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Chapter 38 : The Boy In The Bubble - Part 1
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31) A Marauder should worship the founder of Zonko’s with all of his heart.
45) No Marauder should date the girl of another Marauder (, whatever the word “girl” may mean).
Needless to say, Maitri had a good time trying to hold back her laughter. She and Alex had shared a look when the rule number 1 had been repeated twice in the list, but Sirius convinced them they were for entirely different reasons.
“It’s called etiquette, my dear people,” he answered. “To make sure that the others around you are perfectly treated with the right amount of respect-”
“Merlin,” Alex muttered quietly. “I never thought he’d-”
“That big of a surprise, yeah,” they both completed together. The Gryffindor boy looked at them awestruck, his jaw slightly slack with his incomplete sentence.
“He’s usually not that conceited,” Regulus Black assured Maitri on the way to the library. Whether he actually worked in there – other than pick off books on magical fighting techniques – or if he just wanted to walk and talk to his friend at the same time, Maitri wasn’t sure. But he did indeed have quality friendship speeches prepared for those five-minute long walks.
“Understandable,” Maitri replied. “It probably is the atmosphere of Hogwarts that makes him so.”
Regulus sighed, and gave in to a tight smile as they continued their walk.
“All I want to know is,” he asked a minute later. “If the Beer-Ball guy was a wizard.”
Maitri looked around as she waited for Madam Pince, and found that she was the only occupant other than a very studious looking Sixth Year Ravenclaw she’d once met at the Quidditch Pitch the year before, who’d been a Chaser then, and an Indian who had been born and brought up in London. As if he sensed her looking at him, he looked up and nodded discreetly, recognizing her. Maitri bowed her head once before turning back to Madam Pince’s desk.
“The authority signature you provided me with is perfectly acceptable, Miss Harys,” the witch said enigmatically, tapping a piece of parchment and handing it to Maitri, who took it and stared at the signature. “You may very well wish to leave now if you do not want to get caught, Harys.” And then, in a lower tone, she added, “Good luck; the professor tells me you can have it for as long as you wish to.”
It wasn’t until Maitri was out of the library and halfway down the Hallway of Broom Cupboards that she realized that she found it a bit odd for Professor Nostradamus to send Madam Pince a permission note for Maitri to procure a book entirely unconnected to Divination. She glanced down at the thick, hardbound volume in her hands again.
Faded golden letters were scrawled across the aged leather, clearly proclaiming the book as “The Complete and Ultimate Book of Advanced Charms”.
Once she reached her secret room, she opened it, sitting cross-legged on the floor across the Founders’ portraits. When she did, she found that it had been bookmarked in several places. The topmost one was marked as ‘All Parchment Charms and related theories’.
She shut the book close and rested her head on her fists. Perhaps, a long conversation with one certain, ancient-looking professor was hovering close.
Sirius Black always found the Gryffindor Commonroom too quiet for its own good. Lily Evans always thought it was too loud for anyone else’s good. James Potter always found himself wishing he could control all the pandemonium to impress Lily Evans, but Remus Lupin, the practical one, always had to drag him away from terrorizing first and second years with his heart-felt confessions about his affinity to redheads. Peter Pettigrew always agreed with his friends when he looked up from the chess board and cheese cake that almost always accompanied him into the common room. Otherwise, he was left to his own world of fantasies.
“Yep – that one,” Sirius clarified. “There’s a room across it that’s… er, convenient.”
James Potter bit his lip, watching off into the corner of the common room where a certain Lily Evans sat, muttering furiously about the noise. Remus Lupin frowned over his newest scar, a silver line now, on his wrist, wondering if he could remember how it came by. Peter Pettigrew whooped with joy as he won the chess match. A few onlookers called out their congratulations to him, and Peter beamed. Sirius looked at his smallest friend, and realized that he was not so much popular for his magic, as for his logic or practicality. He sighed and got up.
"We all do, though,” Peter asserted, from somewhere near Remus’ shoulder, his voice slightly muffled. Although he was definitely the shortest of the four, he was usually the blunt one who was the most talkative. If everyone in Gryffindor thought Remus Lupin was a quiet, responsible boy, Sirius Black a happy, goofy, good-looking prankster, and James Potter a cool-but-arrogant Quidditch star, they usually had no thoughts about Peter Pettigrew, who kept his nature shaded from all but his best friends. Remus had always felt sympathetic towards Peter, but had been scared when the boy had known he was a werewolf, and had been completely grateful when Peter had thoughtfully asked in a completely straight-forward manner, “It does not mean we all become werewolves simply ‘coz we are friends with you, right?”
