Chapter 7, Flesheating Shrubbery

Lily woke early the next morning, the vague memory of good dream playing in the background of her mind as she pulled back the curtains around her bed. She sighed as she realised that there was only grey, dawn light coming through the high windows rather than true sunlight; there was probably a good hour or two till breakfast. For a moment she considered pulling the heavy material shut again and snuggling back down into her thick, warm duvet, but then she realised that since she was awake she may as well be doing something.

She yawned and stretched, sliding her legs out from under the duvet and shivering as the cold air played around her toes. She took her towel from where it was hanging on a little hook near her bed and began to walk across to the bathroom, stopping to look out the window and see what kind of day it might be.

Grey mist hung across the valley; the Forbidden Forest and the lake were completely enshrouded, but the higher ground near the castle was relatively free. She guessed that if she were outside, the castle would look like it was floating on a sea of cloud. She stood, musing at her own thoughts for a moment and trying to spot where the sun might be coming up. Then movement far below caught her eye.

It was James Potter.

She frowned and watched as he sidled round the side of the castle and wandered away towards the Quidditch Pitch, he had a broom over his shoulder and a rucksack over the other. Lily wondered what he was doing; surely he wasn’t going to go flying at this time in the morning?

She shook her head as he disappeared into the mist and decided that her feet were beginning to get a little too cold for her liking. She turned away and went to have a hot shower before the others got up; then she thought she might go down to the Common Room and start looking through her textbooks. She always liked to be ahead; it gave her a bit of an edge.

‘Lils, what are you doing down here? We thought you had been kidnapped, or something, during the night!’ Dorcas cried dramatically as she found Lily in front of the fire in the Common Room. She frowned; Lily was already dressed and looked as though she had washed her hair, ‘What time did you get up?’

Lily looked up from the second chapter of her Charms Textbook, ‘Oh, I woke up ages ago and decided to get up. I didn’t realise we be looking at Memory Charms for N.E.W.Ts!’

‘What?’ Dorcas asked blankly, ‘Lils, it’s too early for that kind of stuff; let’s go get breakfast. Mary and Alice are just in the shower, and Laura said she’d wait for them.’

‘Alright, well, I’m hungry anyway; do you know what lessons we’ve got today?’

You’ve got today. We don’t do the same subjects anymore,’ Dorcas corrected as Lily put her book away.

‘You still do Transfiguration and Charms!’ Lily reminded her, as they headed for the Portrait Hole.

‘Mmm, but you sit next to Marlene in Charms and Laura in Transfiguration,’ Dorcas grumbled good-naturedly.

‘Awh, are you going to miss me this year?’ Lily asked teasingly, ‘I’m sure we can arrange some sort of rota so we can all sit next to each other!’

‘You have a rota of you sit next to?’ a disbelieving voice interrupted them as they pushed open the Portrait.

Lily and Laura turned round; it was the Marauders and Peter had just spoken.

‘No.’ Lily replied, ‘And if you were any good at eavesdropping you would know that, Pettigrew.’

‘Yeah, Pettigrew,’ James added sarcastically, ‘the rest of us all know that Lily’s going to write up a rota.’

Dorcas bit back a grin; Lily had probably actually been considering it. Remus sloped forwards though, ‘Now, now, children; no fighting before breakfast,’ he said dryly. Lily gave him an odd look; was he being serious?

Peter let out a strained giggle and Lily turned away, pushing open the Portrait and Dorcas followed her. The Marauders followed a few metres behind, talking loudly, ‘Merlin, I’m knackered, Padfoot. What time did we go to bed? About three?’

‘Something like that; Remus was starting to get shirty.’ Came Black’s reply and Lily frowned.

‘I wasn’t getting shirty!’ Remus countered, ‘James was getting repetitive.’

She had seen Potter heading down to the Quidditch Pitch at about six; almost two hours ago. He couldn’t have had only three hours sleep; that was just ridiculous. But then their conversation turned to more mundane matters, ‘Wonder what breakfast’ll be, I’m starving.’

‘Mmm, yeah.’

They reached the Great Hall without any further arguments, though Lily was getting annoyed at the way they had to talk so loudly all the way down; you couldn’t help but hear every word from half a corridor away.

‘How do they ever get away with anything?’ She asked her companion, ‘They’re not exactly quiet, or subtle.’

Dorcas shrugged, ‘They’re not stupid, Lily, no matter how much they act the part,’ and sat down, taking a seat near the middle of the table and helping herself to orange juice, ‘Oh, pain au chocolat, yummy!’ she said, taking two.

