Disclaimer: The characters contained within are not mine. They belong to JKRowling. Sigh. Pout.
Author's Note: To Wolviesfan: You have NO idea how difficult it was not making this a RL/SB slash story! To remuslives23: You'll have to read between the lines for the slash!
"Time is up, ladies and gentlemen!" The professor said, clapping his hands together and smiling at the class.
There was a combination of groans and sighs of relief as well as a few cheers as each student checked to see if his or her potion was the shade of sunshine yellow that marked the perfectly brewed Euphoria potion.
Remus Lupin sighed heavily. He had known almost from the outset that his potion wouldn't turn out right: he'd added the bubotuber pus before he'd stirred in the powdered ginger and, as Sirius had oh-so-helpfully pointed out, "You're supposed to stir the ginger in two full minutes before the bubotuber pus!"
He'd also added that Remus was a stupid git, although he said it with a grin.
Remus slumped down on a tall stool and glared at his cauldron. How was it that Arithmancy and Defence came so easily and Potions only served to make him feel like a complete and utter fool?
"Did you rescue your potion?" Peter asked, coming over and peering into Remus' cauldron.
Remus snorted. "Like there was a chance in hell of that."
"Language, Mr Lupin, language," chided Professor Slughorn, coming up suddenly behind him.
The professor leaned over Remus' unfortunate potion, taking in the odd spicy smell. "You know, Mr Lupin, I think..." His sentence trailed off as he summoned a small flask and dipped it into the liquid. He considered the amber colour for a moment and then, eyes twinkling, looked at Remus. "Mr Lupin, can you tell me what went wrong with your brewing process?"
Oh, Remus was able to give him a fine list of all that had gone wrong. Slughorn didn't seem to think it was quite as terrible as the boy thought, though. In fact, instead of patting Remus on the shoulder and saying, 'Not everyone is going to be a master potioneer', as he had a tendency to do, he seemed — excited.
"Remus, my boy, you have managed to brew something quite unusual."
Something 'quite unusual' meant something 'completely wrong and useless', as far as Remus' experience in Potions had taught him. Over Slughorn's shoulder, Remus could see Lily casting him a pitying glance. He didn't look over at Sirius and James — or at any of the Slytherins. All he wanted to do was go straight to McGonagall and beg, plead, and grovel to be allowed to drop the class.
He sighed again and asked dutifully, "Something unusual, sir?"
"Yes, my boy! You've managed to brew a perfect batch of —" The man halted and glanced around the class. "You know, I think this should be saved for our next class." He used a charm to siphon Remus' potion into a small cauldron on a side table and then sealed it carefully.
As he did, Remus noticed the stunned looks of the students around him. He cursed silently to himself, hating the fact that it was so unusual that he did something right that it created such a fuss. He turned his attention to cleaning up his area.
"Here you go, Mr Lupin." The professor was holding out a small flask with some of Remus' potion inside it. "I have a challenge for you. If you can identify the potion you have created before our next class, I will have a suitable reward for you."
Remus took the flask with a sceptical look at the older man. "Can you give me any hints, sir?"
"Well..." Slughorn stroked his moustache thoughtfully. "It is a very powerful potion." And then he lowered his hand and winked at Remus. "It's the best suggestion I can give you!" Laughing at what was obviously a private joke, he went on to the next student's cauldron.
By the time Remus got out into the hallway, James and Sirius were waiting for him. He groaned inwardly, because he knew they were about to make his life miserable.
"Mr Prongs, Mr Moony has been holding out on us," Sirius said, moving over and casually resting his forearm on Remus' left shoulder. "He's actually a Potions master, but he's been deliberately messing up so he wouldn't have to help us on our Potions essays."
"Methinks you're right, Mr Padfoot," James said, moving over to Remus' other side and draping his forearm over Remus' right shoulder. "What other secrets might he be keeping from us?"
"Well, shall we find out?" And with that, Sirius' hand was in and out of the pocket of Remus' robes, snagging the small potion-filled flask while Remus was still moving to grab his arm to stop the movement.
"Too slow, Moony!" Sirius crowed. He and James then leaned over the vial, tilting it this way and that.
"Where do we start to look?" Sirius asked.
