Title: 2005 Gift for Vignette

Author: tarotgal

Fandom: Harry Potter

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: These characters and their world are not mine. I've no rights and no money.

Summary: The Marauders attempt to pull of their biggest and best prank ever... and they'll succeed so long as Remus' sneezes don't get in the way.

Notes: Written as a gift fic for Vignette during the 2005 holiday season.



2005 Gift for Vignette

     "And it will be a prank no one will forget," said Sirius, grinning.


     "All right," said James, rubbing sweaty palms on his robe-covered thighs. "Let's go over it one last time before we head out."


     Sirius groaned. He was rubbing his hand against a thigh as well: Remus' thigh. "Prongs, we've already been through it twice now. I think we've got it down pat."


     "Excellent," James replied. "Then it should not take long to go through it once more." He cleared his throat. "So, first we assemble the benches and transfigure them into a large platform. Then..." he trailed off leadingly.


     Peter jumped in with much enthusiasm. "Then Remus and I jump on top of it with the ropes. We will wait for James and Sirius to raise it into the air and we keep our balance."


     James nodded. "And then...?" He looked over at Sirius, waiting for the young man to jump in with the next bit.


     Sirius, however, was not paying attention. At least, not to the conversation. He had a hand up Remus' robes and his face was nuzzled close against Remus' neck and chin. He was murmuring something that was making Remus blush and grin wildly.


     "Padfoot! Moony!" James moaned. "Stop fooling around with each other! This is it, the grandest, most incredible prank we've ever pulled. It's our last year and our last New Year's and we want to start it off properly. There's no room for a botched job here, Mates."


     "Oh, James," Sirius said with a sigh. He pulled away from Remus, albeit reluctantly. "We'll pull this off. Always do. And Lily'll know it was you and be incredibly impressed and throw herself at you like you hope."


     James scowled, but Sirius wasn't exactly exaggerating much. "Still, I think it would help if the two of you stopped snogging long enough for us to get this worked out."


     "We have it worked out," Sirius insisted. "Prongs, you're getting the Gryffindors and bowls. I'm Hufflepuffs and plates. Moony's got the Ravenclaws and cups. Wormtail targets the Slytherins and butter knives. And whoever finishes first starts on the teapots."


     Peter crossed his arms over his chest. "I don't see why I have to do the Slytherins."


     "Sniff! Because we know how much you'll like getting back at them for that incident a few weeks ago in the halls," said Remus, trying to distract Peter from the real reason. Peter's assignment was loads easier than any of the others and there was no way even he, as a seventh year, could mess up a second year transfiguration spell.


     "Right," James said with a nod. "Do we have everything we need? Map?"


     "Check!" Peter said, bubbly and excited again. He proceeded to check off the rest of the supplies, one-by-one, from ropes to the invisibility cloak.


     "And we all have our wands?" James asked, being extra thorough. He brandished his own.


     "I have mine!" Peter said perkily.


     There was silence where there should have been two similar confirmations. But Peter and James looked over to see Sirius and Remus snogging again. Remus had his hands on either side of Sirius' head, his fingers tangled in the jet black hair, and had his head tilted to the side as he kissed with an open mouth. Sirius met his with moving lips and a warm, wet tongue. His own hands were on Remus' hips, moving inward ever so slightly towards Remus' crotch.


     "Argh!" James cried, hanging his head at the sight.


     Sirius pulled back, a blissful expression plastered on his face. "Sorry," he said dreamily. "But you know how I get when it comes to making mischief..."


     James sighed and picked his cloak up off the floor of their dormitory room. He took the map as well and glanced at it. "The coast is clear. Filch and his cat are on the other side of the castle and Peeves is with the Baron in the astronomy tower." He rolled up the map, not bothering to wipe it first as they'd have to watch it closely while on the move anyway. he stood and looked down at his friends, who were all but sitting in each other's laps. "Just try to keep it in your pants and keep silent, all right? The last thing we need is to be found out. If they can't find us, they can't pin it on us, no matter how much they might want to. And this prank is just too brilliant."


     They all agreed, collecting their things, and moved quietly out of their room and out of Gryffindor tower. James, with the map, took the lead. He was closely followed by Peter, nervous as always about being caught out of their beds and roaming the halls in the middle of the night. Sirius, however, seemed suave and relaxed about it, and one could tell how much he was enjoying himself. Remus brought up the rear and though he kept up with them for the most part, he hung back a few times.


