Note: I'm sorry for the delay in updates. It's been a difficult couple of weeks. I'm hopelessly behind on my correspondence; so let me take the opportunity here to thank everyone for reading and reviewing! You don't know how much your support means to me when I'm low. Thank you!
Also, I don't usually respond to anonymous reviews in Author's Notes, but I do want to say to "Kellie": your review wasn't offensive at all! I appreciate your thoughts, I agree that interpretation of their relationship is flawed, and you never need to put aside your opinions when reading or reviewing my stories. Thank you for your feedback! It's valued and I love it.
Chapter 134: Criminal Enterprise
No letter came for Sirius on Saturday. He was braced for one as the post came in, scanning the flock of owls as they wheeled down from beneath the enchanted ceiling and looking, no doubt, for either his parents' fierce-eyed bird or a post owl carrying a scarlet envelope. But neither came. James had his copy of The Daily Prophet and a care package from his mother. Peter had a letter from home. But there was nothing for Sirius.
'Well, that's a relief,' said James, when it became obvious that nothing was coming. 'I thought she'd come out with another Howler for sure, if she's been told about Narcissa. Perhaps she's decided it's not worth the effort.'
'That's not it,' Sirius muttered, eyes still fixed heavenwards. 'You can't underestimate her. Doesn't do to let yourself be lulled into a false sense of security…'
Just at that moment, a large and unwieldy shape rose silhouetted against the lofty windows. Remus's throat constricted and he felt Sirius stiffen beside him. It was not one, but two owls, flying in formation with something heavy and pendulous slung between them. As they swooped into the hall and banked into a slow, careful descent, Remus saw that it was a canvas sling weighted down with something large and lumpy. Sirius was tracking it with his eyes, fumbling for his wand with a hand that suddenly trembled almost uncontrollably. Remus could not imagine what Mrs Black might send in such a way, or what danger it might possibly pose, but he reached across and plucked Sirius's wand from his belt, placing it firmly in his friend's hand and closing long, clammy fingers around it.
There was an audible click in the back of Sirius's throat as he swallowed dryly. He was just starting to rise from his seat, moving his wand into a defensive position, when the owls took another tight turn and descended on the Slytherin table.
Several surprised voices remarked, and half a dozen hands moved to snatch goblets and tall pitchers of juice out of the way of the owls' unwieldy burden as they lowered it to the tabletop among the Prefects. The sling collapsed as it was dropped from four strong talons, and out spilled a profusion of huge red roses. There had to be three dozen at least, cascading over the platters of pastries and into the dishes of eggs and ham. Sitting squarely before this extravagant display was Narcissa Black.
James laughed, a thin and nervous sound that made it plain he, too, had seen the strange delivery as a threat. 'Looks like somebody's angling for forgiveness,' he said.
Remus sought out Lucius Malfoy, who had been relegated in recent days to the opposite side of the table. He was looking at Narcissa with clear expectation in his eyes, waiting for her to exclaim over the grand gesture of affection. But Narcissa did not speak. She was sitting perfectly still, studying the cascade of costly flowers as if completely unaware of the hundreds of eyes upon her. She did not seem to see Lucius, waiting, nor Regulus at her side, gazing up at her hopefully. Then smoothly, regally, she rose from her place and stepped back over the bench. She cast one haughty, disdainful look at the mess of spilled roses, and then turned her back upon it. With an almost queenly grace, she strode from the Great Hall, her face cool and patrician and hard as carven marble.
Someone chuckled. Someone else gasped. A high, boyish voice at the Hufflepuff table rose in a question, only to be hushed by his housemates. As Narcissa disappeared out into the Entrance Hall, all eyes shifted back to Lucius Malfoy where he sat, now very stiffly, with his pale face blanched almost to grey. All the Slytherins were watching him sickly, unsure what to say or do and obviously afraid to move an inch lest they draw the Head Boy's displeasure in his moment of very public rejection.
Even the staff were watching, all except Professor Binns, who had dozed off with his chin on his chest, and Professor Dumbledore, who was occupied with his scrambled eggs. Professor Slughorn in particular looked positively aghast. The hush that had fallen over the hall was deafening: after those initial outbursts of shock, no one dared make a sound.
Then a voice rang out, clear and mocking and gleeful.
'All's said and done, I think that's a no, don't you, Malfoy?' James called.
