I think that it would help you much
If you’d remember not to touch.
The Goops do this,
and they do more,
They peep and listen at the door!
They open bottles of cologne,
And feel of parcels not their own!
But there are many stupid folks
Who do not care for children’s jokes.
AN: No Salamanders were
actually harmed in the writing of this tale.
For the third time in the week since Malcolm
Lupin had returned home to Devon
after completing his first year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and
Wizardry, breakfast was ending in a shouting match amongst the children. Roarke
and Annie had tolerated exactly three days of their brother being rather constantly
vocal about how wonderful school was and how high his marks were before closing
ranks on him and calling a him brat of dragon-sized
proportions. Malcolm was surprised to
find that his sisters were cross with him at all, and he was put out over
accusations that he was being a snob and ignoring them. Anyone privy to hearing Malcolm declare ‘Am
not!’ only to have two small girls’ voices cry out ‘Are too!’ in return would
have to at least agree that Malcolm had not become ‘too old’ for his sisters.
Remus tried to put the matter to rest before it
got too far out of hand by offering some advice to Malcolm once everyone had
been excused post-haste from the breakfast table by Katie that morning.
“Son, your sisters have been excited about your
returning for the last three weeks. They
have missed you very much, you know. And
of course, you want to share everything about school with us but I think they
are feeling left out, and that you don’t care about them.”
“Oh that’s rubbish!”
“No, from their perspective all you seem to
care about right now is school and your new friends and all that; have you
talked to them about what they have been doing?”
‘What’s there to tell?”
Remus sighed and gave the boy a small smile as
he shook his head. “Well, Annie has won
two gymkhanas since Christmas. Roarke was good enough to join the school’s Rounders team and scored tops in Maths this last
semester. Did you know that?”
Malcolm shook his head. Remus continued, now
smiling even wider and with a bit more mischief about his face.
“You should also know that Annie has started to
be able to control her magic rather well.
Take that into consideration as you plan how you are going to spend your
next two months. You are no longer allowed to perform magic outside of school. They can,
and probably will. To a point, of course; even pre-school age juveniles have
ended up in front of the Misuse of Magic Permanent Secretary.”
Malcolm looked genuinely shocked.
Remus laughed, “No of course not. Ask your
Godfather for details. But don’t tempt
your sisters to do anything other than that which will only be tempered with
the fear of what your mother and I will do to them.”
“That is a rather strong motivation to toe the
line, you know.”
Remus raised an eyebrow.
“Not all the time, though, is it, My Little
“Um, no.” Malcolm had the good sense to look
apologetic through his grin as he left the room.
Though Malcolm was still a little put-out at
being accused of being a brat, over the next several days the Lupin household
settled back into familiar patterns. A
level of truce was even achieved that brought all three of the children
together to develop, without magic of course, a rather intricate system of
balanced cauldrons filled with water that executed a very satisfying bit of
mischief against Remus one afternoon. There were, however, occasional magical
‘accidents’ that added to the general excitement. The fact that only Malcolm
seemed to be at the receiving end of them was not taken as particularly strange
by anyone but him. Malcolm did his best to smile through clenched teeth and not
mind that he was essentially defenseless against the
girls now. The increasingly smug looks he was getting
from them was, however, starting to get on his nerves.
Roarke clearly knew exactly what she was doing
“What’re you doing now”, Malcolm had asked
suspiciously one evening when they were alone in the front room.
“Nothing much,” replied Roarke with a casual
voice but a wicked look.
he growled in return.
Roarke didn’t bother to say anything else and
simply hummed to herself as she worked on some sort of Quidditch model. Malcolm
fled, retreating to his room for the night to stay out of harm’s way. His hand
only stuck to the doorknob of his room for a half-an-hour; he refused to scream
for parental assistance and give Roarke the satisfaction. She got it anyway, as she walked past him
without a word to her own room just before he was released. The emotional discharge
of finally being able to slam his door was worth the scolding Malcolm
immediately received from Remus over abusing the house in such a fashion.
Annie was no better. If anything she was more
irritating to Malcolm because her ‘charming innocent little girl’ act was,
“Oh, Annie, Sweetheart – let me help you…yes,
that can happen sometimes when you’re learning these cooking spells,” chuckled
Katie as she started to work on the mess that was intended to be a summer
pudding, but was now simply a coat of goo in an
impressively large blast radius away from Annie and directly towards Malcolm,
despite the angle of their positions. “And Malcolm, for goodness sakes, don’t just sit there!
Go into the laundry this instant and change out of those clothes, there
will be something in there for you in your pile. Oh, and take that upstairs as
well when you are done; you’ve left it for two days now!”
“I’m so sorry, Mummy!”
Sweetheart; it takes a while to learn your own strength.”
Malcolm hesitated, desperate to call his
mother’s attention to the obvious conspiracy going on, but before he could even
open his mouth he was threatened with having his clothes banished from where he
stood if he didn’t move immediately.
Annie’s giggles followed him down the scullery hall, as did the taunting
look she returned to his mutinous glare.
Two weeks after Malcolm had returned, his
father announced at tea that on Thursday there was going to be a large, and
very serious, dinner party at the house to which the children were not invited.
“Who’s coming over?” Roarke asked, looking a
little aggravated at the announcement.
Remus paused before responding, and Malcolm
knew that his father was trying to decide between getting all of the children
off this line of questioning or telling them what was going on. It had to be
very serious then, Malcolm considered, as Remus rarely kept secrets from them.
“Well, the Blacks will be here, as will the
Tanners. You all remember Mr. Tanner?”
The children nodded and Annie chimed in with
“if Sirius and Liz are coming, why can’t we be there?
Isn’t Griffin coming too?”
“Sweetheart, please don’t interrupt me,” Remus
did give her a quick smile to show he wasn’t cross, then continued solemnly.
