“Though this be madness, yet there is method in it”
-Hamlet, William Shakespeare
Chapter Thirty-nine: Foolishness Foreshadowed
Her two companions continued to shoot her perplexed looks as the three of them made their way through the halls, heading to lunch. Hermione was preoccupied with the realization that it was quite possible The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy hadn’t yet been published in 1977… until she looked up and saw Severus Snape turn the corner in the far distance. When he lifted his head to toss his dark hair from his eyes, he made brief eye contact with her. She offered him a small smile, unwilling to force a young man she knew to be very proud into remembering that they’d shared an emotional moment not long ago, even if it had been by chance.
It turned out that even this small gesture was enough to cause her future professor to alter his course. Snape made an elegant U-turn, evoking a strong memory of his adult self as his school robes eddied around him in a very dramatic way. He held his back straight and his head high as he walked unhurriedly out of sight—but Hermione would have dearly loved to know what the expression on his face might be.
“Looks like Snivellus doesn’t trust us,” James said in a voice that hinted at repressed laughter.
“I can’t imagine what would give him that idea…” Sirius nudged James conspiratorially.
Hermione felt completely awful. It looked like neither of them had learned a thing from the awful trick they’d played on Severus and Remus in their Fifth year! The two pranksters continued to nudge each other as they walked on in front of her, Hermione’s steps faltering increasingly as she pondered what she’d just seen. She became more and more upset as it appeared the two of them were not only unrepentant about their actions, but were so busy congratulating themselves about the whole thing that they’d forgotten her presence completely.
“Hermia?” It was James, proving her wrong, as he had paused to find out why she’d fallen behind. Looking up and into his eyes was an experience Hermione would never forget—she’d schooled her features into a countenance as far away from the indignant fury she felt, lifting her gaze only to see Harry looking back at her from hazel eyes. It was an expression she’d seen only rarely from her best friend, but she recognized it immediately.
In the split second that she gaped at James Potter, she saw Harry in Second year, looking at Justin Finch-Fletchley with regret after he’d frightened them all with Parseltongue. She saw Harry in Fourth year, watching as Ron walked away from him in disgust over the Tri-Wizard Tournament. In his father’s eyes, she saw a reflection of each time Harry had done something impulsively and wished he hadn’t; the way he would try to conceal it with pride and the way she thought she might be the only one who knew that look for what it truly was. She recognized it now—James did regret what he’d done, but he’d be damned if he would admit it, behaving just as his son would in the future.
“I—I’m sorry,” she said, still a dazed by the short experience. She decided to be truthful. “For a minute there, you looked like someone else.”
“I hope it’s a good reminder,” James said before gesturing that she proceed ahead of him into the Great Hall. She was grateful that Sirius had already gone inside and James was behind her, because it meant she didn’t have to conceal the brief tears that coursed down her cheeks, drying completely by the time she reached the table.
She was pacing again. She hated that, because it was a clear indication that her mind was in disarray, and she really disliked appearing as anything other than someone in complete control. The thing was, she had a tantalizing chance before her, and there simply had to be a way to take it without messing with the future. She forced herself to stand still and think, only to look down and see that she was twisting her hands anxiously.
Minerva McGonagall sighed. The truth was, she had been completely captivated by this ‘Hermione Granger’s’ ideas. They were the sort of thing she would gladly spend years of her life exploring—except doing so would be completely against her nature. The prospect of waiting two decades before she could even delve into the information hadn’t been softened at all by the conclusions she was able to come to by watching the way the girl interacted with Albus and herself…
The Transfiguration professor moved from the carpet in the middle of her office to arrange papers on her desk as her conscience twinged at her last thought. “Well, it is a war,” she muttered a trifle defensively to the empty room. “Why not take encouragement from a Muggle-born student who has clearly spent seven happy years at Hogwarts?” A brilliant Muggle-born, she added, silently. The young woman was remarkably self-assured, despite her nervous behavior at the prospect of jeopardizing her secrecy via a school assignment, of all things. Her attitude indicated strong trust in her headmaster, and deep respect for her head of house, which was strangely touching.
It also meant that the two of them were definitely ‘alive and kicking’ (as her American counterpart had once said, in their sporadic correspondence) twenty years in the future.
Rather than sitting at her desk and inevitably smoothing out the parchment essay for another look, Minerva walked over to her office window and looked out at the grounds, wondering as she did so what she would be doing in twenty years’ time. Little did she know that it would include discovering Hogwarts’ youngest Seeker in a century, simply by looking out of that same window.
