THE BEST ACTOR IN THE WORLD

A Snivellus/Marauders Fic

sequel to "Wayfaring Stranger"

by Atana

Snape and other HP characters belong to J. Rowling and not to me. Original characters, however, certainly do. To see the illustrations for this story, go to my Profile page and click on the hyperlink. No slash, no sex. PG-13. Angst alert!

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Like the mountains near Achnashellach and the Torridon Mountains further to the north, Scotland's hills and mountains lie over the mountains of the Magickal world like slices of time and space. If one had the sight to see it (and it would most assuredly bring on an attack of vertigo), mountains, mountain climbers, expeditions, and people just living their lives in the Muggle and Wizarding worlds respectively lie only temporal seconds from one another.

Muggle mountaineers strove to climb the so-called "Seven Summits" – the highest peaks on each continent. Some were familiar to the average Muggle and some were not: Kilimanjaro, Denali, Elbrus, Aconcagua, Carstensz Pyramid, Vinson Massif, and Everest. To find the Wizarding World's highest peaks was far trickier.

With that goal in mind, Lily and James sat in the library busily doing research for their "Magickal World" class.

"This is boring," James Potter muttered.

"Is not," Lily Evans replied.

"'Tis too."

"Everybody knows that altitude can change or warp the spells people try to cast. Exactly why, when, and how is the whole reason for the course in the first place, James. Either you can sit there and grumble or you can help me figure out the highest mountains in the Wizarding World, and do so hopefully before tomorrow's class."

"Spoken like a true geology nerd," James thought but did not say. His mama hadn't raised a fool. He very much enjoyed spending time with Lovely Lily, who (according to her) was NOT his GIRLFRIEND but was only his FRIEND.

Sighing, James Potter looked up and across the alcove at a student busily scratching on a parchment at about a mile a minute.

"Wonder what Snape has so far?" he said.

"Why don't you ask him?"

"Dunno," James said, sighing again.

Lily lay her book down and patted James on the hand. Her mama hadn't raised a fool either. "I'm so very proud of the way you welcomed Sev back to the school. I know he's weird, but he got the 'Hogwarts Scholar' award last year even with all his difficulties, if you'll remember."

"He's so far behind, though," James remarked, "It will take him forever to catch up. He won't have that trouble in Transfiguration, though -- I heard that McGonagall waived his last three examinations."

"That woman has a good heart – and so do you, James," Lily said, smiling and brushing her auburn bangs from her green eyes. James could get lost in them, and she knew it. "What are you staring at?" she returned sweetly.

"Um – nothing, Lily," James said, taken aback when his survey of her beauty was no longer a secret.

Lily batted her eyelashes, though only once. "Why don't you ask him to work with us? We're all in the same Magickal World class after all."

"Oh, all right," James sighed once again. He stood and stretched.

Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew – sitting four tables away from James and Lily – immediately began to wave and mug at him. Sirius made gestures as if he was kissing somebody passionately. Then he crossed his eyes and stuck out his tongue – looking remarkably like his animagus self. Peter went 'nyah' and made the appropriate finger gestures to accompany it. Remus Lupin kept to his work but couldn't help but smiling at his friends.

James bared his teeth and made a cutting gesture across his throat.

He then walked over to Snape's table. The dark-haired boy was completely surrounded by stacks of old and musty books, some of which were published as early as the sixteenth century.

James glanced up at Pettigrew, now sticking his finger down his throat and pretending to vomit.

James bared his teeth at him.

"Cheers, Sev," James said, sitting down across from Severus Snape.

The boy raised his eyes and returned Potter's gaze. "What's up," he replied.

"How have you been?"

Severus sighed, still uncomfortable with conversations and most human contact in general. "All right. Halfway decent, actually. You?"

"Same. Bored crosseyed with that mountains assignment, though."

Severus' first response would have been a shrug and a return to his work. However, he reminded himself to do what Shonsey had taught him – take a deep breath, smile, and speak. Being solitary by nature was fine so long as it didn't isolate you from others. Isolation Wasn't Therapeutic.

"I seem to have most of it knocked," Snape responded.

"Lily and I were wondering if we three could – well, work together on it," James said with an ill-disguised touch of desperation. He had done next door to squat on the assignment.

Sev took a deep breath – smiled – and spoke. "So long as the two of you don't glom onto everything that I look up, it's fine with me." Severus brushed his long black hair out of his eyes. "Come on over here if you like; I don't feel like moving all these books."

James gave Sev a "thumb's up" gesture and stood up to leave. He looked over at the other two Marauders, who were alternatively making "the bird" at him and/or pretending to strangle one another.

Off he went, back to Lily's table. More mugging and mock-kissing from Sirius and Peter.

James smirked and shook his head.

"What the deuce are you doing, James?" Lily commented. She looked over her shoulder. "Remus Lupin is the only one of that batch of imbeciles I speak to these days. The two of you were decent enough to visit Sev in St. Mungo's. That pair of twin idiot gits was awful. Shame on both of them, I say."

"Want to come over and join Sev?" James inquired.

He then gave her his "adorable grin". It never failed to touch his mum's heart and had gotten him out of trouble more than once at home. The question was: would it soften the heart of Babelicious Evans?

"Is there something wrong with your nose?" Lily inquired.

For one horrible moment, James wondered if it needed blowing. Cutting his losses at once, his face relaxed into a more natural cast of features. "What do you think?"

"Excellent," she said, standing up. "I'll add our lists to his and see how we end up. I'm really, really glad you talked to him, James. You are really a kind person once one gets past all the bluff and bluster!"

James tried the "adorable grin" once again. She might have missed it the first time. Unfortunately, Lily had been too busy putting her things in her book bag to notice it.