“We will have guests that night none of you
know, and even one your mother and I have never met. However, she is an important member of the
Ministry, and she has politely agreed to join us for a discussion and listen to
some suggestions we have.” Dinners with friends were not uncommon, but
strangers actually at the home were.
Remus did not like having ‘strangers about the place’, as they made him
Annie interrupted again with an ‘on what?'. Roarke
kicked her under the table.
“Werewolves, of course, silly.
Right, Daddy? Is this about those bad laws?”
Remus nodded slowly at the children, his face
“Yes, this is about laws concerning
lycanthropes, which make it very difficult for us to find work to support ourselves.
We might be able to start changing some things, but it will be very difficult
and we cannot do it with out key support in some areas. So, you understand why
we cannot be distracted, then? And you wouldn’t want to be at this dinner
anyway, it will be very dull for you, despite Sirius. Even he will be…somber
“I’ll take them to Mrs. Noyes’ around five
then,” said Katie. All three of the
children looked very surprised, and Malcolm even managed to look offended.
am nearly 13….!”
“Four months out is ‘nearly’, is it?”
“Law of majority averages, Katie-love; less
than half the distance is in fact closer to the destination so ‘nearly’ is the
appropriate majority adjective,” smiled Remus slowly over his tea.
Malcolm gave his father a rather exasperated
glance. “Really, Dad.”
Dad!” aped Roarke in exaggerated tones, before dissolving into howls of
laughter across the table from her brother.
Malcolm wasn’t about to give up this fight.
“Dad, aren’t I old enough to stay on my own upstairs
from the adults?”
“Perhaps, but I am not about to spread the
three of you across the county,” replied Remus casually. Malcolm got the message; it was all or
none. Much as he regretted making this
next gesture, it was the only way he would keep up an argument to maintain his
“Dad, if I’m old enough to stay on my own,
surely I am old enough…to watch those two
‘Those two’ glowered with faint menace, but
didn’t interrupt Malcolm, knowing they had as much to gain from his winning
this argument as he did. Mrs. Noyes was
nice and all, but it was really boring at the shop and it smelled funny.
Besides, it wasn’t like they were
Remus did not seem to be willing to have a debate
on the subject, however.
“This isn’t just friends coming over for a
meal, Malcolm. This is very important and your mother and I need to be focused
on the situation, not wondering who is going to come running down the stairs at
any moment with blue skin and extra ears to lodge a complaint against someone
“I understand that, Dad. We all
understand that. We won’t make a problem
for you, will we,” Malcolm said strongly, looking at his sisters in turn. They both nodded firmly and watched their
father closely. Remus took a long time thinking the situation over, but finally
looked up at Katie questioningly.
Malcolm saw his mother smile and nod, looking rather proud.
“It does seem a bit much to banish them from
the house when we are here. They are only part-time hooligans, Remus-love.”
Everyone did laugh at that, and Remus formally
announced that everyone could in fact stay, provided nothing happened between
now and Thursday to make him regret the decision. The other condition was that the dog was not
allowed to stay with them upstairs, and would spend the evening in the kitchen.
I promise you won’t regret it.”
Malcolm then tried to change the conversation
and get some more information about the mysterious strange guest coming to Devon.
“So if you don’t know this person, why are they
coming? You must have written something
really well if a dodgy Ministry person is actually going to listen to you,”
Remus smiled softly and shook his head. “Thank
you for the compliment, My Little Marauder.
And please do not refer to an officer of the Ministry as dodgy when you
do not know them and you should be respecting your elders. You may only call them dodgy once you have met
them and can verify they truly are.”
No, our guest is only joining us, I am very certain, because she was at
school with my father, and they even practiced law together in the same Court for
a few years. They lost touch…well, they
lost touch once I was bitten and your Grandpapa retired to private practice. I
have no doubts that she is agreeing to this one meeting only out of respect for
my father’s memory; but that is just fine and I am certain he would be pleased
to know he was still helping,” finished Remus with a soft smile at his family.
“Did you ever want to be a barrister like
Grandpapa, Daddy?” asked Roarke with a curious look.
“No, never once, Firecracker. Reading law always seemed a bit dry to me. We’ll all leave Sirius to being a barrister,
Katie laughed softly and shook her head. “Bet
your dad never would have believed
Sirius would be the one to go into law when you two were boys.”
“I’m not so sure about that. Sirius was always the one with the talent for
argument and for being fully aware of
the law. Needed to understand the
repercussions of what he was doing. Not to evaluate whether or not he should
actually do it, mind you. Just to
pre-plan for how long the punishment was going to inconvenience him were he
Malcolm paused on the stairs the next day,
looking to avoid Annie who was just entering the front room. From there he could clearly hear the ensuing
conversation between his sister and his parents.
“Is Sirius a good barrister, Daddy?” asked
“Well, he’s still a bit new at it but I understand
that he’s a lot better now that he’s improved in controlling his temper,”
offered Remus in a helpful tone.
“Honestly, Remus,” mumbled Katie.
“Annie, sweetheart, should ever you need a barrister
for something, I am sure that Sirius will be very good at helping you. And, of course, very happy to do so.”
Annie bounced out of the front room without
further comment and left through the front door. Malcolm paused for a bit,
giving her time to clear away, before he decided to get on his way over to Mrs.
Noyes’ shop to meet up with Tarquin on the day he
came to visit his grandmother. Just before he opened the door however, he heard
his parents talking again.
“Katie-love, why is our seven year old concerned about need for legal representation?”
“I’ve no idea, but the possibilities are not
something I wish to consider at this moment. I’m beginning to feel that you and
I are at a serious disadvantage with these young ones of ours, seeing as we
were both only children. And we managed
to be relatively devious despite that handicap; this brood is disturbingly
close to earning a classification as dangerous creatures, you mark my words.”
