Chapter Fifty Four | Quid doleo? Mutato nomine de te fabula

[Why do you grieve? Change the name and the story is yours]

James Potter is a hard person to talk to alone. Besides the fact that he's constantly being followed by his friends, the whole castle usually takes notice of him because of his popularity, which makes Gavin's current job a bit difficult, to say the least. He's been trying to talk to him all day, but it isn't until lunchtime that he finally manages it.

"Potter!" Gavin calls, flagging him down as he's heading into the Great Hall. Peter Pettigrew is with him, but his other friends seem to be absent. Gavin assumes that Lupin is off trying to break Sirius out of the dark mood he's been in, for reasons unknown to Hogwarts at large. Not even Gavin is aware of the recent circumstances, at least not fully. He is, however, aware of something that Potter clearly isn't.

"Clarke? What do you want? The next prefect meeting isn't for another – "

"Yes yes, I know, I'm the one who schedules those meetings even though it's your job," Gavin mutters with an eye roll.

Potter raises an eyebrow at his sarcastic commentary and sniffs, "I've offered to do it myself plenty of times."

Gavin fights back another eye roll. "You've offered twice. The last time was just after Christmas break."

James merely sniffs again and takes his glasses off, polishing them absentmindedly on the hem of his robes in a thoroughly nonchalant fashion. At this side, Peter stuffs his hands into his pockets and glances through the doors of the Great Hall. The scent of warm food is nearly torturous.

Gavin shoots a look at Peter and frowns, "Can I speak to you alone? It'll just take a moment."

At this, James casts a speculative glance at Gavin, then at Peter, and responds, "You want to speak to me alone?"

"That's what I just said."

"But I've never spoken to you alone before."

"I'm not going to drag you into an empty classroom and murder you or something."

"You do always look like you want to murder me, though. I feel unsafe."

Gavin stares at him for all of two seconds before he impatiently snaps, "Fine." He mutters a few annoyed things beneath his breath that shan't be repeated and then grumbles, "It's about Vivian. I thought…I mean, it's really none of your business I suppose…it's not really mine either but – "

"We're pretty hungry, Clarke. Do hurry up," James breezily tells him as he slips his glasses back on.

Gavin purses his mouth, glances around at the hallway, and then reaches over to grab James's arm. As he tugs him a bit closer, James's eyebrows raise slightly higher. Mainly because Gavin Clarke doesn't make a habit of willingly talking to him and this situation is more than a little confusing.

His confusion fades slightly, though, when Gavin murmurs, "I saw Vivian go into the Forbidden Forest last night. With Adrian Mulciber and Regulus Black."

Yes, this does make his confusion lessen somewhat. James's nonchalance takes a downward turn into a more serious expression.

"Well what happened?" he prompts when Gavin doesn't say anything more.

The question makes Gavin a bit impatient. He drops his hand from James's arm and admits, "I didn't follow them. They looked like they were up to no good."

James sends him another raised eyebrow. "And you didn't hand out detentions or inflict proper Ravenclaw justice? That's very unlike you."

Gavin seems to agree, because he sighs, "I know. Things are getting more dangerous though and I just figured – "

"You did the right thing," James tells him. "What with you being a muggleborn and all, I doubt things would've ended well if you had confronted Vivian with Mulciber there."

Gavin agrees with this too, but he still looks a bit upset with himself.

"…Why're you telling me this, anyway? You should just go talk to Vivian about it yourself. You are friends," James says after a brief moment of silence.

Gavin sends him a dry look and reminds him, "You're the Head Boy."

James pauses, laughs a bit, and responds, "Oh right. I am," as he runs a hand through his hair. Then, turning to Peter, he elbows him playfully and adds, "Sometimes I forget, you know, Wormta – er right. Thanks for informing me of this…situation, Clarke. Good day to you."

Gavin drags him back before James can escape and growls, "So since you're the Head Boy, what are you going to do about this?"

James sighs as if he's dealing with a child and plucks Gavin's hand from his shoulder. He swings an arm up over Peter's shoulders and lifts a hand to his chin in dramatic speculation. "Well let's put this situation into perspective. Pride is obviously hurt by the latest revelation regarding our dear, pathetically dimwitted Padfoot. She seems to have decided to abandon her new position of Honorary Marauder, which is a shame because it took us hours to come up with her new nickname. Moreover, if she was seen heading into the Forest with the troll and Padfoot's baby brother, she's obviously up to something that is probably nefarious. Do you concur, Wormtail?"

At his side, Peter furrows his brow and says, "Maybe this is about that dark spell?"

