A HARE-Y LITTLE PROBLEM
Summary: /ONESHOT/ Harry has an opportunity to view a Pensieve memory of his parents—When Lily overhears James commenting on Remus's "furry little problem" the Marauders must do some fast talking to get themselves out of a sticky situation.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or anything associated with it. It all belongs to the wonderful J.K. Rowling.
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Lupin burst out laughing. "James called it my 'furry little problem' in company. Many people were under the impression that I owned a badly behaved rabbit."
--Page 335, American Edition, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
o – o – o – o – o – o – o
"For he's a jolly good fellow! For he's a jolly good fellow! For he's a jolly good feellllooowww! That nobody can deny!"
Fred and George's enthusiastic bellowing drowned out the rest of the singers as the birthday boy's cake was levitated out and set on the table. Seventeen Weasley Wizard Wheezes' Golden Sprite Candles adorned the cake, shooting sparkles into the air and covering the frosting. The words "Happy Birthday Harry!", which had been expertly charmed onto the cake, blinked red and gold.
"Blow out the candles, Harry!" Ron urged.
Harry smiled and looked around at the gathering surrounding him for his first real birthday party. He still found it amazing that most everyone had made it. Tonks, Moody and Lupin had arrived at the Burrow several hours before in order to set up additional defensive spells and Hagrid had Flooed in shortly before lunch, bringing with him a plate of rock cakes to share. Many of his classmates were there as well. Neville, Dean, Seamus and Luna had all shown up, along with many of the members of the DA.
He took a deep breath and blew out the candles. Everyone cheered.
"What'd you wish for?" asked Ron, as Harry was handed a knife to cut the cake.
"Hush, Ron, he can't tell you or it won't come true," Hermione said.
"That's only a Muggle superstition," Ron countered. "It doesn't make a difference if he tells anyone or not. Come on, Harry. What'd you wish for?"
At Ron's insistence, Harry froze. Truthfully, he hadn't wished for anything. He'd completely forgotten about the tradition of making wishes when you blew out birthday candles. He scrambled to come up with something that wasn't too morbid, but nothing came to mind that wouldn't destroy the high spirits of everyone at the party.
I wonder, Harry thought, what everyone would say if I told them that I wished to live long enough to have another birthday, or that I wished Dumbledore hadn't died. Or that I wished that I could kill Snape. He shook his head ruefully. That would certainly put a damper on things.
Ron must have taken Harry's movement as refusal because he broke into to Harry's thoughts. "Fine, don't tell me," he said indignantly, but his tone was playful. "I'm only your best friend."
"Right." Harry tried to smile. "Who wants cake?" he asked, steering safely away from the depressing topic.
Wrong question, Harry realized, a moment too late. As soon as he spoke a chorus of "I do!" echoed through the room. He grinned. "I suppose the easier question would be: Who doesn't want cake?"
"I'll just have a small piece," said Hermione.
"Sure thing," Harry replied, passing the piece over.
"None for me, Potter." Unsurprisingly, that was Mad-Eye Moody. He sat perched on the windowsill, presumably on the lookout for any Death Eaters who might be trying to crash Harry's birthday party.
"Alright. Anyone else?"
"Harry dear," Mrs. Weasley interjected, "let me cut the rest of the cake. You sit down and enjoy yourself. It's really only tradition for the birthday boy to cut the first slice or two. Go on now."
Chastened, Harry relinquished the knife to Mrs. Weasley with a smile and went to join his friends on the sofa. Ron and Neville shifted apart to make room for him to sit as Mrs. Weasley continued to pass around cake.
Soon everyone had been served. Harry took a bite and was surprised to find the middle of the cake filled with gooey chocolate. Another bite and he got a burst of strawberry. Around him his friends were gobbling down their own cake.
Tonks spoke up, her mouth full of cake. "Molly, this is delicious. I don't know where you found the time to make it. You're already so busy with the wedding preparations."
"Well, it's true that I've had a bit of help," Mrs. Weasley said. "Dobby and a few of his friends have been helping with some of the baking lately. Professor McGonagall hasn't needed nearly as much work done up at Hogwarts now that the school's not opening in the fall and she offered the help; I'm practically feeding an army here."
"You've been using house-elves?" Hermione exclaimed, dropping her fork. Harry had to elbow Ron to keep him from laughing at the look of appall on Hermione's face.
"Well, yes dear," Mrs. Weasley replied, as she removed the remaining cake from the table and headed towards the kitchen. "They are rather bored at Hogwarts, what with no one too cook for and no preparations for the upcoming year."
"You going to be starting up S.P.E.W. again, Hermione?" Seamus joked.
"Don't give her any ideas Seamus," Ron replied through a mouthful of cake. "If we're not careful, next year we could be celebrating HEAD."
"House Elf Awareness Day. She'd have house-elves parading the streets of Hogsmeade, handing out leaflets that say things like 'There's too many cooks in the kitchens, free the house-elves!' or 'Socks today, tomorrow the world!' "
Everyone burst out laughing as Ron imitated the house-elves high, squeaky voices.
"Ron!" Hermione exclaimed, but Ron wasn't finished yet.
"And you could have Harry speak to them!"
"Cor, Hermione!" Dean exclaimed. "That's what you need! A celebrity spokesperson!"
"Like Sidney Knowles from Puddlemere," Fred cut in. "He shows up at all of his Firebolt endorsements with a blonde on his arm."
"'Cept in this case it'd be a certain red head!" George added knowingly, not bothering to lower his voice. Harry could feel his face turning scarlet and took a drink from his glass in an attempt to cover his embarrassment. Ginny was sitting right across the table and he didn't want--
"Ron, you'll be sure to wear something pretty for Harry, won't you?"
Harry choked on his drink. His eyes watered and he felt someone whack him on the back. He vaguely registered the fact that someone, probably Ron, had hit Fred in the forehead with a piece of cake. As he sputtered and coughed, trying to shake himself back into focus, he could hear the room roaring with laughter.
"Harry, you alright?" Neville asked.
"Blimey… Fred, I think we've managed to kill off the Boy-Who-Lived! Not even You-Know-Who's managed that. You think we'll be in trouble?"
"Someone's going to be killed," Ron growled, reaching for his wand. "But it won't be Harry."
"Oh, I'm so scared!" Fred joked. "Is ickle Ronniekins going to hex his big brothers?"
"You should be scared. I've learned some pretty good hexes over the last few years. Plus I'm of age now so you can't prank me all summer."
"What are you going to do with that thing?" George taunted, indicating the wand in Ron's outstretched hand. "Poke us? Sunshine, daisies, butter mellow, turn this stupid, fat rat—"
"George!" Hermione scolded.
"Do you really have to bring that rat up right now? It's Harry's birthday party and I don't think he wants to be reminded—"
Ron didn't wait for Hermione to finish to get his revenge. His wand was drawn in a flash, and before anyone could move, he hissed, "Homarus americanus."
"Would you look at that!"
The change was instant. Before everyone's eyes, Fred and George began to shrink. Their skin hardened and then brightened until it matched the colour of their hair (which had receded into their heads). Their eyes shrunk and became black and beady. Their feet melded together, creating a tail, and large antenna sprouted out of their foreheads.
Ron had transfigured the twins into lobsters.
Just as the room exploded in laughter, Mrs. Weasley returned from the kitchen. "What in Merlin's name is going on in here!" she exclaimed.
"It does seem a bit fishy in here, doesn't it?" Hermione quipped, causing everyone to laugh harder. Fred's claw snapped up in an attempt to pinch Ron. Harry couldn't help but notice a few of his friends wiping tears from their eyes as they took deep breaths to calm down.
"Ronald Bilius Weasley! You know you're not supposed to turn your brothers into lobsters!" Mrs. Weasley shrilled. "You're lucky that it's Harry's birthday or else you would be up to your room this instant! As it is, I'll be speaking with you later. Ginny, dear, would you help me take your brothers up to the bath? I don't want them drying out." Mrs. Weasley pulled out her wand and in a moment's time both twins were flapping in midair.
"All right," Ginny grumbled, getting up and following Fred and George toward the stairs. "I don't see why I have to do it. It's not like I turned them into lobsters. It's Ron's fault."
"Just remember that the next time you try to hex me!" Ron hollered up the stairs after the twins as they were floated up the stairs under the wand of Mrs. Weasley.
One thing was certain; life at the Weasleys' was never boring.
