- Chapter Twenty-One -
The Hurling Hex
Monday morning came in a rush of nerves and excitement for the Gryffindor First-years. Many of them had never ridden a broomstick before and they went down to the courtyard feeling ever so slightly queasy.
Peter's face was actually green and he followed Sirius and James out of the Great Hally after breakfast, not joining in with their animated chatter.
Remus wasn't talking much either, although he, at least, had been able to eat some breakfast.
Madam Hooch, strict but fair, told the Gryffindors to stand by a broomstick when they arrived.
They had only just done so, however, when the Slytherins turned in their green robes, sauntering along and laughing. Mulciber, Severus Snape and Avery were right at the front.
James groaned, some of his ecstasy wearing off a little at the sight of Snape. “Oh, for Merlin’s sake, not Snivellus!”
“Don’t worry,” said Remus reasonably. “Severus can’t do anything to us. Madam Hooch would go ballistic if he even tried.”
“I’m not worried about him,” snapped James, now glaring at Snape with a furious expression on his face. “I don’t care what he does. I could take him on anytime.”
Lily, on the other hand, looked delighted. She had saved a place for Snape on her right-hand side. “Hi, Sev,” she whispered excitedly as he came to stand next to her. She beamed down at her broomstick, which was lying on the ground with everyone else’s. “I can’t believe we get to learn how to fly! This is going to be incredible!”
“Yeah,” Snape said offhandedly.
James and Sirius exchanged glances.
“Thinks he’s so clever…” muttered Sirius darkly, watching Snape smirk. “Let’s show him.” He turned to Remus. “Rem, do you know any curses?”
Remus, who hadn’t been listening, looked up in surprise. He’d been focusing all his attention on the broomstick in front of him and trying not to be sick. “What? I, well, yes. I do. There’s the Hurling Hex… Or the Tickling Charm… Or the-”
Sirius grinned. An evil smirk was spreading over his handsome features. “How do you cast the Hurling Hex?”
“Why?” Suddenly suspicious, Remus narrowed his eyes at his friends. “You aren’t going to try to use it, are you?”
“No, of course not,” said James hastily, crossing his fingers behind his back. He hoped Remus would forgive them later. “We just wanted to know, so that…” He thought hard. “So that we can do our Defence Against the Dark Arts homework. You know, the thing we were set on Tuesday.”
“The incantation is ‘equitem iaculare’,” said Remus eventually. He turned his attention back to his broomstick.
“Excellent!” James hissed to Sirius as Madam Hooch began the lesson. “I’ll cast the spell, yeah? You distract everyone. We’ll do it when Snivelly is in the air.”
“Right.” Sirius looked over his shoulder to see Snape and Lily watching Madam Hooch. Both were intently focused on the lesson. “Maybe Evans will finally see what a scumbag her Slytherin friend is.”
At the front of the class, Madam Hooch caught sight of James and Sirius. “Will you boys please stop whispering over there!” she barked. “I’m trying to teach and, if you don’t want to listen, you can leave.”
“Sorry, Madam Hooch,” said Sirius, smiling innocently at her. “We were just discussing our broomstick technique.”
“Hmph!” The teacher gave them a half-approving nod before instructing the class on how to get their broom in the air. “Now, when I give the command, you should place your right hand over the broom and cry ‘up’!”
A Slytherin boy at the end of the row spoke up. “What if we’re left-handed?”
“Then you use your left hand. It’s not rocket science.”
The boy blinked at her. “What’s a rocket?”
“Oh, never mind! Just stand by your brooms and shout ‘up’! Ready? Go!”
“UP!” everyone cried, and about half the broomsticks leapt into the air, James and Sirius’ included.
Peter’s broom, on the other hand, did not even twitch. Nor, at the other end of the row, next to Frank Longbottom, did Alice Fortescue’s.
Remus’ remained on the ground for a couple of seconds before reluctantly zooming into his outstretched hand.
Madam Hooch strolled up and down the line of students, checking their posture and frequently altering their grip. “Very good!” she told James approvingly when she reached him.
