Phew... Finished at last, and I'm as happy as a clam. This has turned out to be a very surreal chapter, and I do hope that people other than myself can understand all the silly, pointless dialogue.

Either way, I'm ever so happy to be done. I've even re-written the earlier Acts to make them more readable: this would be a good time to re-read (and, possibly, review) them... Writing this series has been quite an experience. You can expect great things from me in the future, but I think they'll all be much shorter.


The story so far: As this episode opens, the Marauders awaken to find Sirius altered by a Personality-Changing curse. This is, however, not as surprising as it may sound, as every single other Marauder has already suffered from this same curse. Remus has just got rid of his, which explains, among other things, his hangover, and all those girls. At any rate, today's objective is to get into the Slytherin dorm and break a special mirror, thereby dispelling the curse and letting us all breathe easier.

The above (and the below) will make much, much more sense if you read the other bits.

Deciding that a small motion should be safe, Remus opened one eye. He could still remember the agony of the small hours, when even movements of an inch or so seemed to disturb the elves which had moved into his cider-sodden head.

Admittedly, it had been a while since he'd felt any real pain, but the strange humming noise which now filled his ears and brain was not a good omen.

Still, he opened the one eye. What his one open eye saw was the ceiling. And that interesting blot left over from Sirius' love potion experiments, the one that looked like a fat child with a bow and arrow. He looked at it for a while.

It was far from a fascinating sight, so, just to challenge himself, he opened the other eye. Well, a flat picture looked pretty much the same in three dimensions as in two. His head, meanwhile, still felt just fine, if one ignored the humming. He decided to take a chance and rise up on his elbows.

This change in viewing angle brought more of the room into focus.

The room contained no-one but Sirius.

Who was sitting on the window seat in an odd, cross-legged position, his eyes tightly shut.

"Ommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm," he was chanting.

Well, that explained the humming inside Remus' head.

It also suggested quite a bit about what kind of day it was going to be.

Remus decided it wouldn't be too bad. "Good morning, oh wise one," he coughed politely. "I hope all's well on the astral planes. Where's everyone else?"

Sirius opened both eyes. His expression was oddly mild.

"I think that you will find that, deep within, you already know."

Well, he was right. So, after giving him a funny look, Remus went off to meet his friends in the showers.

He had to make his own shower a quick one: they were already late for breakfast. All three rushed back to the bedroom to get fully dressed.

"Aren't you showering, Sirius?" Peter asked, easing his robes over his stomach.

"No. I have decided not to wash, so as to mortify my flesh," Sirius replied solemnly.

"Your flesh is our own business," James agreed, "but why mortify all our noses?"

"Oh, never mind that," Remus sighed. "Just make sure he gets dressed: he can't go down to breakfast in that loincloth."

"Clothes are but a vanity, a cover for what is within," Sirius announced.

"Which, in your case, conveniently happens to be a torso of which you are quite proud," James commented, "although I must say that I've seen better chests on a plucked chicken."

"Mmm, chicken," Peter licked his lips. "Say, could we hurry it up please? I'm quite hungry."

"I'm not," Remus winced, still feeling a little bit ill. "But I suppose we'd better go. As for Sirius' under-clothed state," he continued, "I'll bet you a dozen frogs that our friend here is a now pacifist, and as such will be unable to resist a forcible dressing."

Sirius, while still looking utterly serene, did heed this threat. He pulled on a robe without a word and walked out of the door, head held high, as if leading a dozen disciples.

The three Marauders followed.

"Weird," Peter whisper. "If I didn't know about the curse, I'd think he was faking it."

"It does all seem rather calculated to annoy," James agreed as they walked through the common-room. "We'll have to test him.What do you think, Remus?"

But Remus was looking rather pale, all of a sudden. He was also looking rapidly over both his shoulders, as if making sure no-one was standing there.

"Do I, er, know those girls?" he whispered.

James followed his gaze. A group of assorted Gryffindor females was waving cheerfully at Remus from by the girls' dorm entrance.

"Most definitely yes."

Another girl walked past, hair still damp. "Oh, hi, Remus," she said. "How are you this morning? Not looking exactly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, are you?"

"Hi, Moon," Remus replied with a sickly smile. "James," he whispered out of the corner of this mouth, "Help. Stop her before she feels my nose!."

In reply, James only laughed and pushed him off to the Hall.

At breakfast Remus' situation was much worse. His new-found popularity was not restricted to Gryffindor. All around the room, several girls were waving and sending him kisses. And the round-eyed, impressed gaze with which Peter regarded all this was not making Remus feel any better.

"Stop grinning like an idiot," James advised. "You're leading them on: try looking sullen."

Remus immediately adopted a tortured, aloof expression.

Sirius looked up from the meager meal he'd been mortifying his flesh with. "I think that you will find," he announced, "that many people will be all the more eager to chase after what they can't have."