As the laughter died down, Harry's eye was drawn to Lupin. He and Tonks were speaking in hushed tones. Whatever they were discussing, they both looked rather serious. When Lupin stood and began to move toward the kitchen, Harry rose to follow him.
"Harry?" Ron called after him.
"I'll be right back," Harry replied over his shoulder.
When he reached the threshold of the kitchen he stopped. Leaning in the doorway he crossed his arms and surveyed the room. Lupin was standing by the fireplace, a large package in his hands.
"Are you leaving?" Harry asked abruptly.
Lupin spun around in surprise. "Harry! I didn't hear you there. No, I'm not leaving until after dinner. I just came in here to get something that Professor McGonagall dropped off. Are you enjoying your birthday party?" Lupin asked, setting the box on the table.
"It's brilliant," Harry replied, crossing the room so that he was standing next to Lupin. "It was really nice of the Weasleys to plan this."
"You know they think of you as part of their family."
Harry nodded. He smiled as he recalled the lecture that Mrs. Weasley had given him when he had arrived at the Burrow only days earlier. Now, with Dumbledore gone, he hadn't wanted to place the Weasley family in any more jeopardy than they were already in. He had chewed on the idea of taking a room in a Muggle hotel instead of returning to the Burrow for the wedding, and he had made the mistake of saying so within earshot of Ron and Hermione. The two of them had lit into him on that! Eventually they relented when he swore that he wouldn't take off without them, and everything had returned to relative normalcy.
But somehow Mrs. Weasley had managed to find out, because he had hardly opened the door to the Burrow before he was greeted with a scolding that put most Howlers to shame! Mrs. Weasley had made it very clear that he was not going anywhere and then had promptly cast Petrificus Totalus on him and left him lying there for twenty minutes to "think about what he'd done." The wizarding version of a time-out chair, Harry supposed.
It was nice to know that he could go to Ron's parents for help if he needed to, even though he never would. He didn't dare let anyone beyond himself, Ron and Hermione know all of his plans for looking for Horcruxes. It was too dangerous. But still…he had never really had that option before and it was comforting to know that it was there.
"Harry," Lupin continued, breaking Harry's contemplation. "This may not be the best time for this; however, Professor McGonagall has been sorting through Professor Dumbledore's affairs and recently came across a letter. It's addressed to you."
Wordlessly, Harry took the proffered envelope. Turning it over in his hands, he ran his fingers over the lettering. His name was written there in the handwriting that he had come to associate with Dumbledore; the elegant, spirally script that he had seen so many other times and would never see again.
"I suspect you will wish to examine its contents in a more private setting."
An indistinct noise from his throat was Harry's only response.
"He also indicated in his will that you were to receive his Pensieve," Lupin said, gesturing to the box on the table.
Harry froze. Of course he had. He couldn't simply leave all of that evidence lying about. Proof that someone knew about Voldemort's Horcruxes…proof of Dumbledore's understanding of Voldemort. He would have to review the memories with Hermione and Ron before they left. With any luck, they might find some clues that Dumbledore had missed.
Concerned, Lupin moved toward Harry. "Harry, I know this is difficult…"
"No," Harry shook his head. He held out a hand to stop Lupin's approach. "No, I'm all right."
"Are you sure?" Lupin asked. He looked skeptical.
"Really," Harry insisted. He was surprised at how much truth there was in that statement.
The truth was, he was all right. Or rather, he was better than he had expected to be. At least he was doing something, rather than sitting around moping at the Dursleys' all summer. He, Ron, and Hermione had been researching throughout the nights, when everyone else was asleep, ever since the trio had arrived at the Burrow. Hermione's sleep replacement spell was only a poor substitute for real sleep, and so they drank coffee to keep themselves alert as they searched. What they were searching for they weren't sure, but anything that looked remotely useful was jotted down…searching spells… artifacts that had once belonged to the founders…potential locations of hidden Horcruxes…ideas to destroy the Horcruxes once they were found.
Hermione had somehow managed to convince Madam Pince to give her an Owl Access Pass to the library's Restricted Section over the summer and the books had proven to be a veritable gold mine of information. Personally, Harry thought that Professor McGonagall, understanding that Dumbledore had left him with an important task of some sort, had a hand in convincing Madam Pince to part with her beloved books. They weren't planning to leave until after the wedding, but when the time came, Hermione was confident that they would be ready for whatever was to come.
Harry could only hope that she was right.
"Very well, if you are certain…" Lupin drifted off uncertainly.
They stood there in awkward silence. Neither of them seemed to know how best to break the stillness. Harry noticed that Lupin seemed to having some sort of internal debate. He kept opening his mouth as though he wanted to say something, only to close it again. Finally he took a deep breath and spoke.
"Would you like to see a memory of your parents?"
"What?" Harry asked, flabbergasted at the non sequitur.
"Well, I know you have precious few memories of James and Lily. I brought the Pensieve with me today to give to you and I thought... If you don't want to, I understand."
"No, I want to!" Harry exclaimed. "I just – you surprised me, that's all. But — of course I want to see my parents!"
"All right, then," Lupin said, smiling at Harry's outburst.
"What memory were you thinking of?" Harry asked.
Lupin considered the question for a moment before he spoke. "Do you remember last Christmas when you said that my lycanthropy was just a 'problem' I had?"
Harry nodded. Of course he remembered. He treasured every story that had been told to him about his parents. "You said that my dad used to call it your 'furry little problem' and that most people thought you had a pet rabbit."
"Yes, well there was one time that it got a bit out of hand."
"What happened?" Harry asked.
"Your mother," Lupin chuckled, "overheard him and decided to help me look for my missing rabbit."
"The one that didn't exist."
"Exactly. It was the one time that Dumbledore –" Lupin stopped abruptly. "It just occurred to me… You do realise, Harry, that Professor Dumbledore will be in this memory?"
Harry's heartstrings clenched as he answered. "Yes."
This time it was Harry's gut that clenched. To think that Peter Pettigrew had once been a friend of his father's — even for a little while — made him see red. But he wanted to see his parents, and for that he would gladly put up with the rat's presence. Harry nodded.
Lupin watched Harry for a long moment before responding.
"All right." Lupin nodded. "You know that the Marauders were pranksters while growing up. Most of the time the pranks that we played were aimed at the Slytherins, although our own housemates and Filch were victims of more than their fair share of pranks as well. It wasn't even unheard of for us to prank a teacher from time to time. We could usually manage to trick Professor Slughorn, and we even surprised Professor McGonagall a few times. The only person in the castle who always seemed to know what we were doing before we did it was Professor Dumbledore. That wasn't for lack of trying though! The number of times we tried to prank Dumbledore…we never did manage to surprise him."
"He must have seen right through you," Harry teased lightly.
"Of course he did!" Lupin replied with a laugh as he lifted the top off the box on the table to reveal Dumbledore's Pensieve. "There were many times that he would allude to knowing about a prank before we even pulled it. Some veiled phrase or gesture, and then his eyes would twinkle and you just knew that he knew what you were going to do." Lupin shook his head. "But we could never confirm it."
"That sounds just like Dumbledore," Harry replied with a sad smile.
"Come here, Harry," Lupin said, beckoning Harry over to the Pensieve. It was just as Harry remembered it, swirling with silvery memories. Harry watched as Remus took out his wand and, placing it to his temple, extracted the memory.
"Are you coming with me?" Harry asked hopefully.
"I can't," Lupin replied. Harry's face fell, causing Lupin to elaborate further. "Unfortunately, the memories are not the only thing silver about a Pensieve. The stone basin is able to capture memories because of a varnish of silver gilded over the edge of the bowl. I can't enter a Pensieve without the silver poisoning me." Lupin paused for a moment to study Harry. Harry's disappointment must have shown because Lupin quickly continued. "I will, however, await your return," he said in a reassuring tone.
"All right," said Harry. He looked down to study the Pensieve. Lupin's memory swirled around, the texture not quite liquid, not quite mist. Taking a deep breath, he bent forward and entered the Pensieve, noting the familiar falling sensation that had accompanied all of his other excursions into the basin.
Finally it stopped.
He was abruptly thrown down onto solid ground. After taking a moment to regain his balance, he picked himself up. Brushing grass stains from his pants, Harry took a moment to assess his surroundings. He had landed on Hogwarts front lawn on a crisp autumn day. The students milling about the grounds had on their light cloaks. A few of them had also donned their house scarves.
