"And you suggested this
exactly when, Mr Black?"
"It was, well, sort of a simultaneous translation, if you know what I mean,
By this time Remus was laughing, too. Only Sirius could pull something like
this and get away with it.
For a long moment Mr Laufmann looked at Sirius, and then exhaled sharply. "I
see. What, then, is your translation, Mr Black?"
Sirius's face was now slightly pink, but he took a deep breath and sang, "Joseph
pushed the panic button," and the entire choir, perhaps waiting for something
like this, chimed in right on cue: "Lully, lully, lu!"
This time Mr Laufmann had to play a dissonant chord on the organ, full stops
open, before he could restore order to the choir. His ears were bright red,
but, as he left the organ pit and came around to face the choir, Remus noticed
that he was trying hard to keep his expression sober.
"Well, Mr Black, although you are quite skilled at onomatopoeia, I am very
much afraid that you are deficient in Latin," he said dryly, provoking a fresh
wave of laughter from the choir members. "We will pick up here tomorrow, if
you please. Mr Black, Mr Bolton, do try to work on your enunciation in the Geoffrey
Shaw; please remember that "God is come to birth," not "God is come to burst."
Speaking of enunciation, Mr Black, please refrain from re-translating "Angelus
ad virginem" tomorrow; I want to get through rehearsal without incident. I want
the altos to pay close attention to the drone in 'Balulalow;' I am still hearing
several of you," here he looked very hard at selected members of the choir,
who tried to appear invisible, "missing those accidentals. And all of you,"
he finished, cracking his baton for emphasis on the wood of the choir stall
in front of him, "please remember that 'In the Bleak Midwinter' is a meditation,
not an invitation to a snowball fight. Dismissed."
The choir scattered, the noise of their simultaneous motion amplified by the
cathedral acoustics. Remus saw Mr Laufmann detain Sirius for a moment. Although
he was shaking one finger at Sirius, the effect was spoiled by the smile that
kept threatening to appear on his face. Sirius said something in return that
caused Mr Laufmann to throw up his hands in mock annoyance, and then he ran
down through the nave to meet Remus. "Ever since I learned that carol I've thought
about Joseph's panic button," he said cheerfully as he came up even with Remus.
"And I've been looking for something to get Nigel with. He is such a git. Told
me once that he was the only serious singer the choir had ever produced."
They burst out of the cathedral doors, and headed down toward the Roman wall.
"Does he always look that stupid when he sings?" Remus asked, making a mental
resolution never to join a choir. --That's an easy promise, idiot, he
told himself, --Even if there was a village choir, do you think they'd take
you? Even as the words crossed his mind, however, he was pushing
them away, and soon all was lost in the animal joy of racing down by the pond,
skating on the slick, icy snow, nearly falling into the pond and disturbing
After an hour or so, they flopped down on the ground to rest for a bit, and
Sirius checked his watch. The light had gone soft and fleecy as the afternoon
had worn on, and a raw wind had begun to push its way through the park. "We've
still got about an hour before we have to be home," Sirius said. "I don't know
about you, Moony, but I'm getting cold."
"That's because you're sitting in the snow, you prat," Remus replied, and scrambled
to his feet, extending his had to help Sirius up. "Look, isn't that Muggle bookstore
you told me about--the one with the great chemistry section--around here somewhere?"
They headed back toward the Cathedral, intending to cut through the close and
onto the High Street. Just before they reached the cathedral school, Sirius
stopped, his face slightly pale. "Sirius? You okay?" Remus asked.
"Nothing. Just felt dizzy there for a minute," Sirius said after a minute.
"Must be the sheer joy of Nigel's singing." He began walking toward the Cathedral
"Maybe one of the girls got your cousin to hex the Santa Snot we made last
"Bad move, if they did," Sirius grinned. "I still have some more Blinking Bugs
that need a good home. In, say, their beds
As they reached the cathedral, however, the boys checked their speed. "What's
that?" Remus whispered, pointing at the boxlike vehicle with the flashing lights
that had pulled up at the south portal. Several Muggles in police uniform stood
near the entrance.
