Set towards the end of an early year of the Marauders.
Disclaimer: The Harry Potter universe and all related materials are the property of J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury and Warner Brothers. I am in no way affiliated with JKR, Bloomsbury or Warner Brothers, and use their materials without their permission or knowledge.
All was quiet in the halls of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The students had retreated to their respective dormitories, the teachers had retired to their rooms, the paintings had put on their pyjamas and gotten as comfortable as possible, and even the ghosts had gone off to haunt livelier premises.
In the dim light of lamps that had not completely burnt down, the portrait of a Fat Lady slid noiselessly open just enough to allow a solitary figure to slip through.
Not waiting for the painting to swing back to its normal place covering the entrance to the Gryffindor common room, the shadowy figure raced down the hallways and stairs, disappearing into the gloom of the castle.
A few moments passed before anything else happened. Then suddenly the Fat lady was rudely flung from her chair as the picture was slammed open.
"Who's there?" she shouted.
"Sssshhhhsss up you old bag!" came a voice seemingly from thin air.
"Sirius I don't think you should talk to her that way," said a second voice.
"Quiet! Now she knows his name, and stop treading on my toes," snapped a third voice.
"Sorry, James," said the second voice.
"You rat-brain," said the first voice, after a slight pause. "You just can't keep your mouth closed can you?"
"What's going on?" yelled the fat lady in the portrait. "I can hear you but I can't see you. Where are you? Is that you Peeves?"
"Yeah, yeah. Its Peeves," answered the first voice, in a bad imitation of the resident poltergeist. "Now shut it before I do something bad to your frame!"
Several sniggers accompanied this announcement as the painting was swung back into position and the Fat Lady stood with an indignant frown on her face.
If she said anything else, the three marauders didn't hear, as they had moved on.
"Right which way did he go? I can't see him," whispered Sirius.
"Wait a second and I'll look," answered James. "Peter, take out the map, and why have you brought along your school books? There is hardly enough room in here for the three of us without you lugging along books."
"It's my homework," answered the slightly squeaky voice of Peter Pettigrew. "I haven't finished and McGonagall is going to turn me into a chair if I don't get it done for tomorrow. I need Remus to help me."
"Really, Peter, I thought you would have learned by now. McGonagall won't turn you into a chair for not doing your homework. Will she James?"
"A chair, no, a fish bowl for her pet Grindy maybe, but not a chair," answered James.
"Although it wouldn't be so bad if you were a chair; it might be the only time in your life that you ever get a girl to sit on your lap," added Sirius. "There's a cheerful thought eh? Always look on the bright side, that's what I say. Now get the map out or well lose him, and if that happens, I'll turn you into a poker for the fire place."
"Here it is. Mischief Managed. Er, MISCHIEF MANAGED. Nothing is happening, James. I think it is broken."
"Peter, you are without a doubt, the worst magician I have ever met. That is the spell to hide the map, remember?"
"Oh yes, yes. I swear I am up to good."
"JUST GIVE IT HERE YOU IDIOT!"
"QUIETLY, Sirius, quietly. He might still be close by. Well have to change places, but be careful to keep the cloak on."
The sounds of a brief struggle took place as Sirius tried to extract the map from Peter while still holding the Invisibility cloak and swapping places with James.
"I solemnly swear I am up to NO good!" he pronounced quietly. "Right, hey! He is outside already."
"That sly dog. I knew it was a girl he has been sneaking out to visit," said James. "I bet he is heading for the big tree near the lake."
"Maybe he is just getting some fresh air," said Peter.
"If he wanted air, I think he would have opened a window, don't you, Peter?"
"Quickly, we are going to have to run to catch him. Lose the cloak until we get outside."
The three boys suddenly appeared in the hallway as the invisibility cloak was hastily removed and stuffed into James's jacket. Wasting no time, they began to run to the exit in pursuit of their prey.
By the time they reached the large doors leading outside, all three were panting, but Peter, who arrived last, almost collapsed. The two taller boys had already opened the door a crack and were peering out into the night.
"You really need to get fitter, Pettigrew. Honestly man, you look like you are going to have a heart attack," said Sirius, when Peter finally joined them.
"It's the books," puffed Peter. "They are heavy."
"Leave them behind then."
"McGonagall will kill me. I need Remus' help!" protested the smaller boy.
"Give them to me then," said James, taking the books and parchments from Peter. "Although I can't for the life of me understand how you think you are going to get any work done tonight"
Peter gratefully gave his parcel to James while Sirius took the map and searched for any sign of the fourth member of their quartet.
