- Chapter Thirteen -
Give and Take
Once everyone had recovered from the shock, there was a loud outbreak of applause from the Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff tables.
But just as the school was getting into things, a stern voice asked: "What's going on in here?"
James felt his stomach drop to the floor. He recognised that voice...
The Hall fell silent at once. Up at the staff table, several teachers were muttering and shaking their heads.
Professor McGonagall waited until she was standing behind the four boys to speak again. "Boys, what are you doing? Are you responsible for all this noise? Why is Mr Malfoy lying on the floor? And what-" she caught sight of Snape, still slumped against the table and her lips turned white "-have you done to this other boy?"
Another teacher came down from the staff table, looking just as disapproving as McGonagall sounded. "Minerva, there seems to have been some sort of attack. These boys tried to cast a spell on a Slytherin first-year, then Mr Malfoy cornered them. From what it looked like, Professor, he was threatening them-"
Professor McGonagall held up a hand to silence her colleague. "Octavius, please take this Slytherin to see Madam Pomfrey." She gestured at Snape, who was being held upright by the fourth-years he'd fallen on top of. "Then return to the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. I will take care of this."
The Defense Against the Dark Arts professor left immediately, helping Snape up and throwing a searching look at James, Remus, Sirius and Peter as he supported him out of the hall.
From the ground, Lucius Malfoy groaned. A couple of chicken feathers fell off him and drifted to the floor.
McGonagall stared at him. "Mr Malfoy, go back to your common room and clean yourself up. You'll be fine once you've got all the... the... droppings off."
Sirius sniggered as Malfoy picked himself up off the floor and headed for the exit, moving clumsily between the house tables.
Once Malfoy was out of sight, the Transfiguration professor turned to the four boys. "Have you eaten breakfast yet?"
They all shook their heads.
Peter's stomach gave a tremendous rumble. He blushed.
"Well, I suggest you get something to eat before coming to my office. I need you to explain what happened. Attacking a fellow first-year! What were you thinking?" McGonagall straightened her square spectacles then swept off, still muttering under her breath.
James, Sirius, Peter and Remus glanced at each other.
"You realise she didn't even mention what we did to Malfoy," said Sirius in an undertone as they sat down at the Gryffindor table.
A couple of curious people were still watching them.
"I know," said James. He helped himself to some toast. "We'd better get a move on, though. Eat quickly or we'll get into even more-"
"I can't believe you did that to Snape!" said a male voice from behind them. Frank Longbottom was standing there, looking both shocked and impressed. "That was... incredible."
James couldn't help grinning. No matter what trouble they were about to face, their triumph over Snape still made him cheerful. "Cheers. But the thing with Malfoy was better."
Frank grinned too and cast an admiring smile Remus' way. "I know! What spell was that? It was awesome, honestly. I didn't know you knew magic. I don't know any spells yet... "
Remus felt his cheeks burn and he attempted to hide behind his fork.
Sirius gave him a poke. "It's not a bad thing, mate," he said. "You don't have to hide."
"Yeah," said Frank. "You don't. I'm super impressed, seriously."
Remus smiled awkwardly. "I don't think McGonagall is, though. I don't think she's the sort to approve of fights."
"Don't worry," said James, chewing his toast as fast as he could. "She seemed more annoyed about the Snape thing than what you did to Malfoy. I don't think she'll punish you too severely."
"No," agreed Sirius darkly. "But Malfoy might. He's not going to be happy. You made a fool of him in front of the entire school, Remus."
"Ah, well. He was being rude about muggleborns. He deserved it. And I guess he can't do too much to us without risking losing his prefect badge," James told Remus.
Frank nodded. "You should report him. I heard the things he said and he used the 'M' word. He definitely shouldn't be allowed to get away with that."
"No, he shouldn't," Peter chimed in. "We'll tell McGonagall when we're in her office. And, technically, he did try to attack us first."
"But we attacked Snape," said Remus anxiously. "Which was the reason Malfoy stood up. He was doing his duty as a prefect, but we were just... just..."
James shook his head and stood up. "Don't be silly. We hexed Snivellus because he was horrible to Peter. Therefore it's Snape's fault that we attacked him. He started this whole thing. It's not our problem."