Remus laughed. “We should ask Dexter to draw up
an ‘official’ declaration on his formal stationary. ‘Lupins: Classification “Impossible to train
“Don’t forget Blacks. You’ll have to go for the
title ‘Marauder Pups’.”
Malcolm had to admit that it was rather funny,
but that only Roarke and Annie deserved it at this point as far as he was
concerned. He left, heading out of the
house and down the lane towards the village, faint ideas of revenge filling his
head during the walk. If Annie felt she might be in need of legal
representation like Dad had suggested, surely she and Roarke were working up to
something really, really dreadful. He needed to be prepared.
But there was nothing ill from his sisters over
the next few days. They all three played
together, uneventfully, meals were pleasant and lively, and none of the house
stuck to him ever again. Up through
lunch on Thursday, Malcolm had nearly convinced himself that the guerrilla war
was over with. However, in the afternoon
when Malcolm had taken a bit of a fall out of the apple tree due to a breaking
branch, all of his anger returned when he decided that the cause of the break
was extremely suspicious looking.
Tired of being the brunt of the joke, Malcolm marched into the house to report
his suspicions to his mother and demand that parental action be taken; the
absolute last step of the Lupin children.
Katie, in the midst of preparing a five course
meal for eight people, was unconvinced and relatively unsympathetic.
“Malcolm, please. That tree is very old and has been known to
drop people every so often. I’ve fallen
out twice myself. And I really don’t
think that the girls can manage a severing charm, as you are alluding to.”
“Mum, it’s been like this all summer! They just…just do these little things that
look so innocent! It’s not fair!”
Katie actually laughed at that, but not
unkindly, and then gave Malcolm a quick hug before starting to get the good
“Malcolm, I cannot believe you of all my
children just stood there and cried ‘it’s not fair’. Didn’t you just get sorted into Gryffindor?
Yes, I did notice that they, just like you,
are not entirely as innocent as they like to think they seem,
thank you. But I am not involved unless
one of you does something that requires a healer, and after that you get ‘The Wrath
of Mum’ for being so reckless. Your sisters would not do something like bung you
out of a tree. They are not that vacant of sanity. Besides,
girls prefer doing sneakier things than that; or haven’t you noticed?”
“I have; they make me nervous when they walk
into room and just look at me!”
“Yes, that would be their main objective. Having you nervous verses having you
legitimately cross due to an attack that will get me and your father to punish
them is much better for them. Ergo, they
did not do anything to the tree. You
just had the bad luck to step on a rotting branch.”
Malcolm slumped into one of the kitchen chairs
and muttered something he wished his mother had not managed to overhear.
“May I remind you, Malcolm, that it is not
too late for me to take all of you to Mrs. Noyes for the evening?”
Katie left the kitchen in an annoyed fashion,
the dinner service trailing her, a vast flying squadron of valuable yet
extremely ugly antique china.
Malcolm chose to ignore the last comment and merely
sunk down in his chair so that he was at eye-level with the table-top. He sat there for a long moment feeling cranky
and cross with his sisters who, as far as he was
concerned, were being wholly irrational.
The fact that they seemed to have the tacit approval of his parents
(who, at the very least, were not discouraging
the guerilla campaign against him very forcefully)
made him just that little bit more bent on revenge. Despite his better judgment,
instinct set in and he began to ponder the simplest, least legally
challengeable, means of retribution.
It was then, in the late afternoon sunlight,
that something glinted and caught his eye from the depths of the main fire his
mother kept constantly alight to slowly roil some potion or potent or
other. Malcolm slid down another few
inches so as to have a clearer view of the fire. Fortunately this allowed him to put his feet
fully flat upon the floor, so he had proper leverage not to slide completely
off his seat when he jumped at the second distinct flare that came from the
fire. Something was in there, lurking in the flames. And there was now, without a doubt, a little slitted eye staring at him with a trepidation likely equal
Malcolm held his breath and slowly descended
the rest of the way to the floor. Kneeling under the table and continuing to
stare into the fireplace, he was able to make out several more little faces in
the flames and all were watching him closely. Malcolm was almost trembling with
delight; salamanders were back in the house.
When he was younger this was not that uncommon
an occurrence. They were, in fact, very
useful to his mother for her potions, and when he was around seven his father
and he spent a memorable afternoon learning about the salamanders’ magical
properties. But it was during this casual
lesson that an interesting property of salamanders neither of the Lupin parents
had ever known was discovered. Salamanders
can be kept outside of their fires for several hours if fed pepper, all magical
folk knew. Different peppers, naturally, had varying success with the animals
and produced unique reactions. The reaction
of the little salamanders Remus and Malcolm had scatting around the kitchen
table to a particularly large helping of cayenne peppercorns resulted in Katie
banning the animals, and in her regularly scrubbing out her fires after that
day to discourage further nesting. Malcolm grinned in delight at the memory of
that discovery, and scooted carefully forward to collect a small cauldron from
the very back of the cupboard where it would not be immediately missed, and the
The little eyes moved along with him, but did
not vanish. Checking once more that he
was still very much alone, Malcolm lunged at the hot coals and scooped up as
much of the fire material as he could manage and dropped it into the
cauldron. Once the ash settled, he
looked down to see two rather startled looking salamanders gasping slightly but
none the worse for wear.
After quickly washing up all the evidence of
the ashes and settling the fire back into place, he emptied a large helping of
cayenne peppercorns into a coffee mug, grabbed the cauldron, and retreated into
the back garden. He made a line directly
for the old shed at the far side of the house, away from the paddock where
Annie and Roarke were with the ponies. Grandpapa Edmund had built the shed a
very long time ago for Malcolm’s father to use at full moons, but his mother
had taken ownership of it now and turned it into a mulching hut, which was
frequented sparingly. And certainly it
would see no adults dressed in their finest robes awaiting important dinner
guests that day.
