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Professor Flitwick was teaching his class over a pile of books, horrible smells were emanating from the nameless phials and bottles in the Potions Master's office, and Sirius Black and James Potter were being told off by Professor McGonagall. In other words, it was just another day at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

"The third time this week!" Professor McGonagall was shouting. "You have now hexed Severus Snape a total of thirty-six times this year, and received sixty-seven detentions between you for doing so. Have you nothing to say for yourselves?"

They had not. Even if they'd had something to say, they would not have said it. Sirius and James were not stupid, quite the opposite. Each of them had received his full complement of 'Outstanding' O.W.L.s, despite the fact that they had set a record in Gryffindor Tower for studying as little as possible.

Professor McGonagall glared at them over her square spectacles. "Twenty points from Gryffindor, and another detention for each of you. You will have to do it next week, since your evenings this week will be taken up finishing the detentions you were given when you replaced Mr Snape's powdered root of asphodel with powdered bezoar."

"Yes, Professor," Sirius said, trying and failing to look suitably abashed.

"And now before you go down to dinner you will go to the Hospital Wing and personally undo what you have done to Mr Snape. And if I hear of a thing like this happening again, I will be most seriously displeased."

"Right, then, Snivelly," James said. "I think the spikes are an improvement –"

"What he means is," Sirius clarified, "that anything would be an improvement on the way you normally look."

"Precisely," James said. "If I were you, I would be suitably grateful to us for making you look less like a slimy toad."

"But since you obviously enjoy looking like a krup's dinner – and an unappetizing one at that – we shall be happy to arrange it for you."

Snape opened his mouth, probably to enhance their vocabulary of swear words, but Sirius cut in.

"Of course, before we begin such a complicated operation, it is necessary to sterilize the working environment. Scourgify!"

A jet of soapy water blasted from his wand and drenched Snape.

"You," Snape snarled, spitting out soap. "Just wait Black, just wait."

"The working environment," James said, "must also be free of all unnecessary objects. Evanesco!"

Snape managed a Shield Charm in time to prevent his robes from vanishing. He could not, however, dodge Sirius's Disarming spell.

"Now, Snivelly," Sirius said, pocketing Snape's wand, "you shouldn't resist good medication. Since you insist on struggling – Petrificus totalus! It's for your own good, you know," he added, looking at Snape's prone form.

Judging by the scowl on Snape's face, he was just waiting until he could talk again to begin telling Sirius in excrutiating detail exactly what he thought of him.

"Now listen, Snivelly," James said. "If you ever come sneaking round Gryffindor Tower again –"

"If you even try to persuade some unsuspecting First-Year to tell you the password –"

"If one of us even thinks that you are interfering with Remus or Peter –"

"You will regret it for the rest of your life," Sirius finished. "Assuming, of course, that you have a life when we are done with you."

James looked at the clock and sighed.

"Well, Snivelly, I'd love to spend all evening with you, pleasant conversation and all, but we have to get to dinner, you know, and then the Common Room. We have things to do…"

"Pranks to plan…"

"New ways to make our lives, and yours, interesting. So… Finite incatatem."

Snape got to his feet. "Now, do not resist," Sirius said. "The counter-curse can be… painful… if the subject is unwilling."

"Together?" James asked.

"I think so. On three… one… two… THREE!"


Snape suppressed a howl with difficulty. The counter-curse was decidedly unpleasant; he felt as if he were being drenched in ice-cold water and plunged into a bonfire at the same time.

Several minutes later he examined himself in the mirror.

"Don't worry, Snivelly," James said, "you're normal again."

"Normal," Sirius supplied, "being a relative term, Snivelly, since what passes for normal for you…"

James finished the sentence. "Let's just say opinions differ. There must be people in the world who consider being a greasy git normal."

"Even if I've never met any."

"You forget Snivellus, Padfoot."

"Ah, yes. I beg your pardon, Snivelly, but you spend so much time skulking around that we never notice you when you are there."