     Naturally, Sirius noticed this. He glanced back to see Remus further away than he should be and frowned. He headed back to him, but his look of confusion turned into one of concern as he saw Remus rub his nose, and then sneeze. Twice.


     "hihhShh! ehhhChh!" Remus pulled out a hanky and rubbed at his nose. "Excuse me," he whispered, now that someone was beside him to excuse himself to.


     "Are you feeling all right?" Sirius asked with a unique sort of worry in his voice. Practically the only time Sirius ever sounded worried was when speaking of Remus' health. He laid a hand on Remus' arm.


     Remus shrugged and reassuringly covered Sirius' hand with one of his own. "To be honest, I feel perfectly find. I've been sniffling a lot today... and sneezing a little bit. But I don't really feel like I have a cold. It's very strange... but maybe it's just the cold temperatures making my nose run?"


     "Maybe," Sirius agreed with a nod. "When we're done here I'll have to see about warming you up... properly..." He kissed Remus' nose, and then kissed him on the lips. "Besides, we're always kissing. If you're sick, I would be, too."


     "You're probably right," Remus agreed, though he did so between hard sniffs and wiped his nose with the hanky afterwards. "Come on, we'd better catch up before James starts fuming again." They hurried along down the dark hallway towards the stairs and took them all the way down.


     They found the Great Hall as empty as the map had claimed. It was emptier than normal, still, as the five long tables had been cleared away to various sides of the room to make room for a smaller table with chairs that would seat everyone who had stayed at Hogwarts during the winter holiday. There were, perhaps, forty students and another fifteen or so staff members, so one table was sufficient for everything. This worked delightfully well for the Marauder's plan and the four of them sprang into action.


     Peter, as always, stood watch with the map just in case. The others used a bit of magic to round up two of the long benches that usually sat at the house tables. The items still dragged on the floor with a loud, irritating scraping sound. They all seemed a bit on edge at the noise, and rightfully so. "Filch is coming!" Peter hissed in warning.


     Luckily, they were prepared. All four of them dove beneath the invisibility cloak. James raised his wand and motioned towards the pepper shaker. It tipped off the table and, as directed by James', spelled out a message on the floor. It came to rest just as the doors flew open and Filch burst in.


     The Marauders all tensed up, holding their breaths so they would not be heard by the scarily attentive caretaker. Remus, however, went one step further and pinched his nose. Sirius noticed and put his arm around Remus concernedly. Remus looked apologetically back at him, lips pursed and breath held, holding back the tickles in his nose.


     "What's going on here!" Filch yelled, looking around to see the tables and benches out of place. But then his eyes rested on the message: PEEVES WOZ HERE "Peeves!" he called, his hands curling into clenched fists. "Oh, I'll get you this time!" The pepper trailed off towards one wall, hinting at Peeves' direction of escape. Filch noticed this and took off down the corridor.


     Remus immediately cupped his hands to his face. "hehhh..."


     "Remus?" James asked, throwing the cloak off.


     All eyes were on Remus. "ihhh-ihhh-HIHHHhhhhh..." He froze a moment, then pitched forward. "EHHChuhh!"


     "Bless you," said Peter. James and Sirius just stared at Remus, questions in their eyes.


     "Sorry," Remus said, sniffling. "I suddenly really had to sneeze all of a sudden... must have been the pepper." After all the movement, the scent was in the air. It made sense for Remus to feel it more than the others, what with his werewolf senses.


     "It's all right," James said. "We didn't get caught. Just... just try not sneeze while we're transfiguring the benches. We've got to have silence or it could go dangerously wrong. All right?"


     Remus nodded. He did not think much of this nod of a promise when he made it, but minutes later, just as Sirius and James were about to perform the transfiguration spell, panic ran through him. He felt another sneeze coming on and immediately covered his nose and mouth with both hands. He tried to hold his breath, but such a thing seemed impossible just now. His ragged breathing was silent, though, and Remus struggled to keep his eyes open so he could determine when Sirius and James were finished.