"Oh, shut up and eat your dry toast," James snapped. Making wise pronouncements was his job, and he didn't appreciate Sirius cutting in.

"James, my friend, anger is a foe of good digestion," Sirius shook his head sadly.

"Just as my fist a foe of your nose," James countered.

"Go ahead, brother," Sirius replied, "Strike me, and watch me turn the other cheek. I would turn the other nose, but I have just the one."

Truer and wiser words have never been spoken, but few were paying attention. James was too annoyed, Remus too embarrassed, and Peter still too impressed.

"Wow," he said, looking up towards a girl. "Remus, that one's coming over here! She's a Ravenclaw! She's kinda cute!"

Remus looked over, expecting the worst. For once, he was wrong. It was not Talulah.

"Good morning, Zin," he addressed Talulah's roommate.

"Hello, boys" she said, fluttering her eyelashes around the table on principle.

Up close, she wasn't all that cute: her hair, dyed black, clashed violently with her freckly skin and purple mascara.

"Hello, Reemy," she fixed Remus with a low-lidded gaze, "I bear a message. Tal is chez Madame Pomfrey's, and she would really, really like to see you, darling, so do visit during lunch."

"Urk," Remus swallowed. "Is she OK?"

Zinfandel's search for the perfect way to describe her friend's malaise was interrupted by an amused voice from further down the table.

"In essentials, I'd imagine so, although I'd imagine she's just had an, um, hair-raising experience."

"Livia!" Zinfandel exclaimed, the colour in her cheeks contrasting unfortunately with her plum lipstick. "It was your doing, then? You'll get detention for this!"

"Worth it," Livia drawled, "Although I don't understand why the two of you are, er, wigging out so badly. Talulah should be thanking me for getting rid of all her split ends, this will give her a chance to start afresh."

"Hah!" was all Zin could say, before storming back to her own table.

"Poor girl," Livia sighed, "She's short on wit, I hear she's a bad kisser, and even in terms of looks she's just a bad imitation of Lupin's girlfriend."

Remus was staring straight ahead as if he'd just lost his Hogsmeade privileges. "Talulah's not my girlfriend," he muttered.

"You wouldn't dump her just because she's lost some of her looks, would you?" Livia raised an eyebrow. "Not a nice, considerate boy like you..."

Remus slumped forward. If Talulah really thought they were dating, then he certainly couldn't do that. Being a good person has some definite down-sides.

"Cheer up, Remus," James said. "We'll think of something. And, in the meantime, maybe she'll at least keep the other girls away."

"Girls," Sirius mused, "Girls are sin incarnate."

Remus had to agree that they were, at the very least, trouble.

What with all the confusion at and before breakfast, the boys had no time to plan the Great Slytherin Break-In. Thus, they were forced to do some serious plotting during Defence Against The Dark Arts. While Professor Asquith paced, explaining the habits of various types of vampires, they engaged in intense whispering every time his back was turned.

"What would the safest time be?" was the question on everyone's lips.

Everyone's, that is, but Sirius'. He said that time was relative anyway, but that if only they would chill out and let their minds wonder the answer would soon float up from their inner depths.

"Black!" Professor Asquith spun around on his heel, over-hearing his mutterings. "Do you have something to add, boy? Something on the subject of vampires, I hope."

"Yes, actually," Sirius replied, standing up from his desk, his head held high. "I did want to ask everyone to take a moment to think about whether all this talk of killing vampires is right."

There was a shocked silence. Even the Professor was taken aback, his moustache twitching.

"After all," Sirius continued with a small bow, "is not all life sacred?"

"Vampires," Professor Asquith found his voice, "are dead. Bloodsucking fiends. But perhaps," his voice softened, "it is werewolves you were thinking about, what-what?" His deep-sunk eyes took in all the Marauders at a glance. "Werewolves are a completely different case. Often more human than the average schoolboy, Black, your beastly self included. Quite unsporting, the way most people treat werewolves."

Remus put a casual hand on Sirius' shoulder and pulled him down before the conjunction of Marauders and werewolves made any deeper impression in their classmates' minds.

"Hey, Sirius," James hissed, "Why don't you just take a vow of silence?"

Sirius only nodded. The others fervently hoped that this signalled agreement.

For a while, the lesson continued uninterrupted.

"I can't wait for lunch," Peter muttered near the very end. "We've Hogwarts Pudding for desert."

"Do we really?" James and Remus exchanged glances. Even Sirius looked mildly interested: the castle-shaped chocolate dessert was nothing to sneeze at, even for an ascetic.

"You know what that means," James breathed.

"Lunch will be exceptionally well attended," Remus agreed, "Everyone will be there."

Peter's face sank. "I have a feeling you two mean everyone except us..."

The others grinned. "Well, the Slytherin quarters should be mostly empty," James said.

