The Midnight Marauder


New Moon of September, Maya’s 4th Year and the Marauder’s 5th Year

It was the perfect classroom. Full-length mirrors along one wall, plenty of long tables and even a place to brew potions. They’d found it their third year and had always gone back to it when preparing for what James called, “Furry Little Problem Stage Two.” Remus was never sure whether to laugh or feel anxious when his friend said that. But today, this night in September when the moon was new and therefore nowhere to be found, it was ready.

James gave the bubbling silver potion with the strange gold smoke one last stir and Maya dropped in the pixie dust from an albino Cornish pixie that they’d nicked from the advanced potions cupboard the year before. The smoke turned gray and then faded back to an even brighter gold than before.

“It’s done.” Peter’s voice was reverent.

“We did it,” said James, even he was serious at a time like this. “We actually did it.”

“Well of course,” said Sirius. He took out his wand and grinned at the others. “It’s us. Now remember, after drinking this stuff we have exactly twelve minutes to complete all the spells, otherwise it won’t work.”

“Right,” said Peter nervously. “ does the last one go again?”

“No,” said Remus.

“Sorry?” Said Peter.

Sirius sighed. “Here we go again.” James rolled his eyes and occupied himself with pouring butterbeer into glasses.

“It’s too dangerous,” Remus argued yet again. “I’m not going to let you guys put yourselves in danger because of me.”

“He’s right,” said Maya. “You could all get badly hurt. Or cursed. Or worse!”

“You two change your mind about this every few months,” Peter grumbled.

“We made a promise,” said Sirius. “We’re not backing out now.”

“Let’s wait a minute,” said James. “We figured our super advanced magic on our own.” He offered Remus and Maya the butterbeer. “Let’s celebrate.” Remus and Maya took the offered drinks, neither looking convinced, and the other three grabbed their own cups. “To friendship,” said James grandly.

“To friendship!” They clinked glasses and all took a deep swig.

A second later, James flung aside his cup in order to catch Remus and Sirius looked bemused as Maya keeled over into his lap.

“What happened?” Gasped Peter.

“Sleeping draught,” said James matter-of-factly. “Figured they might protest.”

“How long will it last?” Asked Sirius, gently placing Maya on the chair beside him.

“Fifteen minutes,” said James. “So they’ll be awake for the last bit in know...something goes unexpected.” Peter gulped nervously.

“Let’s do it then,” said Sirius. The three fifteen year old wizards took off all their clothing except their pants and then carefully ladled exactly a cup and a half of the potion into mugs. They all turned to face the mirrors with the cup of the steaming potion in one hand and their wand ready to grab. Sirius stuck his wand between his teeth and pulled out a small vial from his pocket. Inside it were a few drops of blood from a large black dog that belonged to James’ neighbor. James had a few drops from a marvelous stag he’d found at his grandparent’s house last Christmas. Peter, who’d forgotten to get the blood from an animal over the summer, had a few drops from his pet rat. They figured the small animal would come in handy when freezing the Whomping Willow. They each poured the blood into the potions and the solution began to bubble and froth. The smoke changed into a deep red, the color of fresh blood.

“To friendship,” James muttered. And then they all downed the potion. It was thick and hot and tasted like burnt apples mixed with peppers. As soon as the last drop had been drunk, James and Sirius flung aside the goblets – they clattered on the floor with a deafening sound – and whipped out their wands. They pointed their wands at their reflections and began to mutter spell after spell that they had practiced saying thousands of times since their second year when this crazy plan had begun. Peter started a few seconds later – relying on his ears more than his memory as he copied the movements and words of his two friends. As they got to spell number ten, the three began to feel odd. Sirius felt his heart-rate increasing and his eyesight began to go dim. James thought he might black out. Peter began to shake uncontrollably – a tremble that made casting the last few spells even more difficult than it already was.

