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posted by [personal profile] marauderbigbang at 08:02am on 26/09/2010
Title: Dust
Author: Trinity Day ([personal profile] trinity )
Artists: [personal profile] melisus and Yue [profile] littlewolfstar
Pairing(s): None (Alt: Characters: James, Sirius, Peter, Remus)
Rating and Warnings: PG-13 for off-screen death
Summary: James Potter’s second year at Hogwarts is shaping up to be just as great as his first. Sure, his teachers are always at him to pay more attention in class, but at least he has three good mates who know the importance of having a little fun (and causing a little mischief). However, life is not as idyllic in the wizarding world at large and soon whispers and rumours are reaching even the safest corridors of Hogwarts.
Word Count: 21627
Notes: With more thanks than I can properly convey to my betas, V and Zazz.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all characters, places, objects, ideas, and related material are the property of JK Rowling and her various publishing entities. Neither the author, the artists, nor the [info]marauderbigbang are in any way making a monetary profit from this posting.




If James hadn't already dropped his belongings halfway down the stairs, he would have been caught then and there and none of it would have happened. He would have waltzed right into the common room, right into the arms of the people searching for him, leaving no chance for him to go warn Sirius that McGonagall was on the lookout for him. It probably wouldn’t have made a difference in the long run, except they could have saved the prank for a time when pulling it might have made James feel better like it should have instead of worse like it did.

As it was, the only thing James worried about when he heard McGonagall had summoned Sirius was that she had somehow cottoned on to their plans. It shouldn’t have been possible. McGonagall was good—James had been forced to admit that early on last year after the Pudding Incident—but she was no Legilimens, and mindreading would have been the only way to know about the prank the Marauders were currently planning.

They weren’t even supposed to do anything with the prank that day. If Remus had had his way, the four of them would have been in the library studying, but schoolwork on a Saturday was never James’ idea of a good time. James had begged off, saying he needed to write his parents, who expected an owl at least once a week. Sirius had made his excuses, too, but poor Peter hadn’t been able to think of anything in time to stop Remus from dragging him off to worry about the ins and outs of Hover Charms.

James was just taking the letter to the Owlery, practicing his tossing and catching while going down the dormitory stairs. The scroll wasn’t as good as a proper Quidditch ball, being both lighter and bigger than a Quaffle, but every little bit of practice helped if he wanted to move up from his position as a reserve player. No matter how many people told him it was an honour just to make the team in only his second year, James knew he had to be better.

Dropping the letter all the way down the stairs didn’t feel as badly as fumbling did on the Quidditch Pitch, though it helped that no one was around to see it tumble down the steps. James really felt better about the fumble when the extra seconds it took for him to bend down and pick up the scroll let him overhear Robbie Tait’s entrance into the common room.

Tait was the sixth year Gryffindor prefect and he hated James. The feeling was mutual. Sirius and James had spent many a rainy afternoon thinking up new ways to make his life miserable after he’d busted them one too many times for being too noisy when others were studying or for getting back to the Common Room after lights out. James had even wanted Tait to be the main victim of the prank that they were currently planning, but Sirius thought that would be a bad idea since they the male dormitories were so close together. James had agreed with Sirius at the time, but now, hearing Tait badmouth them, he was ready to change his mind again.

“Where is that little bugger? What has he done this time?” Robbie Tait demanded about two seconds after the Fat Lady’s portrait slammed against the wall. The Fat Lady exclaimed quite loudly with indignation that James shared on her behalf.

Most of the room went quiet, more because they were hoping to see something entertaining than because they were intimidated. Even James held his breath, and he swore he could hear Diana Wells, the other sixth year prefect, the one Remus had a crush on, give a resigned sigh. James might not fancy her like Remus did, but she didn’t take any of Tait’s bullying sitting down, which wasn’t bad in his books.

“Which one?” she asked. James could definitely detect a note of long suffering in her voice. “Are you looking for Potter or Black?”

Tait always did save the best name-calling for James and his mates. The whole of Gryffindor knew who he was looking for from that greeting.

“Where there’s one, there’s the other,” Tait grumbled. “McGonagall said Black, but you know that Potter is up to his nose in whatever it is Black’s getting in trouble for.”

“I haven’t seen either of them all day,” said Diana.

James didn’t wait to see if anyone else in the room would pipe up and give away their location; by that point he was already scrambling up the stairs back to his room as fast as he could.

“Quick!” he shouted, startling Sirius into knocking over his inkwell. “Where’s my Cloak?”

Without waiting for an answer, which was just as well because Sirius was busy cursing and trying to find some scrap parchment to blot up the ink, James dove for his bed. He usually kept the Invisibility Cloak underneath, since his trunk was generally too much of a mess to find things when he was in a rush. It was exactly for this kind of emergency that James liked keeping the Cloak close at hand.

“What is the matter with you?” Sirius demanded, trying to wipe some of the ink off his hands.

“Shh!” James said instead, since he could hear footsteps on the stairs. Tait was going to find them any second now. There was no time left to explain, so he tackled Sirius off his chair and threw the Invisibility Cloak over the both of them. He covered Sirius’ mouth to keep him from crying out or asking what was going on.

James was just in time. There was a loud thumping at the door and Tait hollered: “Potter? Black? Open the door.”

The thumping continued, Tait not giving them enough time to respond even if they had wanted to. “Are you in there? Pettigrew? Lupin? Let me in.”

“Give them a chance to reply.” Diana had followed Tait up, and she sounded just as annoyed with his impatience as James was.

Tait didn’t seem to want to. “We’re coming in,” he declared at the same time he started turning the doorknob.

“I don’t think they’re here,” Diana said before the door opened completely. “See?” she added, when they were presented with what appeared to be an empty room.

Tait wasn’t satisfied. He came into the room and started poking around. Dipping his finger into the spilled ink, he frowned when it marked his finger, although James wasn’t sure what else he had expected a puddle of ink to do.

“What are you doing, Robbie?” Diana asked anxiously. Even prefects weren’t allowed in other people’s room without permission, except in the direst of circumstances. James didn’t think that a summons to McGonagall’s office counted as such.

“Just checking things out. Something’s not right here.”

James held his breath—and beneath him, he noticed Sirius do the same—as Tait unknowingly walked right towards them. The Invisibility Cloak would be of no help at all if Tait tripped over them, but luckily all he did was righten the fallen chair, tucking it back under Sirius’ desk.

James wasn’t able to relax for long, because instead of leaving, Tait continued to explore the room, seemingly at random. He picked up Remus’ old copy of A Beginner’s Guide to Transfiguration, thumbing through it idly, not taking any notice of the careful notes Remus wrote to himself in the margins. Whatever he was looking for, he didn’t find it in Remus’ belongings because next he moved onto Peter’s desk, picking up his set of Gobstones despite Diana’s pleas to leave things alone and get out of there. Much to James’ dismay, they didn’t go off in his face.

The more Tait went through their things, the more James had to bite his lip to keep from yelling at him. The worst test of James’ self control came a few minutes later when Tait tripped, literally, over James’ broomstick. He cursed, blaming James for being messy rather than accepting his own clumsiness. James silently cursed him right back, wishing at that moment, more than ever before, that he was old enough to learn wandless magic. If Tait had hurt his broomstick—if so much of a twig was out of place—there would be hell to pay.

Diana appeared to feel some indignation on James’ broomsticks behalf as well, because she finally had had enough. She grabbed Tait’s arm and tried to pull him out of the room. “They’re not here. It was obvious from the get-go. Let’s try the library.”

“The library?” Tait sneered, trying to resist her tug. “What are the chances of that, do you think?”

James made a note to himself to let Remus drag him there the next time, just to prove the snotty troll of a sixth year wrong.

“The Quidditch pitch, then,” Diana said.

“Potter’s broomstick is here,” Tait said.

Somewhere, then. Anywhere. But not here. Look around! Where do you think they can be hiding? Under the beds?”

Tait’s eyes definitely darted towards the beds when she said that, and James thought for a minute he was going to get down on his knees and peer underneath.

“Let’s go,” Diana said, tugging at Tait’s arm again, this time succeeding in pulling him towards the door.

“That was close,” Sirius said, pushing James and the cloak off him as soon as the prefects’ footsteps faded out. He dusted himself off rather pointedly, but James only barely recognized the passive-aggressive show of displeasure over the clumsy tackle as he rushed over to his broomstick to make sure that Tait hadn’t damaged it.

When he failed to make James react, Sirius asked, “What was that about, anyway?”

Finally deciding that the broomstick hadn’t been damaged, James remembered the more pressing issue at hand. His eyes widened in alarm all over again. “McGonagall’s after us.”

“What?” Sirius asked. “Why? We haven’t done anything lately. I mean, there were the firecrackers that we got into the Slytherin common room by hiding them in Snape’s bag, but that was ages ago. Well, we hid them ages ago. Should have known that Snivellus doesn’t clean out his bag. Maybe next time we should use ones that start when they get too smelly, not the ones that start when they get wet.”

Sirius shook his head slightly, getting off his tangent. “The only thing we’re up to now... it could only be...” he trailed off, eyes opening as wide as James’ in dread.

“Exactly,” said James gravely, glad to have a mate like Sirius who got things just as quickly as he did. “Tukwila’s Terrible Tincture.”

“But how could she know? You don’t think she’s found the room, do you?”

“We have to go and see ourselves. It might be that she only suspects, wants to talk to us to get us to incriminate ourselves. We didn’t leave anything that’s obviously ours there, did we?”

Sirius’ brows furrowed as he tried to remember the room as they had left it last. “The cauldron’s an extra from Potions, so anyone could have taken it. The wormwood essence is only found in the Advanced Students’ Cupboard, so there’s no reason to think that we got in there. In fact, it should take suspicion off us, if anything. But... oh god, Peter couldn’t find his Defence homework last Wednesday when he got to class. Was he working on it there?”

James cast his own mind back to the Tuesday evening previous when they’d added the last of the ingredients under the darkness of the new moon. Peter and Remus had both brought their parchment and books along to work on when it wasn’t their turn to add the pods and stir steadily. And it was the very next day that Peter had been practically in tears when he got to class and couldn’t find the homework he’d sworn up and down that he’d actually completed for once in his bag. So had Professor Boyle, come to think of it, who regularly went to pieces the second even the slightest thing went wrong. James knew that Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers didn’t last long, but this one didn’t look like she was going to last the winter term.

“Maybe he forgot to write his name?” he suggested, always having to be reminded to scribble his own in the top corner just as he was handing his work in.

“Do you think McGonagall wouldn’t recognize Pete’s handwriting by now?” Sirius asked scornfully. “Or at least figure it out by all the mistakes?”

“Maybe he left it somewhere else?” James suggested without too much hope.

“We have to go check it out for ourselves,” said Sirius.

“You’re right.” James had been thinking that himself; it really was the only thing to do. This way, they might get a better idea of how much dirt McGonagall had on them and know what exactly they would have to come up with an explanation for to keep themselves out of trouble.

Getting out of Gryffindor Tower was a bit tricky, even with the Invisibility Cloak. The common room was busy and some of the fourth year boys were experimenting with Summoning Charms. For one tense moment, Sirius ducked the wrong way when a mug of pumpkin juice came too close to them, almost letting the Cloak slip right off. Tait and Diana were already gone, but enough people had heard the prefect’s rant to know that McGonagall was after their heads—and they would have a lot of explaining to do if they suddenly appeared out of the middle of nowhere. James’ dad had used the Cloak all through Hogwarts without a single incident—as did his dad before him and his dad before him. James didn’t want to be the one to break the streak, not when he was only just beginning his second year at Hogwarts.

Eventually, they made it out with only a few bruises, and once in the corridors, it became much easier to rush down to the first basement where Tukwila’s Terrible Tincture was tucked away in one of the disused classrooms.

Neither boy was expecting what they saw when they got there.

Sirius slipped his head out from under the cloak so that only his head bobbed around. “It’s all here.”

“Maybe she hasn’t taken it away yet.”

“Maybe it’s a trap,” said Sirius, sliding the rest of the way out of the Cloak. He walked around the room with his wand at the ready, although what he was expecting to do if confronted by McGonagall, James didn’t know. It wasn’t like they could attack a teacher.

“Maybe she thinks that if she brings us here and shows us, we’ll have to confess.” They wouldn’t, of course, even if they hadn’t been forewarned, but McGonagall was always trying new ways to keep them from getting into trouble.

“Are you sure she knows?” Sirius asked, once again voicing what James was wondering himself. “What did she say, exactly?”

“It wasn’t her, it was Tait. And he said McGonagall needed to see us immediately. He asked what we’d done this time, but of course no one in the common room knew because we hadn’t done anything yet.”

“But how did McGonagall know?” Sirius asked.

