"You know, the more time I spend in this place,
the more I'm starting to think it's seriously affecting my health."
Sirius balled up yet another ruined essay and tossed it across the room,
looking very annoyed. "I really don't think Professor Flamel likes
me," he added, beginning afresh. Sirius liked to think he could charm
his way out of anything, but this essay was also long overdue.
James looked up at once. "God, Sirius, he's
already given you three chances - he's got a pretty nice way of not liking
you. If it had been me or Remus, we'd be cleaning out his Grindylow tank
by now. But you, you lazy bugger..." James put on a high voice. "I'm
so sorry, sir - my toad's ill...I've just been out of my mind
with worry...Oh thank you, sir, I knew you'd understand!"
While his friend continued to mutter ludricrous
excuses in falsetto, Sirius grinned his acknowledgement - vaguely aware
that he was sending two nearby Ravenclaw girls into a smothered fit giggles
in the process. It wasn't that Sirius was intentionally loud; he simply
never considered lowering his voice, even in the library. Sirius was too
big for the library, or the library was too small for him; but at least
nobody seemed to mind.
In fact, whenever their small group made a rare
appearance in the library, their presence was generally felt
- if only because of the uncommon number of screwed-up balls of parchment
suddenly flying around and the occasional interludes where they were so
bored they decided to suddenly break into loud, theatrical singing ("But
Madam Scribbit, music helps you to concentrate!")
James Potter had achieved the near impossible task
of being a top student while breaking almost every school rule ever written.
As a result, he could afford to flip through his Quidditch trading cards
while his friend scribbled feverishly.
"So...where is everyone?" said Sirius,
at last signing his name on his essay with a flourish, and throwing aside
his quill. "Please tell me why they're missing out on all this fun."
"Peter's gone to the owlery. You know, he
misses his parents too much. It's really not good for him -"
"Ah, we'll just have to remind him that we're
his family now," said Sirius, would-be gravely, yet not managing
to suppress an incredibly mischievous glint in his eyes while he said
"Yes, and watch him run into the horizon,"
James finished. "And Remus is...AWOL. Again." James
frowned and forgot his Quidditch cards as he confronted the mystery surrounding
their friend. When he said AWOL, he meant, of course, absent without leave
Sirius leaned forward. "Well, he was looking
a bit peaky the other day...not that that's saying anything. I'm sure
he gets ill more than anyone I know, including Peter, and he
spends half his time taking Pepper-up."
"It's weird. I mean, one day he'll be fine
and the next -"
The short, derisive sound broke their conspiratorial
manner. Both boys turned their heads, eyes soon settling on the girl sitting
alone two tables away. She had her red head studiously buried behind a
book, but the sound had undoubtedly come from her.
"What are you tutting at us for?" James
"Nothing," came the quiet voice from
behind the book covers.
James was generally quite level headed - at least,
more so than Sirius - and he liked to think that he knew exactly how far
you could push a teacher before going too far, or when was the time to
grab Sirius before he started to get violent. But about some things he
could be unreasonable. Quidditch was one. Lily Evans was another.
"Yes you were!" he continued, a little
louder, while his Quidditch cards lay forgotten and Sirius looked on in
slight amusement. If one thing annoyed James above all others, it was
how Lily could maintain a perfectly calm and indifferent
countenance whenever she wanted to. "We were talking about
Remus, and you -"
Lily had not quite forgiven James for playing a
prank on her on her first week of school. Her magical powers had been
unknown to her until the summer before, and she'd been self-conscious
and nervous enough at Hogwarts without having a green tongue as well.
Now she dropped the book from before her face, facing them with a pair
of piercingly green eyes.
"Well I would have thought it was a bit obvious,"
she said, completely unruffled. "But if you don't know, then..."
James had not quite forgiven Lily for "accidentally"
hexing him in Defence Against the Dark Arts during their second week at
school. The class had been practicing how to block simple hexes, and they'd
been paired to work together. Apparently little miss "Ice Queen"
hadn't heard him say he wasn't ready yet; before James had time to raise
his wand, she had administered a Freeze Hex, and he'd been left sneezing
the rest of the week. Furthermore, Lily was extremely hardworking and
clever, which meant that James had to work that much harder if he wanted
to have the satisfaction of beating her in class.