Malcolm ducked into the shed with the cauldron
in one hand and the mug of peppercorns in the other. Once the door was closed it was quite dark
inside. Some sunlight came through the
small vents at the top of the walls, and very small drops of light came through
the patches of the thatch roof that were thinning. The thatch had been done by
Sirius years ago during the time he was hiding at the house. Katie wanted it to improve air circulation
for the mulching and (though she claimed this was of secondary import), so the
little hut matched the look of the big house. The thatch was now starting to
wear down and Malcolm had a sudden grim suspicion that one of his summer
activities would be helping to re-thatch the place entirely. Thatching work on
the house was fun as it was exciting to be on the top of the three-story home;
thatching the shed seemed awfully anti-climactic in comparison. Malcolm
resolved never to bring up the condition of the shed’s roof and see whether or
not his parents brought it up on their own.
Putting aside worries of future chores, Malcolm
turned his attention back to the salamanders.
They had nestled as closely as possible to the glowing coals in the
cauldron, and were already starting to lose some of their brilliant whiteness.
Setting them carefully on a post-top for one of the mulching bins, Malcolm
emptied a fair helping of the peppercorns into the cauldron. The salamanders didn’t seem to notice at
first, but once they had they leapt up with encouraging vigour and started to devour
the food. Pleased, Malcolm watched until they ate them all, and then settled
back down into the ashes, brilliant white once more. Malcolm added a few thick
twigs from the top of the mulch pit to the cauldron in order to keep their home
fire burning a little longer, as it would draw out the time he could actually
keep them alive and complete his plan.
Slipping from the dark shed back into the late
afternoon light, Malcolm made his way carefully around the house and entered
through the front door. Were he seen
returning, this was the point farthest from his salamanders. He went up the
stairs two at a time and retired to his room, trying to imagine how his sisters
were going to take their close encounter with the cayenne-stuffed salamanders,
well after the guests had left of course.
Malcolm, Roarke and Annie had an early tea so
they would have time to clear away upstairs before the guests arrived. Remus, carrying a large bowl of fruit, a gigantic
bowl of popped corn, and a plate with three brownies led them all to the second
storey where they settled in Malcolm’s room for a moment.
“You look very handsome, Daddy, in your blue
robe,” smiled Annie. Remus bent down and
gave her a kiss on the cheek.
“Thank you, Sweetheart. You look very lovely
yourself, even if your sister thinks pink is a ‘daft colour’, he finished,
winking at Roarke who rolled her eyes and picked up her brownie.
“Alright; I secured one large sweet for each of
you, as you see, and the popcorn and fruit are for if you get hungry later on,
so you don’t have to come down to the kitchen.
Mummy or I will come to check on you and bring you some hot chocolate at
bedtime, as this dinner may go very late.
You have everything you want from downstairs?”
Malcolm commented that everything had been brought
up in the mad cleaning session they all helped with the day before.
Now, I’ve no doubt that you can all stay up here and play quietly
together. If you cannot do that, please
lock yourselves in your individual rooms before
the shouting starts. Malcolm, can you
all play in here? Roarke’s room is over
the dining room, and the house creaks when you walk about.”
Not a problem.”
“Can we play Snap, Daddy?”
“Yes, Roarke, cards are fine. Please do not play tag or hide-and-go-seek,
which you three have made into a full-contact game.”
“Oh, go on Remus! Just put up a silencing charm and let them
have at it!” Sirius strode into the room, laughing.
“There is no need for one, Padfoot; they know
the rules and are more than capable of handling them, aren’t they?”
“Yes!” chorused the children.
“Where’s Griffin, Sirius?” asked Annie. Malcolm saw his father and Sirius share a bit
of a look. Clearly, the option of bringing Griffin over here was not allowed, as that
was pushing the limits.
“Griffin is spending the evening with his
cousin, Harold. I think they are going
to a play, but I’m not sure. Harold
wouldn’t tell me his plans.” Annie looked disappointed but Remus smiled.
“Annie, it is probably not going to be a very
fun play. Harold is very nice but he
hasn’t quite grasped that seven year olds don’t like Shakespeare just yet.”
“Yes, Sweetheart, I think you are going to have
much more fun here with your brother and sister. Shall we finish getting ready,
Remus nodded and they left together, saying
goodnight to everyone. Malcolm plopped
down on his bed and took up a comic book, but the girls moved to the large
window that overlooked the front path.
“Don’t you want to see who’s coming, Malcolm?”
Malcolm shrugged but didn’t look up. “Not
really. Besides, didn’t Dad say we don’t
really know them?”
“I want to see the pretty robes!” said
Annie. “And look there! Someone’s just arriving; he’s wearing boring
old black but she has on purple.”
“That’s Mr. Tanner, isn’t it?”
Malcolm sighed and said quietly “If you open the
window, you can hear Mum or Dad say their name when they greet them at the door.”
The window was duly opened, but that forced the
girls’ commentary to drop to a whisper, and that started making Malcolm
It’s Headmistress McGonagall!” was the one whisper he did catch.
Now Malcolm did drop his book, and shot over to
the window to peer down at the front path leading to the entryway. Sure enough, the Headmistress of Hogwarts was
striding up the path with a broom in one hand and using the same gait she had
when she was descending on unruly students.
“Maybe she’s not here for the dinner, but she’s
come after Malcolm for something,” giggled Roarke.
“Oh ha, ha, Firecracker,” grumbled
Malcolm. He nearly jumped in fright when
the next moment the door was opened and Remus came in, looking a little amused.
“Right, I did not specifically say not to open
the window and offer commentary on our guests’ clothing, but I would suggest
that it was a given when I have repeatedly stressed to keep it quiet up
here. Therefore, your punishment is that
all three of you must come downstairs and say hello to our guests, who would
like to meet you.”