“Does it matter?” James asked, although he was dying of curiosity himself. “We’re still going to get in trouble. We haven’t done anything else lately; there’s no other reason why McGonagall would be angry.”

“Then you know what we have to do?”

James thought of a few things—like using the Invisibility Cloak to spy on McGonagall to see what had tipped her off, for one—but none of them seemed likely. “What?” he asked.

“We have to give her a reason to get us in trouble,” said Sirius, smirking slightly. “We’re not going to get the chance to use the Tincture again. Think about it. Even if we do convince her it isn’t ours, she’ll confiscate this batch. And if we try to brew another, she’ll just know who’s to blame. No, we have to use this and we have to use it now. We can’t let such a brilliant plan go to waste.”

It was a nice rallying speech, but largely unnecessary with neither Remus nor Peter there. James had been on board from the time the first word was out of Sirius’ mouth.

“It’s not as good as it should be,” he said. It was supposed to brew for another week and a half, until the full moon had risen and set, but even now they could use it. It wouldn’t be fully potent when it was still so fresh, but it should still leave a lingering stench that wouldn’t wash off for days. “We’ll have to use more of it—which means that we’ll only be able to use it once—”

Before James could remind him of the list of targets they’d made, Sirius broke in with his choice. “The Slytherins.”

“Tait’s being even more of a pillock than usual,” James argued, not able to forget the way he’d rifled through their room and tripped over his broomstick.

“And the Slytherins are berks all the time.” When he saw that James was going to argue, he explained further. “Tait’s already looking for us. We can hardly ignore a summons from McGonagall herself, even if it is only an idiot prefect passing the message along. We’ll get him back another time; it’s not worth it for this. The Slytherins won’t suspect a thing and we’re more likely to pull it off before they call for help.”

“It’s a Saturday,” said James. “They’ll be in their common room—or the library, or somewhere where we can’t get them.”

“They’ll all be together for dinner.”

James shook his head. “That’s hours away. Do you think we’ll be able to avoid McGonagall and the prefects until then? Besides, I don’t think we’ll be able to douse them during dinner, not with all the teachers and Dumbledore watching. Maybe if we had time to think of a way to get them all and do it without getting into trouble. But we don’t have time; we’ll have to go for someone easier.”

“But it can’t be random,” was Sirius’ condition. “We can’t waste this on some poor bloke whose only crime was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“Someone who deserves it.”

“Someone who deserves whatever’s coming to him.” Sirius quickly came to the same conclusion James had been circling around.

“There’s only one person who fits that description. Sirius, I think the answer is obvious—”

“Snape.” They both said it at almost the same second. Severus Snape, bane of their existence. James could think of no one better to test their variation of Tukwila’s Terrible Tincture on. Snape was always up to one thing or another and it was up to James and his friends to make sure the Slytherin didn’t get above himself.

“Where do you think he’d be?” James asked, mentally running through all the options. “The dungeons?” Professor Slughorn wasn’t holding one of his meetings this weekend, but Snape still went down to the dungeons on a regular basis, being the keen brown-noser that he was.

“Maybe the library.” Sirius was just as unimpressed with Snape’s study habits as James was.

“I don’t think we’ll avoid getting in trouble if he’s in the library,” added James. “There’s too many people in there. Someone’s bound to notice us and complain.”

“Who says I’m worried about getting into trouble?” asked Sirius superciliously. “We’re avoiding the teachers so that they won’t stop us, not because I’m afraid they’ll give me detention.”

James wasn’t afraid, either, and he bristled at the accusation. “You’re the one that suggested the dungeons. The whole reason we’re doing this today is because McGonagall’s on to us. We want to avoid her if we don’t want all our work to be a total waste. That’ll be harder to do if we go to the library.”

“The dungeons then. Well, if we’re going to do this, let’s do this.” Sirius didn’t apologize exactly, but James could tell that he meant it. Sirius didn’t back down from fights otherwise. “Quick, hold the beaker steady while I pour.”

It was a two-man job, filling up the beaker, since they were both forced to pinch their noses to keep the smell from overpowering them once Sirius took the lid off the cauldron. Sirius worked faster than normal, ladling the tincture, and James held his breath until he could cork it.

“Let’s go,” he said when they could breathe again.

Luck was on their side. As they approached the Potions classroom, James could hear voices within.

“Shh…” Sirius whispered into his ear, tugging his arm and leading him closer to the wall. Slowly, they edged up closer. The classroom door was opened just a crack, but that was enough to let them hear the people inside. James recognized a voice as Snape’s almost instantly.

Sirius did, too, quietly whispering, “Ready?” He wound up his arm, getting ready to launch the beaker of Tincture. It came free of the Invisibility Cloak but Sirius didn’t seem to notice.

“Wait!” James hissed back, stilling Sirius by grabbing his arm. His hand looked awkward, floating in mid-air, completely unconnected to the rest of his body. Sirius must have thought so as well, because he slipped the cloak off both of them. James quickly glanced up and down the corridor, just to double check that no one was around, before explaining his hesitance.

“If Snape’s talking, he’s not alone. What if that’s Slughorn in there?”

Sirius conceded the point, wincing at the thought of what would have happened if they’d attacked Snape with the Professor standing right there. At best, they’d be in detention for a month; at worst, they would hit Slughorn with the splatter; then they’d be lucky if they got off with detention for only a year.

“We should put the Cloak back on,” James said nervously.

“There’s no point. We’re not going to get into that room without them noticing us and we don’t want Snape—or Slughorn—to know about your Cloak, do we?” Sirius didn’t even look at James when he said this, too intent at staring at the door as if trying to see through it.

Although it made James nervous, Sirius had a point. He put the Cloak away and leaned in closer so that he could hear better.




Oblivious to what was going on outside the classroom, Snape continued to talk. “The book says you should always add the lacewing flies in first, but the author’s an idiot. It tempers the reaction of the starthistle, dulling the potency in the end.”

Snape was explaining the intricacies of some potion or another. James had to hold back a snort of laughter. That git was entirely too obsessed with showing off to Slughorn and anyone else who would pay attention, always putting the extra work into making his potions come out in just the right consistency and colour even when it didn’t make the potion work better. James had lost track of how many times Slughorn had held up Snape’s work as an example to the rest of the class.

“I don’t think that’s a bad thing.” The voice was feminine: definitely not Slughorn, who probably wouldn’t have argued back anyway, not when he could praise. “If it’s too potent, then it would be easier to overdose. There’s only so much stress a body can take.”

“That’s Evans,” Sirius said with some disdain, forgetting to keep his voice at a whisper. He had no use for the Gryffindor girl, nor anyone else who hung around with Slytherins. James didn’t think she was as bad as that, personally, even if she had the worst taste in friends imaginable. It was too bad she didn’t feel quite as magnanimous towards James, always glowering or shouting at him for the littlest things, like trying to show his house pride or prove just what a slimy git Snape was.

“Shh.”

The debate continued on in that vein for a few more minutes before James risked saying anything else.

“It doesn’t sound like Slughorn’s in there.” The Potions Master would have undoubtedly broken in by then, rarely satisfied with letting others do the talking when he could hear himself speak.

Sirius agreed with the assessment. “Shall we do this then?”

“On the count of three,” said James, but since they were both equally impatient, that was the only signal they needed to act.

James pushed open the door and then ducked out of the way so that Sirius would have a clear shot at Snape. Evans was standing close enough to be hit too, which was a shame since they shared classes together, but James couldn’t feel too sorry for the girl who chose Snape’s side. If they wanted to hit Snape, they had to move before he knew what was going on and that wouldn’t give her time to get out of the way. They would just have to figure out a charm to plug their noses.

As it was, there was enough time for Snape to recognize who had bust in through the door and the danger that represented, if the frown that started to mar his already ugly face was anything to go by. But by then it was too late: the potion was already flying through the air. Snape just started to move for his wand when the beaker crashed at his feet.

When he started sputtering and Evans started shrieking, James knew they had scored a direct hit, even if he couldn’t see the effects due to the sudden purple cloud that enveloped them both. They should have used those few confusing seconds as a head start, James realized afterwards, but the smell hit him then, and he broke into a coughing fit. It was a miracle he wasn’t sick.

James thought they’d have longer. Snape shouldn’t have recovered so quickly, but amidst the swearing and the shouting and the retching, his hand poked through the cloud of smoke, clenching his wand with determination.

“Where are you?” Snape demanded. He may not have been able to see, but James still didn’t relish going up against him. There were plenty of curses that only required knowing their general proximity, and Snape knew them all.

James could see the little extra noses popping up beneath his sleeves—it was an archaic variation on the Tincture that they’d only discovered by sheer luck, but the extra noses was what had convinced them they had to try it. James wondered if he should ask Snape if the extra noses made the smell worse—even Remus hadn’t been able to figure that out from the books they read.

When Snape’s head emerged a few seconds later, his right eye was almost swollen shut. One of the new noses, sprung from his cheekbone, had grown to a size almost as big and prominent as his regular one. Tears were dripping down his face, protection against the smell. It was even better than James had imagined, and it was worth giving Snape the extra time to catch them at it to see that image.

Sirius pulled himself together long enough to say, “Come on, let’s get out of here. The smell is killing me.”

“Yeah,” James agreed. “The Tincture was pretty rotten, too.”

They took off with another peal of laughter that only grew worse as Snape’s furious bellow followed them.

James and Sirius had the advantage of a head start and a better understanding of the castle layout than most students twice their age, but Snape kept on their tail pretty well, even after they ducked through a hidden staircase that James could have sworn hadn’t been used in the better part of a century before they’d found it a week earlier, the dust was so bad.

Two storeys up, the odds in their favour were drastically reduced when Sirius and James ran into a group of Slytherin boys. Neither had been expecting to see anyone in this corner of the castle, and they skittered to a stop in surprise. The suspicious act caught the Slytherins’ attention, and worse yet, allowed Snape to turn a corner and get them in his view (and in range of his stench).

“What?” Mulciber said stupidly, covering his mouth and nose.

James looked between the Slytherin gang, whose noses were wrinkling at the disgusting smell, and Snape. Turning to Sirius, he saw that his best mate was just as aware of their impending doom as he was. Suddenly, it didn’t seem as funny as it had a few minutes ago.

There were times when standing your ground was the only option, but being seriously outnumbered by a gang of Slytherins—in a tucked away corner of Hogwarts where no one was likely to stumble across them for hours, or even days, if things went wrong—was not one of those times. Just as Snape opened his mouth to condemn them, they shouted, together, with real panic in their voices this time, “Run!”

The Slytherins didn’t need much warning or excuse to give chase. They banded together quickly and kept close on their trail.

The flight from just Snape was nothing compared to this. James lost count of how many corners they took and the number of hexes they dodged and spells they cast in futile retaliation before the sounds of pursuit finally faded. The Slytherins were big, but they were way out of shape, and not nearly as motivated as Sirius or James.

Panting slightly, James was just about to suggest slowing down when they ran straight into one of Sirius’ cousins.

James had never learned how to keep the Black girls straight. He wasn’t even sure if this one was in Slytherin, or if the look of disdainfulness she had for Sirius was due to his general disarray and the fact that half his sleeve had been burned off by a well-aimed curse instead. James had been hit, too, and now tried to discreetly pick the feathers out of his mouth before she could turn her contempt on him.

“Just what do you think you’re doing, Sirius?” she sneered.

“Showing my house pride,” he said with a grin that would goad a person into retaliation, even if she wasn’t a Black with the same quick temper as Sirius. James tensed again, ready to fight or run as the case might be, but neither of them were ready for what she said next.

“That’s a fine thing to do when your uncle is dead.”

James almost dropped his wand, but neither Black spared him as much as a glance, too concentrated on each other.

“What?” Sirius demanded.

“Uncle Rastaban is dead.”

“What? When? How?” Sirius managed to croak out, looking as flabbergast as James felt. His eyes were wide and his face was splotchy, but that could have been leftover from either the chase or because they’d both spent the past twenty minutes trying not to be sick from the smell Snape was exuding.

She frowned, but otherwise didn’t seem to be too upset that she was breaking the news to him. “He’s dead,” she repeated. “This morning. The dragon pox took a bad turn—there was nothing they could do at St. Mungo’s. Didn’t Slughorn tell you? Oh—or McGonagall, I suppose.”

“I didn’t know,” Sirius said. He turned to James, whose stomach plummeted down to his feet. James had known—that McGonagall was looking for Sirius at least—and he’d convinced Sirius that they had to pull a prank instead of seeing what she wanted.

James should have known that McGonagall never sent someone else to get them into trouble.

“Well, now you do.” Her tone was brisk and she stared at Sirius like she was trying to figure him out. “Now go pack. We’re getting picked up in an hour and here you are, running around like a lunatic.”

With that order, she swept away, presumably back towards her own common room to pack herself.

“Sirius—” James stopped when he realized he wasn’t sure what he could say.

