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[personal profile] velvetfiction
Title: For Want of a. . .
Author: VelvetMouse
Recipient: [ profile] serpentpixie in the 2007 [ profile] hp_holidaygen exchange
Rating: PG
Character(s): MWPP & Co.
Warnings: N/A
Summary: You know the saying "For want of a nail, a kingdom was lost"? Well, this is like that. Only different.
Author's Notes: To my dear recipient: Well, you asked for "something
happy, exciting, colourful and fun." Happy, exciting and hopefully fun I've given you. Colourful too, but probably not quite the way you meant it. . . And there's certainly mischief. Enjoy!

Many many thanks to Sherry for the lightning-quick, dead accurate beta job! Loads holiday cookies for her!

Remixed into For Want of a... (the You Know It's Hard Out There for a Prankster Remix) by [ profile] xylodemon for Remix Redux 10 (2012).


"Oi, Evans!"

Lily Evans stopped dead in her tracks at the sound of the familiar voice, but did not turn around to face it.

"No, Potter. For the last time, I will NOT go to Hogsmeade with you."

There was a slightly stunned silence followed by snickering that Lily easily identified as coming from James Potter's constant companion, Sirius Black. Odd, their voices sounded like they were coming from above her.

Shaking her head, Lily moved to continue her way down the corridor, when Potter called out to her once more.

"Wait, Evans! Please?" There was an odd note of desperation in his voice, and this time Lily did turn around. And promptly collapsed on the floor laughing.

There were plenty of spells that Lily could think of that might have stuck Potter and Black half-way up the wall – most of them coming from the wands of irate Slytherins. But she didn't know of any – and her knowledge of charms was not insignificant – that would give them wings. For wings indeed they had. Black's, at least, were dragonfly wings, iridescent green and blue. Potter's, on the other hand, were lacy little things that would not have looked out of place on a fairy. And they were most noticeably pink. Pinned to the wall, the two boys looked like nothing so much as specimens in a demented (and very large) entomologist's collection.

"What – what on earth happened to you two?" Lily managed to get out between the giggles.

Potter opened his mouth several times but, uncharacteristically, couldn't seem to form a coherent thought. Black stepped in.

"Nothing to worry about, just a little experiment gone awry. Now be a luv, and help us down, would you?"

Mischief twinkled in Lily's green eyes. "Now why in the world would I want to do that? I suppose it wouldn't be very sporting of me to sell admissions tickets to see this, but at the very least, I should go inform Professor McGonagall. Or perhaps Professor Flitwick. I am a prefect, after all," she mocked.

The boys groaned in unison.

"Please, Evans, for the love of Merlin. Don't tell any professors," Potter begged. "Look, if you won't help us down yourself, would you please at least tell Remus or Peter where we are?"

"Again, why should I?"

"Because Prichard will skin us all alive if we lose the house cup on his watch as Head Boy? And. . ." Potter gulped and took a deep breath. "I promise I won't ask you out again for the rest of this year."

Lily raised an eyebrow at that. They must be well and truly stuck if Potter was willing to promise that.

"So let me get this straight, Potter. You want me to not tell Prichard or any of the professors, but you do want me to tell Remus or Peter. And in return you'll leave me alone for the rest of the year?" Potter nodded frantically, nearly dislodging his glasses.

Lily turned to the other boy. "What about you, Black? What do you want out of this?"

He shrugged as best he could. "About the same, really. And-" he continued before she could open her mouth to ask, "-I'll make sure Jamie-boy here keeps his end of the bargain."

"Done." Lily looked up at the boys again and felt her laughter building. "I'll go find Remus or Peter. I'm giving you two until curfew tonight to get out of this. . . sticky situation you find yourself in. If I don't see you in the common room, I'm going to McGonagall, is that clear?" More frantic nods, this time from both boys.

Lily gathered up her belongings and headed off down the corridor. Just before she disappeared out of sight, she called back over her shoulder. "Oh, and Potter? Pink really is NOT your colour!"


Lily found the second pair of the quartet of sixth-year boys in the Gryffindor common room, playing chess.

"Hi, Remus, hi, Peter," she greeted them. "Hmm, move your bishop up to take that pawn, and you should have him mated in two more moves."

"Wow, thanks, Lily," Peter exclaimed as his pieces cheered. Remus just glared at his fellow prefect. She smiled at him sweetly and glanced around the room, which was mostly deserted, as it was a warm spring Saturday morning.