This was certainly not a punishment, but they
all pretended to look very serious to join in the joke with their father. He
led them to the Front Parlor and made the
“Katie’s and my children,” he started, with a
smile, “whom some of you have met. This
is Malcolm, and our daughters, Roarke and Annie. Children, you remember Mr. and Mrs. Tanner?
Mr. Tanner is the Head of the Beast Division at the Ministry.”
Dexter and Anastasia Tanner smiled. Malcolm noted she was the one wearing the
purple robes Annie liked so much.
“This gentleman is Mr. Nicholas Scamander, Mr.
Tanner’s Private Secretary.”
The solemn looking man in grey nodded at them.
“Malcolm of course knows Headmistress
McGonagall well, and Roarke and Annie have had the pleasure of meeting her
too.” The girls grinned at Malcolm who
flushed a bit and smiled. The Headmistress
looked as imposing in his own front room as she did in
her office at Hogwarts.
“Need I say anything about Sirius and Liz?”
The Blacks waved at the children, and Remus
turned to the final guest. She seemed to
be almost 100, with a shock of white hair done up in a very intricate style
that was held by jeweled clips. Her robes were scarlet, and she wore thin
black gloves that matched her boots. She
looked, to Malcolm, even more intimidating than the Headmistress. While Professor McGonagall looked like she never laughed, Malcolm
knew for a fact that she did; it did not appear as if this woman laughed at
all, and Malcolm couldn’t imagine her doing so.
Still, she was clearly the focus of this evening, and Malcolm was
determined to make a good impression.
“Children, this is Mrs. Echo Hannover, the
Minister for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. Annie, please say
hello to Mrs. Hannover.”
Annie looked a little nervous, but true to her
nature simply stepped forward and shook the woman’s hand.
“Was it you who liked my red robes?” asked the
woman. Her voice was shockingly soft and
“Yes, Mrs. Hannover. They are very, very pretty.”
“Thank you, my dear.”
“Mrs. Hannover this is Roarke.”
Roarke said nothing, and simply shook Mrs. Hannover’s
hand before moving back to stand close to Remus. Remus put his arm around her with a smile,
before continuing with his last introduction.
Malcolm wondered why the woman was watching Roarke with interest.
“Mrs. Hannover, our son, Malcolm,” said Remus.
he stressed, stepping forward to shake her hand. She returned his solid grip and nodded,
looking closely at him.
“An excellent name from an excellent
man. I am sure you serve it well.”
“I do,” said Malcolm firmly.
“Gryffindor, like he was, are you?” When
Malcolm nodded, she continued calmly, “I was a Slytherin myself. What do you say to that?”
Malcolm met her eye and said only “I have been
told that Slytherins make the finest barristers”.
She glanced coolly at Sirius before staring at
Malcolm once again.
“Well, Mr. Black must have said that to you to
illustrate a different point, but as he shows promise of being a fine barrister
himself one day, I will take it as a compliment.”
At that, Remus led them all out again and back
to Malcolm’s room. He said nothing, but
smiled warmly at Malcolm before he closed the door and left.
Malcolm and his sisters spent a subdued
evening, making as little noise as possible. At first, once the adults had gone
into the dining room, the children sat on the landing to try and hear any of
the conversation. Mostly it was
indistinguishable, but the occasional phrase from Dexter Tanner or Liz could be
picked up, and Malcolm figured they must be seated nearest the door. This
activity ended when Sirius left the room for a moment, and then hesitated
slightly upon his return. He seemed to
be double checking something on the scroll he carried, but when he re-entered
the dining room, he carefully closed the door behind him and gave a very brief
glance in the direction of the stairwell.
“Goblin toes!” mumbled Roarke, “he saw us!”
“Nah, I think he just felt us,” whispered
Malcolm as they went back into his room. “And better it be Sirius than Mum or
“Sirius won’t tell, will he,” asked Annie.
“If Sirius didn’t tell on us when we snuck a
ride on Daddy’s broom I hardly think he’s going to mention a little thing like
that,” was Roarke’s comment. Malcolm had
to agree with that; Sirius only ‘told’ if they were discovered doing something
really dangerous and they made him cross with worrying about them. Malcolm’s kelpie curiosity a few years back
had put him in serious trouble with his godfather mostly for giving Sirius such
a fright once he figured out what was going on. He even resorted to ‘MALCOLM
EDMUND’ when he voiced his fury as he pulled Malcolm from the weeds in the
river he was carefully hidden in.
“Want to play a game with us, Malcolm?”
“You can choose,” smiled Annie “only just
remember I’m seven,” she finished more austerely.
“Certainly,” mimicked Malcolm, in his best
imitation of his father being stern with them. “Now, remembering Annie is only
seven, I suggest we play Snakes and Floo Powder. Excellent for seven year
Roarke giggled even as she shook her head and
pulled the game from the shelf. “You’re such a goof.”
“Well you’re one too; we’re from the same
“No, that only makes me the sister of a goof.”
“Can I be the cat?”
“You know Annie, you are always the cat. Try
something new; here, you be the potion bottle.”
“I don’t WANT to be the potion bottle!”
“All those in favour of Annie being the potion
bottle, raise your hands.”
“Daddy said no
“This isn’t a quarrel, it’s a vote.”
“You can’t make me be the potion bottle!”
“Annie, calm down. Be the cat if you must. Roarke, hand her the cat.”
“No, I don’t want to be the cat anymore. Let me have the spider.”
Can we start now?”
They played several rounds of the game until it
grew dark. The spider, never having liked being flooed
around the board for any length of time, scurried away and hid under Malcolm’s
dresser after only three games. Annie
claimed the cat at that point with a look of triumph.