The room erupted in laughter from the other three House tables, even as those at the Slytherin board flinched in anticipation of the Head Boy's reaction. Malfoy shot to his feet as if the bench had suddenly burst into flames beneath him. He tried to step back from the table, no doubt hoping to make the same sort of sweeping, elegant exit that Narcissa had, but his robes caught on the corner and he stumbled, obliged to catch himself against the nearest pillar. He righted himself, stamping one foot and looking around at the sea of eyes. Two hot patches of crimson had appeared on his pale cheeks, and his face was twisted in humiliation and anger. He did not make for the great doors at the far end of the hall, but fled instead around the corner of the dais, past the staff table and out the side door that led towards the Headmaster's office. The laughter of Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Gryffindor followed him out.
It was, ostensibly, homework hour in the third dormitory. Peter was labouring over his Transfiguration assignment, now and then begging help from James, who had finished his in record time and was now throwing together his star-chart for Astronomy. Remus, who had done his own days ago when it was first assigned, was nose-deep in his Potions textbook, anxiously brushing up on the material that had been covered on the ruined exam the day before. Ordinarily studying for Potions was an exercise in futility, for no matter how well he knew the material going in, he would always find his focus broken and his thoughts scrambled in the poisonous atmosphere of Slughorn's classroom. But with the second store-cupboard robbery slated for the small hours of Sunday morning, he had a genuine hope of success this time, and he meant to seize it.
Sirius was also lounging on his bed like the others, and he was also reading, but there was not even a pretext of schoolwork about the subject. He had brought out the pile of newspapers he had 'borrowed' from Professor Van Dorn's cupboards – it could not exactly be called theft, for he had taken them from right under the Divination teacher's nose, but neither had he asked for permission nor promised to return them. A dozen copies of The Washington Post were strewn across the counterpane in various stages of disarray, and there was a rustle of newsprint as Sirius folded the copy he had been reading and cast it over his shoulder. It drifted to rest over his pillows, and he reached for a fresh one.
Remus was cross-referencing his class notes at that moment, and from the corner of his eye he saw Sirius brush aside the last paper in the pile and pick up the large, flat leatherbound volume that lay beneath. He had taken that as well on the day Professor Van Dorn had given Remus the fresh piece of amethyst – which even now hung about his neck by a scavenged piece of twine. Now Sirius shifted from his belly into a cross-legged pose, and dragged the book into his lap.
'This isn't the same paper!' he exclaimed to no one in particular a few minutes later.
'How's that?' James asked idly, his quill scratching rhythmically across the page.
'The clippings,' said Sirius, turning another page carefully. Remus caught a glimpse of a large newspaper article pasted to the page, its bottom third folded up because it was too long for the paper to which it was affixed. Hauntingly still and vaguely blurry Muggle photographs stood out blackly amid the sea of text. 'The San Francisco Chronicle,' Sirius murmured, reading. 'That's odd…'
'What's odd about it?' asked James. 'Everyone knows Muggles have a newspaper in every city. Bit excessive, seems to me, but that's the way they do it.'
'Not that,' Sirius said impatiently, waving James off. He turned the page again, leaning in as if transfixed. There was a lengthy silence as he read, and Remus was just turning back to his Potions book when Sirius spoke again. 'They're all about the same thing. The articles. They're all…'
He trailed off again, once more lost in what he was reading. Beyond him, James shrugged. 'That makes sense, too,' he said. 'Why else would you keep a scrapbook, 'cept to collect articles that were related somehow?'
'My mum keeps a scrapbook of clippings from The Prophet,' Peter said. 'Every time someone in the family's mentioned in the paper, she saves the article.'
Remus, who had seen this scrapbook and knew the secrets it contained, was a little surprised to hear Peter speak of it so readily. But when James grinned and cocked an approving finger at the podgy boy, Remus understood.
'Exactly,' said James, and Peter flushed happily. 'That's the whole point.'
'It's not like that,' Sirius mumbled distractedly, still staring at the page before him. 'It's… these are all about a killing.'
'A what?' James said incredulously, as if uncertain he had heard that correctly. Remus was a little unsure himself. There was no mistaking Sirius's words, but why would a teacher have such a thing in his cupboards?
'A killing,' said Sirius. 'No, more than one…'
'That doesn't make any sense,' said James, in the patient tone one might use to convince a small child there were no monsters under the bed. 'Why would Professor Messin'-With-the-Vibes have a—'
'Oh, do shut up!' Sirius said dismissively, wafting an annoyed hand at his friend without ever tearing his eyes from the scrapbook. His lips moved soundlessly as he read, though that was not at all his habit.