"It's an ambulance. To get Muggles to their healers as quickly as they can
go. I hope it isn't Mr Laufmann; Mum said he hadn't been well this term," Sirius
replied, frowning a little, and started toward the entrance. Remus snatched
at Sirius' coat-sleeve as several Ministry officials Apparated near the entrance,
out of the direct line of sight of the loitering police. "What are they
doing here?" Sirius hissed.
They glanced at each other, and without another word slipped out of sight.
Sirius headed toward a small side door. "This way, Moony, this gets us into
the organ loft."
When they reached the organ loft and found a spot where they could peer over
the railing at the church below, they found utter mayhem. Many of the stone
sculptures were moving. Mary was rocking her Child, and Joseph ineffectually
tried to fend off the plaster and pβpier-machι stable animals brought
in as part of the Cathedral Nativity display. Some of the more elaborate Victorian
angel sculptures wriggled madly, trying to free themselves from the stone support
pillars. The three Wise Men were chasing several elderly Muggle women through
the nave, shouting that they had nicked the casket of gold. One of the young
priests had fainted and was surrounded by several Muggles, who were fanning
him with their hats, while an elderly verger stared at the Madonna with a shining
expression of wonder. Mr Laufmann had arranged several angels in a line, and
was trying to get them to sing in tune.
Sirius jogged Remus' elbow, and Remus looked up where Sirius was pointing.
The figures in several of the stained glass windows were flowing into shimmering
blurs of light in the air, and were slowly sinking down toward the nave.
Remus caught Sirius' eye, and they both began to snicker. "Brilliant!" Sirius
said. "Look at Dean Horgath's face!" The Dean was frantically trying to keep
the stone donkey from nibbling at the stone greenery.
The Ministry officials, having finished outside, now charged into the Cathedral
proper and began setting the statues back in their places and calming the Muggles.
The boys began to edge backwards, quite slowly, and at length were safely outside
the Cathedral. Once they reached the gate to the High Street, Remus let out
a whoop. "Did you see those angels?"
"Pity the Ministry'll put Memory Charms on everyone; I can just hear Mr Laufmann
telling us that those angels sing better than we do. Making them sing, that's
They headed up the steep street toward the old town center, the bookstore visit
forgotten. "And the animals, and Joseph. He sure was emitting panic! And those
old ladies and the Wise Men
"They're part of the Altar Guild; they always have their meetings on Thursday
afternoons," Sirius said. "And they're always telling me to be quiet and respectful."
They reached the Clock Tower. To its left stood a dilapidated pub, the Crossed
Wands, that remained completely unnoticed by the crowds of Muggle shoppers and
tourists. Remus had not had a chance to look at the pub properly that afternoon,
when they had come through the pub on their way to the Cathedral, and he hoped
to stay and get some Butterbeer or hot chocolate. However, when Sirius pushed
open the door, Aelfric Ames, the barman, just pointed solemnly to the clock
hanging above the fireplace which showed just past five, and mouthed, "Your
-- mother -- says -- you're -- late." Sirius nodded, still chuckling, and steered
Remus to the fireplace.
They spilled out into Sirius' parents' living room, still chattering about
the events in the Cathedral, and were just brushing the soot from their clothes
when they heard a cough behind them. Spinning, they saw Sirius' father standing
near the couch, looking grim. "Sit down, you lot," Mr Black said, in a tone
that brooked no argument. Sirius and Remus exchanged glances, surprised, and
complied. Sirius' parents were quite strict about dinnertimes and curfews, but
from experience Remus knew that five minutes' delay was not cause for such a
Sirius had clearly summed up the emotional weather in the room, and just as
clearly was completely perplexed. "Dad, I'm sorry we were late, but you should
have seen the fuss
Mr Black cut him off. "I know about it, Sirius, and I must say that I am disappointed."
He held out a letter that bore the Ministry of Magic's letterhead. "This arrived
half an hour ago. What were you two thinking?"
