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Chapter Forty-seven: Paved With Good Intentions

“All our experience with history should teach us, when we look back, how badly human wisdom is betrayed when it relies on itself.”
-Martin Luther


Chapter Forty-seven: Paved With Good Intentions

It took every ounce of Sirius Black’s admittedly limited grasp on his composure to keep a straight face on seeing their Headmaster in such a condition. To his very great surprise, it was Professor McGonagall whose laughter broke through the stunned silence of those assembled around the portrait hole. Dumbledore’s look of bemused confusion turned to shock and then amusement as the Gryffindor Head of House waved away her costume as Circe, the Greek sorceress, and stepped forward. Sirius had already told himself he definitely had to clap Peter on the back for that particular in-joke—Circe had been reputedly known to turn humans into beasts, a clever costume for an animagi.

“By all appearances, Headmaster, you are trespassing,” McGonagall said, to the delight of the students who’d been brave enough to stick around. She played the part beautifully, her severe look and raised eyebrow trained on one of her colleagues, for once.

“By all appearances, Professor, you are an impostor,” Dumbledore said gravely, diffusing his seriousness with a wink. “If I may assist you clearing up the misunderstanding…” With a wave of his wand and a quietly spoken spell, the costumes of everyone at the doorway melted away, including Lily’s version of Professor McGonagall. Sirius was disappointed—he hadn’t yet had the chance to tease Hermia that she was far too old for him dressed as Bathilda Bagshot, but if spoiling their magical costume party was all the punishment they had in store for setting off a dungbomb on their headmaster… Predictably, though, the awkward silence that had followed Dumbledore’s action was broken by a gently-worded inquery.

“I presume that the foul-smelling welcome party I just received was in error?”

With a start of horror, Sirius realized that there were still three to five more dungbombs arrayed around the portrait of the Fat Lady, which were set on a clever time delay that Remus had devised to prevent the necessity of restocking them during the party. Pulling his wand from his pocket quickly but quietly, he aimed it in their general direction (blocked as they were from sight by the open portal to the common room) and whispered a freezing charm. At the same time, he heard James offering a weak laugh before basically hinting at their plan with fake bravado.

“Well, actually, sir, I think you’d be proud of our choice to keep you neutral—being the Headmaster, and all,” Prongs said confidently.

“Indeed?” said Dumbledore. Sirius snuck a look around at the students crowding the doorway. All of them looked as though wild thestrals couldn’t have scared them away, visible or not.

“Well,” Peter started to say, his voice withering away when all eyes fixed on him.

“Well,” James continued, “they’re charmed to keep away anyone who isn’t a Gryffindor—”

“And while we know you are a Gryffindor,” Sirius chimed in, nodding at James to step in.

“You’re not exactly supposed to takes sides anymore, so—”

“—we didn’t charm them to ignore you, so that you could…” Sirius was drawing a blank, but James was pointedly looking away, and Remus was looking at his shoes, the git. “…could…” He was starting to sweat, and he’d be damned if he wasn’t going to take this out on the other three in a really nasty way, as soon as he could think of one. Not that thinking well on his feet was his strong suit right now. “Well, sir,” he mumbled.

“Well, sir,” Hermia echoed, continuing, “as you know, the spell to exclude someone from a charmed dungbomb requires organic material from that person—”

Sirius had always known he would fall for a genius.

“Exactly!” James crowed. “Taking something like that from you, sir—”

Professor McGonagall cleared her throat loudly.

“I mean, it’s not like you have a classroom they could search for shed hairs,” Remus said.

They? Sirius mouthed at Lupin behind McGonagall’s back, earning himself a cheeky grin.

“I appreciate the courtesy, then,” Dumbledore said unexpectedly. “It seems you thought your plan through quite carefully. However meticulous you might have been in your execution,” he said, pausing dangerously on the last word, “some other pranksters appear to have made off with some of your ‘Gryffindor-coded’ dungbombs, depositing them just outside the entrance to the Slytherin dungeons.”

Sirius kept his expression completely devoid of all emotion, not daring to glance at any of his fellow Marauders, not even when Professor McGonagall and Lily each made ‘hmph’ noises at ‘some other pranksters.’

“As it happens,” the headmaster continued, “only a few of them have gone off, as the Slytherins are engaged in their own festivities. However, since you four are undoubtedly the experts in handling these things, you are the ones I must call on to clean up that hallway. Miss Evans, as I’m certain you were completely uninvolved in this, I will ask you to escort these young men to their destination and back with all of the ammunition unexploded, if you please, and as Miss James must know the fastest route from here to the Slytherin dungeons, she can guide you.”

