The Sugar Quill
Author: Giesbrecht (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Some Things Are Better Left Unknown  Chapter: Chapter One: Messing With Time
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Chapter 1--

"Messing with Time"

(A/N: Anybody who knows where I got the "Somebody Else's Problem" Charm deserves a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster. Or I can whack them with a lemon wrapped around a gold brick, its much the same thing.)

Disclaimer:  This is Rowling's world with my odd little additions.  I own nothing.

It was Sirius' idea. Of course it was. Ideas like that don't come to sane people. They come to Sirius. And it was most definitely his idea.        

It started when Remus did an extra-credit essay for Professor Binns, chronicling the effects of time-altering artifacts and spells in different historical instances. His three best friends always insisted that Remus did NOT need to do any sort of extra-credit essay, as he never failed to have excellent grades, but Remus felt guilty when he missed a day once a month and he therefore did quite a few extra-credit essays. For this essay, he chose a very obscure event in the eighth century when a warlock accidentally invented a complex charm that sent a person through time. It was meant to be a charm to keep chickens from aging, but some things just don't turn out the way they're supposed to. Sirius immediately latched onto the idea of recreating the charm. He thought it was brilliant, going back and forth through time for the fun of it. For instance, he said, one could go a year into the future, find out who would win the next World Cup, return to one's ordinary time, and use that knowledge to extensive gambling benefit. James, Peter, and Remus ignored him on this one: the charm was immensely difficult, and charms altogether were not Sirius' area of expertise. But he didn't give up. In the end, he borrowed James' Invisibility Cloak, snuck down to the library, stole a book from the Restricted Section on Rare and Dangerous Charms, and started studying. This was in the Marauders' second year.

By their fifth year, they'd all forgotten about this.

Except Sirius.

"Alright, Padfoot, what did you cook up this time?" James watched with some amusement as Sirius scampered about the Gryffindor common room,

arranging some very odd looking objects. He had been doing this for the last half-hour.

"I'll tell you in a minute," said Sirius, excited and quite breathless.

"Looks like some odd treasure hunt," observed Peter, "except we can all see where you're putting stuff, and its not even hidden."

"It’s a charm," said Remus, camped out in a corner with a good book, and knowing that whatever Sirius was up to, it was no good, and likely very dangerous.

            "Spot on!" exclaimed Sirius, standing in the center of the room and checking a detailed diagram that looked painstakingly copied. It was about three in the morning--no one but they were awake. "I think I've got it. No..." He picked up a small wooden carving and moved it an almost imperceptible distance. He squinted at it. "Yeah, I've got it."

"What," said James, "have you got?"

"The circle. Its ready. Which means we can go!" Sirius looked up, his face flushed.

            "Go? Where?" James wrinkled his brow.

Sirius grinned wickedly, and Peter took two steps back. "Why, my dear Prongs, the only place it is interesting to go: through time!"

            "Oh, c'mon!" said Peter, recovering. "You aren't s--"

            "Don't say it," said Remus. "He's bad enough as it is. And I do believe he is s--, er, I mean, he knows what he's doing. I mean, he means it."

            James grinned. "You mean he's serious." But before Sirius could say anything, he went on. "Do you honestly think this will work? Going through time?"

            "I followed the book to the letter!" said Sirius proudly. "Of course, its only succeeded once before, and that was when a chicken farmer was trying to get his chickens to live longer."

            "Is that where this is from?" James said, impressed. "Sirius, that was three years ago! You've been at this for three years?"

            "Yes, my dear Prongs, I have," admitted Sirius, not at all embarrassed. "Took me ages to figure it all out. And I'm sure it'll work. Did all the research and everything."

            "Sirius did research. There's a new one," said Remus, looking up from his book, interested in spite of himself. "May I ask why?"

            "I wanted to get it exactly right, that's why. This isn't just any Animagus spell or anything. This is time we're talking about!" Sirius flung out his arms, making an expansive gesture.

            "So... lets assume this works--" began James.

            "Which it will," put in Sirius.

