of the Round Table
The table had begun its life in the Three Broomsticks, but Madam Rosmerta had acquired a new set of furniture in October, and James didn't waste the opportunity to petition her for one of the outgoing tables. He'd half-anticipated offering to pay for it, but Madam Rosmerta had ended up giving it to the four them, along with four chairs, as long as they could get them back to the school by themselves.
It had taken two trips, but they'd gotten it all, and ignored the rest of their first afternoon in Hogsmeade to shove all the draped beds against the walls of the tower room and set the table and chairs up in the center. None of them, as far as James recalled, had asked what they wanted it for.
Other furniture from the dormitory migrated to the center area as well. Peter lined up the four small bookcases they'd been issued to make a low wall across from the door and Sirius arranged their trunks in a zigzag pattern to one side. After each of the next two moons, Remus had come back from the Shrieking Shack with a battered armchair--how he'd explained this to Madam Pomfrey was a mystery to James--and the chairs formed the third "wall" of what they were by then calling the living room. A week after the second armchair had been placed, James had formed the fourth wall by hanging has father's old racing broom (an heirloom he loved, but wouldn't use on the pitch in a million years) over the door.
It was here that they played cards, shared food nicked from the kitchens, and even did homework from time to time, and it was here that they'd passed around a bottle of firewhiskey that Peter had brought back from holidays ("Nicked from Mum's cabinet") until, one by one, they'd gone green and run for the toilets. The floor, except for a pristine strip that Sirius used for pacing, was a jumble of books, scrolls, quills, and strewn robes, most utterly indistinguishable from one another. Remus kept most of his things in some kind of order in the bureau by his bed, but the other three tended to grab whatever was closest at hand when they got back from the shower in the morning. If Sirius happened to end up with Peter's robes, he'd just tell people that shin-length robes were making a real comeback, and if James ended up in Sirius's, he bloused them up over the belt.
By the end of May, James was utterly unable to imagine life with no common space in the dormitory, and didn't want to. He thought the others felt the same. Even Remus, who didn't mix his things in, only retired behind the curtains on his bed when he was too tired to talk.
On the last day of May, James and Sirius were playing poker with a deck of Tarot cards from Divination (upper Major Arcana straight took all) while Peter drilled himself on Transfiguration spells by writing them one hundred times each on long bits of parchment he'd stuck to the floor in Sirius's pacing area. Remus was sunk sideways in the blue armchair with his Ancient Runes book, closing his eyes as he finished each page. James could see his lips moving as he repeated whatever had seemed important to him. His eyes opened and he double-checked himself, usually nodding, sometimes frowning and going back to the top. Without looking up, he said, "Ask."
"Thurisaz," James said.
"Troll," Remus said. "Also, giant. It generally means large, unpleasant things."
Sirius nodded, surveying his cards. "That's most of the meanings. There's an Anglo-Saxon version of it, too. Means your--" He pointed downward, but didn't finish the word before Remus interrupted him.
"I'm not writing that on the test."
"I don't know, Remus," James said. "She did say to be thorough and use all the linguistic sources."
Remus rolled his eyes.
Peter looked up nervously. "You don't think she really would want us to say that on the test? You know, about our... Why d'you suppose it's the same word as troll and giant?"
"Never confused me," Sirius said, grinning.
"That's definitely not going to be on the test," Remus said, before Sirius could get properly started on the subject. "Ask another."
"Raido," Sirius said.
"Why do you have your nose in the book? You know this business as well as we do."
"I'd like to make sure, if you don't mind." But Remus closed the book. "Speaking of journeys, what are we going to do with all this rubbish when it's time to go home?" He waved at the living room.
"Rubbish!" Sirius cried indignantly. "It's not rubbish. It's a living room."
"Yes, but it's all contraband, and none of it fits in the trunks. I don't know about the rest of you, but I want it again next year."
James smiled, delighted. He'd never been entirely sure if Remus was just putting up with it and possibly getting used to it, rather than actually liking it this way. "We could Transfigure it into something smaller," he suggested.
"You know how to do that?"
"It can't be that hard, can it?"
"And if the Transfiguration spell breaks over the summer?"
"Hmmm. Did you have an idea?"
Remus bit his lip and shook his head.
"Yes, you do."
Deep breath. "Right. Well, I thought we could put it all in the Shrieking Shack. If you Transfigured it into something smaller just for tonight--"
"Tonight? I still have to learn the spell, mate."
"--or whenever, before the moon, and let me take your Cloak..."
"Why just you?"
"Because I'm not telling you how to get there."
"I know how to get there," Sirius said irritably. "It's just on the other side of the village."
"When the gates are closed for the night?"
"So we take that tunnel behind the mirror that Peter found. Been meaning to find out where that comes out anyway, haven't we?"
"You can't get through the wards from the village side."
Sirius frowned. "You've got a passage, haven't you?"
Remus nodded. "So what do you say?"
"I think it sounds like an excellent plan," James said.