James hums and murmurs, "You may be right – "

"Okay, but how did you give Vivian a nickname without her murdering you?" Gavin interrupts, crossing his arms and looking wildly confused as he tries to follow James's perplexing commentary.

James and Peter both look over at him as if they're surprised he's still there. They blink at him for a moment before James waves him off and goes back to what he was saying.

"There's really only one thing for it, Wormtail," James nods. "We'll have to inform Padfoot about this. Okay, right, I need a bouquet of flowers first though."

Gavin's expression falls to utter bewilderment.

"And maybe some chocolates – Wormtail?"

Peter nods. "I have an unopened box of Swiss chocolates back in the dormitory."

James sighs out in relief and moves to put both hands on Peter's shoulders. In a solemn voice he says, "You're sacrifice is most appreciated."

Peter opens his mouth to respond, but…

"What is going on? Why do you need flowers and chocolates? I told you this so that you can help Vivian – " Gavin demands, looking incredibly frustrated with all of this confusion.

James laughs and dramatically shakes his head at the now-ruffled Ravenclaw. "Clarke, Clarke, Clarke. I really would have thought you'd be able to follow this better," James sighs, then out of the corner of his mouth, says to Peter, "He definitely wouldn't make it onto the Honorary Marauder list."

Gavin's eyebrow twitches.

James doesn't notice because he's too busy puffing out his chest and proclaiming, "You clearly have no idea how to properly woo a lady. We obviously have to bring Pride back into the light and the only way that's gonna happen is if Padfoot steps up his wooing game and begs her forgiveness."

Gavin looks incredibly confused by this. "Why does he need to beg her forgiveness? What did he do?"

James sighs very loudly. "Are you sure you're a Ravenclaw, Clarke?" Before Gavin can defend his house status, James explains in a quieter voice, "Sirius would murder me if I told you this so keep it to yourself. He's the one who's been writing her those poems."

At this, Gavin's mouth drops open. In an incredulous voice, he repeats, "He's the secret poet? Sirius Black?"

"Yes," James says impatiently, "so now you understand why I need some flowers and chocolates."

Gavin pauses and splutters, "Your plan is – "

"Glorious?" James supplies with a smug smile.

Gavin promptly responds, "I was going to say 'bad'."

James just shrugs. "Look, Clarke, I don't expect you to understand the fine art of wooing. I mean, look at you. All I'm asking is that you give me a chance to help Padfoot out before you muck everything up by getting involved."

He throws his arm back over Peter's shoulders and starts heading towards the Great Hall, but before he can escape, Gavin hastily says, "This isn't going to work. Vivian hates public displays of affection."

James, though, merely makes a face at him from over his shoulder and sniffs, "Just trust me, Clarke. I know how to woo a bird, okay?"

As he disappears into the Great Hall with Peter in tow, Gavin stares after him with an expression of extreme doubt, and mumbles, "…You actually really don't," before marching after them to claim a spot at the Ravenclaw table. Merlin, he hopes James doesn't make a spectacle out of this, or Vivian will be pissed.

"You know what?" James murmurs as him and Peter sit down at the Gryffindor table. "I think we need a female perspective. Since I've never mucked things up this badly with my Lilyflower, I fear I may not have enough expertise in the art of groveling."

Peter's only response to this is, "Well can we eat lunch first? Because Padfoot's latest drama is making me really hungry."

James nods sagely. "I second that, Wormtail. We need to make sure we keep our priorities straight in these dramatic times. Food comes before Padfoot."

As he starts filling his plate, Peter wholeheartedly agrees.

"Lilyflower! Lilyflower! Lily – "

"What, Potter?" Lily snaps, and then quickly adds, "And would you stop calling me that?"

"May I remind you that you lost the bet, dear Lilyflower?" James smiles, inordinately pleased with this fact. "I can call you whatever I like."

Lily looks like she could throttle him. "Just tell me what you want so that I can get on with my life," she impatiently says, and crosses her arms.

"I need a female perspective," is all James tells her, and then proceeds to take her arm and drag her down the hallway without warning.

Woe to the man who thinks he can drag a woman like Lily Evans down a corridor without there being repercussions.

"What are you doing?!" she squawks at him, and roughly drags her arm back before James can pull her more than a few steps. She looks like she's seconds away from physically knocking some sense into him, which is quite unnecessary because James Potter has plenty of sense, thank you.

With an impatient sigh, James puts his hand on his hips and says, "Well, see, it's Pride. She's angry at Padfoot because he's terrible at falling in love and now I think she's getting back at him by trying to sell her soul, which is overall incredibly dimwitted of her but since she's Padfoot's bird, I guess I can't be that surprised, they're both really bad at this, you know?"