With that, Professor Dumbledore nodded to everyone, bade them a good evening, and started to walk away. Sirius wasn’t sure how many other students caught the barely perceptible twitch of his robes and the muttering that had to be a spell to reverse Sirius’s spell on the frozen dungbombs, but when Sirius pushed his way out of the portrait hole to check, sure enough, the five arrayed dungbombs were ready and waiting for their next victim.

“Well, you heard the headmaster, folks! Off to the Slytherin dungeons!” James said, stepping forward as he spoke to the gathered students. He swept his arms out expansively and turned to point his wand in the right direction, waving on a hesitant second year with such authority that Sirius had to fake a yawn to hide his laughter.

“Mister Potter, a word?” Professor McGonagall spoke in a dry voice that not even the first year students could mistake as an optional request. What caught Sirius’s eye, though, was Hermia’s reaction—she had jerked in surprise the second their Head of House had spoken. While he was curious, his mind for mischief kept his attention on the unfolding drama in front of him, and he wrote off Hermia’s odd reaction as simple nerves from someone unused to being in trouble.

“Certainly, my lady,” James said expansively, stopping just short of bowing in front of McGonagall. From behind the first row of boggle-eyed Gryffindors, there came a choking sound that Sirius recognized as Remus trying not to laugh.

“As delighted as you may be by the prospect of turning this into a spectacle,” she told Prongs, “I, as you might imagine, am not. Do as you were told, for once, and I’ll endeavor not to inform Mr. Filch in about an hour that four of his favorite students just may be out after hours. Understood?”

“Yes, thank you,” Peter said unexpectedly, squaring his shoulders and nodding at Sirius and Remus. Given their last detention served under Filch, Sirius realized that it shouldn’t have shocked him to see Wormtail taking the initiative. Peter took out his wand to re-instate everyone’s costumes, and Sirius smiled encouragingly at Hermia, hoping she would favor him with one of her brilliant smiles—which she did. Just then, Lily stepped out purposefully and started down the hallway to the stairs, pausing to raise her eyebrows at the five of them in a gesture that clearly told them they had better hurry up.

For a long, delicious second, Sirius pictured what his two friends’ children would someday be like. If he had any luck, they’d have Lily’s beauty and James’s temperament, and he, Sirius, could be the instigating uncle. He resolved to teach Prongs’s future offspring as many prank spells as he could get away with before Lily caught on. It took Hermia’s light whack on his arm with her wand to pull him back to the present, and he flashed James a broad grin before offering his arm to his own girlfriend for the walk downstairs.

=====


“One of you lot could help, you know,” James complained loudly, looking over to where Hermione was leaning against the wall next to Lily’s perch on the base of an over-large sculpture of ancient guardian knights. Remus was propped up with his arms behind his head at Lily’s feet. Hermione could tell he was clearly the target of Potter’s ire, as Peter was lurking about a dozen yards away, acting as a lookout in case either Filch or any Slytherin students came into view. In contrast, James and Sirius were walking (though, the longer their task took, the more their movements seemed better described as ‘stalking’) back and forth across the broad hallway, casting cleansing spells every few feet to chase the stink of the already-exploded dungbombs away.

“I should have realized the old man would make it hard on us,” James added darkly. “This is definitely a four man job, if not more.”

“I wouldn’t want to show you up, dearest,” Lily told him sweetly. “We’re only doing what you told us to, after all.”

“’Have a seat, ladies, Sirius and I can have this cleaned up in no time!’” Sirius mocked, spelling a section of noxious dungbomb fumes into oblivion with a particularly vehement flick of his wand as he mimicked James’s earlier words.

“Nice job trying to tease me into helping, but if I recall correctly, James did order the rest of us to sit lest we ‘muck everything up,’” Remus said.

“I take it back!” James coughed, stepping out from inside a cloud of smoke. “I can’t believe he spelled this to be ten times thicker than normal!”

“Well, at least you’re almost done,” Hermione said, holding back a laugh at the sour look on James’s face. “Besides, you don’t see Sirius complaining.”

“That’s because he’s just shooing all the nasty stuff over onto my side!”

“For shame, Sirius,” Remus chided. “This marble flooring is hard on one’s backside, you know.”