Remus stared. Surely Mr Black didn't think that he and Sirius
it is the sort of thing he'd do
except he didn't. He felt an acid curl
of worry deep in his chest. --What if
Beside him, Sirius looked outraged. "Dad--I didn't do anything. Neither did
"I'm afraid the Improper Use of Magic Office differs with your story, Sirius;
Remus, we are checking with your parents." --How could they? We didn't do
"It's true, sir," Remus protested, caught between indignation and shame. While
he did not mind in the slightest owning up to something he had done, being accused
of something he had not--and something of this magnitude--stung. --Dad is
going to be really mad. "We didn't do anything. We know we're not
supposed to do any magic outside school."
"Remus is right," Sirius added earnestly. "Dad, you know I wouldn't do anything
like that to Mr Laufmann. He doesn't have a strong heart, you said so yourself
Remus had a sudden memory of Mr Laufmann delightedly teaching the angels to
sing. Somehow he doubted that Mr Laufmann would suffer from this prank. --It
was funny, though. Abruptly he wished that his father were here,
after all. --Dad would get a real laugh out of it, after he got over being
mad. --Where are they? They should have gotten here by now. Another thought
suddenly revived his misery. --Unless they're really furious
Mr Black was shaking his head. "I don't know about that, Sirius. I think you
tend to play the joke first, and think about the consequences later--if at all."
He sighed heavily. "And this was not just a prank. It was more than a little
malicious, and I will not have that from my own son. Some of the ladies on that
Altar Guild are in poor health, Sirius! A shock like that could have killed
them on the spot, before anyone could have reached them. This is something you
must learn to understand, to tell the line between mischief and dangerous
ideas before you or someone else gets hurt. I cannot let this one go, Sirius.
Now, the Ministry has managed to remove all your mobilius charms, and
has successfully modified the memories of almost everyone in the church. The
one Muggle immune to memory charms is convinced that he saw a private, miraculous
vision. Which means that neither of you are facing expulsion, for which you
both should be very grateful." Mr Black turned to face Remus. "I'm also sorry
to have to say that, under the circumstances, Remus, Anne and I feel that it
would be more appropriate for you to return home this evening. Perhaps some
time apart will make you both appreciate the real dangers in what you've done."
"We didn't do anything," Sirius repeated, face and tone mutinous. Remus suspected
that Sirius was hiding as bad a case of the miserables as he had himself. --It
was such a great day, and it's all gone bad. "Dad, have I ever lied when
you've caught me out in something?"
"Until today, Sirius, I would have said no, unhesitatingly, but after today
I am not as sure."
Remus swallowed. Mr Black's voice had gone flat, distant. --Just shut up,
Sirius, he's made up his mind and you can't argue him out of it. He kicked
Sirius' ankle, but Sirius ignored him and continued to protest. At length Sirius
gave up and sat slumped back on the couch.
The doorbell rang.
Mr Black surveyed the boys critically, and then said, "Go upstairs to your
room, boys. I'll bring some sandwiches up in a short while. Remus, please be
ready to go after dinner." He turned toward the entrance hallway. Sirius and
Remus rose, subdued, and headed for Sirius' room.
Sirius' face was set, his lips slightly white. "Your dad'll listen, Sirius,
when he's not so mad," Remus said as they climbed the staircase. "You've said
he usually does."
"How do I convince him we didn't do anything this time?"
As they reached Sirius' room they heard Mr Black calling them. Returning to
the living room, they found Mr Laufmann standing beside the fire, holding Sirius'
score in his gloved hands. Remus looked sidelong at Sirius, who shrugged slightly.
Mr Laufmann looked at them, his eyes twinkling. "I have just been speaking
to your father about the interesting events in the Cathedral this afternoon."
Ignoring the look of surprise on both boy's faces, he continued, "No, Sirius,
I'm not a wizard, but my wife Herrad was a witch. She is long dead, and I have
put your world behind me. Until today, of course."