            "--then, where--or should I say 'when'--do you want to go?"

            "Why, the only time in time worth going to: the future! Think of it: we can get all sorts of Quidditch scores to bet on, or find out what we'll do for a living someday, get answers to our NEWTs... who knows? We could even find out about some great catastrophe, avert it, and be made heroes! It'll be great!"

            Peter piped up then. "Couldn't that mess things up? You know, change things that shouldn't be changed?"

            "Since when were you the voice of reason in this group?" said Sirius. "The future hasn't been written, so, it doesn't matter if we change it."

            "Actually, Peter's got a point," said Remus. "It’s all over the history books. Somebody found out about a future event, tried to change it, and ended up in worse trouble. How do you think the Black Plague got started?"

            Sirius waved this off. "Oh, c'mon Remus! Where's your sense of fun?"

            James snorted. "Last time you said that, Peter had fins for a week."

            "No," said Sirius. "Last time I said that, Snapeykins developed an unreasoning fear of kippers.  C'mon, you three! I promise, if we mess things up, we'll go back in time and stop ourselves from doing this. How 'bout that?"

            "Only if you promise to listen to yourself if your future self comes back to warn you about doing this before you can do it," replied Remus. He paused. "Did that make sense?"

            "Not remotely," said Sirius. "But I promise anyway. So... Shall we try it?"

            James looked at Remus. "Why not?" he said. "Could be interesting."

            "James..."

            "Honestly, Moony, we won't try anything dangerous."

            Remus bit his lip. "We should use that 'Somebody Else's Problem Charm' before we go," he said.

            "That's the spirit!" said Sirius enthusiastically, "but why the charm?"

            "So we don't get accidentally noticed by anyone in the future unless we want to," said James. "Sounds like a great idea. And we should keep this first trip simple. No big 'let's change history' plans. Nothing we can really mess up."

            "So what time do we want to go to? How far?" said Sirius, as Remus administered Somebody Else's Problem charms. (The Somebody Else's Problem charm is stronger than the average distraction charm. It works best on people, and tricks the mind into totally ignoring, rather than simply not seeing, the charmed object, unless the mind is told specifically what to look (or listen) for and is aware of the charm. Very useful for group mischief.)

            "How about here, in about twenty-five years?" suggested Peter.

            "What good would that do?" asked Sirius. "Things don't change much here."

            "One of us might have kids here. Or maybe all of us will. It might be fun, and we can't hurt anything." said Peter.

            "We could at least teach a few of our trademark tricks to future students. Maybe spread nasty tales of teachers' pasts, especially if we know them as students." James smiled evilly. "Sounds like fun."

            "I suppose it does," said Remus, sounding tired. "When do we go?" he asked Sirius.

            "Now, if you like," said Sirius with a shrug. "Twenty-five years, did you say? That would be, what, 1995? And we can even return at the time we left, and we won't age a bit. Quite a charm, don't you think?" He gazed lovingly at his handiwork. James threw an arm about his shoulder.

            "Yes, Padfoot, quite a charm. Now let's get to it!"

            As Sirius prepared to finish the charm with an incantation, Peter stopped him. "But how do we get back to this time?" he asked.

            "Easy," said Sirius. "I say the incantation again."

            "Assuming you got the spell exactly right," said Remus.

            "Of course he has. He even did research," said James. "Nothing's going to go wrong."

            And Sirius said the incantation.

            The common room seemed to flicker a moment, but besides the sudden disappearance of Sirius' circle, and a rearrangement of the logs on the Common room fire, nothing seemed to change.

"Very impressive," said Remus sarcastically.  "Nice trick with the fire."

            "It should have worked..." said Sirius slowly.  "I'm sure it worked."

            "Of course it worked!" said James.  "Look!"  He pointed to a copy of the Daily Prophet, laying on a table.

            Peter picked it up.  "Wow..." he said, scanning the headlines.  "See the date?"

            Sirius looked over his shoulder and grinned.  "What d'you know... 3 October 1995!  Exactly twenty-five years!"  He passed the paper to James and Remus.

