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Chapter 19 When Hell Freezes Over: Part Two Sirius met James after he got out of the dressing rooms and changed back into his school robes. A moment later, the two of them walked with each other back across the grounds to the school. “I think you’ve got an admirer, Padfoot old man” James teased as he nodded back to the keeper as she followed at a distance. “What about you? I thought I heard Claire screaming something about Lily coming to see you,” Sirius responded, choosing to ignore the comment. James grinned and turned away from Sirius so that his friend couldn’t see how red his face had just turned. He gave a long sigh as he ruffled his rumpled, black hair again. “Um, James?” “Sorry, I’m just a little distracted because...” James paused a moment for dramatic effect and then finally confessed the big news, “I asked Lily out.” “Well, you’re as optimistic as usual, I’ll give you that. But I keep on telling you mate, she’s just not going to say yes,” Sirius said. “I mean the day she says yes is the day my mum stops screaming like a banshee.” “Well then, it must be quiet on the homefront today,” James said with a smirk. “What? You mean she actually agreed to go out? With you?” Sirius gasped. “Hey, it’s not such an impossible thing,” James said sounding slightly hurt by his best friend’s astonishment. Sirius scratched his chin still looking doubtful. He said, “Yes it is. I remember you asked her out on the first day of our first year here. She laughed at you then and she has been shooting you down ever since.” “Yeah, well, I swear this time she said yes... or at least I think she did,” James replied, “Great, look what you’ve done. You’ve got me doubting my amazing animal magnetism. Of course she said yes. She’s probably just been holding out all of this time just to prove to herself that she could resist my manly charms. I guess it was just too much of a struggle and she finally had to give in.” Sirius laughed. “Well, you better not let her hear you say something like that or she’ll dump you faster than you can say ‘Snitch.’ As for me, I’ll believe it when I see it. Anyway, so what were you doing at practice today? There were at least a dozen times when you could have caught the Snitch but you didn’t.” “I figured I could catch the Snitch any time, so why not wait until we have a healthy lead? As long as we were scoring and keeping the other team from doing so, it would be a good way to ensure a Quidditch cup victory. If I make sure to keep the other Seeker from getting the Snitch, we’d be guaranteed a win. I ran it past the rest of the team, and they said they had no problem with it,” James explained. “Sounds like a good plan to me,” said Sirius. “Maybe we should see if Wormtail has come back from the library yet.” “What’s he doing there?” “Working on our transfiguration homework,” replied Sirius with a sigh. “The assignment on Animagus?” James said in an exasperated voice. “Sometimes I think he might be hopeless.” Sirius let out his usual short, bark-like laugh which was shortly followed by the grumbling of his stomach. “But before we do anything else, let’s stop off by the kitchens. I was going to go earlier but I ran into Dumbledore,” he said. “Which reminds me, I thought of some good ideas for the Marauder’s Map. Most of the stuff is in the books I got from the library, but getting caught by Dumbledore reminded me of something else. We need to put some sort of warning into the map so that we know when someone is coming.” As they walked side by side to the kitchen, James screwed up his face in concentration. A few times he ruffled his hair, as though it would help him think. Before Sirius could ask him what he was thinking about, James stopped walking and his eyes snapped open. He looked triumphant. “I’ve got just the thing. I know a charm that shouldn’t be too difficult to work. It would show the users of the map along with anyone else moving in the castle,” James explained. “Great. I can’t wait to tell Moony, but I guess that will have to wait until tomorrow,” Sirius said. Their thoughts were quickly interrupted when they reached the portrait of fruit. Sirius glanced up and down the corridor to make sure that no one was coming, then tickled the pear in the painting. The portrait hastily swung forward to reveal the Hogwarts kitchens. Dozens of house-elves wearing tea bags hurried forward to greet the two boys. With no difficulty, James and Sirius quickly rounded up quite a large snack. The house-elves bowed and curtsied to them as they rushed all around, eager to please the students. Once the boys had eaten their fill, they nicked a few extra things to give to Peter. They were both in a good mood and whether or not Peter was sort of stupid, he was their friend. Arms full of food, they hurried back up to the Gryffindor common room anxious for the night to arrive. They came together to the portrait of the fat lady. She was dozing lightly so Sirius cleared his throat loudly to get her attention. She opened her eyes and looked down at them. “Password?” “Um, Cervus et Canis,” answered James. The picture swung forward and they went through the portrait hole. Most of the students were still in the common room. A few people were working on homework, but most people were busy celebrating the weekend. Some were playing exploding snap and others were playing wizard chess. Sirius and James both plopped down into some chairs in front of the fireplace. Sirius stretched out his legs and gave a slight yawn. “So, how do you want to kill some time?” he asked his friend. James gave a quick glance to his watch. “Well, we don’t have to wait much longer so we might as well just goof off.” “What else do we ever do,” Sirius chuckled. In the end they settled for what was probably the