Title: The Happiest Days of our Lives
Summary: Marauders era AU: Sirius stumbles across a memory in Dumbledore's office and the Marauders begin a seemingly impossible quest to find and destroy all of Voldemort's Horcruxes. Begins in 1978 in the Marauders seventh year. MWPP.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
Author's Note: This story is dedicated to the wonderful Princess Leasha!
The prank went off without a hitch, as their pranks usually did these days. Months of planning had finally come to fruition and the Great Hall had been inverted quite spectacularly. Chairs, tables, candles, food – all of it, seemingly hanging from the ceiling. Sirius, James and Peter had done most of the work on that part; Remus had been too busy figuring out the truly complicated side of the plan. None of them were sure it was going to work, not even Remus – least of all Remus – until the first student walked into the hall.
Woosh! The surprised girl let out a terrified shriek as she suddenly flew into the air, flipping over halfway to the ceiling-become-floor and landing on her feet. Upside down, standing on the ceiling.
"It works!" Sirius whooped quietly, hi-fiving first James, then Remus and Peter. The four boys were just across the corridor from the entrance to the hall, cramped together under the invisibility cloak so they could admire their handiwork in secrecy. James was Head Boy now, after all, and it really wouldn't do to have the Head Boy caught doing something so juvenile.
"Of course it worked, when do we ever fail?" James asked cockily. Remus laughed and didn't bother to answer the question, but the smile on his face was nothing short of proud. Even Peter was grinning from ear to ear, high on the success.
A group of first years came up the corridor then, chattering amongst themselves and oblivious to the fate that awaited them. Sirius couldn't resist it; he just had to watch their faces as they were caught in the gravity trap. Ignoring James's protests he left the safety of the invisibility cloak and joined onto the end of the scraggly group of first years. They were all so busy talking amongst themselves that none of them noticed him follow them to the entrance of the hall and stop just short of the start of the spell. From there he had a perfect view of the looks of utmost surprise on each of their faces as they were whisked off their feet and sent flying to the ceiling to join the rest of the students; most of whom had started eating as if there was nothing unusual about the entire room suddenly being upside down.
"Ahem." Sirius was still standing in the middle of the entranceway, laughing so hard his sides hurt, when he heard a clearing of the throat behind him which was unmistakeably McGonagall. When he turned around she was staring down her nose at him with her hands on her hips and all he could do was grin.
McGonagall marched him straight up to Dumbledore's office. Apparently she didn't find the same humour as Sirius did in the idea of eating her dinner upside down, nor did she quite appreciate the skill that it had taken to create the effect. Sirius wasn't too worried; he never was when dragged to the Headmaster's office. Annoyed that he'd let himself be caught, maybe, yes; but not worried. On entering the office McGonagall left Sirius with strict instructions to stand still, not touch anything, and wait for Dumbledore; and then she headed off to the dinner she was missing. Sirius waited until she was gone and then began to explore.
Dumbledore's office was always full of extraordinary things, and this time was no different. Sirius's eye was immediately drawn to the open door of a small cabinet. It was full of all sorts of strange contraptions, some small, some large, some he'd never seen before; but Sirius immediately recognised the Pensieve sitting on the middle shelf. The strange, silvery substance of a memory swirled around inside of the otherwise plain looking bowl, and he was mesmerised. The temptation was far too high for someone as impulsive and reckless as Sirius to resist, so he leant forward over the bowl until the room lurched around him.
"Ugh," Sirius muttered to himself when the world stopped spinning and he found himself standing in Horace Slughorn's office. Sirius was no stranger to Horace Slughorn's office, having stood in front of this desk many times before, mostly to receive detentions and lose house points; but he was surprised to see that the man sitting behind the desk was a younger version of Slughorn himself. The older wizard's straw coloured hair was thicker than Sirius remembered it from Potions that morning but he was dressed just as gaudily, his richly embroidered waistcoat accentuated with large golden buttons. Sirius rolled his eyes at the way the overweight man lounged in the winged armchair, glass of wine in one hand, mouth full of what appeared to be crystallised pineapple.
"Sir, is it true that Professor Merrythought is retiring?"
Sirius started and spun around. Until he heard the voice he hadn't realised there was anyone else in the room besides Slughorn, but now he could see five or six boys about his age sitting around on an assortment of mismatched (and uncomfortable looking) seats. The boy who had spoken was handsome and looked strangely familiar, though Sirius wasn't sure why. The ring that he was displaying like a newly engaged, giddy little witch looked like something Sirius's mother would wear: black stone set into a thick gold band.