            "He's right," said James, grinning.  "We're in the future."

            "So where is everyone?"  said Peter.

            "In bed, like normal people are at 3 AM," replied Sirius.

            "How do you know its 3 AM?" Peter asked.

            "The charm probably sent us exactly twenty-five years into the future," said James, "not 'twenty-five years and some odd hours' or 'twenty-five years give or take a week.' Am I right, Padfoot?"

            "That you are, Prongs.  Which is why its also still October 3rd.  Or 4th, by now.  And we have time to take a nap before facing this brave new world."  Sirius stretched out in one of the squashy armchairs.  "Still comfortable!"

            "I was thinking that a corner might be better," said James.  "Someone might sit on you."

            "That doesn't mean they'll notice me," returned Sirius, folding his hands behind his head.

            "No, but I can't imagine it would be terribly comfortable," said James.  "Some whale-sized seventh-year might snap your bony self in half."

            "'Bony self'?  You should talk, Mr. I-Can-Hide-Behind-My-Broom-If-I-Turn-Sideways." said Sirius, but he got out of the chair.  After further discussion, they hid themselves in the secret passageway behind a mirror on the fourth floor and waited until morning.

*****

The Great Hall was already filling with students when the four drowsy Marauders snuck in for breakfast.  No one noticed the sudden disappearance of a plate of bacon and several pancakes.  Sirius also managed to nick a jug of pumpkin juice, and so they made quite a nice breakfast in the corner.  They watched the students with interest, guessing and joking about parentage.

            "How about that Hufflepuff?" said James, pointing to a small girl who was probably in her second year.  "Melinda Berkey and Calvin Saunders?"

            "Nah, not Saunders," said Sirius.  "I was thinking Sean Jacobs."

            "Berkey and Jacobs.  I just got the worst image in my head," said Remus.  "Though I'm positive that Ravenclaw is a relative of Ryan Adair."

            "Yeah, him and Agatha Kraybill,"  said James.  "Always thought they'd make a cute couple."

            "Sure, after Adair sent you into the lake for flirting with Kraybill," said Sirius.

            "He sent you right afterwards.  Nice splash you made,"  said James.

            "He didn't 'send' me anywhere," protested Sirius.  "I jumped."

            "To escape his left hook--" began Remus before he saw something that made his jaw drop.   Then he smiled.

            "Remus, what's up?" said James.  He followed Remus' gaze and nearly lost his lunch.  Or breakfast, as the case was.  Peter gasped. Sirius grinned.

            "Who'd have guessed... Wow, James, I'm impressed!"

            A boy of their own age had just entered the hall with two others.  He had untidy black hair, glasses, and was very much on the skinny end of things.  In other words, he bore an exact resemblance to James, except that his eyes were green, not grey.

            "Oh no..." croaked James, whose stomach had spontaneously decided to twist itself into small knots.

            "C'mon!" said Sirius, jumping up from their place and darting towards the Gryffindor table.  "This is too good to miss.  I'm going in for a closer look!"

            "Wait!  Come back!"  James was up in a moment, but Sirius was already standing right behind the look-alike boy, listening in on his conversation.  He beckoned to his friends.  Remus followed immediately, curious in his own right.  Peter and James exchanged glances, Peter shrugged, and they followed as well.

            "...no, Alicia's not on this year.  She says she's too busy studying for her NEWTs, so that's a Chaser and a Keeper we need," said the boy.  "You could try out, Ron.  You'd be brilliant."  The red-headed kid beside him, who was obviously a Weasley, shook his head.

            "And have Fred and George sabotoge me at every turn?  No thanks."

            "But you love Quidditch!"  put in a bushy-haired girl sitting across from them.  "I'm sure Fred and George will treat you all right if you're on the team.  C'mon, Harry, you're captain.  Tell him."

            "Harry?" mouthed James.  It wasn't a bad name, but didn't seem to be one he'd choose.

