27. The Dangers of Loneliness and Date Scones
"Psst! Moony, get up!" Sirius hissed.
"What?" Remus said into his pillow. "Why?" It was a lazy Saturday morning, and he'd planned to nap quietly until at least three in the afternoon. That was looking more and more unlikely as the minutes passed. He cracked an eye open and peered across to where Sirius was standing at the foot of his bed, nearly vibrating with what Remus privately called the Weekend Jitters.
"Adventuring time!" Sirius said happily. "Put your shoes on, I had a brilliant dream about pirates, and I thought we could go exploring for-"
"-Pirate treasure." Remus finished for him. "Of course, yes. I thought that might be it."
Sirius frowned at him, surprised. "How did you know?"
"Because I am your omniscient leader," said Remus, still face down in his pillow. "Fear me."
Sirius' frown deepened.
Remus could almost hear the cogs turning as he thought this over. "You talk in your sleep, plonker," he said with a sleepy grin. "It's not like I'm a Legilimens or some shit." He sat up in bed and scrubbed a hand through his rumpled hair. "Now, what was this I was hearing about an adventure?"
"You and me, exploring the wilds of Hogwarts," Sirius said, spreading his hands dramatically. "Just like the old days."
"Just like last week, you mean?" Remus asked. He sat up. "Wait," he said, rubbing at his eyes, "you aren't still trying to get me to come and poke around in the dungeons, are you?"
Sirius nodded eagerly. "Danger, adventure, horrors the like of which man has never seen –"
"Just let me get some proper clothes on, you clot," Remus said fondly. "Honestly. The things I do for you."
"Excellent!" said Sirius. "I have a map and everything, you know."
Remus rolled his eyes. "It doesn't count if you make the map yourself, Sirius," he said, rummaging around in his trunk for a clean jumper.
"Who says?" asked Sirius indignantly.
Sirius thrust the map in Remus' face. "But look," he said, "the map says treasure on it!" Sure enough, in the very center of the map was a tiny scroll that proclaimed the existence of 'TREASUREEEE!' A small animated figure was hopping up and down beside the sign, pointing excitedly toward it.
"Is that a pirate?" Remus asked. He squinted at the drawing. The drawing squinted back.
"Yes! That means it's pirate treasure."
"Of course," said Remus drily. "That was perfectly obvious."
"It was, wasn't it?" Sirius agreed. "Now hurry up, come on. You don't need another sweater, its not that cold."
"It's called being prepared!"
"It's called being ridiculous," said Sirius, with the patience of a man repeating a familiar argument. "If you're looking for the green one, you left it in the Common Room last night anyway."
Remus frowned. "How do you know?"
"Because you're not wearing it and I'm not wearing it and it's still not here." Sirius tossed his head proudly. "Elimination, my dear Watson."
"No, it's 'Elementary, my dear Watson.'"
"But I thought you were being Watson," said Sirius.
"No, I'm Remus," said Remus. "Nice to meet you."
"Yes, I know you're Remus! Now can we go."
"Yes, yes," said Remus, starting down the dormitory stairs with Sirius close behind him, "I'm going, I'm going!"
The Common Room was empty when they reached the bottom of the stairs, save for Remus' jumper, which was attached to – "The ceiling, Pads? Really? You've got to be kidding me."
Sirius shrugged, unrepentant. "Well, I was holding it hostage in case you wanted to stay in bed instead of joining me in super fun adventure time." He detached the jumper with a flick of his wand, and it fell to the floor with a surprisingly solid thump. "You always tell me to have a Plan B, Moony!" he said. "I was just taking your advice."
Remus snatched the jumper up from the floor, shook it out and pulled it on over his head. "When I ask you to listen to me for once," he muttered from the depths of the fabric, "this is so not what I meant, it isn't even funny."
"I thought it was funny," Sirius said. "I was going to write you a little ransom note and everything, but then I got distracted."
"Treasure!" Sirius exclaimed, waving his arms around helpfully.
