Research, Bad Potions, and Tryouts
School didn’t officially start for two days, as they returned to the castle on a Friday. The boys spent a good majority of the weekend lazing out on the grounds, enjoying the sunlight before they were confined to the walls of the castle doing their schoolwork. The weather seemed to also be enjoying the free time; the skies had never been a clearer blue. James, Sirius, Remus and Peter lounged around under a beech tree by the lake, skipping stones, watching the Giant Squid as it propelled itself around the water, and talking about their plans for the coming year. They were joined occasionally by Frank Longbottom, who could not help but tell them every detail about his summer in Amsterdam with his parents.
However, when the topic veered too closely to their research of Remus, the three boys would grow silent and pretend that they did not see the curious looks Remus was giving them. James would laugh awkwardly and change the subject to something as random as the grass growing or how fast they could skip stones in the lake. Sirius and Peter would grasp the subject with a strange fondness, an action that only increased Remus’s interest. On Sunday, in particular, James, Sirius and Peter disappeared for the entire day. They weren’t in any of their usual spots – the common room, the dormitory, or out on the grounds. Remus strongly doubted that they would be in the library (which was actually where they were) – they did their best to avoid that room. He tried occupying his time with his camera, taking pictures out on the grounds. It was only around dinner when his friends reappeared and they pointblank refused to tell him where they had been.
Monday dawned and the boys found themselves sitting, once again, in the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom during first period. They had all defiantly sat in the back, as they had been denied this the previous year, and waited with slight apprehension for the teacher. They couldn’t help but wonder if Professor Jones was anything like Professor Crane. They knew that he didn’t share the mean sneer that Crane constantly wore. This was an upside. Unlike last year, they were joined by the Ravenclaws, who were also looking nervous about their new professor.
Professor Jones entered the room and smiled at his class. They knew at that moment they were not dealing with the same type of man. Jones had the decency to at least smile at his charges; they had never seen the corners of Professor Crane’s mouth turn up. They believed him incapable of doing so. He laid his briefcase on the desk and unhinged it. He shifted through his papers and came out with a scroll.
“Role call, then, shall we?” he asked in a light, airy voice, his eyes surveying the students. “Anderson, Susan. Black, Sirius. Chang, Simon. Evans, Lily. Fort, Emily. Gordon, Alice. James, Sally. Longbottom, Frank. Lovegood, Xenophilius. Lupin, Remus. Patil, Jensen. Pettigrew, Peter. Porter, Mary. Potter, James.” Jones rolled up the scroll when he saw that the entire class was present and stuffed it back into his case. He stowed his briefcase under his desk and turned to the class. “I am Professor Jones; I will be your new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.” He sat down on his desk and cracked his knuckles loudly. “I was told that you did not have a pleasant experience with your previous teacher.” The class nodded vehemently. “I hope to change that.”
They spent an enjoyable period learning about creatures known as Cornish Pixies. They could be described as blue, loud, and squeaky. The boys found them amusing, though rather pointless, while the girls found them adorable. Professor Jones saw this and readily agreed with the boys, claiming that they were only doing this since it was the first day back. They would advance to something more difficult in the coming lessons. The boys did have fun prodding the pixies with their wands, only to have them squeak angrily at them. When the bell rang, the class left talking gleefully about their new teacher and how they wouldn’t have to drive him away.
“Remus Lupin, come here for a moment, please,” Professor Jones said as the four boys got prepared to head on to Charms. “Tell Professor Flitwick he will be late, please, boys?” he added to James, Sirius and Peter. They nodded, sending Remus questioning glances, and exited the room.
“Yes, Professor?” Remus asked when he approached the desk. He didn’t have the slightest idea as to why the professor needed to speak to him.
“I have it from Professor Dumbledore that Professor Crane was rather prejudiced against you,” Jones said, peering into Remus’s anxious and pale face.
“Just a little,” Remus lied, shifting from one foot to the other.
“I heard that he had you doing a detention on the day of a full moon.”
“I left in time.”
“That doesn’t excuse the man’s behaviour. I just wanted to let you know that you do not have to worry about such actions from me. I will not hold what you are against you.”
Just from the way Professor Jones said it, Remus knew that he meant it. Jones wasn’t going to take advantage of what Remus was and use it to his misfortune the way Crane had. He didn’t know much about this teacher, but just hearing this claim made him think that Professor Jones would be one of their better teachers. “Thank you, Professor.”
“Everyone step back from your cauldrons.”