"What did Sluggy say?" James ruffled the back of his hair. "Something about it being powerful —"
Remus reached between them, plucked the vial from Sirius' fingers and wrapped his fist around it tightly. "No."
Sirius' eyebrows raised and James slowly pushed his glasses further up on his nose.
"Mr Padfoot, what day of the month is this? Is our friend's furry little problem rearing its ugly head?" James asked, referring to Remus' lycanthropic condition.
Remus rolled his eyes and started walking away.
"Aw, come on, Moony! We're only trying to help!"
Remus threw a two-fingered reply over his shoulder and kept going.
"You can't do this without us, you know!" James said, rushing to catch up with him. "There are a lot of potions books to look through, you know."
"Who says I'm going to go look through books?" Remus snapped.
"Because that's what you do," Sirius replied, coming up on his other side. "When there's a problem, you head to the library and look for books."
"That's true," Peter chimed in, puffing to stay in step with James.
"Thank you, Mr Wormtail," James said with a nod and smile at their shorter friend. "Let the record show that we are all in concurrence that we must assist Mr Moony with—"
"No," Remus said again. "This is my problem. I'll either figure this out or I won't. It's as simple as that."
"Are you bloody insane?" Sirius asked, his voice rising in shock. "The last time Slughorn rewarded someone for a potion they'd made, he gave them a vial of Felix Felicis! Think about it, Moony! A bottle of liquid luck!"
"And then again, maybe he'd reward me with a bottle of silver nitrate," Remus scoffed.
"Damn it, Moony, stop being so negative!" James ordered. "He'd never do that because silver nitrate is as common as garden gnomes. He always has interesting rewards. You've got to find out what that potion is! And we'll help you!"
Remus shook his head, the corner of his mouth lifting slightly. "Just so you three can share the prize, right?"
"Well, no..." James started to say.
"Oh, bloody hell, James, of course he's right!" Sirius admitted. "But tell me, Moony: would you really enjoy something if you couldn't share it with us?"
Remus tried to think of an appropriate response. Unfortunately, he couldn't think of even one thing that he would enjoy more without his friends, and they knew it. Short of shagging a girl, that is, and even then, he knew he'd give up the details to his friends eventually. The silence lengthened.
"I think that's got him," Sirius said with a smug grin.
James' smirk appeared.
"I hate you both," Remus sighed.
But Remus didn't head straight to the library as they thought he might. Instead, he went to a seventh year Ravenclaw that he knew to be very good in making potions. It might have been a good strategy, but it was not a productive one.
"You don't have any idea what it could be, then?"
The girl shook her head. "Sorry, Lupin."
"Do you have any suggestions where I could look?"
"I'd suggest you start with 1001 All-Purpose Potions or Potions: A Comprehensive Encyclopaedia."
Remus groaned inwardly, knowing that those two books were the two thickest books in the library.
She gave it one last look. "He didn't give you any clues about what it is?"
"He just said it was powerful."
"Well, good luck to you then!" She smiled brightly and Remus interpreted the gleam in her eye as, 'Glad it's you and not me, mate'.
After thanking her, there was nothing left to be done; he went to the library.
"Tomorrow's Potions," Sirius announced to James, rather unnecessarily.
"As it is every Monday," James replied, wondering what Sirius' point was because he never said anything unnecessarily.
"Moony still hasn't figured out what that potion is."
"Leave it to him to brew a potion that can't be found in the two thickest books in the world."
"Is he in the library now?"
James nodded. "Dipped into his stash of chocolate, too. It's going to be a long night for him, I think."
Without another word, Sirius went over to Remus' trunk and opened it.
"Sirius, what are you doing?" James' question was not full of shock or concern at Sirius' actions; they'd rummaged through each other's trunks before. Instead, the question was infused with mere curiosity — and the thought that maybe he could help.
Sirius continued to shove Remus' things aside until he reached the bottom of the trunk. "He thinks I don't know about this." He whispered a word and then chuckled.
Hearing the almost evil tone to Sirius' laugh, James went to look over Sirius' shoulder. A panel in the bottom of Remus' trunk had slid open, revealing a small compartment containing several mementos of special times in their fellow Marauder's life — and one small potion-filled vial.
