A Bit Too Much Fire Whiskey
It was a cool winter's evening as James Potter and his friends burst into Hogwarts's entrance hall, along with the rest of the Gryffindor House. James was garbed in the crimson robes of his Quidditch team, still caked with dirt and mud from the many spills he had taken. However, a bright white smile spread across his face as his housemates cheered his name, practically carrying him up the Grand Staircase and into the Gryffindor common room.
'Prongs, my good man, you are the best thing that has happened to this team!' exclaimed Sirius, staying close to his best friend's side through all the chaos. 'Well, unless I joined, of course.'
Sirius was pulling on the arm of Peter, the plump, small boy who was practically run over by the crowd. On James's other side was Remus, who was acting like some sort of agent/bodyguard, keeping the screaming third-year girls away from James and promising they could have his autograph once they got to the common room. The rest of the crowd was a sea of gold and crimson, and it was difficult for the bespectacled Quidditch hero to make out faces, much less identify them. He was searching for one face in particular, but given all the madness, he wasn't surprised he couldn't find it, but he was confident it was there, somewhere.
Before long, James was dropped by his wave of fans into a comfy, red armchair by the fire, and immediately he could feel its warmth bringing blood back to his frozen fingers and toes. He was quick to find his fellow Marauders beside him, and his team mates beside them. Carson Michaels, the seventh-year team captain and fellow Chaser, was the first to approach him, and he offered him a hand.
'Potter, you are one hell of a Chaser,' said Michaels, giving his hand a good shake. 'Never have I seen one man score so many points in a game. I don't think the Hufflepuffs had the Quaffle for more than five minutes the whole match!'
'I didn't even need to catch the Snitch to win!' exclaimed Travis Wellington, the team Seeker. '160 points by the Chasers alone! Remarkable!'
There was chatter amongst the crowd, those same third-year girls squeaking out James's name and surging forward with parchment to sign. Nonchalantly, James sat up and gave a wave of his hand, and the entire room fell mostly silent.
'My dear Gryffindors,' he began, voice booming as though he was giving a theatrical performance, 'you are far too kind. You're forgetting that I was only responsible for— how many goals was it?'
'Nine!' was the crowd's boisterous reply.
'Ah, yes, over half the goals—' he paused as the gathering erupted with laughter, '—but we could not have secured the lead without Michaels's excellent leadership, Wellington's spectacular snatch of the Snitch, and, of course, the protection of our hoops by our fantastic Keeper. Oh, and the hard work of our other Beaters and Chaser, too.'
Pushing on the arms of the chair, James rose to his feet, and his fans respectfully stepped back to give him his space as he continued.
'It is really a victory of the Gryffindor House as a whole that we ought to be celebrating, so by God, let's celebrate it! I may be a mere fourth year and only in my second season on this great team, but in this team's name I say we celebrate and what more greatness will come from it! I say, next season, Hufflepuff won't lay a single hand on our Quaffle!'
'Hear hear!' shouted Remus and Sirius, raising invisible glasses, and again the common room exploded with sound. Someone started a record player and another began handing out mugs of the sweetest Butterbeer, and the victory party commenced. There was much laughter and dancing, and James must have told the match from his perspective more than thirty times within the hour. The third-years finally got their autograph, which started the rest of the younger students on getting one. By the end of the second hour, his hand had cramped up significantly and was stained with black ink, and he only then realised he was still in his Quidditch robes.
Finally James was able to excuse himself from perhaps the forty-second telling of how he had been able to scoop the Quaffle from midair and score off an interception from the Hufflepuff Keeper's pass, and he found his way to a corner of the common room unoccupied by students. He stood there a moment, attempting to catch his breath, and took a long drink of Butterbeer to wet his mouth after so much talking. He was soon accompanied by Sirius, which he didn't mind at all. He always welcomed the company of his closest friends.
'Some party you started, eh, Prongs?' said Sirius, nudging James with his elbow. He beamed at him with a white-foam moustache that matched the Quidditch hero's.
'I'll say,' agreed James, clinking his mug against Sirius's. 'Can't help but wonder how someone managed to sneak Butterbeer up here from Hogsmeade, though.'
'Yeah, right odd, isn't it?' said Sirius as he took another drink, but something shimmered in his stormy eyes that led James to think he knew quite a bit more about that than he was letting on.
However, he merely shrugged it off and went back to scanning the crowd. It was much easier to make out who was who when away from it all, but very quickly James's smug smile fell to a frown.
'She isn't here, is she?' he asked, voice almost too quiet to be heard above the sounds of the party.
'Who?' asked Sirius, who then caught the expression on James's face and rolled his eyes. 'You're not still on about Evans, are you?'
