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Laocoon's Children - The Philosopher's Stone
Chapter 16

By copperbadge

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AU. When Sirius and Remus go looking for Peter Pettigrew, they make a wrong turn and someone else finds him first. Eight years later, Sirius owns a book store and Remus manages it for him. When Harry stumbles into the store and they find out the truth, they decide it's time to be Stealing Harry. (SB/RL slash relationship in later chapters.)

"Well," Padma said cheerfully, "It is a very nice shade of green."

"Makes you look a bit like a pear," Draco added.

Neville, sitting on the edge of the hospital bed, sighed and looked down at his hands.

"You have to say who did it," Padma urged. "The professors won't stand for it."

"If I do they'll just do something worse," Neville said.

"Worse than dyeing you green?" Harry asked angrily.

"There are a lot of worse things, really," Draco said, a thoughtful look on his face. "It lacked imagination."

"Insult on injury," Harry pronounced.


"He didn't even get pushed around by imaginative bullies," Harry explained.

"It's not like I just let them, you know!" Neville burst out. "I did try to get away! There were five of them!"

"Unfair, unimaginative sods," Padma agreed. "It's not on."

"And they took my remembrall," Neville continued wrathfully. "The one Sirius made specially for me."

"We'll get you another one," Draco said, at the same time Harry declared "We'll get it back from them!"

"You really do look like a pear," Padma said, as the counter-spell began to take effect, and the original deep green began to fade to a spotty mint-and-yellow shade.

"As soon as you get out you can sneak us into Gryffindor," Harry said. "I bet my cloak could fit three of us, at least. We'll find your remembrall and do something really awful to their dormitory in the process."

"A whole jar of bile!" Draco said. "In their beds!"

"You will not," Neville said. "They'll know it was me."

"They'll know it was you anyway when you tell the professors," Padma said briskly.

"I'm not telling the professors! Next time they might not stop with changing my colour!"

"He's right, you know," Draco said. "We'll have to make it look like an accident."

"All right, children, Mr. Longbottom needs time to let his cure take full effect," said Madam Pomfrey, appearing behind them. "You can visit him again this evening after dinner. Run along, now."

With a last regretful glance at Neville, the three of them followed Madam Pomfrey into the outer room of the hospital wing, away from the infirmary itself. Professor McGonagall was there, waiting with apparent impatience to be let in to see Neville.

"We could go do more research on the Philosopher's Stone," Padma suggested, as they walked down the corridor.

"Oh, blow the stupid Philosopher's Stone," Draco said suddenly. "We've done all the research we can and don't know a thing more about it. If they're hiding it here like Harry thinks, I'm sure it's for a bloody good reason."

"Yeah, but..." Padma bit her lip. "Someone's tried to get at it. Harry heard Snape and Filch talking about it."

"Well, if they have to get past Professor Snape to get to it, I think it's plenty safe," Draco sulked. "He could just scowl at them."

Padma opened her mouth to speak, then glanced around.

"I think we need to talk about that," she whispered. "Clearly the library's not safe anymore. Let's go outside."

Harry and Draco followed her dutifully down the stairway and out into the late-afternoon sunlight, across the damp grounds to the relative shelter of a large, lichen-covered rock. Draco scrabbled up onto the wide flat top, followed by Padma and Harry.

"What is it, then?" Harry asked, once they'd settled themselves. "It won't take long, will it? Dinner's in forty minutes."

"Listen, Harry..." Padma bit her lip, then forged ahead. "I think we need to consider the idea that Professor Snape might be the one who's trying to get the Stone."

"No we don't," Harry said flatly, "Cos he isn't."

"Just hear me out? Professor Snape's the one who got attacked by the big dog you and Draco found on the third floor. You said yourself you helped him with his dog bite. He's the one who's been doing all the research on the Philosopher's Stone, and he's the one who was talking to someone else about it. We know he was awake the night the unicorn was attacked because he caught you coming back from it." Padma swallowed. "And one of the people who attacked it was tall enough -- "

"It's not. Professor. Snape," Harry said.

"Harry, I know you like him, but -- "

"It's not him."

"She has a point," Draco said. Harry turned to him, and Draco almost fell backwards.

"What do you know about it?" he asked.

"Well, I know everything Padma knows," Draco said quietly. "And I know that Professor Snape knew my dad."