"There's nothing more to be done," Sirius said firmly. "We are at a point of desperation, Prongs. We've tried to help Moony look through those books until our eyeballs felt like they'd been rolled in sand and our fingers were falling off. I say it's time for something much more decisive."
"We test it."
James stared at his friend. "You are not thinking of doing what I think you're thinking of doing. Are you?"
"You can't just drink it!" James protested, quite alarmed now.
"I'm not going to drink all of it!"
"Sirius, you can't be serious!"
"It's not like I'm going to die," Sirius said, prying at the cap on the vial. "And if I do, just drag my poor, cold body up to the hospital wing. They'll patch me up."
"Pads—" The opening of the door to their room cut James off and sent Sirius scrambling to shut Remus' trunk and hide the vial all at the same time. The container fell out of his hands and he yelled, "Shit!" as it hit the floor.
The three boys stared at the puddle of liquid and bits of shattered glass.
"Oh, please don't tell me that's Remus' potion," the newly arrived Peter begged.
"Okay, I won't tell you." Sirius' voice was quiet and subdued.
"He is going to kill you," Peter said.
"If he didn't kill Sirius after the Snivellus incident, he's never going to kill Sirius," James pointed out. "But, Pads, I think a good bit of grovelling and chocolate will be in order."
Sirius bent down and picked up the biggest piece of glass. "If I use Reparo —"
"It still won't put the potion back in. And even if it did, it's contaminated now," James said.
"He's going to wring my neck." Sirius fetched the nearest waste paper bin and began flicking pieces of glass into it with his fingers, cursing under his breath as he did.
"You know, there are spells you could use to clean that mess up," James remarked.
Sirius shot him a black look. "Fine time to remind — ouch!" He dropped the piece of glass into the trash receptacle and stuck his cut and bleeding thumb into his mouth.
James chuckled. "Serves you right."
Sirius muttered an obscenity around his thumb.
James shrugged and sat back on his bed, folding his arms across his chest. "See if I help you clean it up then."
"If you were going to help me, you should have helped me before I sliced my finger open," Sirius snapped. He snatched up the biggest piece of glass, which still held a tiny amount of the amber liquid. "Is this worth saving then?"
And it was at that exact moment that Remus walked in. He froze in the doorway, one hand on the doorknob, the other clutching a worn leather-bound book, staring at what was in Sirius' fingers.
"Oh, bloody hell," he finally whispered.
"I would've figured he'd have been a lot louder and a lot more creative," James said.
"He's in shock," Peter opined, seating himself on the edge of James' bed and preparing for the show that was about to begin. "Give him a few minutes for it to sink in and then he'll make up for it."
Remus came the rest of the way into the room and slammed the door behind him. "Of all. The bloody. Stupid. Things you have done before. And will probably do again... You have the unmitigated gall to get into my trunk..."
"'Unmitigated gall'," James repeated in an undertone to Peter. "He's warming up."
"... And decide that you just had to get your paws on that potion..."
"Ooh, nice dog reference," Peter commented.
"I was just trying to help —" Sirius began to say.
"You could have helped me by bringing your arse down to the library and not bloody destroying the bloody potion!"
"How many sentences until he really starts cursing?" James asked Peter. He held up three fingers just as Peter held up two.
"Moony, I just thought —"
"You did not!" Remus shouted. "You never fucking think, Sirius! You just do what you want to do and to hell with what anyone else says or does!"
Peter grinned in triumph while James sighed melodramatically.
Unfortunately, that sound made Remus turn toward the bespectacled boy. "And what was your part in all this?" he demanded.
James straightened. "Me? I didn't do a damned thing! I tried to get him to stop!"
"Not hard enough, obviously!" Remus shot back. His attention returned to Sirius who was pointing his wand at the puddle of liquid. "What in the hell were you planning on doing with it anyhow?"
Sirius grinned weakly at his irate friend. "Well, I just thought, since tomorrow was Potions and you were up against the wall, that I'd do something that would help us quickly figure out what the potion does. Or did. Or something."
"What in the hell could you —?" Remus suddenly went still. "You were going to drink it?"
"Not all of it..."
The brown-haired boy stared at him in disbelief. "Have you completely lost your mind? Do you not realise that potions can kill you?"