A short distance away, Harry spotted four boys relaxing beneath a tree. As he got closer, he recognised them. His father and Sirius were bent over a piece of paper that Harry recognised as the Marauder's Map. Sirius had his wand out and was placing some sort of enchantment on the map. Next to them, Lupin was resting against the tree, looking through a book, and Wormtail was, once again, eagerly watching James's and Sirius's every move.
The four boys looked older than they had in Snape's memory. Suddenly, James shifted toward Harry, and he could see the Head Boy badge glistening on his chest. It had to be seventh year.
"I added the tunnel behind the one-eyed witch to the map yesterday," James was saying. "I've even got the password on there."
"Have you found anything, Moony?" Sirius asked.
"Just a charm that gives parchment personality," Lupin replied from over the top of the book. "But I don't think that's going to help us finish the map."
"What kind of personality?" James asked.
"Whatever you want it to be." Lupin shifted closer to Sirius and James so that they could see the book. The three of them leaned over the book as Lupin explained. "See, you cast the Personifas charm on the parchment, then say the name you want to give the personality while concentrating hard on the personality you want to transfer. Then when you're finished creating the personality you flick to end the spell."
"This is brilliant!" James exclaimed. "We can have Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs be guardians for the map. They'll keep anyone out who isn't supposed to see it."
"Like Filch," Wormtail said.
"And we can have them insult anyone who tries to use the map without the password!" Sirius added.
"You just like insulting people, Padfoot." James grinned.
"And I've got a perfect insult for Snivellus. If anyone named Snape ever tries to use that map I'm going to make sure that they call him slimy and tell him to wash his hair!"
"So we'll use the Personifas then?"
"Get out your wands," Sirius said, picking up his own as he spoke. "We'll do it right now."
"Wait…" Lupin said, skimming down the page of the book. "It looks like we have to complete the map before adding the personalities. Once we do we won't be able to add anything else. What other passageways do we still need to explore?"
"I asked Nearly Headless Nick about that seventh passage that no one seems to know about," Sirius said. "He said it's supposed to be located somewhere on the second floor."
"You would think that a ghost would just walk through a wall and stumble across it," James said, thinking out loud.
"Peeves might know where it is. Who wants to ask him?" asked Lupin, addressing the three other Marauders from over the top of his book.
"He won't tell us anything," said Peter. "Last time I asked him something I got sprayed with syrup."
"I don't see why we can't just take the south passage next time we want to go to Hogsmeade," James said.
"It's filled with boggarts," Sirius said. "Do you want to fight them all again?"
"It won't matter this time," James insisted, "we'll just send Remus in first…what with Remus's furry little problem. We'll be fine."
"Don't call it that!" Remus whispered urgently.
"No one knows what I'm talking about. Who's going to care if I say that you have a furry little problem?" James replied with a laugh. He snatched the snitch from the air again.
"What 'furry little problem' might that be?" The voice had come from behind Harry. He spun around to see Lily Evans crossing the grounds towards the Marauders, a suspicious look on her face and a single eyebrow raised.
"Good one, Prongs," muttered Sirius as he elbowed James in the side. The Marauders looked at each other nervously. Harry noticed that Lupin had paled slightly.
"Hi, Lily," James greeted her, running a hand through his hair to make it stand up on end. His manner suggested someone who was trying very hard to be casual and not succeeding very well. His eyes flitted from side to side, hardly making eye contact with Lily's penetrating gaze. Harry couldn't help wonder: if his parents had lived, would he have found that gaze on himself? Considering all the trouble he got into, he had no doubt that he would have. Frequently.
Lily simply repeated herself. "What 'furry little problem'?"
"You're looking positively radiant today, Lily Evans," James said, making a very poor attempt to dodge the question. "May I have the honor of escorting you to Hogsmeade next weekend?"
"Give up, Potter!" Lily said with a shake of her head.
"I'm just asking!" James threw up his hands.
Harry sighed. It looked like his mother still hated his father in this memory. When he had seen his father's Head Boy badge he had rather hoped that they weren't still at each other's throats. After his escapade into Snape's Pensieve during fifth year, he had spent hours wondering what his mother had seen in his father. Sirius and Lupin had said that James eventually grew up, but Harry had yet to see any proof.
"For the hundredth time, no! Now, what 'furry little problem'?" she demanded. "What's wrong with Remus?"
For a moment, James froze. Harry couldn't help but notice that he (rather appropriately) looked like a deer in headlights as he tried to come up with a lie to cover his blunder.
"It's not Remus," James improvised.
"No?" Lily asked suspiciously.
"It's his…" James scrambled to come up with something, "his…his rabbit. That's the problem."
"Yeah, his rabbit," Peter echoed.
"Oh, I didn't know you had a rabbit, Remus," Lily responded. All trace of her previous suspicion was gone and had been replaced with a look of concern.
"Well, it usually stays in our room," Lupin said though clenched teeth. Clearly he wasn't pleased with the way the conversation was headed. Sirius sneezed, drawing Lily's attention away for a moment, and Lupin took the opportunity to elbow James in the ribs.
"What's the problem with him?" Lily asked, looking back to James and Lupin.
James did his best to cover up a wince before sharing a quick glance with Sirius. "He's missing."
"You're missing your rabbit, Remus? That's horrible. When did you last see him? What's his name?"
"Fluffy," Wormtail chirped up.
"Fluffy!" James, Sirius and Lupin exclaimed in surprise.
"FLUFFY!" Harry shouted, and then clamped a hand over his mouth before remembering that he was in a Pensieve and no one could actually hear him.
The shouts echoed across the lawn, leaving an awkward silence in its place. Lily looked from one Marauder to the next, waiting for a response.
"Sure…Fluffy," James affirmed. His entire attitude seemed to say—You have got to be kidding me! Who names their pet Fluffy? But he kept going. "You see…um…Fluffy…he keeps running away. He's been missing for about a week now this time. You see that…that yelling just now? You were probably wondering what we were doing."
"Just a little bit, yes."
"That was…we were calling for… for Fluffy. To see if he would come when we called him."
"I didn't know rabbits could come when called," Lily said as she crossed her arms.
"Yeah well…Fluffy is a really smart rabbit," Sirius said, jumping into the conversation. "We've been training him. But…now he's gone."
"Poor Fluffy!" Lily exclaimed. "Remus, do you want some help looking for Fluffy? I could see if some of the other girls have seen him."
"NO!" Lupin jumped up before he could stop himself. Realising his mistake, he scrambled to backtrack. "I mean, that's all right. I know you're really busy with all of your classes… and your Head Girl duties. I certainly wouldn't want to take more time out of your already busy schedule. Plus you have tutoring and preparation for the Halloween feast. I can't ask –"
"No really, I insist." Lily cut off Lupin's ramblings. "I know how horrible it is to lose a pet. No wonder you look so tired. My hamster ran away when I was little and I couldn't sleep properly for weeks. You must be devastated!"
And before Lupin could stop her, Lily had called over another girl. Harry noticed that she looked to be about the same age as Lily and also wore the Gryffindor crest on her robe. She giggled at the sight of Sirius, reminding Harry of Lavender Brown. "Oi! Joanna! Have you seen a rabbit? Remus is missing his. Its name is Fluffy and it's… what does it look like?"
"Brown," James responded.
"Black and white," said Sirius, at the same time.
Lupin shifted nervously from side to side under Lily's questioning gaze. "Well…I suppose you could say he's sort of a whole mix of colors. White, black, brown. Patchwork-like."
"Patchwork-like." Joanna thought for a moment. "Hmm… I don't think so. Is it a boy or girl?"
"Boy," Lupin replied, at the exact moment that Peter said "Girl."
Lily stared from Lupin to Wormtail. "Well, which is it?"
"Ah… we're still debating that. You know, you can never tell with rabbits," said Sirius waggling his eyebrows.
"Sorry, Remus," said Joanna. "I don't think I've seen it. I'll keep my eyes open for him though."
"Any idea where he could be?" asked Lily.
"Well, we've been looking around the edges of the forest and in the castle," said Sirius. "Maybe you should check the wide open spaces."
"That's all right. I have no desire to look inside your head," Lily shot back.
Harry couldn't help but laugh at the look of offence on Sirius's face. Sirius recovered quickly though, and used the moment to slide over to Joanna, who was watching everything that was going on with amusement.
"You know, Joanna," Sirius said slyly. He reached up and put his arm around Joanna's shoulders ever so smoothly. "I was just going to go look for Fluffy over by the broom shed. Care to help me search?"