Sirius' face was white. "Mr Laufmann, I didn't
" he began, but the choirmaster
cut him off.
"We were both very young, of course, and I had no talent whatever. Still, she
spelled me with enough ability to recognize magical traps when I saw them
we were both in the Resistance, you see
. But I am digressing; please forgive
an old man's wanderings. When you are my age, sometimes the past is a far gentler
place than the present." He stopped for a moment, and then continued, "You left
your music behind in the choir loft, young man, and I must confess I found it
interesting enough that I thought your father should see it."
Remus looked warily at Mr Laufmann. Beside him he felt Sirius shuffle his feet,
and he willed Sirius to remain silent. --What now?
The choirmaster had handed the score to Mr Black, who took out his wand and
ran it slowly across the score. In several places the wand let out brilliant
white sparks, too bright for Remus to look at directly. After a few moments,
Mr Black muttered, "Of course
. subintrans in conclave
porta coeli facta
. Ne timeas, sed gaudeas
et cupiens videre
Mr Black looked at the two boys. To Remus' very great relief, Mr Black's voice
was lighter, and Remus saw that the suspicion and sorrow had left Mr Black's
"Sirius, did you feel anything unusual this afternoon, after choir practice?"
Sirius shook his head, clearly puzzled and apparently still too angry to respond
to his father's changing mood, but Remus nodded. "Yes, you did, Sirius you came
over funny for a moment when we came up to the Cathedral. It was just for a
moment, sir," he added, turning toward Mr Black, "And he was just fine afterwards."
"No, that fits." Mr Black returned to his examination of the score, running
his wand down each page in turn. "Det nobis sua gaudia
" After a moment
he put his wand back in his pants belt. "Harlan, do you have another score that
Sirius can use for the performance? I'm afraid I need to send this one to the
Improper Use of Magic Office."
Mr Laufmann nodded. "I assume that that was what I thought it was?"
"Indeed it was." Mr Black turned to the boys. "Sirius, Remus, I owe you both
an apology. You were both telling the truth, at least as you knew it, and I
should have understood that. Remus, I will of course explain to your parents,
and if the Improper Use of Magic Office sent your parents a letter, I will have
the Ministry remove this letter from your record. Although," he said with a
faint smile, "I think that, if your father had gotten one of these, he would
have been here by now!"
Sirius remained angry, although Remus noted that the set of his jaw had relaxed
somewhat. "What do you mean, 'we were telling the truth as we knew it'? Dad,
we didn't lie
"No, Sirius, you didn't. But you did perform magic." He held up a hand to check
Sirius' protest, and then asked the boys to sit beside him on the couch. Mr
Laufmann took the easy chair near the fire, and the boys watched, fascinated,
as Mr Black spread out the musical score on his lap. Most of the sheets, Remus
noticed for the first time, were hand-written mimeographs. When Mr Black touched
the lyrics for "Angelus ad virginem," several phrases leapt into blazing white
life. "I know you both like reading history, so you boys know by now that ancient
languages--Aramaic, Coptic--and later languages such as Persian, Greek or Latin
were used as the basis of spells. Most Muggles have no trouble saying Latin
spells aloud, of course, as they have no wands and no innate magical talent.
A Muggle could bellow even some of the nastiest Dark hexes at the top of his
lungs, and nothing would happen. Wizards might have a little more trouble, though,
particularly with some of the phrases that are actually spells," he touched
his wand to the paper in several places, and the words again glowed brightly,
"but unless they were focusing their power through their wands
intended the words to act as spells--little or nothing would happen."
Sirius was still frowning, but now Remus recognized the look Sirius wore when
he was trying to figure out the logic behind a charm or when he was exploring
a particularly tough issue in DADA. "So you're saying that, despite that, we
did make something happen
. I made something happen
by singing the
"How would that work, Mr Black?" Remus asked. "Sirius didn't have his wand
out, and I wasn't even carrying mine."