     The spell was a slow one, as Sirius and James had to be precise in their wording and synchronous in their chanting. "hehh!" Remus gasped ever so softly, the sound muffled in his hands. He felt the sneeze tickling madly in his nose, but he was resolute and would not sneeze until it was safe to do so.


     The second the benches were transfigured into a large, sturdy platform, Remus could hold the sneezes back no longer. "ehhhCHHHH! ehhhChuhhh! Ehhh-hehhh-hihh-CHISHH!"


     All three of his friends were staring at him this time. And after checking to be sure the platform was still fine, Remus said a soft, "Excuse me."


     "That wasn't because of pepper." James walked over, looking just short of confrontational. "Are you sick?"


     Remus shrugged and shook his head. "I don't think I am. I don't feel sick. I feel fine, I really do. Sniff! Sniff! Except for a runny nose and some sneezing."


     "So you still want to go through with this?" James asked, looking as though he didn't really want to hear that Remus didn't.


     "I absolutely still want to go through with this," Remus said as reassuringly as possible. He picked up some of the rope, stepped up onto the platform, and laid himself flat upon it. Peter did likewise.


     Without hesitation, Sirius and James levitated the whole platform into the air. Remus, with a little help from Peter who seemed quite skittish to be up so high, fastened the ropes from the platform to the ceiling, securing it in place without the need for magic. A long-lasting cloaking spell provided them with the perfect hiding place, high above the Great Hall.


     "Oy, how's it going up there?" Sirius called from the floor, looking up at the nothingness where his friends should have been.


     All of a sudden, Remus' head-- and just his head-- came out of nowhere. "We're fine! We'll be ready for you in a second. Hang on."


     Sirius rubbed his arm, feeling disconcerted to speak with the disembodied head of his boyfriend. He was almost relieved when Remus vanished from sight and a rope appeared in his place, seemingly lowered from nowhere.


     It allowed Sirius and James to climb all the way up to the platform. The pair was breathless and exhausted when they arrived at the top, though Sirius still managed to kiss Remus hello.


     And Remus managed to kiss back, even though he pulled away at the tail end of it to sneeze. "ehhh-hihhh..." He gave them all an apologetic look, and dug a handkerchief out of his pocket to rub at his nose. "hihhhh-ihhh-heh-IH-" He paused a moment, on the verge, then was thrown forward. "IHChihhh!" The whole platform rocked slightly from the force, and Peter whimpered. But it was secure and they were safe. "Sorry," Remus apologized promptly, just the same.


     "You're sure you're all right?" squeaked Peter nervously.


     Remus nodded back. He couldn't blame them for doubting. He was doubting himself at the moment, to be quite honest. "Sniff! I think so," he said. "Apart from the sniffles, I feel fine. Exhausted, but fine."


     "Well it is nearly morning and we have been up all night," Sirius reasoned. "I've seen Peter yawn at least ten times."


     "Have not!" Peter said, clearly fighting back another yawn that had presented itself thanks to Sirius' mention of the action.


     "We've got a little more than an hour until breakfast," James said, regarding his pocket watch. "You lot should try to take a nap. I'm too excited and anxious to fall asleep right now. I'll wake you when breakfast starts."


     So Remus stretched out on his side, snuggled up beside Sirius and with his head on Sirius' chest. Peter curled in on himself, giving a violent yawn and closing his eyes at once. Sirius petted Remus' head a few times and closed his own eyes, but did not get much sleep. He was just as anxious as James but didn't want Remus staying awake with worry, so pretended to be relaxed and asleep for a while. Sirius spent most of the night stroking Remus' head gently and talking with James.


     James looked at him with envy. "I want what you have," he said with a sigh.


     Sirius narrowed his eyes. "James, I love you. You're my best mate. But you're not getting my boyfriend." He hugged Remus closer to make his point.


     James chuckled softly. "I meant that I wanted the same thing with Lily that you have with Remus. You two are so caring and comfortable with each other."


     "With Remus, I find it easy to be." Sirius placed a gentle kiss on Remus' forehead.


     Breakfast was served not long after. As the main tables were all out of order to allow the one in the center which sat everyone, the house elves served the food by bringing it up from the kitchens through trap doors in the floor. James watched this from above. Then, when the house elves were gone, James summoned a small platter of muffins and a pitcher of pumpkin juice so the Marauders could breakfast before the excitement began.


