Grey Hair, Nicknames and The OWLs
“Hey, Moony, did you know you have grey hair?”
“What did you just call me?”
“Moony! I came up with it yesterday.”
Sirius sighed in an all-knowing way and took the empty seat beside Remus in the library. The OWLs were coming on fast and every fifth year could be seen inhabiting the library at all hours of the day, right up to its closing and they were being shooed out by the librarian. Once the library was closed, they checked out every book they could carry that would help them pass their exams. It was an amusing sight, for the older and younger students, to see the fifth years exit the library with stacks of books were taller than they were. Remus and Peter were taking their studying seriously, looking over every piece of notes they had. James and Sirius, on the other hand, were comfortable saying that they knew everything they needed to know, though sometimes they could be spotted with their heads bent over their textbooks in the corner of the common room.
“I was bored,” Sirius said, as though that explained everything. It should have been expected. Whenever Sirius was bored, he usually came up with something completely random to remedy the situation.
Remus nodded as he scribbled down some key facts about the Goblin Rebellion that he needed to know for History of Magic. “Of course.” He turned the page of his book and scanned the page, looking for anything else that would help him pass his examination. Finding none, he returned his attention to Sirius. “Is it just me with a stupid nickname or has everyone else gotten one?”
Sirius grinned brightly. “Actually, we all have nicknames. James is Prongs. Peter is Wormtail. I’m Padfoot.”
“What the bloody hell is wrong with you?” Remus was now convinced the exams really were getting to his friend. What else would inspire this?
“Think about it; the names all make sense. You’re a werewolf, hence Moony. James’s antlers look like a bloody fork, so he’s Prongs. Peter’s tail looks like a worm, so he became Wormtail.”
Remus smiled sarcastically. “Let me guess – your feet look like pads, so clearly you’re Padfoot?”
“No, I just thought it sounded cool.” Sirius pulled the textbook out from under Remus’s hands and read through the pages. “You have all your notes from first year?” He shook his head; he didn’t even have notes, period.
“Yes.” Remus snatched the book back.
“I don’t even have notes.” He pulled the book back away from Remus and continued to peruse it. “Can I copy yours?”
Remus took the book back again and flipped to the page he had been on. “When I’m done with them.”
“When will that be?”
“When I’m done.” Remus copied down another fact about the Goblin Rebellion he needed to know. “Do James and Peter – err… Prongs and Wormtail - know about these nicknames?”
“Oh yeah, I told them about a half hour ago. They liked them.” James and Peter had thought the nicknames were a wicked idea and James even went so far as to ask why he hadn’t thought of them first. Sirius picked up one of the books that was sprawled across the table and began reading quietly. He was only broken out of this activity by Remus’s suddenly sharp voice.
“Wait a moment… did you say I have grey hair?”
Sirius was, unfortunately, not joking. Remus did, in fact, have prematurely grey hair. Sirius dragged his friend to the bathroom and showed him exactly what he was talking about. He forced Remus in front of the mirror and he could see the light grey hairs on the sides of his head. This wasn’t right, this wasn’t right at all. He wasn’t supposed to begin growing grey hair until he was in his forties, not when he was sixteen! This couldn’t be from the stress of the exams; he didn’t see anyone else with their hair changing colour, naturally anyway. He believed a Slytherin third year could be seen with pink hair the other day, but that was only because of a hex. He hadn’t been hexed lately.
The only saving grace was that it was not entirely noticeable.
“You have to be kidding me,” Remus muttered, plucking out a grey hair and observing it through narrowed eyes. There was no mistaking it; the strand of hair certainly wasn’t its usual sandy brown colour.
“It’s not so bad,” Sirius told him bracingly. He turned his head from side to side and scratched his chin. “It makes you look dignified.”
“I don’t want to look dignified; I want to look like I’m sixteen, not fifty!”
Sirius’s tone was patient. He could see where Remus was coming from. Most boys didn’t expect to grow grey hair until they were at least thirty nine. Sixteen was rather early for such a life event. He also knew what Remus suspected this was a result of. “You don’t look like your fifty. Trust me, if you did, I would be the first one to tell you.”