"Do you really think he could have hopped all the way over by the broom shed?" asked Joanna, horrified.
"I don't know…" Sirius said slowly, shaking his head ruefully. "Fluffy is one smart rabbit. He's been missing for a while, so he could be anywhere. I could certainly use some help."
"All right," Joanna agreed as Sirius took her hand and led her toward the broom shed. She called back, "Don't worry, Remus. We'll find Fluffy!"
As Sirius and Joanna hurried out of earshot James burst into laughter. "That's Sirius all right!" he grinned.
Lily glared. "You're not any better."
Taking Lily's hand in his, James brought it up to his mouth to kiss it. "On the contrary Lily, I only have eyes for you," he said, not taking his eyes off of Lily.
"Oh stop it!" Lily snapped. She pulled her hand away. "You're insufferable!"
"Do you think you could put up with me long enough for a walk around the lake?" James asked as he moved in to try to put his arm around Lily's waist. Harry noticed that he was once again running his hand through his hair, trying to make it look as windswept as possible.
But Lily was having none of it.
"James Potter, I'm surprised at you! I thought you'd gotten better than this. I can't believe you're just going to take off when poor Fluffy is out there somewhere all alone! You should be ashamed of yourself!"
James had the good sense to look chagrined.
"Now, where else could Fluffy have gone? We should probably check over by Hagr – Hagrid! That's it! Hagrid lives by the forest; maybe he has seen Fluffy." Lily took off running, with James, Lupin and Wormtail on her heels. Harry followed closely behind the four.
As they approached the pumpkin patch, Harry could see Hagrid's hut sitting next to the Forbidden Forest, looking just as he remembered it. A faint smoke drifted out of the chimney, indicating that a fire had been lit. Hagrid was seated on his front step carving something as Lily ran up to him.
"Hagrid! Hagrid! Have you seen a rabbit? Remus is missing his. It's brown, black and white."
"Patch-work," Wormtail piped up.
"How big is it?" Hagrid asked, setting down the carving.
"About the size of a Quaffle," Lupin replied after a moment.
"Hmm…What's its name?"
"Fluffy," Lily replied. "Have you seen him, Hagrid?"
Hagrid thought for a moment. "Can't say I 'ave, sorry. I can help you look though. I'll check 'round the forest. There are a lot of rabbits in there. Maybe Fluffy's found a few friends."
"Thanks," Remus replied stiffly.
"Don't worry, Remus. Keep your chin up. I'm sure we'll find 'im."
"Yeah, don't worry, Remus," James echoed, though Harry noticed him wink at Lupin as soon as Hagrid turned his attention to Lily for a moment. Wormtail, Harry noticed, was latching on to every word that James said. It made him sick.
"Now don't you be goin' into that forest now, Remus…you either, James. I'm sure you're worried 'bout Fluffy an' all, but it's dangerous in there. Don't go lookin' fer trouble."
"We won't, Hagrid," James replied with a grin.
"We should probably return to the school," Lily said. "It's almost dinner time."
"Food!" James proclaimed, reminding Harry of Ron, Seamus, and Dean when they were particularly hungry.
"Well yes. Also, I think I should make an announcement at dinner to see if anyone has seen Fluffy. Maybe he made his way into one of the other common rooms. We wouldn't be able to check there."
"Lily, you really shouldn't be doing this –" said Lupin hastily. Clearly he was trying to persuade Lily to give up the search for the rabbit that didn't exist. Harry couldn't help but notice that Lupin had been growing increasingly strained as the search continued. Obviously he was worried about his lycanthropy being exposed.
"Oh honestly, Remus!" Lily threw up her hands. "One would almost think that you didn't want any help looking for Fluffy."
No, he didn't want help looking for Fluffy. But it was rather difficult for Lupin to refuse. Lily was nothing else, if not persistent. Had she really been fooled by all of these antics? Everyone had always said that she was smart…why did she believe the Marauders' transparent attempts to cover up James's slip-up?
"We'll see you at dinner, Hagrid," James said, trying to take Lily's hand to lead her up to the castle. She batted it away.
"Thanks for looking for Fluffy," Lily called back.
"I'll let you know if I find anything," Hagrid replied.
As Harry followed his parents back to the castle he heard Hagrid thinking out loud behind him.
"Hmm…Fluffy…I sorta like that name…."
Harry could only groan as he recalled that, almost fifteen years later, he, Hermione and Ron would be baffled by the giant three-headed dog that Hagrid had dubbed Fluffy. So, he had the Marauders to thank for that!
As they approached the castle, Harry noticed Wormtail grabbing Lupin's arm and pulling him away from Lily and James. James hardly noticed. He was too busy staring at Lily.
"What?" Lupin snapped, clearly near the end of his rope.
"Remus, listen," Wormtail said. "I'm going to go check down by the lake for Fluffy."
"Peter." Lupin rolled his eyes. "There is no Fluffy."
"Oh, right!" Wormtail exclaimed. It was as though a light bulb had gone off over Wormtail's head. "I'd forgotten about that."
"Right," Lupin intoned under his breath, for lack of anything else to say. Harry could hardly believe that this was the boy who would grow up to betray his parents and frame Sirius. He seemed so…so half-witted, so dense and moronic. How his dad, Sirius and Lupin had ever put up with him, Harry didn't know.
Wormtail thought for a moment. It looked very difficult.
"You know," said Wormtail, "Maybe I should go check just to make sure. I mean, we wouldn't want Fluffy to be outside overnight. It gets awfully dark out."
Lupin ran a hand through his hair in exasperation. "Sure, Peter. Why not? Go ahead."
With that, Wormtail took off towards the lake.
Sparing only a glance of disdain for Wormtail, Harry followed behind Lupin, James, and Lily to the castle door. James was listening carefully as Lily made a verbal list of places that Fluffy might be hiding. He couldn't seem to take his eyes off of her. After a few minutes of this, Lily turned and snapped at him to pay attention and the two started bickering.
Remus, on the other hand, was trying very hard to look anywhere except at James and Lily. He seemed to be attempting to ignore the awkward position of being a third wheel. Harry could relate to this. When Ron and Hermione started arguing, there really was no stopping them. Sometimes it was best to just try to ignore them and get their attention later.
Harry took a moment to look around the castle that he called home. To Harry, the school looked much the same as it did in present-day. The building had changed very little over the past three decades. Harry even recognised a younger Professor McGonagall passing by, looking as stern and strict as she ever had.
Entering the Great Hall, Harry followed his parents and Remus to the Gryffindor table. Looking around for familiar faces, his blood began to boil as he spotted a small group at the Slytherin table. Bellatrix Black was looking very comfortable next to Rodolphus Lestrange. Rosier and Avery were gathered around the pair. Both of them gave off an air of arrogance, as if they owned the school. It was an attitude Harry was all too familiar with from his dealings with Draco Malfoy.
Further down the table, Snape was seated alone, his hooked nose buried in a book that Harry recognized as the book of the "Half-Blood Prince". Harry's fingers flexed in fury and he had to work very hard not to go over and strangle Snape right there. Not that it would have done any good. This was a Pensieve and had Harry tried to do so, he would have merely encountered air. Nevertheless, it took great effort for Harry to turn away from the traitor and back to his parents.
"No, Evans," James was saying.
"But someone might know something," Lily argued.
"Don't do it," James insisted.
"Really, Potter," said Lily in exasperation. "There's certainly no harm in asking. Someone might have found Fluffy but not know who he belongs to."
"Evans…" James warned.
But Lily wasn't listening. She stood and addressed the hall.
"May I have everyone's attention?" Lily called over the din. When no one listened, she pulled out her wand.
"Sonorus. MAY I HAVE EVERYONE'S ATTENTION?"
That got their attention. Several people jumped out of their seats in surprise. A few seats down from James and Lupin, a first-year knocked over his pumpkin juice with his elbow.
"THANK YOU! NOW, HAS ANYONE SEEN A RABBIT? REMUS LUPIN'S LOST HIS."
Embarrassed, Lupin sunk down in his seat until he was practically hidden beneath the table.
"IT'S BROWN, BLACK AND WHITE—PATCHWORK-LIKE—HE'S NOT SURE IF IT'S A BOY OR A GIRL, BUT IT'S ABOUT THE SIZE OF A QUAFFLE AND ITS NAME IS FLUFFY."
"ACTUALLY, IT'S POSSIBLE THAT IT MIGHT ANSWER TO ITS NAME. POTTER AND BLACK HAVE BEEN TRAINING IT."