The Gryffindor second years were currently in their final class of the day – Potions with the Slytherins. They had been busy for the past hour concocting a Swelling Solution for Professor Slughorn. Just as he had done the year before, he offered a prize for the creator of the best potion – a box of Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum. This time around, though, he did not have them working in pairs, which put some students at a disadvantage. Alice Gordon was not the best potions maker, unless she had Lily at her side. Her potion had turned a murky grey colour and was issuing nauseating fumes that were causing the students right next to her, and herself, to gag. Abrac Zabini’s potion had turned completely solid and he was furiously trying to crack the surface with his wand.
Professor Slughorn was peering into Lily’s cauldron; he gave her a beaming smile and whispered something that was probably an overwhelming accolade. He did the same after passing James and Sirius. He gave Peter’s potion an approving nod as he looked it over. When he reached Remus’s potion, disaster struck. The moment his nose came fully over the cauldron top, the potion exploded. Remus gaped in horror as his potion did the exact opposite of what it was supposed to do. Slughorn’s nose did not swell to an unnatural size; rather it began to shrink until it was the size of a button. James and Sirius had ducked out of the way in time, sensing the danger. Remus was by far the worst potion brewer in the class; his potions never had the desired effects unless he was working with someone else.
Peter and Remus were not as lucky and were splashed with the defective potion. Peter’s arm suddenly barely reached past his chest, and Remus’s fingers were only a centimetre long. Several of the Slytherins, even the ones who had produced less than standard potions, were laughing cruelly.
“Quiet,” Slughorn snapped. He rubbed his large hand over the space where his nose had once been full grown and sighed. He flourished his wand and the area where the potion had splashed was cleared. “Come here, boys.” He led Remus and Peter to the head of the classroom and began fishing through the shelves of potions.
“What an idiot,” Snape laughed. Snape was one of Slughorn’s favourite student and more than often he made the potions using methods different from those that the book instructed. Of course he would laugh at anyone whose potion blew up.
“Shut up, Snape,” James snarled.
Snape turned around, sneering at James, but otherwise he said nothing. Once the bell rang James and Sirius hung around at the back of the room for Remus and Peter, who were still up at the front of the room. Slughorn appeared to be having a conversation with Remus, and it was one that Remus clearly disliked. He was fervently shaking his head and, from reading his lips, James and Sirius could see that he was telling Slughorn “no” many times. When Slughorn realised his plight was worthless, he released the two boys.
“I’m so sorry, Peter,” Remus said as they joined James and Sirius. Remus was rubbing the palm of his hands over his fingers, making sure they were still there.
“Its fine,” Peter said, rubbing his previously shrunken arm.
“What was Slughorn talking to you about, Remus?” Sirius asked, readjusting the strap on his bag.
Remus grimaced. “He wanted Snape to tutor me.”
James and Sirius gasped in horror. “Bloody hell no,” they blurted out.
“I know,” Remus agreed, shuddering at the thought. “I think I managed to talk him out of it.” He glanced over his shoulder back at the classroom. “If I needed anyone to tutor me, I’d ask one of you three. You’re just as good as Snape is. Or maybe even Lily would help me.”
“I doubt Evans would,” James muttered.
“She doesn’t hate me, James.”
“I don’t even understand why she hates me in the first place.”
The others thought it best not to answer that question. Lily’s true thoughts about James were rather cruel, and they didn’t want to expose him to them. They headed up to Gryffindor Tower to deposit their belongings in the dormitory before heading down to the Great Hall for dinner. As they were walking through the Entrance Hall after coming back downstairs, Sirius brought up Professor Jones.
“He seems pretty cool.”
“Better than Crane,” Peter said.
“That’s not exactly hard to do.”
They entered the Great Hall and took their usual seats at the Gryffindor table. The golden platters were filled with dinner and the boys, terribly hungry, loaded up their dishes.
“When do Quidditch tryouts start?” James asked as he stabbed a potato onto his fork.
Sirius shrugged. “How should I know?”
“Check the notice board in the common room,” Remus suggested, taking a swig of pumpkin juice.
“Yeah, I’ll do that later.”
James was eager to get onto the Gryffindor team. The team had not won a championship in three years, an occurrence that was often called pathetic by every house in the school, including the Gryffindors. It wasn’t as though the team was bad; it was just that there were one or two weak links. The good news was that the weak links had graduated and two Chaser positions had opened up. James always played Chaser whenever he scrimmaged at home, though he was often found to be playing with the Golden Snitch. He loved goal scoring more than he did Seeking.
When dinner concluded the boys trooped up to Gryffindor Tower. The moment they stepped through the portrait hole James made a beeline for the notice board. He saw, with immense satisfaction, that the tryouts were to be held that Friday. He therefore decided to skive off his homework and head down to the Quidditch Pitch and practise. Sirius, Remus and Peter did not object to his decision, as they had been given a very small amount of work. James dashed up to the dormitory to retrieve his Silver Arrow and left for the pitch, not returning until late that night. He wanted that place and he was determined get it.