'Looks like he is heading that way," he said, pointing out the door. "Not towards Hogsmeade after all. Interesting. Quick, back under the cloak and let's go."
The three struggled to get back under the coat and started making their way to where their friend had gone.
"You lose, Sirius," said James, after a few minutes walking. "He is not going to the town after all. Told you it was girl."
"Don't count your dragons 'till they hatch Potter. Not until they hatch and burn your fingers, off my friend. He could have found another way into the town."
"Right, and he might even be going to study in secret like Peter thought too, eh?" replied James. "Face it. He is going to meet a girl. Wonder who it is?"
"Maybe its Evans," sniggered Peter.
"Don't be ridiculous, Peter," snapped James instantly. "She would never consort with anybody as lowly as Remus. I know that for a fact."
"And how did you come to that certain conclusion, James?" asked Sirius.
"Because those were her words the last time I asked her to go out with me. 'I would never go out with a low life like you, ever' is what she said, and since I am obviously the least lowly out of the four of us, it stands to reason she would never sneak off with Remus."
"I think maybe you need to find a shrinking potion for that ego of yours, Potter," said Sirius, without taking his eyes off the map. "Hang on. He's gone!"
"He just disappeared off the map!"
"Let me look."
"I CAN READ THE MAP, JAMES!"
"Will you keep your voice down? If Remus is here, he will hear us - and Pomfrey has been seen around out here at night too, you know! Maybe he just wandered into one of the bits we haven't mapped yet?"
"HE IS NOT DAMN WELL HERE. NOBODY IS. THAT IS THE POINT!" shouted Sirius.
"Maybe he went back to bed?" suggested Peter hesitantly.
"Peter, please be quiet or I will have to hex you. Sirius, keep your voice down and give me the map."
There was another round of shuffling as books and maps were swapped, then a short period of inactivity, followed by the sound of a parchment getting folded, turned over, and unfolded with increasing rapidity.
"Well?" asked Sirius.
"I can't find him," admitted James.
"Thank you," said Sirius tartly. "Now what do we do?"
"Maybe we should go back to the dorm," suggested Peter. Both of the other boys ignored him.
"Well first thing we do is get out from under this cloak, because if Peter gets any more nervous he may just have another accident, and I, for one, don't want to be anywhere near him if that happens again."
"I warned you my tummy gets upset when I am nervous!" protested Peter.
"Your tummy wasn't upset Peter," replied James, taking the cloak and rolling it up again. "It was dying. If fact, it smelt like something had already died inside of you several days before and was finally reaching the outside world where it was going to attack people like a mad ghost until they in turn died from the shock, or the smell. Now, let's go look at the place where you last saw Remus on the map Sirius."
"Way ahead of you, Potter," came the reply from several feet away.
"Damn," complained James, as he ran off after Sirius leaving Peter with his books.
They stood at the base of a tree that normally tried to strike people with its branches, but was now apparently asleep, and stared into the narrow cave that had appeared there.
"I have never seen this here before," said Sirius, staring into the cave. "Where did it come from, and why is the tree not trying to slap us like it normally does?"
"I don't know about the tree, but the cave must have had a concealment charm on it," said James, also staring into the dark tunnel.
"Looks like he might have been in a bit of a hurry eh?" said Sirius. "Luckily, he forgot to cover his secret passage to Hogsmeade."
"For the last time, I am telling you it is a girl," said James, but his tone lacked confidence.
"Should we go in?" asked Peter, when he caught up. "We don't know where it goes, or what might be in there."
"Of course we go in."
"Oh," said Peter, trying to keep an eye on the tree and look into the cave at the same time. "It's very dark in there."
"Lumos," said Sirius, and a bright light shone from his wand. Without waiting, he entered the cave.
James instantly cast the same spell and followed Sirius in.
Peter waited a few seconds, debating if he should go in, wait here, or go back into the castle. A howl sounded far off and the branches of the tree swayed slightly, startling him into action.
"Wait for me," he cried, rushing into the cave to catch up with his best friends.
The cave seemed to go on forever and, despite James' denials, appeared to be heading to the nearby town of Hogsmeade.
Finally, they arrived at the end of the tunnel. There was a very ordinary looking door, and from behind the door, there came some quiet rumbling noises, like a low conversation.
Peter giggled and Sirius looked slightly embarrassed. James smiled broadly.
"Told you it was a girl," he whispered smugly. "Bet they are in there whispering sweet nothings to each other."
