by Seriana Ritani
Summary: A telling of what happened the night James Potter saved Severus Snape's life.
Disclaimer: After publishing this story, I will be no richer than I was when I started. Considerably the opposite.
Part 1: Morning
"I'm going to kill him," said James as he jumped through the portrait hole into the common room.
"Of course you are, Prongs," said Sirius. He was sitting by the fire with his feet up on the table in front of him, his Potions book on his knees.
"Who're we going to kill?" asked Peter, sitting up. He'd been working on Potions, too, but was making almost no progress and was getting increasingly frustrated. The distraction of James in a temper was most welcome.
"Who else?" demanded James, throwing himself into a chair and dropping his Nimbus Twenty-Three Gold, his pride and joy, onto the carpet. He'd just come in from Quidditch practice: his hair was mussed without his active interference and his face was red from the cold wind as much as from his anger. "So I'm coming up from practice, right? Walking past the library . . ."
"I already don't like this story," said Sirius.
"Lily's in there. Snape's out here."
"In front of you or behind?"
"Behind, the scumbag."
"Well, I don't know what he threw, but the next thing I know I'm knocked off my feet and the carpet rolls me up and sends me bumping down the library stairs."
"Ouch," said Sirius appreciatively.
"So I gunned the broom and got up off the floor before I rolled into any furniture, and did about fourteen barrel rolls before I got loose. Lily and Maria were both laughing their heads off, and Johannsen took ten points for flying in the castle, and made me haul the rug back *by myself, without magic*, and I think I blew the Accelerator on my broom trying to get off the floor."
"Show it to Remus. He can fix anything," Sirius offered.
"We're going to get him back, right?" Peter demanded, excitement written on his face. "Something awful."
"Oh, yes," said James. "I'll think of something."
"Leave it to me, Prongs," said Sirius.
"No, I'll come up with it myself. Give me something to think about in History of Magic." He picked his broom up and examined it. "You think Moony can do something with this?"
"If it's just a blown Accelerator Charm, no problem. Heck, I could do it, but I don't want to mess up and damage your broom. Where is he?"
"I'm here," said Remus, coming down the last few stairs into the dormitory. His hair was uncombed and he looked pale and ill. His patched robes hung loosely on him, as though he'd lost an unhealthy amount of weight overnight. It was the day of the full moon, and his oncoming transformation began telling on his strength hours before it actually occurred. "What'd you break, James?"
James' impatience and fury over his broom seemed to fade when he saw his friend's condition. "Nothing that won't wait a day or two. You feeling all right, Moony?"
"Are you lying?" asked Sirius.
"Yep. Am I late?"
"No," said James. "We've got a minute or so until we have to go to breakfast."
"Oh, good. You can all finish your Potions essays in that time."
Peter gave a squeak and bent back over his parchment, beginning to scribble frantically.
Sirius snapped his textbook shut and dropped it on the floor. "You could spill soup on parchment and still get a good note in that class. I'm done."
"I'm hungry," said James. "Come on, Wormtail, finish it at the table." The four rose, gathered their books, and headed down to the Great Hall.
"You know," said Sirius as they passed the library, stepping over the carpet that James had hauled sloppily back into place, "If you'd set your sights on another girl for a while, Snape wouldn't be able to time these things as well as he does. Charlotta Myers, that Ravenclaw, she's cute."
"She already likes you, Padfoot."
"Becky Pringle -- she's a year younger, but --"
"She already likes you, Padfoot."
"Oh, yeah. Well, there's Alice Sloan --"
"Well, he can't date all of them at once," said Remus.
"He can try."
"Boy can I," said Sirius with a mischievous grin. "And it's not like Evans likes you anyway. I could have her begging me to kiss her in a week and a half if I tried."
This possibility had obviously not occurred to James, and it didn't seem to agree with him. He turned on Sirius, hazel eyes blazing. "Try it and die, Dogbreath."
"Found a nerve, didn't I?" asked Sirius merrily. "Cool it, Prongs. I don't like redheads."
They entered the Great Hall, Sirius and James shoulder to shoulder with Remus and Peter on their heels. Remus, still looking exhausted, was trailing a little.
As they passed the cluster of girls from their year, Lily Evans sat up and looked at them, tossing her red hair out of her face. She whispered something to her best friend Jessie, and every girl at the table burst into giggles. James looked away, trying to pretend he hadn't noticed but failing miserably.