Mr Laufmann leaned forward and looked at the score. "Here, in "Angelus," it
is possible that the choir itself acted as an amplifier for young Mr Black's
natural talents. And in "Chester," as well, particularly given the
nature of the manifestation we saw."
"That's true," Mr Black agreed, "But it should not have been enough to create
all that I hear happened."
Sirius, still frowning, said, slowly, "Dad, I did play a trick on Nigel today.
Without magic! I wanted to get him to crack up while singing, so I
He started to grin, first reluctantly, and then without reservation. "I gave
him a fake translation of the lyrics."
Mr Laufmann began to chuckle, a deep, rumbling bass. "You should have been
there, Orion, it was priceless."
Rather warily, Mr Black asked Sirius what he had said, and Sirius told him.
Remus was quite surprised to find that Mr Black could laugh as heartily as his
own father did, particularly because while Mr Black had always been kind to
him, Remus had never before thought that he had much of a sense of humor. "Oh,
dear, Sirius, that explains the way Joseph was being mobbed by the stable animals
. " He sobered a little, and then said, "But although I'm sure your intention
added a certain--flavour--to the proceedings, it still would not have set off
any inherent spells."
"So what happened?" Sirius asked.
Mr Laufmann took the score from Mr Black's lap, and turned the pages until
he came to the first sheet. On the facing page was a brief, handwritten note
in a spiky hand. "Here, I think, although I cannot see it. I always write a
memorandum showing how I adapted the arrangments."
"And that would be a perfect place to set an amplification spell that could
be triggered by inherent magical ability," Mr Black finished. He looked more
carefully at the lettering, and his eyes narrowed. "An as-good-as signed spell
that is beyond even your abilities as yet, Sirius."
Remus glanced behind Mr Black's back at Sirius, whose face glowed with a combination
of relief and satisfied mischief. "Tony!" Sirius mouthed.
Mr Black stood up suddenly, and turned to help Mr. Laufmann rise to his feet.
"I think that it is time for us to speak with young masters Penrose about their
taste in pranks." Remus was suddenly very glad that he wasn't Tony, judging
by his own feelings this last hour. Then Mr Black looked over at the boys. "All
right, you two, off to the kitchen. And, Sirius, if your mother isn't there,
please make sure that the kitchen is at least tidy when you leave it." Sirius
nodded, hesitated; then lightly grasped his father's forearm and said, "Thanks,
Dad." He walked from the room, and Remus followed a heartbeat later. Remus thought
that he would have hugged his own father, but, somehow, despite his laughter,
Mr Black did not seem like a man that hugged easily.
In the hallway, Sirius echoed Remus' earlier thoughts. "I'm so glad I'm
not Tony. Or Norman; this had to have been set here, and Norman's the only one
who could have done it."
"I didn't think he was that creative," Remus said, and then added, as something
else occurred to him, "Your dad said that spell was as good as signed. You don't
. Well, maybe that someone set him up for this, do you?"
Sirius replied lightly, although Remus saw that his eyes still looked a
little sad, "Nah: I think they were just being stupid. I bet they didn't know
what would happen at all."
A smile tugged at the corner of Remus' mouth. "I really liked the Wise
"And Mr. Laufmann's angels."
"You think Nigel's going to be able to get through that carol without losing
it?" Remus asked slyly.
"Nope," Sirius said, with satisfaction, as they stepped into the empty
kitchen. "Hey, Remus, I've got this great idea what to do to his bed tonight."
"It'd be better to wait a while, you know," Remus answered. He looked up as
Mrs Black hurried into the room, and then poked Sirius in the back. "Think how
much more you can do to him at school."
They lost themselves in dinner, and cheerfully tumbled explanations for Sirius'
mother, who also reassured Remus that he would not be in any trouble at home,
and sometime between the roast beef sandwiches and the chocolate ice cream,
Remus suggested sweetly that Sirius should sing "The Song of the Nuns of Chester"
for his mother, and Sirius suggested that Remus could just lose the next wrestling
match which he proposed to have right there and then, and Mrs Black was laughing,
and it was Christmas again.