'You don't see her, do you?'
'Well, no, but I haven't exactly been looking for her.'
'Was she even at the match?'
'Prongs, I have no idea. Why would I—'
Sirius cut himself short as he again looked at James. The Gryffindor Chaser appeared nothing like he had before. Just moments ago, he'd been a shining beacon of heroic talent, brimming with confidence. Now, he had shrunken into himself, his eyes averting all but the floor. It wasn't unknown to even a first year that James had fallen for the only girl he could not seem to get, and anyone could tell that he'd been hurt deeply by her absence from the match.
James looked up suddenly as Sirius clapped a hand on his shoulder, shaking him roughly.
'I know just what to do to cheer you up,' he said, smirking devilishly.
'It won't work,' said James quickly, 'especially if it's got anything to do with pranking the Slytherins—'
'It's got nothing to do with those slimy serpents,' Sirius assured him. 'I'm going to fetch Wormtail and Moony, and you get your cloak. Meet you back here in five.'
Before James could get a word in edgewise, Sirius had disappeared into the sea of celebrating Gryffindors. With a gruff sigh, James knew he had no choice but to listen to his friend, and so he silently slipped up to his dormitory to retrieve his invisibility cloak from his trunk.
By the time he returned to the corner in the common room, Sirius was already there, along with Remus and Peter.
'Good to go, then?' asked Sirius as James approached.
'Good to go where, if I dare ask?' said Remus, raising a sceptical brow. 'It's already past curfew, and I don't fancy getting another detention.'
'Oh, Moony, have some faith in me, won't you?' said Sirius as he stepped forward and took the cloak from James's hands. 'We won't leave the castle, and we certainly won't get caught. You'll get your Prefect badge next year, no worries.'
With that, he threw the cloak over the four of them, and no one noticed as they disappeared from sight.
'So where are we going, Padfoot?' asked Peter, smiling with excitement. 'To the Prefects' bath again? Or perhaps just the girls lavatory? Or is it a prank?'
'Patience, Wormtail, and stay quiet and follow my lead,' said Sirius, that tell-tale smirk still playing across his face. Having no reason to argue and being genuinely curious, James too fell silent and followed Sirius's footsteps as he led them form the common room.
The corridors of Hogwarts castle were always eerily silent at this time of night. One could almost hear the air move as ghosts floated about, in and out of rooms and through walls. James and his friends had to be especially careful that their footfalls would not be heard as they made their way to an unknown destination. Although there were rarely prefects patrolling the Grand Staircase, Sirius silently made the decision to instead use a secret passageway near the Arithmancy classroom on the seventh floor. There was a scarcely noticeable shift by a purple tapestry as the four Gryffindors slipped behind it, unseen. Still they did not throw off the cloak as they went through a maze of dark passages and multiple stairs, and at last they came out from behind another tapestry, this one orange, landing them on the main floor.
The Entrance Hall was crawling with prefects f all houses, but the Marauders paid them little mind as they invisibly backtracked to the first floor. Once down another small staircase, they came to a stop and waited. By now, James had realised Sirius's plan and he couldn't be happier for it. He willed his stomach to stay quiet as his mind anticipated the kitchen raid that was about to happen, but it did not obey him and rumbled loudly.
He would have been ashamed of this noise had Peter's stomach not sounded simultaneously and with three times the volume. Remus hissed and Sirius lightly bopped him on the head as James muttered a, 'Wormtail. . .', but the damage had already been done. The four held their breaths as the doors to the kitchen opened, bathing the entire corridor in a golden light, save for the invisible Marauders and the long shadow that stretched from the doorway.
'Whos is there?!' squeaked a voice so high, it caught James off-guard and he had to bite back a laugh. 'Knobbeses knows he heard yas. Knobbeses knows yas there.'
The shadow shrunk as the owner of the voice came forward. He was a tiny creature, an old, grey house-elf by the name of Knobbes. He was one of the only house-elves that seemed to mind the Marauders' kitchen raids, perhaps because he was the oldest and much more traditional than his co-workers.
'Comes out, yas thieveses,' said Knobbes irritably, tapping his hand with a wooden spoon. Despite his small size, James was well aware of how handy he was with that spoon, and the memory of it leaving a red welt on his left cheek was enough to keep him quiet.
"Knobby, what are you doin'?' asked another voice, even higher and squeakier than Knobbes's.
Knobbes cringed at the nickname.
'Knobbeses has tolds yas not to uses that nameses!' he growled. A bluish house-elf appeared by his side: Nibby, a good friend of the Marauders'. He was much younger and fresher than Knobbes, and James knew he got a kick out of seeing their pranks. He always told himself, if the Potters ever got a house-elf, it would be one like Nibby.