"I told you the answer would float up from our inner depths," Sirius said, breaking his vow. "In this case, Peter's stomach."

All they had to do, then, was get through a double dose of History Of Magic. This, each boy accomplished in his own way: James by staring out of the window and fantasizing about the Slytherin break-in, Peter by regretting the lost pudding, and Sirius by listening to lecture and meditating on man's cruelty to man, and troll's cruelty to goblin.

Remus, meanwhile, spent the whole time staring dead ahead at Professor Binns, fixedly ignoring Yoshiko who kept winking at him. The all-time low came when she sent him a note.

The piece of parchment it was on was decorated with kittens, which looked oddly defenceless and edible to Remus. But it was he, in turn, who felt defenceless when he read that Yoshiko was inviting him out for a walk after dinner, and when he discovered that she liked dotting all her "i"s with little hearts.

Seeing his friend's predicament, James quickly saved him from confusion by taking the parchment away from him, writing "Sorry Yosh, he's dating Talulah", and then sending the note back before Remus could protest.

After a moment of gratitude, Remus was struck by a dark thought.

"Oh, no, Talulah," he whispered. "I'm supposed to be seeing her at lunch!"

"Yeah, how awful," James replied. "Oooh, if you don't turn up, she might even dump you!"

It was really too much to hope for, and yet Remus felt guilty for hoping. And so the lesson went on, with Remus left to his self-recriminations.

Endless as H of M classes might often seem, this one did end, and not a minute too soon. And when it did, our heroes wasted no time in getting down to the dungeons and breaking out Livia's highly stylized map. Naturally, James quickly took over as navigator, and they set out through the dark stone tunnels following his very enthusiastic instructions.

Their good spirits dampened slightly, however, as they walked through passageway after passageway, with no Slytherin entrance in sight.

Peter was affected the most. "I'm sure we've walked the length and breadth of the school now," he moaned, "and all on an empty stomach..."

"Peter does have a point, guys," Remus said, drawing to a stop by a suit of spiked armour, "I think that we should just admit that we are lost."

"We are not lost," James stated flatly. "I'll figure this map out in a moment."

"Admitting that you have a problem," Sirius announced, "Is the first step on the road to recovery."

"Fine, we're lost. Happy?" Hunger was making Peter very irritable.

"I think I've figured it out," James announced at length. "We have to go through the door on the right of this set of armour."

"Ah yes, the set of armour," Remus nodded. "Isn't this exactly the same suit of armour at which we turned left earlier? Note the detailwork on the vambraces. And this label saying 'enchanted in Thailand.'"

"Didn't the other suit have a picture of a plate of croissants hanging over it?" Peter licked his lips.

"Well spotted, Peter," Remus said. "But, as the picture above this one contains a very fat man having what appears to be a post-lunch nap, I am not sure that this is a contradiction."

"You know, we could wake him..." Sirius said, eyeing the snoring man speculatively, "After all, has it not been said that he who asks for directions, shall find?"

"We are not," James interrupted, "asking anyone for any directions. Anyway, I think I've figured this map out. What we have to do now is go North-South."

There was a momentary pause. Peter made as if to move in all directions at once.

"Ah, James," Remus said evenly, "I think you'll find that North-South is not, actually, a valid compass direction."

"You're right," James muttered. "This doesn't say NS, it says MS. Morph-South."

"Morph-South!" Sirius was interested. "I know that spell. It's the one transvestites use!"

"Why am I not surprised that you know that?" James muttered.

"It's pretty similar to the Animagus spells," Sirius shrugged, "Besides, you're only disturbed because you're afraid to get in touch with your feminine side."

"Oh, James doesn't even have a feminine side," Peter said loyally.

"You may be right," Sirius mused. "In that case, he'd better try to learn from those who do."

"What, girls?" James asked. "Tricky... Hmmm... Maybe Remus could give me some pointers," he grinned at his friend.

Remus' eyes flashed with quickly-contained irritation. "Please drop it, James," he said. "And, incidentally, you might want to try turning that map you are holding upside down."

James looked at him suspiciously, but followed his instructions.

"Aha! It's not Morph-South at all! It's South-West!" he exclaimed. "I believe that's over there. You know, Remus," he sighed as they started walking, "perhaps you should take over the map."

Remus raised his eyebrows at such an unusually humble offer. "I'm not sure... I know I'm good at this when we're outside, but all these odd-smelling corridors do confuse me."

"You may be right about what," Peter nodded. "Your sense of direction seems a bit off, the way you went up to the girl's dorm last night instead of ours."

"Oh, no, that was quite necessary," Remus answered.

Peter thought about this for a bit. "You don't mean," he said tentatively, "that you had to do it because you had accidentally cast Morph-South on yourself?"

"No, I had to do it to get this map from Livia," Remus explained patiently. "But this situation really is getting increasingly surreal, and we're wasting quite a bit of time. Why don't we give the map to Sirius, our acknowledged leading explorer."

