A/N: And here you are, the final chapter of the story! It could kind of work as an epilogue, but whatever -- much shorter than the previous several installments.
Warnings: None, really.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters from Harry Potter. I'm still in the process of re-reading the books.
That said, enjoy this last chapter!Planning, Plotting, and Pranking -- Chapter Nine
POV – James
"I can't believe what they did to the Giant Squid," Peter murmured as we passed by the lake. "Just look at it…"
I stared at the oversized ape that was having trouble treading the icy water. "That's just weird. Who in their right mind would transfigure a squid into a sasquatch?" I paused to think, then an instant later, grumbled, "Lily."
"Yeah, she'd do something dumb like that – sure, it's kind of funny, but it really isn't all that entertaining, and it certainly doesn't cause any significant disruptions. I don't think she's quite mastered the concept of pranking."
Peter shrugged, his hands stuffed deep in his pockets. "Oh, I don't know, James – the thing she did with the Great Hall was pretty damn good."
I heaved a sigh, and watched the puff of vapor appear in front of my face. "Okay – okay, I'll give you that. The mud was pretty amazing. But if Padfoot and Moony hadn't done the pixies, then all it would have been was mud."
"True. And that's why we're the Marauders!" Peter said with an air of theatrical bravado. "With our pranks combined, everything goes to hell!"
"Speaking of being the Marauders and taking it as a team – look." I pointed ahead to the towering oak doors of the castle – where Professor McGonagall stood, her arms crossed, a strange smile twisting at her lips. "Oh, bugger – never thought of the punishment we'd be getting, eh, Wormy?"
Both of us were frozen in our tracks, but she was striding toward us, and I knew, with a gulp, that she was bringing forth our allotted doom. "Er – good day, Professor McGonagall."
"Good day, Potter, Pettegrew," she said briskly, giving us both an icy glare over her small glasses. I couldn't help but notice that she looked oddly amused. "Quite the day it's been, has it not?"
"Oh – oh, yes, ma'am," I said, trying to keep a straight face while squinting into the afternoon sun. "A very – er – eventful day, indeed."
"And have you any idea where your other two compatriots are?"
"But what about Li—" Before he could inflict any more damage, I elbowed Peter in the ribs to shut him up.
"I – well, I may have some idea, but –" I shrugged.
"Potter, if you lead me to Mister Black and Mister Lupin right now, I'll think about giving you each only one million hours of detention instead of two million." She still wore that very odd smile.
"Er – okay – did the Great Hall clean up alright?"
McGonagall smirked. "Yes, eventually… Professor Dumbledore was quite amused with the filth, and only just had it removed it a few moments ago – with much harassment from Mr. Filch, as you can well imagine…"
I let myself smile. Argus Filch was probably on the verge of killing any Hogwarts student he could get his hands on. "Okay – okay, alright, let's go find Sirius and Remus. Er – you'll still let us play Quidditch, I'm hoping?"
"I'll have to speak with Professor Dumbledore, concerning that," she admitted, as the three of us entered the school – where things seemed to have calmed down, at least somewhat. Everyone's hair was back to normal, the pixies had disappeared, and, from the looks of it, the Blast-Ended Skrewt had been captured. "But I'll plead the case in your favor, for sure, Potter."
As strict as she was, I was one of the few students who actually admired Professor McGonagall – especially since she favored her Gryffindor Quidditch players. "Okay, I think I might have an idea where those other two troublemakers are…"
After climbing through the portrait hole (the Fat Lady was fully dressed, and appeared to be very smug about it), I proceeded into the Gryffindor common room, which was a hub of excitement and activity.
"Did you see all the mud?"
"The portraits were hilarious!"
"Are Snape and Malfoy really together –?"
"I hear there's gonna be trees later on tonight."
I located Lily – who was, unsurprisingly, working feverishly over her homework. "You owe me – I just saved your arse from McGonagall. She thinks that Messieurs Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs are the only ones to blame."
Lily smiled, looking quite pleased with herself. "Good! I was hoping that'd be the case."
"Oh, great – thanks a lot, Evans." Then I leaned in closer to her, lowered my voice to a hush, and asked, "Listen, uh – you seen Remus and Sirius? McGonagall's waiting outside, and I expect she's preparing to dish out all of our detentions at once."