There was a knock on the door just as they
finished putting the game away, and Sirius came in with three large mugs of hot
“You get me to send you to bed, my little gang
of grindylows. Your parents are both
busy explaining how boringly normal life is at this house despite Daddy’s
curse. As you can imagine, I don’t actually help that conversation much. I even think your mum looked a little
relieved when I ducked out!”
Sirius settled one of the mugs down on
Malcolm’s table, told him to change, and he’d be back after settling the
girls. He offered an arm each to the
girls and led them down the hall, all three talking in whispers. Malcolm changed for bed and let the girls
take the bathroom first, avoiding the very real possibility of a louder
argument erupting over who didn’t rinse the sink and who managed to lose the
top of the toothpaste when it was supposed to be magiced on to begin with.
Instead, he took the time to smile quietly to himself and plot his route down
to the back garden to check on his salamanders.
They would surely need another round of peppercorns by now, and a few
more twigs in the fire. He nearly cackled to himself thinking of how his
sisters were going to react to being woken in the middle of the night by his
“Right, that’s them settled,” said Sirius as he
came back into Malcolm’s room. He sat
down on the bed next to Malcolm and smiled.
“You three have done really well. Not a peep to be heard, and your parents even
relaxed to the point where they stopped glancing at the ceiling every 10
minutes or so. Well done!”
Malcolm laughed softly.
“You can stay up reading for a while longer, of
course. I’ve had the girls swear to me
on the honour of the Marauders that they will not attempt to get up and foil
the curfew simply because no one is keeping an eye on them. My deal with you is that if they do sneak back out, just keep them quiet
and rest with the fact that they will eventually get into trouble for it.”
“Nah, they’re done for the night. No worries there. How’s everything going downstairs? Is Mrs. Hannover listening?”
“She is, she is. Is she convinced that our argument for revising
the laws is sound and merited? Not
sure. Scamander seems to have warmed
from his careful neutrality, so that’s something.”
“But he’s just a private secretary; he can’t
change any laws!”
“No, but remember, he can have his opinion and
he can express it to others we don’t know.
One more person speaking favourably about the cause we’re working for is
always a small victory, and one that starts to add up. See my point? Besides, it helps me by knowing that we can
make this argument to a neutral person and come across well.”
“I think I followed that,” said Malcolm and
Sirius gave a small, somewhat sad laugh.
“It’s dull as dry toast, but it’s important.
One of those things….”
“…always worth fighting for.
I know that. I understand a lot
more now, I guess.”
“The curse of getting older.
Wait until you’ve reached my years!
My wife thinks I still keep supplies of fireworks and dungbombs purely to annoy her. Not true at all, as I take
no pleasure from annoying her. I do, however, take great pleasure in keeping my
inner child happy.”
happy,” agreed Malcolm.
Well, I’m off again downstairs.
Goodnight, My Little Marauder; I’ll see you in a day or so.”
After Sirius left, Malcolm quickly got out of
bed and pulled on a jumper over his pyjamas, and slipped on some Muggle tennis
shoes he had for exploring. Boots were
always too noisy in the house, and Malcolm knew better than to go across the
lawn barefoot at night. At least, he had
learned at a very young age that it was best not to risk trodding on Stink
Slugs and Night Spiders and other things that came out after sunset.
The only way Malcolm was going to make it down
the stairs with any hope of not being heard was to go down the stairs as the
grandfather clock marked the hour. The
chime was loud enough to cover any footfalls or creaks that might prove
unavoidable, and unpredictable. It had been explained to the children long ago
that their Grandmother had enchanted the stairwell to creak around the time
Remus had been twelve. Something to do
with houseguests and the adventurous natures of young boys, Malcolm understood.
So it was impossible to ‘learn’ the safe steps, because you never knew where or
when any one of the twenty-three steps would decide to make a noise.
The adults had moved from the dining room into
the front room. Malcolm frowned a bit,
as this meant he was now forced to go the long way around the house to the back
garden. The windows and the large French
doors looked out directly onto the front garden, and it was not worth the
risk. He was still going to have to get
past the kitchen. Malcolm needed to be certain everyone was in the front room;
Liz or his mum could be in the kitchen, and that was not a happy thought.
The grandfather clock just below Malcolm’s spot
on the landing gave the quarter-to chime.
Since he couldn’t see the clock, he didn’t know what hour was
approaching, but it was ten at the earliest and probably eleven, judging by the
darkness. The only lights below were the
dimmed flames of the front hall sconces, and the glow coming from under the
front room’s closed door. Malcolm did note that the sconces had been
transfigured or charmed for the night; the bowls in the shape of wolf heads
that Sirius had given his parents were well liked and found humourus among the
family and close friends. They did not appear to be prudent for this evening,
however, and we now simply plain stone, ornamented with Tudor Roses to match
the house itself.
“How do you think Griffin has enjoyed his evening?”
Malcolm started at the sound of his mother’s
voice, and ducked behind the stair rail.
“Hard to say; he and Harold really do get on
well, and Harold’s becoming much more savvy in dealing with him.”
Malcolm heard his mother and Liz crossing the
flagstones from the direction of the kitchen, and pausing in the hallway.
“Katie, you’ve managed to resist running up
there all night, don’t give in now.”
Malcolm held his breath while Liz spoke. His Mum was going to come up? He’d have no
chance of making it to his room; he’d have to cop for eavesdropping and hope it
“Sirius did say he’d extracted promises to go
right to sleep from the girls, and Malcolm is most likely passed out with his
lantern on and a book on his chest at this point.”
I’ve got a mental image of my own boy sleeping on the couch at Harold’s
covered with crups at this point. Does love sleeping in a dog
pile, that one.”
“Your cats must love him when he comes back
from that,” Katie laughed. Malcolm heard
them start to move again, and then the entryway was flooded with light as the
door to the front room was opened.