The words were spoken softly, but Remus heard as well as felt the amused and playful tone in which Sirius spoke them. He also felt the pillow he’d placed on the back of his head slowly moving away as if pulled by string rather than a levitating spell. He couldn’t see the grin that was sure to be on his friend’s face, as he himself was lying on his stomach in bed listening to the few students chatting with each other in the common room. He could, however, sense his friend’s mischievous spirit but couldn’t resist thrusting his arm in the direction his pillow was moving. Predictably, Sirius quickened his speed, and Lupin wished he’d chosen to fall asleep wand in hand, for it would have been simply priceless to manipulate the cushion so that it landed on Padfoot’s face rather than his lap.
“Any particular reason for waking me up, Black?” Remus asked gruffly, his voice muffled by a faceful of sheet. In reality, he knew that Sirius had brought him some food, but as it consisted mostly of black pudding (he could smell it very clearly), which turned Lupin’s stomach on a normal day, he wasn’t inclined to be grateful.
“I wanted to test your reflexes,” Sirius claimed, reaching out for Lupin’s wand on the cabinet beside his bed. Not only did Remus have his wand in three seconds flat, he’d also used one of his arsenal of non-verbal spells to push his House-mate back onto his own bed.
“Did I pass?” he asked, smirking.
“I guess I should be glad I wasn’t with my back to the floor.”
“If you had, I’d have made sure you landed on my pillow,” Lupin assured him.
“Good to know,” Sirius stated, unfazed. He felt around on the floor for the parcel of food he’d smuggled up to the tower, sending the werewolf vibes of anticipation as he located it. “Would you like your dinner, Moony?”
“Do I need to answer that?” Remus leaned his head back against his remaining pillow, frowning. “I could smell it halfway down the stairs, Sirius.”
“I thought you were asleep,” Black objected.
“It was that strong.”
“All that work for nothing. If Filch had caught me with this…” the other boy dangled, irrepressibly.
Lupin felt a twinge of annoyance. Sirius knew how he felt about foods that contained blood, particularly around the full moon. He hated anything that reminded him of what his unwilling ‘animal form’ really meant. It went against everything that he defined himself as, a fact not without a depressing kind of irony. Well, as long as he is determined to remind me about all that, I’ll shift the subject to something more his style…
“So did you venture into the library to research our History of Magic essay—” Sirius made a face that answered that question immediately “—or did you spend the day planning tomorrow night’s activities?” This earned him a grin, and a decided increase in his friend’s anticipatory energy.
“What do you think about reinforcing those ghost rumors?” Padfoot answered, excitedly. “We could scout the woods near Hogsmeade—”
“No—Sirius, no people,” Remus interrupted gently, but firmly. The mere thought of the danger involved with risking the lives of the villagers for a spot of fun brought the gorge up in his throat. He loved Sirius, but he dearly wished there was a way to check his friend’s wild behavior without coming across as a substitute authority figure. He knew full well that the other boy would react to the opposite extreme when faced with that kind of censure.
Sirius winced inwardly. He’d gotten ahead of himself again; sometimes his mischievous nature prompted him to say or do the first thing that popped into his mind, regardless of the situation. Making that suggestion so soon after bringing the werewolf a supper that always reminded him of the awful thing he became each month—he felt like he’d let Remus down. Merlin, I probably have, judging by the look on his face, Sirius realized. Normally he’d have already felt that part of himself that reared up and demanded that he never play the part of a subservient again—but this time when he looked at his best friend, he saw a sad resignation that chastised him with more genuine regret than his mother had ever managed with excessive cruelty.
“I’m sorry, Remus,” he said sincerely, and he really was.
Maybe I’m growing up…
Lupin raised an eyebrow, and though Sirius had managed to wipe away the painful look of acceptance his classmate had been wearing a minute earlier, what replaced it was a pretty good imitation of abject shock. He’d have been completely taken in by Moony’s act, had it not been for the tell-tale wrinkle in his brow that always appeared when he was trying not to smile.
He bit back a grin. Remus was so predictable. Sirius lifted his wand, aiming it at Peter’s bed (which, incidentally, contained some quite compact cushions that really packed a punch when levitated at speed from across the room)—
—and swung the now-forgotten pillow from the floor at the distracted young man in the bed beside him, taking Remus by utter surprise. His companion was nearly knocked flat, and though he was fairly sure Lupin realized what was going on a few seconds before he was struck, Sirius still congratulated himself on managing to get the advantage on the werewolf, advanced senses and all.