"Of course you did," said Remus, heading for the door. He paused halfway and turned around. "Well, are you coming or not?"
"Of course I am!"
"Then lead the way, captain."
Sirius consulted the map briefly, before shouting, "ONWARDS!" and charging down the corridor with Remus hot on his heels. He skidded round a corner and nearly collided with a statue.
"Slow down when you get to the stairs," Remus yelled at the back of Sirius' rapidly disappearing head. "I refuse to take you to the Hospital wing with yet another broken arm!"
"Right you are, Moony," said Sirius, obligingly slowing to a walk at the top of the stairs. "A broken arm can't carry treasure, after all."
"You're a man obsessed," Remus said as they descended the staircase.
"I wouldn't say obsessed," Sirius hedged. "Just… differently focused."
"That's a new one."
The two friends walked on in amiable silence for a moment, before coming to a fork in the darkened corridor. Remus started off down the right path, as it seemed to lead deeper down into the dungeons.
"Hey, not that way!" Sirius said, pulling Remus back by the collar. "The Slytherin Common Room is that way, and I'm not in the mood for that kind of adventure today."
"The Slytherin Common Room?" Remus asked, absentmindedly detaching Sirius' fingers from the collar of his shirt, "How did you find that out?"
Sirius went a bit pink. "The Marauders' Map," he said, rubbing the back of his neck. "Reg is always hanging around here with all his little Slytherin friends. Not like I was checking up on him or anything," he said hastily, "I just… noticed his name a couple of times."
"Of course," said Remus, "that's perfectly reasonable." He turned down the other fork in the corridor decisively. "You know what," he called back over his shoulder, "This way looks far better. I say we go this way."
"Right you are," said Sirius. "Treasure awaits!"
"Okay," said James, "we have our first match against Slytherin in November, and if we don't win then I may have to kill myself in shame." He scribbled notes feverishly on a piece of parchment as he spoke. A scale model of a Quidditch pitch sat on the table by his side, tiny figures moving through loops and turns of automated drills. James poked them with his wand. "Death is in my immediate future," he said unhappily. "I don't like where this is going."
Peter frowned up at him from the depths of the Common Room's squashiest armchair. "Death?" he asked. "Isn't that a bit over the top?"
"Ah, young grasshopper, nothing is too over the top when it comes to Quidditch," James said loftily. He lowered his voice. "Nothing."
"I… well, no, I actually don't see at all," Peter said.
"Will daily practices be enough?" James asked the room at large. As the room at large consisted of only himself and Peter, he didn't get a response. He continued, undaunted. "Maybe I can talk them into lunchtime drills," he mused. "After all, it's not likely they've forgotten what a shit-show we had last year." He shook his head. "Against Hufflepuff, no less," he added mournfully. "That nearly made it worse."
Peter craned his head up from his armchair. "Wait, wait, hold on," he asked, "Are you talking about the game when – "
"We do not speak of that game," James hissed.
"Right, I knew that."
"Of course you did Pete, there's a good lad," James said, returning to his plans. "Do you think you could give me a hand with this one?"
"Sure," said Peter happily. He pulled up a chair at the table and watched as James drew the outline of a Quidditch pitch on a fresh piece of parchment.
"Thanks," James said. "It's just, I had this new idea about the Beaters and I just wanted to get it down on paper to see if it looks okay, you know?"
Peter nodded warily as James filled in the fourteen players, seven in green and seven in red. "I know," he said. "That makes sense, yeah."
"Yeah," James said enthusiastically, "I mean, Gryffindor's been under-utilizing their Beaters for years and years, and we've just got this new kid in, third year, Rutter, he's fantastic with a left swing." He drew a big R on the back of one of the red players, before giving it a quick poke with his wand. The figure obligingly started to swoop around the pitch. "Anyway," James continued, "Slytherin has exactly the same line up as they did last year, which is going to work for us because you know and I know they have that Chaser who startles every time a Bludger gets within a foot of him, and we can use that." He paused and looked up at Peter.
"Whu?" Peter said intelligently. "I mean, yes, of course we know that. Use that. Know how to use that."