"I'll kill him," he said again as he sat down with his friends.
"Any ideas yet?" Peter asked.
Peter shrugged and unrolled his Potions essay again, trying vainly to finish it and eat breakfast at the same time. Remus ate four bites of toast, obviously struggling to get that much down.
"No offense," said Sirius, looking Remus over, "But I'm so glad I'm not you. You look horrible."
"Bad month," Remus answered. "It's like being sick -- the change is nasty but I feel so much better afterwards. I cant wait to get out of this castle. I'm suffocating in here."
"Do we have to wait until tomorrow to deal with Snape, then?" asked Peter, sounding disappointed.
James and Sirius glanced at one another, then over at the Slytherin table, where Severus was, as usual, buried in a questionable-looking book.
"Our heads will be clearer after having a run tonight," James said at last. "We should wait and deal with him later." He did not sound quite like he liked the idea.
"I hate waiting," said Sirius. This was true: it would take an act of the Ministry of Magic to make Sirius wait for anything. His troublemaking mind was already concocting ideas. So was James'. Remus looked at the bench next to him and pretended he didn't have a clue what they were thinking.
With a heavy fluttering of wings, the post owls came pouring into the hall. Malthius, Sirius' enormous barn owl, came in for a graceful landing onto the table beside Sirius' plate with the Daily Prophet under his wing. Sirius stroked him absently while unfolding the paper. After reading in silence for a few minutes, he said quietly, "Cherisa Hopkirk disappeared yesterday."
"Who?" asked Peter.
"Hopkirk . . . Ms. Hopkirk?" James asked. "My parents know her, I think. She works for the Ministry somewhere."
"Magical Law Enforcement," said Sirius, still scanning the article. "Didn't show up at work, so they sent someone to check on her. Her doors were all unlocked, her wand was lying on the kitchen counter."
"Isn't this like the third disappearance since September?" asked James.
"Fourth," said Remus listlessly.
"They might want to have someone investigate this, eventually," said Sirius in tones of sarcasm. "Half the Ministry will have vanished by summer. Dumbledore should run for Minister of Magic; that'd clear the thing up."
"Because of course he's done such a good job of catching us," said Remus as dryly as he could manage.
"Us?" demanded James, feigning innocence. "Since when have we ever done anything wrong?"
The bell sounded. Peter grabbed his last piece of bacon before the plates were magically cleared, madly scribbled a few last words on his parchment, stuffed the assignment in his bag and the bacon in his mouth, and scrambled after the others. It wasn't difficult, as they were going more slowly than usual so as not to leave Remus behind.
They were some of the last to reach the Potions dungeon. Snape had been one of the first, but he put his book down and sat up when they entered. "Well."
"Shove it, Snape," said James icily. "You've got yourself in enough trouble for one morning. Don't make it worse for yourself."
"You better watch your step," added Peter, trying to be threatening. "We're onto you."
"Are you." Snape stood, slowly, to his considerable full height, dominating over the hunched and unsteady Remus. "Then it's possible you might even skip your midnight Herbology lesson with Madam Pomfrey to get me back for it, eh, Lupin?"
Remus, who had been pale already, blanched. Few in that room had ever seen an expression of real terror, and it was so unsettling as to bring the classroom to complete silence. Severus had struck far too close to Remus' one secret, his life-or-death secret.
The normal order of business was that Sirius or James would lunge for Snape, to be held back by Remus, but matters suddenly reversed themselves. Remus jumped, hands trembling with weakness and with a desperate desire to get a grip on Snape's throat. James, barely in time, grabbed him and pinned his arms behind his back.
"Snape, Black, Potter, Pettigrew, and Lupin!" barked Professor Minchin as she swept into the room. "Find your seats this instant, if you please."
"He's guessing," James whispered into Remus' ear. "He's bluffing. He can't know. Just calm down."
Remus calmed: not on James' advice, but because his oncoming transformation had not left him with the strength to be either furious or terrified for very long. He sank into his chair.
James and Sirius exchanged glances again. Each nodded, calmly and deliberately. Knowingly or not, Snape had threatened something more important than James' crush or Sirius' popularity, something too important to be used as cannon fodder for their rivalry, and he was going to pay for it.