Sirius avoided looking at him when he answered, “I guess we should go back to our room. I need to pack.” His voice was strangely hollow, but at least he wasn’t crying. James wasn’t sure what he’d do if Sirius started to cry.

They started shuffling back towards Gryffindor Tower, and James wondered if he should say something. Sirius wasn’t speaking, either, and James wondered if his throat also felt like one of Snape’s extra noses was growing inside it.

After the shock, James was no longer hyper-sensitive about their surroundings, so when he heard McGonagall’s voice boom out, he jumped. He’d gotten rid of all the feathers, but there were still small purple boils breaking out over his arm, which James hurriedly hid behind his back. Duelling in the halls was frowned upon and he didn’t want to have to come up with an explanation.

“Black!” McGonagall sounded exasperated, but her voice lacked the anger that James was used to hearing after one of their pranks. She didn’t even seem to notice James or his suspicious behaviour. “There you are. I’ve been looking all over. Where have you been?”

Sirius licked his lips and looked over to James. This was usually when they tried to come up with an alibi, but James couldn’t think of a single thing to say. Before he could start babbling the first thing that sprung to mind, McGonagall just shook her head.

“That doesn’t matter. I’m afraid—” She cleared her throat awkwardly, which threw James even more. He had never seen Professor McGonagall look so off-balance. “Mr. Black, I need to talk to you. If you would just come to my office?” The hesitancy left her voice when she turned to James. “Potter, you should go back to the common room.”

McGonagall ushered Sirius away with a firm hand on his shoulder. Sirius kept turning around to look at James, but James wasn’t sure what he wanted. He stood stock-still for a couple more minutes, even after they’d turned the corner and were out of sight, before starting back to Gryffindor Tower.

When he reached the door of their dormitory, he saw a scroll crumpled behind it. In all the excitement, James had never sent that letter to his parents.

~*~


Rastaban Black’s death got mention on the front page of the Sunday Prophet the next morning and the retrospective write-up of his life took up much of the following pages.

He was bumped from the headlines by the disappearance of Meriel Hollingberry, a witch who worked at the Muggle Liason Office. From what he knew of the Blacks from Sirius and his own mum, James wondered how many of them would be more upset over the witch stealing away attention from Rastaban’s death than the possibility that something might have happened to her. He didn’t recognize the last name after all, which meant that Meriel Hollingberry couldn’t be from one of the old wizarding families.

“Are you reading that?” Peter asked when James continued to flip through the pages, wrinkling his nose in distaste. “Only you keep shaking it. If you hold it still, I can read the comic on the back.”

The only reason he and Peter shared a subscription was because of the Martin Miggs serial. James could have just stripped the outer page and let Peter read in peace, but James didn’t actually care to read about Rastaban Black anymore.

“You’re still eating,” James complained, ignoring the half-eaten toast that still lay on his own plate. “You can get it when I’m finished.”

Peter might have made a sound of protest, but it was muffled by the crinkle of the newspaper as James folded it back and set to finding out what newest mishaps the mad Muggle had gotten himself into this week.

Remus, however, wouldn’t let him read in peace. He was in his usual seat, across the table beside Peter. He seemed to be a lot more interested in the front page of the newspaper than the last.

“Did Sirius say how long he’d be gone?” he asked.

“No,” James said. He kept his eyes firmly trained on the comic even as they glazed over at the question.

“Did you know his uncle was sick?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Did Sirius—”

James cut him off. “Sirius didn’t say anything. I don’t know anything. I can’t tell you anything.”

It was more or less true. James didn’t really give Sirius the chance to say anything. After he’d been shooed away by McGonagall, James had slunk about the Owlery, not returning to Gryffindor Tower until he was sure enough time had passed for Sirius to be packed and maybe even gone home. He hadn’t explained that to Remus or Peter when he told them why Sirius wasn’t there, nor had he mentioned the way they’d found out and the part James had played in the misunderstanding. He wasn’t sure what they’d think—or even what he thought.

What Sirius thought, James couldn’t even begin to imagine. Sirius had sounded so weird when his cousin had told him the news, but Sirius hated his family, always fighting with his cousins when he ran into them in the hall, so James didn’t know why he felt so torn up over his uncle’s death. Deep down, he was afraid that Sirius was truly more upset with James for lying to him, however unintentional it was.

James thrust the paper at Peter, unread, knowing he wasn’t going to be able to concentrate on Martin’s misadventures right then.

“We should do something for when Sirius gets back,” he said because there had to be some way for James to make it up to him.

“What, like flowers?” Remus asked.

“Flowers?” James made a face, not sure why Remus would even mention them. They weren’t really Sirius’ kind of thing. James couldn’t think of a single way of working them into a prank, the only reason why Sirius might want anything to do with something so girly. “What do you mean, flowers?”

“Well, they’re traditional, aren’t they?” Remus sounded a little defensive. “When someone dies, you send flowers.”

James hadn’t known that. He didn’t actually know anyone who had died before. His grandparents had all been dead years before he was born. His father didn’t have any brothers or sisters and his mum barely talked to hers, except when she couldn’t avoid it. There was a chance she would be at Rastaban’s funeral, James realized. He’d never bothered figuring out how closely he and Sirius were related and he wasn’t entirely sure how Rastaban was related to the rest of the Black clan. There had been a brief sketch of the family tree in the article, but James had skipped over that part.

“I don’t think Sirius would like flowers,” he said, though he was a little less certain now. He might not appreciate them normally, but would he think worse of his friends if they didn’t send them now?

“I think James is right,” Peter said between mouthfuls of egg. He had the Martin Miggs comic in his hand, but he didn’t seem able to concentrate on it anymore than James had. “Sirius would hate flowers unless they, I don’t know, really cast sneezing spells on people who smelled them or something.”

“We’re trying to cheer him up, not make him sneeze! His uncle died, Peter. Have some sense!”

“I think he meant Sirius would appreciate using them on someone else,” Remus said mildly while Peter sputtered his protests.

“Nah, you’re right,” James said. “Sirius would hate flowers, even ones that might make someone sneeze. We should do something else for him, set up another prank for when he gets back.”

“Do you have something in mind?” Remus asked.

It had to be something big, James knew that much. Something that would cheer Sirius up when he got back from the funeral, make up for the mess James had made before he left.

“How about chocolates?” Peter suggested. “We can go down to Honeydukes and get him some chocolates. He’ll like those better than flowers, that’s for sure.”

“I think don’t think chocolates are for someone who’s grieving,” said Remus doubtfully.

“It would cheer me up,” Peter argued.

James shook his head. “We can get chocolates anytime. It’s not good enough for this. His uncle died. We need to do something big. Something… grand. Something brilliant.”

Both Remus and Peter looked as caught up in the moment as James was. Peter’s mouth was open slightly and he looked ready to sign up then and there. Remus didn’t look the least bit worried, his usual default expression whenever James or Sirius started getting excited or talking about something brilliant.

“What’s your plan?” he asked instead supportively.

It had a worse effect than his doubt ever caused. James deflated completely.

“I don’t know. Not yet. But I’ll think of something.”

He turned his attention back to his toast, chewing thoughtfully while he tried to plot. They had a couple days at least to come up with something suitably impressive to welcome Sirius back to Hogwarts and James wasn’t going to let his best mate down. Not again.

~*~


It took the rest of the day and a good portion of the next, but the perfect idea finally came to him in the middle of History of Magic.

“Oh!” he exclaimed out loud, sitting up straight in his desk and knocking over the bottle of ink, smearing the parchment he was supposed to be using for notes. He received a few dirty glares from his classmates, but probably only because he’d waken them from their dozing. Binns didn’t even take notice.

Peter did, passing him a hastily scrawled notes a few seconds later.

What’s the matter?

James tore off a corner of his parchment for the reply.

I just thought of the perfect thing for Sirius when he gets back.

He passed the note back to Peter, pointing at Remus as he did so. Remus was one of the few Gryffindors that conscientiously took notes during this class. Although he must have heard James’ outburst—no one who wasn’t already dead could have missed it—he was trying his best to ignore everything that was going on behind him and concentrate on the English Warlock Convention of 1102.

Peter, sitting in the desk a kitty-corner behind Remus, took James’ hint and leaned over to deliver the note. He wasn’t quite close enough to drop it on Remus’ desk without help and James watched with interest as he leaned further and further into the aisle. Just as it looked like Peter was going to have to give up or risk toppling out of his chair, one of the girls in the seat directly behind Remus took pity on him and plucked the note right out of his hand, passing it up. Remus had no choice but to take it, but still he tucked it under his parchment rather than read it like the conscientious student he was.

James took the time to wink at Ivonette, who was giggling silently over the scene before turning back to his quest to get Remus’ attention.

“Psst,” he said.

He waved. Remus noticed, but determinedly kept his eyes fixed towards the front of the classroom.

“Oi!” James tried. Most of his classmates were looking now, except for Evans, who still hadn’t forgiven James for the attack on the weekend (it didn’t help that there was one stubborn little nostril on her forearm that Madam Pomfrey hadn’t been able to get rid of) and was also determinedly looking straight ahead. Even Binns stopped and peered up. James folded his hands neatly on his desk before realizing he would probably look more innocent with a quill in his hand.

James waited until Binns cleared his throat (well, made a similar sound since the ghost professor didn't really have a throat or anything caught on it) and went back to the lecture, before deciding on a new course of action.

“Pete!” he whispered.

Peter was alarmed, quickly glancing up at Binns to make sure he hadn't noticed before turning back to James and mouthing “What?”

James pointed his chin towards Remus. “Get his attention, will you?”

Remus could hear all this; James knew by the way his face reddened slightly. Plus it wasn't just Ivonette who was giggling now. She had been joined by several of her friends and even a few of the guys had stifled a snort or two.

“How?” Peter still mouthed his question even though Binns hadn't taken notice of James speaking.

James rolled his eyes. Once again he wished that Sirius were back to help him with this. They made perfect partners in crime. Sirius would never have expected him to come up with every detail of a plan—he’d be put out if he couldn’t contribute to the effort. James had already come up with the hard part, thinking of the perfect way to welcome Sirius home, and Peter couldn’t even figure out how to get Remus’ attention in front of the most oblivious teacher.

He was saved from coming up with an answer when Calum Ferguson wadded up a small piece of parchment and threw it at Remus, bouncing it off his head. Calum was sitting on the other side of the room, the complete opposite from James and Peter, which is probably why Remus was startled enough to break his concentration and turn around to see where the wad had come from.

“Potter wants to talk,” Calum said with a small smirk.

Since Calum was on the Quidditch team with him and since the missile worked, James decided that he shouldn't retaliate. If there had been any Slytherins in the classroom, he might have been forced to, since no one threw things at his friends—even just bits of paper—and got away with it, but Calum was a pretty good bloke. They were both still reserve players, but it looked like all the practice the team captain was putting them through was working, since hitting Remus from the back of the room needed pretty good aim.

Unfortunately, Calum spoke a little too loudly, for Binns frowned and started looking around the classroom once again.

It was probably the most he’d paid attention to a classroom since before he died.

Either Binns really wasn't good at identifying troublemakers or the matching expressions of disinterest that were on all the Gryffindors' faces were what he usually saw when he took time to look at his class, because a few seconds later, Binns decided there was nothing amiss.

“This convention was especially important as it was the first time British wizards decided on a standard metal to use in cauldrons...” he droned on.

James decided to take a page from Calum’s book and started throwing bits of paper at Remus himself. Remus didn't turn around this time. The only sign that he noticed at all was that he shook his head every minute or two to dislodge the pieces that stuck there.




Meanwhile, Peter hadn't been able to come up with any idea on his own and had gone back to writing notes, passing them over to Ivonette who was only too happy to put them on Remus' desk. She even added her own postscripts on a couple, still giggling so much that James decided he would have to steal the notes so he could properly tease Remus about his new girlfriend later.

A couple of the other students seemed to want in on the fun. James wondered if maybe they were going too far, since it wouldn't do to let just anyone badger Remus and get away with it. He was considering calling the whole thing off when the bell rung at last, one of the few outside stimuli that Binns actually took note of.

Remus dabbed the remaining ink off his quill, sealing up the inkwell and packing it all into his bag before finally turning around to give James the sourest look he'd ever seen. It didn't improve any when James gave a very cheeky grin back.

Very deliberately, Remus finally deigned to take notice of the scraps of paper littering his desk, digging one out from the bottom of the mess. James could have sworn he picked it at random, but when he unfolded it, James recognized his own handwriting. It was his original message.

James waited to see what his response would be, but when Remus finished reading it, he folded it again neatly. He started to collect the rest of the notes, although he didn’t read any of them just yet, and calmly finished packing.