‘I’d watch yourself there, Meadowes; you’ll end up looking like Broadmore!’ James grinned at her, nodding his head at where the huge boy was sitting as she made a face. Stan Broadmore wasn’t fat; he was just massive all round, sort of like a smaller version of Hagrid, the school Gamekeeper. He was currently working his way through a large bowl of porridge, had a plate of sausages, eggs and bacon at his elbow and few pain au chocolat nearby.

Laura watched as Remus helped himself to an equal amount, while James ladled porridge into a bowl, he added raisins and poured honey over the top then slid it over to Peter saying, ‘There you go Wormy; healthy as you like.’ He then joined Black in what appeared to be a pain au chocolat eating competition.

Dorcas, Alice and Mary joined them a few minutes later, ‘Have the timetables been given out yet?’

‘Nope, McGonagall hasn’t appeared yet.’ Lily answered Alice’s question.

‘Waiting to see when your free periods are going to be, Yates? Don’t worry, you can spend them with us; I noticed we’re doing the same subjects!’ James called across the table.

Alice smiled cheerfully and said, ‘Great! You can help me with Transfiguration then!’

James scowled.

‘Hey, Sirius!’ a girl called as she walked past the Gryffindor Table; she was tall, willowy, had honey coloured hair and beautiful, azure eyes.

Sirius ignored her.

She shot him a pouty glare and completely missed the look on Remus’ face as he realised who he had been staring at the night before. Tara Canton-Fell was only interested in two things; boys and Quidditch. She excelled at the latter, and usually engaged in flirtatious banter with Sirius among others; it was strange of Sirius to ignore any girl’s attention.

Remus examined Sirius covertly; his friend simply hadn’t appeared to hear her. He put it down to tiredness or concentration on his pile of pain au chocolat, before mentally shrugging and going back to ploughing through his breakfast, waiting for his newspaper to arrive.

McGonagall arrived a few minutes later as the Hall began to fill and the owls also arrived; the usual parcels of forgotten books and clothes were dropped in front of people, and something bounced off Peter’s head with an odd clonk, before it rolled under the table.

James picked it up and said, ‘I knew I’d forgotten my Crystal Ball, cheers for catching it, Wormy!’

He clapped a watery eyed Peter on the shoulder, who smiled painfully and grinned at Sirius; it was a fake Crystal Ball he’d bought in the Quadrangle in Edinburgh. He was hoping to sneak it into Professor Renock’s collection and wait for premonitions of a dragon attack on the school to filter back to him. No one gave him a second glance; Divination was the kind of subject one of the Marauders might take just for a joke.

Remus paid for his newspaper and after handing the sports pages to James, disappeared behind the day’s headlines.

‘Black?’ Professor McGonagall called down the table; she was looking for each of the new Sixth Years to confirm they got the results they needed to continue their chosen subjects, ‘Let’s see: Outstandings in Transfiguration, Defence and Potions, that’s fine. I was impressed with your Transfiguration marks; I believe you and Mr Potter both scored one hundred per cent,’ She gave Sirius and James a rare smile, ‘and Exceeds Expectations in Herbology and Charms. I think that’s fine.’

Remus was then cleared to continue too; the Marauders had all chosen the same subjects to carry on, but Peter looked nervous as she approached. He had failed Potions and Astronomy.

‘Ah, Mr Pettigrew; I was astounded by your Transfiguration mark!’ she exclaimed but gave him a searching look, as though she thought he might have somehow got round the anti-cheating spells, ‘Now, it says here,’ she continued, consulting a list, ‘that you applied to continue Potions, but I see that you received a D. Have you put any thought towards choosing a different subject? I’m afraid Professor Slughorn expects at least an Exceeds Expectations from students wishing to continue.’

Peter went pale and blinked nervously, ‘Ah… I w… was hoping… a… an exception?’ he stammered nervously.

McGonagall frowned, ‘Mr Pettigrew, I’m afraid that’s impossible, I do see though that you scored highly in Care of Magical Creatures, and Professor Kettleburn is willing to take on another; he has quite a small class this year I understand.’

Peter looked even more worried, he’d only done Care of Magical Creatures for O.W.Ls because the others were doing it; he didn’t really like big animals, ‘I… I… um, al… alright then.’