“Yeah, you would,” Remus consented reluctantly. Sirius would gloat for endless hours about how rapidly Remus was ageing. What did this mean? Was he ageing more speedily than a normal person because of what he was? He certainly had to grow up a lot quicker mentally, so it wouldn’t necessarily be a shock that he would grow up at a quicker rate physically. But at age sixteen? Sixteen was still so young; he wasn’t even a legal adult yet. It should have waited until he was at least seventeen. Unable to find an answer and knowing he had better things to do than stand in the bathroom all day gaping at his new hair, Remus led the way out.
Sirius kept an ongoing torrent on how it wasn’t unnatural for a sixteen year old boy to have grey hairs. In fact, Sirius insisted, it meant he was manly. Remus did not bother to mention that the word old should have been in front of manly. Yet, Sirius had a point, however warped it may have been. They were growing older and were becoming men. They would be having new experiences and this was just one of them, though Remus did not understand why it had to be his hair turning a few shades lighter.
Just the previous week they had all attended their career advice sessions with Professor McGonagall. Sirius and James had expressed interest in becoming Aurors - Dark Wizard catchers. They needed top grades for this, yet they were sure they would manage it somehow. If becoming an Auror didn’t work out, James was lobbying to become the best Chaser Puddlemere United had ever seen. Peter thought it would be nice to work in a shop in Hogsmeade like his father did, perhaps constructing a sweets shop to rival Honeydukes. Remus had been reluctant to express any hopes of any type of career with the Transfiguration professor, though she managed to pull an answer out of him. She was pleased to learn that he wanted to teach, though he didn’t know what he wanted to teach.
When they entered the common room, it was to see that James and Peter were sitting in the middle of the common room, their numerous books open on the table they were situated at. Sirius and Remus couldn’t help but notice how eerily quiet the common room was; they could barely hear the scratching of quills against parchment. Usually the room was loud and lively. Clearly Lily and the seventh year prefects had instilled their wrath upon the troublemakers, threatening them with everything from detention to disembowelment if they dared disturb the peace. A person had to reach a new level of daftness to disturb Lily Evans when she was studying for something as important as her OWL examinations. They pitied the poor soul who got to her when she had to study for her NEWT examinations.
James looked up when he heard the portrait door open, grinned broadly, and waved his friends over.
The moment James learned that Remus had, for the most part, forgiven Sirius for what he had done; he had welcomed his best friend back with hugely open arms. James still had some difficulty trusting Sirius, but the forgiveness was there and, for Sirius, that was enough. He could work at earning his best friend’s trust back; he just wanted James to tolerate his existence. If he didn’t have that, he saw no hope of James’s trust returning. Sirius and Remus joined their friends at the table and looked to see what they were studying. James was looking over Charms and Peter’s eyes were racing across his Potions notebook.
“You think if I fainted during the exams they would automatically pass me?” James asked jokingly when Sirius took the seat beside him.
“Doubtful, mate,” Sirius informed him sadly. Then his eyes lit up. “Perhaps if your skull burst open they might make an exception.”
There was no more denying it.
It was official – the OWLs were finally upon them.
The fifth years and the seventh years wandered anxiously around the Entrance Hall in the morning, while the other students went to their classes. The fifth and seventh years eyed the other students jealously, wishing that they could go to their classes without the looming threat of the OWL and NEWT exams. Everywhere in the Entrance Hall students could be seen practising wand movements or else anxiously muttering spells and important facts under their breaths, hoping they would remember them when it came time to write them down. Once or twice, someone’s wand accidentally began spouting multicoloured sparks that showered the students surrounding him or her. If this had happened on any other day, it might have been considered funny, but not today. Today no one found anything amusing at all.
The first exam for the fifth years was Charms. They were to sit their written exam in the morning and take the practical bit in the afternoon. No one could honestly say they were too worried about Charms, as long as they could wave a wand the right way and pronounce the word correctly, it was no problem. Though they had the sickening feeling they would have to know the theories behind the spells. The fifth years were soon called into the Great Hall by Professor Slughorn, who was overseeing this examination. The four house tables had vanished between breakfast and that moment, and were replaced with hundreds of single desks that were already supplied with quills, ink bottles, answer sheets and question sheets. At the head of the room was an enormous hourglass propped up on a desk. Once everyone was seated, Professor Slughorn turned over the hourglass.