"Sev's rather fragile and I think he is trying to keep away from everyone so he doesn't get hurt again. I'm really proud of you." Lovely Lily smiled at James as she scooped up her book bag and parchment.

His heart sang.

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"Hey, Sev," Lily said, sitting next to him.

Snape looked up at her and actually smiled. No problem with poor socialization skills when Lily was involved! "Hey, Lily. Want to know what I've come up with so far?" the Slytherin boy asked. Neither paid much attention to Potter, who had dropped his armloads of books on the floor and was scrambling around to pick them up before the Madam Pince saw the mess.

"Sure."

"The first thing I did was to find the tallest mountains in the Magickal World. Then I'll put them to their proper continents. Seven mountains – "

"– For seven summits," Lily finished, smiling and looking at Snape's parchment, already covered (as usual) with his tiny and cramped writing.

Severus read from it: "Ascraeus Mons, Erebus Mons, Hellespontus, Iaxartes Tholus, Issedon Tholus -- "

"What the devil is a tholus, anyway?" James groused, slamming into his seat and feeling just a bit left out. A dismal slew of bent and dog-eared parchments fanned out of one of the books he'd just crazied onto the library table. Sev and Lily stared at them.

"It's a formation that's not big enough to be called a proper mountain," Severus replied. "Shall I continue?"

"By all means," Lily said, patting Sev's arm. James Potter almost bit his tongue in half.

"-- Jovis Tholus, Labeatis Mons, Nereidum Montes, Tyrrhena Mons, Nereidum Mons, Octantis Mons, Sephira Mons, Theia Mons, and Ts'an Nu Mons. That's the lot, so far."

It was Lily's turn. "Here's what I have. My method wasn't quite as scientific, I'm afraid," she added, pulling her own parchment close to Severus.

The boy blinked. Lovely Lily sure smelled nice. She certainly did.

"Let me see," James said, trying to twist his head as upside-down as it would go.

Lily humphed. "Why don't you come round to see better, James?"

"Right, then," Potter said, getting up, walking around the table, and standing behind them. He felt like an idiot.

"So go ahead and read," Lily prompted him. James cleared his throat, praying to any and all deities in both Worlds, Muggle and Magickal, that she didn't consider him a total dullard.

"Um. Atsyrkhus Mons, Awenhai Mons, Chuginadak Mons, Ciuacoatl Mons, and Eostre Mons."

"What about your list?" Snape asked, looking up at him expectantly.

"It's over in my stuff."

"Then why not go round again and fetch it, James?"

Oh, yes. Dullard with a Capital D.

Burning with shame, James got his parchment, walked back around a second time, and lay it before them. "I started at the N's," he remarked in desperation.

"Why?" Severus asked.

"Why not?" Potter replied.

Oh good on you James, he thought to himself. First behaving like a dullard and then popping off at a kid who just got released from the Nuthouse. He frantically wished it was lunchtime so he could leave.

Sev pursed his lips. "Very well, then; let's hear them."

Lily chose to do the reading this time. "Nahas-tsan Mons, Nepthys Mons, Vostrukha Mons, Wyrd Mons, and – um -- Xochiquetzal Mons. Hope I didn't sound too silly!" Lily gave a girlish little laugh, which pierced the hearts of James and Severus with its beauty. Both boys nearly fell over themselves assuring her that they thought no such thing. The idea!

I wonder if she'd notice if I drooled on the table, James thought to himself.

If I passed out suddenly, would she give me mouth-to-mouth rescucitation, Snape pondered in his heart of hearts.

"Well, what's next?" Lily chirped.

Both boys sat transfixed until the question worked its way through their adolescent brains.

"All right, then," Severus said. "We need to exclude all that don't exceed 8000 meters. That's what the books are for. Let's get busy on those elevation numbers." Without another word, Sev dragged a large and dusty volume with a faded tan leather cover and began to fan through the pages, creating a breeze that riffled his hair.

Gods, this is boring, James Potter thought, his eyes wandering along with his thoughts. He watched as Snape began to write the elevations in his hen- scratch scrawl, noticing the cuff of his sleeve as he did it.

Red.

Not official school uniform, James thought, but Dumbledore probably okayed it. Poor little Snape, trying to run with the big dogs but barely keeping up. The kid might go nutters once in a while but he was trying.

With a sigh, James opened an atlas half the size of the table. He looked up at Wormtail and Padfoot making faces at him, and dropped his eyes before he cracked up. Poor Sev might think he was laughing at him, and Lily would cut him dead.

"I wonder what it would be like to climb one of these," Lily sighed, pointing at a picture of a mountaintop, lovely puffy cumulus clouds drifting by at a much lower elevation.

What, James' mind screamed, those nut jobs called mountaineers actually – climbed – higher – than – the – clouds? He felt sick.

Severus looked at Lily, laying down his quill.

"What?" she asked.

"I was wondering the same thing."

"You were, were you?" Lily returned with a smile.

Oh gods of all pantheons, she's smiling at Severus Snape! Let me die!

"After we do this assignment, we should take a look at some of the mountains around here and see if we could climb a few of them. Do you think we could do it for extra credit?"

Lily grinned.

James blinked.

Snips and Lily. No. Bad Idea. Bang head against table. No, no, no. Horrors! The humanity! James hid his face in his hands.

"Wait!!" Snape shrilled, stabbing at the old volume with his forefinger. "Here's the highest mountain in the Wizarding World! Mount Cotopaxi!"

The Slytherin boy turned to Lily, a true warm grin on his face. "To the summit?" He pointed his quill at the ceiling with a flourish.

Psyched, Lily grinned back. "To the summit!" Her own quill poked the air above their heads.

James Potter's head swam. If those two aspired to summit mountains, he would be right there with them.

Wasn't it lunchtime yet?

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