"Five more minutes!"
Remus Lupin tore his eyes away from his exam paper at the sound of the Charms teacher, Professor Flitwick's squeaky voice.
Nervous adrenaline pumping through his veins, he threw a quick glance across the great hall; he saw his friend Peter Pettigrew sitting at a desk two seats away from him on the row in front. He looked panicked, biting his nails feverishly whilst occasionally peeping at a neighbour's paper. He looked exactly how Remus felt.
James Potter's scruffy, black hair bobbed up and down a few seats diagonally in front of him as its owner placed his quill onto the wooden desk and leant forwards to reread what he had written with a monstrous yawn. Four seats behind James sat Sirius Black, easily spotted on account of his dark curls and the fact that he was the only pupil no longer writing anything; he was lounging in his fragile-looking chair, tilting it onto its back legs whilst resting his feet atop his desk lazily. How Remus envied his carefree nature sometimes.
Remus returned his attention to the paper in front of him and reread his answers. He analysed his wording for question seven whilst subconsciously scratching his chin with the end of his quill. With a minute to spare, he swiftly scribbled out the words get rid of and replaced them with eradicate before -
"Quills down, please!" chirped Professor Flitwick and the sounds of numerous quills unceremoniously landing on desks could be heard for a few seconds. "That means you too, Stebbins!" a single clatter was heard from the back of the hall. "Please remain seated while I collect your parchment! Accio!"
Remus' piece of parchment flew off his desk as though it were attached to an invisible cord and across the room along with over a hundred others. As soon as the parchment left his sight and joined the cloud of others soaring across the hall, Remus felt as though everything he had written was wrong for sure.
No, Remus reassured himself. You studied hard. You'll do fine.
The mass of flying parchments collided with the tiny professor's body all at once, knocking the man backwards off his feet. Remus heard several sniggers around the room and his first instinct was to get up and help the professor to his feet, but he was seated several rows away from the front and a group of students who had been sitting on the front row had already begun helping him. Flitwick thanked the students who had helped him to his feet and then dismissed the year group.
Remus pushed his chair out and stood up from his desk, eager to leave the Defence against the Dark Arts test behind him and start focusing on the upcoming Transfiguration exam. Picking up his copy of Intermediate Transfiguration from underneath his chair, Remus started walking towards the hall's grand doors through which all of his classmates were leaving. He sensed Peter's presence following half a step behind as he ambled towards where James and Sirius stood waiting for them.
"Did you like question ten, Moony?" Sirius asked with a grin as Remus and Peter approached and the group started strolling through the entrance hall.
"Loved it," Remus replied briskly, mimicking Sirius' tone. "'Give five signs that identify the werewolf'. Excellent question."
"D'you think you managed to get all the signs?" James asked with mock concern and a glint in his eye.
"Think I did," Remus nodded solemnly, keeping his voice low so that only his friends could hear him as the class was absorbed by the sea of students making their way outside to enjoy the warm summer air. "One: he's sitting on my chair. Two: he's wearing my clothes. Three: his name's Remus Lupin."
James and Sirius both laughed at his quick wit.
"I got the snout shape, the pupils of the eyes and the tufted tail," Peter explained worriedly. "But I couldn't think what else –"
"How thick are you, Wormtail?" James looked impatient, despite this being the first thing Peter had said since entering the hall for their exam over half an hour ago. Remus thought his tone was rather uncalled for. "You run round with a werewolf once a month –"
"Keep your voice down," Remus implored urgently, panic stabbing at his stomach. His friends were ridiculously cavalier when it came to discussing his condition, at the best of times. James simply shrugged, pulling a face that suggested he would see no harm in skipping through the school grounds whilst wearing a neon pink 'I'm with the wolf' T-shirt and singing about Remus' being a werewolf.
The Marauders strolled outside onto the grassy lawn towards the lake, the vibrant sunshine instantly heating their faces and forcing them to squint. "Well I thought that paper was a piece of cake," Remus heard Sirius say as he lifted a hand to shield his eyes from the sun's glare. "I'll be surprised if I don't get 'Outstanding' at least."
"Me too," James' voice agreed. Remus couldn't help but inwardly laugh at his friends' boastfulness. It was the way they acted about every test, and they were usually right. James and Sirius could easily take a quick glance at the revision list before entering an exam and still end up getting an 'Outstanding' or 'Exceeded Expectations', whereas people like Remus had to study for hours to get the information to stick in their memory.
"Where'd you get that?" Sirius' voice interrupted Remus' thoughts and he turned to see what his friend was talking about. James was now holding a struggling Golden Snitch between his thumb and forefinger.
"Nicked it," he answered simply as the boys flung themselves onto the cool grass in the shade created by the large beech tree, situated by the lake's edge. Remus placed Intermediate Transfiguration on his lap and leafed through the pages until he found the chapter he needed.