It was quite true, Sirius was usually the best when it came to maps, discoveries, and raids. The general consensus was that, had Sirius sailed with Columbus, the two would have discovered India, America, and Atlantis. And that at least one of these locations would have been named Siria.

But, what with the curse, who knew? Sirius himself provided the answer.

"I do realize that I am usually quite interested in exploring this wide world we live in," he nodded sagely. "But today, I am more interested in the inner map of my soul."

"Your what?" James asked curtly.

"My inner map," Sirius spoke normally, in the same tones in which he usually answered questions such as 'what's for dinner?' and 'who set fire to Severus, again?'. "You guys should all consider your inner maps, too."

"Oh, I know mine well," Remus mumbled. "It says 'Danger: here be werewolves.'"

"When you're all quite finished..." James said, stepping off into a room. "Perhaps you might help me search this chamber for an iron maiden."

"Why?" Peter asked.

"So I can shut you up in one," James snapped.

"Ooooh," Peter trembled. Noticing a sarcophagus-like object with the head of a Mona Lisa, he quickly scuttered across to it and attempted to shield it from James' gaze with own his not-insubstantial bulk.

"Oh, well done, Peter," Remus said, looking over James' shoulder to compare the object he'd found with the one drawn on the map. "That's the door to the Slytherin dorm, you know."

"Oh, right. Great!" Peter stepped away from the Maiden, relieved.

James smiled at him, apologetically. His mood had notably improved. "Fine, now for the password", he announced. "The note says it's all torture devices this week, but we'll have to guess what precise device will work today... I'll start: Whips!" he exclaimed quickly.

But the door to the Maiden did not budge.

"Thumb-screws!" Remus said.

"Bread and water!" Peter suggested.

"That's not a torture device, Peter"

"No, it's the path to enlightenment..."

"Oh, do shut up, Sirius... The rack!"

"The wheel!"

It was the wheel, apparently. The Maiden swung open...

Looking at each other a bit uncertainly, the boys paused on the threshold. They wanted to savour this moment. They could hardly believe it: this was Eldorado, the Slytherin dorm!

What happened next proved that gloating does pay, for the dark corridor behind the portal was suddenly filled with the sound of rapidly-approaching footsteps. That brief pause had helped them avoid an early and ignoble capture.

"Professor Asquith!" James gasped, recognizing the limping gait of the Slytherin head of house.

The boys shrunk back, fumbling to get under the Invisibility Cloak.

It was a difficult fit. They had all grown, lately. Moreover, Sirius was, once again, proving to be a problem, as they just couldn't make him shut some book he'd picked up somewhere along the way.

"You guys go on," Remus said after a few desperate moments. "I'll keep Asquith busy. It's a blessing, in a way: with me keeping an eye on him, you won't have to worry about him once you're inside."

So, James and Peter somehow managed to spread the cloak over both the book-struck Sirius and themselves, and Remus shut the Maiden and sat down to await the footsteps.

Professor Asquith appeared right on cue, walking with measured strides. "Thought I'd heard some noise over here," he said, peering down at Remus. "Well, well, Lupin?"

Remus stood up, meeting the Professor's gaze. "I wanted to talk to you, Professor," he said.

Professor Asquith merely waited.

Remus truly rose to the occasion. "Today's class," he started, "reminded me of something... You talked about blood-loving monsters, and I couldn't help wondering if that book... the one in the library, if that was written by you."

"Ye-es," the Professor replied. "Difficult material, that. Shouldn't be surprised that you're interested, though. Being the fine student you are, that is."

Remus was a bit disoriented by the praise, but quickly remembered what he'd meant to say. "The part about Red Caps..." he started.

"Ah, yes, the Red Caps!" Asquith exclaimed, in the tones of someone seizing upon a pet subject. "Saw them many times out in the fields of Flanders, popping up out of the ground with our dead only a month gone... Come this way, and I will show you some photographs..."

Their voices faded off down the corridor.

James let out a deep sign. "Trust Remus to know how to talk to a teacher," he said. "Sometimes, it's almost as if he was one of them. Oh, well," he turned back to the Maiden, "here's hoping the coast is clear now: the Wheel!"

The secret door opened up again. This time, the remaining three Marauders walked in quite quickly.

Inside the dorm, it was dark and cool, darker and cooler than inside their own living quarters. The pictures on the walls seemed subtly different too: the portraits were sterner, the landscapes starker, and the still-lives more likely to feature dead birds and daggers.

The opening passage-ways had a rather maze-like quality to them. And, sure enough, the map described them as 'The Slytherin Maze: here there be bear traps.'

"Bear traps?" Peter shivered as they contemplated the parchment.