'Knobby, Nibby thinkies you're hearing thingies again!' teased Nibby, laughing jovially as he ducked to avoid Knobbes's wooden spoon.
'What did Knobbeses just tellses yas?' barked the old house-elf.
'Nibby's apologies, Knobby—Knobbes,' he corrected himself, though still smiling. 'Nibby just means to say it's late and the other house-elvsies hasn't heard anythingies. Knobby—Knobbes should go to bedsies like everybody elsies!'
Knobbes grumbled something incoherent but hobbled off to the house-elves' sleeping quarters. Nibby went to follow, but not before glancing down the hall with a smirk and a wink of his very large, saucer-like eye.
The Marauders stayed where they were for a moment, then, once they were sure they were clear, slunk into the kitchens and closed the door without so much of a creak.
'That was so bleeding close!' exclaimed Sirius, throwing off the cloak. 'God save Nibby!'
'Too close, Padfoot,' said Remus, brow furrowed and arms crossed. 'If Knobbes had caught us, he'd have turned us in to Filch, and we'd be dangling by our toes right now.'
'Rubbish,' said Sirius, waving his hand dismissively, 'everyone knows that "hanging us by the toes" story is just a gag. Now, what are we standing around for? Let's eat our fill!'
Without needing further approval, James split off from the group and started snatching up every dessert food he could find. First the pumpkin pasties, then the peppermint toads and chocolate frogs. Next he picked up a few cauldron cakes and finishe doff his stack with some exploding bonbons. He returned to find Remus had taken the entrée route and had selected chicken legs, breasts, and wings; pork; and even a bit of leftover filet mignon (that must've been the staff's meal, for James couldn't recall ever having filet mignon at Hogwarts). Peter's stack looked much like his own, filled with all sorts of sweets, though where James had been heavy on the cakes, Peter had been heavy on the candies.
Sirius was the last to return, and all he carried were several boxes of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans and quite a few bottles of Fire Whiskey.
'Padfoot, no,' was all Remus said as Sirius popped off the cork to one of the bottles.
'Oh, why not, mate?' he asked. 'It's a night to be celebrating, and what is there better to celebrate with?'
'I don't think I've ever had Fire Whiskey before,' said Peter.
'You'll like it,' James assured him. 'It's really sharp, tastes like nothing you've ever had before. It's a delicacy, really.'
'Which is exactly why we should put it back,' said Remus. 'Don't you think they'll notice some bottles have gone missing?'
'Sure they will, and they'll think Slughorn had a few midnight drinks. Hell, he'll be so wasted tomorrow he won't remember if he did or not,' said Sirius, uncorking three more bottles and handing them to each of them.
'A whole bottle?' asked Peter, eyes shining with wonder. 'I don't think I could down an entire bottle!'
'I'll finish what you don't rest assured,' said Sirius. Remus groaned but said nothing. James merely laughed and nibbled on the edge of a cauldron cake.
'So what're the beans for, Padfoot?' he asked between mouthfuls.
'I was thinking we could have a bit of fun,' explained Sirius, tossing one of the boxes up and down. 'We each have to go through a box, and the only thing we can chase a bad bean down with is this Fire Whiskey.'
'We are not playing a drinking game, Sirius,' said Remus thickly, and everyone knew he was serious.
'Don't be such a wet rag, Moony,' Sirius complained. 'Besides, we'll eat our fill first. No alcohol on an empty stomach! And as soon as a person starts to get tipsy, they can stop.'
'Please, Moony?' asked James, batting his eyes. 'It sounds like so much fun. And don't I deserve a little fun after my performance today?'
'Alright, fine, fine,' Remus relented, and the three other boys gave a cheer. 'But if anyone even starts to show a hint of being intoxicated, you cut them off. Fair?'
Sirius shrugged and took a swig of Fire Whiskey, and everyone knew that was the closest thing to an agreement they would get out of him. Everyone immediately took to eating as much as they could, tossing around meat and cakes, Peter managing to find some pumpkin juice to wet their whistles before starting in on the Fire Whiskey.
All was quiet for a few moments besides the sounds of chewing, chugging, and swallowing. Eventually, the boys slowed down, and after a while there was scarcely any food left. Remus let out a particularly loud belch and the others stared at him, shocked, as he quietly excused himself.
'I do believe that is a sign for the game to begin!' announced Sirius, clapping his hands together and rubbing them anxiously. He saw Remus open his mouth, so he continued quickly. 'I'll go first; it was my idea, so it's only fair.'
Without waiting for the group's consent, he burst open a box of beans and promptly pulled out a purple candy and popped it in his mouth.