“You thought of something to cheer up Sirius?” he asked when James lost patience and went over himself. He’d stuffed everything into his own bag, not caring how crumbled or out of order his notes got. “That's what was so important that you had to interrupt class?”

“It's just History of Magic,” James said dismissively. “A firecracker could go off in here and Binns wouldn't be interrupted.”

“Yes, he would,” said Peter, who was also waiting impatiently for Remus. Most of the rest of the class had left, having lost interest in what James wanted when the bell rang. His antics had been more interesting than Binns’ lecture, but not enough to keep them watching during break. “Don't you remember last year when Sirius forgot about the wet-start fireworks he had in his bag and spilled ink on them, making them go off? Binns almost jumped!”

In fact, Binns had only asked Sirius if he had heard anything (calling him Phineas, which had sent Sirius growling even more than the wasted fireworks did), but Peter never knew how to exaggerate properly.

“It's still important,” Remus said, “even if you don't like the class. And the warlock conventions are bound to be on the exam—”

“How do you know that?” Peter demanded while James exclaimed, “Exams? Exams aren't until June. Why are you worrying about them now?”

“I know that because Binns practically said as much,” Remus said patiently, “and if we don't worry about them now then that means two sleepless weeks in June when suddenly there’s no time to put off revising any longer. Like last year. Which was miserable. It's better to keep on top of school work as it comes.”

“It's only History of Magic,” James repeated. It wasn't even interesting, not like Transfiguration or Charms. In those classes, if you paid attention and kept up, then you at least learned loads of new spells to use.

“Still—” Remus was ready to continue arguing, but James had had enough of that. He started to talk over him.

“Anyway, none of that matters. I thought of the perfect thing to do for Sirius when he gets back. It's guaranteed to cheer him up.”

“Yes, that's what your note said,” said Remus. “You realize that Sirius isn't going to be back for a couple days. It could have waited until after class, at the very least.”

“How do you know that?” James asked, ignoring Remus' continued attempts to make him feel guilty about the disruption. It was getting tiresome. “He didn't write you, did he?”

Remus frowned at James. “Write me? He's more likely to write you, isn't he?”

Normally that would be the case, but James hadn’t yet explained why Sirius might be avoiding him. “Then how did you know when he's getting back? Yesterday you didn't have a clue. You were asking me.”

“Yes, well his uncle died on Saturday, right? Funerals usually aren't for three days after. It can't be until tomorrow at the earliest. Besides which, even if Sirius came back right now, we hardly have time to plan and pull off your—whatever your idea is. We have class, remember?”

Everyone seemed to have a better idea of what happened when people died than James did. He wondered if maybe there was something in the library—A Wizard’s Guide to Grieving or something. As soon as he thought that, he felt disgusted with himself. The idea of turning to a book for answers was not James Potter’s way. Sirius, no doubt, would have had something to say about what a bad influence Remus was.

“The funeral isn't until Thursday,” Peter chimed in. “We have three more days.”

“Three days?” James said in disbelief. That’s almost the whole week. Why is it going to take so long?”

“It’s family,” Remus tried to explain. “You can’t rush that.”

“Still,” James complained. “A whole week. Where did you hear that, anyway, Peter?”

“It said so in the paper,” Peter happily answered.

“You read that?” asked James.

Peter misunderstood his disbelief, probably not too surprisingly considering the way Sirius would usually go on when Peter said something particularly stupid. “I can read,” he responded indignantly.

“No one's doubting that,” Remus said before James could react.

“It was just long,” said James. He hadn't gotten through half the article himself.

“In any case,” Remus said hurriedly before a fight could break out, ”we have several days left before he can come back. And we have a two foot essay due in Defence Against the Dark Arts on Wednesday. There’s still plenty of time for… What is your plan?

Sirius would never want to wait, not when there was something this good. James didn’t say this out loud.

“It better be good,” Peter grumbled. “I’m sick of getting caught. We’ve had detention three times already this year.”

“Do you even want to hear what the plan is?” James asked. Already his excitement was ricocheting down, now faced with his friends’ reluctance.

“Is there time before Charms starts?” Remus asked.

They still had two staircases and four corridors to go before they reached Flitwick’s classroom, but with the way things were going, Remus and Peter would continue to poke holes in James’ plan.

“It can wait,” he said.

The only thing James could be grateful for was that neither Remus nor Peter asked why, if it could wait, he had made such a fuss in History of Magic.

~*~


They didn't get detention. James wasn't sure that they could chalk that up to the extra few days they put into planning, though, since nothing else about his brilliant plot went right that night.

By the time Thursday rolled around, the idea had lost momentum. Even James was starting to doubt just how brilliant it truly was, not that he'd admit as much to Remus or Peter, who'd spent the three intervening days naysaying all his ideas.

They had been, at least, when they were actually thinking about the plan and not worrying about schoolwork (Remus) or grumbling that the Martin Miggs comic had been temporarily discontinued due to ongoing coverage of Meriel Hollingberry’s disappearance (Peter—James was annoyed, too, but he had better things to obsess over than something from the newspaper). Neither of them seemed particularly excited and James was pretty sure that if he hadn’t continued to rally them, they would have dropped the matter completely.

As it was, he was beginning to wish that he hadn't, even by the time that they first approached the ticklish pear. The Potters didn’t have a family history of prescience, so James couldn’t blame himself too badly for not recognizing this as a sign that he should have dropped the matter.

By the time that they were ejected from the kitchens with more force than James would have thought a house-elf capable of, that feeling had solidified and then some.

Remus picked himself up and dusted himself off with more dignity than James could muster at the moment. “I think that could have gone better,” he said. It was an understatement, but at least it was better than the “I told you so” James was expecting.

Peter, too, was too fretful to fully place the blame on James just yet. “They can't be serious, can they?” He wrung his hands, looking fearfully at the picture of the pear that served as the entrance to the kitchens.

James opened his mouth to point out that no, they couldn't be Sirius since Sirius was at his uncle's funeral, then closed it again. It probably wasn't a good idea to joke about people being at funerals and the play on words had grown old halfway through first year.

“I'm sure that they'll calm down,” he said instead, but even he could hear how uncertain he sounded. James cleared his throat and tried again. “They can't stay mad forever, I mean. And they do like to be helpful, after all. I'm sure they'll come around tomorrow. Or, er, the next day. Soon, at the very least. They can't stay mad forever.”

“They went spare,” Peter told him, not comforted by the platitudes. “House-elves! You said that this was to help Sirius! How are we supposed to help him if we make the house-elves go on strike!”

“They aren't really on strike,” corrected Remus. “A strike would be a school-wide thing. Or even a Gryffindor-wide thing.”

“It's a us-wide thing.” Peter wasn't too keen on semantics. “That's what really matters! We've pissed off the kitchen staff. What are we going to do without food?”

James cringed at that thought. Now that Peter had mentioned it, his stomach was starting to rumble. He'd only pecked at his dinner earlier, both out of excitement and because the house-elves had never before failed to load them up with as many treats as they could carry.

Remus wasn't as concerned. “They can't stop feeding us,” he reasoned. “They’re not going to make all of Gryffindor suffer because they’re afraid we’re going to trick them into taking our clothes.”

“We’re not going to trick anyone into taking our clothes!” Peter wailed. He had been saying similar things ever since he picked up on the house-elves’ problem with them, but James only wished he'd been as clear and coherent when they were in still the kitchens. Not that he or Remus had been much better, he had to admit, or else they might not be in this mess in the first place.

“Regardless—” Remus raised his voice just a little, to be heard over Peter, but he remembered that it was still after curfew and too much noise would summon Filch or Mrs. Norris in a hurry—“this just means we won’t be able to go into the kitchens. Meals will be served as usual—they’ll hardly fail to put food on the Gryffindor tables just because we happen to belong to that house. Not when there are so many other students that haven't, er, frightened them with a misunderstanding. Now let's go back to our room before a teacher hears us and we get into even more trouble. We'll think of something to do about... this in the morning.”

James wasn't sure what Remus thought they could do in the morning. So far their great plan had resulted in this mess—terrified house-elves who refused to come near them or their room because of a simple misunderstanding. How was James supposed to know that house-elves couldn't take a joke and would mistake James’ kidding around for threats of accidental freedom?

If only Sirius would come back. He knew how to deal with house-elves. None of this would ever have happened if he’d been around. At least when things went wrong when Sirius around, it tended to be because something

~*~


Dear Mum and Dad

How are you? I am well. School’s going fine. Don’t worry, I haven’t got into trouble all week.


After the opening volley, James paused and considered what to write next. He could ask about the house-elves—his mum had brought a house-elf with her when she and James’ dad married, but Abra had died when James was still a baby. His mum would probably know what to do or say to make the house-elves stop being so afraid of them that they wouldn’t even venture into the boys’ room.

But then he would have to admit what happened. He had just told them he hadn’t got in trouble and though James knew there was a difference between causing havoc and being given detention for it, he also knew that his parents didn’t think that difference counted.

He chewed on his quill absentminded, his mouth souring at the taste of feathers. There was a box of sugar quills somewhere in his trunk and he went to find them. His letter was still waiting when he sat back down with the sweet, but James still wasn’t sure what he could write next.

Sirius hasn’t been in school all week because his uncle died and he had to go to his funeral on Thursday, A lot of his family went too and none of them are back yet. There are lots of Slytherins missing, other houses too of course but mostly Slytherins so our double classes with them are really empty, but this morning Edenfield says that means we probably aren’t going to play them next week even though we’re supposed to but they haven’t had enough time to practice so the Slytherin captain is asking for postponement because of that which I guess they need because they’re not really good and even the extra practice wouldn’t let them win. But that means I don’t get to play in next week’s match because Ravenclaw is pretty good and Edenfield would rather I play against the weaker team to start, but I don’t mind much because I’d rather beat Slytherin than Ravenclaw even if Ravenclaw is the better team and beating them would prove what a good Chaser I am. Only now I don’t know when I’ll play at all. I still go to practice most days and next year I’ll be on the first string, so that’s all right.

James paused again to let the ink dry. He’d only found out about the possibility of a schedule switch at practice earlier that morning and he was still upset about it, even though the Gryffindor team captain told him that this was better, that it gave him more time to practice before he had to play a game for real. James didn’t need the extra practice, though, and he’d been looking forward to proving that to Edenfield and the rest of the school.

He didn’t bother to write that down. The letter was long enough now that his parents wouldn’t nag him.

James looked it over just to see if there was anything else that happened this week that he missed, but nothing big stood out. Things had been quiet without Sirius around, boring even. Remus and Peter just weren’t the same. But he couldn’t write that, not without sounding like he was complaining about his other friends, who were good enough most of the time, but they just weren’t Sirius.

Satisfied that there was nothing left to write, James signed his name and was just about to head up to the Owlery when the door opened.

“All right, Remus,” James said cheerfully, forgetting that only a few minutes earlier he had been ready to complain about his mate to his parents.

“James.” Remus stopped just inside the doorway. “What are you doing here? I mean, I thought you had Quidditch practice today?”

“This morning, yeah.” It wasn’t the greeting James expected and it had him frowning. “But it’s over now and I have nothing else to do all day so I thought I’d write my parents. What are you up to?”

“Homework,” Remus said quickly.

“That can wait,” said James. “I’m bored. Let’s play a game or something.”

“I can’t.” Remus shook his head. “I have to get this done.”

“It can’t be that important, whatever it is. We don’t have to hand anything in the week. Do we?”

Remus was generally better at keeping track of due dates, but James was pretty sure he was right about this. He’d had nothing better to do this last week than actually pay attention in class, so he was on top of things for once. They had to demonstrate lighting fires in Charms on Monday and they had a Potions test on Thursday, but there was nothing urgent.

“I have to see Professor Slughorn, actually,” said Remus.

“What, now?” The idea of actively seeking out a teacher on a weekend was antithetical to James’ whole way of thinking. While Remus was more studious, he was hardly that much of a brown-noser. James couldn’t believe he was trying for extra credit, and he was too smart to need the extra help for the test, but there wasn’t any other reason James could think of to explain why Remus needed to see Slughorn.

“Well, I was supposed to meet him on Thursday after dinner, but he was gone for the funeral, remember?” Remus said. He was squirming under James’ scrutiny, shifting his weight from his right foot to his left.

“Yeah, but it can wait until Monday, can’t it?” Most things could wait until Monday in James’ opinion, especially when it came to school.

“It’s about the test,” Remus said instead of answering directly.

“You already know how to brew Deflating Draughts,” James said. “You did it perfectly in class last week. What do you need to see him for?”

“I just have some questions,” Remus mumbled.

“They can wait,” James said. “Let’s find Peter and play a game of Gobstones. You can borrow Sirius’ set. He won’t mind.”

“Peter’s already playing chess with the team. I think they have a tournament this weekend or something, they’ve been at it for hours. He won’t want to be distracted. He’s the one who said you were at Quidditch practice.”