"Wait, wait," Lily cuts in, putting one hand in the air whilst rubbing her forehead with the other. "What's this about selling your soul and why are you talking about pride as if it's a person?"

James sighs again. "Pride is a person. That's Vivian's new nickname, since she's now an Honorary Marauder. Though she doesn't seem to remember that bit," he adds beneath his breath, sounding somewhat frustrated.

Lily stares at him throughout this explanation. She now looks like she's unsure which urge is stronger: to smack some sense into him or to just walk away. Honestly, for a group of teenage boys, the Marauders take drama to the next level.

"Take a deep breath, James, and calmly tell me what's going on," Lily says after a moment, apparently deciding to go for the third option: hearing him out. She will most likely regret it, but there's something strange about seeing James so worked up like this. He's usually so annoyingly smug about everything.

James does indeed take a deep breath. He is slightly calmer when he begins, "Okay, so you know about those love poems Vivian's been receiving all year?"

Now, before we get to Lily's impending reaction, two things should be taken note of. The first is the simple fact that Hogwarts is a school like any other. Despite its magical curriculum, it is filled with adolescent teenagers who treat gossip like currency. Everyone knows about Vivian Blair's love poem problem. It's hardly a state secret, especially since Vivian has been so vocal about it in the past, snappishly telling everyone around her that the love poems are crap and whoever is sending them should stop lest they want to get hexed to kingdom come. Lily has of course also heard about the love poems, but in wake of it being NEWTs year, she hasn't given it much thought. She's not the sort who gossips all that much.

Right. Now that that's over with, the other thing to take note of is the fact that Lily Evans happens to be very astute. The moment James mentions 'love poems', she promptly connects the dots.

"Sirius is the one who's been sending her those poems?" she demands, sounding thoroughly appalled.

James takes one look at her eyes and recognizes the anger that's pooling within them. He's been on the receiving end of that anger enough times by now to know that it isn't going to end well.

"Um," he hedges, suddenly quite wary.

Lily straightens her spine and brusquely says, "Are you telling me that Sirius has been leading her on this entire time?"

James splutters, "It's not what you – "

"I am going to have a word with that tosser," Lily growls, and then stomps off, leaving a still spluttering James behind.

"This is not good," he mumbles, and then hurries after her.

"You're Vivian's secret admirer?" Lily Evans demands as she barges into the Marauders' dormitory, where Padfoot, Wormtail, and Moony are congregating before classes start. The moment the door slams open, all three of them jolt up in shock. Lily's never come up here before and it's quite an irregular sight.

"Lily – " James hurriedly says as he runs in after her. His hair is in more disarray than usual and his glasses are a bit skewed, giving him a very unkempt appearance.

"Shut up, Potter," Lily snaps, and then turns back to Sirius and scathingly says, "I cannot believe you, Sirius. How could you do something so – so – cruel?"

The word makes Sirius visibly flinch. He sits up a bit straighter on his bed and crosses his arms. The casual nonchalance that he always manages to embody is nowhere in sight.

"You really don't have a heart, do you?" she barks. "Sending love letters to a girl as a prank? And then, as if that's not enough, you pretend to actually fall for her – all the while laughing about it with your awful friends the moment her back is turned – "

"Lily, that's not – " James tries again.

"No, Potter, I'm so tired of your antics," she blazes over his words. "You've always toed the line with your childish pranks, but this time you've gone too far. If you ask me, you're lucky Vivian hasn't decided to hex your brains out."

Sirius flinches again, but Lily isn't quite done.

"And to think that, for a moment, I thought you weren't so bad after all!" she says, whirling on James with an accusation imbedded in her voice. "You let this carry on all this time without doing anything to stop it! This is all your fault, Potter!"

James's mouth hangs open in shock.

"All four of you – you're such immature idiots! If I was Vivian, I'd never speak to any of you again!" she exclaims, and then shoulders past James to throw open the door that he had closed in an attempt to keeps things between themselves.

Right as she's turning the doorknob, though, James throws himself at it and it slams shut again. In a panicked voice, he says, "You're not helping, Lily! You're only making Sirius feel even worse!"

That's true enough. Sirius looks like he wishes the world would just swallow him up. His gloomy expression is back with full force.

Lily's response to James's panicked words doesn't make the gloom lessen any. With an incredulous laugh, she replies, "Well good, I hope he feels absolutely awful. He deserves it."

Sirius flinches and mumbles, "Yeah…I reckon I do," in a voice so far removed from his usual arrogance that it makes even Lily pause.