"Sluggy wouldn't have let you keep it if it were —"
"The professor is half-mad for letting me take this in the first place!" Remus' gaze fastened on Sirius' hand and his nose twitched. "Did you cut yourself?"
Sirius blinked at the abrupt change of topic and then nodded. "Yeah, I cut my thumb. See?" He held the injured digit up for Remus' inspection.
"If I were you, I'd heal that up now," Remus said. "If that potion gets into it —"
But before he could finish the sentence, Sirius had dropped the fragment of glass so he could aim his wand at the cut on his thumb and mutter a healing spell.
James and Peter both involuntarily tensed and then voluntarily groaned as the rest of the potion spilled out on the floor.
"Why did you drop it?" James demanded. "There was still a little bit left —"
"I had to heal my thumb!" Sirius yelled back, his eyes wide.
"But you could have —"
"No!" Sirius insisted even louder, sounding panicked. "I couldn't have! I had to heal my thumb!"
"Sirius —" Remus began.
"You told me I had to heal my thumb, and, gods, Remus, it was like I was Imperiused, or something!"
The three boys stared at Sirius. They'd seen Sirius happy, sad, angry, and remorseful, but only once or twice had they seen him this frightened.
Remus blinked and asked softly, "What in the hell are you talking about, Sirius?"
The black-haired boy took a deep shuddering breath. "You told me to heal it and it just seemed like it was really a great idea to heal my thumb. So... I did."
Slowly, James and Peter turned to look at Remus. "Did you Imperius him, Moony?" Peter asked.
"No! You know I didn't!"
Silence, thick and heavy descended on the room.
Sirius waved his wand at the spilt potion, making it disappear. No one teased him about his shaking hand.
James swung his legs over the edge of his bed and went to kneel next to his best friend. "How do you feel, Pads?"
"Oh, just fine! I've never been better!" Sirius snarled. "Gods, James, how do you bloody think I feel?"
Remus went over to Sirius' trunk, opened it, and rummaged around in the bottom of it until he pulled out a bottle of Firewhiskey. Without a word, he handed it to James who then fetched a glass from the night table next to Sirius' bed.
"Mr Padfoot, Healer Prongs suggests that you have a good stiff drink —"
Before James could say another word, Sirius grabbed the bottle from his hand and began drinking straight from it.
Sirius pulled the bottle away from his lips, but it was as if he was fighting some invisible force that was trying to get him to drink more. He coughed as some of the liquid went down the wrong way and then demanded hoarsely, "What the hell's wrong with me? What's happening?"
"Maybe we should take him to the hospital wing," Peter suggested.
"I'm not sick!" Sirius snapped.
"There's definitely something wrong," James pointed out. "You might be hexed."
"Who would have hexed me?" Sirius asked, bewildered. "This just started happening, and it's only been the three of you here with me! And Moony didn't Imperius me. You know he didn't!"
"So that means that there's something else very wrong," Peter insisted.
"What about McGonagall? Or Flitwick?" James asked. "Maybe one of them would know what's wrong."
"It's the potion."
They all looked at Remus who was looking paler than usual — and slightly ill.
"How do you know?" James asked.
"What else could it be?" Remus countered. "We didn't hex or jinx him. It probably got into his cut —"
"Oh, Merlin," groaned James suddenly. "When you cut your thumb, Sirius... You stuck it in your mouth to suck the blood off it."
"Well, that's it then," Peter said simply. "So what do we do about it?"
"Wait until it wears off," Sirius said, going to his bed and throwing himself down on it.
"But we don't know how long that will be," James protested. "Maybe you should go to Professor Slughorn and —"
Sirius got off the bed and started for the door.
"Where are you going?" Remus asked.
It was as if Sirius were fighting the unseen force again, "To see — Fuck!" And with the vulgarity, he stopped walking and turned to glare at James. "I was going to see Slughorn, thanks to you!"
"It's a good idea!" the other boy protested.
"And tell him I was bothering Remus' potion, trying to help him cheat to get an answer for what it is?" Sirius asked heatedly. "No, thank you." Then he swivelled around and pinned Remus with his grey eyes. "What the hell kind of potion did you brew, Moony?"
"If I knew that, you wouldn't have been fool enough to think about drinking it!" Remus shot back.
"It's like some kind of liquid Imperius! You tell me to do something and I want to do it!" Sirius said.