"What's that got to do with anything?" Harry demanded.

"His dad's in Azkaban, Harry," Padma remined him gently. "Because he was a follower of You-Know-Who."

"Professor Snape is not -- "

"But what if he is, Harry?" Padma asked. "Everything points to him. You know what the Philosopher's Stone is. How many people do you know who'd pass up a chance at that? And he's a Slytherin, and even you can't deny Slytherins are supposed to be ambitious. Even if he doesn't want it for himself, there's a chance he could want it because -- well, nobody knows that You-Know-Who is actually dead..."

Harry scowled. "It isn't Professor Snape. Neville would agree with me."

"Neville's been dyed green by his own housemates, he's not exactly the best judge of character," Draco said. Harry was about to retort when Padma put a hand on his arm.

"Even if it is him there's nothing we can do right now," she said. "All I'm saying is that we ought to keep an eye on him. There's nine weeks until exams, and if he hasn't done anything by then, we'll say we're sorry and admit we were wrong, won't we, Draco?"

"I hope it's not him," Draco said. "I really do, Harry."

Harry, who in his heart was not quite as sure as he'd declared himself to be, nodded and held out his hand. The other two shook it, and then they all turned back to the school, trudging up the hill to a dinner that none of them really had the stomach for.


Between Quidditch practice, their new duties bodyguarding Neville, and their reluctant surveillance of Snape, the time passed quickly. Neville had refused to give up the names of the students in question and the resulting loss of seventy-five points hit Gryffindor hard, but Harry made arrangements with the twins to watch Neville when he, Padma, and Draco couldn't, and no further harm came to him.

Ravenclaw played Slytherin the week after Easter holidays, and although Marcus Flint told Harry to draw it out as long as possible so that the Ravenclaws could cover the points needed to beat out Gryffindor for Cup contenders, the Ravenclaw Seeker would have snatched the Snitch and won the game if he didn't get it first, and thus Ravenclaw lost one hundred and fifty to twenty. Harry took a shouting-at from Flint over it, but most of the school agreed it would be more interesting to see Gryffindor and Slytherin in Cup contention anyway. Harry's nightmares about what he'd seen in the mirror slowly abated, to be replaced by anxiety dreams about not being able to find his Nimbus, or the Snitch being greased so that he couldn't get his fingers around it.

There was also, of course, the plot to steal Neville's remembrall back. McGonagall had written to the Tonkses about the bullying, and Sirius, who had been in the kitchen when the letter was opened, sent off another prototype the same day. Still, it wasn't the same, and they all knew it.

"It's got to be vicious," Harry said finally. "So that even when they find out it's us, they won't do anything."

"How does that make us any better than them?" Padma asked.

"We're doing it to people who can fight back," Draco replied. "Besides, I don't care if we're better than them, just scarier."

Padma and Neville, sitting across from Harry and Draco at their usual early-morning breakfast, looked slightly dismayed. Neville twiddled the new remembrall-bracelet on his wrist, anxiously.

"They dyed him green," Harry said. "Listen, if we do it near end-of-term, and we scare them badly enough, they'll have all summer to think about what they did and what we can do to them."

"But we don't have to hurt them, right?" Neville asked hesitantly.

"Nobody said anything about hurting anyone," Harry said, as Snake, recently out of hibernation, peeped out from the collar of his shirt. "We just want them to think we could hurt them, if they dyed you green again."

"Fine," Padma said, "but we all have to agree on what we do before anyone does anything. I'm not going to risk detention to do something I don't approve of just because you two took Ender's Game a little too seriously."

"That was a brilliant book and you know it," Harry retorted. "All right. So we'll come up with ideas and you can say yea or nay as appropriate."

"No," Padma said, "First we'll eat, and then we'll go to class, and then we'll study because exams are only six weeks away, and then, if we have time, we'll come up with ideas together, the four of us."

"Prefects coming," Neville grunted, and he, Padma, and Draco rose as one, spreading to their respective tables. Harry fed a little fried-egg to Snake, and watched the Gryffindor table as students began trickling into the Great Hall. Neville had pointed out the students he'd seen clearly, and Harry's green eyes tracked them as soon as they came in.

"Psyching out the competition, Potter?" Flint asked, as he passed.

"Working on his thousand-yard stare," Blaise answered, seating himself across from Harry and giving him a grin. "Ready for the big game, eh?"

