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Chapter Twenty Six

“Sirius, get back here.”

“No way, I’m getting him good.”

“He wasn’t doing anything to you.”

“He was breathing, that’s good enough.”

Remus caught up to Sirius, who was tailing his brother all the way down to the dungeons. Remus had not been entirely truthful when he said that Regulus had done nothing to Sirius. He had not done anything on that particular day, but he had during the week. The youngest Black had written home to inform his parents of Sirius’s latest escapades. Sirius’s behaviour included hospitalizing Severus Snape and Abrac Zabini. It was supposed to be an innocent prank, or at least as innocent as they could have made it. It backfired… Snape and Zabini were now in the care of Madam Pomfrey with noses that were long enough to compete with Pinocchio. The boys were serving a week of detention and Mr. and Mrs. Black were not pleased with their son. Sirius really didn’t mind that they were mad; he just didn’t feel like hearing them at home.

“Sirius, you can’t hurt your brother.”

“Who says I can’t?”

“I’m sure a lot of people would back me up on this.” When Sirius didn’t look convinced, Remus added, “McGonagall’s already hinting about banning you from the Hogsmeade trip if you keep this up.”

The first Hogsmeade trip of the year fell on October the twenty eighth. Every student, third year and up (but predominantly the third years), was looking forward to this more than anything else. Remus knew that Sirius would not want to miss this for something as stupid as an easily avoided detention. Sirius relaxed his grip on his wand and let his arm fall to his side. He glanced up the corridor and saw that Regulus had successfully escaped, though he had no idea that he was being tailed. Angrily, he rounded on Remus.

“Happy now?”

“At least you’re not going to miss the Hogsmeade trip now,” Remus shot back irritably.

“It would’ve been fun to see what I could do to him.”

“Of course, loads of fun. I know you hate your family, Sirius, but sometimes you push it a bit.”

“Because you know all about what it’s like having annoying, suck ups for siblings.”

Something flashed behind Remus’s eyes that made Sirius take a cautious step back. “You’re right, Sirius, I don’t. But, in case you haven’t noticed, it’s because of me that my parents decided not to have any more kids. I’d rather have an annoying brother than have none at all.”

Sirius frowned; he hadn’t meant what he said to come out the way it had. “You know I didn’t mean it like that.”

“I know you didn’t. I’ve just been… well, you know.”

Sirius did know what his friend was talking about. Earlier in the week Remus had received a letter from his father, saying that his grandparents were not getting any better. The Healers still didn’t know what was wrong with his grandfather, and his grandmother was faring no better. Mr. Lupin didn’t come right out and say it, but Remus knew that his grandparents didn’t have much time left. James, Sirius and Peter had been avoiding the subject as best as they could.

Sirius sighed and replaced his wand in his pocket. “How about this – I won’t hex my brother for another three weeks?”

Remus grinned slightly. “You’ll probably forget by then.”

“Do you doubt my memory skills?”

“I would if there were any to doubt.”

“Mr. Lupin, I am insulted.” The alarm on Sirius’s watch went off. “Come on, detention awaits! Let’s make James and Peter scrub the cauldrons this time. I’m not going near any after I found a rat spleen in that one.”

The morning of October the twenty eighth dawned sunny, but with a vicious chill in the air. The five boys in Gryffindor’s third year dormitory were up before Frank’s alarm clock sounded; each of them was far too eager for the trip to think about sleeping. They waited, rather impatiently, in the dormitory before deciding that it was time to go to breakfast. They collected their cloaks, filling their pockets with whatever money they could find, and headed down to the Great Hall. The Great Hall was packed with students chatting happily about the day’s trip. James, Sirius, Remus and Peter were sitting in their usual seats at the Gryffindor table, mapping out their day’s activities.

They wanted to hit Zonko’s Joke Shop and stock up on their prank supplies. Dervish and Banges was another establishment they hoped to visit. Honeydukes was on their list. They couldn’t possibly go to Hogsmeade without taking advantage of the sweet shop. They had heard from the older students about the local pub, the Three Broomsticks. It was a good place to stop by when the weather became unbearably chilly. The forecast for the day, according to the Daily Prophet, was predicted as growing colder as the afternoon wore on. They would go to the pub once they checked out all the stores, unless the forecast was wrong and it turned cold early than anticipated. Either way, the boys knew that the Three Broomsticks could expect an appearance from them at one point of the day.