"I'm sure," James said firmly, "that there will be no bear traps on the route Livia's marked out for us. Besides, it's not like any of us are bears... Come on, now, both of you..."

He was having a rather hard time of it, carrying the map and dragging along both the reluctant Peter and the suddenly bookish Sirius.

"Sirius doesn't see very useful today, does he?" Peter whispered. "What if we run into some Slytherins? There's only three of us! Do you think there's any chance he'll turn into a militant monk?"

James shrugged. "Hey, Sirius," he said, waving an irritated hand before his friend's eyes, "What book is that, anyway? The Bible?"

"No. Poetry," Sirius replied. "You know," he said wonderingly, "This Marvell guy really got it right. 'The grave's a fine and private place, but none, I think, do there embrace.' That's just so true!"

"That couplet," James pointed out, with care, "Doesn't sound very ascetic."

"Oh, I'm through with asceticism," Sirius announced breezily. "From now on, it's all about living life."

As they dragged him off along the corridor, James and Peter couldn't help reflecting how odd it was that it had taken an entire poem to convince Sirius of what he normally felt quite instinctively.

They thought it might mean trouble. They were to be proved right.

After following the path marked out on the map for at least ten minutes, the boys rewarded by the appearance of a carpet and the occasional wooden door. They had finally reached an area hospitable enough to be some sort of living quarters.

"Wow," Peter commented. "Do you think all the Slytherins have to walk this far whenever they forget a book in their room, or something? It would explain quite a lot about them."

"Nah," James replied. "I think there must be short-cuts, guarded by magical wards or something. This path has certainly been free of complications, so far."

The only current complication was that the doors they were now passing clearly led to various living areas. And that these living areas did not seem to be entirely empty of students: the boys could hear occasional voices, most often when approaching an open door. Fortunately, with the help of the cloak, they were able to walk past those danger points quite quickly and without detection.

Until, that is, they passed by the seventh-form girls' common room.

"WO-OW," Sirius gasped, forcing the little group to stop before an open door.

The Girl was standing at a narrow window, gazing out of it moodily. Her classical profile contrasted pleasantly with the rough-hewn, dark stone, and pale blonde her tumbled down to her shoulders. She was pretty.

"Isn't she the most beautiful person you have ever seen?" Sirius breathed. "I must, must speak to her.."

"Have you gone insane?" James hissed, pulling him back. "Insaner, I mean? That's Narcissia Lepervanche. She's dating that Malfoy guy, he's heaps older, he'll..."

"Doesn't she have a lost, faraway air?" Sirius interrupted blithely. "My soul soars with longing... Tell me, James, is this how you feel about that Lily girl?"

"Lily girl?" Peter asked.

"Shut-up-shut-up," James stammered out at Sirius, annoyed for more reasons than one. "You'll ruin everything!"

"But such a moment comes only once in a lifetime," Sirius sighed. And, ducking under James' restraining arm, he was out of the cloak and through the open door.

Narcissia heard him enter, and spun around. "What do you want?" she asked sharply, a sour expression ruining the lines of her face.

Love was, however, blind to this.

"Has anyone ever told you that you are the most glorious thing under the sun?" Sirius asked.

"Yes," Narcissa replied shortly, raising her chin. "Now, get out, whoever you are."

The fact that Narcissa considered him so far beneath her that she had not even recognized him did nothing to faze Sirius. He smiled at her, and re-opened his book.

"Yes. How silly of me. You must be used to hearing compliments, to the point of boredom." He nodded sagely. "I should have realized that..."

Many have loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,

Here Sirius paused for a breath. "But," he began again,

But this man loves the pilgrim soul in you,
And loves the sorrows of your changing face

Well, the changing face part was accurate, anyway. Narcissa's expression softened. It was probably a safe guess that none of the powerful men she normally preferred had ever tried this poetic approach.

While not necessarily won over, she was certainly intrigued.

"What's that book?" she asked curiously.

Sirius stepped in to show it to her, flipping through the pages to find Shelley.

James had had enough. Seeing Sirius act this way in earnest was enough to make one cross-eyed. Besides, they had a job to do, and rescuing their friend, if done against his own will, was almost sure to ruin any chance they might have of success.

No, leaving Sirius where he was seemed by far the best option. James nudged Peter, and the two remaining Marauders crept along in the direction of the older boys' quarters.

They didn't really need the map any more, as the air they walked through changed. The scents of sulphur and thunder drifted along the corridor, the walls of which were marked by the scars of ancient duels. Every door was, in some way, marked with mysterious sigils, some of which looked as if they'd been drawn in blood.

"This is supposed to be Snape's room," James whispered as quietly as he could, pausing before a room where the smell of dark potions gone wrong was the strongest. "Shall we?"

He could feel Peter nodding beside him. And so, after checking for booby traps, they opened the door.

The first thing they saw was a mirror, reflecting the light of seven shapeless candles.