Her anger fades slightly when she finally takes a good look at him and sees the thoroughly dejected expression on his face. In a slightly more hesitant tone, she asks, "…You do?"

Sirius casts her a downtrodden look and just sighs.

Lily pauses again. She glances over at James, who is giving her a weighted look, and mutters, "Merlin, Sirius. You really got yourself into a mess, haven't you?" The last of her anger fades away as she sighs, "Do you really love her, or have you been leading her on this whole time?"

The question makes Sirius look quite insulted. He narrows his eyes at her and responds, "Would I really go that far with a prank, Evans?" Then, seeing the doubtful look on her face, snaps, "I wouldn't. Bloody hell."

Lily rolls her eyes at him and says, "Well you can't blame me for making sure. The fact that you ever had the idea to begin with is just – "

"Lily," James coughs, sending her a pleading look.

Lily pauses again before muttering, "Fine, fine. I'm sure Sirius knows just how thoughtless, idiotic, and cruel his actions have been – right, well what are you gonna do about it, Sirius?"

It isn't Sirius who responds to this, though. James is the one who says, "He's going to go up to her and properly apologize, of course. I have a plan that includes lot of groveling – since, you know, it always works pretty well with you, and – "

"Potter, please shut up," Lily tells him. He does, promptly. She rolls her eyes at him and his 'groveling', and says, "Don't listen to a word he says, Sirius. Potter has absolutely no bloody clue what women want." For the second time in the last five minutes, James's mouth hangs open. Before he can defend his wooing abilities, though, Lily merely adds, "You need to go up to her and apologize, and you need to mean it, because she'll be able to tell if you don't. Women don't like flashy shows of affection. It just looks arrogant and insincere. Don't bother with flowers or whatever James tries to wrangle you into. Vivian will be able to see right through that. Oh, and while we're at it, do not under any circumstance publicly apologize to her, because then it just looks like you're trying to make a show of it."

Sirius blinks at her, hardly looking like he's listening. Remus and Wormtail exchange a glance and remain perfectly silent. James, well…

"No flashy shows of affection, no flowers, and no publicity, right," he murmurs, as if he's taking mental taking notes. "What are your thoughts about giving flowers in a private setting – or are flowers just too cliché in general?"

Lily turns to glower at him. "Potter, if you use this advice against me I swear to Merlin – "

He hesitantly laughs, "I'm only asking on behalf of Padfoot." Then he clears his throat and tries to look innocent.

Lily rolls her eyes at him and mutters, "Why do you always get me involved in your drama?"

James just smiles at her.

"So…if I asked you out in a totally normal, boring way, without an audience or flowers or any of the things birds usually like, would you say yes?" he hopefully wonders.

Lily's 'I-want-to-throttle-you-expression' comes back at full force. In a snappish tone, she responds, "You should try helping your friend, Potter," and then storms out of the dormitory without another word.

James hums, crosses his arms, and ponders – until he sees the way Sirius is looking at him in a slightly judgmental manner, and mumbles, "What? Just because you managed to muck up your love life doesn't mean I have to."

Sirius just glowers at him and, falling onto his bed, mutters, "Oh shove off already."

James sniffs and strides over to his bed, deciding that it's in his best interest not to respond.

Prongs's sixth best characteristic is that he is a top-notch wooer of women. Sure, his pursual of his own lady-love has had its ups and downs. He can admit that some of his techniques have been occasionally questionable. He does regret a few of his more outlandish ideas, such as that time he wrangled Padfoot into following him around with his guitar while he belted out Celestina Warbeck songs, or that time he had handed out badges to fellow Gryffindors that said 'Lilyflower, give James a chance!'. (In theory, both had been great ideas, if only McGonagall hadn't confiscated Padfoot's guitar and Lily hadn't made it a point to re-charm the badges to say 'Piss off, Potter' instead.)

Those few instances aside though, he considers his wooing abilities to be pretty incredible, which is why he wakes up extra early the next morning to pass along his vast array of knowledge.

"Merlin, is he still sleeping?" Prongs asks as he pulls aside the crimson curtains surrounding Padfoot's bed. He rolls his eyes at the sprawled-out form of his best mate, whose mouth is open as he quietly snores. Prongs shakes his head and sighs, "I really don't know what girls see in him."

Moony, who is in the process of going through his textbooks for the day and prepping his bag, glances over with a shrug. In a tone that is slightly dry and just a little bit weirded out, he wonders, "So, um, should I ask what you're planning to do with that comb?"

Wormtail sleepily sits up in bed and, stretching his arms overhead, mumbles, "I still think this is a bad idea, Prongs. I mean, who cares if Blair doesn't want him anymore? Besides, Lily specifically said not to do this."