'Ah, grape jam, lucky me,' he said, smirking. 'Alright, Mr. Quidditch Hero, how about you go?'
James stared between the box and his own bottle of Fire Whiskey for a moment, then decided he had nothing to lose in this little venture. He opened the box and pulled out a red bean. Closing his eyes, he dropped it in his mouth and slowly chewed, hoping in Merlin's name it wasn't blood-flavoured. To his relief, it was cherry, and his satisfied grin was all it took to get Sirius to moan in disappointment.
'This is no fun so far,' he complained. 'Go, Moony.'
Remus had a look about him that suggested he'd rather be cleaning out the thestrals' stables than playing this game, but he went along with it. He, too, was lucky and got a pleasantly pink bean, which James guessed to be bubblegum. It was then Peter's turn, and of course it was there the Marauders ran out of luck. A dismal whine emitted from Peter's throat as he revealed he had plucked a putrid green bean from his box, and he very nearly vomited as he put it in his mouth.
'The Fire Whiskey, Wormtail!' James shouted, thrusting the bottle at the boy. Gladly he took it, drinking a bit more than was probably necessary. As he lowered the bottle, his eyes looked a bit dazed and he had a goofy grin plastered across his face.
'That's some really good stuff,' Peter hiccupped. 'Can I have another turn?'
'Nope,' said Sirius, eating another bean. His face melted into an expression of sheer disgust. 'Damn. Blueberry. Wormy gets all the luck.'
'Lucky?! I had bogey-flavoured!'
'Yeah, and you got to drink the whiskey, didn't you? Oh, well, what the hell?' And with that he tossed his head back and took a good, long drink from his bottle anyway.
It was James's turn again, and this time around he shared Peter's luck. As soon as the bean touched his tongue he began spitting. The taste went straight through his nose, making his eyes water, and his throat would hardly let him swallow as he attempted to wash it down with the Fire Whiskey. The relief, once the bean was drowned out, was instantaneous. Something welled up within his chest, something warm and bubbly. The alcohol bit at his tongue, but it wasn't at all unpleasant, and at once his throat felt as though he had just run a mile in the cold: hollow, open, and raw.
'Prongs, are you alright?' asked Remus, patting him on the back. 'Blimey, what flavour put you in such a state?'
'It was dirt, I think,' said James, then shook his head. He knew what dirt tasted like, and that certainly wasn't it. 'No, wait. Maybe it was earthworm. I thought I tasted something moving.'
The group made a unison gag, then laughed. From there, everyone's luck was about equal. Most turns were peaceful, but every now and then a terrible one was thrown in, such as earwax or tripe. It only took about four bad beans for Peter to find everything exceptionally funny, and he was still giggling non-stop when Remus took his bottle from him. By about the ninth bad bean, Remus, too, was getting slap-happy, and as though he felt his solid reasoning slipping from his grasp, he handed James his bottle and formally requested he be cut off. Sirius suggested giving it back to him in five minutes, to which James agreed.
'He won't remember tomorrow when he asked to stop,' whispered James, then raised his voice and assured Remus he wouldn't let him continue drinking.
James and Sirius took a few more turns, then grew bored of getting good beans between drinks and started fishing for only rancid ones. Soon that too grew tiresome, and they settled on simply just drinking the Fire Whiskey.
'Bunch of lightweights we've got, huh?' said Sirius after a rather long swig, but he was still clearly sober.
'Indeed, Padfoot,' said James, now remembering to give Remus his bottle back. He stared at it a moment, then took a drink without question. 'But you and I,' James continued, 'we know how to drink like men.'
'Eh, I dunno, Prongs. I say you still drink like a boy.'
James raised a brow, the lenses of his glasses glinting as he titled his head.
'Oh, do you?' he asked. 'And what makes you say that?'
'Well, you certainly couldn't go drink for drink with me.'
'Ah, and you drink like a man.'
There was a brief moment of silence between them as Remus's bottle hit the ground with a clank and he fell back off of his stool, beans still in hand, which flung the colourful candies everywhere as he landed. Peter clapped and giggled something about pretty colours before collapsing his head on the table and snoring loudly.
'Alright, you're on then,' said James, his tone haughty with confidence.
'On?' repeated Sirius. 'On what?'
'I'll bet five galleons I can go drink for drink with you.'
Sirius let out a raucous, barking laugh.
'Prongs, my dear boy, you'd be so plastered you wouldn't know which was is up.'
'Five galleons says I wouldn't be.
'Ten galleons says you would.'
'Ten galleons, then.'
And they shook hands on it.
It was nearly three in the morning by the time Sirius had been able to get Remus to wake up.
'Get up, would you, Remus!? Good Lord. . .'