            "Hermione's right, Ron," said Harry.  "Fred and George would never miss out on a chance for the Cup.  You know that.  You've got to try out."

            "That'd be three Weasleys on a team!" added a smaller red-headed girl, also a Weasley.  "That'd be great!  Mum and Dad would be so proud."

            "There, see?  Even Ginny thinks you'll do well,"  said Harry.

            "I said it'd be great to have three Weasleys.  I didn't say he'd do well," said Ginny mischieviously.  When Ron shot her a look, she grinned and said, "Kidding, Ron.  You'd be a great Chaser, and you know it."

            "All right, all right," said Ron.  "If my own sister and the great Harry Potter think I should try out, I will.  But you know I haven't got a decent broom."

            Sirius grinned at James over Ron's head.  James didn't see it, as he was rather fascinated by the whole thing.  This was, indeed, a Potter who was good at Quidditch.  Team captain, even.  James started to think this was kind of cool.

"Know what, Sirius?" James said as they followed the Gryffindors out of the Hall.

            "Hm?"

            "When I have kids, I can go around bragging how Harry'll be a Quidditch captain, and if anybody doesn't believe me, I'll know for a fact they'll be proved wrong."

            "Hadn't thought of that," Sirius admitted.  "Now I'll know not to bet you on it.  By the way, who's the lucky young lady?"

            "I don't know, and I don't want to find out," said James, his expression turning sour.  "It would probably ruin the romance, knowing where its going."

            "That," said Remus, chuckling, "is a very good point.  Saying you're destined for each other would be one thing..."

            Sirius laughed out loud.  "I don't see how you two haven't figured it out already."

            "What do you mean by that, Padfoot?"

            Sirius gave James a great equivalent of a shocked expression.  "You mean you can't tell?  Spare me from the awful shock that Remus the Infinitely Intelligent and James the Extremely Talented missed it entirely!  I mean, come on!  Who else in Gryffindor has green eyes?"

            The other three Marauders froze in their tracks, staring at Sirius.

            "Not–" began Remus.

            "–Lily Evans!" finished James, Peter, and Sirius, who was grinning like an idiot.

            "Sirius, I don't think she even realizes I exist!" said James, incredulous.  Smart and well-liked, but patently unimpressed by dangerous hijinx, Lily Evans was a Gryffindor prefect with whom James and the other Marauders had absolutely nothing to do with.  She ignored them. They ignored her.  It was a very efficient system.

            "Perhaps not, but you can't ignore the eyes," said Sirius dangerously.

            "Carmen Arenas has green eyes: it could be her," suggested James, finding no other possible escape.

            "Carmen Arenas is four years younger than you, Jimmykins," said Sirius.

            "You went out with that first year, Mandy Bucket," said James.

            "Amanda Bouquet is very mature for her age," said Sirius defensively.

            "Yeah, and she has a very nice–" began Remus, but Sirius elbowed him.  "What?" said Remus, "You said it yourself: 'She has a great–'"

            "Will you two adolescents get your minds out of the gutter!" yelled James, exasperated.  "Everyone's going to class.  Do you want to follow, or snoop out more of the school?"

            "Why would we want to follow anybody?" said Peter.  "It'll just be our regular classes."

            "We can see who's teaching," explained James.

            "And make fun of them behind their backs," added Sirius brightly.  "Let's follow Harry.  That's bound to be most interesting."

            "By the way, Sirius," said Remus confidentially as they trailed the Gryffindor fifth years, "I was going to say 'she has a nice sense of humour.'"

            The first class they visited was only Transfiguration, where they were not surprised to find that McGonagall was not only teaching, but that it seemed they were on the very same lesson on October 4, 1995 as they would have been on October 4, 1970.  Remus actually considered taking notes until he noticed the dangerous gleam in James' eyes as he watched McGonagall go on about advanced interspecies transformations.

            "An idea, my dear Prongs?"  inquired Sirius, raising an eyebrow.

            "What else would it be, a haddock?" replied James, his gaze following McGonagall's every move.  "Remember, my fellow Marauders, what we wrote on the blackboard with Re-Appearing Chalk last year?"