Mention of Vivian and Lily has Moony's eyebrow raising. Across the way, Prongs sighs in exasperation and responds, "We've already gone over this, Wormtail. Padfoot is completely pathetic when he's in love and, as fellow Marauders, it's our duty to mitigate the latest disaster that he stupidly walked into like the idiot he is."

Moony's eyebrow raises just a touch higher. He watches Padfoot roll over with a sleepy mumble and groan, "Shoveff Prongs, Imtrynasleep," evidently having heard that last bit.

Prongs shakes his head at him. "Besides, I know how to woo women, Wormtail. Lilyflower just doesn't want to admit how taken she is with everything I do for her," he says as he twists the comb in his hand and reaches over to take the glass of water that he had placed on the small table beside Padfoot's bed. He's quite unapologetic about pouring into Padfoot's face. He has a schedule, after all.

"What the fuck James!" Padfoot snaps, sitting straight up in bed and rubbing at his face. He's definitely not sleepy anymore. In fact, his eyes are flashing with annoyance as he turns to glower petulantly at Prongs.

Prongs sighs at him and points to the bathroom door. "Shower," he demands.

Padfoot stares at him in bewilderment. "Why?" he wonders.

Prongs sighs again. "Because you smell like wet dog, that's why."

Padfoot narrows his eyes at him and mutters, "That's because you just dumped a glass of water on me, you prat."

Still, Padfoot does indeed head into the bathroom to take a shower, and when they hear the water turn on, Moony hesitantly asks, "So…the comb?" He watches Prongs step over to Padfoot's trunk and start digging through it, searching for a uniform shirt that isn't wrinkled.

"Wormtail, would you care to explain? I'm gonna have to steam this," Prongs sighs as he pulls out a button-up that he'd dragged from the bottommost corner.

As he clamors up and begins to look through something that, strangely, looks like a girl's magazine, Wormtail announces, "Clarke saw Blair go into the Forbidden Forest last night with Mulciber and Regulus."

At this, Moony's eyebrows raise. "What was she doing hanging around those two?"

Wormtail shrugs. "We suspect it has something to do with that spell she needs to make."

Off to the side, Prongs mumbles, "She said it was on page 8…"

The other two cast weird looks at him. Moony frowns, "Right…so what does that have to do with…whatever it is you're doing, then?"

Wormtail shrugs again.

"Isn't it obvious?" Prongs asks. "We have to clean up Padfoot's act or else Pride will never forgive him. He's too pathetic to handle this himself. I mean, you've seen how he is around her, and since she started giving him the cold shoulder, he's gotten even more pathetic."

Moony's eyebrow raises again. "Um. Okay. But didn't Lily tell him to just try apologizing to her again? Besides, I don't think this is any of our business," he says.

Prongs turns to gape at him and repeats, "None of our business? Have you gotten any sleep the last few nights? Between the tossing and turning and the way he's constantly staying up late to stare at Pride's name on the Map, I've hardly gotten any sleep at all!"

Moony still looks skeptical, so Prongs adds, "If we don't do something, Pride is going to finish that spell and sell her soul to Voldemort's pale arse, and then how do you reckon Padfoot will be?"

As he gets up from his bed, Wormtail mutters, "Desperate."

Prongs nods. "Yeah, so desperate that he gets even more pathetic than he already is. I mean, just imagine it, Moony. He barely does anything anymore except stare gloomily into space. Unless we're in class, and then he just stares gloomily at Vivian."

Moony rolls his eyes. "If he just tried apologizing again – "

"No Moony, he needs us. Besides, I've been preparing myself for this moment all my life," Prongs declares, turning back to flip through the girly magazine. He's too busy muttering something about ironing charms to notice the dry and thoroughly unimpressed look Moony is sending him.

"Aha! Found it!" Prongs exclaims just as the bathroom door opens and Padfoot walks back into the room dressed in a pair of trousers that probably should have been washed days ago.

He pauses in the middle of scrubbing his hair dry with a towel and glances up at Prongs. "You found what?" he asks, none the wiser to what he's about to be wrangled into.

Prongs sends him a smile and tosses the magazine onto his bed. Padfoot raises an eyebrow at it, now recognizing it as one Marlene often reads. It's called 'Elegant Enchantress' or something weird like that. Why Prongs is reading a women's magazine, he's got no idea.

Poor thing doesn't realize what he's about to experience. If he did, he probably would've turned on his heel and locked himself back in the bathroom. As it is, though…

"Oi! What are you – Moony, what is he doing?" Padfoot yelps as Prongs shoves him onto the edge of his bed and starts attacking him with the comb. He tries to bat his hands away, but to no avail. Prongs is on a mission.