Chapter 4: Examinations in Transfiguration
When studying for both Ordinary Wizarding Level examinations and Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests, you will need to revise the following topics:-
OWLs: Dinner Plate to Mushroom
"…Wish it was full moon," Sirius' voice cut through Remus' concentration.
"You might," Remus could hear the cynicism in his voice, but he couldn't help it; even thinking about full moons made Remus feel anxious. Not as much anymore, now he had his friends, but still slightly. He decided to change the subject. "We've still got Transfiguration, if you're bored you could test me. Here…" he held out his book to Sirius. The older boy merely snorted and looked away. "I don't need to look at that rubbish, I know it all." His arrogant tone irritated Remus no end. Just because Sirius knew it, he wasn't even willing to help his friend. Remus rolled his eyes and placed the heavy book back onto his lap.
"This'll liven you up, Padfoot," James murmured. Remus, along with Sirius and Peter, followed his scruffy haired friend's eye line.
Severus Snape, a greasy haired boy with a hooked nose and mean features, was presently stuffing a piece of parchment into his bag and setting off out of the shadows towards the castle. Remus knew exactly what was coming. Whilst his friends continued staring at the boy, James and Sirius starting to stand up, he forced his head down and tried to turn his attention back to his book, a knot forming in the pit of his stomach. "Excellent," Sirius' voice said, Remus could hear the excitement rising in his tone. "Snivellus."
Despite his tireless efforts to continue reading, to block out what he knew was going to happen, to pretend it wasn't happening, Remus' subconscious was listening in; wanting to know more.
"All right, Snivellus?" James shouted.
The sound of sudden movement and then "Expelliarmus!" James said triumphantly. Remus stared harder at the text in front of him, but his eyes wouldn't read the words as he heard Sirius' familiar bark of laughter. "Impedimenta!"
Remus knew exactly what was happening, he didn't even need to look up. He wished his friends would leave Snape alone. Granted, Severus Snape was an extremely disagreeable boy, snide at the best of times and had fought with James and Sirius before, but he hadn't done anything. James and Sirius were completely unprovoked in their attack this time. In his peripheral vision, he saw Peter standing up and edging forwards, eager to get a better view. Remus could hear the crowd of students forming; everyone seemed to enjoy seeing Snape being bullied by the two boys.
"How'd the test go, Snivelly?" James asked, using the same tone he had used with Remus earlier, as though he actually cared, only this time it sounded acidic and vicious.
"I was watching him," Sirius spoke loudly, making sure everyone could hear. "His nose was touching the parchment, there'll be great grease marks all over it, they won't be able to read a word." Peter laughed shrilly next to Remus, along with various other students. Remus' eyes would not move from the 'i' in Inanimatus, despite his tireless efforts to start reading again, to block it all out.
He was just as bad as them and he knew it.
He didn't want to be, he wanted to stop his friends from being horrid bullies, but he couldn't. They were two of the three people in the entire school who knew what he was. They had promised not to tell anyone, but they could break that promise at the drop of a hat if they were to fall out with one another. Remus would be thrown out of school as quickly as James could catch a snitch; no one wants their children exposed to…creatures like him.
Obviously, neither boy had ever said such a thing to Remus; but fear, particularly the irrational kind, does strange things to the ways in which people perceive others. James and Sirius were the best friends Remus could hope for most of the time, but when around Snape, they changed.
Snape was panting. "You – wait – you – wait!"
"Wait for what?" The coldness in Sirius' voice stung Remus' ears. "What're you going to do, Snivelly, wipe your nose on us?" Remus hated the way James and Sirius teased Snape about the size of his nose, it wasn't as though he could do anything about it, nor should he have to. Remus shook his robe's sleeve up his arm conspicuously and stared at a thin scar that ran through his skin; one of the many presents he received from the full moon every month. Remus couldn't help having them; he had no control over where they were or what they looked like. As his acute ears listened to Snape's colourful use of obscenities Remus wondered whether, had they not been friends with him, James, Sirius and Peter would have said something about them, like they did Snape's nose.
"Wash your mouth out," James' voice pulled Remus out of his reverie. "Scourgify!" Remus knew exactly what that spell did, and that such a spell should not be used on a person. A thick choking noise floated across the sunny grounds, making Remus' stomach turn. He didn't have to fight the urge to lift his head then, he didn't want to know what his friends were capable of doing to someone.
"Leave him ALONE!" A sudden shout made Remus jump, but he recovered himself quickly. Keeping his head down, he forced his eyes as skyward as possible, peeping through his light brown hair. Lily Evans. Remus softly sighed with relief, if anyone could stop James from doing something; it was the girl he had been infatuated by since their first year at Hogwarts. Everything was going to be fine, James and Sirius would stop being prats and they could all go back to normal again. He dropped his strained eyes back down to his book, but his brain refused to take in the words again. Like the students surrounding James, Sirius, Snape and now, it seemed, Lily, his attention seemed intent of being solely occupied by the events unfurling meters away from him.