That explained Remus’ initial reaction when coming into the room. Peter tended to lose track of time when he played, chess being the one thing that kept him from succumbing to James’ attempts to save him from himself.

“We can just play the two of us.” Gobstones was better with a group, especially with the modified rules he and Sirius had thought up the year before, but two was better than one. “Or if not that, maybe Exploding Snap.” James didn’t care for the game much, but he knew Peter talked Remus into playing it occasionally, when James and Sirius were off together or in detention.

“I really can’t,” Remus said.

“Slughorn?” James moaned. “Really? Hey, this isn’t about the Slug Club, is it?” Remus wasn’t part of the esteemed group, but he had finished his Deflating Draught rather fast last week, almost beating Snape. Slughorn might have taken notice of that and asked Remus to see him, even if today wasn’t a regular gathering. Being asked to join the Club was a better excuse than having to talk to the professor about school, although James wasn’t sure why Remus would be trying to hide it. Slughorn could be a bore at times, but the Slug Club wasn’t half-bad.

“That isn’t it,” Remus mumbled.

“We need to find a way to get Slughorn to invite you.”

Now that James thought about it, it was a little weird that Remus hadn’t been joined already. Slughorn had snatched up James and Sirius almost as soon as they got off the train last year. Sirius had complained it was because of family connections and pure-blood snobbery, but James knew the real reason he tried to get out of meetings was because he didn’t want to see his cousins any more than he had to, especially not with a teacher around trying to get them to stop sniping at each other. Besides, the other Gryffindor in their year who was a member was from a Muggle family, so Slughorn couldn’t be obsessed blood purity. Remus might not shine in Potions like Evans did, but he was a dab hand at lots of other things.

“Maybe if we let him catch you casting your Tickling Charm. He’s usually pretty good with not giving detention if he’s suitably impressed, and Rictusempre is pretty impressive and it isn’t very hurtful, so it’s the perfect one to be caught casting on someone without Slughorn haven’t to feel guilty about not getting you in trouble. Or we can even say we were practicing duelling, if you’re still worried.”

“James—” Remus interrupted. James expected him to weigh in on the Slug Club, but instead of that, or anything else relevant, he mumbled: “I really have to go. I’m running late. Sorry.”

He left before James could point out that Slughorn, when he kept office hours, was pretty flexible about when students came in. It wasn’t until after that James realized Remus hadn’t dropped anything off or picked up any of his notes, leaving James to wonder why Remus had come to the room in the first place.

His Potions book was still sitting on his desk.

~*~


“All right, Pete,” James said in greeting as he sat down beside the only one of his roommates actually at dinner. It was now well over a week since Sirius had been taken out of school and there was still no definite word as to when he was going to be back. Most of the other Slytherins had been trickling back since the funeral, but there was still no definitive word as to when Sirius and the other Blacks would be back. Rumour had it they were being kept out until the next weekend, but James hadn’t been able to confirm it. Most of the people who would know were Slytherins and he was hardly about to ask them any favours especially since they were as likely to lie out of spite as not.

“Hiya, James,” Peter said. He had mostly forgiven James for the house-elf thing once Remus’ prediction about it not affecting their regular meals came true. Things were a little tense when they were in their dormitory, particularly since James didn’t have the knack for keeping fires going all night and they kept waking up with icicles forming from the canopies, but they didn’t talk about that much. James guessed that neither of them knew what to do to fix things with the house-elves anymore than he did.

“Remus not here yet?” James asked, helping himself to some potatoes and looking up and down the table for their other roommate. “Practice went late—thought I’d be the last one here for sure!”

“Remus?” Peter looked startled, like James was asking him a trick question. “He’s in the Hospital Wing, isn’t he?”

“What?” James exclaimed. “What happened?”

Peter had acted like he expected James to know, but James hadn’t heard any rumours. None of the older students on the team had mentioned anything, or asked after James’ classmate, but then they didn’t always pay attention to the fights in the lower forms. Remus hadn’t done anything to annoy anyone lately (other than the house-elves, but they weren’t about to attack a student no matter how angry they were) but that didn’t necessarily mean anything. There hadn’t been any retaliation from the prank against Snape and even if Remus hadn’t been involved, that wouldn’t stop a Slytherin. Or he could have easily just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Especially now, when so many Slytherins were trickling back into the school.

Just that afternoon, James had noticed Mulciber gossiping away with his gang in about something or other. James hadn’t heard what or thought of it much at the time, but there were a lot of significant pauses that hadn’t stopped even when Professor Slughorn tried hushing them.

There was no reason for them to target Remus, but then Slytherins hardly needed a reason to be nasty.

If they had caught Remus on his own…

“Well, nothing,” Peter said. James heart slowed and he stopped planning revenge. “Only, he wasn’t feeling well all day, was he?”

It was the first James had heard of it. Sure, his friend had looked a little peaky, slight circles under his eyes, but none of them had looked their best since the house-elves had gone on strike. James was really missing being able to sleep the whole night through without having to wake up and relight the fire.

“There is a cold going around,” James said to keep Peter from making the same accusations about the state of their dormitory. “Maybe we should all go down to see Madam Pomfrey, get some Pepper-Up Potion.” He wasn’t sure why he said that; the stuff always gave him the hiccups.

“I haven’t noticed anyone was ill,” Peter said. “Look, not a single head is smoking,” he added, insisting on being logical for once in his life.

The Pepper-Up Potion did have a very noticeable effect, one that was absent in the Great Hall, so James probably shouldn’t have lead with that. Deciding that it was a dangerous path in general, he switched gears.

“Maybe we should go visit him.”

“Who, Remus?” Peter asked as if the thought was outrageous.

“Yeah,” James said, frowning slightly. “He’s our mate, isn’t he? He might be bored.”

Peter was still looking at him weirdly, although James couldn’t figure out why. They usually went to see Remus when he was in the Hospital Wing, didn’t they? Well, often times. He was in there more often than a normal person, and sometimes James and Sirius got so caught up in one thing or another that he was convalescing in their rooms again before they could plan a proper visit with sweets and games and tales of victories against the Slytherins to cheer him up.

“Only, he just went there after class,” Peter said slowly. “He wouldn’t have time to get bored yet, would he?”

“The Hospital Wing is always boring,” said James, who had actually only been stuck in there once last year. Sirius had been caught in the attack too and was laid up in the bed beside him. Once Madam Pomfrey had sorted out their voices, things hadn’t been too bad.

But he didn’t want to tell Peter the real reason he was so insistent on this visit wasn’t that the Hospital Wing was boring, but rather that Hogwarts in general was. All James had done all week was go to class and go to practice, and even Quidditch hadn’t been enough to entertain him. Remus at least had the excuse that he’d been getting sick, not that James had known at the time, but Peter was just too happy that things were quiet for once to let himself be dragged into anything interesting.

“I think he brought his books,” said Peter.

James made a face. The only good thing about being sick was having a good excuse not to do your schoolwork, but trust Remus to mess up that up.

“Fine,” James sighed. “Maybe we can go see him before class tomorrow. If we get breakfast early, we should have a half hour before class.”

He pushed his roast chicken around his plate despondently. Whenever they had roast chicken, the house-elves always made mint humbugs for pudding. There were always leftovers in the kitchen.

Peter was pretty fond of mint humbugs too, so James had a nasty feeling that he was going to get a healthy dose of complaining tonight, without Remus there to temper the whinging over the lack of seconds.

The thought was almost enough to put him off his dinner. Stuffing in a mouthful, he looked around for distraction before Peter come to the same realization and start on it early. As the days went on and no teacher had even hinted at knowing what had happened in the kitchens, Peter had become emboldened, starting to complain not just in the privacy of the dormitory, but in places where they could be overheard, like the Great Hall.

The Slytherin table was still emptier than usual, which made the small groups clustered up and down the table even more noticeable, especially when just about every one of them had a lookout, furtively glancing over his or her shoulder to make sure no one was close enough to listen.

“They’re up to something,” James hissed.

“Who?” asked Peter. “What?”

“Look at them.” James decided against pointing since that was sure to catch their attention, settling for glowering in their general direction. Peter followed his gaze, confused.

“The Slytherins? What have they done? Why do you say that?” He was turning his head anxiously between the Slytherins and James, which was starting to get some unwanted attention.

“Don’t look,” James hissed. He lowered his own eyes to the table.

Luckily, Peter was used to having to follow orders quickly without asking why, though usually it was to avoid a teacher’s mischief-seeking eye. He turned back towards James, digging into his dinner, which would have seemed more natural if he’d started eating properly rather than poking around. “What’s wrong?” he asked, his voice quivering just a bit.

“I don’t know,” James was forced to admit. “But don’t you think they’ve been acting strangely lately?”

“They haven’t been around to act strange,” said Peter doubtfully. “It’s been real quiet ever since Sirius’ uncle died and they all went off to the funeral. Even now that most of them are back, I mean.”

“That’s what I’m talking about,” said James. “How often can we get through double Potions without one Slytherin or another acting like the gits that they are. But not a single thing has happened.”

“It’s been nice, hasn’t it?” Peter made it sound like more of a question than he probably meant it to be.

“They have to be planning something. Big.” It was generally the only reason he and Sirius stayed out of trouble for more than a few days at a time, as McGonagall often despaired, and the Slytherins in their year were bigger bastards than James had ever met. He snatched another glance at the table—Snape was still looking at him with narrowed eyes. It would be childish to stick out his tongue, but then again he would know for sure James was onto him if he let it pass, so James made a rude gesture after a quick glance at the teacher’s table to make sure no one was watching.

Peter coughed loudly in warning. One of the fifth year prefects was looking at them, but James didn’t care. He wasn’t one of the bad ones and probably wouldn’t do anything unless James did it again.

“We have to do something about this,” James declared.

“What do you mean?” asked Peter.

“We can’t just let the Slytherins get away with… whatever it is they’re planning. We have to strike back. We have to strike first.”

“But…” Peter trailed off before he could protest properly, but still James found himself waiting. Normally Remus or Sirius would jump in at this point—Remus to explain why Peter might protest or Sirius to egg James on regardless. Peter, too, seemed to be unsettled by this unusual turn of events, since he forged on after that first hesitation.

“Why?” he asked. “They haven’t done anything and maybe that’s better. Until Remus gets better, there’s only two of us. And almost all the Slytherins are back so there’d be… a lot of them.”

“Do you want them to think we’re afraid?” James asked, scandalized. “The two of us are better than twenty stupid Slytherins, even on a bad day.”

“Not afraid,” corrected Peter, although James could probably argue successfully on that point on Peter’s side, at least, “but there’s no sense starting a fight when they haven’t done anything. C’mon, James. Since Sirius has been gone I’ve almost been able to do all my schoolwork and get caught up in class.”

So had James, but that wasn’t a point he was putting in favour of Sirius’ absence, not be a long shot.

“Besides, they won’t know we’re afraid—I mean, they won’t even think we’re afraid, just because we’re not going out there and… and… provoking them over nothing.”

Provoking. That was a word McGonagall used. Often. James wondered if she’d be glad that at least one of her students was taking her words to heart.

“It’s not like they’re doing anything but talking.” Peter was really warming up now that he thought James was listening and agreeing with him. The words practically gushed out of his mouth and his tone was almost conversational, his near stutters and hesitations all but gone.

“But they’re Slytherins,” James said sullenly.

“So? They haven’t done anything to us. Lately,” he amended as if it mattered how recent an attack. It was crazy to only ever wait until the Slytherins attacked first, to always let them have the first shot. They weren’t like the Ravenclaws, after all, who were generally too busy thinking up new riddles and quoting facts at each other and only planned revenge when someone else had started it. All the Slytherins ever did was come up with new and better ways to be nasty. The only reason they’d been quiet lately was because so many of them were missing, but now that they were back, they had to be up to something, James just knew it.

He had a feeling that trying to convince Peter of that would be useless, so he said nothing, which Peter took as confirmation. He smiled a little too triumphantly, altogether too pleased to have gotten one up on James.

“Let’s just wait and see what happens. If they attack, then yeah, sure, we should do something back. If not… well, let’s just wait until Remus gets better and Sirius gets back. Then there’ll be more of us. Then we can do something.”

“Yeah,” James said faintly. He could hardly wait until Sirius got back. Then things would get better.

They could hardly get any worse.

~*~


By the time Sirius got back to Hogwarts, there was a fine layer of dust atop the lesser used areas of their room. Mostly it was just covered the headboards and piled away in the corners of the room, but since Sirius hadn’t been around, both his trunk and his desk had noticeably flecks of grey.

James didn’t think that maybe he should do something about it until Sirius was already in the room, staring down at the speckled pattern. Remus had taken to wiping down his areas with an old cloth, but when James had tried to brush it away, he’d only sneezed when all the motes went swirling through the air and up his nose.