James—who had been enjoying Lupin's embarrassment up to this point—now joined him in trying to disappear. "There goes my reputation…" he muttered. He was probably wishing for his invisibility cloak right then, Harry thought in amusement.
"IF YOU KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT FLUFFY, BE SURE TO LET REMUS KNOW. HE'S VERY WORRIED ABOUT IT. THANK YOU. Quietus."
Lily ended the spell and took her seat across from Lupin. The conversation in the hall slowly grew to its original volume, though Harry couldn't help but notice that Bellatrix Black's little group over at the Slytherin table was laughing.
"Lily, you didn't have to do that," Lupin said, picking himself up from under the table. Harry could hardly believe how pale Lupin had grown.
"I don't mind," Lily replied. "If it helps find Fluffy, then it's not a problem."
"You really didn't have to do that," James muttered.
Harry watched as Lily looked from Lupin to James and back again. The look of panic on Lupin's face seemed to have taken over all other emotions. Lily stared at him for a long moment before a look of realisation crossed her face. Harry could almost see a light bulb flicker on over her head. Her eyes grew wide in shock and the roll that she had been about to bite into dropped from her hand.
"Oh," Lily whispered to herself, hardly voicing the word. And then, after a moment, he added: "Excuse me…. I have to go talk with Professor Dumbledore… about…Fluffy." Lily stood up from the table and left the Great Hall, looking very distracted.
"What was that about?" Lupin worried.
James shrugged his shoulders and his brow furrowed. "Dunno," he replied. He gestured toward the untouched shepherd's pie on Lupin's plate. "Are you going to eat that?"
Lupin pushed his plate over in front of James. Harry was quite sure that if Lupin did try to eat, he would only end up sick. He kept glancing up to the head table where Dumbledore was seated and over to the Slytherin table where Snape was smirking knowingly from over his text. Leaning forward, Lupin rested his forehead in his hands, trying to block out the chaos of the Great Hall. Harry could sympathise with him. He could all too well remember his own meals in the Great Hall where it felt as though everyone was staring at him. Whispering.
"You all right?" James asked.
"No one's going to believe I have a pet rabbit," Remus replied, his voice barely audible.
"Calm down, Remus," James hissed out of the side of his mouth.
"That's easy for you to say," Lupin whispered back. "You're not about to be butchered with pitchforks and torches."
" 'Pitchforks and torches'? Really, Moony, we're all wizards and witches here. I would think that we could be a little more creative than that."
"Don't call me that."
"What? Moony?" James's relaxed demeanor disappeared.
"All right, that's it," James said, letting his fork clatter on his plate. He stood up abruptly. Leaving his half-eaten shepherd's pie he pulled Lupin up from his seat as well. "Let's go. We have to talk," James said as he dragged Lupin out of the Great Hall.
Most everyone was still at dinner, and the entryway was empty. James and Lupin started for the stairway. Harry followed behind, but before they could reach the stairs, a taunting voice stopped them in their footsteps.
"Missing your rabbit, Lupin?"
Turning around, Harry found Snape, book in hand, standing in front of the door to the Great Hall. Fury boiled inside Harry. The glint in Snape's eye reminded Harry that Snape knew the truth about Lupin's 'furry little problem' and had known since Sirius had tricked him. It looked like he was planning on using that leverage to try to taunt Lupin and James now.
"Yeah," Lupin choked out. "What's it to you?"
"Fluffy?" Snape sneered. "And you've been training it, Potter? How charming. Are you sure that you aren't just covering for some…thing else?" Snape insinuated, staring straight at Remus.
James pulled his wand. "Get out of here, Snape, before I do something you'll regret."
"Oh, put your wand away, Potter. I won't be saying anything about his precious secret," Snape said. "Probably," he added before turning to go. Just as he was about to turn the corner he spun around, pulling his wand out with the air of a villain giving a final threat. "A word of warning, Lupin, Potter: Do you see this wand?" he asked, toying with the wand in his hand.
"Uh-huh," Lupin said, looking wary.
"It tends to have a mind of its own," Snape threatened. His wand looped around, moving dangerously close to being pointed directly at Lupin.
Surprisingly, James seemed hardly affected by the threat. He looked from the wand in Snape's outstretched hand to Snape himself before commenting. "Well, I suppose one out of two's not bad." James quipped.
"Why you –"
"Get out of here, Snivellus, or I'll hex you. We don't have time for this."
Harry was all too glad for Snape's hasty exit. James stored his wand away again and the two boys stood in silence for a moment, waiting for Snape to cross the entry hall and descend the stairway to the dungeons.
It was then that something surprising happened. A flash of red over by the classroom corridor caught Harry's eye. Harry was surprised to see Lily standing there watching the three boys. None of them had noticed her presence and she made no move to draw their attention, but she was observing the exchange very carefully. She seemed surprised that James had let Snape off with only an insult and a threat. A moment after Snape left, she turned and was gone.
What's going on? Harry wondered. First her strange behavior at dinner and now…is this how his mother normally acted? It doesn't make sense! Harry felt as though he were seated in front of a half-finished jigsaw puzzle, waiting to find the next matching piece.
Lupin muttered under his breath as soon as Snape was out of earshot. "Someone's going to figure it out…or Snape will tell them. Everyone's going to know soon."
"No they won't," James replied. They began ascending the marble staircase to the first floor.
"You just had to open your mouth and say something stupid."
"Oh, I say stupid stuff all of the time. It's just that nobody notices because I distract them with my natural charm," James joked.
Lupin snorted humourlessly. "Rather ironic that I would keep a rabbit when wolves are predators of rabbits," he said morbidly.
"True." James nodded in agreement. He led the way into an empty classroom and Lupin followed him. Harry followed behind, taking a seat in a desk close to the front of the room. Closing the door, James explained. "We probably shouldn't be talking about this in the hallway."
"Why not?" Lupin lamented. "Everyone's going to find out soon."
"No one's going to find out anything," James scolded lightly. "Just calm down."
"'Calm down?' 'No one's going to find out?' All right, then tell me, James — how do we get out of this mess without anyone finding out about me being – about my having – about my real furry little problem!"
"See, you say it too," James noted with a grin, reclining in the professor's chair.
"What are we going to do, James?" Lupin seethed. He started pacing. "Your brilliant idea got me into this mess, now how do I get out of it? Preferably without everyone finding out that I'm a werewolf and running screaming in the other direction!"
James thought for a moment. "The way I see it, we need to find Fluffy."
"There is no Fluffy!" Lupin exclaimed.
"Exactly," James returned cheerfully, slapping his hands together and leaping up from the chair.
"JAMES!" Lupin finally snapped. He started yelling. "Do you realise what will happen! Everyone will find out that I'm a werewolf! They'll all be terrified of me! Their parents will write letters to Dumbledore! I'll be expelled!"
"I know Dumbledore won't want to expel me, but he won't have any choice! Then everyone in the wizarding world will know I'm a werewolf. Do you know what happens to werewolves in the wizarding world, James? Do you?"
"Listen, just –"
"We're shunned! We can't find jobs! If we're lucky we find enough money between moons to eat! And if someone accuses us of something—we're DEAD!" Lupin yelled. "WE DON'T GET A TRIAL!"
"Remus, calm down! None of that's going to happen!"
"HOW THE HELL DO YOU KNOW!"
"BECAUSE I WON'T LET IT HAPPEN, YOU BLOODY PRAT!"
"It won't happen, because I won't let it happen," James continued. "Merlin, Remus, you have friends. Me, Sirius and Peter. We won't let that happen to you. We know you're a werewolf and we don't care. Even if you were expelled—which won't be happening, since Dumbledore would never expel you for being a werewolf—we would still be your friends. You'd come live with me and Sirius. We're not going to leave you on the streets to starve. We know who you are. Not what. Who. And I don't care if you're a little furry around the edge. Friends take care of each other."
Harry watched the whole exchange, hardly daring to breathe. This was what people were talking about when they said his father was a good friend. There was no denying that James genuinely cared about his friends. All of a sudden, Harry found that he didn't mind so much when people compared him to his father.
"Now," James said calmly. "All we have to do is find a brown, black and white rabbit that's the size of a Quaffle. That can't be too hard. You heard Hagrid; the forest is full of them. Padfoot and I can go out there and he'll sniff around a bit. We'll find a rabbit in no time. No one knows that you didn't have a rabbit before this, so we'll just have a pet rabbit for the rest of the year. No problem."