James put aside his homework and climbed down from his bed. He angled himself to look over Sirius's shoulder, and then sat beside him so that he could lean in still further. ' "I've Killed Seven," The Zodiac Claims,' he read aloud. 'That's…'
'That's terrible!' cried Peter. 'Why are you reading something like that?'
'Why's Van Dorn saving something like that?' demanded James equably.
Sirius was turning back the pages now, transfixed. Behind his penetrating stare, Remus could see the cogs of reason whirring. 'He's following the case,' he murmured. 'Back here, there's a…'
James had caught the pages Sirius had flipped, and was holding them aloft so that he could peer in at the article he had first seen. 'Wait, he sent letters to a newspaper?' he said. 'A killer? That isn't very smart.'
'Like Jack the Ripper,' said Sirius. His voice still had the distant quality of someone deep under hypnosis.
'Who?' Peter's eyes were very wide now, and he was hugging his Transfiguration textbook to his chest.
'Jack the Ripper,' James repeated. 'He was a Muggle murderer in London about a hundred years ago. He killed a bunch of girls. They never caught him.'
'Eighty years,' Remus said softly.
'Hmm?' said James, looking distractedly at him.
'Jack the Ripper. It was eighty years ago, more or less,' said Remus. 'He sent letters to the newspapers, mocking the police.'
'Well, so did this one,' Sirius said, flicking James's hand off the book so that he could spread it out flat again. He had found what he was looking for. 'See? It's a code.'
Now Remus could not even pretend that he was thinking about his Potions revising. He hefted the materials off his lap and slid down off the bed, hurrying to peer over Sirius's other shoulder. This headline read 'Vallejo Mass Murderer Threat Fails', and beside the text of the article were three boxes each containing eight lines of strange symbols and characters. Some were circles or squares, variously shaded. Others had the angular asceticism of the Anglo-Saxon runes Remus had been studying this term, though he did not recognize any of them specifically.
'Here,' said Sirius, ruffling something on the opposite page. Several sheets of lined paper, the Muggle sort that came in tablets bound at the top with gummy glue, had been stapled to its corner. As Sirius rifled through them, Remus saw that on each one, the symbols from the newspaper article had been meticulously copied and then covered with pencil notations, frequent crossings-out and scrawled marginalia. 'He was trying to solve it,' Sirius said. 'Professor Van Dorn.'
James thumbed through the handwritten papers, puzzled. 'Why?' he asked. 'Why would he want to solve it?'
'Wouldn't you?' Remus asked quietly. He was skimming the article now. Under the heading of Earlier Murders, it summarized the shooting of three young people, going on to explain how the segments of the cipher had been sent to three different newspapers and had not yet been broken. 'If someone was killing people, and then leaving clues to his identity, wouldn't you want to help solve it?'
'I would!' Sirius snorted. He turned the page again, smoothing the loose sheets neatly down as he did so. 'Listen to this. This is the Zodiac speaking. In answer to your asking for more details about the good times I have had in Vallejo, I shall be very happy to supply even more material. By the way, are the police haveing a good time with the code? If not, tell them to cheer up; when they do crack it they will have me. Cheeky bugger! He's taunting them.'
'He misspelled having,' said James, perplexed. 'Not a very intelligent cheeky bugger, is he?' He nudged Sirius with his elbow. 'And I don't think it's pronounced Valley-Joe, old chum. I think it's Spanish: the "J" makes a "huh" sound.'
Sirius wasn't listening. He was flipping ahead. 'Look, here, they've solved it,' he said. 'Donald and Bettye Harden… just a teacher and his wife. Says here that the code experts couldn't break it, but some couple did.'
'That's what Professor Van Dorn was trying to do,' said Remus, looking across at James. The bespectacled eyes were scanning the article and did not meet his gaze.
'I like killing people because it is so much fun,' James read, his voice wooden and horrified. 'It is more fun than killing wild game in the forrest – two "Rs" – because man is the most dangeroue – I think he means dangerous - anamal of all… he's a madman! And he can't spell anything right.'
'Might be a ploy,' murmured Sirius. He had come to the bottom of the article, and he flipped ahead again, handling the pages with care. 'It'd make the thing harder to solve, now wouldn't it?'
'Maybe,' said James. 'Or maybe he's just an uneducated American clod.'