There was a moment while this sank in, and then James grinned evilly. "Will you tell me where you hid the sweets from our last raid on Honeydukes?"
"Under my bed; there's a loose—" Sirius clapped his hand over his mouth.
James and Peter started laughing uncontrollably. Remus, however, sat down heavily on his bed and stared worriedly at Sirius.
"You're not playing this up, are you, Padfoot? You're not just taking the piss?"
"How much fun is it if bleeding Prongs finds my stash?" The boy came over and sat next to Remus, letting his head fall forward into his hands.
"What about a bezoar?" Peter asked. "Would that help?"
"If it were a poison, it might," James collected himself enough to say. "This isn't a poison."
"Might as well be," Sirius muttered. A little louder, he said, "Fine. I'm stuck with this for gods only know how long, so I'm warning you now: revenge will be very, very sweet for me if you make me do anything ridiculous, stupid, or embarrassing."
"How can we tell the difference between your normal behaviour and the potion-induced behaviour?" James asked with a grin.
"Fuck off," Sirius snapped.
"You fuck off," James automatically threw back at him, jokingly.
Remus stiffened and half-turned, holding his hand out like he was going to stop Sirius from doing something.
The others looked at the werewolf quizzically. Slowly, he lowered his hand, tilting his head to peer at Sirius from beneath his longish fringe.
"What was that all about?" Sirius asked.
"You didn't — You should have —" Remus' eyebrows lowered, signalling to the Marauders that he was working out some problem or other.
"What?" Sirius demanded.
"Would you please be patient?" Remus said sharply.
"Okay." Sirius leaned back, putting his palms flat on the bed behind him to keep himself propped up. Almost instantly, his eyes flashed angrily and he said harshly, "Would you stop telling me what to do?"
"I didn't — Oh, Merlin." Remus rubbed the side his neck.
Sirius stood up. "I'm sick of this. I'm going to go hide in — somewhere."
"But, Padfoot, it's almost time for dinner!" James protested.
"Bring me back something. Or I'll raid the kitchens later," Sirius said, heading for the door. "I'll see you when this fucking liquid Imperius of Moony's has worn off."
Remus peered into the darkness and called quietly, "Sirius? Are you there?"
There was no answer.
With a knowing smile, the brown-haired boy said, "Sirius, will you answer me please?"
"Yes, I'm — dammit, Moony!"
Remus pushed his way the rest of the way into the narrow passageway. "I saw you on the Map, you know."
Sirius grunted. Of course, that could have been because Remus had just slid down the wall, bumping into Sirius as he settled himself on the floor.
"I've been doing some reading," Remus said.
"I think I've figured out what the potion is."
"Lumos," Sirius looked closely at Remus' face. "You're not just screwing with me?"
"Can I try something, Pads? It won't be bad."
"No. Absolutely —"
"Sirius," Remus said, cutting off his friend's protest, "use Cruciatus on me."
Sirius stared in open-mouthed shock at the werewolf but didn't make a move. "Are you barking mad? Are you trying to get me expelled? Is this your way of getting back at me for the Snape thing? Because I thought we were over that!"
Remus ignored him completely and asked, "Sirius, would you like to tell me how far you really got with Sinead the other night?"
"I had her half-naked, almost ready to —" The dark-haired boy seemed to suddenly notice he was telling more than he had ever intended to because he slapped a hand over his mouth and glared at Remus.
Remus nodded to himself. "It's not a kind of 'liquid Imperius' because you won't do whatever I tell you to do. You didn't curse me and," he chuckled, "you didn't 'fuck off' as James told you to do earlier. I was worried you'd grab the closest one to you for that." Then he sobered. "No, Sirius. This is a little more insidious than that."
"Oh, gods, Remus, would you please get to the point?"
"It's a potion called Power of Suggestion."
"Power of Suggestion?"
"Yes. You won't be compelled to do something that someone orders you to do. But if someone suggests something to you and it sounds like a good idea to you, you'll do it."
There was a long silence as Sirius thought about it. Then, tentatively, shakily, he asked, "Remus, are you absolutely sure about this?"
"Would I have told you to Crucio me if I wasn't? Think about it," Remus said, warming to the conversation. "I asked you if you'd like to tell me how far you got with Sinead. James asked if you'd tell him where you hid your sweets stash. James said maybe you should go to Slughorn and you were ready to go."