Voices clearly engaged in energetic conversation filled the hallway, so
Malcolm felt that their attention was fully on their own business, which was
another good sign.
Dimness settled down again once the door had
been shut, and Malcolm crouched down and listened to the clock ticking below
him, waiting for the chimes. He glanced
up and down the main landing and hallways once or twice, making sure his
sisters were not actually about, and reiterated his plan in his mind several
times. Down the stairs, down the back
hall past the kitchen towards the scullery and sun room; out the sun room
window (being careful to prop it open with a book as it tended to slam shut),
and through the garden to shed. Coming back would be trickier, but if the worst
case scenario of the stairs giving him away came to play, he’d be in his room
by the time anyone got to him and could bluff it. Or at least he could draw a
stalemate as no proof of his having been up would be available. It was
reasonably flawless, having all of the unknowns worked out, like any good
Marauder plan should be. Malcolm decided he would have fun going over the
details with Sirius once everything was over.
The clock workings started to whirr a bit, the
sound of the works preparing to ring the chimes. As the first wave of the salutation sounded,
Malcolm started down the stairs carefully.
He was halfway down as the salutation ended, and the chimes began. Malcolm counted out the chimes as he
continued moving carefully. One, two,
three…at eight he was two steps from the bottom, and at ten he was already
halfway down the back hall.
The clock struck eleven as he entered the sun
room, and shut the door silently behind him. As it was New Moon that evening,
there was no light coming from the windows to help him cross the space to the
bookcases, then to the window.
Malcolm nearly yelped in fright when something
started thwapping against his leg. He took a deep breath and managed to stop
himself when he realized it was Bessie.
The dog had not stayed in the kitchens; she seemed to have been settled
into her basket here instead. No wonder
the door had been closed! And now her tail was wagging happily, which was a
sure sign she would bark a greeting in a second or two. The dog barking in the
night would be sure to cause a mystery that would be investigated.
Malcolm dropped to his knees and put his hands
around the terrier’s muzzle quickly; she gave a little huff but simply sat down
next to him. Malcolm felt rather than
saw her eyebrows twitching at him in curiosity.
I’m up to no good, so I need you to be very quiet, alright?” whispered
He let her go and was given a series of licks
to the face as an assurance that his pet got the message.
Now, stay right here and I’ll be back in a bit.”
His eyes now adjusted to the darkness, it was a
little easier to cross to the bookcase, select a slim volume he could use to
prop the window open just enough, and get over to the window itself. Carefully, Malcolm got the window up and
clambered over. He set the book on the
sill and let the window slide down, his hands on the glass to keep the movement
slow. Once it was settled, he saw
Bessie’s head pop up over the sill as she stood up to have a look at him. Malcolm put a finger to his lips once more,
and then started across the lawn towards the far end of the garden.
He reached the shed in record time. The door
actually faced a side window of the front room, but that was the back of that
room and far from the fire, so there was only a very slim chance that anyone
would be near it, less that they were looking out, and even less chance they
could see the shed as anything other than a dark spot in the distance. Still,
he opened the door and moved inside very quickly.
It was not pitch black in the shed, as there
was an encouraging glow coming softly out of the cauldron sitting on top of the
post where Malcolm had left it. He
collected the mug of cayenne peppercorns and a few more twigs before peering
inside happily. The salamanders appeared to have buried themselves in the
glowing ashes, and Malcolm used a fresh twig to carefully brush the ashes to
check them. However, nothing stirred as he dragged the fire carefully.
Frowning, Malcolm was now worried that he hadn’t fed them enough and may have
lost them. He lifted the cup to pour the
rest of the peppercorns in, hoping that the food would encourage them.
The cup was empty.
Malcolm felt a little dose of dread stir in his
stomach; he was certain he still had half a cup of these when he had left that
afternoon. Was it possible that his parents had in fact found the salamanders?
They could have left everything here, charmed to the gills of course, to catch
out whoever had put them in here in the first place. Malcolm wished he had a
mirror so he could have a look at himself.
His hair was probably hot pink right now, indicating his guilt for
having touched the incriminating evidence. Then again, considering what was
going on in the house, this probably wasn’t the case. Entrapment charms
generally included a lot of noise to summon his parents once the trap was
sprung, and there had been no sound. That left another possibility. Most
likely, Malcolm reasoned, the door was now spelled shut, and would remain so
until they came to collect him once they discovered him missing after the
guests had gone.
To verify this, Malcolm grimly moved to test
the door. To his surprise, it opened
easily. He pulled it shut again very
quickly and stood there, puzzled and now worried. Why would this cup be empty?
It seemed the salamanders were dead, and what on earth happened to the
peppercorns? Maybe Night Spiders liked them.
It was then that he heard a distinct *hiccough*
above him in the rafters, and Malcolm realized what had happened.
Slowly, he looked up and there on one of the rafters
sat the two little salamanders, brilliant white and looking very lively indeed.
One of them opened his mouth and gave another hiccough, this time a little
louder, and a small trail of smoke came out of its mouth. Malcolm had assumed
the salamanders wouldn’t leave the fire willingly. It appeared they did, to find the food. And
now they were starting to react from their meal, and Malcolm knew he was done
for if he didn’t get them back in the cauldron very soon.
The salamanders had managed to situate
themselves well out of reach of a young boy, even one standing on top of a mulching
post reaching as far as he could get. They
also slinked further away from him, with terrifying speed, whenever he got
remotely in range. To make matters worse, they were both starting to cough
almost non-stop. Malcolm was getting very frustrated, particularly because a
simple ‘accio salamander’ would
easily solve this problem. Only he couldn’t cast the spell, and even if he did
want to risk it, his wand was all the way back in the house, stored in his
father’s desk for the summer.