'There are others,' said Sirius. He had found another newspaper article containing another cipher. This time, it seemed that Professor Van Dorn had eschewed the pad of paper. His attempted solutions were written in the margins of the scrapbook and all over the next three pages. 'He's boasting about how many people he's killed – he claims they haven't found them all.'
'I don't want to hear any more of this!' Peter cried, leaping from his bed with a hand clamped over each ear. 'It's horrible! Killing people and then – then making a game of it, it's horrible!'
'It is,' Sirius agreed fervently. But his eyes were drawn back to the lines of strange symbols. 'Still, you've got to admire the arrogance. It's a right cocky thing to do, taunting the papers and the police like that. And to do it in code, so they've got to run around trying to untangle your message…'
'It's horrible!' Peter repeated, anxiety taking on the flavour of anger. 'I won't listen. I don't want to know. I… I'm going to sit in the common room!'
'So go,' said Sirius dismissively.
Peter looked at James, obviously hoping his friend would take up for him. But James only shrugged. 'Go if you like, Peter,' he said. 'I've got to finish reading this.'
For a moment, Peter's lower lip quivered. He glanced at the door, uncertain. He picked up his Transfiguration materials, shuffling the papers clumsily and trying to hide his hurt. 'I've got work to do,' he said, wounded. 'I don't want to read about Muggles killing each other. I… I just want to do my homework.'
Remus knew he ought to go with the smaller boy, to keep him company so that he did not feel pushed out of the group. But he could not. His curiosity was piqued now: however terrible the crimes committed by this strange man in far-off America, the mystery was irresistible. Already his eyes were straying back to the pages. Sirius had found a third block of code, and accompanying notations in their Divination teacher's handwriting.
'We'll come and join you when we're through, Peter,' he said gently. 'We… I'm afraid we've simply got to know.'
'Why?' demanded Peter, indignant and injured.
'Because we do!' cried Sirius, exasperation finally tearing his eyes from the scrapbook. 'If you can't stomach it, fine, but stop whinging. The rest of us aren't likely to rest easy until we know if this maniac's been caught!'
Peter made a tiny, frightened noise somewhere deep in his throat, and scurried from the room. Remus's remorse plucked at him. 'I should go and apologise…' he began, sliding one leg off the bed and preparing to shift his weight onto it.
Sirius grabbed hold of his sleeve. 'Don't you dare,' he said. 'We need all great minds on board, here. Doesn't look like they solved this one…'
Reluctant though he was to leave Peter alone and excluded, Remus found himself drawn inexorably back to the mystery.
They read every article in Professor Van Dorn's scrapbook, but by the last one – written in March of 1971 – there was still no resolution to the crimes. There were a total of four coded messages. Only one was reported as having been solved, and that with the final few characters representing a random jumble of letters. Of course, the three Marauders had to have a go at the other three ciphers, and they spent the rest of the afternoon poring over them raptly. Only when James's belly snarled audibly did they remember that it was time for supper.
Peter was already at the table when the others arrived in the Great Hall. He greeted them cheerfully, but clapped his hands over his ears when Sirius tried to recount what they had learned that afternoon. So James changed the subject, and they settled into their usual easy conversation.
Midway through the meal, Remus stole a glance at the Slytherin table. Narcissa was in her usual place, eating daintily and talking to the girls with whom she kept company – Remus wasn't sure which of them were friends and which merely strategic allies. Lucius Malfoy was watching her with a curiously unguarded longing, but she did not seem to notice him. At least the atmosphere seemed markedly less tense than it might have been: Regulus was eating contentedly and talking to his roommates, who by virtue of association were afforded favourable seats near the head of the table.
After supper, James and Sirius went off in search of Filch to serve their fifth detention for the Dungbomb caper. Remus and Peter retired to the dormitory, where Remus abandoned his own studying in order to help his friend through the Transfiguration homework that had somehow (unsurprisingly) failed to get done among the myriad distractions of the common room. They were finished by eleven o'clock, and although Remus meant to sit up and wait for his friends to return from detention, he drifted off almost at once, worn out by the rigours of the week.
He did not wake when James and Sirius came back to the dormitory, but he did come to when Sirius padded around the foot of his bed and shook James awake, hissing, 'Psst, Potter! Get up! Time to go!'
James moaned and shifted in his bed. 'Wha' time is it?' he asked blearily.
'Five minutes to four,' whispered Sirius. 'Time to go.'