He gave in quickly and she scribbled something down before telling James he was free to continue his subjects. Peter watched his friend a little enviously; James was talented, had girls swinging off his arms, clever, good at Quidditch… He looked down at his meagre breakfast of porridge, honey and raisins, then at his stomach; it gurgled hopefully. He sighed and picked up his spoon again, wishing it were a bacon sandwich.

Remus saw his friend staring disconsolately at his bowl and leaned over, ‘Hey, Peter?’

Peter looked up, ‘Yeah, Moony?’

Remus leant a little closer and whispered, ‘I heard Mary saying how great you were looking last night at the feast.’

Peter’s mouth fell open in disbelief and he looked curiously at Mary before she caught his eye and he blushed. Then he went back to his porridge with renewed vigour; maybe he would try and go for a jog later, round the Quidditch pitch or something.

‘Oh, look! We’ve got a totally free morning; great!’ Dorcas exclaimed as she looked at her new timetable.

‘Same!’ chorused Mary and Laura.

‘It’s cause you’re not taking Herbology…’ Alice grumbled, looking out at the grey mist that was only just beginning to burn up, ‘It’ll be freezing in the Greenhouses; the sun’s barely out yet.’

‘And that’s why I didn’t take the filthy subject,’ Dorcas said happily, ‘See you at lunch; I’m going back to bed!’

‘Well, bully for you,’ Lily replied, looking out the window at the thick mist.

Professor Tumble explained that this year they were going to be looking at Flesh-eating Shrubs and led them into Greenhouse Five for the first time ever; where they spent three, very tense, hours trying not to get bitten by anything. The lesson started off with everyone shivering and bundled in cloaks until the sun broke through the mist; then no one wanted to be wearing their school robes but didn’t want to expose any skin to the surrounding, threatening plants. The first casualty was Caradoc Dearborn as he gave in, sweating heavily and rolled up his sleeves.

‘I know it wasn’t a very exciting morning!’ Professor Tumble called cheerfully after them as they fled at the end of the lesson, ‘Next week we’ll be in Greenhouse Six; we’ll be looking at the really fun stuff! Oh, and remember to tell Miss Pomfrey that Mr Dearborn was hit by a Dazeawk Bush, not a Fraughtpine!’

Caradoc was being half-carried back to the castle by Finn Quigley and Silvia Keitch; his legs had stopped working properly after the Dazeawk Bush had spiked him, but Professor Tumble insisted that he would be fine sitting in a chair for the rest of the lesson. Peter was nursing a bad bruise round his wrist after a Mindanao rootling had bitten his hand; luckily it hadn’t started teething yet, or Peter probably wouldn’t have a hand.

The Marauders got back into the castle and Peter left them to go to the Hospital Wing, Sirius called first shot in the shower and made a break for Gryffindor Tower. Somehow James suddenly wasn’t in the mood for theatrics and he hung back slightly, letting Lily and Alice go up the stairs first; Remus stepped up beside him and said, ‘You alright, James?’

James watched Lily and Alice absently; they were oblivious to his and Remus’ presence as they chatted, until they disappeared from sight. Then he turned to his friend, ‘Yeah, just tired, didn’t sleep last night.’



‘You should go ask Miss Pomfrey for a Sleeping Potion; it’s getting worse.’ Remus replied, knowing that James wouldn’t but it was his duty to try and help his friend. James had barely slept a whole night as long as Remus could remember; he was too energetic. James was always the last one to bed and the first one up; most mornings he was down at the Quidditch Pitch at dawn, teaching himself from his textbooks, or working on homework that he hadn’t yet finished, all for a couple of hours before breakfast. That was after a night probably spent roaming the castle, setting up pranks or simply mucking about with the rest of the Marauders.

Remus had realised why James hardly concentrated in class years ago; he was either trying to stay awake after a night without sleep or he had already learnt what was being taught and was bored. The only times he had known James to sleep longer than he did was after Quidditch matches and parties, under the influence of large amounts of alcohol, or after a full moon, when they were all utterly exhausted. Going to school for a full day, having Quidditch practice, running around for most of the night and then going straight back to school would have destroyed most people; but for the Marauders it was a regular occurrence.

James leaned heavily on the banister and watched as Remus suddenly grinned at him, ‘Cheer up, Prongs; we’ve got Defence Against the Dark Arts after lunch!’

A brilliant grin broke through James’ tired eyes and suddenly he was back on form again, ‘Race you back to Gryffindor Tower!’ he shouted and sprinted up the stairs.

Remus shook his head, maybe Lily was right; the boy was insufferable.

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