Lily nodded. "They went upstairs, not very long ago," Then a coy smile crept across her face. "They were in a real hurry to do something, if you know what I mean."
I groaned. "Oh, great – well, I'd better go fetch them, no matter what state of shagging they may be in."
Lily turned back to her homework, and a moment later, I was dashing up the spiral staircase that led to the boys' dormitories, my steps echoing wildly off the curved, stone walls. I unfolded the Marauders Map, and quickly located the Gryffindor Tower. Sure enough, there, in the room that was our dormitory, two dots – one labeled Sirius Black and the other Remus Lupin – were overlapping one another. "Oh, bloody hell." The door to our room was closed but unlocked, and I hesitated, wondering if it'd be better to knock. I sighed and stood there and thought, and imagined Professor McGonagall downstairs, tapping her foot with impatience. I sighed again, ran a hand through my tousled hair, and made up my mind. I pushed the door open.
"James! Holy – you sodding bugger!"
It could have been worse. I'd walked in on much more awkward situations in the past, back when Sirius seemed to fancy girls – though this was different (for obvious reasons), and this time, Remus was involved. "Er – sorry –" Both boys, with vivid blushes splashed across their faces, were in various states of undress, and Sirius was straddling Remus like his motorcycle, and –
"Prongs, what –?"
I could feel a blush creeping over my face, and I quickly averted my eyes. "I – oh, Merlin, I'm sorry, guys, it's just that Prof –"
Remus groaned. "So we're receiving our death sentences at last. Wonderful."
"Er, yes –"
"Prongs, are you having fun staring?" It was Sirius who had asked this, and I realized that my eyes had traveled back to the two of them, who were both stock-still and staring straight back at me. Unlike Sirius, who looked like he was close to panicking, Remus was smirking lazily, his eyes focused somewhere above my right shoulder. He didn't seem to be the least bit concerned about anything, as usual.
"Uh – no, no, I'm not. I mean – I'll, uh, just – head downstairs and wait for you, and –" I broke off, turned toward the door, and added, as an afterthought, "Don't take too long, will you? McGonagall's waiting."
POV – Remus
"Oh, buggering Prongs," Sirius grumbled as he climbed off me. "Really knows how to make a grand entrance, doesn't he?"
I sat up and shrugged. "Oh, I don't know," I said, smiling a little. "James could have been a real pervert and put that Invisibility Cloak to use."
Sirius chuckled and sat on the edge of the mattress, wrestling on a pair of trousers. "My, my – I think someone has their head in the gutter! Moony, that thought didn't even cross my mind." I ignored him, though, and busied myself with pulling on my shirt. "Your hair's all messed up," Sirius said.
"You should see yours."
A few minutes later, we stumbled down the spiral staircase and found James and Peter in the common room, James still blushing slightly when he saw us. "Really, guys, I'm sor—"
"Oh, good, the whole gang is here," Professor McGonagall said suddenly, interrupting James mid-sentence. She stepped forward, rounded us up, and quickly escorted us out of the common room and into the hallways. "I'm sure all of you think you're quite funny, and I will admit – I had a good chuckle more than once."
"Which was that?" James asked brightly. "Surely it wasn't the Giant Squid transfiguration –"
McGonagall tutted and shook her head. "No, that wasn't very amusing – a well-done transfiguration, yes, but I'm sure it was quite traumatic for the squid – but whoever charmed the breakfast plates and silverware into –"
"Oh, that was totally me!" James boomed. "Yes!"
She raised an eyebrow at him, and said, "I was sure that particular joke was Mr. Black's doing –" She turned her eyes Sirius' way for the first time since he and I had come down from the dormitories, and I was sure that Sirius could feel her stare raking across his body. "You have a rough afternoon, Black? Both you and Lupin are looking rather… disheveled."
Beside me, Sirius paled, and I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing.
McGonagall gave us one last scrutinizing look before going on to lecture, "Anyway, as I was saying – though I'm sure all four of you had quite the time planning this enormous… spectacle, I can assure you that there are those of us who are not so pleased…"
"Filch," said Sirius.
"Snivellus," James whispered, and we all snorted with laughter.