"Budge over, Remus, I need to talk to you two." Remus shifted over in his chair so that she could perch on the edge. Peter smirked at the two of them.

"Don't let James see you two like that, he'll pitch a jealous fit!"

"Not for the rest of this year, he won't."

"How'd you pull that one off?" Remus asked warily.

"He and Black are in a rather. . . sticky situation right now. I promised to keep my mouth shut and only tell the two of you and, in return, Potter is going to leave me alone for the rest of this year."

Both boys paled at her words. "Uh, Lily? Where exactly are they?"

"Fourth-floor corridor behind the statue of Greta the Great. About half way up the wall." Remus groaned and buried his head in his hands.

Peter jumped up, his impending chess victory forgotten. He grabbed Remus and started hustling him out the door with uncharacteristic haste. "Thanks, Lily. We owe you. Gotta go! Bye!"

Chuckling, she called after them. "Until curfew, boys! Then I go to McGonagall!"

"Right. Gotcha. Thanks. Bye."


An hour later, Peter lay on his bed pouring through notes written in James' cramped hand, while Remus paced the floor of their room.

"Dammit!" Peter exclaimed, suddenly sitting up. "I told James to let me check over his Arthimancy."

Remus stopped in his tracks and dove for the bed. "What? You found what went wrong?"

"Right here." Peter pointed at a row of scribbled numbers and symbols. "The great James Potter, done in by simple maths," he mocked.

"Peter. . . "

"I know, I know," he cut Remus off with a wave of his hand. "I just wish that, for once, James would acknowledge that he's not the best at something. I know the lot of you are better than me at most subjects, but Arthimancy is the one thing I'm really good at." He shrugged. "I'd like to not be the tag-along for a change."

"Peter, you're not. . ."

"I know that's not what you think, but a lot of the time I think that's how James and Sirius still see me. Neither of them can ever really admit to being wrong about anything. Sometimes I feel like we're second-class citizens to them." He grinned suddenly. "But then, we're not the ones stuck to a wall right now."

Remus studied his friend thoughtfully for a moment and then returned the smile with one of his own. "I'll see if I can borrow Thomas' camera. A moment like this in Marauders' history needs to be commemorated, wouldn't you say? So, now that you know what they did wrong, do you know how we reverse it?"

"I think so," Peter replied slowly, staring at the parchment with what all the Marauders knew as his "thinking look." While he did not often originate plans, preferring to help the others refine and execute their pranks, when he did come up with something, it was usually a doozy. "We know they can't be got down by any of the charms we tried, and transfiguration didn't work either. Which leaves. . ."


"Right. It seems to be the wings that are sticking them to the wall. So we should be able to come up with a potion that will dissolve them, or reverse them, or something like that."

"You work out the calculations, I'll take stock of our supplies," Remus said as he dove for the nearest potions kit. The next ten minutes were a flurry of activity. Peter's quill danced across several pieces of parchment while Remus sorted through four potions kits with reckless abandon.

"Well, we've got nearly everything to start with a base for a Shrinking Solution – I assume that's what you want to start with and modify it from there?" Remus announced when he had completed his inventory.

Peter nodded absently, not looking up from his calculations. "And add three here, which should give – no, seven – and those should interact with the zed and – Remus, we're going to need daisy petals instead of the roots and I want to add in some crushed lacewings. That should help with the transfiguration effect."

Remus nodded. "We've got the daisies, but none of us have any lacewings left."

"Bugger." There was a pause. "There's, er, one other complication with this potion," Peter began hesitantly.


"Well, it's just that it's a contact potion. Not ingested."


"Remus, don't be thick. How're we supposed to get it on their wings when they, and their wings, are half-way up the wall?"

"Oh. Right. Bugger." The two boys sat in a thoughtful silence for a few moments.

"I wish we had one of those water gun things we used at your house the other summer," Remus said slowly. "Then we could just fill it with the potion and shoot it at their wings. Could get between them and the wall and everything. Too bad we don't have one."

"Remus, you're a genius!"

"I am? You don't happen to have one do you?"

"No, but I think I know of something that would work just as well! The other weekend some of the girls were showing off some new perfumes they had got. Lisa had some that came in a little spray bottle that works just like the water guns. It won't shoot as far, but I bet a couple quick charms could take care of that. I think she's in the common room now, I'll go ask her!"

"I'll start on the potion base. Ask her if she has any lacewings we could use too," Remus called after the retreating form of his friend.


"Lisa? Lisa, can I talk to you for a sec?" Peter puffed slightly from running down the stairs.