Harry summoned a smile in return, as Blaise poured himself a glass of pumpkin juice.

"Going to show them what happens when you tangle with Slytherin House," he agreed.


Exams began to loom large on the horizon by the time Harry had concocted a plan that would please Padma and satisfy Draco's desire to terrorise the Gryffindors. It was low-risk, high-yield, and, while not as public as they would have liked, guaranteed to be the talk of the school. Harry felt he was living up to his godfather's reputation as school prankster quite nicely.

The professors, distracted by the fifth and seventh year students who would be taking their OWL and NEWT exams, left the younger children much to their own devices, with broad hints about the exam's content and review sessions conducted mainly by Ravenclaw sixth-year teachers' aides. Padma made them go to every single one, even the repeat ones. Neville seemed to be struggling along even with the repeats, and Padma decreed they would all make flashcards; they weren't as fancy as the ones Remus and Sirius used to make to quiz him with, where the card actually flashed when you got the answer right, but they were still useful -- especially when Harry and Draco wrote naughty limericks on theirs and shuffled them in with Neville's. After all, Draco was only having trouble with Transfiguration (as usual) and Harry's main weakness was Charms, which flashcards wouldn't help much on anyhow.

It helped, too, that each Head of House, consciously or not, wanted their own students to do best, and would drop more hints to their particular House. Swapping notes, Harry informed them that Professor Snape was more than likely to make them brew a Forgetfulness potion, while Neville insisted that Professor McGonagall was going to give them rodents to be transfigured, though he didn't know what she'd make them produce.

The written papers were far more intimidating, really, since there was less room for error; they were marched into a large classroom and given new quills with anti-cheating charms on them, and set to writing essays from a list of questions on the large blackboard at the front. After doing that for a day, the practicals began to look like a relief.

"I say we do it tomorrow night," Harry said, as they were pretending to study in the library after their first day of practicals. Draco was sulking because he hadn't been given a rodent at all in Transfigurations; he'd been given a magpie and made to transfigure it into five silver sickles, and had barely managed it. Neville was nursing a bite from his rodent, which had nevertheless made an adequate leather cigarette case, and Padma was agonising over whether she had made the Forgetfulness potion strong enough, since after Professor Snape made her sample some she couldn't remember brewing it at all. Harry had gotten through the day uninjured, but he feared that in his Charms practical his pineapple hadn't tapdanced as it was supposed to; it seemed more inclined to waltz.

"Tomorrow night?" Padma asked, looking up from the big textbook on potions she was studying. "Why then? Day after tomorrow we've got our History of Magic exam, and it's another written one."

"Yeah, but the fourth-years all have their Potions final, and it'll be fun sending them off to Snape all upset and scared," Draco said with a grin. "Plus it gets hot down there, and they won't even be able to loosen the collars of their robes."

"But we have to study," Padma objected. "Don't we, Neville?"

Neville gave the other boys a reluctant look. "It would help," he said. "I've not got a clue about the 1635 Werewolf Code of Conduct."

"1637," Padma and Harry corrected.

"It won't take that long. We can study all evening, since they won't go to bed forever anyhow, and then once they're in bed we'll just nip up, do what we came to do, and scoot off to sleep," Draco said. "I'll pretend I'm studying with Neville, and Harry can use his cloak to fetch Padma."

Padma looked reluctant, but there was really no reason to object; besides, Harry had seen a mischevious gleam in her eye once or twice that told him she would, at least, consider their prank a testament to their magical knowledge. Sort of a final practical.

They spent the rest of the evening in much better spirits, went to bed with light hearts, and though the following day was exhausting, exchanged knowing looks over dinner. Neville and Draco went off after the meal to study in the common room, aided -- or perhaps distracted -- by the Weasley twins plus Ron, who were testing out a new Exploding Snap game that involved spiritedly attempting to blow up one's opponent. Padma vanished into the library where she would later be collected by Harry, who went quietly and unobtrusively to his room to spend the evening helping Snake shed his skin.