“What is this?” Sirius asked stonily, completely ignoring James’ cheerful greeting.

“Er…” James stalled, trying to think of the best way to explain the mess. “The house-elves… umm… they’re kind of on strike.”

“What?” It was flat, almost not a question at all, which made James cringe even more. Yelling, he could understand. Shocked disbelief and grumbling would be a good, normal reaction, one that James had experienced himself until Remus had snapped at him to shut up, since it had been James’ idea that had led to the house-elves being so angry and frightened in the first place. It would be nice to have someone else to commiserate with, since neither Remus nor Peter had been up for the job.

Now it looked like Sirius wasn’t, either.

“The house-elves…” James hesitated, wondering how to put the best spin on this. It had been over a week and he still couldn’t think of an explanation that didn’t make him look like a fool. “They won’t come to our room anymore.”

“Why?” If Sirius had sounded more curious, James might have been able to get through the next part a little easier. Normally, his best mate would be jumping all over him for details—figuratively and literally, but Sirius sounded more demanding than anything else.

“We… we wanted to do something for you when you got back. A surprise. Needed the house-elves help. But when we went to the kitchens we said—well, I said something. Didn’t mean it, really, at least not that way, but the elves thought I was threatening to give them clothes. Which I guess they really don’t like. Umm… So they got really upset and were all but kicking us out of the kitchen and then I really put my foot in it. I kind of… sort of… didn’t say as much as I might have joked…

“I didn’t mean it, of course. I wouldn’t really do anything of the sort. But I might have implied that there’s usually loads of clothes lying around our room when they’re tidying and you never know what might have been transfigured to look like a stray sweets wrapper instead of a pair of dirty pants.

“Which, when you think of it, would be a great joke, don’t you think? Imagine Peter’s face if we told him the quill he was holding wasn’t really a quill. No, forget Peter, Snape. We’ve been stuck with him here, you know. Of all the Slytherins to stay behind, why he couldn’t be one to go to the funeral… I… don’t know.”

Sirius stayed quiet for the whole explanation, not even having the decency to stop James when it was apparent that he was really babbling and letting him walk right back into the funeral trap. James bit his lip, uncertain whether he should continue, or if he was supposed to say something about Sirius’ uncle now, or whether he should just pretend the entire thing had never happened.

“That’s… That’s just…” Sirius shook his head in disbelief. Some emotion had seeped back into his voice, replacing the awful monotone, but it wasn’t the improvement James was hoping for. He wasn’t used to words failing Sirius; the other boy always was quick to talk--or shout—or jinx—depending on the circumstance.

“House-elves just don’t go on strike!” Sirius said so vehemently that James flinched.

“I didn’t think they could, either,” James admitted shamefully. “I didn’t think it was that bad—I mean, the teacher’s didn’t even catch us, no one knows what happened at all, but, well, I guess you can see that they weren’t kidding.”

“They don’t!”

James hesitated. “No, I’ve never heard one make a joke, but it just seemed so unreal, that they’d stop cleaning—”

“No!” Sirius cut him off. “House-elves don’t just decide that they’re going to stop cleaning someone’s room.”

James knew he had been rambling, but he didn’t think he’d wandered around the point that badly that Sirius had missed it entirely. Still, he tried to tell him again. “No, they didn’t just decide. It probably is my fault. I mean—” he cleared his throat—”I’m to blame for frightening them like that. It’s sort of understandable, that they’d just… stop coming, isn’t it?”

“NO!” Sirius shouted.

“All right,” James said, a little taken aback by the emphasis of Sirius' denial.

“That's not what they do!” Sirius continued to shout. He kicked his bed, causing James to jump back a bit. It didn't do much except cause him to wince at the pain. It wasn’t enough, either, since the next thing Sirius did was shove his trunk. It had been resting on top his bed covers and now it spilled open, the robes and sweets he'd brought from home tumbling out and falling on the floor.

“Sirius...” James said hesitantly. He wanted to ask what was wrong but wasn't sure how to do it. Every time he opened his mouth these days, all he did was put his foot in it.

James didn't get the chance to figure it out, since Sirius ignored him, ignored the mess, and stomped out of their room pushing the door hard enough that James was surprised it didn’t come off its hinges. He had to hurry to keep up as they marched down Gryffindor Towers.

“We should probably get to class,” James ventured when they missed the turn out to the Herbology greenhouses. “Only it starts in a few minutes.”

He wasn't very surprised that Sirius ignored that—it would have warranted a derisive laugh at the best of times, the idea of hurrying to class—but their goal, when it became apparent, was enough to surprise him. About three corridors away from the kitchens, James realized that was where they were heading.

Sirius didn't so much tickle the pear as maul it, but the picture swung open anyway, probably in self-defence. It closed again almost immediately in protest and James had to stick his hand in to keep it from closing on him.

By the time James scrambled through the entrance, several of the house-elves were already gathered around Sirius, delighted to see him as ever. They always enjoyed it when they had visitors since it let them show of their hospitability. Two of them were already loading up a trolley with a selection of snacks—James recognized last night’s pudding, but there were also cookies, pumpkin tarts and jammie dodgers.

There were a couple of gasps and some hand-wringing when they caught sight of James, which James didn’t think was entirely fair, not when taking into account Sirius’ thunderous expression.

“Just what do you think you’re doing?” Sirius asked when the elves with the snack trolley pushed it to him.

“We’re sorry, sirs,” the house-elf on the left squeaked. In one corner, where elves were working at cleaning up the last of this morning’s breakfast, a murmur went up that he might prefer a proper English breakfast and a frying pan was washed and dried on the double.

“Sirius…” James tried again uncertainly, trying to ignore the looks of fright that the house-elves were giving him. “Maybe we should leave them alone.” He didn’t know what was going to happen but he had a feeling it wouldn’t be good.

“My room is a mess.” Sirius spoke clearly, enunciating every word properly. He hadn’t yet raised his voice, which worried James. It wasn’t like Sirius to lose his temper like this, so quietly.

“It’s my fault,” James tried again. “I didn’t mean to threaten them with clothes. I mean, I didn’t threaten them at all and I didn’t mean it to sound like I threatened them with clothes.”

“They deserve clothes!” Sirius roared. The house-elves had all stopped what they were doing and as one cowered at the words. Several burst out in tears. It was a pitiful sight, but one that didn’t affect Sirius at all.

James didn’t interrupt him this time as Sirius continued his rant.

“My room is covered in dust. There is no fire in my fireplace. Instead, it’s full of ashes and covered in soot. A fizzy drink spilled all over my friend’s desk and nobody cleaned it up. It was left there to become a sticky stain.” Peter had actually knocked over one of Remus’ potions and they hadn’t cleaned it up because it wouldn’t stop sending sparks up, but Sirius wasn’t to know that. “The beds are unmade and there are books all over the floor. I could trip and break my neck. I expect better of my room and I demand better of you.

“Just what do you think you are?” he demanded. “You’re house-elves! You clean. You don’t decide to skip a room because you don’t like someone. If you were my house-elves, I would give each and every one of you clothes right this very instant. I’d be ashamed to let anyone know I had ever even had a house-elf. I’d rather lie and let someone think I were too poor or common rather than let on that I had the likes of you in my employ.

“You’re afraid of finding clothes in our room? You should be. What you’ve done, missing a room on your cleaning rounds, it’s disgraceful. I’ll give you another chance. If you’re really lucky, if you do a good job, then you won’t find clothes there tomorrow morning. But this will be your only warning. You try anything like this ever again and it will be clothes for the lot of you. Do I make myself clear?”

The night of the incident, as James had taken to thinking of it, most of the house-elves had looked terrified with only a few of the very bravest daring to tell them to leave. James, Remus and Peter had only been too happy to get away from there after things had gone so drastically wrong. James had spent the ten days since almost mad with guilt. He’d never seen anything more pathetic as the house-elves crying over the idea of someone trying to trick them into picking up clothes.

They were even worse now. The crying was the least of it. Even though the noise grated on James ear, making him wish for a pair of earmuffs like the ones they used in Herbology when growing Mandrakes, it was nothing to the way most of the house-elves were now punishing themselves. The heavy pans that had been used to fry breakfast now were being used to smack themselves in the head. The oven doors were being used to crush hands. One of the house-elves had grabbed the poker from the great fireplace, but James didn’t dare turn that was to see what he did.

It was sickening to watch.

Sirius didn’t notice anything wrong, just marched back out to the portrait hole without as much as a backwards glance.

James thought about trying to say something to placate the house-elves, or just to get them to stop, but nothing came to mind. His tongue felt heavy in his mouth. After a few seconds when the cries only got louder, James could think of nothing to do but follow Sirius.

He had only just swung the pear closed when the voice rang out.

“Potter! Black! What are you doing?”

James should have expected Professor McGonagall to come across them. Everything else had been going so wrong, of course they’d be caught climbing out of the kitchen portrait. He just hoped that they could talk her out of going in there and talking to the house-elves. If she even caught a glance at them in their current state she would demand a good explanation. James didn’t think he would be able to think of one. He wasn’t sure there was a good explanation for what had just happened.

A quick look at Sirius showed that he was still glowering, so James hurried out an excuse before he could say anything and make things worse.

“Er, Professor McGonagall. Sirius just got back.”

“I know that, Potter,” McGonagall said with a touch of impatience. “And already you are skipping class. Honestly, I’d expect even you could go two hours back at Hogwarts without getting into trouble.”

“We’re not skipping,” said James, although he knew that if he looked at his watch he’d have to admit that they should have been in class fifteen minutes earlier. “Sirius didn’t get here in time for breakfast. He was hungry. We just thought we could stop by the kitchen and see if he could get a snack before class.”

Sirius would normally, at this point, jump in and embellish James’ story. It usually worked out in their favour, except for the times when he went a little too far with the details, stretching McGonagall’s disbelief past the breaking point.

He stop scowling long enough to even look at their teacher this time. James supposed he should be grateful, since Sirius was almost certain to make things worse—and not because he couldn’t resist bragging this time—but it was a little disconcerting.

“Er,” James said when it became obvious Sirius wasn’t going to speak, “we’ll go there right now. And, erm, sorry. Didn’t mean to skip class or anything.”

The closed look on McGonagall’s face didn’t give anything away until she said, “Next time, tell a teacher, don’t just run around by yourselves. Students aren’t supposed to be in the kitchens and I could have made sure Black got something to eat if he missed breakfast. Tell Professor Carrow to talk to me if she wonders why you’re late for class. And go straight there.”

“Thanks, Professor, sorry Professor.”

James grabbed Sirius’ sleeve and pulled him away before McGonagall could change her mind. Thankfully, Sirius let him lead the way without saying a single word. James kept stealing looks at his best mate, whose anger was still very apparent, but when it came to finding the words to ask him what he could do to make it better, James’ mouth dried.

When they got back to their room after dinner, James was not at all surprised to find it spotless, all except for the pile of clothes that had spilled out of Sirius’ trunk when he had slammed it down.

~*~


Every time Sirius cut into his eggs, his knife hit the plate with such force that it caused it to wobble a bit. The first time it had happened, James had looked up, ready to tease Sirius on his table manners, but as it happened again, and again, he realized there was something else at work here. James was trying to decide whether he should say anything when Remus, who was also watching the tableau with some concern, spoke up.

“Has your food, er, done something to offend you?” He kept his tone light, but James thought he couldn’t have picked worst words. The food was made by the house-elves, whom Sirius was still furious with. He muttered under his breath every time any of their belongings were the slightest bit out of place, even when it was Peter or James who’d just dropped them minutes earlier. James had taken to checking their room for stray pieces of clothes after Sirius left just to make sure he hadn’t followed through on his threat to get the house-elves unlucky enough to clean their rooms to free themselves accidentally.

“What?” Either Sirius wasn’t amused by the pseudo-joke or else he hadn’t been listening. James didn’t know his friend’s mood well enough to tell which one it was.

“You’ve been acting weird ever since you got back,” was Peter’s complaint. He cut to the thick of things, but it probably could have been done with more grace.

“We are sorry about your uncle,” said Remus, who had said similar platitudes several times in the past few days, none of which Sirius had even acknowledged. James was a little surprised when he responded this time.

“I’m not,” Sirius said. “For all I care my entire family could die and I wouldn’t be sorry.”

Remus tried to catch James’ eye, though what he thought James could do, James wasn’t sure. He had only proven himself marginally better than Peter at not saying the worst possible things when it came to Sirius and his grief.

“You, er, don’t mean that,” James tried. It came out awkwardly since he was pretty sure Sirius did mean it. He was always saying things like that about his family.

“Of course I do. They’re nothing but—” His description of his family had Remus and James both looking around to make sure no teacher was close enough to overhear, and Peter’s jaw drop open in either amazement or admiration.