“If you weren’t hiding between Lily and Mia—” Sirius started to say, but he paused when Peter’s pre-arranged signal of a flash of gold sparks flew past them down the hallway. Hermione and the others started for the small nook behind the sculpture; the hallway was too long to risk rushing for the far end of it.

“James Potter you get back out there and pick up the dungbomb you ‘forgot!’” Lily hissed in a low voice. “—and don’t you dare Accio it!”

“Picky, picky,” James said, but did as he was told. He was barely back to their hiding place before the recognizable voices of a number of Slytherin seventh years told them that they weren’t alone in the hallway.

“—don’t know what gave you the impression that I was lying to you when I told you this afternoon that I hadn’t yet made my decision,” Severus Snape was saying.

“His patience doesn’t always extend to the youngest and most arrogant of his followers,” Lucius Malfoy snapped, his angry whisper easily traveling to Hermione’s ears, as the two seemed to be standing on the other side of the sculpture. “If you don’t give me an answer by Monday—”

“Until I choose to be one of His followers, that remains your problem, then, doesn’t it?” Snape interrupted coolly. “And in case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t said no, either!”

To Hermione’s ears, Severus Snape’s typical practiced calm was completely missing, although she suspected that his body language wasn’t displaying as much raw emotion as his tone of voice, as that wasn’t his style. However, she found that her estimation was completely wrong, as seconds later the black-clad young man swept past them at a brisk and angry walk. That wasn’t as surprising as what happened next: barely had her future professor moved out of sight before Lily stepped out of their hiding place and gone after him.

James muttered a curse under his breath and made to follow her, but Sirius placed a firm hand on his chest and shook his head, turning to whisper an explanation in Hermione’s direction.

“They used to be friends, Lily and—”

“If that foul git touches her, I’ll—” James hissed.

“Not likely, remember what she called him the last time they had a chat?” Remus said. “Let her go, she’s got a reason to be out, we haven’t.”

At that, James lapsed into a moody silence, and as they waited for the sound of Malfoy’s presence to fade, Hermione tried to process the information she’d just learned. Lily Evans Potter and Severus Snape—friends? It seemed impossible to believe, even more so as she hadn’t caught a hint of it from either party, in either time period, for that matter. And what had happened to ruin their unlikely friendship? From the brief glimpse she’d had of Lily’s face before her friend had rushed after Severus, whatever had happened between them had been significant, and probably hurtful to Lily. She was still going over her memories of the two of them when Peter showed up to give them the all clear.

=====


Peter felt a rush of pride when the six of them climbed in through the portrait hole to find the party going almost full-swing, despite the late hour. Nearly all of the students were still in their magical costumes, and a few of the older, more talented students had embellished them to mostly humorous effect. Almost as soon as they’d all made it into the common room, Steffie Kirke let out an impressive wolf-whistle and called the room to attention.

“I just want to give a huge Gryffindor thank you to Sirius Black and James Potter for making this party possible!” she announced brightly. A chorus of agreement rose up immediately, in direct contrast to Peter’s sinking heart. Had not one of his fellow housemates noticed who it was that had cast their costume spell? He shot a quick, hopeful look toward James, but to his disgust, Potter was bowing and smiling as though he deserved the adulation. Sirius was no better, nodding in acceptance to their stolen accolades like he had personally arranged everything. Peter looked for Lily, hoping that she could exercise her authority as Head Girl now that Professor McGonagall had left, but she was deep in conversation with Hermia, and it looked like neither girl had much noticed the goings-on in the common room at all.

Peter felt lost and abandoned, his emotions fighting between sadness and anger. He wanted dearly to say something, maybe a cool, casual holler to Potter, ‘Hey, nice try taking all the credit!’ Something told him that his voice would either get lost in the crowd, or he’d get laughed at, so he turned and headed toward his dormitory, feeling more and more despairing with every step. This was supposed to have been his moment, his chance to prove that he wasn’t the slowest and stupidest member of a four man team—except it wasn’t a team, was it? he asked himself. Peter moved by rote, dressing in his night clothes and folding up what he’d worn absently, his mind going over the past six years with a different eye. His friends weren’t using him, were they? He immediately rejected this conclusion; he had enough evidence that they genuinely considered him their friend, but that almost made things worse, because it meant they saw their behavior as normal, expected.