Soon the school year would be over, he reflected, as he waited for the other boys in the dormitory to fall asleep. There was one final day of exams, a week of waiting during which they'd play the Cup match, and then the scores would be posted and they'd have the Leaving feast. Harry and Neville were going back to London for the summer, and Padma's parents were taking their family to see her great-gran in Agra, which she was mostly excited about because she'd get to see the Taj Mahal. Draco was quietly desperate not to go back to the Malfoy mansion, but there was nothing to be done, and so he was giving Harry a sealed-up box of his private things to keep for him until they came back to school.

He waited until Theo was snoring, a sure sign everyone else had gone to sleep, and then crawled out of bed, taking the cloak from his trunk and wrapping it around his shoulders. Snake, sleeping in his box on the nightstand, hissed a sleepy query, and Harry told him to go back to sleep. He hesitated over whether or not to go barefoot, and finally settled for pulling a large pair of socks on over his trainers.

Padma was waiting for him in the library, hidden in a reading niche that Madam Pince always missed while doing her lights-out check.

"Took you long enough," she whispered, as she ducked under the cloak. "This place is creepy at night."

"It's just books," Harry answered, creeping rather more slowly now towards the stairs. It was difficult, managing the steps with two people under the cloak, but they made it to Gryffindor's portrait just as it swung open to reveal Neville's head, peering out.

"You there?" he asked softly.

"Who's that?" the Pink Lady demanded. Harry touched Neville's shoulder as they passed, and Neville startled, but kept his head.

"Just Neville," he informed the portrait. "Have you seen Trevor?"

"I don't keep track of your silly pets," the Pink Lady replied grumpily.

"Thanks anyway," Neville answered, closing the portrait-hole again. Once in the Gryffindor common room, Harry peered around to make sure it was just the four of them before shedding the cloak.

"Nearly gave me a heart attack, touching me without warning," Neville scolded.

"Sorry. She'd have heard me if I'd said anything," Harry replied unrepentantly. "I've brought the paint. You bring the other stuff?"

Neville gave them a downright wicked grin and held up a bag made of black cloth. "Nicked them from Hagrid's tack-trunk early this morning. They still stink." He opened the bag and a waft of foul, animal-smelling air floated out.

"All right. We'll do the boys first, then send Padma up to deal with the girl," Harry decided. "Draco, you paint."

"Why me?" Draco asked, accepting a small pot of green paint from Harry's pocket. He produced a brush he'd nicked from one of the more artistically inclined Hufflepuffs, and twiddled it between his fingers.

"Because you've got the best handwriting, and Padma's going to be the one looking for Neville's remembrall."

Draco muttered rebelliously, but shoved the paint-pot in his pocket. They all looked at Padma, who bit her lip and accepted the cloak from Harry.

"Follow me up," she whispered. "I'm going to cast the spell and then I'll give the signal for you to come inside the room."

They crept quietly up the stairs to the fourth-floor boys' dormitory, and Padma eased the door open. Harry couldn't see her, but he knew she was checking to make sure everyone was asleep. He saw a ripple of fabric for a moment; without taking off the cowl, she'd produced a packet of powder from her trouser pockets and tapped it out onto her hand.

The powder suddenly dissolved in the air, flying away as if a breeze had caught it, and Harry counted ten, fifteen, thirty, sixty under his breath before Padma shed the cowl, too, and gestured them inside.

"That'll keep them asleep for at least three hours," she said. "You could stampede elephants through this room and they wouldn't wake up, but I'd better keep an eye on it. Work fast," she finished, as she began digging through nightstands and trunks, looking for the remembrall bracelet.

The boys ran to the first bed, and gave each other a final look before setting to work. Draco pulled the blankets down to waist-level and studied the problem of how to get the boy's pyjama shirt up at least high enough to paint properly; finally he settled for slipping the brush under the t-shirt and doing rather sloppy work. Harry and Neville, meanwhile, took one of the wide leather dog-collars Hagrid sometimes used to catch kneazles with, and slid it carefully under the sleeping boy's neck, buckling it in place.

"Did you do the charm?" Harry asked Neville, who gulped and nodded.

"They should be un-removable for almost a day," Neville said. "I hope they work, otherwise they'll be stuck there forever."

"I hope they get stuck," Draco said, as much to his surprise as theirs. "I'm done, how're you two doing?"

"Almost there," Harry said, checking the buckle. "What'd you paint?"

He craned his neck to see, and gave Draco a disappointed look. "Pet? That's the best you could come up with?"

"It's hard to paint under a t-shirt!" Draco protested.