'What on Earth are you shouting about, Sirius?' asked Remus groggily. He shook his head and blinked several times, confused. 'And where are we?'
'Still in the kitchens,' said Sirius quickly and irritably. 'Now get up and wipe that drool off your face. Peter, you too.' He gave the boy a kick, not hard, but enough to rouse him.
'I didn't take the last cake, I promise!' squeaked Peter, then shook his head. 'Oh. Hi Padfoot.'
Sirius didn't seem to be listening, nor did he have his usual playful smirk on his face. Instead, he was frowning and moving around rather sporadically, muttering something under his breath.
'Sirius, how many drinks did you let us have?' asked Remus sceptically, sitting up. His head ached terribly, and he had a strong suspicion Sirius had not kept his promise about cutting them off.
'Never mind that,' said Sirius, whipping out his wand. 'Help me clean this up, will you?'
It was then Remus realised the room was in shambles. Bits of food were splayed everywhere, and broken dishes were scattered across the floor.
'Merlin's beard,' he muttered. 'What happened in here?'
'It's a really long story that I'd love to explain, but this needs to be fixed up first!'
So Remus set to helping Sirius clean up, throwing away the spoiled and half-eaten food and carefully repairing and putting away the dishes. He took a brief moment to be thankful for magic and imagined how very tedious this job would be without it. Peter was also doing his best to help out, but stopped after not too long and stood there looking dumbfounded.
'Where's Prongs?' he asked at once, and the question made Remus halt. Sure enough, there were no signs of James Potter anywhere.
'Sirius, what did you do?' was the first thing to come out of his mouth.
'I didn't do anything!' said Sirius, just finished the repairs on a set of plates. 'He wouldn't be of any use to us in the state he's in, so it's better he's—'
'What state?' demanded Remus.
'Not important! I've got that bit under control.'
Remus gave Sirius a look that plainly spelled out how much trouble he'd be in if he didn't start explaining. The dark-haired boy gave a gruff sigh, then told him and Peter about the drinking bet he'd made.
'You let him bet you!?' Remus said. 'You knew that wasn't going to turn out well!'
'Hey, I thought I could teach him a lesson and make a little money! It's not my fault he's so stubborn!'
'Well, what happened then?' asked Peter.
'Let's just say the bloke owes me ten galleons,' said Sirius.
'So he's drunk,' said Remus, no longer willing to put forth the effort to be frustrated or annoyed. 'Where is he?'
'Well, that's the interesting part. . .' said Sirius, his sly smirk returning bit by bit. 'After a bottle and a half, he decided it might be fun to prance around in his Animagus form. Now, I was getting a bit tipsy myself, mind you, but not drunk off my arse like he was, and I thought that might be good for a few laughs. As you can see from the state of the kitchen, that wasn't such a bright idea.'
'No kidding,' said Remus, 'but that still doesn't answer my question.'
'I'm getting there! Well, after we destroyed this place, James took off down the hall, frolicking like a right mad hatter. That got me sobered up quickly; funny though it was, we didn't' need the whole school to know James is an unregistered stag. Luckily, it's late enough that there aren't any prefects patrolling, but he was making enough ruckus to wake a mountain troll, I'm telling you.
'By the time I caught up to him, he'd found his way to the second floor and was milling about 'round the library, so I shoved him in the annex. I used that charm you taught us to force him into his human form and locked him in there.'
'You left him there alone!?' exclaimed Remus.
'Does he still think he's a stag?' asked Peter.
'Yes, and, oddly enough, yes,' said Sirius, and his smirk had faded away. 'I don't know what to do with him. He's, well, you should see for yourself.'
The kitchen was mostly rectified, and so the three left it and swiftly went to the second floor corridor. Just as Sirius had said, there were no prefects monitoring the halls, and it seemed no one was aware of the drunken wizard locked away in the library annex.
Sirius hushed Remus and Peter and quietly unlocked the door and cracked it open. There was no noise, and everything inside was silent and dark. Sirius poked his head in for a moment, then looked back at his friends with a shrug.
'Poor mate must've passed out,' he said, walking inside. Peter followed and then Remus, who shut the door behind him.
'Hullo Moony!' shouted James, popping out from behind the door. Remus jumped back with a yelp, grasping his chest as his heart attempted to leap out.
'Good God, James, you nearly gave me a heart attack!' he panted.
'Sorry! Just wanted to say hi!' said James, then grinned widely at Peter and Sirius. 'Hullo to you too! The gang's all here! Are we having a party?'
'He really is wasted,' said Remus, and Sirius nodded.