The first exam had begun.
“That wasn’t so bad,” James said cheerfully an hour and a half later when he and his friends emerged from the Great Hall, hands splattered with ink from the excessive writing.
“No, it wasn’t bad at all,” Sirius agreed. “Imagine, all those times we never paid attention in Flitwick’s class and we still managed to retain some information.” He grinned proudly at the others.
“A miracle,” Remus commented quietly, smirking at his friends. “We’ve still got the practical part in the afternoon, so don’t get too excited.”
“Don’t remind me,” Peter begged him. Peter knew the information, yet could not find a decent way to explain it on his answer sheet. He hoped his answers were adequate enough for the person grading it to realise he knew what he was talking about. He wouldn’t mind passing with an A.
“Oh, come on, Wormtail, the practical bit’s going to be simple,” James said encouragingly. “You just have to know how to wave your wand and say some words. How hard can that be?”
Not hard at all. The four boys left the Charms practical examination feeling as though they had done themselves justice. Peter felt that he had done well enough on this part to make up for however badly he had done on the written portion. If he was lucky, he just might have scraped himself an E. The fifth years were inexpressibly relieved that their first exam was over, yet they had no time to express these feelings of joy. The next day they were due to have their Herbology exam in the morning with Astronomy at night, then History of Magic, and the following day they were due to sit their Defence Against the Dark Arts exam. No, they couldn’t celebrate having completed one exam at all – they had to go right back up to their respective common rooms and study for the next one.
Herbology was a simple enough exam. The fifth years only had to care for their Fanged Geraniums without having them die within the allotted time of the test. There were no terrible causalities from this exam, save for Frank Longbottom sustaining a bite to his hand from his geranium, who didn’t like the way Frank’s hand was lying on it. Astronomy was also rather straightforward. All they had to do was write down the coordinates for the planets and constellations on their chart. Defence Against the Dark Arts… the exam itself had been nothing to lose sleep over. Remus felt he had done quite well answering the question about werewolves. It was after the exam where things went incredibly wrong.
James had ensured for himself that Lily Evans would never speak to him again, even if he was the, most clichéd, last man on Earth. Neither he nor Sirius had taken the advice Remus had given them over Christmas – the advice that they should put a halt to their vendetta against Snape whenever Lily was around. Typically, Sirius was bored and the only way James could see to remedy this was to turn Snape upside down and reveal his dirty knickers to the entire school. Much to the dismay of the Slytherin, this drew a crowd around him and he lashed out at James and Sirius and, within moments, none other than Lily Evans.
No one had ever believed Severus Snape was capable of calling Lily Evans, his best friend for reasons unknown, a Mudblood. Everyone had believed wrong. The word floating around the school was that Lily was no longer speaking with Snape and that their relationship had been straining, anyhow. Lily did not like the boys Snape called his friends, yet Snape would not abandon them. Snape calling her a Mudblood was the last of it; she decided she no longer wished to speak with him. Had this occurred at any other time, James might have seen this as a glorious window of opportunity. Clearly Lily must have held a torch for Snape. Why else would she have put up with the greasy Slytherin for so long? This would have been James’s chance to prove that he liked her. But not even James Potter was arrogant enough to believe that he had nothing to do with this.
He wasn’t upset that Lily was no longer speaking with Snape, but he cared enough about her to celebrate in private.
Their final exam was Transfiguration and then the dreadful burden resting upon the shoulders of every fifth year would thankfully lift. The moment the last spell had been cast during the practical; there was a roar of tremendous relief and utter glee from the fifth years. The OWLs were over. The students left their examiners with broad smiles plastered across their faces; they looked as if they didn’t actually care what grade they achieved, so long as the torture was finally over. The Gryffindor fifth years – namely James, Sirius, Remus and Peter – stole to the kitchens and took all the sweets and drinks the House Elves would give them. Much to their satisfaction, the House Elves were in a particularly generous mood; as if they were channeling the relief of the students they were helping.