When the students began queuing up the boys joined up at the back of the line, checking the pockets of their robes to make sure that they had all the money they would need. Argus Filch was at the head of the line, checking off the students that were permitted to enter the village, all the while wearing a disgruntled expression. It was a well known fact that Filch loathed the trips into Hogsmeade for the pure reason that it meant more cleanups for him. It was one of the many trials of being a Squib. The students would go to Zonko’s, buy every bit of mayhem they could, and he would have to tidy up the results.

“Come on, come on, move along,” he was barking, checking off the names on his clipboard. “No permission slip, no entry!” He muttered angrily under his breath. “Demons… with their Frog Spawn and their Dungbombs.”

The boys snickered as they trooped past Filch, already dreaming up the many ways in which they could make the caretaker’s worst nightmares become reality. The walk to Hogsmeade seemed to take no time at all, and within a matter of minutes they were standing on the cobblestone streets of the village of Hogsmeade. There were stores to both sides of them; so many that they did know where to start.

“Let’s go to Honeydukes,” Remus immediately suggested.

“No, Zonko’s first,” James said.

“What about Dervish and Banges?” Peter asked.

“Why not all three?” Sirius offered jokingly. His friends looked at him. “Look, let’s go to Honeydukes first, hit Zonko’s go to Dervish and Banges, and then go to the Three Broomsticks for a drink.”

And they did just that. They joined the throng of students headed towards the sweet shop. Honeydukes was fit to burst with Hogwarts students who were all sifting ravenously through the barrels and shelves of candies. The boys wove their way through a group of Ravenclaw sixth years who were grabbing handfuls of Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans out of a barrel that was almost as tall as Peter.

“Look at all this chocolate,” Remus said, gazing in amazement at the shelves full of different flavoured chocolate bars.

“I think Remus has found his heaven,” James said as he picked through the stacks of Cauldron Cakes. He and Remus began filling their arms with their favourite sweets, while Peter and Sirius attacked the Chocolate Frogs and Fizzing Whizzbees. They checked out the counter that had the unusual tastes, deciding whether or not they should buy the Blood Pops. They only ended their debate when Sirius bought one for his brother, thinking that he could tell Regulus it was cherry flavoured. After nearly twenty minutes of stocking up on anything that could make their teeth rot, the boys exited Honeydukes and made their way to the infamous Zonko’s Joke Shop. Zonko’s was filled with the more mischievous set of students, all of whom were observing the display that the owners were showing at the centre of the store.

Two of the owners of the store were putting on a show of the results of Frog Spawn. One of the owners was producing frogs by the second and the second was catching them on his head, his hands, and between his toes. The students watching were cheering loudly, yelling for more. The owners, after bowing extravagantly, scoured the store for more items they could use for demonstration. James, Sirius, Remus and Peter laughed as the owners pulled out a set of Biting Tea Cups and started setting them after each other. There were so many prank items; they had no idea where they should start.

“Look at these!” James exclaimed, shoving a handful of Resizable Wands into Sirius’s arms. “They shrink so much you can’t find them or they grow so big they’re impossible to use.”

“I think these have Slytherin written all over them,” Sirius laughed.

“What about these?” Remus asked, holding up a packet of Stink Pellets. “There has to be someone we can use this on.”

James grinned evilly. “I know I can think of a few.” He picked up a small, round package with the label Fanged Frisbees. “These look interesting.” He observed the picture on the box and saw that it looked like a regular Muggle Frisbee, but it bore fangs and growled, spitting, at whoever dared pass it.

“Amazing Filch hasn’t banned those yet,” Peter mused when he saw what James had.

James shook his head. “They’re pretty recent, he probably hasn’t heard of them yet.” He added it to his supply. “I think we can change that.”

The boys exited Zonko’s nearly an hour later, each clutching a bag full of prank products. The weather was growing dangerously chilly, sooner than they had anticipated. Peter agreed to bypass Dervish and Banges so they could warm up at the Three Broomsticks. They would go to Peter’s choice the next time they visited the village. It seemed that their fellow classmates had the same idea they had, as they met a dozen or more students heading in the same direction they were. Some of the more lovesick students veered off, presumably to Madam Puddifoot’s, but most everyone moved on to the pub.

The Three Broomsticks was a warm, pleasantly loud pub that was filled to the capacity with Hogwarts students. Every table was filled to the maximum and only seats remained at the bar where a young, pretty woman was currently filling a glass for their fellow third year Ravenclaw, Xenophilius Lovegood. To their luck, there were four empty seats beside the Ravenclaw and they grabbed them before anyone else thought to. Removing their cloaks, the boys inspected the taps behind the bar counter, looking to see what the place had to offer.