"Tom, Tom, if I knew I couldn't tell you," said Slughorn. Sirius didn't turn to look at him again, though he could imagine the wagging finger from his own encounters with the wizard. The boy, Tom, Sirius knew he knew this man. "I must say, I'd like to know where you get your information, boy; more knowledgeable than half the staff, you are." Tom smiled; the other boys laughed and cast him admiring looks. Slughorn was still rambling on, but Sirius was paying no attention to him – he heard him ramble every potions lesson and payed no attention then, why would he want to listen to him now when there was the more pressing question of who this strangely familiar face was?
"What with your uncanny ability to know things you shouldn't, and your careful flattery of the people who matter – thank you for the pineapple, by the way, you're quite right, it is my favourite."
Sirius's train of thought was interrupted entirely then, for the room began filling with such a thick fog that he groped for his wand before remembering he couldn't be harmed in a memory. When Slughorn's voice boomed out of the mist Sirius was glad he was alone so no one could see him jump.
"You'll go wrong, boy, mark my words."
"Wait a second," Sirius said out loud, blinking as the fog cleared. No one in the room seemed to have noticed that it had even been there at all, which was confusing as hell; but Sirius had just put the pieces together and was staring at the handsome boy with the black and gold ring with something that could only be described as a mixture of horror and a slightly morbid fascination. "Tom. Tom, Tom Riddle, I bet. Blimey, James is going to be so mad he missed this!" Behind him Slughorn was rambling about the time and essays and detentions; some things never did change apparently. The boys all started to shuffle out of the room, all except for Riddle, who approached the desk.
Slughorn was refilling his wine glass and didn't notice that Riddle had stayed. Typical, Sirius thought dryly. When the teacher noticed he straightened. "Look sharp, Tom, you don't want to be caught out of bed out of hours, and you a prefect…" Slughorn wiped his sugary fingers on his waistcoat.
"Sir, I wanted to ask you something." Riddle said, and Sirius pretended to gag at the sickly charm that all but radiated from him. Slughorn was powerless against it, anyone could tell. Riddle had him wrapped around his little finger and Sirius wondered how the man lived with himself knowing he'd been so taken in by a madman.
"Ask away, then, m'boy, ask away..."
"Sir, I wondered what you know about ... about Horcruxes?"
Before Sirius even had a chance to be confused, to wonder what a Horcrux was, the room was filled with a dense fog all over again. Sirius only winced this time at Slughorn's booming voice. "I don't know anything about Horcruxes and I wouldn't tell you if I did! Now get out of here at once and don't let me catch you mentioning them again!"
Before he knew it Sirius found himself flung back into Dumbledore's study. There were footsteps approaching the room, but Sirius only made it two steps away from the open cabinet before Dumbledore himself appeared in the doorway. Any thought of the memory was quickly banished from his mind as he turned his brightest smile to the older wizard, ready to talk his way out of whatever trouble he was in.
o o o o o
The dark red of the upholstery on the common room chairs seemed almost golden in the flickering light from the fire in the hearth. Remus sat curled into the base of one, bare toes pressed against the arm rest, head buried in a book. Completely taken in by whatever land lay on the other side of those pages, entranced by it, oblivious to the rest of the world around him. He barely reacted when Sirius appeared beside him, still engrossed in his book, and the flick of the wand which sent all of the pages flipping over earned Sirius only a glare and a "sod off" before the pages started flipping back to the one Remus had been reading.
"I've got somethin' to ask you," Sirius placed himself on the arm of the chair beside Remus, swinging his feet against Remus's chair. Thud, thud, thud, thud. Remus ignored him for as along as he could, which was longer than most but not very long, and then sighed.
"I suppose I'll have to answer you before you leave me alone?" He was still paying more attention to the book than to Sirius, but he sounded resigned enough that Sirius knew he'd put the book down soon.
"Pretty much, yeah."
He was right; Remus did put down the book. He didn't mark the page, but Sirius didn't know if that was because he remembered which one he was on or if he'd somehow charmed the book to remember for him; he wouldn't put either past his friend. The common room was empty apart from the two of them. It was late, and everyone else had headed up to bed hours ago. Sirius wondered if Remus was waiting for him to get back, but dismissed the thought immediately. They had an understanding, the four of them, that if you got caught for a prank it was on your head, whether you were the only one involved or not. The others getting away Scot free wasn't something Sirius would be annoyed over, or that they would feel guilty over. It was Sirius's own dumb fault he'd been caught, after all. If it had been James, Sirius might've thought he stayed up so he could tease Sirius about his meeting with the Headmaster; but Remus wasn't the type to go to so much trouble for a little ribbing.
"I saw a memory in Dumbledore's office," Sirius told Remus.
"That's not a question."
"No. But it was odd." Sirius explained the fogginess, the parts of the memory which made no sense to him. Remus listened, a slight frown between his eyes that Sirius always wanted to rub away.
"It sounds like it's been tampered with," Remus said eventually when Sirius finished. His book was forgotten now, and he was sitting up in the chair more than lying in it. Intrigued.