Remus didn't look too convinced. But he followed James and the others out of the Great Hall, with Frank trailing along behind them.
"Where's McGonagall's off- ?" began Sirius, but before he could complete the word 'office', Professor McGonagall himself had come striding towards them from the marble staircase.
She had evidently been waiting to escort them.
"Potter, Black, Lupin and Pettigrew," she said crisply, ignoring Peter's flinch. "Please follow me." She glanced at Frank. "There is no need for you to come too, Mr Longbottom. If you would like to return to Gryffindor tower..."
Frank hurried away, casting a sympathetic glance back over his shoulder at the others.
James tried hard to avoid the professor's gaze as she led them up the marble staircase and along a corridor.
What if they did get in a lot of trouble? Surely it would be his fault if the others got punished? He'd been the one to suggest they got revenge on Snape, after all...
They reached a door with a small sign reading 'M. McGonagall, Transfiguration Professor, Head of Gryffindor, Deputy Headmistress'. Professor McGonagall held it open for them as the four boys filed past her into the office.
Once they were all inside, she closed the door, turned to face them and glared at them with sharp eyes. "Please explain why you four though it would be a good idea to hex a fellow student, in the middle of the Great Hall at breakfast."
For a couple of seconds, they all just looked at each other.
Peter had backed so far into the wall that he looked as though he was trying to melt through it.
Remus' hands were shaking.
Even Sirius couldn't look bored this time.
"We..." James finally began, glancing guiltily at the floor. "We- I mean, I- I thought it would stop Snape being rude to people."
Professor McGonagall's lips thinned even more. "Do you mean to tell me that you couldn't have told a teacher about Mr Snape's behaviour? You couldn't have come to me if he was provoking you?"
"Erm..." One glance at the other three told them that they hadn't thought of that either. Now that McGonagall had said it, it did seem like the obvious thing to have done.
"That," she said curtly, "was a very foolish mistake to make."
There was silence before the professor spoke again. "In what way did Mr Snape provoke you?"
James immediately launched into an explanation, telling McGonagall exactly what happened in Herbology. By the time he'd finished, the professor's eyebrows were almost touching her hairline and she looked very serious.
"I see," she said finally, sitting down behind her desk. She shifted a couple of papers aside, then looked at the four boys again. "Thank you for telling me this, Mr Potter. Now, what exactly did you attempt to do to Mr Snape? I assume it failed; you cannot have learned enough magic yet to be able to do much damage to him."
Another explanation was necessary.
This time, however, it was Sirius who told McGonagall about combing the library for a decent spell, about finally finding the dancing-feet hex and deciding to use it against Snape. He explained how he had tried to cast the spell at breakfast and how it had merely caused Snape to fall backwards.
At this, Professor McGonagall gave him a stern glare. "I hope you realise exactly how easily you could've given Mr Snape a serious injury," she said. "Not only could the spell have gone even more wrong than it did, you could also have hurt him when he fell. And you didn't stop once to practice the hex? You didn't bother to consider the fact that you are mere novices in magic and on your second day at school?"
James, Sirius, Peter and Remus all stared at the floor, each feeling ashamed of themselves in varying degrees.
"Yeah, maybe we should've practised first," said James after another pause, glancing up at the other three. "We didn't think, Professor. The whole thing was... was unplanned and stupid." He'd never thought he'd say such a thing following a prank.
But McGonagall had a point; if they were going to attack a student, they might as well have done it properly.
Professor McGonagall sniffed and shifted some more of her papers. "Thank you, Mr Potter. The fact that you have acknowledged your stupidity is a slight comfort... May I ask what role Mr Malfoy had in this?" She glanced at Remus, who had been silent the whole time. "I believe you were the one who ended up covering him in feathers?"
In spite of himself, Remus smiled. "Er... Yes, Professor," he said. "I'm sorry. He stood up after we used the spell on Severus. He didn't exactly tell us off for what we'd done, which was a bit surprising, to be honest. Instead, he started saying... not very nice stuff about Sirius." Remus threw his friend an apologetic glance as he continued. "Malfoy said that Sirius was wrong to associate with people like us because we're 'blood traitors' and muggleborns and... and..."
Professor McGonagall heard the unsaid 'halfbreeds' in his silence.