“But they’re your family,” said Remus, who went home to visit his sickly mother on a regular basis even though it put him behind on his schoolwork every time. Neither he nor Peter had grown up hearing the rumours and whispers about the Blacks and other families so closely affiliated with dark magic as James had.

“And I never want to see any of them again. Ever.”

He said this with a particular steely glare at the Slytherin table where one of the Black girls was laughing especially triumphantly, tossing her dark hair over her shoulder in a rather flirty manner. The boys surrounding her were hanging on her every word. None of them seemed too torn up about Rastaban Black’s death, either, but James was willing to bet that it wasn’t for the same reason as Sirius. For one, they didn’t seem to feel his anger.

The rest of the boys looked at each other awkwardly, uncertain what to do or say now. Sirius went back to his breakfast with no less force attacking the food as he’d had before their talk. James wasn’t sure whether they were saved by the owls arriving with the daily mail or if they’d just put off the inevitable for a little while longer, but he was glad for the distraction nevertheless. Peter snatched the paper right out of James’ hand as James fed his owl bits of his toast.

Peter at least was certainly happy about the distraction, thumbing through the back pages of the newspaper rather than look at Sirius.

“Martin Miggs still isn’t back,” he moaned when he could find nothing but articles and advertisements. “Look, it’s another article about Meriel Hollingberry, only this time talking about her work with Muggles and her crusade for clearer laws regarding enchantments of Muggle objects. I mean, who cares? It’s been two weeks, I’m beginning to think that they aren’t going to bring back the comics.

“Have you heard about the disappearance of Meriel Hollingberry?” he asked Sirius politely after finishing his rant, possibly hoping that some juicy gossip would get Sirius’ mind off his family but ruining it with the next bit. “Everyone’s been talking about it while you were gone.”

“He knows that, Pete,” James said impatiently wishing Peter hadn’t reminded Sirius of his recent absence from school. “It’s in the Daily Prophet.”

“I know all about Hollingberry’s murder,” Sirius said darkly.

“Disappearance,” Remus corrected since he was the sort to actually read through the articles and retain the information. “The Magical Law Enforcement Squad suspect foul play but so far there’s been no evidence either way of what really happened.”

“It’s murder,” Sirius said with such conviction that James shivered.

Peter sounded just as awed. “What do you mean?”

“How do you know?” James asked.

“She was murdered, and I know because I know who did it.”

~*~


The letter from his parents surprised him.

Not that he’d received it, since James’ mother was twice as good at writing to him than he was at writing to her and his dad, but rather at the contents.

He read it again, hoping to make more sense out of the short message the third time.

James,

Honey, I don’t know what you’ve been hearing but don’t worry. There are a lot of rumours going around but things are not as bad as they seem. No matter what happens, you’re safe at Hogwarts. Dumbledore is a great wizard, always has been, always will be. He has done more to stop the advance of the Dark Arts than you can even imagine.

Remember that you’re a true Gryffindor and you will always be brave.

Love,

Mum and Dad


He certainly hadn’t told them about Sirius’ revelation—hadn’t even hinted at it. He’d written that Sirius was back, but he hadn’t said a thing about the bad moods or the outbursts or anything that Sirius told them in strictest confidence had happened at the funeral. But somehow, James’ parents seemed to know anyway.

His mum would have been at the funeral, James was sure of that now. She would have heard the same people Sirius did, would have been introduced to the same followers of this new Dark wizard.

That thought, that his mother would be so close to this, made James shiver even though the house-elves were keeping the room twice as toasty as it normally was this time of year. They were still trying to make amends, or to keep out of Sirius’ bad books, James didn’t know.

James read the letter one more time. His mum might have been trying to reassure him, but all the words did was make him feel worse.

It confirmed that it was real.

When Sirius had finished his story, Peter had blustered, sputtering out denials and questioning how Sirius could know something like that, ignoring or forgetting Sirius’ story of the gathering of wizards after his uncle’s funeral. It spoke to how frightened he was since he rarely vocally doubted Sirius at all.

Remus had questioned just how powerful this wizard could be. Grindelwald had terrorized the continent until he met with Dumbledore, and that had been years ago. Their Headmaster was even more powerful now; surely a new Dark wizard wasn’t going to try anything right under their headmaster’s nose.

James hadn’t said anything at all.

Even now he was still trying to wrap his head around the reason why Sirius had been acting so strangely. It hadn’t been anything to do with him, not with the way James had misinterpreted McGonagall’s summons leading them on a merry goose chase while Sirius’ uncle lay dead, nor with the way he’d cocked things up with the house-elves when he’d been trying to fix things and make them better for Sirius’ return. It had nothing to do with him at all.

Now that he knew that, James almost wished it was his fault, because that would be better than this.

You will always be brave, his mother had written. He was happy his mother could only write letters to him because if she saw him in person she would know just how scared he truly was.

~*~


Over the next few days James saw signs of worried students everywhere.

Looking back, he should have noticed earlier. There were more subscriptions of the Daily Prophet being delivered than James ever recalled seeing before, mostly by older students who would flip through their copies as furiously as Peter. The only difference was that they retained interest even after discovering that there were no comics.

James read through the Sunday’s edition, front to cover. It wasn’t something he had ever done before, and not something he would do again in a hurry between the articles about the elections in Germany and the piece on why the Ministry should outlaw the cultivation of Chinese Chomping Cabbage (James couldn’t figure out why anyone would care let alone write about it for half a page. Despite its name, it didn’t actually chomp on stray insects or fingers that wandered to close, which at least would have made it interesting).

The articles on Hollingberry were more informative. He hadn’t actually read through much more than the headlines before and only knew that she was a witch who worked at the Muggle Liaison Office at the Ministry who’d disappeared a little more than a month earlier. The reporters at the Prophet had uncovered what seemed to be her entire life’s story.

Her mother had been a Muggle who had died about the same time as she had disappeared, which is why the Muggle Law Enforcement Patrol thought the whole thing was suspicious. (They had talked to the Muggle “please men” who said Mrs. Hollingberry had died in something called a “car crash” but although the paper had done its best to describe what that meant, James still thought the entire thing sounded fishy.)

She'd been Head Girl at Hogwarts, attending school over a decade before James, so he doubted even the upper years would have known her. She lived with one of her friends from there, a Muggle-born witch who had stopped talking with the press within a week of the story breaking.

Meriel Hollingberry also wasn't the only witch or wizard to have disappeared under mysterious and suspicious circumstances in recent times. James supposed he shouldn't be surprised, since it tallied with what Sirius had said about a Dark Wizard who had been gaining power without anyone taking notice, but it still was jarring. They were all, without fail, Muggle-born or related to Muggles in some way, through their job or just living in a predominantly Muggle area of town.

James wondered if the people at the Daily Prophet had put that part together, or if listing their blood status was a simple matter of course, like the fact that every person who warranted mention in the paper also had their age listed beside their age.

He had been looking for confirmation, he knew that when he finished the paper, folding it up neatly even though he was only going to chuck it as soon as he got back to his room. Peter had all but started to boycott the Prophet when they stopped running the Martin Miggs cartoon even now that he knew why, Remus had already glanced through those articles that interested him and Sirius knew more about the case than the rest of them, it seemed.

The only thing left, it seemed, was decide what to do now.

~*~


Sunday dinner was usually something to look forward to. The house-elves always outdid themselves. Even during the worst of their anger—or rather what James had thought was the worst of their anger until he'd seen them with Sirius and realized that they did not get angry in the same way that wizards did—they had not once even considered skimping on the Gryffindor's feast, not even the section of the table where James and his mates usually sat.

Tonight was a more sombre affair. It wasn't just the second year Gryffindor boys, who seemed to be as disconcerted as James himself felt. Sirius was the only exception, having started to regain some of his former humour now that the secret wasn't his burden and his alone to bear—James just wished he could feel happier about being there to help out his friend.

It was the rest of the table as well. Lonnie Georges, the seventh year prefect, was Muggle-born. She always was rather soppy if James did say so himself, more likely to burst in tears when interrupted during her studies than take points like her fellow prefects. She was starting at everything these days, including when Harriet Dunnington, her best mate, dropped her spoon against the plate, setting it clattering. What she would do if someone pulled a wand, James hoped he wouldn't see. They were Gryffindors, as his mother had reminded him, and even if he felt he was letting the team down with his cowardice inside, at least he could still put on a brave face.

Hufflepuff seemed to be battering down. There were worried expressions all around, but there were also some determined ones. James wasn't sure what exactly they planned to do since this was Hufflepuff, but it probably beat his lack of plans.

Ravenclaw was still pouring over the newspaper, comparing articles. More than one student was taking notes, which by itself wasn't unusual (this was Ravenclaw after all) but usually they only did that when accompanied by heavy foreboding tomes from the library.

The only table who wasn't acting strangely was Slytherin. Instead, they seemed almost smug, with more smiles than normal adorning their faces and atypical, unpleasant laughter breaking out on a regular basis.

There was the general chatter as students filed in and started to serve their food onto their plates, but it died fairly quickly when Dumbledore stood and caught their attention.

“Thank you,” he said when everyone had quieted down. “I won’t keep you from your dinners for too long, but there is something that I must share with you first. Some of you have already heard some of this, but it is important that everyone knows the truth.”

Here, he did a visual sweep of the assembled students. It was a little shocking when his gaze paused for a brief second on James and his friends. Dumbledore also singled out several groups of Slytherins and some fifth-year Ravenclaws before he resumed speaking.

“We are under attack by a user of the Dark arts, a wizard calling himself Lord Voldemort.”

There were gasps at this pronouncement from all corners of the Great Hall, even those areas where James was sure the students already knew. His friends weren’t as noisy, although he did notice Remus’ brow furrow and Sirius sit up straighter and take more interest in Dumbledore’s speech.

“I don’t mean the people here at Hogwarts or those witches and wizards who already stand up against him in the world outside our school, but rather every single one of us, pure-blood or Muggle-born. There are those who would say that since he claims he is only trying to rid the world of Muggles and bring back the sanctity of the pure-blood lines that it doesn’t involve him. That isn’t true, even if you were to believe him. What he hopes to do will affect all of us.

“What we need to do is stand together, to stand against him. He will use fear and terror to try to keep people in line, but you must not let him succeed.

He sat down when he was finished, a little unpresumptuous considering the news he had just imparted on the student body.

James wasn’t the only one who was so shocked at the turn of events that he was barely able to eat any of his supper. He just hoped the house-elves wouldn’t take the amount of leftovers as an insult on their cooking and fret unnecessarily.

~*~


James was certain that Dumbledore would have been proud to know that his speech resulted in James’ sleepless state that night. He, Sirius, Peter and Remus hadn’t talked much after dinner, though it seemed that they were unique in that respect. The rest of the Great Hall broke out in furious whispers amongst themselves. There were a few panic attacks, mostly from those who had barely been aware there was such a thing as a Dark Lord let alone that there was one stalking through the countryside these days. They came mostly from James’ fellow second-years and the other grades around them, though James was interesting to note that not one of the panicked students came from Slytherin. The others who had been pulled from Hogwarts to attend Rastaban Black’s funeral had apparently wasted no time sharing all that they knew.

Now James could only toss and turn, unable to stop thinking about what Dumbledore had said, what Sirius had said, what his mother had said.

He punched his pillow, hoping that if he were more comfortable he might finally drop off to sleep.

“You still awake?” There was a sound of curtains drawing back and when James peaked out from his bed, he saw Sirius was as wide awake as he was.

“Can’t sleep,” said James rather redundantly.

“Me neither,” said Sirius. He sat at the edge of his bed, crossing his legs. James imitated the position, pulling up his blanket so that it draped around his shoulders. Even with the house-elves tendering properly to the fire once again, he still liked the extra warmth his blanket gave him.

He’d just gotten comfortable when he heard another set of curtain rings scratch against the rails.

“We should keep it down or we’ll wake Peter,” warned Remus. He didn’t say anything about waking him, leading James to believe he’d been as troubled with the night’s events as the others had.

“I’m already awake,” said Peter, also bereft of any sounds of sleepiness in his voice. He didn’t even yawn when he scrambled to join them. “Maybe we should go down to the kitchens and get some warm milk. That’s what our mum always did when I couldn’t sleep when I was little.”

“Er.” James hesitated. Sirius was less angry than he had been when he’d lost his temper with the house-elves, but he wasn’t he’d calmed down enough. Neither Remus nor Peter knew just how badly Sirius had lost his temper, James giving them a much abbreviated and partially made-up version to explain why the room was suddenly being cleaned again, and he wasn’t sure

“I have some Chocolate Frogs,” Sirius suggested, preventing James from having to make a decision.