     Peter woke at once to the smells of food. He ate his large lemon and poppy seed muffin in no less than five bites, his cheeks puffed with food as he chewed. James had one of the two blueberry ones, leaving the other blueberry and the chocolate one for Sirius and Remus, respectively.


     Sirius petted Remus a little harder, and kissed his forehead more firmly. "Remus... it's time for breakfast."


     Remus stirred slightly. "Idontheareveryoneyet," he mumbled in one breath. He did not open his eyes.


     "We're still the only ones in the hall," Sirius confirmed. "But we've procured some muffins and juice for us. And we've got you a chocolate one..." He held it up to Remus' face so the young man could smell it.


     "Nothungry. Wanttosleep," Remus muttered, snuggling closer to Sirius. He sniffled a few times and relaxed again. "Wakemeupwhenitstime." He yawned and fell back to sleep almost instantly. Sirius continued to provide a pillow, warmth and comfort for as long as Remus wanted it. And Peter was more than happy to eat the chocolate muffin on Remus' behalf.


     "He sounds sick, doesn't he?" Sirius asked worriedly. "Refusing chocolate... not a good sign."


     James nodded. "He's sick, all right. How about you?"


     Sirius shrugged. "I feel just fine."


     "Good. But we'd better let Remus sleep as much as he can. Don't want him getting sicker and sneezing the whole time." Sirius and Peter agreed and they all stayed relatively quiet until


     Remus was afforded another hour of sleep. Dumbledore was the first to arrive for breakfast, but staff and students filed in shortly thereafter and took seats around the single table. It was a target too perfect for the Marauders not to take. If they kept back, out of sight, they would be able to pull it off without being seen. And if they were not seen, they could not possibly be caught.


     That is, unless they were heard. That was easier said than done at the moment, as Remus awoke with the need to sneeze again. "ehhh-hehh-huhhhhh!" He had a handkerchief pressed to his nose and was taking sharp, quick breaths inwards through it. "ihhh-hihhhh!" Sirius put his arm around Remus and held him close as all four Marauders sat in the middle of the platform, not wanting to be seen. "hehh!" As soon as Remus realized he was not going to be able to hold back the sneezes any longer, Remus buried his face into Sirius' chest and the handkerchief as well. "ihhh-hihh-hihhhhhhhh... heh-Innkshhh! Ihgsh!" They were half-stifled, but quiet enough. It was an unsettling way to wake up, however, and Remus mouthed an apology.


     'How are you feeling?' Sirius mouthed back, feeling Remus' forehead and offering what was left of the pumpkin juice.


     'Better,' Remus replied. 'Not so tired.' He swiped the side of his hand against his runny nose and grimaced. 'But still sniffly.' He sniffed several more times and progressed to wiping his nose against the cuff of his robe sleeve. 'I hate to admit it... but I think I might be coming down with a cold.' Remus pressed his nose into the crook of his arm. "Ihhhh!" He froze, fighting the need to sneeze. And losing, as usual. "Ehgshhh!" Remus sighed and rubbed harder at his nose, sniffling even more, incredibly.


     James offered his handkerchief and Remus quietly blew his nose until satisfaction. 'I'm ready now,' Remus said silently, patting his chest with one last sniffle, trying to reassure them of his condition. 'Really. I'm well enough for this.' Then, in the softest of whispers, "Let's cause some mischief."


     With the ropes keeping the platform from tipping, all four crawled to the edge just far enough to peer down to see the table below. They held their wands out, readying with deep breaths of anticipation. Remus sniffled a little and rubbed at his nose, but was determined not to let it ruin the moment.


     James counted in a whisper. "Three... two... one... go!"


     They all said different spells at the same time, with different targets. One by one, the seven butter knives on the table were transfigured into long, bright green snakes. Most slithered across the table, but at least one was caught by a black raven which used to be a teacup or a goblet. The other dozen ravens took flight, not wanting to stay on the table through all the commotion. The badgers, several of which were covered in the food that had been sitting on the former plates. The badgers were scrambling around, trying to get at everything they could, while avoiding the other animals. The lions, however, did not seem to like moving. They stood their ground and swiped with large paws at anything that came near them. When there were at least a handful of each animal, a few of the teapots turned into tiny smoke-breathing dragons.