There was only one thing for it, Malcolm
decided. He needed to get Sirius out
here to catch the salamanders, and very soon. One of the salamanders gave a
particularly loud belch just then, and Malcolm cringed as a tiny fireball
erupted as well. Those fireballs would
not stay tiny for long, and Malcolm couldn’t help but notice how close the
salamanders now were to the old, extremely dry, straw thatched roof.
Malcolm exited the shed and ran back to the
house. Only he didn’t go to the sun room, he went right up to the back window
of the front room and carefully looked inside. If Sirius were true to form, he
would take to pacing at a distance from the main conversation at some point
when he became stressed from the goings on.
A nervous habit he’d had as long as Malcolm could remember. The only
place to do that, in the front room, was right back by the far window. Malcolm
wanted the conversation that night to go well, but he prayed at this moment
that Sirius was agitated or cross about something.
Very carefully, Malcolm peered around the side
of the window to get a look at the company in the room. Dexter Tanner seemed to
be talking about something in a very animated fashion, gesturing with his hands
and the like. Most of the attention was
on him; Mr. Scamander seemed to be looking into his tea cup with a little
concerned frown. Sirius was not pacing, but he was sitting in a side chair near
the back of the group, arms crossed and one foot twitching. Malcolm didn’t need
to see Sirius’ face to know that this was actually a very good sign for
Malcolm. Sirius would start pacing soon,
but would it be soon enough was the worry now.
Malcolm stood there and willed Sirius to get
up, and turn this way. He willed Sirius to come all the way to the back
window. He prayed only Sirius noticed
him and that Sirius kept his mouth shut when he did.
Mr. Tanner stopped talking and all heads turned
towards the fire. Malcolm assumed they
were looking at whoever was in the wing chair he couldn’t see, and it was
probably Echo Hannover who was now talking. Malcolm jumped back and ducked away
from the window as Liz turned to Sirius at that moment, looking over her
shoulder and getting a clear view of the back window. He counted to 20 slowly, then
Prayers were answered; Sirius was pacing,
slowly, and headed in Malcolm’s direction.
All he needed was to get Sirius’ attention, get Sirius to open the
window saying he needed air, give a tiny little flick of the wand, and get the
salamanders to safety. That’s it; only he and Sirius (once again) would know
what was up. Sirius might even let
Malcolm have the salamanders back to carry out his mischief against his
But Sirius was scowling at the floor, and
paying the window no mind. He paced back and forth always focused on his boot
tops. The cycle seemed endless and
Malcolm was sure he was now going to slowly go mad. Finally, in desperation, he
risked giving a single tap to the window at Sirius’ next approach.
Sirius’ head shot up and he looked at the
window. His eyes grew wide as he caught
Malcolm’s gaze. Malcolm signalled Sirius to come to the window, and his
godfather hesitated only a moment before he started to approach, slowly, his
eyes curious and locked with Malcolm’s.
Malcolm felt like fainting with relief. But before Sirius got there, he
stopped and looked over his shoulder, and seemed to be talking to someone back
in the main group. Sirius glanced back only for a brief moment, holding one
hand up carefully in a ‘stay there’ motion, then he turned and walked back to
the other guests.
Malcolm was frustrated and horrified by
this. There wasn’t time! Couldn’t they
talk to someone else? He leaned against the wall next to the window, eyes shut
and forehead pressed against the plaster.
He jumped strongly when the window was opened a few minutes later.
“What are you doing?” came
Sirius’ voice, very low.
Can you do a quick spell?”
salamanders’ – and mind you they’re hot so be careful.”
“Give me a sec, I have to go back and answer
something. Don’t move.”
Malcolm didn’t budge. He stayed as he was, eyes shut and head down,
counting the seconds until he heard footsteps coming back to the window. He was about to lean over and whisper thanks
to Sirius, when a new voice was heard.
“Are you normally in the custom of doing your
back garden bonfires at this time of night?”
“I beg your pardon?”
Sure enough, when Malcolm turned back to the
garden his worst fears were realized.
The shed’s thatch had caught fire, and an impressive burn had built very
quickly. His parents didn’t even bother with the door, they both Apparated
almost instantaneously a few feet in front of Malcolm, staring at the conflagration
and looking flabbergasted.
Sirius also didn’t bother with the doors,
instead coming out of the window and immediately looking about for Malcolm. He
wasn’t quick enough, though; Remus turned at the sound of Sirius landing on the
gravel path and caught sight of Malcolm.
His jaw dropped, even as Katie worked to extinguish the flames, and the
rest of the guests (who had used the French door) came around from the front
garden and took in the scene.
“How!” barked Remus. Malcolm couldn’t even bother to play dumb.
Got too near the roof.”
“What were salamanders doing in the mulching
shed?” continued Remus, tightly and pointedly.
“Well, they were originally in a cauldron,”
Malcolm offered. Remus did not look
Sirius couldn’t stand it anymore, and turned to
“Malcolm, how did some little salamanders
manage to cause this?”
Malcolm looked sheepishly at his parents, and
saw in their faces that both of them had just realized what he was really up
“Because… because they belch little fireballs
if you feed them cayenne pepper. Just
little ones! And once they start they
can’t really stop. They got too close to the thatch, and, well.”
Katie gave Sirius a deadly glare, even as he tried
to squelch the faint “meep”
of laughter that escaped his hand over his mouth, his face turning red from the
effort of holding himself back. The
nearly deranged look of total amusement in his eyes did not help, Malcolm noted.
would you have intended they belch fireballs, Malcolm Edmund? I doubt you had
such an issue with the shed.”
“Um, on Roarke and Annie’s feet,
There was a long silence, but then laughter
started. Not from Sirius, who knew
better than to risk Katie hexing him, but from another of the guests.
Echo Hannover roared with laughter for nearly a
minute before regaining her composure, and she faced Malcolm’s parents with a
“Devious little blighter, isn’t he?”