James groaned again, but a moment later he was sitting up with his legs over the side of the bed, scrubbing at his eyes in the starlit gloom. 'This is why we didn't do this on a school day, isn't it?' he groused.
Sirius was on the other side of the bed now, digging unceremoniously in his friend's cupboard. He flung a set of robes over James's head, and produced a pair of socks. 'Put 'em on over your pyjamas,' he instructed. 'No time for fannying about.'
Remus, now fully awake, pushed himself up on his elbows. He had not closed his bedcurtains when he went to bed, not having meant to fall asleep. 'You're really going to do it, then?' he asked. 'You don't think it's too dangerous? Mr Filch might—'
'To hell with what Mr Filch might!' Sirius said airily. He had given up on whispering now, and he strode back to his own bed. He sat down on his trunk with a thump and began to tie his shoes. He was already dressed, and despite the darkness Remus could just make out the cuff of his Muggle pyjama trousers peeking out from under his robes. 'The danger's nothing. We have a duty to make life easier for you, and we're off to do it.'
'I'll come, too,' said Remus. 'I can keep watch and—'
'And get overcome like you did last time?' said James, not unkindly. 'No, Remus, it's best you stay here. We'll manage all right.' He disappeared inside a rippling tent of black cloth as he hauled his robes over his head. 'Get some sleep. In the morning, you can go down and nick us some breakfast in bed.'
'What's going on?' a timid voice asked, drifting from the far end of the room. Remus followed it to see Peter's white face peeking out from between his bed hangings.
'We're off to rob Slughorn,' said Sirius. 'Go back to sleep.'
But Peter was already climbing out of bed. 'I'm coming,' he said. 'You need somebody to keep a lookout and hold the doors and things. Remus can't go: he could hardly breathe last time once you'd got the wolfsbane out of the cupboards.'
Sirius scoffed. 'If you're just going to get all nervous and bothered, it's best you stay here.'
'Let him alone!' James chuckled. 'He didn't get nervous and bothered last time, now did he? He carried it off wonderfully, supporting Remus's story to Culpepper and all. And we could use another pair of hands to help with the doors. Get your school things on over your jammies, Peter, and be quick! Time is of the essence!'
Peter, his chest puffed out proudly at James's words of praise, hurried to obey. Sirius was on his feet now, tucking away his wand. Remus felt useless, sitting in bed, still warm beneath the covers, while his friends dressed in the chill of the night. 'I… I ought to do something,' he said.
James stood up and clapped him on the shoulders. 'It's all right,' he said. 'You've got to sit this one out: there's no question. Nobody would expect you to fly with a dislocated shoulder, and this isn't any different. There's a sound medical reason to stay behind, and it's better for you and for the operation as a whole that we don't press our luck.'
'We'll be back in an hour or so, telling you how boring it was,' Sirius promised. 'You won't miss anything but a lot of shuffling around. Maybe a stubbed toe or two.'
'It's all right, Remus,' Peter said. 'You can come next time we've got some mischief to do.' His words were kind, but the note of self-satisfaction was plain: he was glad that this time, he wouldn't be the one left out.
'Got your wands?' asked James, tucking his own away at the ready.
'Got the Cloak?' Sirius countered.
'Half a moment: I've got to tie my shoes!' Peter said.
Then all at once they were gone, Sirius last of all. He flashed Remus a hearty thumbs-up, silhouetted against the pale glow from the window, and then closed the door gently but firmly behind him.
Alone in the silent dormitory, Remus shivered and bundled the bedclothes up around his shoulders. His nightshirt, threadbare with countless washings, wasn't warm enough anymore to wear sitting up in bed on a cold autumn night. He wanted to close the bedcurtains, to shut in the warmth of his body and to shut out the cavernous emptiness of the deserted room, but he didn't. If he couldn't be out there running the risks with his friends, at least he could keep watch until their return.
It was not the projected hour and a half, but more than three hours later when Remus finally heard footsteps on the stairs below, then on their landing. The door creaked open, apparently of its own accord, and there was a shuffling of feet and a brief, muffled oath. As soon as the door was closed again, the Invisibility Cloak slithered to the floor, revealing the closely-bunched Marauders in the grey predawn. Free of the constraints of moving in tandem, Sirius sprang away from his friends, rubbing his flank.
'You need to learn to mind your elbows, Pettigrew,' he groused. 'Every damned time!'
'It's not my fault,' protested Peter. He crouched to collect the slippery, shimmering Cloak. 'You crowd me. James and Remus never crowd me.'