The second thing they saw was the same light, reflected by a pair of vigilant, half-crazed eyes.

"So!" Snape said, jumping to his feet and moving towards them purposefully. "You have fallen into my trap, Potter..."

His expression was so intensely focused that it took our heroes a moment to remember that he couldn't actually see them, not under the Cloak. Taking the trembling Peter forcibly by the shoulders, James pulled them both backwards, out of Snape's way.

And not a moment to soon, for Snape was accelerating: as he sped out of the door, a strand of his greasy dark hair passed not an inch in front of Peter's nose.

Peter struggled with the urge to sneeze as James dragged him further away, stopping a few yards off, behind a cabinet housing a shrunken head collection.

Snape, meanwhile, had paused right outside his door, and was turning his head this way and that, keeping the entire corridor covered with his wand.

"You weren't expecting me, were you?" he spoke out loud, his voice dripping with spite. "Have you ran away? Not far, I am sure: I can see the only exit from here, and you haven't had time to reach that, surely?"

James' mind raced as he attempted to assess the situation. It was true that the only way out was the way they had come; and it was equally true that Snape was blocking the door leading into his room. Should they just make a run for the the mirror and try to smash it? He couldn't help wishing that Sirius was there to advise him...

"I think you're hiding somewhere, Potter," Snape's amused voice continued. "How very clever of you, to think of hiding when these corridors will be swarming with my classmates within the hour... I'll just wait here, then, shall I?" he finished courteously.

Snape's taunts and cackles did a fair job of covering up James and Peter's quiet conversation.

"Come on, let's curse him!" Peter whispered.

"We can't curse a man who can't see us!" James was utterly shocked at the idea.

"Oh, then we're doomed!" Peter wailed quietly. Wasn't James taking this honour thing a bit too far?

"No, we're not," James answered. "He clearly doesn't know about the cloak."

"Oh, right! Let's just run past him, then!" Peter suggested.

"We've come this far, we won't get Snape stop us now," James answered. "Now, let me see... How about this? We'll split up. One of us will have to distract him and draw him deeper in. The other will make a run for the mirror and smash it."

James awaited Peter's answer with some trepidation. Both the roles were, he knew, far too adventurous for his timid friend. Still, a boy could hope...

"I'm not distracting him," Peter replied at last. "He's insane. He missed lunch to catch us."

"Fine. You get the mirror," James said, breathing easier. "We'll do it right now," he continued before Peter could change his mind. "Just remember: you'll have to start moving once I've got him away from the door. Good luck."

And, after clapping his friend on the shoulder, James stepped out from under the cloak and from behind the cabinet.

"Here I am, Severus," he said, assuming the conventional dueling position.

"Ahhhh... Potter," Severus smiled nastily. "You were out there, then. Do you realize that I wasn't even sure? I didn't know if you had it in you to discover a way in... But I suppose even you pure-hearted Gryffindors have your little ways. Speaking of which, do you have any idea how many points your pathetic little house will lose as a result of this little escapade?"

"You'll tell the teachers?" James raised his eyebrows. "Even though your friends could be punished for casting such a Dark curse?"

"Oh, I won't tell them about that," Snape moved a bit closer. "And neither will you, not unless you want all your feeble attempts at removing it discovered."

Peter, concealed by the cloak, watched the two circling boys breathlessly, convinced that any moment now Snape would hear the rapid beat of his heart or the nervous gurgles in his stomach. How could a boy even think about moving under these circumstances? He'd been a fool to agree to grab that mirror, he decided.

"I thought even you had more guts than this, Snape," James was saying quietly. "I never thought you'd be one to run for the teachers when faced with a duel."

"A duel - against you and all your little gang?" Snape snarled. "I'm sorry, Potter, I just don't like those odds..."

"I assure you, Snape, that we are alone," James replied.

When he heard his friend's sincere tones, something snapped inside Peter's head. James believed him to be long gone! James was staking his honour on it! He, Peter, was making James a liar: and, oh, how James would hate that...

Peter just couldn't let it happen to his friend. He focused, recalling his own recent glorious victories, and felt his courage grow. Jumping out from his gruesome hiding place, he scurried into Snape's room as fast as his little legs would carry him.

James and Severus grew silent, preparing to duel, but Peter could no longer see them. He was racing away towards the girls' section, cradling the mirror.

Peter ran for as long as his lungs let him: a good three minutes. When, at last, he paused to catch his breath, he felt oddly triumphant. It had not been that hard after all! Well, the doing had not been too bad, he decided. It was the steeling yourself to do it that was the problem. He decided to file that fact away for future reference.

Meanwhile, as he stood there, contemplating the recent events, he suddenly realized that his task was not quite done: the mirror he held was quite whole. So, pushing away the thought of seven years' bad luck, he raised the mirror high in the air, and threw it down as hard as it could. His free hand came up to shield his eyes from flying shards...