Peter sat down heavily on his bed and looked around the empty room, blinking quickly every time the view became slightly blurry due to the tears he was holding back. Were his friends really his friends? They thought they were, but were their actions that of true friends, or had they grown apart subtly over the years? Peter didn’t play Quidditch, he wasn’t quick with his wand in the way that Sirius was, nor was he obsessive about studies like Remus was. He was… calm. Methodical. Boring, his inner voice supplied. He thought about the strange talk he’d had with Lucius Malfoy, the way the other boy, for all intents and purposes his enemy, had pointed out Peter’s strengths—and, stranger still, had hinted that they were traits that more houses than just Gryffindor valued. It had been partly due to the way Lucius had pressed him about being recognized for his abilities that Peter had put himself forward to head the entertainment part of their party planning. What he’d done had been difficult, and he knew it’d been clever. Remus had even said as much. But where had Remus been when James and Sirius had taken all the credit? Peter scanned the room, but there was no tell-tale gangly lump in Lupin’s bed. He must have gone on one of his solitary walks. So much for Marauder solidarity, Peter thought to himself viciously.

His stomach twisting, Peter conjured up a glass of water and chugged it in less than a minute. He hated this feeling, the one where he felt disconnected and a little (a lot, this time. More than he’d ever felt) rejected. It usually passed, after he’d woken the next morning and Sirius or Remus sheepishly hauled out their messy notes (or, for James, the notes Lily’d taken before he’d snitched them the night before) and tried to help, apologizing sometimes for their having blown him off for dates or Quidditch or whatever. This time, though… he didn’t know what they could say this time. This wasn’t seeing him studying in the common room and begging off to go snog. This was… this was ruining his chances at showing his peers he wasn’t just a follower, a hanger-on. This was serious.

And Lucius Malfoy had told him it would happen.

A tear managed to broach his defenses to slide down his cheek just as he was climbing into bed. As much as he hated feeling like this, he hated feeling like it was going to happen again and again even more. There had to be something he could do to prove to his friends that he was the person they’d thought he was when they’d all become friends in the beginning. Back then, none of them had known James would be so bloody good at Quidditch, had they? Certainly they’d not known about Lupin’s ‘monthlies,’ as Remus had once jokingly called his condition. Even Sirius had turned out to seem heroic, sort of, by way of rejecting his family’s traditions of blood snobbery. Peter just hadn’t had his moment, yet—and it looked like the rest of them had just convinced themselves that he never would. Good old Peter, the dud. He took a deep breath and clenched his fists. He had to do something about this, but it clearly had to be bigger than just orchestrating a clever night for his housemates. It had to be big, something only he could do.

Something James and Sirius couldn’t take away from him.

A/N: THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR PATIENCE. ♥ If you're curious as to what I've been doing this whole time besides the year or so of 'lost my muse', check out this tag on my journal, or look at pictures here! For the link phobic, I had a baby! :D

Comments

ZOMIGOD! *Tackles* *FLAILS*

*Goes to read*

*wanders back* What the hell happened previously?!?

*Wanders away again*
*grins* I know, right? I had to reread too and I wrote it! hehe.
EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

You know, I don't think I've actually read fanfiction since the last time this was updated. I still love it. Keep going!

Love the way you've sewn the stuff we've learnt since you started writing this.

Kiss that gorgeous child of yours for me.
I'm glad you liked! I'm honored to be the exception :D *kisskisskiss* she smiles now!! <3
OMG I THOUGHT THIS DAY WOULD NEVER COME. I too admit I didn't remember what happened last, I need to re-read the whole thing again :D

Congratulations on having one of those rare unsmooshed newborns :D :D I've yet to see one in real life, haha. She is beautiful!
Would it be too pathetically fangirlish if I were to tell you that this story is the reason I fell in love with Hermione/Sirius? It was the first piece of fanfiction I ever read. I'm so glad you haven't given up on this story. I really thought you had. I love this story so much its sad. Thank you for the update.
WOOOOOOOO!!!!! So Excited. This was a great update. I really feel for Peter.

Also, just so you know, as an editor, I added you the the sirius_news watchlist.
Well well... after giving up on this fic, I'm pleasantly surprised to find it's been updated! Welcome back, hun. Here's to more quality work -- and soon. :)
This was like a guilty pleasure read for me back in the day....I NEVER (and still don't) read fanfic except for this story. No idea why it caught me the way it did, but I've said it before....I LOVE it! You have such a talent!
Can't wait for the next chapter! I hope your little girl is doing wonderfully! :)
I don't know how I came across this story...but I'm glad you're back writing it!! Please don't torture me with too long a wait...I read the last 47 chapters in like...2 days!