“Butterbeer sounds good,” Sirius said.

Remus grinned. “My dad always gets it for Christmas, since my grandmum always wants eggnog instead.”

“What the bloody hell is eggnog?”

“Some drink that Muggles have around Christmas. It’s actually really good.” He rubbed his hands together to make them warm. “Don’t you remember having it at my house?”

“Was that what that stuff was?”

“Yes… I told you that.”

Sirius said nothing, but looked mildly surprised.

“How can I help you boys?” The pretty woman behind the bar had appeared in front of them, hands on hips, looking at them expectantly. James and Sirius grinned at each other.

“Why, yes, my fine woman,” Sirius said, suddenly adopting a thicker accent and a royal air. “I would like a warm mug of Butterbeer, as would my fellow comrade, James.” He nudged James in the ribs.

“Ah yes, I would like that, Madam,” James said, taking the same voice as Sirius. “My charming little friend here, Peter, would like a Gillywater… can’t handle his Butterbeer, I’m afraid. Our companion, Remus, on the other hand, would like the largest glass you have of Firewhiskey. He’s a lad who can handle his whiskey.”

Remus rolled his eyes as the barmaid chuckled. “Butterbeer, please,” he told her.

“Of course, gentlemen,” she said before turning to the taps and filled up four mugs of Butterbeer, figuring that Peter did not really wanted a Gillywater. When she had the four glasses filled, she turned back to the boys. “I’m Madam Rosmerta. Third years, aren’t you?”

“Bright lady, you are,” Sirius observed thoughtfully.

“Well, I’ve never seen you four around here before.”

“No you haven’t,” James said, feigning a look of shock. “We should change that.”

“I think it’s time we formally introduced ourselves.” Sirius gestured to himself. “I am Sirius Black, at your service. “This lout over here is James Potter. That fine boy is Peter Pettigrew. And we have the man of few words, Remus Lupin.”

“It’s nice to meet the four of you. I hope to see you all here again.” Madam Rosmerta bustled off to take the orders of Hagrid, who was sitting a few tables back with Professor Kettleburn.

“I like her,” Sirius said.

“Because she put up with your stupidity?” Peter asked, taking a sip out the warm, gingery liquid.

“It is not stupidity, Mr. Pettigrew, it is charm.”

Peter snorted into his drink. He glanced over his shoulder, watching as Hagrid and Kettleburn became engaged in a spirited conversation. “I wonder what’s going to happen to the Flobberworms when it gets really cold.”

In Care of Magical Creatures Professor Kettleburn had been teaching them about Flobberworms, pointless creatures that resembled simple earthworms. None of his students, Gryffindor and Slytherin alike, could understand how they could possibly learn about these slimy creatures for two months. As far as the students were concerned, they wouldn’t be too devastated if the Flobberworms froze to death over the winter. It was cruel, but they were sick of stuffing lettuce down the worms’ disgusting throats. They were ready to advance onto something more interesting, perhaps break into Hagrid’s store of pets.

“Halloween’s this week,” James said conversationally, wiping his mouth of Butterbeer.

“What’s Dumbledore got booked for this year?” Remus asked, blotting out a spot of drink off the counter with his sleeve.

“The Fat Friar is singing something,” Sirius replied. “There’s supposed to be some singing group of House Elves, but I think Peeves will be giving them hell if they come out of the kitchens.”

Remus nodded. “Do you remember what happened the last time he caught them out of the kitchens?”

At the end of September, a group of House Elves ventured out of the kitchens at an unusual time, during the middle of the day. Usually they went out during the night to clean up the common rooms, light the fires. No one was quite sure what made them come out, but before anyone knew what was happening, Peeves had grabbed them mid-flight. He took them on a terrifying trip up and down the Astronomy Tower. Needless to say, the House Elves were petrified to come out of the kitchens. They doubted the poor creatures would come out for the Halloween Feast, they were content themselves with preparing the food.

“Peeves loves interrupting the feasts anyway,” James reminded them. “It doesn’t matter if the House Elves are there or not.”

“The feast was ruined anyway last year,” Peter said, swiveling around the remaining bit of Butterbeer with a spoon he had pulled out from a bin behind the counter. Peter didn’t have to elaborate any further. It was around this time last year that Alice Gordon’s father was killed. The Halloween Feast was held in low spirits as nearly every student wondered how Alice was feeling. As this thought fluttered into their minds, they peered over their shoulders and saw that Alice was sitting with Frank and Lily, smiling but distracted. They had no doubt that she was dwelling on her late father.