James grinned proudly.
Peter, meanwhile, was still trying to get his broom into the air. “Up!” he shouted. “Up!” But the broomstick did not move.
Madam Hooch tutted at him. “Don’t be afraid, boy. Have a little confidence. If you sound less nervous, the broom will hover.” Then she moved away to expect Snape and Lily.
“I’m useless at this!” Peter wailed, waving his hand at the broomstick as though that would help. “Up! Come, on, up! Please, broom? Up!”
This time, the broom gave a small jerk.
Peter beamed delightedly at his friends. “It moved! It moved! It actually moved!”
“Well, it’s not in your hand yet,” James reminded him, picking fussily at his own broom handle. The school brooms were nothing compared to his broom back at home.
Peter sighed. “I know,” he said and turned back to his broomstick.
“It’s a good start, though, Pete,” Remus told him encouragingly. “If you just keep going you’re bound to get it at some-”
Everyone winced. Peter’s broomstick had flown into the air and its handle had collided with the boy’s nose.
“Ouch!” Peter cried, both hands over his face.
The Slytherins howled with laughter.
Even Sirius was smirking a little, although he hastily stopped when Remus glared at him.
“Are you okay, Peter?” James asked tentatively.
Peter rubbed his nose. “I- I think I am… I don’t think anything’s broken…”
Madam Hooch was hurrying over. “What happened?” she asked, examining Peter’s bruised face. “Did the broom catch you in the face? They can sometimes do that, you know, if you get too impatient with them. Or if you fail to catch the handle...”
While Madam Hooch fussed over Peter, most of the Slytherins were doubled up with laughter.
James and Sirius looked ready to punch them.
“Just ignore it,” said Remus through gritted teeth. “It’s their problem if they want to be stupid… Just don’t rise to the bait.”
“At least we’ll get our revenge in a second,” muttered James to Sirius. “We’ll see who’s laughing when we've done our bit.”
“Right,” said Madam Hooch, once she’d made sure Peter was not in need of the hospital wing. “Everyone holding their brooms? Good. Now, I want you to swing your leg over the broom and kick off hard from the ground - only when I tell you to, mind. Then, you will rise a few feet into the air, lean forwards slightly and come back down.”
The class shuffled into position, the Slytherins hastily masking their laughter.
“On my whistle,” said Madam Hooch, pulling a silver whistle from the neck of her robes. “Three… Two… One... “ She blew hard and the class rose into the air.
Sirius shot a look at James, who nodded.
Time to make a distraction.
He tilted his broom’s handle upwards and soared high into the air. The cool breeze whistled through his hair. He’d done this hundreds of times before. It was so easy…
“Bet you can’t get higher than me!” Sirius called back down to his classmates.
James, who had pulled out his wand and was still on the ground, gave Sirius a thumbs up.
“Mr Black!” screeched Madam Hooch, her yellow eyes narrowing. “Get back down here this instant! I have not asked you to show off! You could be seriously injured-”
“But this is easy, Professor,” said Sirius, rising even higher and doing a couple of spins in the air.
Below him, James was pointing his wand at Snape, who was hovering in the air next to Lily.
“And I’m not doing any harm… Watch!” He swooped into a dive, plummeting ten feet… twenty feet…
“Sirius Black! How dare you! If you don’t return to the ground now, I will take fifty points from Gryffindor-!” But a commotion behind her had made the teacher turn around.
Snape, ten feet in the air, was struggling to hold onto his broom as it swerved and dipped and jerked.
Smirking more widely than ever, Sirius touched back down to the ground, where James stood waiting for him. “Nice one, mate,” he grinned, holding up his hand for a high-five.
“Thanks. You too. That dive was pretty neat.”
“Look at Snivellus.” Sirius pointed.
Snape was now lying with both arms wrapped around the handle, clinging to his broom while it bucked like a spooked horse.
A couple of girls were laughing, Marlene McKinnon included. Her friend Mary, meanwhile, was staring up at Snape with her hands over her mouth, her huge eyes wide and terrified.
Frank and Alice's mouths were gaping open.