The Headmaster had written down the day's pranks – in flawless detail – on a piece of parchment, and had read each offense aloud, pausing to chuckle or smile at several which he thought to be quite amusing. "Pixies and mud, I should have known…" Dumbledore had said, his eyes twinkling. "A wonderful combination, those two…"
It was an hour before we emerged from Professor Dumbledore's office. In addition to the Headmaster, all four Heads of the Houses had been there, and, to our disgust, Filch, as well. Hogwarts' disgruntled caretaker was the only one who seemed distressed (rather, extremely angry) about the day's events, and right away he had made it clear to Dumbledore that he wanted to shackle us all and hang us from the dungeons by our feet. (Of course, Dumbledore assured us something like that would never happen – at least, not this time.)
"Can you believe that?" James said with a derisive laugh. The four of us were stalking away from Dumbledore's office, through the almost-calm hallways of the school. "McGonagall gives us each three hours of detention every weeknightfor three months!"
"And a million points taken away from Gryffindor," I said woefully. "A feat even Lily couldn't have accomplished as a prefect…"
"And Filch takes away the Marauders Map without even knowing what the hell it is!" Peter grumbled. "Bugger."
"A true pity," Sirius sighed dramatically. "Yes, I will miss that lovely piece of parchment –"
"— as it was your best and only good idea," I drawled, a sly smirk on my lips. "It's so unfortunate that Padfoot's claim to fame will be forever locked away within Filch's infamous filing cabinets…" This comment earned me a smack to the back of my head.
"Not that we don't deserve any of it," James muttered. "And – by Merlin, it was worth it, no matter how many hours of detention we'll have to serve!"
"Not to mention we'll all be serving our time together," Sirius said, and his arm had sneakily found its way around my waist. "McGonagall'll get so fed up with us – she'll call off the whole thing in an instant."
Of course, the pranking continued throughout the rest of the afternoon and well into the evening – like secondary tremors after an earthquake. Not long after dinner had ended (the Great Hall was cleaned up quite nicely, and the bewitched ceiling no longer showed cartoons of Snape and Malfoy – rather, a pleasant sunset), several Slytherins, on their way to the dungeons, reported that a gigantic stand of trees – as dense as the Forbidden Forest – had sprouted out of the flagstone floors and barred their way. Madam Pince (who had wanted Sirius executed for what he'd done to the library) reported a few books were still missing; patches of ice remained on the Quidditch field; the doors to the classrooms were still stuck shut.
At dinner, Sirius had been very loud indeed; in fact, not only were we, the Marauders tumultuous, so was the rest of the Gryffindor table and the entire school. "One last toast," Sirius had proclaimed, holding a goblet of pumpkin juice aloft. "A toast to the Marauders – and Lily Evans, of course – to a day that will surely – surely – go down in Hogwarts history. May young people forever be inspired by it…"
This had been met by raucous cheers and applause, although several teachers at the High Table didn't look so amused.
An hour later, we were wandering back to the Gryffindor Tower, full of food and finally feeling exhausted. But we didn't take the shortcut that we normally used, and instead walked slowly, deliberately – taking our time after such an incredibly eventful day. Other students whom we passed by gave us big smiles and the thumbs-up, and wished us luck with our detentions – somehow, word had come out about that. Our group became disjointed again: James and Lily and Peter were several yards ahead of Sirius and I, talking about who knows what, and I sighed tiredly. It had been an amazing day – come to think of it, it'd been an amazing week. I shot a sidelong glance to Sirius and discovered he was looking right back at me, a grin on his face.
"You have fun, Remus?"
I nodded. "More fun than I ever could have thought possible – forever soiling the traditional role of the Hogwarts Prefect…"
Sirius shrugged and laughed. "It had to be done sometime, you know."
"Yes, I know…" I sighed. "The only thing I would have changed – of course – is Prongs', ah – interruption."
"Don't worry, my sex-starved Moony – we'll have our chances again," Sirius said in his most theatrical tone. "And now that I think about it – you know what? That was horrible. What if he'd come in a few minutes later? I've never been so scared in my life."
I shot him an incredulous look. "Uh-huh. I'd say you were freaking out pretty nicely earlier this week, Sirius."
He waved his hand as if to dismiss the thought. "Oh, come on – you know that doesn't count. Anything that happened before a few days ago is rubbish that ought to be forgotten."