Wormtail and Moony both sit back and watch, biting back smirks.

"Would someone explain to me what's going on?" Padfoot demands. He reaches up to run a hand through his hair in an attempt to transform it back to its usual tousled perfection, only for Prongs to drag his hand away from his combed head.

"Just remember, Padfoot, this is for your own good," is all Prongs says in response, and glances over at Moony, who is pretending to be leafing through his Care of Magical Creatures textbook while he leans against the stone wall of the corridor. He isn't studying, of course: the Map is actually lodged in between the pages, just out of sight. Moony shakes his head at Prongs, silently answering the question in his eyes.

Padfoot, who is still quite cranky from the last half hour spent experiencing Prongs's fussing, impatiently grumbles, "I don't understand why tucking my shirt in and choking myself with a tie is for my own good. Is this another stunt to ask Lily out? Should I have brought my guitar again?"

When one is friends with James Potter, one never quite knows what his reasons are for doing, well, anything, hence Padfoot's apparent confusion at the way the morning has gone so far. Is it strange for Prongs to randomly attack him with a comb and start spewing things like 'Hold on Padfoot, don't put that shirt on until I steam out the wrinkles'? Well yes, it is. But is it any stranger than some of the other things Prongs has done over the years? This is questionable. Sometimes, Padfoot honestly wonders about him. Point is that this doesn't feel very different from many of Prongs schemes concerning his dear Lilyflower, so he really doesn't expect what ends up happening.

In hindsight, Prongs will admit that he probably should have at least mentioned something, if only to ensure that Padfoot had a line prepared. Instead, though, when Moony gives the thumbs up and Prongs quickly turns to Wormtail to take the box of Swiss chocolates he has dishonorably (and somewhat unhappily) sacrificed for the cause, Padfoot isn't prepared. In fact, Padfoot has no idea what's going on.

"Here," Prongs says, shoving the box of chocolates into Padfoot's arms, who barely manages to catch them before he's being hauled to the end of the corridor and told, "Make sure you smile – oh, Merlin! I forgot the flowers, hold on a moment – "

A moment later, a bouquet of roses is being shoved into Padfoot's arms alongside the chocolate, and Padfoot turns to blink at Prongs in utter bewilderment.

"Why do I need flow – "

"Now Padfoot, I recommend getting down on your knees, but just listen to your instincts, alright? Groveling is a fine art and there's no right or wrong way to do it," Prongs rattles on, shoving him forward.

The word 'groveling' makes Padfoot's jaw snap closed. He turns to look at Prongs with an expression that is part betrayal, part shock, and part fear. Prongs merely puts his hands on his shoulders and says, "Just remember the first rule of groveling: all girls really want is for you to throw away your dignity."

With that, Prongs shoves Padfoot into the hallway and hastens backwards lest he's seen by Pride, who is at this very moment marching down the very corridor that Padfoot has just epically tripped into. What happens next will be remembered with varying degrees of consternation, embarrassment, and amusement in the future, though for now, the first of the two are more applicable to the situation at hand.

Now, in Prongs's humble opinion, being the leader of the dishonorable Marauders requires several important traits that he happens to possess and Padfoot does not. Being a top-notch wooer of women isn't exactly the most important trait in the arsenal of the average Marauder, but it certainly helps when one is trying to smooth-talk your way out of trouble. Padfoot would naturally claim to be a better wooer than him and would predictably bring up the impressive experience he has with the common bird, but it's obvious to Prongs that he lacks experience dealing with the uncommon bird – which Pride most definitely is. It's these sorts of things that proves just how unqualified he is, really. Honestly, the manner in which Padfoot stumbles his way through the situation only serves to prove this point all the more.

Pride, who is storming forward with an expressionless face, takes one look at Padfoot and comes to a full stop. She stares at him. Her blank eyes turn a touch baffled. Beneath her incredulous stare, Padfoot, well, flounders.

"…Vivian. I, erm, I'm not really sure what I – um, I think these are for you but I don't really – "

"Did you comb your hair?" Pride asks, sounding slightly judgmental.

Padfoot pauses, then reaches up to finally muss his hair up, as he's been trying to do for the last half hour. "No, of course I didn't," he laughs awkwardly.

Pride's eyebrow twitches as she takes in the sight of his tucked-in shirt and perfectly knotted tie. Sirius Black has never looked so…dapper before.

"…Potter's gotten to you, hasn't he?" she finally decides.