     The transfigurations had been easy enough, but the key had been to make the animals as innocuous as possible. Therefore the dragons did not breathe fire, the lions and badgers had no teeth or claws, the ravens' beaks were dull, and the snakes were skinny and not poisonous.


     Nonetheless, it caused chaos and panic around the table. Students shrieked and professors jumped out of the way. Several tried to save some of the breakfast, others looked around, trying to figure out who had transfigured the dishware and cutlery. But the Marauders had pulled back and were huddling together on the center of the platform, completely out of sight. They could no longer watch, but they could hear the beautiful commotion going on below as the animals from the various houses trampled through everyone's breakfasts.


     "hihh!" Again, Remus felt the need to sneeze, but this time his eyes widened in fear. If ever there was a terrible time to sneeze, this was it. They could not be seen, and even if anyone suspected they were high above the table by the ceiling of the Great Hall, no one would be able to determine just where. Some sneezing, however, might be noticed above the ruckus, especially if it originated from where they were now. "ihh!"


     Even if everyone from the first years up through Dumbledore suspected them, there was no way to prove it if they could not be found at the scene of the crime. And the true brilliance behind the prank, even beyond the modifications to the transfigurations, was that without their wands, there was no way to trace the spells. There was no special calling card, no house excluded from the mayhem, and no special access needed to the area. It was perfect.


     Assuming, of course, that they were not heard.


     Remus' hand waved in the air for a moment in announcement, then clamped over his nose and mouth. He closed his eyes tightly in concentration. "ihhh-HIHHHH!" He tensed up, gripping his wand hard in his other hand as he tried as hard as he could to resist the urge to sneeze. Finally, Remus relaxed, grinning with pride.




     All four of them froze, alarmed.


     And then three heads turned towards Sirius.


     With an embarrassed flush in his cheeks and a sniffle in his nose, Sirius shrugged. Apologetically, "Sorry, Mates. Just had to sneeze. Sniff! Sniff! I think I might have what Remus has after all." He smiled sheepishly as all four of them felt the platform beneath them shake. The ropes holding them to the ceiling magically unraveled and the platform slowly descended to the floor. Everyone, at least everyone not struggling to keep the creatures on the table from trying to kill each other, looked over at them. Sirius sniffled and rubbed at his nose. "You gotta admit, though. It was a prank no one will forget."


     "I'll make sure you lot don't forget it!" fumed Professor McGonagall. She immediately began to list off the punishments. "Two hundred points from Gryffindor. You're to clean up this mess straightaway. And you're to serve detention in the kitchens every evening for a week."


     "ihhhh-hihh-YihhSchhhh!" Remus sneezed, his cheeks redder than Sirius' at the fact that everyone was watching him. Well, almost everyone. Lily Evan's eyes seemed to be trained solely on James, and she did not look angry in the least. "Excuse me," Remus muttered, trying to keep his head down so he couldn't be seen frantically rubbing at his nose to keep from sneezing again.


     "Perhaps a stop at the hospital wing might be in order first," Dumbledore suggested with a bit of a smile, regardless of the fact that a badger was gnawing toothlessly on the end of his beard and a raven had settled on the top of his hat. "And I must commend you on your choices here. We might have had slimy, six-headed salamanders scattered upon the table, and then where would we be?" He eyed a spot on the table before him where a lion and snake were staring each other down, and his hand swept in-between, retrieving an apple which looked unharmed. He tossed it over to Peter and rubbed at his beard by his mouth to hide his growing smile. The Marauders all caught it, however, as they were ushered off towards the hospital.


     Sirius gave a few more sneezes once they were on their own, which doubled him over and made the others stop and wait for him. "hahhhChooo! Harshuhhhh! Urghhh... Sniff! SNIFF!" Sirius rubbed at his runny nose, then he looked back over his shoulder. "You still want what I have, Prongs? Sniff!"


     James laughed and shook his head and they carried on down the corridors. Remus and Sirius were sniffling, though walking hand-in-hand and exchanging kisses quite frequently. Peter was devouring the apple. And James was still beaming from the look Lily had given him. By the time they were out of the Great Hall, however they'd formulated a lovely plan or two to allow them remain in the hospital wing long enough to avoid the cleaning process. But that was a prank they hoped no one would catch onto.