"Maybe it is Evans then," snapped Sirius tartly, as he stepped forward and took hold of the door handle. "Ready?"
James frowned darkly at the suggestion, but braced himself then nodded that he was ready.
"Peter you had better stay here. You might not be old enough to see what is going on in there," said Sirius.
"I am the same age as you!" complained Peter.
"Never the less, the shock might make your tummy upset again, and we wouldn't want that to happen now would we?"
"AHA! Caught you Remus!" yelled Sirius, bursting through the door.
"And who is your friend?" yelled James, appearing beside him.
Both stopped, the smiles on their faces frozen. Standing in front of them, not ten feet away, was an enormous wolf. It was chewing on the leg of a chair when they burst in, but now it was looking at them in apparent surprise.
"Oh crud," said James. "Don't move a muscle," he whispered out of the corner of his mouth. "If we aren't threatening, maybe it won't attack."
"Us threatening? Us? What in the world would make you think it could possibly consider us threatening? Look at the size of it."
The wolf dropped the mangled chair and stared at them, its yellow eyes moving from one to the other. Slowly its lips curled into a snarl and a low grumbling growl began deep in its throat.
"CAN I COME IN YET?" called Peter, from where they had left him in the tunnel.
The sudden noise startled all three of them out of their immobility. The wolf leapt over the mangled furniture and raced towards them.
Screaming in terror, the boys tried to turn and run back out the way they had just entered, but the door swung closed and, in their panic, the door handle they were fighting over came off in James' hand.
The wolf leapt onto an intervening lounge chair and then sprung at them.
James threw himself to one side and Sirius automatically dived the other way. The wolf, confused by now having two targets, twisted its head mid flight to snap at both of them, and crashed into the closed door.
James ran further into the room and got another lounge chair between himself and the beast, who rose from where it had fallen and began to chase him.
"STUPEFY!" cast Sirius, from where he had tumbled across the other side of the room.
The spell hit the side of the wolf causing it to yelp, but it did not fall to the ground as he had hoped. Instead it whirled around and focussed its almost glowing eyes on him.
"Oh double crud," said Sirius, as he got to feet and took flight into the house.
The wolf gave chase.
James had his wand out and shot a spell at the charging creature but missed as it chased his friend who was weaving a winding course through the various tables and chairs.
"REMUS," screamed Sirius, running for his life. "CALL OFF YOUR DOG. REMUS. HELP!"
The wolf snapped at Sirius's robes, trying to get a hold on the fleeing boy.
Screaming wildly, James charged after them, casting spell after spell, determined to not let Sirius be eaten by the beast.
As Sirius leapt on top of an old piano, one of James's spells hit the wolf in a tender spot of its rump. The beats yelped again and whirled around to face the attack.
"Oh bugger," said James, realising he was far too close and had no cover between himself and the wolf.
"Nice doggy," he said, in what he hoped was a comforting tone, but in reality was barely less than a panicked scream.
The wolf charged.
Sirius threw himself off the top of the piano and landed on the wolf's back.
The wolf, committed to its charge but thrown off balance by Sirius, stumbled and fell.
Sirius, wand still in one hand, clung desperately onto the back of the huge monster with hands and feet, but the momentum of the crash tossed him off and he flew spectacularly to land on top of James, sending them both tumbling over a lounge chair.
Peter entered the room, books still held in his arms. He stared stupidly at the scene in front of him before his eyes locked on to the massive creature a few feet away and his mouth dropped open in terror.
The wolf, groggy from the crash and still getting to its feet, saw Peter and immediately attacked. In one bound, it knocked him to the ground and proceeded to try to tear his throat out.
Screaming incoherently, Peter used his books to fend off the snapping jaws of the beast. The monster tore through the volumes mercilessly.
"STUPEFY! STUPEFY!" came the twin spells from Sirius and James.
This time, the combined efforts of their spells had the desired effect, and with a yelp, the wolf slumped unconscious on top of Peter, who went on screaming for quite some time.
"Mister Pettigrew. In all my years of teaching at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I have never heard such an unconvincing excuse. Is that really the best you could come up with for not completing the relatively simple assignment you were given?" asked Professor McGonagall.
Peter sunk even further into his chair before turning a desperate, pleading gaze on his friends.
James bent double in an effort to keep his laughter in, but Sirius completely lost control and was actually rolling on the floor next to his desk.
Only Remus managed to look somewhat serious.
"It's true, Professor," said Lupin forlornly. "A dog really did eat his homework."