The sixth-year smiled as she looked up from her book. "Sure, what do you need?"

"You know those little spray bottles of perfume you have? Do you have an empty one I could have?"

Lisa frowned. "Yeah, I think I do. Do I even want to ask why?"

"I was talking with Professor Slughorn about alternate delivery methods for contact potions," Peter lied smoothly. Six years of covering up for his friends made him adept at providing plausible explanations on the fly. "I was explaining to him how Muggles use spray bottles to transform a liquid into a mist for wider dispersal. He said I could try it with some of the more inert potions for extra credit."

Lisa smiled. "Oh, what a great idea. Let me run and see if I can find an empty one."

"While you're up there, could you see if you have any lacewings left? I seem to have run out," Peter asked sheepishly.

"Sure, back in a jiffy."

A few moments later, Lisa came back down the stairs from the girls' dormitory and handed Peter a small clear bottle. "Here's the bottle, but I don't seem to have any lacewings either. I bet my sister does, though. Fourth-years don't use them in as many potions as we do. Want me to ask her?"

"If you wouldn't mind, that would be great."

"No problem. I was going to take a book back to her anyway. Besides, I still owe you for the help you gave me on that Arithmancy assignment last week."

"Thanks, Lisa. You're a lifesaver."


"Jenny Jenny Jenny Dee!" Lisa Stalk caroled her way down to the entrance to the Hufflepuffs’ common room, smiling at some third-year 'Puffs who were just leaving.

A moment later, her sister appeared with a scowl on her face. "I swear, Lisa, one of these days someone is going to silence you. Or teach you how to actually sing."

"Keep that up, Jenny, and you won't get this," Lisa replied holding the book aloft.

Jenny Stalk rolled her eyes at her older sister's antics. "Did you make all that racket just to give me my book back?"

"Well, no not exactly. I have a favor to ask too. Can I borrow a vial of lacewings from your potions kit? I'm out."

"And just what do I get out of this?"

"Your book back?"

"Nice try. You wouldn't dare, or I'll tell mum about finding you and Tommy in the broom cupboard."

Lisa blanched at her smirking sister and cast about wildly for something to buy her silence. "I'll – I'll – I'll let you borrow my blue dress for the next Hogsmeade weekend!"

Jenny's eyes widened. "Deal. I'll drop them off when I head out for Quiddich practice this afternoon?"

"Thanks, Jen. You're a doll."


Jenny Stalk swore in a very unladylike manner.

"Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?" Ellie Davil asked.

Jenny stuck her tongue out at her roommate. "Lisa asked to borrow a vial of lacewings, and promised me her blue dress for the next Hogsmeade weekend. But it looks like I'm out too. Damn, I really wanted that dress. Josh would die if he saw me in it."

"I think I could probably scrounge up a vial if you really wanted me to. Does it mean that much to you?"

Jenny threw her arms around her best friend. "I love you I love you I love you! Please? You can borrow my turquoise earrings any time you want if you pull this off!"

Ellie just laughed.


"Hey, Connor. Can I talk to you for a sec?"

The Ravenclaw prefect looked up from his table in the library. "Sure, Ellie. What can I do for you?"

"I figured out how you can pay me back for that Transfiguration help I gave you – I need to get my hands on a vial of lacewings as soon as possible."

"Shhh!" hissed the boy, suddenly tense. "I can't let anyone know about that."

"What, can't let anyone know that one of the brainy-house prefects needed help from younger 'Puff to pass that last exam?" Ellie said in a low voice. "Then I guess you'd better just do what I ask, hmm?"

"Blackmail, Davil? Are you sure you were sorted into the right House?"

Ellie smiled sweetly. "Just looking out for a fellow 'Puff. We are loyal after all. We also keep our word. Get it to me by three o'clock today, Smyth, and no one will ever know that it took a fourth-year girl to explain the underlying principles of Vanishing spells to you."


Connor Smyth looked frantically around the library. He was pretty sure he was out of lacewings, but he knew he had to find some in just a few short hours. He wouldn't be able to live with the humiliation if his housemates found out he had needed Davil's help on that last exam. Even if she was some kind of genius at Transfiguration.

At a small table near the Restricted Section, Smyth spotted a familiar blond head. Straightening his prefect badge, he made his way over there.

"Gentlemen," he greeted the table of Slytherins. "Harper, a word if you would?"

The blond Slytherin prefect nodded and drew the two of them into a quiet corner.