'Er, no, James, there's no party,' said Sirius, using the tone he usually reserved for calming Remus when they broke too many rules. 'In fact, it's getting pretty late and we were thinking of turning in—'
'Aw, you lot are so boring,' James drawled. 'Look at you. Not even Animagi! Where's the fun in that?'
'But James,' said Peter cautiously, 'you're human, too.'
'What?' said James, cocking his head so suddenly that his glasses became askew on his face. 'No I'm not. Why, I'm a great, mighty stag! A dark, handsome buck! A loyal, courageous der!'
Sirius coughed back a laugh.
'Sirius, don't encourage him,' Remus moaned, but it was too late.
'I'm a der!' said James triumphantly, puffing out his chest as though this was some great accomplishment.
'Oh, God,' said Remus, pinching his brow in attempt to fight off the on-coming headache.
As if on cue, James went to prancing up and down the aisles, and Sirius fell to the floor, laughter rattling his sides. Peter looked as though he couldn't decide whether he ought to be amused or disturbed by what was happening, and the look on Remus's face seemed to convince him to be the latter.
'What do we do, Remus?' he asked, trying to avoid glancing at James as he sloppily skipped past.
'Well, I do know how to brew a sobering potion,' said Remus, 'but I just don't think it's worth it at this point. He'll probably pass out in a few minutes anyway.'
'Besides, why ruin the fun?' said Sirius, getting to his feet and still sniggering quietly.
Remus's brow furrowed.
'You are going to be in so much trouble for this, Sirius Black,' he said in a low tone.
'For what? There's been no harm done!'
There was a loud crash and James's voice rang out: 'I'M A DER!'
'How long ago did you cast that Anti-Animagi Charm?' asked Remus flatly.
Sirius twiddled with his thumbs.
'Er, maybe twenty minutes ago, give or take,' he answered feebly.
'It's worn off,' said Remus.
There was another crash and Peter shrieked out and leaped to the side. A bookcase came crashing down and in its place stood a large, brown stag, brandishing its antlers proudly.
'Oh, for the love of—' Remus began, but before he could finish the sentence, James trotted over to another bookcase and gave it a good ram with his head. It also toppled over, spilling books everywhere.
'N-No problem,' said Sirius. 'We'll just use the Charm again—'
James looked over, much like any other stag in headlights, and then darted away to the back of the room.
'I think he heard you,' said Peter, barely audible over the sound of yet another shelf collapsing.
'And he's not the only one, Pimplegrew,' came a shrill and mocking voice. Remus and the two others spun around to find a shimmering man floating eight feet above them, rubbing his transparent hands together mischievously.
'Peeves,' they said together, and the poltergeist laughed.
'Who else could it be?' he said, eyeing them. 'Now, let's see, we have Pimplegrew and Looney Loopy Lupin, and the Not-So-Dark Black. But where's Potty Wee Potter? Has he lost his way?' There was another crash of a falling bookcase, and Peeves cackled. 'Or is he the cause of all this commotion? Ah, yes, we are in trouble!'
'You stay right there or I wont' hesitate turning you into a pile of ectoplasm!' shouted Sirius, wrenching his wand from his pocket.
'Sirius, we need to be diplomatic about this,' said Remus evenly, pulling Sirius's wand back. He then turned his eyes to Peeves. 'Now, Peeves, how many times have we entertained you with our pranks?' he asked. 'It's only fair to let us slide this once, lest you want us in detention forever, where we can't cause any chaos?'
Peeves looked as though he was considering this, but a wicked grin stayed on his face.
'This is true,' he mused, scratching his pointy chin, 'but look at the damages! Old Filch would turn purple at the sight, and wouldn't it be wonderful?'
'Oi, you don't want the halls to be peaceful, do you?' said Sirius. 'Get us caught and there'll be no trouble for weeks, months maybe.'
Something lit up in Peeves's ghostly eyes, and he looked between the three of them. His grin grew wider and he swooped down, inches in front of their faces.
'Let's play a game,' he said, snickering. 'I'll go tell old Filch I found some naughty kiddies out of bed, but not who. If you get away in time, you win! Otherwise, more fun for me!' His laughs took over him and he soared over to the wall from whence he came.
'Waddiwasi!' shouted Remus, pulling free his wand, and a piece of old chewing gum came out from beneath a desk and rocketed straight into Peeves's nose. The poltergeist flew around sporadically, gasping and spitting like an irritated cat.
'C'mon, get James!' said Remus, who immediately set to repairing the bookshelves. There could be no trace left behind, or else Filch would believe anything Peeves told him.
Sirius vaulted over a fallen shelf, Peter hobbling behind, and managed to catch the stag in the corner of the room. Remus heard a few yells and a loud pop followed by a flash, and he knew the charm had worked. At least now there wouldn't' be any more falling books.