“How’s the Animagus training going?” Remus asked, draining the last bits of his drink. He had not been going to their recent training sessions, as Lily had been scheduling Potions tutoring at the same times. He hoped they had progressed, even if only a little.

“James has almost got his Patronus,” Sirius relayed. “But he gets so excited that it goes away before we can tell what it is.”

“You can’t even get that silvery stuff,” James shot back.

Remus intervened before Sirius could think up a retort. “How about you, Peter?”

Peter shook his head sadly. “I still can’t even think up a happy memory.”

“There has to be something.”

“Nothing that I can think of. What did you do? You got yours on your first try.”

“I thought of when you guys accepted me for what I am, that was my happiest memory.” He scratched the back of his neck. “Just think of a time when you were really happy, Pete. It’s not so hard.”

“First I thought of when I finally transfigured something in McGonagall’s class.”

“That’s not good enough, there has to be something better.”

“Then I thought of when I first got my wand.”

“That didn’t work?”

“I thought it would, but nothing happened.”

Remus shrugged. “We’ll help you think of something.”

By the time they exited the pub, after having a lengthy conversation with Madam Rosmerta, there were flurries falling out of the sky. The rest of the students and staff who had been out for the day were heading back to the castle, shaking snowflakes out of their hair and off of their hats. The temperature had dropped considerably. It had not been a hot day, but it had not been at all freezing. By the time they reached the castle the snow was pouring down in buckets.

The marble floors of the Entrance Hall were slippery and squeaking as the students’ shoes rubbed across it. Dinner was going on in the Great Hall; the loud chatter could be heard. The boys bypassed the dining room and headed to Gryffindor Tower to deposit their wet cloaks and change their shoes. They were already discussing the next trip to Hogsmeade, listing the places they would go that they had not gone to this time. They wished they had been able to go to the Post Office, Dervish and Banges, even to the Shrieking Shack (as James and Sirius had managed to convince Remus to go up there on a day when he wasn’t going to turn hairy).

“The Three Broomsticks was cool,” Sirius said, stripping off his cold cloak and hanging it on the posts holding up the curtains around his bed. “But it was freezing out.”

“Winter’s coming early,” Peter surmised, turning his left shoe over and allowing it to drain of water.

“What do you want to do now?” Remus asked, rubbing his arms to keep warm.

“We could always go to the Room of Requirement and continue practising,” James recommended. They had heard it from one of the House Elves that this room was referred to as the Come and Go Room, but that was a name used almost exclusively by the elves. Otherwise it was known as the Room of Requirement.

Peter looked up from tying his shoes. “I thought we were doing that tomorrow.”

James looked slightly put out, but shrugged and mentioned going to the kitchens to see what the House Elves had to offer.

“Dinner’s going on. We can go there if you’re hungry,” Sirius said, sticking his head through a new jumper. “Hopefully Sluggy’s not having another one of his parties.”

James grimaced at the thought. “Those boring things… they’re murder.”

“At least the pheasant wasn’t coming out of you.”

“Well this conversation took a pleasant turn,” Peter said to Remus.

“Yeah, but don’t forget, Pete, we all love hearing about Sirius’s bodily functions.” He ducked as Sirius’s wet socks came flying at his head. “Watch it, Black!”

“You see, the point was to hit you. Whoa!” He moved to the side as Remus’s pillow soared at him. “Nice try, Lupin.”

James joined Peter on the other side of the room. “Looks like we’ve got a show.”

“Ow! Your shoe was in that!”

“Was not!”

“They’re mental, the both of them,” Peter muttered.

“Was too!” Remus turned the pillowcase over and Sirius’s shoe fell out. Sirius looked away innocently. “That was aimed at my head.”

“Not intentionally.”

“Then how do you explain the fact that my head is in pain?”

“Getting a migraine?”

“Yeah, from you.”

“I don’t give head pains, I’m a loveable person.”

Remus stooped down to his knees. “Where’s my biggest book? That one’s going at your face.”

“You better run, Sirius,” Peter advised, ripping open a Chocolate Frog wrapper.

“Yeah, really, mate,” James added as Remus emerged, clutching a four hundred page book.

“You were serious?” Sirius yelped.

“Admit you meant to throw your shoe at me.”

“I didn’t!”

“Yes you did.”

“I did not!”

“Yes you did!”

“I did - hey!” James and Peter had appeared beside them and swung their pillows – James at Sirius and Peter at Remus.

James looked at the two bickerers. “We win. Time for dinner.”

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