Friday rolled around all too quickly for James’s liking. He was confident that he might make the team, but he had spent the majority of his free time observing the competition and he knew that some were better than him. Then again, there were a fair number who were dreadful. He had gone out every night to practise on his own, using the Quaffle with the permission of Madam Sparks. Of course he didn’t have a Chaser up there with him. He thought once or twice about asking his friends to help him. Sirius came with him once, mumbling about how he disliked playing Quidditch when he had better things to do. Peter and Remus, who tried numerous times to skive off their flying lessons in first year, pointblank refused to play Keeper for James. They didn’t fancy falling off their brooms.
All through their lessons on Friday James could be found staring distractedly out the window, even in the rooms that did not face the Quidditch Pitch. In Transfiguration, his favourite class, Professor McGonagall began to reprimand him for not completing the task at hand – transfiguring an animal into a water goblet – before Sirius pointed out that he was nervous about the tryouts. Professor McGonagall was probably the only faculty member who could compete with the students for the title of Most Obsessed Over Quidditch. She therefore did not deduct any points from Gryffindor and actually gave James a few helpful tips.
The weather was perfect: The sky was a clear blue, there were little to no clouds, and the wind was minimal, which was nowhere near enough to cause any disruptions in anyone’s flying. James skipped dinner, fearing that food would not remain in his stomach, and headed down to the pitch to get one more practise session in. When he arrived he saw that he was not the only one who had this idea. The sky was filled with at least a dozen students, whipping about in the air. He was pleased to see that four of the twelve were first years and had no prayer whatsoever. The other eight competitors seemed to have more than a decent handle on flying and could handle a Quaffle quite well. Deciding that the air was too full for him to practise, he took a seat in the stands.
After a half hour the Gryffindor team appeared, wearing their scarlet robes and grasping their broomsticks. The captain, sixth year Cory Hamilton, was standing in the lead, clipboard in one hand and whistle in the other. He blew the whistle and waved his arm wildly for the students to land. James dashed over to join them, dragging his Silver Arrow along with him. Hamilton placed them into two groups – one of the lowerclassmen and one of the upperclassmen. The upperclassmen group, which consisted of six students, went first and James concluded that the only real competition was Jamie Kirkland. Compared to her, the others looked absolutely frightful.
Hamilton sent the first group to the stands to wait for the final decision, while he sent out the second group. The moment James saw who he was up against he knew he had the spot. The lowerclassmen group consisted of seven students from first to fourth years. Four of the seven students were first years and barely knew how to fly, let alone hold their brooms the correct way. The remaining three included himself, third year Becky Frasier, and fourth year John Hollander. Frasier was a good player, though she unintentionally sent the Quaffle whizzing at Chaser Lawrence Biggs’s head. Biggs didn’t duck in time and, as a result, was carted off to the Hospital wing by the two Beaters, Gina Reynolds and Anthony Mitchell. James could see Hamilton clicking his tongue and shaking his head as he scribbled on his clipboard. Hollander was also a skilled player and could have possibly beaten James out, but he was more committed to his other activities. He would rather go to a meeting of the Gobstones Club than play Quidditch. This announcement did not bode well with Hamilton.
Because Biggs had been sent to the Hospital Wing, Hamilton, who really played Seeker, announced Jamie Kirkland as one of the new Chasers, and she joined him so James could have his tryout. Hamilton tossed him the Quaffle and James weaved his way around the pitch until he reached the goalposts and feigned throwing the ball through the left goalpost, causing the Keeper, Oliver Pulliman, to dive that way so the middle hoop was clear for James to score. James worked well with the two and Hamilton noticed this. As James was returning to the ground after his tryout, Hamilton flew past him, winked and nodded his approval.
The older students who knew that they had been denied the second Chaser position left the pitch in a mutinous huff, while the rest gathered around Hamilton. Hamilton consulted his clipboard only briefly before tucking it under his arm and looking at the group.
“Well, you all already know that Jamie has gotten the first spot,” he said, gesturing to a beaming Jamie. The crowd clapped, somewhat unenthusiastically. “Now, listen, if you didn’t make it this time, try out again next time there’s an opening. Maybe Chasing isn’t your thing. The second spot goes to James Potter.”
The first years left in the same angry way as the first group, while Hollander and Frasier stuck around long enough to clap James on the back and congratulate him. They had to stay at the pitch a little while longer so Hamilton could give them the practise schedules he had drawn up and to try on their robes. When the team dispensed back to the castle, James was joined by Remus.
“Brilliant, James,” he said cheerfully.
“Thanks mate,” James said, grinning broadly. “Hey, where are Sirius and Peter?” He had just noticed they were two people short.