Remus opened his eyes in time to hear Sirius gasp out the last spell. As soon as he finished, Sirius let his wand fall from his fingers. He fell forward against the mirror, looking up into his deathly pale reflection with wide eyes. James managed to set his glasses and wand onto a table before he collapsed to the floor, his breathing fast and shallow. Peter squeaked out the last few words before simply falling to the floor and shaking there like a leaf.

“Is it...going wrong?” Maya asked breathlessly in Remus’ ear. She had just woken up and looked alarmed at how the spell was progressing.

“No,” said Remus, his mouth very dry. “No...the first time mimics a werewolf transformation. It’s supposed to be painful...”

“Did we soundproof the room?” Maya asked.

“Yes,” said Remus.

“Okay...” Maya’s words were cut off by her gasp and she clamped both hands over her mouth. Remus could see why. Sirius had arched his back with a muffled groan, his hands shrinking and his back contracting as fur appeared all over his body. James had curled into a ball but now he seemed to expand, limbs elongating and his balled fists becoming hard. Peter didn’t try to contain his scream as there was an awful crunching noise; he rapidly shrunk and a long, pink tail appeared.

“Be quiet, Wormtail,” Sirius gasped, catching sight of the rat tail and Maya’s terrified face at the same time. “It’s...not...that...bad!”

There were a few more terrible moments and then the room was quiet except for the panting of a large black dog, the ragged breathing of a magnificent stag, and the worried squeaking of a rat.

“Dear God...” Whimpered Maya.

“It’s okay,” said Remus, his face pale. He gave her a hug. “We did it. It worked!”

“It worked,” Maya repeated, her usual sunny personality reappearing. “Wow...”

The stag got up clumsily and knocked over the table with the cauldron on it.

“No!” Remus shouted. But he didn’t have time to whip out his wand and the cauldron shattered on the floor. The potion has begun to harden already – it was only good for a mere twenty minutes after putting in the final ingredients – and it shattered. The rat that was Peter let out a frightened squeak and went to hide in a corner. Remus sighed and waved his wand, making the mess crumple into fine powder and disappear. Sirius started barking.

“Sirius, shhhhhh!” Said Maya. She ran over and put a finger in front of his face like a parent scolding a small child. “No! Quiet!” The dog stopped barking and then jumped on Maya, licking her face with his long pink tongue.

“Ewwww! Sirius! Stop it!” Maya squealed, trying to fend him off. “Remus!”

“I’m coming!” Remus said, trying hard not to laugh. He searched his pockets and found his extra tie. He looped it around Sirius’ neck like a collar and tugged the large dog off Maya.

“That’s gross,” Maya moaned, wiping her face.

“Technically it’s not Sirius,” Remus said, a broad smile on his face despite his best efforts. “They’re just animals right now.”

Maya considered that but she was too much of a kitten to appreciate a long wet tongue being rubbed all over her face. “Still nasty,” she said decidedly.

There was a strange tearing sound and they turned to see that James had managed to tangle the tip of his antlers in the clothing he had left on the table. Maya sighed and went to help him out, and then leapt about a foot in the air as Peter scurried past her foot. He climbed up onto the table and squeaked at James.

“You think they can talk to each other?” Remus asked.

“Yes,” said Maya with so much conviction that he stared. Maya explained, “When I’m a cat I can communicate with Hagrid’s dog. It’s not talking exactly but there’s understanding.”

Remus nodded, impressed. “I wonder if being animagus makes of different?” He asked.

“Guess we’ll ask them tomorrow,” said Maya. Sirius began sniffing at his clothing and then began chewing his own shoes.

“Sirius! No chewing! Bad dog!” Said Maya. She began tugging at the shoe and he tugged back, growling but with his tail wagging so hard it was a black blur. Remus almost sat on Peter, earning himself an angry squeak, and then jumped as James sniffed at his hair.

“That’s it,” Remus said. “We need to get them out of the castle.”