            "Oh, you mean the one about "It takes more than-Mmph!"  Peter found himself suddenly muffled by Sirius' hand, but the other Marauders had already started sniggering with mirth at the memory.

            "Prongs," admonished Remus, "You know we never repeat the same prank twice.  McGonagall would recognize it."

            "The Scholarly Moony," said James, incredulous, "has forgotten a very important part of this adventure.  It's this: we're twenty-five years into the future!  Can you imagine the déja-vu she's going to get from this?"

            "Ah, but Remus has a point," put in Sirius.  "What if Harry's already pulled that prank, or one very like it?"

            James, for about the tenth time that day, flinched ever-so-slightly at the mention of Harry.  "I guess we'll just have to find out, won't we?"  He got up and set off resolutely for the front of the class.  But when he got there, he didn't write anything right away. Unable to avoid the temptation, he did a few extremely convincing McGonagall impressions behind her back first.  The other Marauders had quite a time covering their laughter.  McGonagall might get suspicious if she realised she was raising her voice to be heard over laughter that a spell was trying to keep her from noticing.  Finishing off the routine with a ghostly image of large cat-ears conjured to hover over McGonagall's head for a moment, James finally picked up a piece of chalk, faced the board, and wrote his comment with a flourish.  He turned and bowed, and marched off to the back of the room, removing any vestiges of the Somebody Else's Problem charm from obscuring the students' view of the board.

            "Bravo!  Bravo!  Brilliant!" applauded Sirius as James sat next to him, grinning.

            "Now, let the show begin," said Remus, leaning back with his hands behind his head, and they waited patiently for someone to notice what they'd done.

            There was a sudden choke from the other side of the room, courtesy of Dean Thomas, who promptly tried to disappear under his desk lest he laugh aloud.  Three other Gryffindors looked his way and saw his right hand still on top of the desk, pointing shakily at the board.  James watched Harry glance up at the board, clap a hand to his mouth, and jab Ron with an elbow to show him what was going on.  Remus started a countdown.

            "Five... four... three... two..."

            The class erupted into gales of laughter.  Dean had re-emerged from his refuge and had his head thrown back, laughing uncontrollably.  Ron was pounding his desk, and Harry had tears running down his cheeks, barely able to keep himself upright in his seat.  Lavender and Parvati had collapsed in hysterical giggles, Neville at first had a sort of wild, terrified grin on his face before he gave up on dignity and laughed himself silly.  Seamus had actually fallen out of his chair and didn't seem to mind at all that his books had fallen on top of him.  Only Hermione was scandalised, staring at the board with wide eyes, though it became evident that she, too, was trying not to laugh, her face turning an interesting shade of purple with the effort.

            At the commencement of such hysteria, McGonagall spun about to see what was going on.  She took one look at the board and gasped, then shut her mouth again, her lips becoming an impossibly thin line.  With a wave of her wand, she erased the offending statement from the board and turned a steely eye on her class, which had dissolved into uncontrollable hysteria.  The Marauders were quite glad when her withering gaze passed over them completely; they were still laughing too hard.

            "Enough of this!" she commanded, but no one heard her.

            "Stop this at once!"  They still didn't hear her.

            "I said, ENOUGH!"

            They heard her.  Neville gave out a nervous squeak of a giggle.  There was silence for about two seconds, at the end of which, every student in the room suddenly recalled what they'd been laughing about, and started laughing again.  After a moment, McGonagall reached the end of her rope and threatened detentions for a month on them all if they didn't quit.  It worked.

            "As amusing as such a statement must surely seem to you all," she said sternly, "such things are not to be tolerated in a classroom.  I advise the student who wrote it to admit his infraction immediately, and I may be merciful."

            But no one admitted it.  Now rather intimidated, the students kept quiet and glanced from person to person, silently asking the same question: who did it?  No one had left their seats.  McGonagall would have noticed.  After a few more threats, McGonagall acknowledged that the whole thing was pointless for the time being, and dismissed the class.  It was only much later when she realised why the comment had seemed so familiar.  Had Harry's godfather been teaching him old school tricks?