As James, Sirius, Remus and Peter were stealing back up to Gryffindor Tower, they heard the oddest of shouts. They were on the stairs leading up to the third floor and all of the sudden someone shouted, “I’ve had it! I’ve had enough!” Unless their ears were cheating them, the person who had shouted this was none other than Professor Kern. This struck them as strange. Kern had never spoken out of the monotonous voice he had inflicted upon them all year. Curious as to what was going on, the boys stashed their sweets behind a suit of armor and had to jump out of the way as Professor Kern went bolting past them, a look of fury in his eyes. The four boys exchanged bewildered looks. What had happened?
Their answer came in the form of five Slytherin sixth years who were chortling merrily and grimly at the same time, watching the Defence Against the Dark Arts professor’s progress. From what the boys could gather, the sixth years had bewitched everything in Kern’s classroom to slap him across the face three times if he tried to pick it up. It must have been too much for him when he was slapped by his ancient skull that he liked to show to his third years. Knowing Kern’s exit was going to be the stuff of Hogwarts’ legend, the four boys followed the Slytherin culprits down into the Entrance Hall, where they witnessed something they had never believed possible.
They had speculated, they had dreamed; they had even drawn a picture of what they suspected it would look like, but they never thought the event would come to pass. Kern was pelting across the Entrance Hall in the direction of the giant double doors and, right before their eyes, broke into the most remarkable black flips they had ever seen. With every two steps, Kern leapt into the air in a full out back flip worthy of a successful gymnast. Students who were coming out of the Great Hall stopped in their tracks, mouths open, eyes widened. They were sure they were losing their minds. They had to have been.
Professor Kern left Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry doing back flips, having been driven out by the Slytherins.
Sirius let out a victorious laugh and punched his fist proudly in the air with a look of inexpressible happiness on his face. “I win! Pay up!”
Grudgingly, James, Remus and Peter dug into their pockets, retrieving whatever gold they had, and dropped it into Sirius’s outstretched hands.
No one was terribly upset about Kern’s departure from the school. At most, more than half the school’s population was disappointed because they had not gotten the chance to witness his miraculous exit, which had indeed become a legend, right up there with the fleeing of Professor Unter and his banshee love. For once, the Slytherins had done something useful. The boys thought it was nice not to have to drive a professor out on their own; they had better things to do with their time. With the exams finally out of the way, the fifth years were, at last, taking full advantage of the beautiful weather Mother Nature was offering them. The blue skies seemed ceaseless.
Unlike the years before, the boys had no planned summer visits. They had already gone to James’s house twice and Remus’s and Peter’s. They knew it was simply out of the question to visit Sirius’s house in London. Mr. and Mrs. Black would not give them a warm welcome. If anything, they would be promptly blasted out the front door and their baggage would land squarely on their backs. With no idea of what they would do over the summer holidays, the boys agreed to come up with a plan within the first week. It would be breaking with tradition to not visit each other over the summer.
“What are we going to do about the full moons over the summer?” Peter asked as they sat in their compartment in the Hogwarts’ Express. The green countryside passed by as the train chugged merrily by. Peter was looking at Remus, who was leaning with his forehead pressed against the glass, watching the scenery go by with mild interest.
“Dunno,” he told Peter truthfully. He had been thinking about the very same thing the night before as they packed their trunks. He certainly couldn’t drag his friends away from their homes for one night just to be with him while he was a werewolf. At any rate, the shed was only big enough for him. He could not hope to fit a stag, a dog and a rat in there with him. Well, he could fit Peter, but he didn’t believe it was morally right to have Peter as his only company. Should things go wrong, they would not get Peter back for a few days and it would not be in a manner he enjoyed. Besides, it would only make their parents suspicious.
“We’ll come over, Moony,” James promised him, frowning in concentration as he tried to figure out his next move. He was playing, and losing, against Sirius in Wizards’ Chess. “My dad knows about you; he would know where I was going.”
“Yes,” Remus agreed. Charles Potter had learned about him years ago, when he had been landed in St. Mungo’s because of an allergic reaction to a potion the Healers had given him. The potion was supposed to cure him of his Lycanthropy, but it had only made the full moon worse. Yet, Mr. Potter did not know that his son was an unregistered Animagus. Remus did not think Mr. Potter would like that his son had done something illegal, however noble the reason might have been. A fresh wave of guilt fell over Remus. If Mr. Potter ever found out, it would be Remus’s fault. Who knew how Charles would react? Remus couldn’t live with himself if it was a negative reaction. “But I don’t think he knows you’re an Animagus, does he?”