least constructive thing they could do with their extra time. James pulled out a bag of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, then they took turns eating beans. They each picked out what looked like it might be the worst flavor and made the other eat it. Every time one of them was unlucky enough to get anything particularly disgusting, he would retaliate by sending something flying at the other person. Unfortunately for everyone else in the room, the charmed objects continued to rocket around the room for several more minutes. “Let’s see...” Sirius said as he took a small bite out of another bean. He chewed on the rest of it for a moment then his face twisted into an expression of disgust. “Oh... geeze... I can’t quite put my finger on it... oh no, it’s vomit!” James burst out into a violent fit of laughter. This only spurred Sirius on to new heights. He flicked out his wand and in a moment the chair James was sitting in launched itself fifteen feet in the air. While James seemed to think this was quite hilarious (as did Sirius) most of the rest of the students in the common room didn’t seem to share their feelings. A few girls screamed and many other kids gasped. Some of the students did seem to think it was all quite amusing, and they burst out laughing. Books, chess pieces, and other previously charmed objects flew up near James’ head and he had to dodge out of the way to avoid them. Just as he lit off a few Filibuster Fireworks, which exploded around him as Sirius made him spin, Claire came into the common room through the portrait hole followed by Stu. She had been in the library talking to Ande but her bodyguard had told her it was time for her to head off to bed. As soon as Stewart saw what was happening, and who was behind it, he whipped out his wand. With one carefully worded spell, he put the room back to the way it had been, James, chair, and all. “Hey, what did you do that for?” James asked, once he saw who had put an end to the madness. “Such reckless behavior may accidentally cause Claire serious harm,” he said gruffly. “I cannot allow it to continue.” Claire mumbled an apology to her cousin then headed to her dorm room. After what her sister had told her about their father she was eager to get to sleep and have a few hours of peace. James watched her disappear up the stairs and then Sirius pulled on his sleeve. “We better get going,” Sirius mumbled, glancing meaningfully at his watch. “Oh, right,” said James and he jumped to his feet. “Here, follow me up to the dorm. We’ll put the invisibility cloak on up there.” “What about Wormtail?” “We’ll, find him once we get going.” Sirius nodded and they went up the staircase to get James’ cloak. They loudly pretended to yawn and made a big fuss about going to bed. “Yeah... I’m just s-so worn out,” Sirius said through a fake yawn. “All that magic and... er... beans.” In a moment they were up the stairs and into their dorm room. They pulled there hangings closed to make it look like they were really asleep. As an extra precaution, they stuffed some pillows under their blankets in case anyone bothered to check that they were actually in bed. James pulled his invisibility cloak out of his trunk and the two boys got under it. They quietly opened the door again and sneaked down the stairs. When they reached the portrait hole again, Sirius let off a firework as a distraction. While everyone watched it explode across the room, they opened the portrait and slipped out. Before they reached the main doors, they finally found Peter. He was wandering the corridors, looking completely lost. “Hey, Wormtail, over here,” James hissed. Peter spun around and looked terrified. “Who’s there?!” he yelped. “I-I-I’m not afraid of ghosts!” The two cloaked boys sighed. They pulled off part of the invisibility cloak so that their heads were showing. “It’s just us,” Sirius said in exasperation. A look of relief spread across Peter’s face. James quickly hurried him under the cloak so that they were all invisible again. Peter whispered, “I don’t know, you guys. After those Death Eaters... what if we get caught or something?” Sirius rolled his eyes. “Come on, Wormtail, you’re with us. How could you not be at ease with us at your side?” Peter was silent as they continued on their way again, now speeding up a bit to meet up with Remus in the Shrieking Shack. The cool grass swept beneath their feet as they silently passed over the grounds, making it appear as though a breeze was snaking its way toward the Whomping Willow. As they neared the magical tree, its branches began to lash angrily. Just as James was about to tell Peter to transform into a rat he heard a noise that made him freeze. Someone was walking loudly over the grounds nearby. The three boys glanced around them and breathed a sigh of relief when they saw Hagrid. He was singing to himself, a bit red in the face, and he seemed oblivious to all else. “All right Wormtail, time to transform,” James whispered as soon as Hagrid passed into his hut. In an instant, where there had been a short boy of sixteen, there was now a small, grey rat. By the time Peter had woven through the lashing branches and pressed the knot at the base of the trunk, Sirius had also transformed. The large black dog was wagging his tail happily, excited about the night before them. Sirius and Peter passed through the hole in the trunk. They would be going in to get Remus while James waited outside since it was difficult for him to fit into the tunnel in his transformed state. Sirius lead the way down the tunnel as Peter followed close after him. The closer they got to the Shrieking Shack the more carefully they tread. Just before the end of the tunnel, Peter paused and Sirius went ahead. If Remus had already changed into a werewolf it would be