“I meant it, too,” he said firmly.
“You’re forgiven,” Remus promised from beneath the pillow. “Hello, James,” he added.
“I hate it when you do that,” Potter said from the doorway. “Your eyes are covered, and everything—it’s unnatural. So, I assume you’re hungry?”
Sirius allowed himself the luxury of a bit of pouting as Prongs practically pranced into the room (All he’s missing are the antlers, he snorted to himself) bearing the ham sandwich he’d coaxed from the house-elves. The sidelong glance he was favored with when Lupin practically inhaled the meal didn’t help much, either.
He hated it when James was right, the git never could resist the urge to rub it in.
“Sirius thought it would be funny if he—”
Sirius tuned James out and began scouting the room for pillows. Ever the diplomat, however, Remus brought up the as-yet unformed plan for the next evening. The blasted werewolf even managed to convey the impression that further pillow antics were highly discouraged, mostly by retaining his wand in his hand and stuffing his recently acquired pillow behind his head with a meaningful look in Sirius’ direction. It had been so long since he’d done substantial mischief that he had to resist the urge to stick out his tongue, knowing that Lupin would take that as a confirmation of his devilish intent.
It was then that a strangely bedraggled-looking Peter practically fell into the room. Sirius got up immediately to help his friend to his bed, noting a slight limp and frayed robe.
James, ever eloquent, expressed the concern of the other half of the Marauders: “Peter, what in Merlin’s name have you done to yourself?”
Even when he leaned closer to Peter’s haggard face, Sirius couldn’t catch much more than the word ‘cat’ from the other boy’s soft mumble—it was enough, however. Uncharacteristically, Sirius contemplated his next statement for a split second… before he blurted it out anyway.
“Did you just say something about a cat?” As a concession to just how upset Pettigrew looked, he reached over and patted his shoulder, just as the other two weighed in with interjections of dawning comprehension.
“You could have been killed!”
“Oh, Peter! Was it Mrs. Norris?”
Sirius decided to remain at the end of the smaller boy’s bed rather than abandon him to his side of the room as he changed to fresh clothes with shaking hands. Peter nodded with a slight shudder at Remus’ soft-spoken inquiry.
He wished he could help soothe Peter—the waves of fear and regret that washed from him in waves were enough to stop him from asking anything further than discovering who or what was culpable. Remus didn’t think anything would have been able to distract him from Peter’s emotions, watching him as he did to be sure that nothing was wounded other than his pride and sense of self—which, admittedly, was bad enough, knowing Peter as he did.
He didn’t smell any blood (and how he wished that subject would refrain from popping up for the remainder of that evening, week, month, or year), and besides the limp he’d detected from watching Pettigrew walk across the room guided by Sirius, he couldn’t see any signs of injury. What ended up surprising him the most, however, was James’ reaction.
As soon as it had been ascertained that Peter was all right, Prongs launched immediately into a tirade about how special their forms were, how they weren’t to be used lightly (though it didn’t take wolf senses to guess that Sirius’ morning wake-up had more than a little bit to do with that opinion), and how horrible it could have been for the rest of them to have their classmate brutally murdered by Filch’s cat, of all creatures.
It would be like James to not think about getting caught and think of the indignity of being slain by his nemesis’ cat, Remus mused inwardly. It was incredibly touching, furthermore, to find that his first objection was essentially to berate the Animagus for treating his learned talent as though it were anything less than a special gift. Given that he still harbored a little bit of awe at the extent to which his friends would go to make him feel comfortable and cared for, this confirmation of that fact simply humbled him further.
For Sirius, there was only one reaction—other than that of making sure his friend was unhurt, of course—to Peter’s predicament: revenge.
He barely contributed to the ensuing conversation, other than to interject a few noncommittal syllables. His mind was preoccupied with his new task, and each idea was more grandiose, more horrid, and more implausible. When Sirius went to check his trunk for a particularly rare—and potent—itching agent, he came across a vial of black-colored liquid, instead.
One by one his elaborate and impossible schemes drifted away, replaced by a tantalizing possibility—one that could even (if you squinted) resemble an actual experiment.
Are animals affected by love potions?
A/n: Hermione references the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. The first book in the series was published in 1979, with a radio play with the same premise having been produced in ’78. Therefore, Hermione is the only one who would have gotten the joke in 1977—particularly because the section she referenced is from the third book, written in 1982. In addition, ‘black pudding’ is another term for blood sausage.
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