*gives Sirius-style puppy eyes*

Update soon yes?
My first reaction was.. "IT'S ALIVE!!!"

Like others, I can't remember anything about this story, but one thing I know I'd love it, hence it was bookmarked. So well, here I go.. re-reading the whole chapters.
Awwww I'm so very thrilled to see this updated again. I honestly thought you'd abandoned it, but held out hope and would come here once a month or so usually to peek.

I believe we've talked that your story is exactly what I would love for JKR to write someday. The way you write each of the characters they are all distinct and have their personalities so firm. I also like all the other characters that you have invented to be school mates of the canon characters.

Well written as always and welcome back!
Hugeeeee bewonderment at this new chapter! For kicks, I was clicking through my old bookmarks of harry potter fanfiction and I looked at yours. *BAM* new update?! Of course I immediately devoured the next chapter :33 It was amazing <3 I can't wait for the next chapter (no matter when it is ;3)!

Congrats on the baby!

(Anonymous)

YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! NEW CHAPTER NEW CHAPTER!!!! you have no idea how happy this makes me!
(Also, i really like how you're working Peter's emotions - really well done!)

(Anonymous)

Oh please, oh please, oh please update soon!
A lot of the other reviews mention how long they waited and Im not sure I can wait that long! This is such a great story.
Well first off, CONGRATS ON THAT ADORABLE BABY!! They're the best attention-suckers, aren't they? :P
As I've spent the last 6 or 7 hours reading all 47 chapters in one go, I'm about to keel over, LOL. But I will say that this is absolutely one of the most complex, in-depth HP character study fics I've read! I ADORE how you've slowly crafted this plot, while so smoothly giving dimension to characters that deserve it: I always hated how Peter is always written off in fic, and so I applaud you for taking the time to show that it wasn't a quick decision to turn to "the dark side". I also really adore you for fleshing out Severus's past and his motivations. ::happy sigh:: I could really gush all day about your fic, so I'll just stop here and say that I hope you really will plan on updating slightly more often? Like, say one chapter a year? :P
Hehe, thank you! I must confess right now I'm polishing off a story for the sgabigbang, whose deadline is in roughly 24 hours! But yes, once that's done, I do hope I can update much more often than before. I'm so glad you enjoyed the story! I consider it my literary baby (and thanks for the congrats! She's a sweetie), and it makes me so happy to hear when someone likes it. I agree about Peter--I hate the rewriting of history that so many decide to do! It's far more interesting to question and postulate about why he did what he did instead of choosing to devalue the other marauders and imply they were prescient! Ahem. *steps off soapbox*

Thanks again! *pokes head back into her word file. Almost done!*

ps. love the icon!
Aw, Peter! *hugs him* This story is amazing and I can't wait for more!!
Love this story! Just found it from quill to parchment award list years ago. It's my Marauders era fic. Love the distinct personalities of the characters. Seems like this fic could cover quite a bit. Hope your muse comes back to continue. Congrats on the baby! Kids are a blessing but take so much time and energy but are so rewarding!

(Anonymous)

Just finished reading this fic for the third time, and I still love it just as much as the first. If only it were ever completed, I do believe it would be one of my all time favorites. This is one of the few stories I've found (at least in this genre) that contains believable characters and plotline. I sincerely hope to see a new update soon, because I would be very sad if this turned into one of the many would-have-been-brilliant-if-it-hadn't-been-discontinued stories floating about on the net.
Nooooo! Curses! I just found this, and didn't realize it was a WIP. Now ... where's the next chapter? Can't leave me hanging .....
Hiya! I really adore this fic and was wondering if you had any plans to finish it? Or perhaps I'm looking in the wrong place and it's all posted somewhere else?

You're epic. :-D

(Anonymous)

This was the first fanfiction I ever read, and it's what really started my love for fanfiction, so...uhh *sobs WILL YOU EVER FINISH? :'(

(Anonymous)

Wow, i utterly love your story, it´s just amazing how you characters are so real and the story itself is completely amazing! It´s the first ever Hermione/Sirius I ever read and I am now completely spoilt for any and all others =)
I do hope you will update, and perchance even in not too long a time? ;-) please do!

best regards
sil