important for Sirius to make sure he was under control. Sirius passed into the house and saw broken furniture strewn across the floor. Sitting in one of the few pieces of unbroken chairs was Remus Lupin. His entire body appeared tense and his face was grave; the moon had not yet risen but soon he would transform. His eyes strayed to the door where he saw a big shaggy dog. “Hello Padfoot,” Remus said with a very strained smile, to which Sirius responded with a nod. It was then that the moon finally rose. Sirius watched as his friend went entirely rigid and then he started to shake. Sirius was transfixed; it was horrible but he had never actually seen one of Remus’ transformations. Lupin’s body was contorting and he hunched over in his seat as a wave of fur spread across his skin. Hands were replaced by paws and his head had turned into the snapping, snarling guise of a wolf. As the metamorphosis completed, Remus slipped from the chair. For a moment he seemed the embodiment of anger as he reared then bit anything in sight. The chair he had just been sitting in as a human was shattered. Lupin’s jaws closed around one of its legs and he thrashed it about. Then he saw Sirius again. At first Remus didn’t seem to recognize Black. He swiped a paw at the dog’s muzzle but Sirius did not flinch. He knew that Remus would come to his senses as long as he didn’t further provoke him. Suddenly Remus did come to his senses. There was a strange flicker in his eyes and he became calm. He followed after Black and they both passed into the tunnel where Peter was waiting. The fat rat scurried a few feet ahead of them and all three of them emerged from the hole in the Whomping Willow after Peter pressed the knot to avoid an assault from the tree. Waiting for them was a handsome stag; it was James. The motley group walked casually over the grounds. Sirius and James flanked the werewolf Lupin and Peter trailed behind, slightly afraid of being eaten by Remus. Earlier they had all made plans together about where they would go. Tonight they had decided they would explore Hogwarts. It would be risky- they could be caught, they could run into someone, and any number of other things could go wrong- which is why they had to do it. They loved the thrill from the danger. Clouds were obscuring the full moon so even though they couldn’t travel under the invisibility cloak any more they were still practically invisible. The only bit of Sirius that could be seen was his glowing eyes so he acted as a look-out. He slunk along like a shadow with his nose to the air. If anyone came along he would smell them, and in case he didn’t, Peter was flitting around. They reached the front doors without seeing anybody. Earlier James had placed a block at the base of the large wooden doors so that they were kept open a crack. This way they would be able to slip easily into the school in their animal forms. Once they were in, James hid the block in an out of the way spot by pushing it with his nose. As silently as they could they moved up the main staircase, with James’s hooves tapping lightly on each step. On their previous searches through the castle they had been into the dungeons and up to the third floor. They had already found a number of secret passages including one on their last journey into the castle the month before; a tunnel in the hump of the statue of the one-eyed witch in the third floor corridor. Now it was off to the fourth floor. As soon as they were there, Peter scrabbled around a corner to make sure there was no one there. The coast was clear so they continued on. Sirius padded along at Remus’ side and James took the lead. Empty classrooms lined the corridor which they investigated. They wanted to be sure to get a good look at everything because they could never be quite sure what odd place would be the next location for a secret passageway. Once or twice along the way they had a close call with ghosts. First Nearly-Headless Nick went gliding through a wall with the Fat Friar and all four of the friends had to duck behind a tapestry which hung before a passage they had discovered ages ago. Then, as they were searching an empty room for anything promising, the Bloody Baron came drifting through the open door. Sirius, Remus, and Peter all ducked under the desks but James had a bit more of a problem concealing himself. He crawled under the large teacher’s desk and turned his head sideways so that his antlers would fit. The Bloody Baron seemed distracted by something else, however, and he glided out of the room as suddenly as he had come, grumbling angrily to himself. They slipped out of the room too, glad to have escaped detection. They continued their search of the fourth floor for a few hours, wanting to do a thorough search. Each new passage they discovered brought with it a chance for new adventure. At last they found what they were looking for. They came upon a mirror and when James accidentally bumped it with his antlers while looking into it they heard a hollow sound come from behind it. There had to be some sort of space behind the mirror. As Sirius had gotten to be the best at opening things while transformed, it came down to him to try to open it. If they needed their wands to get in they would have to wait until the next day to try to open it. Luckily they needed simply to pull it open. With a bit of scratching and pulling, Sirius found a latch at the base of the mirror. He lifted the latch with one claw but before he could pull back the mirror his ears pricked up. Sirius glanced over his shoulder and saw that the others had heard something to. All heads were turned left, where the noise had originated; someone around the corner was whistling. Hastily James looked for a place for them to hide. If they didn’t get far, Remus might become