"I still think we should all go."
"Your opinion is duly noted for posterity, Sirius." Remus rolled his eyes and drew a rude rune, then crumpled the piece of parchment and tossed into the overflowing dustbin by the bookcases, then went back to studying. After an hour, he joined the poker game.
The next day, James started looking for a good Shrinking Spell. He'd thought it would be a simple matter, but all of the third year Transfiguration spells involved things that were roughly the same size. He'd been able to prevail upon a fifth year girl to show him her textbook, but he hadn't found anything there, either. He briefly considered just asking Professor McGonagall, but he didn't think she'd approve if it happened to occur to her to ask why. He even more briefly considered asking Lily Evans if she'd happened across a potion that would do it, but she'd got a bit upset at him about a tiny prank he'd pulled on one of her friends, and he had a feeling she'd turn up her pretty nose at the idea of helping him.
The four of them descended on the library on Saturday (much to the alarm of Madam Pince) and cleared most of the shelf of simple Transfiguration spell books, but for some reason, it remained the very devil to find a decent Shrinking Spell. Remus, whose Muggle-born mother took him to the Muggle library from time to time, grumbled about lack of any sort of indexing in most of the Hogwarts collection. Peter finally found a book called The Handywizard's Guide to Useful Home Spells that had an elementary Shrinking Spell in it. It took quite a lot of practice, but after two weeks, he and Sirius both finally got the hang of it.
Unfortunately, it was only a rudimentary spell, and the most they were able to shrink the furniture was down to a quarter of its size--small, but not small enough to pile all of it onto Remus under the Invisibility Cloak.
The four of them stood around the shrunken table, frowning, and James shook his head and said, "Finite Incantatem." It grew back to normal size. "Well," he said, "we tried."
"We'll all need to go," Peter said.
"I've been saying that all along." Sirius crossed his arms over his chest and looked at Remus inquisitively.
Remus looked around at the living room, at their cheerfully chaotic piles of belongings, and took a deep breath. "All right," he said. "We will still need to shrink the table; the tunnel's bit low and narrow. I had to have the chairs on their sides when they went through."
"So where do we go in?" Sirius asked.
Remus bit his lip, then did an odd thing. He went to the table and laid his wand down, the tip pointing to the center. "Promise first. Magical contract."
None of them moved for a minute, then James shrugged and moved to the spot across from Remus. He laid down his own wand, so the points were directed at one another. Sirius and Peter took the other two sides of the table.
"I really mean this," Remus said. "I mean, I really mean it."
"What is it that you 'really mean,' mate?" James asked.
"You have to promise me that you'll never, ever try to go down there when the moon is full. If you don't promise, I won't tell you."
"What, no Unbreakable Vow?" Sirius said. "No death to oath breakers?"
"If you run into me transformed, you won't need an Unbreakable Vow to kill you."
"I promise," Peter said quickly.
James nodded. "I don't fancy being eaten by a wolf with chocolate breath." Remus tried to frown seriously and failed spectacularly. James grinned. "I promise."
"Sirius?" Remus prodded. "No trips to see just what a werewolf looks like?"
"What do you look like?"
"Big wolf. Sharp teeth. That's all you'd have time to see."
Sirius sighed. "All right. I promise."
Remus looked at them all. "Right, then. Let's shrink it back down and get going."
They picked up their wands. "All hail the Knights of the Round Table!" James said, shrinking the table to the size of a footstool.
"Knights?" Peter repeated.
"You know, Merlin and Arthur and such."
"I know what a knight is."
"Why knights, though?" Sirius asked, taking two of the wooden chairs and shrinking them to hold over his arm by the rungs. "Really, they didn't do much, other than rescue beautiful princesses, and if you haven't noticed, there aren't any of them handy. What else did they do?"
"Oh, there were other things," Remus said. "I think they jousted a lot. And you know, served people. And my mother says they did a few other things. Pillaging, marauding, and so on."
"Oh, I like marauding. Can we just be the Marauders of the Round Table?"
"Why not?" James said, taking the Invisibility Cloak down from its hook on the door. "We'll call you Sir Cocks-It-Up." He opened the door and they started down, putting the miniaturized furniture under the cloak--for now made into a fabulous sort of sack--as it floated out the door.
"All for one and one for all!" Sirius called, too loudly for the hour.
"That's a musketeer," Peter said, dropping his voice as they started down the stairs toward the common room.
"What is a musketeer?"
"Well, what did Arthur's knights say?"
Remus shrugged as he passed James, tipping one of the chairs into the Cloak. "I don't know. 'For God and King Arthur,' maybe?"
"I don't think so. Maybe we should just say, Aroo."
"Sirius," Remus said in his strictest scolding tone as they passed the next door. "You have the cadence all wrong. It's A-rooo, with a bit of a twist up at the end. Honestly. Everyone knows that."
James smiled and closed the door behind him, leaving their belongings behind them in a companionable pile.