The Midnight Marauder

Side-Effects

Remus walked into Transfiguration – their second class – a few minutes late the next day. Professor McGonagall gave him a stern look that was equal parts surprise and exasperation but didn’t pause in explaining the day’s spell. Remus slid into his usual seat on James’ left and whispered, “Madame Pomfrey couldn’t believe it when I said I wanted to go to class. She thinks it’s a miracle.”

“A miracle wouldn’t hurt,” James said quietly, grimacing as he rubbed his bruised ribs. The look on Remus face was so pained that James instantly added, “We’re happy to do it, Moony. It’s okay.”

“But...”

“Skip it, mate,” Sirius whispered from James’ other side. “We’re not leaving you.”

“Besides,” Peter said in a squeaky whisper, “It was kind of fun.”

Sirius gave him a weird look. “What happened to your voice?” Sirius demanded. Professor McGonagall stopped all further conversation by standing in front of their table and giving them her famous look. At the front of the class, Lily rolled her eyes.

After class, the boys had a break, and they loitered outside of Maya’s Defense Against the Dark Arts class until she came out with Christy and Thomas. Maya looked beyond frustrated.

“An essay on the unforgivable curses? Really?” She complained to Christy and Thomas. “It’s the first month of school!”

“And you’re already getting into mischief, aren’t you?” Thomas asked, catching site of the Marauders. James grinned at him. They liked Maya’s friends – brave and true through and through, real Gryffindors.

“You know she calms us down,” Sirius scoffed, throwing his arm around Maya’s shoulders.

“Oh really?” Christy said, her eyes sparkling as she teased.

Maya bared her teeth in a happy grin. “Sometimes.”

Thomas laughed.

“Oh, I actually have a question for all of you,” said Christy, turning to the Marauders.

“Ask away,” said Sirius grandly, his arm still around Maya’s shoulders.

Christy smiled as she said, “The rumor is you lot have a way to sneak into the castle from Hogsmeade. Think you can help the three of us get back if we stay late the first Hogsmeade trip of the year?”

“That won’t work, Christy,” said Thomas before the pleased Marauders could talk about the passage that opened up near the train station – it was a bit unstable but still usable. “It’s on the full moon.”

Four Marauders and one confused witch looked from Christy to Thomas.

“Why not?” Asked Maya, barely managing to keep her voice steady. Christy and Thomas smiled knowingly at each other and Christy whispered something in Maya’s ear. Maya’s eyes widened and she grabbed onto Christy’s hand and ran, pulling her along. Thomas followed them at a fast jog. The other exchanged worried glances. Remus swallowed nervously. After the longest ten minutes of their lives, the three returned – and Maya was beaming.

“How about the second Hogsmeade trip?” Christy suggested, as if nothing had happened.

“Well...” James stretched lazily, “Can we trust you?”

“Yes,” Maya said, her eyes sparkling. “You most certainly can.”

“Then let the older kids take care of the magic,” said Sirius. “We’ll get you back to Hogwarts.”

Maya handed Remus a crumpled note. He unfolded it and read, “They figured me out. Only me.” Remus grinned and gave Maya a quick hug from behind. Maya was his little sister, no doubt about it. She’d known that he’d be worrying. Meanwhile, Thomas and Christy had continued to talk with Sirius, and poor Thomas has been so tongue-tied by the older boy that he finally just fell silent with an indignant expression. Peter laughed, a shrill laugh that made him clamp his own hands over his mouth in horror and a few Hufflepuffs standing about stared.

The group all looked at him, and then burst into laughter. All except for Sirius who merely chuckled – he always did that to prevent his high-pitched laugh from calling attention. “It’s not funny!” Peter protested squeakily. “What’s wrong with my voice?!”

This only made them laugh harder – even Sirius. But Sirius’ laugh came out rough and grating; more like a bark than a laugh. James, Remus and Maya fell silent and looked at him. Sirius looked at them with wide eyes and then his face broke into a handsome smile. “Yes!” He crowed, punching the air. “I grew out of the hamster laugh!” James burst into laughter again at this but Maya and Remus exchanged worried glances. Christy and Thomas looked at each other and shrugged while Peter sulked in the corner.

That night, the Marauders and Midnight snuck into their favorite classroom – Peter, Sirius and Maya in animal form while James and Remus shared the invisibility cloak. They’d barely gotten inside before Remus began frantically searching through the old book on animagus. The last chapter was called simply, “Side Effects.”

“Listen to this,” Remus said. He began to read, “If the spells are not completed with the proper preparation and mental concentration, the wizard or witch in question can begin to acquire characteristics of the animal they have chosen.”

“What?” Demanded Peter.

“Okay,” said Sirius, scratching his hair, “That’s not too bad. So Wormtail squeaks a bit when he talks and I bark when I laugh. So what?”

“Do I do anything?” James wondered aloud.

“Get fleas?” Sirius suggested with a smirk. James shoved him.

“But if we messed up on that...” Remus continued, his face creased with worry.

“Don’t worry,” said James. “We’ll be fine.”

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