'Oo, you're in for it now, Wolfie!' shrieked Peeves, having finally dislodged the gum from his nose, and with a terrible buzzing sound coming from his lips, he disappeared into the wall. Peeves could disappear through floors far quicker than any of them could run, Remus realised, so he made haste to repair the remaining bookcases.
'Sirius, Peter, let's go!' he called as he erected the last case. He turned to find Sirius dragging a very unconscious James through the maze of shelves.
'He finally passed out,' said Peter, running as quickly as his stubby, little legs could carry him over to Remus's side.
'Yeah, after he gave me this,' growled Sirius, turning his head to reveal a shiny, black bruise on his right eye. 'The git kicked me before I turned him back.'
Remus couldn't stop himself from chuckling.
'Fitting,' he muttered, then shook his head to regain focus. 'Right, we need to get out of here, and quickly. Have either of you got the cloak?'
'Yup,' said Sirius, pulling the robe free of his pocket. 'What're we going to do about Sleeping Beauty here?'
'Simple,' said Remus and flicked his wand. 'Mobilicorpus!'
James's body floated three feet off the ground and Remus had to cast a Silencing Charm so his snores couldn't' be heard. Sirius threw the cloak over all of them and they quietly made their way to the door. However, as Peter reached for the knob, it twisted and the door came open, leaving them hardly enough time to get out of the way and sidle against the wall.
'Come out, come out, wherever you are,' said Filch, creeping into the library annex, holding his lantern out and searching hungrily for the rule-breaking students. A low, raspy snarl came from him as he saw the library in perfect order.
'Peeves!' he hissed, turning around and very nearly whacking James with his lantern. The poltergeist came zooming in, cackling.
'You've had it now, you little icklekins!' he sang, then stopped as he realised only he and Filch were there.
'You nasty, lying—' said Filch, shoving his light at him.
'I wasn't lying!' said Peeves, looking around desperately. 'They were here, all of them! I swear it! And Potty— he was a stag! And I'll bet they're all hiding under that disappearing cloth they've got! Come out, you wretched brats!'
'He's really pulling all the stops with this one, isn't he?' whispered Sirius, scarcely audible over the roars of Peeves as he flew around, searching for them.
'Let's go,' said Remus, noticing Filch had left the door ajar, and the Squib was far too distracted with shouting at Peeves to notice them slipping out.
Swiftly and silently the three and their floating accomplice darted out of the library annex, up the Grand Staircase, and to the Fat Lady's portrait. They spat the password at her, much to her displeasure, and she opened the entrance, and at last they were within the safety of the Gryffindor common room. Remnants from the party still littered the room, but Remus and the others were far too exhausted to care. Sirius yanked the invisibility cloak off of them and collapsed in an armchair.
'What an adventure!' he said, tilting his head back and giving a bark of a laugh.
'Yes, ha, it was very funny,' said Remus, folding his arms, 'unless, of course, you count nearly getting caught three times, James's Animagus form almost being found out, and getting very close to having the invisibility cloak known about!'
'Well, Moony,' said Sirius, chuckling lightly as Peter fell to the floor with a groan, 'that is what makes a good story.' His stormy eyes fell on James, a smirk pulling at the corner of his mouth. 'A very good story that Prongs will never believe.'
The morning light was much brighter than James ever remembered it being, and his head pounded as he tried to lift it. He soon gave up his efforts and stayed laying in his four-poster, managing to bring his hand to his forehead and letting out a moan.
'Well, lookie who's up,' said Sirius, forcing James to open his eyes. The additional light made him hiss, and everything was extremely blurry, even fro him being without his glasses. 'How'd you sleep, Prongs?'
'I feel lie I've been sat on by an erumpet,' said James, voice a series of mumbles. 'My head hurts, my throat burns. . . What happened?'
'You owe me ten galleons, that's what happened.
Now James sat up.
'What are you talking about?' he asked, spending a moment fishing for his glasses on his bedside table. Someone put them in his hand and he could make out the blur to be Peter. He muttered a, 'Thanks,' as he put them on, then returned his gaze to Sirius.
'James, how much of last night do you remember?' asked Remus, coming over and standing beside Peter.
'Er, I remember the party. . . Oh! And the kitchen raid,' said James, though all this thinking made his head pound even more insistently.
'Is that all?' asked Remus.
'Well, there was the drinking game, then you and Wormtail passed out. . .' His eyes lit up. 'The bet! Wait, I didn't lose, did I?'
'Oh, you sure as hell did,' said Sirius, holding out his hand expectantly. It was then the details of his face were no longer fuzzy and James noticed the black eye he was sporting.
'Bloody hell, what happened to you?' he asked, raising a brow.