James’s frowned deepened. “Good point.”
Remus grinned ruefully. “I survived twelve years of full moons on my own; I think I can survive two more full moons on my own.”
Sirius grimaced as one of knights was smashed to bits, its tiny voice crying out in surprise and pain. He straightened up and scooped the pieces into the box. “I expect my parents will be thrilled to see me.”
Unlike every other year, Sirius was less than pleased to be going home. The boys originally attributed this to the fact that there was no anticipated time for his escape. But, after a while, they thought there was something more to it that he wasn’t telling them. They didn’t want to probe too deeply yet; Sirius would tell them what was on his mind when he wanted to. So, instead of pressing him on his monotonous voice when he mentioned his parents, James simply continued to claim that he was going to beat Sirius at chess if it was the last thing he did. This lightened Sirius’s mood a bit.
The Hogwarts Express came to a screeching halt in Platform Nine and Three Quarters and almost at once the students poured into the train corridors and out into the bright sunlight, eager to greet their families. The boys dragged their trunks across the warm pavement when they spotted the Potters, Lupins and Pettigrews gathered a few feet away from the barrier entrance. The group looked up when they saw the boys approaching them.
“Did you boys drive that poor man out of school?” Hannah Potter accused them at once.
James stopped dead in his tracks, looking at his mother with an insulted grimace on his face. “You think we would drive a teacher out of school? Mother, we respect them!”
Harry Lupin rolled his eyes good-naturedly. “It’s never been confirmed, but we think we know who was behind Professor Crane’s sudden resignation…” He let his voice trail away knowingly.
Sirius shrugged indifferently. “His room was haunted, that’s all there was to it.”
“Or someone haunted it for him.”
“They’ve never proven it was us.”
Maggie Pettigrew sighed and shook her head exasperatedly. “I’m pleased to see our money is going to a good cause. Our sons are using their knowledge to drive their professors out of the castle.”
“Honestly, we had nothing to do with Kern leaving,” Remus told the adults seriously. They would take him seriously, the Prefect. “Not that we’re unhappy about it… but it was some Slytherins who were behind it.”
Sirius smiled reminiscently at the thought of Kern’s impressive back flips that had earned him fifteen Galleons. “I wish we could have gotten pictures. Remus, why didn’t you have your camera with you?”
“I don’t carry my camera with me everywhere.”
“Yet you always manage to have it when I’m doing something embarrassing.” Sirius was still smarting from the time when the belt on his pants was not on tightly enough and his pants had slipped to his ankles. Remus now had the perfect form of blackmail – Sirius standing in the middle of the boys’ dormitory with his bloomers in the open for everyone to see. He was ready to pull that photo out if he ever needed to. “How’s that picture?” he added in an undertone.
Remus smirked; he didn’t have to ask what Sirius was talking about. “In a very safe place, ready to come out should the need arise.”
“So, what are your plans for the summer this year?” Charles asked the boys.
“Don’t know,” James told his father. “We’ll think of something in a few days.”
Typically, the group turned to see Mr. Black, Mrs. Black and Regulus. They were standing a decent way away from their son, clearly not wanting to get too close to their son’s company, lest they contract some foreign disease from them. “We’re going, say good bye,” Mr. Black ordered him.
Sirius gritted his teeth, but did not put up a fight. This was very uncharacteristic of him as he always put up a fight when his parents came to get him. “Write to me as soon as you can,” he pleaded with his friends.
“Soon as we can,” James promised him. Sirius nodded and left to meet his family.
Fifth year was officially over.
Excerpt from Chapter Fifty Two: The Runaway
“Sirius,” Orion acknowledged, nodding his head to the eldest of the Black children.
“Dad,” Sirius said shortly, looking at his father for a moment and diverting his attention to the walls.
An odd expression flittered across Orion’s face for the shortest of seconds. “Have you seen Regulus?”
Sirius had to restrain himself from smirking or rolling his eyes. One of the first rules in this family was to always show respect to the adults. Sirius let his sarcasm come into play once in a while, but it usually went undetected no matter how obvious he made it. “The prince is downstairs.”
Mr. Black’s eyes flickered towards the staircase. “You know, you should be more like your brother.”
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