Remus took a breath and carried on speaking. "He used the 'M' word, too, Professor. And I got kind of angry. I told him that he shouldn't say those things... But Malfoy just laughed. He asked me if I was going to duel him and pulled out his wand. And then... I hexed him," Remus finished lamely.
Professor McGonagall looked more disgusted at the idea of Lucius Malfoy calling someone 'Mudblood' than angry. She shook her head a couple of times, her lips still tightly pressed in a line.
Then she turned back to Remus. "Which spell did you use on him?"
Remus blushed slightly "Calvesco Pullum," he said quietly. "It was the first thing I could think of."
To the four boys' surprise, Professor McGonagall's lips twitched.
She looked thoughtfully at Remus, then asked, "Where did you learn that spell, Mr Lupin?"
"Um... My dad taught it to me," he admitted. "Before I came to Hogwarts. I was reading one day and I came across it. I didn't know what it was, so I asked my dad about it and he told me. I've never actually used it, though."
"It's a very unusual spell," McGonagall remarked, now looking faintly interested. "And it's the sort of thing that your father would know about. Lyall Lupin always had a soft spot for obscure jinxes. I'm not surprised that he taught some of them to you. They can come in very handy when duelling." She smiled properly this time.
James glanced at Sirius, surprised.
"Very well, you four. Although you have broken the rules twice in two days, I cannot say that I'm not impressed by what you did to Mr Malfoy - that spell is a difficult one to pull off at the best of times, let alone in first-year. I shall award ten points to Gryffindor and you shall not receive detention."
The four of them held their breath. Could luck really get them out of this?
McGonagall carried on, in a slightly more serious tone. "I will, however, be taking five points off Gryffindor for the attack on Mr Snape. He did do wrong by insulting you, Mr Pettigrew-"
Peter tried to back away into the wall again.
"-But it is not your duty to deal out punishments to students who fail to toe the line. I will speak to Professor Slughorn, who is head of Slytherin house, about his students' unacceptable behaviour - especially that of Mr Malfoy, who should know better as a prefect."
James' spirits lifted. They weren't in too much trouble, after all! They'd only lost a couple of points and they could win those back easily.
Although, of course, he'd only been worried for Remus and Peter's benefit.
Finally, Professor McGonagall stood up. She strode to the office door and held it open for them to pass through. "You may go to your classes now. Please don't ever let me catch you doing such a stupid thing again."
"We won't," chorused the four boys as they left the room, glancing back at the many bookcases as they did so. The office was very tidy.
With a soft click, the door swung shut behind them.
Remus breathed a sigh of relief. "I thought we'd had it then. I never want to do anything like that again. That's twice we've disappointed Professor McGonagall now and she isn't the kind of person who likes being disobeyed."
"It wasn't as bad as I'd thought it would be," said Sirius, leading the way down the corridor. They had Charms first, with a teacher called Professor Flitwick. "I mean, she was actually impressed by your spell, Remus. Maybe if we'd mastered the other one properly, we wouldn't have lost any points at all!"
James laughed. "Maybe. But I don't think she'd have approved of what we did, no matter how it turned out."
"She'd have told us not to get revenge on people," said Peter, nodding.
"Ah, well," said Sirius cheerfully. "We did get our revenge anyway. McGonagall said she'd talk to Slughorn and we hexed two Slytherins. That's not a bad outcome, considering."
The others nodded. They had reached the Charms classroom.
Frank and Alice came hurrying over to greet them.
"Hi, you four. How did it go in McGonagall's office? You're not in trouble, are you?"
James grinned and shook his head, rumbling up his dark hair to keep it messy. He'd just noticed Lily Evans glaring at him out of the corner of his eye. "Nope. Well, we lost a couple of points... But we gained more than we lost, so it's not a big deal."
The girl called Alice looked very surprised. "You gained points?" she asked, her eyes wide. "McGonagall actually gave you some points?"
Sirius shrugged. "Yeah. She said we shouldn't have attacked Snivellus, but she was kind of impressed by Remus' spell."
"So was I," said Frank. "And who's 'Snivellus'?"
Sirius looked unconcerned. "Snape," he explained, just as Professor Flitwick came hurrying out to meet them.