Lupin took one more deep breath to calm down before replying. "Fine," he said. "But you're taking it home when school's out."
"Deal," James agreed with a smile. "Now lets' get out of here. We need to find Sirius so he can go find us a Fluffy."
Finally Lupin smiled. "All right."
"Don't worry, Remus," said James reassuringly, clapping Lupin on the back as they left the classroom. "Everything will turn out just fine."
"We'll see," Lupin muttered, but before James could ask him what he had said, they were interrupted by a loud voice.
"Remus!" someone called from down the hallway. Harry turned to see Joanna hurrying toward James and Lupin with a small rabbit in her arms. "I found Fluffy!" She practically threw the rabbit into Lupin's arms. "I knew how worried you were and so I wanted to find you as soon as possible to tell you the good news!"
James's brow furrowed. "You and Sirius found Fluffy? Where is Sirius?" he asked.
"Oh." Joanna blushed. "No. We didn't really get much of a chance to look around the broom shed. We got a little… distracted. But afterwards I went to look for Fluffy and I found him!"
"Well…thanks…" Lupin replied, stunned.
"No problem," Joanna said, turning to go. She tossed her hair over her shoulder. "I'm just happy you have Fluffy back."
"Well, that solves that," James said when Joanna was out of earshot. "We have a Fluffy and we didn't even have to send Padfoot into the forest to sniff one out."
Lupin could only stare at the little patchwork rabbit that he was holding. The rabbit, however, seemed quite content. After looking around for a moment, it relaxed and tried to burrow itself into the fold of Lupin's hand to nap.
"Wait," Lupin said, breaking out of his stupor. "We told Lily and Hagrid that Fluffy was the size of a Quaffle."
James raised his eyebrows. "You're right, we did. This rabbit is hardly bigger than Wormtail. Evans isn't going to believe that this is Fluffy."
"This rabbit can't be Fluffy."
The two boys stared at the rabbit.
"Well, what do we do with it?" James asked. He examined the napping rabbit.
Lupin thought. "We'll have to let him go later. Where did Joanna find the rabbit?"
"She didn't say." James shook his head. "We'll just have to hold on to this rabbit until we can figure out where to let him loose."
"Hey, look what I found," someone said from behind them. Both James and Lupin jumped, whirling around in surprise.
"Don't scare us like that, Sirius!" Lupin admonished.
"Yeah, don't do that. What did you find, mate?" James asked.
Sirius held up a small rabbit proudly. "Fluffy!" he exclaimed. "See, Remus, I came up with the perfect solution. All we have to do is keep Fluffy as a pet for the rest of the year. No one knows that you didn't have a rabbit before. No problem…" Sirius drifted off when neither James nor Lupin seemed enthused with his brilliant idea. "What?"
Wordlessly, Lupin held up the rabbit in his hands for Sirius to see.
"Okay…problem," Sirius said.
There was silence in the corridor.
"This rabbit is Fluffy," Lupin said, taking charge and snapping out of his stupor. "And the one you're holding is Fluffy II." He gestured toward the rabbit Sirius was holding.
"Why is mine Fluffy II?"
"Because you got here second," Remus replied.
"By the way," James added, "the entire school now thinks that we spend our free time trying to teach a rabbit to answer to his name."
"What did you do, Prongs?" Sirius accused, still bitter that his rabbit had been demoted to Fluffy II.
"Me? I didn't do anything. Lily announced that Fluffy was missing to the entire school during dinner."
"She did," James replied as he turned the corner only to find the topic of discussion standing there. Halfway down the corridor, Lily and Dumbledore were talking in front of the statue of the gargoyle that led to Dumbledore's office.
"Thank you, Professor," Lily was saying.
"Don't be too hard on him, now," Dumbledore instructed.
"Don't worry, I know exactly who to blame for all of this," Lily said smartly. She turned to leave, passing the Marauders. As she walked by, Harry noticed her glaring at James. James apparently noticed as well, because he looked baffled.
"What did you do this time James?" Sirius ribbed.
"I have no idea," James replied, truly bewildered.
"Hello, boys," Dumbledore greeted the Marauders. "And how are you on this fine evening? Would you care for a sherbet lemon?"
"No thank you, Professor," Lupin refused, politely.
"I have been missing our little chats. You usually visit me in my office three, four times a month. I haven't seen you nearly as much recently and that leads me to believe that something may be amiss. Is everything all right?"
Harry snorted. Professor Dumbledore certainly had a way of understating the obvious. Somehow Harry doubted that the Marauders had been visiting his office regularly for tea, crumpets and conversation (although, knowing Dumbledore, it wasn't out of the realm of possibility). It was more likely that they were dragged there by Professor McGonagall after having charmed all of the portraits in the castle to grow mustaches, or slipping Belch Powder into the school's breakfast porridge.
"Yes," James replied. "We've just been a little busy. You know, N.E.W.T. year and all."
"Indeed, I remember my own Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests. I can assure you that they were quite exhausting and very nasty. I trust you are studying hard?"
"Yes, sir," Sirius said.
"I understand that you boys are having a little problem today. Mr. Lupin, my condolences on your missing rabbit. I wish you the best of luck in your search. I will certainly keep both of my eyes open for Fluffy at all times."
"Well…thank you sir," said Lupin, clearly thrown by the headmaster's support in his search for his non-existent rabbit. "But there really isn't any –"
"Reason why a headmaster cannot assist in his students' search for a beloved pet?" Dumbledore interrupted smoothly. "Certainly not."
Harry watched as the three boys exchanged bemused glances.
"Did you know that in African folklore, the Rabbit is considered to be a trickster?" Dumbledore continued. His eyes twinkled with knowledge of the mess that the Marauders had made. "It has plenty of courage, a bit of sense, but no caution."
"That's very, er, interesting, sir," Sirius replied.
"Come to think of it, that reminds me of someone. Now who was it?"
"I really don't know, sir."
"Alas, I suspect that it will come to me in time. I will be certain to let you know when I recall."
"Best of luck to you in your searches," Dumbledore said cheerfully.
"Thank you," the three Marauders meekly chimed before continuing on their way.
"And Mr. Lupin," Dumbledore called after them. The boys turned back to face the headmaster. He no longer possessed the teasing air. Now he was quite serious. "I can assure you that your 'furry little problem' is quite safe. There is absolutely no way that you would ever be expelled over this incident."
"After all," Dumbledore said, the twinkle returning to his eyes', "while owls, cats and toads may be the only school-sanctioned pets, there have been many others snuck into the castle over the years. I daresay that this is not the first time someone has kept a pet rabbit."
"Thank you, Professor," Lupin said.
Dumbledore smiled at them genially and disappeared up the winding staircase to his office.
"That was odd."
"This coming from you, Sirius?" James said wryly. Out of the corner of his eye, Harry noticed Lupin rolling his eyes.
"Oh, shut up," Sirius laughed, elbowing James jokingly as they started up to Gryffindor Tower.
"Ouch, Sirius. Ouch. That hurt, you know," James sniffed, pretending to cry and rubbing his side. "You're such a great frie –"
"Prongs! Prongs! I found Fluffy! Fluffy must have been a girl," Wormtail exclaimed, interrupting them. The three boys and Harry spun around to find Wormtail running toward them, a large rabbit in his arms. "She had babies!"
"Peter, you left the babies alone without their mother?" Lupin asked.
"Oh no, I wouldn't do that," Wormtail replied, setting down the rabbit. He bent over and, reaching into his bag, he pulled out a small ball of fur. "This is Francine," he said, setting the baby bunny on the floor of the hallway and reaching back into his bag. "This is Ferdinand." Once again he set the bunny down and reached into his school bag. "Fiyero," he introduced the next bunny. "Figaro…Freddy and Fargo," he said, placing the last of the bunnies on the ground by their mother.
James, Sirius and Lupin were speechless. Had their jaws not been hinged, Harry was quite certain that they would have fallen to the floor. At their feet, Fluffy, Francine, Ferdinand, Fiyero, Figaro, Freddy and Fargo hopped around, inspecting their new surroundings.
Finally Sirius broke the silence. "Fargo?" he managed to croak.
"Yeah, he's the fast one. Far-go. Get it?"
"Cute," Sirius replied in a tone that made Harry think that he thought it was anything but cute.
"How do you know Francine's a girl?" Lupin asked.
"Oh, maybe I should change that name…"
James cut Wormtail off. "Where did you find them?"