'Nothing. Now give me my money.'
'But I don't think I lost,' he protested.
'How could you remember? Besides, you can't even remember what happened last night, which means you were wasted and that means I win.'
'Hold on, did you drink more than I did?' said James. Sirius sat there a moment, dumbfounded.
'You didn't, did you?' said Peter, laughing quietly. 'You stopped when he stopped because—' Remus clapped a hand over Peter's mouth.
'You're kidding,' said Sirius. 'I was mostly sober, whereas he, well, you saw what he was like!'
'Doesn't matter,' said James, grinning. 'I may not know what happened, but I know I matched you drink for drink, which means it's you that owes me!'
Sirius swore loudly as he jabbed his hand into his trunk and pulled out a sack of galleons.
'Fine,' he muttered sourly, tossing James ten galleons. 'Just don't expect me to save your arse the next time you decide to be a der.'
James blinked several times, trying to decipher what Sirius had said. Surely he must have misheard him due to the Fire Whiskey. However, he misheard the same thing all day, and every time he asked, Remus gave Sirius and Peter a hard look, and he was then told it wasn't important. He thought, too, that the joke would run its course by the end of the week, but he was wrong on that as well. He couldn't understand why he was being called a der, or even what a der was, but he came to accept it as Sirius's new little joke, and the mystery behind it all but disappeared from James's thoughts.
19 years later
For the sixth time that day, Harry quickened his pace to keep ahead of Ron and Hermione as they bickered over Scabbers and Crookshanks for the billionth time that day. At this rate, they would be late for Defence Against the Dark Arts, one of the only classes he truly looked forward to, and he certainly wasn't going to miss it for his friends' pet problems. He counted himself very lucky for Hedwig; she never caused any of these problems.
Unfortunately, Ron and Hermione picked up their pace to match his, though they continued arguing.
'All I'm saying is, I haven't seen Scabbers all day, and your ugly cat isn't anywhere to be found, either!' said Ron.
'If you haven't noticed, Ronald, Crookshanks is never around during the day,' said Hermione sharply. 'He likes to explore.'
'And eat innocent rats,' Ron muttered.
'Oh, stop it!' said Hermione. 'If we find him, will you stop blaming him for Scabbers's disappearances?'
Harry rolled his eyes and pushed open the doors to the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom. Mostly everyone was inside, already seated, and Professor Lupin seemed to be setting up for the lesson.
'How about this,' Harry suggested, walking to their usual place at the front of the room, 'we'll ask around here if anyone's seen Scabbers or Crookshanks, and if we still don't' know where they are, we'll look for them after class?'
'Excellent idea, Harry,' said Hermione, and she promptly set off to interrogate Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil.
Ron gave a gruff sigh and plopped down in his chair, then looked back at Seamus and Dean.
'Neither of you have seen Scabbers, have you?' he asked, Harry taking a seat beside him after giving Professor Lupin a nod as a greeting. The two Gryffindor boys shook their heads no.
'What about Hermione's cat?' asked Harry.
'Oh, is that the one with the bald spots and brown fur?' asked Seamus.
'Yeah, but it's orange fur,' said Harry. There was a clatter as Professor Lupin dropped what he was carrying onto the table, causing Harry to turn around. "Professor?'
'What did you say, Harry?' asked Professor Lupin, giving him a look he wasn't sure was good or bad.
'Orange fur,' repeated Harry, confused. 'Hermione's cat has got orange fur.'
Professor Lupin let out an airy laugh.
'Oh, orange fur,' he said, chuckling.
'What did you think I said, Professor?' asked Harry, taking note that Dean told Ron he hadn't seen Crookshanks since yesterday.
'Oh, nothing, nothing,' said Professor Lupin, but it seemed as though something in Harry's gaze got him to explain. 'It just sounded a bit like an old nickname your father had. It sounded like you said, "I'm a der."'
Harry had hoped he would be less confused by the answer, but he wasn't. In fact, he was even more confused. A der? What on earth did he mean by that? He kept his eyes on Professor Lupin, expecting more of an explanation or something, but he went right on preparing the lesson.
'Er, Professor?' asked Harry after a moment. 'What. . . Why was that my father's nickname?'
'Oh, Harry, I don't' have nearly enough time to explain it to you now,' said Professor Lupin. 'If you ask me after class, I might be able to clear some things up, but right now it's time to start the lesson.'
Though Harry tried very hard to remember to ask, the lesson about Red Caps was so fascinating he didn't even recall what it was he was going to ask in the first place. He was swept out of the room by Ron and Hermione's demands to find their pets as soon as the class concluded, and he resolved to ask Professor Lupin about whatever it was when he remember it. He never did.