“The day the three of you decide that you’re authoritative enough over anyone to even name them, will be the day Dumbledore’s beard turns blue with red stars,” Remus countered drily, and was horrified when he was met with three identical, evil grins.
“Perhaps we should include that into the prank!” Sirius exclaimed happily, but was shushed by James Potter when they came close to the Astronomy corridor. They knew, over time, which professor patrolled when, and where. Today was Professor Sprout’s turn, and she usually shuffled around, humming to the pot plants that were hidden from the students’ view, but placated for their benefits. The Marauders hadn’t actually seen these plants, but Peter had told them that Alex and Alice Messiers could see them easily.
They finally reached the right corridor with the portrait of the dancing trolls. But there was no door opposite to it.
“I thought you said it was here!”
Remus scoffed loudly as the other two berated Sirius, who appeared unfazed and deep in thought when he raised his hand to silence them.
“Let’s search for it,” he suggested. “It ought to be here somewhere, and I know I’m not wrong about that.” And when he was answered with stony stares, he frowned. “Just as I was not wrong about the fact that the Kitchens were right below the Great Hall!”
The other Marauders sighed, and remembered the day when Sirius had triumphantly discovered the entrance to the Kitchens in their Second Year, a little while after the four of them became close to each other. He had been completely over the hill, basking in their praises for his clever sleuthing abilities. It was their first greatest mistake, elevating him to a level that led Sirius to inevitably think he was always right about everything and anything under the sun… or even above it.
And so, they walked the entire stretch of the corridor up and down, looking for the room. A few times after scouring the area, James Potter cried out softly.
The others immediately rushed to their bespectacled friend, who was staring at a door that had definitely not existed a few moments ago.
“Open it, Pete,” James Potter ordered his friend immediately, which was very convenient for him, because the shortest boy was the closest one to the door’s handle.
“No! You do it yourself! Who knows what’s in there!” Peter’s voice had grown shrill.
“Whiny little Pettigrew!” Sirius mocked Peter, grinning widely, his voice raised to the same pitch. “Scared little Pettigrew! Bitty, frightened-!”
“I think we get the picture in your mind, Sirius,” Remus Lupin interrupted him, groaning slightly when the Black’s eyes moved onto him, twinkling madly.
“Boring old Remus! Dreary old Moony…”
“You know, Peter,” James Potter told his short friend quietly, nudging him slightly. “You could just open it before the Apocalypse senses its soul-mate in Sirius Orion Black…”
Peter still looked disgruntled and frightened, but he understood that once Sirius Black began his ridicule of others, he wouldn’t stop until he fell down asleep, after all his adrenaline gets used up, days and detentions later. The Marauders had undergone this torture once, in the previous year, when they had unwittingly started Sirius off on his rant, refusing to bend to his earlier requests or pleas… and he had been through it for a week, before starting to snore in the middle of Transfiguration class, and not waking up for the better part of two days. The memory terrified him more than whatever unknown danger the other side of the door could hold.
Grimacing heavily, Peter Pettigrew pressed down the handle of the door and pushed it open, expecting a great force to oppose him.
But it swung open at his touch, without even making so much as a squeak, and the beautiful half moon greeted them from behind a wall of glass.
Sirius Black fell silent, a result of the surprise that had now pressed upon his wind pipe, and elevated the beating speed of his heart. Where Remus’ gaze had fallen upon the half-moon, and James on the shelves and shelves of books on wizarding crime, and Peter’s upon the comfortable looking couches spread out around the room, Sirius’ strayed away and took in the single, huge portrait that covered half a wall on his left. It was of a girl in shimmering robes diving into the lake, and transforming into a mermaid. She looked strangely familiar, like someone he knew, but hadn’t seen much of.
The four Marauders split and moved into the room, towards the objects of their interests. Lying scattered around the painting were rickety shelves of old, disused objects of pranking that their predecessors had used in the yesteryears. Sirius picked up an old tin box and overturned it. Someone had etched in child-like lettering at the base: Zonko Zooper Ztuff.
Excited with the fact that the box had actually belonged to their mentor, Sirius eagerly lifted the lid. He sniffed; it smelled like ash and rosewater. And the next moment, he fell unconscious, the box slipping out of his hands, and its contents spewing out of it onto the carpet.
The other three Marauders, too, sniffed the momentary perfume of ashy rosewater, and fell down asleep where they were standing, or sitting, as in Peter’s case.
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