"Fluffy, Francine, Ferdinand, Fiyero, Figaro… Freddy and…and Fargo."
"Oh. I found Fluffy, Francine, Ferdinand, Fiyero, Freddy and Fargo by the Forbidden Forest."
"The Forbidden Forest?" Lupin asked.
"I didn't go far in."
"All right." James sighed. "Let's go." He beckoned for Sirius, Lupin and Wormtail to follow him. Sirius and Lupin moved to go but Wormtail called out to stop them.
"Wait! Can we bring Fluffy's friends?" Wormtail asked.
"Fluffy has friends?" Lupin asked skeptically.
"Florence, Foster and Flo," Wormtail said. He bent over and, opening his bag, pulled out three more large fur-balls.
"I've heard of Muggle magicians pulling rabbits out of a hat but this is ridiculous!" Sirius exclaimed.
"Florence, Foster and Flo?" James asked, coming forward to get a better look at the rabbits.
"Careful," Wormtail warned. "Flo bites."
"Fabulous," James replied dryly.
"And don't forget Faustus," Wormtail added, pulling out yet another rabbit. "He's Francine, Ferdinand, Fiyero, Figaro, Freddy and Fargo's father."
"So, to sum it up we have the rabbit Joanna found, Fluffy I; Sirius's rabbit, Fluffy II; and Peter's rabbit, Fluffy III."
"Why's my rabbit Fluffy III?" Wormtail whined.
"You got here last," Sirius shot back. "We also have Francine, Ferdinand, Fiyero, Figaro, Freddy and Fargo."
"And Florence, Foster and Flo," Wormtail added helpfully.
"And Faustus," said James.
"Fluffy I, Fluffy II, Fluffy III, Francine, Ferdinand, Fiyero, Figaro, Freddy, Fargo, Florence, Foster, Flo and Faustus," Lupin repeated, looking slightly overwhelmed. "Does this seem just a little far-fetched to you?"
"A little?" Sirius exclaimed.
"There's thirteen rabbits here!" James exclaimed. "Where are we going to put Fluffy and her family and friends?"
"And can we stop all this 'F'ing nonsense?" Sirius joked.
"Fine!" James shot back, an impish grin on his face.
The four boys collected the rabbits and continued in the direction of the Gryffindor common room. "You know, Sirius," James said as the boys headed past a portrait of Princess Winnifred the Moat Swimmer, who was dripping wet and covered with seaweed. "We could have used your help earlier."
"I was a little – busy – earlier!"
"You could have snogged Joanna later."
"How often do you get a line like that handed to you? It was perfect. 'We have to go save the terrified little rabbit from the wild.' Girls love that stuff. You were doing perfectly fine on your own. What could I have done that you couldn't do?"
"We needed Padfoot to sniff out Fluffy."
"You needed Padfo — THERE IS NO FLUFFY!" Sirius hissed, nearly dropping Fluffy II and Foster.
"Actually, right now there are three of them," Lupin quipped as they arrived at the Fat Lady. "Sarah Stanton spelled a spoon of sugar. 'So,' she said, 'the sugar's sour; if I put it in my soufflé it will make my soufflé sour.' So Sarah Stanton spelled a spoon of sweeter sugar, and set it in her sour soufflé. Which made Sarah Stanton's sour soufflé a snitch sweeter. Prongs, could you possibly have come up with a longer password?"
"I could try," James replied.
"Well said," said the Fat Lady, as her portrait swung away from the wall.
"Prongs, I've found at least three first-years sitting in front of the portrait waiting for someone to come and let them in because they can't remember the password," Lupin sighed.
"Well, that's not my fault."
"You really should change the password."
"You're right, I really should."
Lupin waited for a moment before sighing. "But you're not going to…are you?"
"Of course not," James replied. "It is a masterpiece of a password and deserves a place of greatness. Besides, the Slytherins will never guess it."
Harry followed James, Sirius, Lupin and Wormtail as they climbed the boy's stairway to their dormitory with Fluffy I, Fluffy II, Fluffy III, Francine, Ferdinand, Fiyero, Figaro, Freddy, Fargo, Florence, Foster, Flo and Faustus squirming in their arms.
"By the way, I know I said that I would take Fluffy home, Remus, but I am not taking thirteen rabbits home," James said. He scrambled for the door handle, trying to open the door without dropping Fluffy I and Florence. "I don't know what I'd do with them all. We're just going to have to –"
James froze in the doorway, blocking Harry and the other Marauders from entering the room. Sirius, who had been following close behind, knocked into him.
"James, you're blocking the door," Sirius said, fumbling to keep from dropping Fluffy II, Foster and Flo. He looked over James's shoulder. "…Merlin…" he said, in shock. "Where did they all come from?"
"What is it?" Lupin asked, trying to look over James to see.
James stepped aside, allowing the other Marauders into the room. Harry followed, and when he saw the room, his jaw dropped.
There were rabbits everywhere.
Small rabbits, big rabbits. Long-haired and short-haired. Rabbits of every colour covered the floor and the beds. They were sitting on the trunks and under the nightstands. One large rabbit hopped out from under James's bed and started nibbling on a robe that he had left out.
"…Bloody… hell…" said Sirius, stunned. "There must be a hundred rabbits here!"
"What do we do with them all?" asked Lupin, baffled.
"Who put them here?" James asked. Harry was wondering the same thing.
"JAMES POTTER!" Lily's voice carried up from the base of the stairs, causing the Marauders to jump. "YOU GET YOUR ARSE DOWN HERE THIS INSTANT!"
"Sounds like you're in trouble, mate." Sirius smirked.
"Yeah, I think so…" James replied, looking slightly pale.
"DON'T MAKE ME COME UP THERE AND GET YOU, POTTER!"
"Our bedroom is filled with rabbits and Evans is mad at me. Is anyone surprised that I'm more worried about Evans than the rabbits right now?"
"Not a bit," Sirius replied.
"Maybe I'd better go and see what Evans wants."
"You do that."
"Just…stay here, all right?" James said. "Stay and keep an eye on the rabbits…stay."
"Stay," Sirius snorted once James left the room. "What does he think I am? A dog?" Wormtail opened his mouth to respond. "Don't answer that."
"Maybe we should stay—" Lupin ventured timidly, but Sirius cut him off.
"And miss watching him get chewed out by Evans again? Not a chance! Let's go." The three Marauders scrambled down the stairs to the common room. Harry followed, somewhat reluctantly. He had wanted to see his parents more but, unlike Sirius, he didn't want to have to watch his parents fighting again. He had so few memories of his parents to begin with, and most of those were bad. Just for once he wanted to see them happy together.
Down in the common room, Lily was, as Sirius had predicted, chewing James out. The Marauders took their seats at the foot of the stairs to watch the spectacle. They look like spectators at a Quiddich match, Harry thought to himself. Clearly this was a common sight in Gryffindor Tower.
"I just found Mary sitting in front of the portrait again," Lily snapped, her green eyes blazing.
She gestured to a small black-haired girl who was seated in an armchair. Her face was red and puffy as though she had just been crying. "She forgot the password and was waiting for someone to let her in. That's the fifth time this week, Potter. You are supposed to be responsible! Merlin knows why Dumbledore made you Head Boy; you're the worst Head Boy I've ever seen! What do you have to say for yourself?"
James grimaced. "Isn't she a third-year? She should be able to memorise it."
"She's a first-year, as you very well know. She has enough to contend with without having to worry about trying to memorise some ridiculous password."
"It's a good password!"
"It's not a password, it's a passparagraph!" Lily snapped.
"And it's a good one!" James declared.
On the steps, Sirius leaned over to whisper to Lupin. "I bet you a galleon he changes the password for her."
"All right," Lupin replied.
"It's a horrible password!" Lily said. "No one can remember it!"
"How hard is it to remember? 'Sarah Stanton spelled a spoon of sugar. 'So,' she said, 'the sugar's sour; if I put it in my soufflé it will make my soufflé sour.' So Sarah Stanton spelled a spoon of sweeter sugar, and set it in her sour soufflé. Which made Sarah Stanton's sour soufflé a snitch sweeter.' " James rattled off. "It's alliterative!"
"I don't care if it's alliterative! It's—" Lily broke off mid-rant. "I didn't know you even knew what alliteration was."
"I'm not stupid, Evans."
"Could have fooled me," Lily retorted.
"Yeah, a lot of stuff fools you," James muttered. A moment later his eyes widened as he realized what he had just said. "I didn't mean to say that."