Snape turned and stalked out. He was not going to his dormitory, as Madam Pomfrey anxiously suggested. He was going to complain to his Head of House, and if that didn't work he was going to Professor Dumbledore's office.

"There you are," Remus said, looking up from his essay on Self-Transfiguration. "Where have you been?"

Sirius sat down in an armchair by the fire, completely oblivious to the Third-Year who was eyeing him with interest over Intermediate Transfiguration.

"We've just been having a nice little chat with Snivelly."

"What, again!"

"Honestly, Moony! You sound as if having a conversation is a violation of the Statute of Secrecy or something. We were only talking to him," James said with an air of injured innocence.

"Yes, I'm sure. Just like you were only talking to him last Saturday, and the Tuesday before that, and –"

"Yes, yes, we know," Sirius said hastily. "Our point was that you're overreacting."

James took out his quill and unrolled some parchment.

"What was that essay we were supposed to do for Flitwick?"

"Memory Charms," Peter Pettigrew reminded him.

"Oh, yeah…"

He started writing. Remus frowned at him.

"Tell me, what has Snape ever done to you?"

"Moony," James protested. "I'm doing my Charms homework."

"Well, stop doing it for a minute and answer me."

"You want me to stop doing homework?" asked James in astonishment.

"You're not going to go all Prefect-Moony-must-keep-the-rules on us, are you?" Sirius said, sniggering.

"Breaking rules is one thing, Sirius. Hexing perfectly harmless people for no fault of theirs is another thing altogether."

"If you call Snivelly harmless…"

"It's not just Snape! Last week you jinxed Eloise Davis –"

"She was trying to dock us twenty points!" Sirius protested. "You can hardly blame us for that."

"Yes, well, you deserved it. Setting off fireworks in the Entrance Hall! If I'd been around I would have docked you fifty."

"You would not," Sirius said, sounding outraged, but James looked thoughtful.

"Yeah, that's right – you weren't there, were you? How on earth did you know we jinxed her?"

"Well, when I heard at the Prefects' Meeting that she'd had to go to the Hospital Wing with a nose the size of a melon, it didn't take too much thought to figure out who was behind it."

James scowled and went on with his essay. A group of First-Years going up to their dormitory gave him a wide berth on their way to the boys' staircase.

"Mind out," one of them whispered to the others. "They just got told off by McGonagall over this afternoon…"

"Do you see," Remus hissed as soon as they were out of earshot. "They're scared of you! You two are practically legendary!"

Sirius grinned proudly. "We are, aren't we? Nobody messes with the Marauders!"

James looked up from his homework long enough to grin at Sirius.

"We should have a shield of our own in the trophy room. 'In honour of Sirius Black and James Potter, who between them performed the impossible and turned Snivellus Snape into something resembling a human being.'"

"It's not funny," Remus growled.

"… AND I WILL NOT STAND FOR IT ANYMORE!" Snape shrieked to Professor Slughorn, Potions Master and Head of Slytherin House.

"Calm down, Mr Snape," Professor Slughorn said. "There isn't any point exciting yourself."


"Mr Snape, I am not deaf. I believe Professor McGonagall has given both Black and Potter detention and taken points from Gryffindor House, so you can hardly say they are not being punished."

"BUT –" Snape began, then stopped and went on at a more normal volume. "But it doesn't matter if she takes points from Gryffindor, because they'll win the Quidditch Cup and then Potter and Black will have all the answers in every class and they'll make them up. And they like detention. They can sit and plot new atrocities!"

"Come now, Mr Snape, aren't you exaggerating?"

"I am not exaggerating," Snape said angrily. "I –"

"Mr Snape," Professor Slughorn said, "I understand your frustration. But you can hardly expect Professor Dumbledore to expel Mr Potter and Mr Black for playing pranks on their fellow-students. And these are not the Dark Ages. We do not hang students from the ceiling by their thumbs. It is nearly nine o'clock, so unless you have something important to say I suggest you go to bed. You do not want to be caught out of bounds."

Snape went out growling under his breath. Fortunately for him, his Head of House couldn't hear exactly what he was saying.

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