At this, Padfoot hesitates, then casts a confused glance over his shoulder at where Prongs is standing in the next hallway over. From his position around the corner, Prongs makes the universal sign to keep silent or die as he draws a finger across his neck.

"…Um. No," Padfoot splutters, turning back to face Pride.

Pride raises an eyebrow at him and he clears his throat.

"Right. Uh – "

"Vivian, I deeply apologize for being the biggest tosser in the history of the world," a voice suggests from the shadows. Both Padfoot and Pride turn to glare at Prongs's poor hiding spot.

A brief, uncomfortable silence captures them, until Pride crosses her arms and wonders, "Well are you gonna say it or not?"

Padfoot opens his mouth, then closes it, then turns to throw another glare into the shadows, then turns back to Pride with a frustrated expression. Finally, he releases a deep sigh and does something that Pride isn't expecting. Neither is he, for that matter, until he actually ends up doing it. Honestly, he never thought he'd get onto his knees in front of a girl, but that's exactly what he does.

"Vivian. I am the biggest idiot. Hurting you was never my intention. Well actually it was. At first. But it stopped being my intention a long time ago and I am really…truly, honestly – "

"What's going on here, Vivian?" Adrian Mulciber suddenly wonders, appearing on the other end of the corridor with Lucius and Avery in tow. Padfoot's words are promptly cut off as he hurriedly clamors back to his feet, face flushing at having been seen on his knees by anyone besides the girl he's trying to apologize to. As Mulciber approaches, he shifts on his feet, looking like he wants to flee, which is really quite unlike him. Sirius Black never backs away from trouble, especially when it comes in the form of Adrian Mulciber. His desire to do so now only makes it all the more obvious how uncomfortable this is for him.

He hazards a glance at Vivian, only to find that she's watching him with a strange light in her eyes. It's not quite as cold as it's been all week, but there's still plenty of wariness to it. The closer Mulciber gets, though, the most guarded her expression becomes, until the last remnant of wildfire is quietly shuttered off.

Adrian takes one look at the bouquet of roses in Sirius's arms and raises an eyebrow. "Are you propositioning my fiancée, Black?" The thought seems to amuse him. He slips an arm over Vivian's shoulders, only for her to elbow it off a moment later. Mulciber doesn't look like he appreciates it overmuch.

"What was that for?" he demands, sounding a touch angry now.

"Just shut up," Vivian snaps at him. Her eyes glaze over with coldness. When she turns back to look at Sirius, no hint of warmth can be seen. She sneers, "I'm sure that Black was just trying to prank me, as usual," and then promptly marches off before anything else can be said.

Mulciber eyes Sirius distastefully and drawls, "It had better be just a prank, blood traitor." He glances at the roses and sneers one more time before following after Pride, who is ducking around the opposite corner as she tries to cling to her coldness.

As for Padfoot, he mournfully drops the bouquet and chucks the box of Swiss chocolates at the wall, much to the horror of Peter, who is quick to rush over in an attempt to salvage them.

"…That went well, all things considered," Prongs says thoughtfully as he steps into the corridor. Moony follows him, looking a bit wary.

The reason for his wariness is, of course, because Sirius is now undoing all the hard work that James had spent the morning perfecting. He angrily loosens his tie, untucks his shirt, and pushes his hands into his hair to give it a furious tousle. When he's done, he looks much more like himself.

"That went well?" Sirius repeats with a humorless laugh. "Are you serious?"

James obviously knows better than to follow this question up with the Marauders' customary response, and merely clears his throat.

"Well…I mean, she didn't hex you, so that's…good," James mumbles.

"A little warning would've been nice!" Sirius bites, as if James hadn't spoken at all.

James pauses. "Right. I'll warn you next time then."

Sirius whirls around to angrily respond, "There won't be a next time because she hates me!" And then with a dramatic huff, he storms away without another word.

Prongs crosses his arms and ponders once more. Wormtail mourns his ruined box of chocolates. Moony sighs and dryly says, "The comb might've been a step too far."

Prongs shakes his head and says, "No, it was the dignity. He didn't throw away enough of it."

Moony rolls his eyes and goes over to help Wormtail, who is inspecting each piece of chocolate before dropping it back into the box. He looks quite appalled at Padfoot's lack of decorum and is most certainly regretting his sacrifice.

"You know what?" Prongs muses. "Maybe Lilyflower was right."

Moony just rolls his eyes again and doesn't respond.

Classes have already started by the time Vivian marches into the Slytherin common room. She's due to be in Arithmancy right now, but honestly, she has more important things to think about. One of those things is following her even now, as she maneuvers her way around the chairs and makes for the entrance to the girl's dormitories. Mentally referring to Adrian Mulciber as a 'thing' makes her feel slightly better, but only just.