All of a sudden Lily's whole demeanor changed. When before she had been spitting mad, now she was…flirting? Harry watched, baffled by the sudden change in his mother's demeanor. He had thought that James's slip of the tongue would only infuriate her more. Yet she seemed to have not heard him at all. A smile crept across Lily's face and she took a step toward her future husband.
"James," Lily smiled sweetly. Harry noticed that it was the first time he had heard her using James's first name. "You seem a little…hare-brained. Is everything alright? Did you find Fluffy?"
James gaped openly. Clearly he didn't know what to make of this new Lily, either.
"What was that?" Lily asked, her voice laced with innocence. "I didn't catch what you said."
"Oh…well…yes, we found Fluffy."
"Oh you poor dear," Lily said. Her voice dripped with false sympathy. "This must have been a very hair-raising experience for you."
Upon hearing those words, James froze. His eyes got wide and Harry noticed him mouth the words 'hair-raising'. He kept opening and closing his mouth as though he wanted to say something, but the words wouldn't come out.
Arms crossed and eyebrow raised, Lily smiled wickedly before commenting. "You know, I don't think I've ever seen you speechless before," she said.
"YOU!" James finally exclaimed.
"Yes, me. Hare. Rabbits." Lily looked around the common room. By this point everyone in the Common Room had dropped what they were doing and were now staring openly at, what must have been, the result of the first-ever successful prank pulled on James Potter. Harry couldn't understand. If everyone knew about his mother's prank, why did no one else figure out that Lupin was a werewolf? "Does anyone here speak 'Really Big Git'? I could use a translator."
"You…I didn't…how did…" James stuttered.
"Are you going to finish a sentence anytime soon?" Lily snapped.
"Well done," James finally said.
Everyone in the room froze. Harry had never seen the common room so full of people and yet with so little noise. You could hear a quill drop. Everyone was in shock. Pigs flew. Hell froze over. Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny danced the polka in the middle of July dressed in leotards and tights.
In other words, it was something you didn't hear everyday.
"Excuse me?" Lily asked in disbelief.
"I deserved it," James repeated with more confidence. "I've pulled loads of pranks on you. It was an excellent prank and I deserved it. Well done." He held out his hand.
"Well, thank you," Lily said stiffly. She reached out and shook the offered hand.
"I don't believe it," Lily said, considering James carefully. "I think you actually have grown up a bit."
Harry noticed that her gaze flickered (almost imperceptibly) to Remus, before returning to size up James once more. Does she suspect…?
"You wouldn't happen to be willing to go out with me now, would you?" James asked. He reached up to run his hand through his hair again. Somehow the move didn't seem to be as suave as it had been before. It was more awkward…nervous.
Lily snorted. "You ask that every week."
"And I'm still waiting for your answer," James replied.
Lily bit her lip in thought. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but…" She sighed. "Why not. One date."
"YES!" James jumped up into the air and pumped his fist, shocking the students in the room out of their stupor.
Everyone in the Common Room started talking at once. "…Did she really say yes?…" "…He's been asking her for years…" "…I thought they hated each other…" and over all of the babble, Harry could hear Sirius chanting: "….Go Prongs! Go Prongs!…"
"YES! YES! YES!" James celebrated.
"One date, Potter. One," Lily insisted, trying to make herself heard over James's yelling and the commotion of the common room.
"I know, I know, one date," James said. "It's going to be the best date you've ever been on though."
"We'll see about that," Lily replied dryly.
"It'll be perfect." James reached over and took Lily's hands in his own. "We'll do anything you want to. We can go to Hogsmeade or go on a picnic, or even, Merlin forbid, go to Madam Puddifoots's." he shuddered. "But Lily?" James added, smiling winningly.
"I'm still not changing the password."
It was then that Harry felt the familiar tug of being pulled from the Pensieve. He didn't want to leave. He looked at his parents one last time before the Gryffindor common room blurred and then disappeared altogether.
He was back in the kitchen of the Burrow.
Harry took deep breaths, trying to recall every moment…every detail of his parents. His father's fierce protection of a friend….the way his mother's eyes flashed as she, once again…how did Sirius put it?…"chewed James out." Harry hardly registered Lupin calling his name. He wanted to hold on to those moments for as long as he could. To remember Sirius when he was happy and the look on his father's face when Lily said yes. He didn't want to let go…
Finally a shake of his shoulder brought him back to reality. Harry looked up to find Lupin studying him carefully.
"Harry, are you all right?" Lupin asked.
Harry nodded. "Thank you," he murmured.
"Not a problem. I only wish there had been a chance to do this before. Your parents really did love each other Harry, and they loved you too. Don't ever forget that."
Harry nodded again.
"Do you have any questions?" Lupin asked. "About what you saw in the Pensieve?"
Harry thought for a moment before responding. "What was my mother talking to Dumbledore about? Did you ever find out?"
"Oh, yes. A few days later she pulled me aside and asked if I would be all right on the full moon. Nearly gave me a heart attack!" Lupin laughed. "She had figured out that I was a werewolf. Apparently she had always been suspicious, and when we started prattling on about a 'furry little problem', she went to ask Dumbledore. He confirmed her suspicions and, to get us back for lying to her for seven years and the many, many pranks we had pulled on her, she decided to float a hundred rabbits out of the forest and through the window of our dormitory."
"How did she manage that without anyone seeing her?" Harry gaped.
"The next day there was a fourth-year Hufflepuff who claimed to have seen a line of rabbits floating across the grounds and up to Gryffindor Tower. Lily was always the best at Charms." As he spoke, Lupin moved to the Pensieve and, taking out his wand, drew the memory back into his own head. This time Harry noticed the care he took in not touching the silver rim of the Pensieve.
"Why didn't anyone else, besides my mum, figure out that you were a werewolf? And what did you do with all of those rabbits?"
"Everyone just assumed that we had always had a rabbit. They figured that Lily just took the opportunity to embarrass us as much as possible by covering our dorm with enough rabbits to take over the world in only a breeding or two." Lupin laughed lightly. "As for the rabbits…most of them we were able to return to the forest. James kept his promise, though. Fluffy III lived in our room for the rest of the year, and when school was over he went home with James. Fluffy III lived four more years before the neighbour's cat got him."
"And…did my mum ever find out about Prongs, Padfoot and Wormtail?" Harry asked.
Lupin thought for a moment. "I don't know. I always suspected that she knew. Especially once we graduated. James may have told her. She made several veiled references to knowing about their Animagus forms but I never knew for sure." Lupin waited for a few moments, but when Harry didn't move to ask another question he commented. "There is one question that I'm surprised you're not asking."
"What's that?" Harry asked.
"How did you get your name?"
"'How did I get my name?' What does that have to do with…oh. You have got to be joking."
"Your parents decided to name you after the event that brought them together. Consider yourself lucky. Your father wanted to name you Fluffy."
"Fluffy Potter?" Harry groaned. "My dad wanted to name me 'Fluffy'? Don't ever tell Ron or the twins that, I'd never live it down. Or Ginny for that matter…or Hermione…on second thought, just don't ever tell anyone. Bloody….Fluffy…"
Lupin smiled at Harry. "Fortunately for you, Lily put her foot down."
"She seems like she was really good at that." Harry smiled at the thought of his mother.
Lupin smiled as well. "She was."
Ron's shout carried from the other room, interrupting the stillness of the kitchen.
"Harry! Get in here! Is this your birthday party or what?"
Harry looked to Lupin in question.
"Go on," Lupin urged. "It's your birthday. Go have fun."
Harry didn't leave. "Thank you," Harry said. "No one's ever – this is the best birthday gift anyone could have ever given me. Thanks."
Ron's bellow echoed from the next room. "Harry!"
"You're welcome," Lupin said." Now get in there before Ron decides to send the entire DA in here after you."
"I'm coming," Harry called back to Ron with a grin.
"Well you took your bloody time!" Ron said when Harry entered the room. "You've got presents to open."
o – o – o – o – o
Many, many thanks to Jamc91 for betaing! It's thanks to her that this fic isn't a mess of grammar errors and plot holes. Gracias!
Disclaimer: As is always true with fanfiction, Harry Potter and his friends do not belong to me.
Other sources include: "Crazy for You", "Wicked", Tolkien, Mozart, Florence Foster Jenkins, the tale of Faustus, "Once Upon a Mattress" and Betty Botta (who bought a bit of butter).