            The four Marauders followed the still-giggling class out of the castle, quickly realising that the next class was Care of Magical Creatures.  And they were positively dumbstruck when they saw who was teaching.

            "That isn't-"  started James.

            "Couldn't be-" stuttered Sirius.

            "What do you know?" said Remus.  "It's Hagrid!"

            "Can you imagine?  Hagrid teaching Care of Magical Creatures?"  said James in wonder.  "With his idea of harmless creatures, this ought to be more than interesting."

            "Hope he isn't trying to raise Augureys again," remarked Sirius.

            He wasn't, and in fact, the class was an extremely interesting one involving a treefull of clabberts.  The students had a lot of fun feeding them, though the Marauders saw that it was a class combined with the Slytherins, and that the Slytherins were doing quite a bit to disrupt things.  Especially a blonde boy whom they were all quite sure was the son of Lucius Malfoy.  "Seems you're not the only one with a carbon copy, James," remarked Sirius as he tugged ever-so-slightly on the tail of a clabbert that the younger Malfoy was trying to feed.  Surprised and enraged, the clabbert immediately attacked

Malfoy, nearly clawing his eyes out.  The Marauders laughed and the Gryffindors cheered as Malfoy wrestled with the clabbert, trying to extricate it from his face.  He eventually succeeded, throwing the little monkeyish creature halfway to the lake in his anger.  But when he started threatening Hagrid with his father's wrath, Hagrid just shot him a knowing look and said he always wondered what Malfoy would look like as a parakeet.  That shut Malfoy up instantly.

            "Wonder what that was about?" said Peter, seeing the suppressed rage in Malfoy's pale face, and the way the Gryffindors had started snickering.

            "No idea," said Sirius.  "But now Hagrid's got me curious.  What would a Malfoy look like as a parakeet?"

            After an excellent lunch, the highlight of the day promised to be Potions when the Marauders discovered who was teaching.  They entered the dungeon behind the Gryffindors and the Slytherins to find it quite empty.  Everyone took their seats and waited.  James noted that everyone was a minute or two early, and that several of the Gryffindors looked mildly apprehensive to be in the class.  "Must be a new teacher," observed Remus.  Sirius agreed.  "Freese never minded when we were late."

            The door creaked open.  Four Marauder jaws dropped to the ground as they all recognized the teacher.

            "Oh, no," said Peter.  "It can't be."

            "Ah, but it is," said Sirius in an odd voice.

            "Certainly didn't age well, did he?" remarked James, cocking his head to one side.  They stared at the elder Snape in disbelief.  He was even uglier than they remembered.

            "You would think," said Remus after a moment, "that they'd require all Hogwarts teachers to wash their hair once in a while."  James, Sirius, and Peter all looked at the observant werewolf for a minute before bursting into hysterics.

            They were rather less amused to see that Snape was most unfair towards the Gryffindors.  When Snape took five points from Gryffindor for a botched potion by (who else?) Neville, James came very close to dropping a dungbomb he had in his pocket into Snape's own cauldron.  Remus held him back.  "He'd probably blame it on a Gryffindor," he said.

            "Lousy git..." muttered Sirius, fingering his own stash of dungbombs.  "Don't see why Dumbledore would hire his kind."

            "Oh, don't worry," said James.  "We'll let him have it before we get back."

            "And let him have it good," Sirius agreed.  "Something so the whole school can view him in a completely new light."

            "Or a new wardrobe," James added.

            "Did I ever tell you that you two scare me?" said Remus.

            "Did you hear that, James?  We scare a werewolf!" exclaimed Sirius, looking quite pleased.

            "Are you kidding?" said James, "Sirius, you'd put a Chimaera off its lunch."

            Divination was last, but when the Marauders realized where the Gryffindor fifth-years were heading, they returned to the common room, slipping in after a gaggle of second-years.  They needed to do a serious bit of talking.

//
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