"Exactly. And so if we just have Rutter tailing him constantly for the first thirty, it'll put him far enough off his game to throw out the whole Slytherin Chaser line and we can beat them that way." James paused again. "Of course, we could always just ride in on flaming great dragons instead of brooms and have them eat Slytherin's git of a Keeper, that would work." He looked at Peter expectantly.
"Sorry, what?" said Peter. "Oh definitely, that would work really well."
James grinned. "You're not getting any of this, are you?" he asked, pushing his glasses further up the bridge of his nose.
"No, sorry," Peter said ruefully. "I was trying, I was, but Quidditch just sends me out worse than History of Magic."
"Well, you don't have to stay and get bored by me," James said, clapping Peter on the shoulder with an ink-stained hand. "Go down to lunch if you'd rather and I'll see you in a minute." He gestured to the loose paper scattered across the table. "I can hold down the fort by myself for a bit."
"I might just do that," said Peter. He tapped a finger against the table to get James' attention, which was already straying back to his Quidditch notes. "Hey, you don't know where Moony and Padfoot are, do you?" he asked.
"Off doing Merlin knows what," James said. "They're probably in the dungeons again."
Peter nodded thoughtfully. "I thought I heard them leave this morning," he said. "Maybe they'll be down at lunch already."
"Maybe," James agreed. "I'll join you soon, yeah? I've just got to finish this."
"See you then," said Peter. As James turned back to his notes, Peter left the Common Room with thoughts of food already occupying his mind. Maybe they had date scones. He liked date scones.
Going off to explore the dungeons with Sirius for lost pirate gold was one thing, Remus thought. Having to stop Sirius from flooding the lower dungeons with runoff water from the Great Lake so that they could be real pirates was entirely another.
"But Moony!" Sirius said pleadingly, "You're crushing all my dreams! My ambitions!"
"My God," said Remus, "What is it with you and your preoccupation with seafaring criminals?"
"Boats, Moony," Sirius said, his eyes shining in the dim light of the dungeon corridor. "Big boats and bigger hats and lost treasure and courageous battles and valiant deeds and, and, and –"
"And what?" Remus asked, as Sirius' excitement became too much for him to string together a coherent sentence.
"And sea monsters," Sirius breathed reverently.
There was a pause.
"Well, we've got a giant squid in the lake," Remus said dubiously. "Does that count?"
"Oh shut up, Professor Lupin," Sirius said, "you just don't understand."
"I understand that you're a lunatic just fine," Remus said, knocking shoulders with Sirius.
"Hey, not on," Sirius said indignantly. He pushed Remus back. Remus tripped on an uneven flagstone, fell into the wall and then just kept falling. "Whoops," said Sirius. "Shit."
"I'm fine," said a disembodied voice from the other side of the wall.
Sirius sagged with relief. "Oh good," he said.
"You won't be though," the voice continued. "Get in here, you git." Remus's hand shot out of a wall that Sirius would have sworn was totally solid right up until thirty seconds ago, grabbed him by the wrist and yanked him in.
Sirius barely had time to close his eyes before he stumbled through the wall-illusion and collapsed at the foot of a narrow staircase.
"Where are we?" Remus asked.
"On a staircase, I think," Sirius said, his eyes shining sincerely in the dim light.
"Your insight knows no bounds," Remus said drily, "Truly, I am astonished."
"Oh shut up."
Remus shut. He craned his neck up, trying to see past the curve of the stairs. "I wonder where this goes," he mused.
Sirius elbowed him in the side. "Only one way to find out," he said. "Race you to the top?"
"Last one up's a fat gnome," Remus said, quite conversationally, before leaping up what seemed to be an entire flight of stairs.
"Oi, not fair!" howled Sirius, climbing after as fast as he could go. "Head starts are for cheaters!"
"Whatever you say, Chubby McFudge," Remus' voice echoed down from above. "Catch me if you can!"