"Yes, that's what I thought." Sirius grinned, smug even though he'd needed to confirm it. "But what is a Horcrux?"
"I don't know." Remus settled back into the chair, the frown etched a little deeper now. "Never heard of it before." Sirius stared at him expectantly, feet still thudding against the side of Remus's chair. Thud, thud, thudthud, thud. "I suppose you want me to find out," Remus sighed eventually. Sirius grinned.
"Thanks mate," he jumped up off the chair. "Well, I'm off to bed. 'Night, Moony."
Remus lifted a hand in farewell and, with another sigh, returned to his book.
o o o o o
"I knew you'd be here," Sirius said smugly as he dropped into the chair across from Remus.
"Of course you did, you've got the map." Remus wasn't impressed; in fact, he barely looked up from the notes he was making. "Haven't found anything yet. Nothing in any of those books," he indicated the pile to his left. The library was mostly empty, but the librarian was likely to be prowling around somewhere so Remus kept his voice down.
Sirius leant across the table in an attempt to snatch the piece of parchment Remus was writing on, but Remus had anticipated his move and shoved his hand away before he could grab it. Sirius didn't bother pretending to be abashed at being caught, just let his upper body flop onto the table, arms still outstretched in front of him, ready for another chance to steal the page.
"Have you looked in the restricted section?"
"No. I haven't, and I won't."
"Then I will," Sirius decided, pushing his hands against the table to propel himself back into his seat.
Remus just shrugged. "You're welcome to."
The silence stretched for a while, Sirius not moving from his seat and Remus continuing to take notes from the large book that was open beside him.
"A chocolate bar?" Sirius asked eventually.
"More like five."
That settled, Remus lifted his head from the notes he was making and grinned at Sirius. "Magick Moste Evile only mentions them in passing, but doesn't really go into what they actually are at all." He ignored Sirius's spluttering at being tricked (he should know by now that Remus could be mighty cunning, especially with the possibility of chocolate involved, but Sirius always underestimated him) and continued. "I did find this though," he passed the piece of parchment he'd been writing on across to his dark haired friend. "I didn't feel like trying to sneak in or talk my way into the Restricted Section, so I just tried an 'accio Horcrux books'. This one didn't come from the library," he indicated the volume that he'd been copying out of. "It's not pretty. Nasty magic." Remus watched Sirius's face as his friend read over the notes that he'd made.
"He's making himself immortal?"
"Basically, yeah. Look, Sirius, I know you're curious or whatever, but I think we should leave this to Dumbledore. He knows what he's doing."
"We don't even know what Slughorn really told him, anyway. This book doesn't give you any information that would be actually useful to create them. Maybe he gave up and never did."
Sirius stared at Remus incredulously. "You really think that?"
"We'll tell Prongs and Wormtail tonight."
o o o o o
Remus spread the parchment out on his bed, smoothing out the crumples that it had gained from being in Sirius's pocket all day. James and Peter both leaned forward, peering down at the page. With the curtains drawn around the bed there was hardly enough light to read the words, so James whispered a 'Lumos' and held his wand over the page. Sirius's eyes looked almost wild in the magical light, the grin on his face verging on manic. Remus was more subdued – he'd insisted on the secrecy, though Sirius had been happy to oblige him because subterfuge always made things more exciting. The topic of Horcruxes was banned at Hogwarts, and after reading the book he had in his bag next to him on the bed Remus knew why. The charms he'd put around the bed would prevent anyone outside from hearing anything they said and the curtains wouldn't open until he released them, but he was still nervous. If someone found out what they were doing they could get into a lot of trouble.
"Blimey," James said eventually, once he'd finished reading the page. Peter was still reading it, but the expression on his face echoed that on James's. Sirius had already explained the altered memory he'd seen while in Dumbledore's office, and now James volunteered to be the one to talk to Slughorn to try to find out more.
Remus shook his head, "you know he won't talk to you, James."
"He'd talk to Lily," James said. "I'll get her to talk to him for us."
"No you bloody won't!" Sirius exclaimed. "She's not a Marauder, we can't go giving away our secrets!"
"Lily can keep a secret!" James said angrily, leaping to his girlfriend's defence without even thinking about it.
"You'd have to tell her about all of this or she wouldn't agree," Remus said quietly. "You know that."
"And she wouldn't let it drop once she knew," Sirius added.
"Maybe you could just mention hearing the word and wanting to know what it means," Peter suggested. James looked at him thoughtfully, but Sirius interjected before he could say anything.
"As soon as Slughorn told her anything about them, she'd know what we're doing. No. You can't go to her."
Before James could reply Remus quickly said, "Peter can do it. He's the best at potions, and Slughorn likes him."
"Peter will be great," Sirius decided. Everyone turned and looked at Peter.
"I'll do it," he said it with a grin, but he looked absolutely terrified.