“Brilliant!” Peter exclaimed, forgetting all about the kitchens as he dove for Sirius’ trunk. His sweets were always kept in the same place, which was regularly booby-trapped, not because Sirius didn’t trust his friends but because he found it funny when they fell for one of his tricks. Peter remembered to hand the Frogs to Sirius rather than start munching on them right away. Sirius threw a handful at Remus and another at James. James caught most of his, but a couple fell from his hands, scattering on the bed and falling onto the floor. He would have to remember to pick them up in the morning, but for now he was content with the ones he had caught.

Peter opened his right away and started munching on it before he even got back into his bed, yanking the covers out from the foot and bringing his pillow down so he could lie down and still look at the rest of his friends.

“Thanks,” Remus said before unwrapping his, giving the other boys pause and making James and Peter mumble their own thanks a few seconds later, though Peter’s was rather muffled due to the fact that his mouth was already full of chocolate.

James looked at his card before sticking the frog in his mouth. He had got Laverne de Montmorency. He didn’t think he had her already, but then she was only famous for inventing a great number of love potions and James couldn’t see what the big deal about that was.

It was a few long minutes where none of them did anything except chew before Sirius, the only one who hadn’t yet touched his chocolate, finally broke the silence.

“What do you suppose Dumbledore was doing, telling the school about… him?”

“What were you doing, telling us about the Dark Wizard?” Remus asked back. He hadn’t meant it negatively, but Sirius reacted badly anyway, screwing up his face in anger. James broke in before he could say anything, since the last thing they needed was to get into a fight right now and even now Sirius was spoiling for a fight, just as he had been ever since getting back to Hogwarts.

“I think Remus just meant Dumbledore wanted all of us to know, just like you wanted us to know when you told us.” It was a rather simplified version of the reason Sirius had told them—James suspected the truth lay closer to the fact that Sirius had lost his temper and let it slip more than it being a conscious decision, but Remus had apparently felt blessed to be let in on the secret.

“At least this means Dumbledore knows about this Voldemort fellow,” said Peter, flipping through the cards he’d got. “That’s good, isn’t it? I mean, he defeated Grindelwald and this new guy can’t be worse than him, can he?”

“Voldemort’s worse,” said Sirius flatly.

“We can’t know that,” Remus said quite reasonably, careful not to doubt Sirius outright. “It looks like they stand for the same sort of things—mastery over Muggles and that stuff.”

“You didn’t hear them talking,” said Sirius. “It’s all that shit they say about purity of blood, but more.

“Dumbledore said—Dumbledore seemed to think it wasn’t just the Muggles, either,” James said slowly. “Didn’t you hear him? He said Muggle-borns. I think he meant that Voldemort is going to go after witches and wizards, too. Only actively hurt them, not just because they’re getting in his way.”

Sirius looked at him blankly, not seeing what the problem was. “That’s what I said. To hear some of them talk, there’s no difference between Muggles, Muggle-borns and half-bloods. They’re all inferior to their thoughts.”

“Some of the people who’ve disappeared, they’re half-bloods,” Remus volunteered. “My mum went to school with Kelly Moffat. I think they dated at one point. Said it wasn’t like being with my dad, whose parents were both wizards, since Kelly’s dad was a Muggle-born, too, so they didn’t think anything of the fact that her parents were Muggles.”

“But we don’t know that this wizard is behind the disappearances, do we?” Peter was starting to sound a little more panicked again. His parents and his grandparents were all wizards, James remembered, but there was the occasional Muggle and Muggle-born beyond that. It was enough to be marked as a half-blood according to some of the more fervent believers in blood purity.

“Didn’t you listen to what Dumbledore said?” James asked.

“But he knows about this wizard. He can do something about him. He beat Grindelwald, after all, he can do it again, can’t he? Or he can tell the Minstry, let the Aurors deal with him.”

Sirius barked out laughter. “As if it were that simple,” he said derisively. “If the Ministry hasn’t figured it out by now it’s because they’re in denial or because they don’t care.”

“I do think it’s a little more serious than that,” said Remus, a little more gently. “Dumbledore wouldn’t have told us if it was a simple case of Muggle-baiting or something like that that the Ministry could deal with easily.”

“No,” said James, firmly. “He told us because we’re all going to figure it out sooner or later—probably sooner. I mean, think about it. How long have these disappearances been going on for? People are going to start asking questions. His supporters actively admitted what they were up to at Sirius’ uncle’s funeral. It’s not like they’re really trying to hide it anymore.”

Sirius snorted again, but James ignored that. He was pretty certain that it wasn’t truly a case of Voldemort’s supporters finally letting the Blacks in on the secret, but felt a little uneasy accusing Sirius’ family of being Voldemort supporters.

“So the real question is what do we do?” James asked, finally vocalizing the central question that had been gnawing at him since he first heard the name Voldemort from Sirius’ lips.

“Do?” Sirius asked. “What do you mean, do?”

“I don’t think there is anything we can do,” said Remus.

“These are grown wizards we’re talking about,” said Peter, his voice quavering a bit. He’d tucked his blanket in under body and was clutching his pillow pretty close to his chest. “We’re just kids, we can’t do anything to stop them.”

“Maybe not,” James admitted. “But that doesn’t mean we should just sit here and do nothing and… and… just be scared. Didn’t you hear what Dumbledore said? Fear is a weapon, one that Voldemort is going to try to use. Do we want him to use it on us?”

“But...” Peter protested, licking his lips. “Shouldn’t we be scared?”

“We’re Gryffindors,” Sirius said, unconsciously echoing James’ mother in her letter. “Gryffindor’s don’t get scared.”

“Gryffindors remain brave even when they are scared,” Remus corrected since it was pretty obvious all of them were a little terrified.

“Exactly,” said James. “We can’t let this Voldemort bully us into hiding away under our covers, too scared to even move.” He noticed Peter kick at his blankets surreptitiously so they loosened a bit. “So what do we do?”

“We can make the Slytherin House’s life a living hell,” Sirius suggested. “They’re the ones that go on about pure-blood and embracing the Dark Arts and all that bollocks.”

“Don’t we do that already?” Remus asked dryly. “We’re always after one of them or another, or retaliating because they’ve done something to us.”

Not lately, they hadn’t, but James refrained from pointing that out.

“Your big plan to show Voldemort up is to go on causing as much mischief as you can at Hogwarts?” Remus asked, choking on the words a bit.

“What’s wrong with that?” James asked defensively.

“Nothing,” said Sirius fiercely. “It’s a great idea.”

“But it’s what we would do regularly, anyway. Even if there wasn’t a Dark wizard out there,” said Remus.

“And isn’t that what Dumbledore told us to do?” Sirius demanded.

“If we start acting differently, if we start acting afraid, then hasn’t Voldemort already won?”

Remus tried one more time. “But doing what we always do—it’s not much of a plan, is it?”

James Potter had not had much luck with plans recently, but somehow he thought this one might be different. It would be very difficult indeed to mess up something this simple and maybe that was just what they needed.

Opening up the last of the Chocolate Frogs, the one he’d fished up from the floor, he popped it into his mouth.

“I think it’s a brilliant plan,” he said.

“The best we’ve got,” Peter said quickly, probably

“The best there is,” Sirius corrected, also smiling.

“We’re going to get into so much trouble,” Remus moaned, burying his head under his pillow at the thought of all that detention.

James didn’t have the heart to tell him that was the entire point.

~*~


Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry was not the same place now as it was when Minerva McGonagall graced its hallowed halls. Her time as a student had been far more carefree. Even in her upper years, when Grindelwald had begun his ascent to power, his influence was barely noticeable at the school since the worst of it had taken place in Europe, not Great Britain.

There had never been any of this fear spread across the school. Minerva wondered again at the wisdom of Albus informing the students of some of the facts that even the wizarding public was not yet fully aware, but he had been insistent that knowledge was a great weapon. As a devotee of education, Minerva could hardly argue with that.

It hadn’t done much to squash the rumours that were flying around the castle, though. If anything, it made them worse, as the students who hadn’t known tried to make sense of Dumbledore’s warnings and the students who had been already aware felt free to discuss the Dark Lord openly, weighing the likelihood of increased Muggle tortures and the use of the Unforgivables Curses. Minerva just wished she could do more than order them to change the subject when she overheard such conversations, but the students—mostly Slytherins from the old, pure-blood and prejudiced families that were fertile grounds for Voldemort’s recruitment—though emboldened by the recent announcements were still smart enough to cage the arguments as hypotheticals, never fully admitting their admiration or hope for involvement. There was little McGonagall could do as a teacher.

She had considered speaking to Horace directly though Albus had cautioned against that. The Slytherin Head of House still had his head firmly stuck in the sand about the whole thing and refused to see just how dangerous some of his students were.

He wasn’t the only one, either. Even amidst the rest of the panicked rumours, there were a few vocal deniers, claiming that nothing could be wrong, since their parents worked for the Ministry and would have told them otherwise, or because the Daily Prophet had not yet pieced everything together—though Minerva suspected it wouldn’t be much longer since some of the reporters were starting to ask the right questions.

Most, however, recognized the danger even if they didn’t realized the true extent of what was going to come.

Minerva wondered if she knew it herself.

Still, it was her duty to give these children the best education and the best childhood she could no matter what was going on outside in the Wizarding world, and that is what she planned to do.

With that steely determination, she marched towards the Transfiguration classroom where her second year Gryffindors were seated patiently at their desks. Minerva had a soft spot for this class, which was populated by a few more clever students than usual, although she had to admit that at times they were more frustrating as well since several of those said clever students spent more of their time trying to wreak the most havoc than get the most out of their education. Recently, they’d been quiet, shaken by what Sirius Black had undoubtedly shared with them about what happened at Rastaban Black’s funeral.

Minerva was almost liked the quiet, her enjoyment only tempered by the fact that it was coming at the expense of their personalities.

There was a low murmur coming from inside the classroom, which Minerva thought nothing of as she opened the door. Then her jaw dropped as she saw what was going on inside.

She had just enough time to think, fleetingly, that things were getting back to normal, Voldemort be damned, before she regained her senses.

“Black! Potter!” They whirled around, not having expected her to arrive so soon. She could see the guilt on their faces, though it was disguised as manic innocence. They weren’t the only ones with such expressions, either. “Lupin! Pettigrew!”

“Er, hi Professor,” said Black, innocently, as Potter flashed her a wide, cheeky smile.

“Just what is going on here?” Minerva demanded.

The boys exchanged looks with each other, then at the thing in the middle of the floor, then back at Minerva, who was resisting the urge to tap her foot in impatience.

As they started their explanation, which was just as unlikely and extravagant as Minerva had become accustomed to hearing from them, she realized that yes, things were back to normal for these four particular boys at least.
There are 6 comments on this entry. (Reply.)
shyfoxling: Ravenclaw crest (Default)
posted by [personal profile] shyfoxling at 12:44am on 27/09/2010
This seems to be missing the lj-cut...
marauderbigbang: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] marauderbigbang at 05:41am on 27/09/2010
Hi! I'm not sure what you mean. is it a coding issue? We never intended to have an LJ cut here because it is meant to be accessed only through the marauderbigbang site on LJ.
shyfoxling: Ravenclaw crest (Default)
posted by [personal profile] shyfoxling at 06:03am on 27/09/2010
Now at the end I see a broken "<br" without a closing ">" on it, but earlier it said "</lj>" which looked like trying to close an LJ-cut, but not done properly. (LJ-cut works the same on DW as on LJ despite the name.)

I understand you want to concentrate comments on one site, but for those of us who have DW accounts it's less clicks just to read here than to click through from LJ... 20k words out in the open takes up an awful lot of a page.
marauderbigbang: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] marauderbigbang at 03:21pm on 27/09/2010
That was just a bit of stray coding when pasting from LJ. Sorry if it bothered you!

And we also meant to disable comments on DW, but I think forgot once or twice. The participants all felt very strongly about keeping comments all in once place.

Using a cut is an interesting and unique idea - thanks for suggesting it. We honestly never thought that anyone would access the fest from DW, so that is something to take into account.
arethinn: glowing green spiral (Default)
posted by [personal profile] arethinn at 05:00pm on 27/09/2010
Using a cut is an interesting and unique idea

*shrug* You'd have been using them if the stories were posted directly on LJ, yes? (I assume you posted them here because of the longer per-post character limit?)
marauderbigbang: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] marauderbigbang at 06:29am on 28/09/2010
That is right on both counts. I guess it feels unique because none of us have ever done a fest in which people actually accessed the stories and art from DW (only from LJ, using DW as a host) and it really never occurred to anyone that people might want to do that.

In fact, your idea for the "extra" (in that it is extraneous to those who only access it from LJ) cut might really help us out in [community profile] rs_games, too. I ran it by the other mods and, though at first they were confused, they finally agreed that it might be a good idea.

Again, we would totally use cuts on LJ, but we never really thought that anyone would ever access it directly from DW.

Thanks for letting us know about this possibility.

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