Madam Hooch looked like she was trying not to panic. “Just hold on up there!” she called to Snape, pulling her wand from her robes and running over. “Just keep holding on. It’ll be alright, we’ll get you back on the ground in no time!”
The broomstick bucked even more violently.
“How’s she going to get him down?” Peter whispered to a horror-struck Remus. “How did he even get like that?”
“Someone…” Remus began, trying to keep his voice steady. In front of him, he saw James and Sirius laughing gleefully. “Someone must’ve jinxed the broom.” He couldn’t keep the anger from his voice.
James and Sirius heard him, and they turned around.
“Jinxed the broom? What’re you on about, Rems?”
Remus glared at Sirius. “You know perfectly well what I’m talking about. You told me you wanted the spell for your homework!”
Sirius pushed his hair out of his eyes. “Well, it’s your fault for believing us, then,” he said, although he did look ever so slightly guilty.
“What do you mean, it’s my fault for believing you?” Remus looked so angry that all three of his friends took a couple of steps backwards. “How dare you hex Severus like that! I trusted you not to use that spell on him and, not only did you lie about it, you hexed him anyway! Now you're trying to blame me!”
Sirius sighed. “Calm down, Remus. It was just a prank-”
“Just a prank? Just a prank?”
“It was a laugh, okay. We’re sorry.” James had spoken now, tearing his eyes away from Snape, who was still jerking in the air. “Maybe we shouldn’t have done it, but-”
“No, James. You’re right. You shouldn’t have done it, should you? Now go over to Madam Hooch and help her put him right. Go on!”
“Remus, how in Merlin’s name am I supposed to do that? I don’t even know the counter-curse! Anyway, I’m sure Madam Hooch will get him down, she’s not a first-year, is she? She knows way more magic than I do-”
Remus folded his arms. “Well, you can go and tell Madam Hooch that it was you. She’s going to find out sooner or later,” he snapped. “There are all sorts of ways of proving that a spell was cast. She’ll confiscate your wand and force it to reveal the spells it last performed-”
Sirius interrupted. “Don’t be ridiculous, James isn’t going to tell Hooch it was him. Are you mad? He’ll get into loads of trouble and-” He turned, just in time to see the teacher safely restoring Snape to the ground. “Look, Snivelly’s safe now. So you don’t need to fret.”
“Oh, I don’t need to fret, do I?” Remus did not speak to the others for the rest of the lesson. He stormed off to the library when the bell rang, without even waiting for them.
Madam Hooch was equally unimpressed “If I ever find out who jinxed this poor boy’s broomstick,” she spat at the end of the lesson, “that person will be out of here faster than you can say ‘Quidditch’.”
“Do you think Remus’ll tell on you?” asked Peter worriedly as they made their way to the edge of the courtyard. “Will we get into trouble?”
“Nah,” said Sirius, who looked the least upset of the three. He leaned against the wall and shook his head. “I don’t think Remus will want to risk upsetting us too much. Not if we’re the first friends he’s ever had.”
“We shouldn’t have lied to him,” said James worriedly. “We shouldn’t have used that hex, either.”
“What?” teased Sirius. “Feeling sorry for Snape?”
James sighed. “No. I just think we went a bit too far, that’s all.”
“Ah, well. Never mind. I mean, Snivellus survived, didn’t he? He was fine. He didn't even get a scratch. What’s the point in fussing about it now?”
“We upset Remus,” said James pointedly. “We lied to him.”
“Yeah, but…” Sirius was looking deeply uncomfortable now. “Okay, fine. We should go and talk to him. Where do you think he’ll be?”
“The library?” Peter suggested. “He likes reading, doesn’t he? And I think he went in that direction.”
James hesitated. “Let’s talk to him after Defence Against the Dark Arts,” he said finally, watching a group of Hufflepuffs walk past them, laughing. “It’ll be lunchtime then.”
“Good point,” said Sirius. “We can follow him and try to get him to talk to us. I don’t think he’ll take much persuading - we can just apologise.”
“Come on, then.”
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