“Agreed!” Panted Maya as she finally succeeded in pulling the shoe from Sirius’ mouth. He ducked down his head, his tail high in the air and panted happily. “Don’t you give me that look,” she warned him.

Remus smiled as he stuffed their friends’ things in a bag and then hid it behind one of the cabinets. Maya undid the silencing spells on the room and then stuffed Peter into the pocket of her cloak. Remus poked his head outside and then grabbed onto James antlers. “Come on then, Prongs,” he muttered.

“Prongs?” Maya asked.

Remus shrugged. “He needs a nickname.”

Maya grinned, “That just leaves Sirius.”

By this point, Remus had pulled James into the hallway and Maya had followed him cautiously, her hand firmly around the tie that was serving as Sirius’ collar. Any further talk was stopped by Sirius’ low growl. Maya looked up and her heart stopped. “No. Mrs. Norris, go away!” She hissed at the bad-tempered cat. Mrs. Norris gave Sirius a cold look and then regarded the group – two humans, a stag and a dog – suspiciously. Remus could almost hear her wondering whether to get Filch. Even though she didn’t feel the least bit cat-like, Maya hissed at her. The other cat regarded her and then turned to leave. It might even have gone well from that point on, if Peter hadn’t poked his head out of Maya’s pocket.

The cat looked at the rat and the rat stared back.

Peter let out a terrified squeal and took off, running down the silent halls of Hogwarts, with the cat right on his tail. “No!” Remus and Maya shouted, and then Maya swore as Sirius tore after the cat, barking furiously.

Maya was knocked to the ground and she looked up at Remus desperately. “She’s going to eat Peter!” She jumped up and raced after the rat being chased by a cat being chased by a dog.

“What about James?!” Remus shouted after her. The stag tried to follow the young witch and Remus grabbed his antlers securely, “Oh no you don’t!” The stag glared at him and that was how Remus found himself doing a ridiculous tug of war with a stag, on the stairs, in the middle of the night. They hadn’t known this, but stags don’t like stairs...

Maya didn’t have any trouble following the animals because they were making so much noise. She was scared of being caught, but terrified of Mrs. Norris eating Peter. Maybe I should let Sirius catch her, she wondered as she leapt down a flight of stairs. Realizing where they were headed, Maya took a shortcut involving an archway that liked to pretend it was a wall, and burst in front of the group. She threw herself to the floor, trying to catch Peter, but only succeeded in pinning Mrs. Norris to the ground. Peter promptly hid in Maya’s pocket. The cat hissed angrily but Maya hissed right back. There must have been enough werecat in her after all because the cat calmed down a bit. At least until Sirius got there and got a hold of her tail.

“Padfoot! Stop!” Maya said. She hit him firmly on the nose with an open palm and the surprised dog let the cat go. Mrs. Norris dashed to safety on top of a suit of armor. The dog sat down and whined. “Bad dog,” said Maya. She grabbed onto the tie around his neck, made sure that Peter was still in her pocket and dragged the large dog down several flights of stairs and out the front door. She was relieved to find Remus already out there.

“Did anyone see you?” Asked Maya.

“I had a close run-in with the Bloody Baron but I hid us in the History of Magic classroom,” Remus panted. “We can’t be this close to the castle.”

Maya nodded. “Hagrid’s,” she suggested. “He won’t ask too many questions about having a stag and a large dog.”

Remus nodded and tugged James in the direction of Hagrid’s hut. James, who was currently eating grass, ignored him. “Move, Prongs,” Remus hissed.

Maya cracked a smile. “By the way, Sirius is Padfoot.”

“Padfoot?” Remus frowned at her. “How’d you come up with that?”

“I dunno,” said Maya, shrugging. “It just...slipped out.”

It took a lot of pushing, pulling, tugging and another mad dash after Peter, before they were all hidden in Hagrid’s pumpkin patch. Seemingly content with the location, James sat down. Remus and Maya flopped down next to him and leaned against his warm flank.

“He’s big enough for me to ride,” Maya yawned.