"If you don't want to tell us, then don't,"
James stated, returning to his previous occupation, and sending a glare
at the smirk on Sirius' face before he did so. Despite what Sirius maintained,
his dislike for Lily Evans had absolutely nothing to do with
the fact that she didn't happen to fawn over him like a lot of other girls
"Fine." Lily, having now put away her
book, stood up and flung her bag over her shoulder, walked past their
table, and did it all with maddening aloofness.
"What's obvious, Lily?" Sirius called
out to her, just before she disappeared in between the bookshelves. Sirius
always asked things in this direct manner, no matter who or what he was
A just audible mutter was heard from the black
shadows between the tall bookshelves. "That you're both idiots?"
Sirius formed his mouth in the shape of an "o",
and mimed giving a low whistle as the sound of the library door being
shut with a creak and a thump broke the quiet which had followed the cutting
"You can't possibly think that she does know
anything?" said James.
"Well, aside from the fact that that she's
the cleverest witch in our year, and she just as good as told us she does
- why ever would I think that?" Sirius began to blow the ink dry
on his parchment.
"She's probably just trying to wind us up,
or get us to talk to her, or something," said James, brooding. He
shrugged. "Anyway, I say we confront Remus and don't let him go until
we've got it out of him."
"Or we could just ask Lily. That might be
easier, since we have no idea where Remus is."
"Lily doesn't know anything," said James,
firmly, as they began to walk out of the library.
"Okay, whatever you say." Sirius gave
up. "Let's go and get Peter, and then we can plan our - ahem - entertainment
for Thursday evening..."
"...Thursday evening," Harry told him.
Ron glanced Harry sideways, but his friends' face
was passive. He hoped, for Harry's sake at least, that these Anti-Dementor
lessons were going to work. It had been horrible, when those things had
appeared out of nowhere on the Quidditch Pitch. But everyone else had
managed to stay on their brooms, hadn't they? Bloody Cedric had even managed
to carry on playing.
Anyway. Hopefully, Professor Lupin could do something
about that. If anyone could, Ron reckoned, he ought to be able to help.
He was the best Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher they'd ever had,
no matter what that git Malfoy said about him being shabby and...
"Still looks ill, doesn't he?" Ron voiced.
"What d'you reckon's the matter with him?"
Harry was about to shrug - to be honest, as long
as Professor Lupin was alive on Thursday, he didn't really care. It was
extremely selfish, he knew, but...
It would begin with the chill, a completely paralyzing
chill. Harry always felt like that chill was about to reach right through
him and stop his heart. Then, through the freezing fog - softly at first;
then so loud - the voices, the screaming...
The loud, impatient noise made both boys turn to
find Hermione sitting at the base of a suit of armour, fiddling with her
bag, which was so full of books it couldn't close. When Harry glanced
at Ron, it was like someone had already flicked on the "stubborn
glower" switch in Ron's eyes.
"And what are you tutting at us for?"
remarked Ron, defensively. Hermione stood up, heaving her bag on to her
shoulder and wincing slightly with the weight.
"Nothing," she said, loftily.
"Yes, you were," Ron insisted. "I
said, I wonder what's wrong with Lupin and you -"
"Well isn't it obvious?" Hermione burst
out quickly. She looked, first at Ron, then at Harry, with what Ron considered
maddening superiority. Ron's initial shock of finding out she'd had Harry's
Firebolt - or ex-Firebolt, thanks to her - carted away, had worn off;
but it had left behind a severe furiousness. The way he saw it, Harry
was going to have enough trouble staying on his broom as it was, without
being stripped of a broom to even stay on. And she would have go around
looking so damn self-righteous about it, wouldn't she?
"If you don't want to tell us, then don't,"
"Fine," said Hermione, through gritted
teeth. She pushed passed them, and joined the throngs heading to dinner;
leaving Ron feeling as if the argument had not been settled to his satisfaction.
"She doesn't know," he said, staring
after her resentfully. "She's just trying to get us to talk to her
Harry shook his head. His mind was more on Dementors
than on Ron and Hermione's incessant bickering, or rather, lack of it,
now. And he did wonder, briefly, whether having his Firebolt back would
make him feel any better about those things.
That thought was dismissed immediately. Of course