets. "I don't know! The potions must have somehow gotten switched … Maybe when that Mirror thing happened … Honest to goodness I didn't know about it, I swear on my honor as a Black."
Remus slowly set down his bacon, sausage, and bacon sandwich. "I think the only relevant question here," he said carefully, "is what the hell happened to the love potion?"
Instinctively, every head within hearing distance of the Marauder cluster swung toward the Slytherin table … where a hundred pairs of glittering eyes were fixed hungrily on the hapless form of James Potter.
Without daring to move his eyes, Sirius whispered out of the corner of his mouth, "Prongs … run!"
The Slytherin table crashed to the ground at the same moment that the walrus swung its tusks violently sideways at the Head Boy's suddenly-empty spot on the bench.
"Merlin's earwax!" James screamed as he sprinted out of the Great Hall, pursued by shrieking green-and-silver-badged students of every size and shape, "I'm going to get snogged by Slytherins!"
The Gryffindors stared after him in horror. Peter Pettigrew eventually broke the silence, his voice squeaky with reproach. "That was a mean prank. You should be ashamed of yourself!"
"Eh," Sirius said carelessly. "Bite me."
Remus burst into tears.
… except for James.