"Why was that blood traitor trying to give you flowers?" he demands as he follows her. Lucius and Avery have already gone off to class, uninterested in Mulciber's current plight, so unfortunately it's just the two of them. There are a few other students from various years in the common room who have the morning free of classes, but they don't seem to care overmuch about Vivian or Adrian. They glance up as they pass, but quickly return to whatever it is they're doing without a second glance.

Vivian whirls around to face Mulciber and scoffs, "I don't know. Like I said, he was probably trying to prank me. Just lay off already, Adrian."

Now, you may be wondering if Vivian Blair actually believes this. After all, she is a Slytherin, and Slytherins have a startlingly wonderful ability to see through things that might cloud the judgement of others. This ability is why they are said to be cunning and shrewd. They possess within their nature a resounding talent for sniffing out the truth, and are capable of curving it in such a way so as to use it to their advantage.

"If it is a prank, then it's fucking weird," Mulciber grumbles, crossing his arms and eyeing Vivian with a discerning look on his face.

Adrian Mulciber is a Slytherin too, and he's just as capable at sniffing out the truth, which is why Vivian immediately gives out a scornful laugh and sneers, "How should I know what goes on in the blood traitor's brainless skull? Everyone knows how much effort it takes for him to form a coherent thought."

The adamance in her words makes Mulciber relax his shoulders just so. It's hardly noticeable at all, really, but Slytherins always know when they're triumphing in their efforts. It's like a sixth sense that's hardwired into their DNA, telling them when they are succeeding in curving the truth.

"Fine, whatever," Adrian mutters, relaxing just a tiny bit more. Vivian watches the slight fall of his shoulders carefully, taking note of the way his eyes become a touch clearer. "Just remember that we're heading out tonight. You'd better not be late."

Vivian lifts her chin silently and he rolls his eyes at the stubborn set of her jaw. A moment later, he's releasing a frustrated breath and turning on his heel, exiting the common room without another word. She waits until he disappears before dropping her chin and continuing to her dormitory.

Adrian's words follow her as she shuts the door behind her and stares into the familiar room. A strange sensation overcomes her as she takes in the sight of the emerald drapes and hastily made beds. It's the sort of feeling that one has when they realize how quickly life changes, when Fate comes hurtling towards you and alters the course of your path. Sometimes you don't even realize that it's been altered at all. Fate works by degrees. It bends the road before you so slightly that you don't notice the curvature until you've already started walking down it, and by the time you realize it, it's too late to go back. You've taken one too many steps; changed too much to return to the you that existed in the times before.

Sometimes change isn't obvious. Sometimes it's as quiet and as subtle as the opening of a symphony, when the violins rise up so tenderly that you feel the sound caress the parts of you that you hadn't even realized were there; the empty room in your heart that you hadn't known was hollow, until that moment. And it fills you like a great wave that rises up in an ocean, gaining height and speed until it is so tall that, when it hits you, it utterly devastates you. It makes you realize that there is no way to return to the person you once were. You have changed too much. You are different, now.

It's not always so bad, being different. The challenge does not lie in the maturity that you have gained or the opportunities that you have taken. You are not upset that you are stronger, or wiser, or older. The reason for the devastation is because you know that you can never return to all the other aspects of your life. The things that, at the time, hadn't seemed so very important. The things you took for granted. It is only when you have lost them do you see how important they were, but by then, the path has been blocked and you can't go backwards.

You realize all the times you had deprived yourself of what you need. All the things you had denied yourself, because you were too busy clinging to the path you have always walked on to notice that it had shifted just so. Fate is not responsible for making sure that you are paying attention. It doesn't care how you move forward, only that you do.

Her fingers are shaking when she kneels down in front of her trunk and pulls out the stack of letters buried deep within. Oh, but it had been cruel of her, to give that box to Sirius. A vengeful Slytherin is a loose cannon. Anger is the one thing that can cloud their judgement, but even in the midst of her fury, she hadn't been able to actually burn the letters. A year ago, she wouldn't have hesitated, but she is different now.

So does Vivian Blair actually believe that Sirius's apology was little more than a prank?

'Vivian, I do declare

That even Venus can't compare

To your beauty that does capture me

Like a thousand shooting stars.

For even in the moon's embrace,

Your countenance is not erased

Before you, even Heaven dims;

You're more beauteous by far.'

Well, the problem is not that Vivian doesn't see the truth when it is staring at her in the face. The problem is that her path has been curved once again, and she isn't sure she can go back to the version of herself that had existed within Sirius Black's arms.