Sirius frowned. "That's a fine line you're drawing, Moony."
"Punch me in the face."
"I'm not going to —" The grey-eyed boy halted abruptly.
Seeing he was finally to the point of convincing Sirius that he knew what he was talking about, Remus said, "Sirius, if you don't mind, I suggest that you tell me just how brilliant I am for not only coming up with the name of the potion but also how it works."
"You're brilliant, Remus. You're smart and — have you found a cure for it?"
"There is a cure, yes, but it'll take two days to brew it." At Sirius' moan, the werewolf continued quickly, "You didn't ingest much of it, Pads. It'll probably wear off soon." He suddenly reached into his pocket and held out a piece of folded parchment to Sirius. "I reckoned you'd want the Map to keep James from finding you and taking advantage."
Sirius took the Map and smiled at his friend. "You're a good friend, Moony."
They sat quietly for a few minutes and then suddenly Sirius laughed. "Can you imagine how much fun it would be to put that potion in the Slytherins' pumpkin juice? 'Excuse me, could you please jump off the Astronomy Tower?' Or, 'If you don't mind, Snivellus, would you go and have sex with the Giant Squid?'"
Remus chuckled quietly. "I don't think it would work in quite that way. The suggestion has to be something that they might be likely to do in the first place. If I suggested that you go have sex with McGonagall, you probably wouldn't feel a thing."
"Oh, I don't know," Sirius said. "That one set of robes that she wears is a little tight across her —"
Remus groaned loud enough that he wouldn't have to hear the rest of that sentence.
"Well, Mr Lupin? Did you figure out what it was that you brewed the other day?"
Remus took a deep breath and shot a quick glance at Sirius before answering Slughorn. "Yes, sir. It's the Power of Suggestion."
The Potions professor beamed. "Excellent! Take, oh, ten points for Gryffindor!" He leaned in closer and whispered, "I'll have an interesting little powder for you in a day or two to properly reward you, however. It's from Peru and, well, it's very interesting!" He waved a hand toward the chalkboard and the details of the potion appeared. "Ladies and gentlemen, this potion seems completely harmless, yet every few years, the Ministry debates putting it on their list of Banned and Controlled Substances. Why would that be? Mr Black?"
"The power of suggestion is very strong," Sirius said. "The right word at the right time can persuade someone to do something brave or heroic. The wrong word at the wrong time can destroy someone's confidence or even their life."
"Very true, Mr Black. A point for your House. Mr Potter?"
"A suggestion can influence a decision that someone is trying to make. If there isn't enough information about a decision to be made, a simple suggestion can seem like sound advice. If the suggestion is coming from someone trustworthy, that's all well and good. But, if the suggestion is originating from someone who wishes someone ill, there can be tragic results."
"Spoken like a true Gryffindor, Mr Potter. Take a point." Slughorn said. "Mr Lupin, you've read about this potion. What are your thoughts on it?"
Remus shook his head. "Professor, if I were in the Ministry, I'd ban it in a heartbeat. It's —" he shot a smile over at Sirius, "—like Imperius in liquid form."
"A little strong, but the point is well-made," the professor said. "Now, it was first brewed by the Egyptians in 913 A.D..."
When the lecture was over, Slughorn stopped Remus at the door. "Mr Lupin, do you have the rest of the potion? I think it wise if I take it back."
"I'm sorry, Professor. I dropped the vial and it broke. I used Evanesco to get rid of the potion."
"Oh, well, that takes care of that, then," the professor said, rubbing his hands together nervously. "Er, no one swallowed any of it, did they?"
"No, sir," Remus lied smoothly. "I was very careful about that."
"Good, good." Slughorn seemed relieved.
"Yes, my boy?"
"Why did you let me take that potion with me, knowing how dangerous it could be?"
"I didn't know if you'd get someone to help you break it down to figure out what it was or not. And I knew it'd be safe with you." Slughorn suddenly chuckled. "Now, if you had been Mr Black, I'd have never allowed you to take it. My stars, instead of researching it, he'd have just swallowed it to see what would happen." Laughing at the ridiculousness of the thought, the Potions master walked away.
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