Remus just smiled. Peter crawled out of Remus’ pocket – Maya had stuffed him in there after his latest escape attempt – and snuggled into the folds of Remus’ cloak. Sirius lay beside Maya, his head on both paws. “Don’t give us that innocent look,” Remus told him. “This is all your fault – I wanted to sleep inside.” The dog merely blinked at him sleepily, wagging his tail. Maya snuggled against Remus as a soft breeze began to blow. Remus smiled at her. “Cold?” He asked.

“Not really,” she replied, her eyes already closed.

Remus lay back against James with a soft smile. Ever since she had stopped trying to be friends with Snape – whom the Marauders had treated with much more respect since the Whomping Willow incident – Maya was constantly with them. Remus and Maya had formed a strong friendship that was rivaled only by the one between Sirius and James. She was the little sister he had never gotten because his parents had feared his condition too much. And he was her older brother. So it was without fear that Maya fell asleep against him and, some inner instinct telling him that their animagus friends wouldn’t run off again, Remus was soon asleep, too.

The next morning Sirius woke up and was confused. He knew he was a dog, and he knew he was outside, but what he didn’t understand was why he was curled around Maya. Sirius carefully backed up, unable to stop his tail from wagging as he looked at the sleeping witch. She and Remus had fallen asleep with their heads on James – who was still sound asleep – and Peter had climbed up into Maya’s hair to form a nest during the night.
That made Sirius mad.

< My human; I love her, > he growled softly. Then he blinked. It’s the dog talking, he decided, thankful that he had no cheeks to go red. But still...a rat in her hair? Gross. Sirius grabbed onto Peter’s tail and pulled him off.

Peter was instantly awake. < Put me down you big oaf! > the rat squeaked angrily. Remus stirred and James lifted his head.

< Not so loud, > Sirius told him, putting him down. < Don’t nest in people’s hair, Wormtail. >

< It was the rat, > Peter protested, cleaning his whiskers indignantly.

< Hey,> said James, nuzzling Maya gently. She opened her eyes, a bit startled. < They stayed.>

< Of course they did, > said Sirius. He scratched behind his ear with one large paw. < We would for them. >

< We will for them, right? That was the point of all this, > Peter asked.

Maya stretched, waking up Remus and looked at Sirius. “You in there, Padfoot?” She asked.

< Padfoot?> Sirius thought back to the night before. < Not bad, Midnight. Not bad at all.> Without thinking, he gave her face a quick kiss – one fast lick across her cheek.

“Ew!” She said, pushing him away.

“That’s pretty gross, Sirius,” said Remus conversationally, grinning broadly.

“If you can understand me, change back,” Maya suggested. “Let’s see if this works all the way.”

Sirius looked at her and then closed his eyes. Human, he thought. Legs and arms and feet and hands... For a long moment, nothing happened. But then, as if he had touched something within himself, he began to grow. But unlike last night there was no creaking bones or pain. It was fluid and as natural as saying a spell. The only downside was that Sirius fell as he transformed; landing in an undignified sprawl wearing only his pants. James laughed. He’d stumbled, but had managed to stay on his feet. Remus handed him his glasses with a grin.

Maya smiled at them and turned to the rat still seated on the floor. “Come on, Peter,” she encouraged him. But this seemed to worry the rat because he began running in circles squeaking loudly.

Sirius snatched him. “Relax, Wormtail,” he told him. “It won’t work if you lose it, mate.”

“Think about human things,” James suggested. “Walking and talking and hands. Stuff like that.” The rat nodded. Sirius put him back on the ground and a couple of stressful minutes later, Peter looked at them with his own, very-human, watery blue eyes.

“That was...interesting,” he said breathlessly.

“Marauders,” said James grandly. Everyone looked at him. A wide grin spread across his face. “We did it.” And then they were all laughing and hugging. Because, no matter what they had said to each other before, to get to that point, was truly magical.

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