Which proved to be totally unnecessary. The mirror hit the ground with an unimpressive clunk; it even seemed to bounce a little.

He picked it up and threw it down again, this time targeting an uncarpeted stretch of floor.

The mirror fell down flat, and just lay there. When he looked at it, Peter could see his own curious face peering back, unmarred by cracks.

Annoyed, he stomped on the mirror, jumping up and down several times for good measure.

And yet, the accursed mirror remained whole.

It was enough to frustrate anybody! Was there some kind of spell on the silly thing? Peter did not have the skill to find out. He decided to get out of the dorm as fast as possible, and ask another Marauder.

But then, looking around, he realized that he had no idea where he was. And that James still had the map. And that there were bear traps around here, somewhere.

To top it all off, he was hungry. Peter sank down to the ground and started dabbing at his eyes with the edge of the Cloak.

He was so absorbed in muffling his shameful sobs that he did not notice the figure walking fluidly along the corridor until a shadow passed over the ground at his feet. Trembling, Peter looked up and beheld the shadow's owner. It was quite a surprise.

"Sirius?" he asked, tentatively.

"Um, yes, Peter." Sirius said, unable to prevent himself from looking for the source of the voice even though he knew this was silly. "James? You there too?"

"No!" Peter squeaked. "James is dueling with Snape! And I have the mirror: I couldn't break it!" His voice broke, instead, as he listed his numerous woes. "And I'm late for Astronomy! And lost!"

"Calm down, Peter, you're not lost." Sirius shook his head at nobody in particular. "You just don't know where you are. Now, breathe in deeply... and out... and in again... and think of the ocean..."

These helpful suggestions had the effect of confusing Peter so much that he stopped weeping.

"Calmer? Good," Sirius continued. "Now listen: my beloved Narcissa has had to leave for class," he sighed painfully, "but, before leaving, she has shown me a faster way out... Why don't you make use of it?"

That sounded good to Peter. "Where is it? Oh, do show me!"

"Before I do, I'd like you to give me the cloak and the mirror," Sirius announced.


"I've got some enlightening to do."

This made about as much sense to Peter as everything else, so he agreed. He handed over the two objects: the mirror, with relief, and the cloak, nervously. In return, was led to a passageway behind a violet tapestry portraying scenes of random violence.

And, in no time at all, he was on his way up the Astronomy tower.

He was late for class, as it turned out, but only a little. Remus looked up with a vague smile as he entered; but of the other Marauders there was no sign.

In his nervous state, it took Peter an hour's worth of whispers to explain to Remus what he knew of the day's events. And, even so, Remus was still mildly confused at the end of the lesson. Unfortunately, neither James or Sirius appeared to dispell his confusion, not even when the boys moved on to Potions. The only new piece of information they acquired there was that Snape was missing, too, which did cheer them up a little.

Remus found this all very stressful. He knew James might well be in the hospital wing, recovering from the duel, but the idea of going there to check filled him with dread for, um, personal reasons. Even worse, he could just picture the havoc Sirius might be wreaking out there somewhere, with or without the mirror. As a result of all this, Remus was visibly tense as he sat at his desk. The fact that a couple of girls offered to give him back-rubs did not help.

And so, the hours passed. It was not until Remus and Peter went up to drop their books off before dinner that everything was explained at last.

As the two climbed up the stairs, Remus permitted himself a little twinge of optimism. Surely, he thought, at least one of the missing friends might be up there?

Opening the door, he let out an enormous, relieved sigh. His uncustomary optimism had not been unfounded, after all.

James was resting on his own bed. He wasn't looking very well: in fact, he seemed to be a little fuzzy round the edges, but he was definitely there.

"James!" Peter shouted out joyously.

"Silence is golden, Peter," Sirius muttered from his window-seat, raising up one hand as if in benediction. "Especially when we have an invalid in the room. James has been struck down by a bad case of the Melting Curse."

"Hey, you should see the other guy," James said defensively, feeling everyone's eyes upon him.

"Yes, poor Severus," Sirius replied. "He's got Jelly Legs, Custard Elbows, and tree fungus all over his face. Although," he added with a whimsical smile, "I do envy him the latter. At least he's getting in touch with nature."

"Ah, very good." Remus nodded. "Sirius, I may be going out on a limb here, but you haven't broken the mirror yet, have you?"

"Right, as usual," Sirius replied brightly. "I had other ideas."

"Oh, right!" Peter recalled. "You wanted to set someone alight!"

"I wanted to enlighten someone, Peter," Sirius corrected him. "I thought I'd give our friend Severus a taste of his own curse."

"I see..." Remus smiled. "You paid him a visit in the infirmary, then? But why didn't it work?"

"Oh, it did..." Sirius sighed.