"All right, let's do the next one -- no, not him," Harry said, as they went to the second bed. "He wasn't involved, was he Nev?"

"No," Neville said. "And I only brought five collars. He was, though," he said, pointing to the third bed.

"Oh, and he's shirtless too," Draco grinned maliciously. "I could write an epic poem on him."

He settled for "Slytherin 0wns You" which was all he could manage in the time it took Harry and Neville to fix the collar. "Pet Gryffindor" and "Property Of Salazar Slytherin" followed in short order.

"Careful," Harry warned. "Don't get any on your hands, it doesn't wash off."

"I know, you told me," Draco answered, annoyed.

"Aha!" Padma said triumphantly, and they saw her flash the bracelet. "He was keeping it in his shoes, the disrespectful beast," she said, kicking the bed that the second boy -- "Pet Gryffindor" -- was sleeping on.

"Oh, ta, Padma," Neville said, accepting the bracelet. "Phew. I think I'll wash it before I put it on again. How long does this paint take to wear away?" he inquired, checking the buckle on the last victim. Draco, in a fit of creativity, drew a little snake on the one they'd just done, who had a button-down shirt that was easily opened.

"About two weeks," Harry said, with a satisfied air. "Less if you wash with vinegar every day."

"All done?" Padma asked, as Draco sealed the paint pot and Neville tied up the bag again. They nodded. "Up to me now."

"What're you gonna write on her?" Draco asked excitedly.

"I don't think that would be proper," Padma replied, and gestured at her own chest. The boys blushed slightly. "Don't worry, though, I know all about miss Elaine Brocklehurst. She'll scream louder than the boys when she finds out I painted snakes on her hands, and dyed all her shoes green."

"Brilliant," Neville said approvingly.

"You three wait for me near the portrait-hole. If someone comes down, they won't see you," Padma said, and pulled the cloak around her shoulders again, literally vanishing into the stairwell.

The boys took one last look around.

"I wish we could take pictures," Draco said.

"Too much evidence," Harry replied. "Padma's leaving the paint bottle in the girls' dormitory so that we don't get caught with it," he added, as they began to wind their way cautiously down to the common room. "Neville, maybe you'd better stay with one of us tonight."

"That'd be admission of guilt," Draco answered.

"Yeah, but they can't prove anything, and they'll know it was us anyhow, since the bracelet's gone," Harry answered. "I mean. Better an unprovable admission of guilt than a broken arm or something, right?"

"Do you think they'd break my arms?" Neville asked in a high, nervous voice.

"Not if you're sleeping in Hufflepuff tonight," Draco said. "We can say you walked me back to the dorm and fell asleep on the couch."

"Perfect," Harry replied.

Padma arrived in short order, rolling up the now-empty bag and tossing it on the fire, where a few quick words and a flick of her wand took care of the last of the evidence handily.

"Neville's sleeping in Hufflepuff tonight," Harry whispered, and she nodded.

"Maybe you ought to take me to Ravenclaw and then come back -- I don't think the cloak's going to hold four," she said doubtfully.

"Leave the portrait just a little bit open," Harry said to the other two boys. "I'll be back soon."

He ducked under the cloak with Padma and they made their slow, somewhat clumsy way towards the staircase to the Ravenclaw eyrie. A little over halfway there, they passed the fifth-floor room where they'd held their seance, and Padma's fingers gripped his arm under the cloak.

"Someone's in there," she said, softly. Harry obediently turned into the room, and saw a dark-cloaked figure vanishing down the staircase.

"Bugger," he whispered. "Bet you the dog eats him."

After a moment, however, when there were no screams forthcoming, Harry and Padma exchanged a look under the cloak, and pressed forward, down the staircase that would lead to the three-headed-dog's lair.

Harry barely suppressed a gasp.

Professor Snape stood at the foot of the staircase, calmly, playing a silver penny-whistle. In front of him, the dog was swaying on its feet, clearly torn between attacking and taking a nap. Finally its legs buckled, and Snape didn't miss a beat as it fell to the floor with a thud. All three heads began snoozing at once, and Snape continued to play one-handed as he bent to lift a platform in the floor, behind the dog.

Harry watched in horror as Professor Snape tossed the whistle aside -- it clattered down against the bottom step -- and slipped gracefully into the darkness below the trapdoor.

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