dangerous. He had sensed a human and a low, rumbling growl was escaping his throat. With a placating wag of his tail, Sirius calmed Remus. There was only one place they could go; behind the mirror. Sirius pulled open the mirror and they quickly packed into the hidden corridor. Once the mirror had been pulled shut, they listened raptly for any sign that the person had passed. While they were listening Sirius realized that in their haste they had shut Peter outside. They heard a panicked squeak as the footsteps drew nearer. Things only got worse when they noticed a second pair of footsteps. The voices that came along with the footfalls seemed to be their final doom. “They must be here somewhere Headmaster. I’ve got them this time the little, dirty wretches. Oh won’t you let me bring out the whips on this one. I’d love to-” “Now Argus, what did you say you saw?” Dumbledore asked, interrupting Filch’s rant; so now they knew that Dumbledore and Filch were out there. “I was searching the corridors for some of the filthy troublemakers, always tracking in dirt and mud, when I found this,” Filch replied with his usual vindictive tone. Sirius and James wished they could see what it was Filch had found. They seemed to have stopped a few yards from their hiding place. Their voices caught Remus’ attention, however, and his natural werewolf instincts started to reemerge again. His teeth were bared and he was growling quietly. He could do no harm from where he was, but if he started to make too much noise then their hiding place would be found. Neither James nor Sirius wanted to think of what would happen if either Dumbledore or Filch opened up the mirror to investigate. Quite apart from expulsion, someone would undoubtedly get on the worse end of a werewolf bite. Carefully James used his antlers to guide his friend deeper into the passageway while Sirius stayed to listen to what was happening out in the corridor. Apparently Dumbledore hadn’t understood what Filch was showing him and had asked what it was because Filch was in the middle of an explanation when Sirius turned his attention back to the conversation. “- was propped in the door. I reckon some student left it there trying to let someone or something in.” Sirius’ heart dropped. It must be the block of wood James had left so that they could all get inside. Before he could think of what his meant for them, Filch started talking again. “I didn’t remove it because I wanted to catch the rat in the act, but then Peeves started raising an uproar in the Great Hall. I only left for a moment but when I came back the block had been removed and pushed into a corner.” “I still do not see why this required my presence, Argus,” Dumbledore said in a kindly voice as the pair began walking forward again. When the footsteps drew nearer, Sirius heard a panicked squeak. Ugh, Peter, the stupid git, he hadn’t taken the time to run away. He had just sat there in the shadows. Sirius tried to think of a way that he could help out but knew there was nothing he could do without giving himself away as well as possibly Remus and James. A rat in a castle was understandable yet, he did not think that a dog, a stag, and a werewolf would be as easily ignored. He could only listen and hope for the best. “This isn’t the only time, Headmaster,” Filch said. “On other nights I’ve seen odd things; classroom doors opened, desks moved around, strange noises, and... a rat!!” “A rat? I hardly think that is a cause for alarm. And the other things may well have been Peeves.” “No. A rat right there! They’ve let in rats!” Filch shrieked. “Oh, I’ll get them this time.” The voices were coming from right outside the door now and Sirius could hear Peter trying to claw his way behind the mirror. He groaned in his head. If the idiot carried on that way he’d give them all away. “Stupefy,” said Dumbledore. “There, the rat is incapacitated. We can check the vicinity for more rats and then pick this one up for evidence. I assure you Argus, I will take the necessary action if students are behind this but until then we must assume we just have a bit of a poltergeist problem.” Filch seemed satisfied by this. A student or Peeves would be reprimanded so either way he would be happy. Meanwhile, as the two adults walked away, Sirius tried frantically to think about what to do about Peter. If he left him there he would probably be thrown in a cage or worse. Not to mention, if Peter just disappeared they would probably do a search of the area then they might find the hidden passage. The only thing to do would be for them all to get out of there. Quickly, Sirius went down the passage and got the others to follow him. He nudged the mirror open then picked Peter up by his worm tail. After a hasty glance in both directions down the corridor he assured himself the coast was clear for the moment and he scampered down the stairs toward the entrance hall. Followed by Remus and James, he rushed out the doors, over the grounds, and to the Whomping Willow. With a bit of swift maneuvering on his part, Sirius pressed the knot on the trunk and all four of them traveled down the tunnel toward the Shrieking Shack. After some difficulty they all managed to make their way through the tunnel and to safety inside the house. Sirius dropped Peter down onto the bed upstairs then lay down there himself. Tired but happy, the big, shaggy black dog wagged his tail. They had almost been seen three times tonight, they had found a new secret passage, and Peter had gotten stunned, so all in all, it was just the kind of night he and James lived for. Authors' note: You think you're done?! You ain't seen nohin' yet! One more part to go. And as anxious as you are to read it, leave a review for this chapter first!

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