"It certainly did," James laughed. "Sirius hadn't been tied to him an hour when Snape started looking oddly thoughtful. He then told me that he was sorry, that he had always admired my courage, and that he hoped I could find it in my heart to be his friend."

"And what did you say?" Peter asked.

"Oh, I accepted his apology, of course," James continued. "It was the decent thing to do, and it went over quite well. But then things got a bit awkward."

"Yes, they did," Sirius nodded. "I was quite happy to listen to all of Severus' problems for a couple of hours. But he didn't seem to appreciate my suggestion that he take up yoga, and when he started crying and saying that all he wanted was a kitten he could love..."

"Well, let's just say I persuaded Sirius to untie himself and leave," James finished. "An act of mercy, believe me."

"Sounds like it," Remus said. "One thing does bother me, though: how will Severus react when he returns to normal, and remembers pouring his heart out to you two?"

"Hmmm..." James ruminated. "I suppose he might hate us. Hate us more, I mean." This though did not seem to worry him unduly.

"Well, now that it's all sorted out," Peter said brightly, "Maybe we could all go to dinner!"

"Good idea," Sirius inhaled deeply. "I want to gaze upon Narcissa's beauty once again..."

"Sirius, I'd like to ask you a question..." Remus began.

"Oh, don't you worry, I've sorted it all out," Sirius interrupted him, beaming.

"Sorted what out?"

"Back in the hospital wing, I popped over to see your girl Talulah," Sirius said earnestly, "And I explained everything about you having to see Professor Asquith at lunch. She was quite understanding: you might want to take her for a walk after dinner."

The other three boys stared at him, flabbergasted.

"Sirius," Remus said with quiet intensity, "I do not want to date Talulah."

"Oh, I know you have issues with intimacy," Sirius' smile was quite indulgent, "But, really, I think that you will find..."

"I think that I will find that mirror," Remus started pacing around the room, searching, "and smash it to bits right now."

"I'll help you," James said. "He was singing Tibetian chants before you came in, and I am not sure how much more of that I can take. I don't understand it: I thought that Sirius' inverse persona would be non-irritating."

"This is not exactly my inverse persona, though, is it?" Sirius asked.

"What do you mean?" Peter was rubbing at his temple. "I'm not the only one confused by him, am I?" he asked the others, who shook their heads emphatically in reply.

"What I mean," Sirius explained, "Is that it doesn't seem to me that the Speculum curse actually reverses one's personality."

"But isn't that what the book said?" James frowned.

"No, what the book said," Remus recalled, "Was that the curse reveals what might normally be hidden."

"Exactly," Sirius announced, "Like James' insecurities, Peter's violent tendencies, Remus' fun-loving side... and my own spirituality."

Everyone looked at him a bit doubtfully.

"I don't really want to think that my weakness is a permanent part of me," James shuddered.

"Oh, I hope that mine was!" Peter exclaimed.

"The theory makes a little bit of sense, I suppose," Remus shrugged, "But it's really too vague for me to buy entirely. Not unlike most of the other wise statements you have made today, in fact. Actually," he continued, struck by a thought, "It just sounds like an obvious attempt to have this little adventure teach us all something about ourselves."

"Well, hasn't it?" Sirius asked.

"Oh, don't answer that, Remus," James put in. "He's just trying to distract us so we won't break the mirror."

"It's got a charm on it, or something," Peter reminded them all.

"Yes, it does," James replied, "But I think the Fractum spell should deal with that. You with us, Sirius?"

"Sure," Sirius said. "Shall we do it together, then?"

"I think so," Remus replied.

The four boys took out their wands and cast their spell, all at once. The mirror did shatter, fortunately injuring nothing but a chair leg.

Still, some might say that it must have done the Marauders some harm, for, though the next two years passed peacefully enough, the subsequent five were far from easy.

And, who knows, perhaps that's what exactly the Slytherins intended?

But such dark thoughts were far from our heroes' minds as they finally made their way down to the Banquet Hall.

Remus, for one, was too busy worrying about the present to spare a thought for the remote future. "I still can't believe you've apologized to Talulah..." he sighed quietly.

"Don't worry, I'll fix it," the Un-Cursed Sirius announced. "Just for you, I'll ask her out myself. She will have to choose between us, but I trust that she'll make the only sane choice... especially after I tell her you are gay."

Remus passed a hand over his eyes, opening his mouth as if to say something.

"Sirius," James interrupted, "Aren't you already seeing Malicia?"

"Oh, right!" Sirius grinned. "I think she really likes me. Do you think I'll get lucky?"

To make a long (and irrelevant) story short, Sirius got slapped by at least two girls that evening. So, one could say that everything was back to normal.

Sirius says: Reviewing REALLY improves your Karma. Especially when a series ends. Om.

Disclaimer: Almost everything here belongs to J.K.Rowling, of course. The poems are by Marvell and Yeats, and are paraphrased slightly.