“Discussing detention with McGonagall.”
“Sirius hexed Snape for no reason.”
“So why did Peter get detention too?”
“I think Snape thought Peter was going to get him too… I dunno, really, I wasn’t there.”
“Where were you?”
“Hospital Wing. Stepped on my bad leg kind of funny and had to get something to get it to stop hurting.”
James said nothing to this. He had wondered if his friend’s leg had really fully healed. It didn’t seem to be bothering him at the present, he was walking fine. He searched around for something else to talk about. “Did you see all the tryouts?”
Remus shook his head. “I got down here after that kid said he couldn’t miss Gobstones or something.”
“Oh, Hollander. Yeah, he wouldn’t miss that for Quidditch.”
They walked back up to the castle talking excitedly about James making the team and how the team actually stood a chance of winning this time. They entered the giant double doors into the Entrance Hall only to see several professors standing in a crowd. At first, the boys thought something bad had happened, but it ended up just being Peeves letting down a chandelier. They could see the tip of Filch’s broomstick sticking out amongst the sea of hats belonging to the teachers. James and Remus smirked at each other – Filch had a vendetta against Peeves the Poltergeist.
The common room was full and very rowdy, owing to the selection of the new Quidditch team members. James received several congratulations; Lily Evans even made her way over to tell him he deserved it. Remus side glanced at James and saw a strange, dreamy look had spread across his face. Remus laughed to himself and pushed James in the direction of Sirius and Peter, who were both sitting, highly disgruntled, by the window. When they sat down, Sirius and Peter sat up straight and tried to smile genuinely for their friend.
“You got a detention while I was gone?” James asked in a voice suggesting that he was their father.
“It’s all Sirius’s fault,” Peter muttered, jabbing a finger into Sirius’s shoulder.
“I didn’t do anything!” Sirius snapped defensively.
“Snape grew those tentacles on his own, did he?”
“I think it was an improvement.” Sirius dug under his seat and pulled out a photo. “I even got a picture.”
“You stole my camera,” Remus said at once.
“Well, it was just lying there on your bed.”
James ripped the photo from Sirius’s hand and observed it. There were tentacles swarming out of Snape’s ear holes and nostrils. For a photo that Sirius must have taken very quickly, he certainly captured his handiwork. He was right, it was an improvement. He handed the photo to Remus, who could barely contain the laugh that was threatening to come out. He gave the picture back to Sirius.
“I forgive you for stealing my camera,” he said. “But I’m locking it up from now on.”
“I’ll just unlock it.”
“I won’t tell you where it is.” He stood up and ran off to the dormitory to do just that.
“Anyway,” Sirius went on, tucking the photo back in his pocket. “Nice one, mate. I knew you’d make it.”
“Yeah, good work, James,” Peter said, nodding fervently.
“Thanks guys.” He pulled distractedly on the sleeve of his Quidditch robes. “So, how’d you catch Snape?”
“We were walking by McGonagall’s classroom, which probably wasn’t the best place to do it. But we were on our way back from helping Remus to the Hospital Wing, and Snape was there and… well, you saw the result,” Sirius explained.
“How’d he hurt his leg?”
“Blame Sirius,” Peter said, throwing Sirius a reproachful look. “Remus was walking too slowly for Sirius and he shoved him to move faster. He stepped on his bad leg too hard and hurt it.”
“Remus didn’t say that.”
“Good man, covered up for me,” Sirius said smugly.
“You know, I just thought of another time he had to go visit his mother,” James said unexpectedly. “Remember last year when Crane gave us our first detention? It was on September fifth. Remus was panicking the second Crane said the date.”
“I didn’t think of that,” Sirius said, taking in the information. “You can go add it to that book of yours.”
“He left sometime around Halloween too,” Peter piped up. “A day or two after it, I think.”
“And he couldn’t come to my house the week of the twenty third. He said it was a bad week for him.”
“Well, it was.”
“But how could he have known that was going to happen?”
“What are you talking about?”
James, Sirius and Peter jumped in their spots and saw that Remus had returned. He was regarding them with a suspicious look, like he knew they were talking about him. Remus knew that every time people abruptly stopped talking when he walked into the room meant that they were talking about him. His friends had been doing this quite a lot recently and he didn’t like it.
“Nothing,” they said feebly.
“You always seem to be talking about something important and stop the second I come in.”
“It’s nothing, Remus,” James said in what he hoped was a believable voice. “Honestly.”
Remus didn’t question them any further; he only sat down and listened as James described the tryouts in full detail to Sirius and Peter. They were up to something and they weren’t letting him in on it. Their hasty endings to conversations and their strange absence over the weekend were making him feel uncomfortable. And he didn’t like it.
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