"All right, Evans?" the effect of James' casual but charming greeting was ruined by Snape's violent retching.
"Leave him alone," Remus could hear the distaste in Lily's voice as she spoke to James. "What's he done to you?" That was a good question.
"Well," for a moment James sounded as though he had realised how uncalled for his attack had been. "It's more the fact that he exists, if you know what I mean…" Many students laughed; though none more than Peter, who was bent double as though under a tickling jinx.
"You think you're funny, but you're just an arrogant, bullying toerag, Potter," Lily's voice was laced with hatred. "Leave him alone."
"I will if you go out with me, Evans," James' voice replied, undeterred by her insults as usual. "Go on…go out with me and I'll never lay a wand on Snivelly again."
"I wouldn't go out with you if it was a choice between you and the giant squid," Lily replied flatly. Remus didn't understand how James had expected an answer any different to the numerous times Lily had turned him down (He had begun to lose count at approximately the 1000th time) especially as he was currently choking one of her friends.
"Bad luck, Prongs," Sirius said briskly. "OI!" a bright light flashed across the page Remus was staring at and he looked up to see that James suddenly had a huge welt on his face, blood dripping down his chin and splattered over his robes. Remus gasped, as did many other students. As they had expected, Snape had eventually retaliated, but cutting James was a drastically horrible way to get your own back. James was not the sort of person to take anything like that lying down. Which he didn't.
He spun around. Another flash.
After blinking back the blue spots obscuring his vision, Remus saw that Snape was now hanging upside-down, suspended in mid air. His robes fell over his face to reveal skinny legs, as pale as snow. The crowd cheered. James (who seemed to have forgotten about his injury), Sirius and Peter stood, roaring with laughter at Snape's greying underpants, now on show for everyone to see. Remus lowered his head again, somehow hoping this would relieve some of Snape's embarrassment as he heard Lily say "Let him down!"
"Certainly," was James' reply and Remus heard a terrible thud, indicating Snape's rough collision with the ground. For a moment Remus thought the whole ordeal was over, until he heard Sirius shout "Petrificus Totalus!"
"LEAVE HIM ALONE!" Lily bellowed and Remus heard Peter squeak with fright.
"Ah, Evans, don't make me hex you," James said, he sounded wary, even slightly fearful. Remus glanced up and saw Lily holding her wand pointedly at the boys' chests.
"Take the curse off him then!"
James sighed, sounding like he had just been told to clean the boy's dormitory, and muttered the counter-curse begrudgingly. "There you go. You're lucky Evan's was here, Snivellus-"
"I don't need help from filthy mudbloods like her!" Snape roared.
A silence as heavy as a damp towel fell over the grounds, smothering all sound as the students surrounding the action stared, wide-eyed. Remus held his breath inadvertently.
"Fine," Lily's surprisingly calm voice ripped through the silence like Snape's cutting spell. "I won't bother in future. And I'd wash your pants if I were you, Snivellus."
"Apologise to Evans!" James bellowed at Snape, who seemed too preoccupied by his own thoughts to notice. Although he was sat a good few meters away from him, Remus thoughts he saw a flicker of sadness in Snape's eyes. Perhaps down to the fact he had just pushed the only person willing to help him away.
"I don't need you to make him apologise," Lily rounded on James with unprecedented anger. "You're just as bad as he is."
"What?" James exclaimed, more appalled than angry. "I'd NEVER call you a – you-know-what!"
"Messing up your hair because you think it looks cool to look like you've just got off your broomstick, showing off with that stupid Snitch-" James' eyes flickered with something similar to happiness at the fact Lily had noticed him earlier. "-walking down corridors hexing anyone who annoys you because you can – I'm surprised your broomstick can get off the ground with that fat head on it. You make me SICK." The final word rang through the air like a malicious bell.
On the outside, James seemed unfazed, but Remus and his friends could see through the cracks of his façade, could see that she had hurt his feelings. She turned and ran off towards the castle. "Evans!" James hollered after her, not one to give up easily. "Hey, EVANS! …What is with her?"
"Reading between the lines, I'd say she thinks you're a bit conceited, mate." Sirius said, somewhere between sarcasm and trying not to hurt his friend's feelings.
James looked angry now. "Right…right-" a bright flash exploded from his wand and Remus blinked to see Snape hanging upside down once again. "Who wants to see me take off Snivelly's pants?" Remus' stomach resumed it's previously knotted state as he let his head flop down onto his chest, finally managing to squeeze some meaning from the words in his book. Now that James' was angrily distraught, there was no stopping him.
Remus was a coward, and he was all too aware of the fact.
He was supposed to be a Gryffindor, but there was too much riding on his silence; his friendship, his education, his future.
The situation wasn't one of a story, where the unsuspecting hero stands up to his friends and they listen, where everything ends, simple as that. No ramifications. It was actually happening, everything was much more complex, as far as he was concerned.
He had too much to lose to be chivalrous.