The professor was tiny, barely three feet tall, with wispy silver hair and a very squeaky voice. He ushered the class inside and hurried to his desk, where he was forced to stand on a pile of books to see over the top.
The first thing he did, once they were all settled, was call the register. Then he picked up his wand and tapped the blackboard. Writing appeared on its surface and he spent the first part of the lesson explaining how Charms worked.
The lesson was the noisiest one yet, and the second half of it was dedicated to practising incantations and wand-movement - without wands.
The pupils were each told to pretend their finger was their wand and to put it in the air. Then Professor Flitwick stood at the front of the class (still perched precariously on his pile of books) crying random incantations and instructing them all to copy.
Several members of the class were a little too enthusiastic with their 'wand-waving', Peter included. James got poked in the eye multiple times, even though he was wearing glasses.
"Sorry, sorry!" gasped Peter, the fourth time this happened. "I'm trying not to, I just-"
"It's all right," muttered James, rubbing his sore eye to stop it from watering. "But please try a bit harder."
After Charms, they had Defence Against the Dark Arts, which the whole of Gryffindor had been looking forwards to.
Professor Oden, their teacher, was a strange man, with silvery eyes that went in and out of focus. From the moment they walked into his classroom, he was hurrying around, frantically looking for his wand, which he seemed to have mislaid.
After about ten minutes of searching, he finally remembered where he'd put it: in the top drawer of his desk. Then he apologised for the awkward start to the lesson, sat down and took the register.
"He's not very definite, is he?" James whispered to Sirius, who he had sat next to. "I wonder what he's like at teaching?"
But Professor Oden turned out to be a very good teacher, despite his forgetfulness. He seemed to be able to remember everything one minute, then forget it the next.
Twice he lost the board rubber and also forgot that he had a wand; he spent a long time fretting that he couldn't wipe the blackboard clean before Frank pointed out that he could just use magic.
"Oh, yes. Sorry," muttered the professor, going pink in the face as he wiped the board with a flick of his wand.
By this time, half the class were suppressing giggles.
All in all, however, their first Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson was a success, even if they did have to keep reminding their teacher that he was a wizard.
Professor Oden was perfectly good at remembering names and spells, and it seemed to be the more mundane things that he forgot. He took a shine to Remus when he found out that Remus could answer every question thrown at him and had, by the end of the lesson, awarded Gryffindor a total of twenty points.
"How did you know all that stuff?" James asked Remus as they left the classroom and headed out into the grounds.
After break, they were to have their second Transfiguration lesson.
"Oh, I don't know that much," mumbled Remus, trying desperately not to sound like a know-it-all. "I just happen to know... some things."
"Well, it's an awful lot of things," said Sirius proudly, clapping Remus on the back. "You could take over from the teacher."
Remus laughed at this and turned to Peter. "Do you know what the time is, Pete?"
Peter huffed. "Do any of you have your own watches?" he said, sighing. "Am I your walking, talking clock?"
James grinned. "Yup. I think you are. But I haven't bothered to find my watch yet. It's at the bottom of my trunk."
"And I'm not wearing mine; it has the Black family crest on it," grumbled Sirius. "I'd look like a right idiot."
"You manage that on your own, mate!" teased James, as Peter gave in and checked his watch.
Sirius rolled his eyes, laughing his usual bark-like laugh. He pushed his dark hair out of his eyes.
"We've got ages 'til the end of break," Peter announced. "So what're we going to do?"
"Beat up Snivellus?" suggested Sirius.
"I think we've done enough of that for one day," said Remus firmly.
"Let's explore!" said James, delighted at the very idea. "The castle's huge and we don't even know where we're going half the time..."
"Ooh, there might be secret passageways," exclaimed Remus, who - like James - was hardly able to contain himself.
Sirius and Peter stood up very straight.
"Well, what are we waiting for?" cried Sirius. "Where shall we go first?"
Thanks again to all of you for submitting your lovely reviews - it means so much to me that you like what I'm writing. Feel free to tell me if there's anything you don't like, want me to change or think I could use later on. I love hearing your suggestions and want to make this book enjoyable.
I've also been creating some covers for the next few books in the series and have just finished them all... I can't wait to write them properly! There'll be eleven books in total, following the Marauders through their school lives until, eventually, their deaths.
Please keep being brilliant :)
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