'It's always crowded under there, whatever we do,' said James cheerfully. He looked around the dormitory with the air of a warrior lately returned from a long campaign and grinned at Remus. 'All quiet on the home front?'
Remus, who had been propped against his pillows, sat up straight and nodded. 'Did you… was there any trouble?' he asked. 'You've been gone a lot longer than…'
'Longer than I thought, yeah,' said Sirius ruefully, rubbing the back of his neck as he wandered down towards his bed. 'Sorry 'bout that, mate. There was a complication.'
'What sort of a complication?' asked Remus, his insides twisting. 'You didn't – did you get caught?' As soon as he said it, he knew it couldn't be so: if they had been caught burgling the Potions dungeon, they wouldn't have been sneaking back into the dormitory. They would have been escorted back by an angry Professor McGonagall or a Prefect indignant at having been roused at such an early hour on a Sunday.
'Marauders never get caught!' James declared grandly, bouncing as he sat on the edge of his bed. He kicked off his shoes and jabbed his wand at the lamps one by one. Soon the dormitory was bathed in warm light. 'We just had a bit of trouble with the storage facility.'
'The storage facility,' Remus repeated. 'Classroom 9?'
'Not anymore,' said Sirius, shucking off his robes. He balled them up and tossed them into the corner by the lavatory door before climbing into bed, already conveniently dressed for the task. 'Someone's been in there.'
'Who?' asked Remus, his unease mounting again. 'When? Did they find the crate?'
'I doubt it,' said James. 'Seems to me if someone had found the crate, it would've been reported. Or at least tampered-with. Everything was exactly where we left it, but there were tracks in the dust by the window. Two sets of tracks, all muddled up. If you ask me,' he said, running an absent hand through his hair and grinning wickedly; 'somebody sneaked in there for a snog.'
'You'd think an enterprising gentleman could find a more romantic place to woo his lady-love,' said Sirius sarcastically. 'It's dingy in there, and there isn't even much of a view.'
'I don't think they would've been considering the romance of it,' James said, waggling his eyebrows. More gravely, he said to Remus; 'I'm pretty sure they didn't look in the wardrobe, so don't fret. But we couldn't leave it there, could we? So we had to move everything to that empty office on the fifth floor. You know, the one by the portrait of Elthelred the Unready?'
Remus wasn't familiar with the office in question, but he nodded anyhow. 'Then it's safe?' he said. 'All of it?'
'Safe from prying eyes and the tireless brooms of Argus Filch,' said Sirius. 'We put one of those recursive thingummies on the door. Well, Potter did. He's our expert. Should've seen him with Slughorn's spells! Like a master criminal!'
James grinned, trying to hide his pride with a modest demurral. 'Oh, well, it was all in the book,' he said. 'If we hadn't overheard what Culpepper suggested, I doubt I would've figured it out that quickly.'
'You were brilliant!' Peter said. 'You should've seen him, Remus. I've never seen such quick wandwork!'
'He's going to teach us how to do it,' Sirius said. He punched his pillow and flopped down on his side, pulling up the covers to his chin. 'I made him promise. The new locks on the cupboard took a bit of wrangling. That's where I came in.'
'And Peter was a superior lookout,' James said generously, smiling at the smaller boy. 'All-in-all, it was a successful caper! And we'll see if Slughorn's able to restock so quickly this time. I'd lay heavy odds he's wiped out the stores in Hogsmeade. Have to send to London, won't he?'
'Might be tricky, if he's still determined nobody find out about it,' said Sirius, mumbling thickly now. His eyes were drifting closed. 'Shut my curtains, would you, Potter?' he asked. ' 'M knackered.'
James was pulling his robes over his head. 'Remus, do you mind?' he asked.
Remus hastened to climb out of bed, drawing shut the curtains on an already slumbering Sirius. The floor was cold beneath his bare feet, and by the time he was able to gather his blankets around himself again, he was shivering. He hadn't quite realised how much the heat of four slumbering bodies warmed the dormitory each night.
'Ooh, there's frost!' Peter exclaimed, hurrying over to the window. He used the ball of his fist to melt a patch so that he could peer out into the gradually lightening morning beyond. 'Hoarfrost, all over the trees! The Forest looks like a fairyland!'
'Hoarfrost in October,' James said, shivering theatrically. 'Perhaps we're in for a hard winter.'
Thinking of his robes, only one set of which were wool and warm enough for winter wear, Remus hoped not.