I snorted with laughter. "That's incredibly stupid. Sirius, sometimes you can be such an insufferable –" I never got to finish my statement, though, because Sirius had put his mouth over mine and at that moment, I really didn't care anymore about the stupid things he could say.
When the five of us finally stumbled into the common room, we were met with a standing ovation. It seemed no one cared that, for the first time in Hogwarts' storied history, the Gryffindor House had negative points. James took a deep bow, as did Peter; Lily blushed nervously, and Sirius and I kissed again. That evening, we told the rest of the Gryffindors – and each other – about all the different pranks we'd set that day. James and Peter gleefully described how they'd made the ceiling in the Great Hall portray Snape and Malfoy, and how they'd stuck all the classroom doors shut, and how they'd made the Slytherin brooms go haywire and put gnomes in the dungeons ("What gnomes?" someone had asked, and to this, James had just smirked secretively). Lily finally gave in and told us about how she'd made the Quidditch pitch turn into an ice hockey rink, and how she'd made the floor of the Great Hall become a field of mud, and how she'd sent the Howlers and transfigured the Giant Squid into a sasquatch. This was met with much amazement from the rest of the Gryffindors – astonishment that the Head Girl would engage in such juvenile behavior (of course, they appreciated it very much).
Then, Sirius and I took turns telling everyone about our pranks. I let Sirius do most of the talking, and I leaned back in the couch, watching the boy next to me speak so animatedly. " – the pixies were ours, of course, but how could we have known that Lily was planning to muddy up the Great Hall? And that just made the whole thing better, as you all know – of course, I do apologize about things getting rather dirty, but I see you're all cleaned up quite well, and no one's complaining. Oh, and the portraits – how could I forget them –?"
"And Snape," I murmured, my head resting on Sirius' shoulder. "Did anyone see him at dinner tonight?"
"Yeah," said a girl in her third year. "I saw him. There was this strange puff of cloud – or something – floating above his head…" And at that, the entire room had broke into deafening laughter – Snape had succeeded in ridding himself of both of James' hexes, but hadn't quite solved Sirius' yet.
Several hours later, we retreated to the dormitories, and it looked like everyone – including, most importantly, Sirius – would be sleeping well for the first time all week. There were yawns as James and Peter collapsed into their beds, but I sat down beside Sirius on the edge of his mattress, watching him carefully. "Quite the week for you, eh?" I asked softly.
Sirius nodded. "Quite the week." He flashed me a roguish grin and added, "Best week of my life. And, at times – the worst week of my life, too."
"I can imagine so."
"I'm sorry I've been lying to myself – and you – for so long," Sirius whispered, a thoughtful and regretful gleam in his eyes.
"It's not like I went out of my way to tell anyone, either," I said.
"Yeah, well, you've got enough on your plate, already – you know, being a werewolf and all," Sirius said with a laugh.
I dismissed the thought. "Doesn't make any difference – I was hiding it like you, all the same."
He smirked. "Yeah, but at least you weren't fervently denying facts to yourself like I was."
"Are you suggesting we have a contest deciding who the worst closet case is, Sirius?"
He laughed again. "No, no – I just want you to know I'm deserving of far more guilt than you are, Moony."
"Oh, well – if you insist…" I smirked, gave him a kiss, and pulled myself to my feet. "We need to get to sleep – classes tomorrow morning, you know. And detention in the evening."
"Think people'd notice if everyone's tea turned into Firewhiskey tomorrow at breakfast?" Sirius asked as he pulled his sheets over him.
I rolled my eyes and tried not to laugh. "They just might. Good-night, Sirius."
" 'Night, Moony. Love you."
"You, too," I said with a tired smile. As I climbed into my bed and let my head sink into my pillow, I thought about the events of the day and the week and couldn't help but chuckle. Incredible, really. Several minutes of warm silence passed, and through the latticed window, I could see the silvery first quarter of the moon peek up over the dark horizon. I was close to falling asleep, when faraway, somewhere in the castle, I could hear someone shrieking about garden gnomes, and it sounded suspiciously like Severus Snape. What a day, indeed.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed reading this story just as much as I enjoyed writing it! I'm sad that it's done, but, you know -- time to move on with new fics, college, and other things. Thanks to those of you who stayed on for the entire ride, and my marvelous reviewers. That said, if you enjoyed the story, drop me a comment, and I'll be happy! Thanks again, guys.