Sirius climbed frantically for what seemed like an age. Just as his neck began to cramp from straining upwards for so long, he caught sight of Remus, who was almost at the top. "Accio Remus' shoe!" he cried in desperation. The spell worked, but too well. Remus' shoe, not attached to Remus' foot, came soaring down from above and hit him squarely in the face. "Ow," he exclaimed. "Ow."
"Oh god, that was brilliant," said Remus, perched at the top of the stairs with not a hair out of place. "The look on your face, it was just –" He made a ridiculously stupefied expression, his eyes bulging and mouth flopped wide open like a fish.
"Do shut up," said Sirius peevishly. "I may have not entirely thought that through."
"Do you ever?"
Remus folded his arms and gave Sirius an incredulous look. "Name once," he said. "Once."
Sirius grimaced. "Well…"
"My point exactly," said Remus. "Thank you."
"Hey, I was thinking!" Sirius said.
"We've already established that's something you don't really do," said Remus. "Now are we going though this door or not?"
"Of course we are," Sirius said, getting to his feet and climbing the last remaining stairs. He picked up Remus' shoe from where it lay abandoned on the ground and presented it to Remus like a trophy. "After you, Mr. Moony," he said, gallantly.
Remus bowed over the shoe, before taking it and wedging it back onto his foot. "If you insist, Mr. Padfoot," he replied. He pushed open the door and stepped out.
Sirius followed and looked around eagerly. "Huh," he said, unimpressed. They'd ended up directly opposite the portrait of the Fat Lady. "That was kind of an anticlimax."
"No more being late for potions, I guess…" said Remus. "That's a bonus, isn't it?"
"Yes," said Sirius. "I am delirious with joy." He looked up and down the corridor again, in the vain hope that it would have changed into something a bit more interesting while he wasn't paying attention.
"You know," said Remus thoughtfully, "it's not quite time for lunch yet."
"No it's not," Sirius said. "That's true. Where are you going with this?"
"And we never did find that lost pirate treasure."
"And, Mr. Padfoot, last one down these stairs is married to a fat gnome."
Remus bolted for the door, Sirius right on his heels.
Peter was feeling a bit left out. He didn't want to sound pathetic, but it did seem a bit as if his three best friends had forgotten all about him. They hadn't told him that Sirius had absconded to the Potters' house in the middle of the holidays – he only found out on the train with the rest of the school. (Not that he was complaining, really, but a letter would have been nice.)
He was sitting alone at the Gryffindor benches in the Great Hall. As it was a Saturday, he and a boy sitting at the Ravenclaw table were the only two people in the hall at all. Everyone else was busy sorting things out for the first week of classes or catching up with their friends. Peter had been planning to do exactly that after he'd eaten, but Remus and Sirius had disappeared off Merlin knows where, while James was busy sorting out Quidditch rosters or something equally dull. To be honest, Peter hadn't really listened to the explanation - he tended to zone out whenever James got the manic Quidditch gleam in his eye. Anyway, while it was always Remus-and-Sirius, or James-and-Sirius or Remus-and-Sarcasm, it was never really Peter-and-James.
The Ravenclaw waved from the other table. Peter couldn't really see who it was, but he waved back half-heartedly anyway. The other boy waved again, more emphatically, and beckoned Peter over to sit with him. Not having anything better to do, Peter went. As he drew closer, he recognized the other boy as one of the Seventh Years. Baxter, or Yaxter or something. Yaxley? Yaxley, that was it.
"Hey," Yaxley said with a smile, patting the bench next to him. "It's Pettigrew, right?"
"Right," said Peter warily. "Um, not to be rude, but how do you know my name?"
The other boy laughed. "Oh, you're one of the Marauders, aren't you? Everyone knows who you are."
"Well," Peter said, flushing a bit, "we call ourselves that, but it's all a bit of fun—"
"I'll bet it is," said Yaxley. "Hey, you want a date scone? There's a whole plate of them here."
"Thanks," said Peter, doubts forgotten. "Those are my favourite!"
"I know," said Yaxley with a smile. "Take two."
Peter took two.