"I find myself in a bit of a jam, Peri, and I wonder if you could help me out," Connor began. He and Pericles Harper had known each other since they were old enough to toddle around at their families’ parties and, while not exactly friends, were certainly friendly enough. "I need to get my hands on a vial of lace wings by 3 pm today. Any chance you could help me out?"

"What's in it for me?" Peri asked curiously.

"You want one of the Beater positions on your house team next year, right? I'll train with you, twice a week, all summer."

"Pretty sweet deal for just a vial of lacewings. What've you got yourself into, Connor? And why do you need lacewings of all things?"

Smyth just grunted. "Maybe I'll tell you about it this summer. And they're not for me, they're for an. . . associate. I don't know why she wants them, didn't ask."

Peri let out a soft whistle. "Wow, that 'Puff really has you over a barrel, doesn't she? Who knew one of the duffers had that in them. Oh, don't look at me like that, I saw you talking to Davil earlier. Alright, I'll do it. But only because I want that Beater position. I'll get them to you by 2:30."


Lily Evans was having a good day. She'd got some morning entertainment from Potter and Black, a promise that would make her life easier, and some quick research done in the library. Now she was rewarding herself in her favorite way – a good book and a sunny spot on top of the astronomy tower. She had discovered her retreat early in her third year, quickly learning that sunny days on top of the tower were conducive neither to star gazing nor snogging couples.

A shadow darkened her book, and a familiar voice said, "Evans."

Lily looked up and her face tightened, but she did not say anything.

"Would you happen to know why Peri Harper came to me a little while ago asking for a vial of lacewings? And would this have anything to do with the rumour going around that Potter and Black managed to stick themselves to the ceiling of the Transfiguration classroom?"

"Oh, so you're speaking to me today, are you?" Lily asked coldly. "What did I do to deserve that honour?"

The boy with dark, lank hair shifted uncomfortably and scowled at his seated companion.

Lily sighed in exasperation. "Sit down, Sev. You're blocking my sun."

Severus Snape kept scowling but did sit down next to her. "So," she continued, "since you're deigning to speak to me today, mind explaining what on earth you're talking about?"

Severus grunted in what might have been described, had it come from someone else, as a chuckle. "Peri Harper – fifth-year prefect, you know him, right?" At her nod, he continued. "Well, he cornered me in the common room just as I was leaving for lunch and asked if I had a vial of lacewings he could borrow. Now, I was curious since, unless they revised the curriculum since last year, there aren't any potions on the OWLs that require lacewings. When pressed, Harper admitted that they weren't for him, they were for a friend of his. Curious, I did some discrete asking around." Warming to his subject, the boy's voice lost much of its snide quality, and Lily found herself caught up in the story.

"Well, it turns out that the other fifth-years Harper was sitting with in the library saw him be pulled aside by Connor Smyth. So I can only conclude that Smyth is the 'friend' that Harper is protecting."

"Fascinating, Sev, but what does this have to do with Potter and Black?"

"I'm getting there, Lil. The fifth-years also remembered seeing Smyth in a brief, tense conversation with a fourth-year Hufflepuff prior to his talking to Peri. A little more discrete questioning –"

"Sneaking around, you mean," Lily interrupted with a grin.

A brief smile flitted across Severus' face. "As you wish. Anyway, I learned that this mysterious 'Puff was none other than Ellie Davil."

"The one that Professor McGonagall is always raving about?"

"None other. It seems that Davil is – can you believe this? – blackmailing Smyth for the lacewings. Only they're not really for her either."

"Wait, wait, wait. A fourth-year Hufflepuff is blackmailing a fifth-year 'Claw? With WHAT? And WHY?" This story was growing more and more unbelievable by the minute, and if anyone else were telling it to her, Lily would have sworn she was being pranked. But Sev knew better than to try to pull one over on her like that.

Severus smirked. "It would appear that the inestimable Mr. Smyth was having some problems with his Transfiguration assignments and Miss Davil tutored him through his last exam. Not that he wants any of his housemates to know that. So as part of her payback for her tutoring, she asked for a vial of lacewings. Only they're not for her, as I said. They're for her roommate, Jenny Stalk."

"Lisa's little sister, right?"

"Yes. And it seems it was your roommate who asked for the lacewings in the first place – apparently she promised her sister a dress or some such rot in exchange. And, according to what Jamie Presser said she overheard in your common room, it was Pettigrew who asked Stalk for the lacewings."

"And Peter would only ask for them if all four of them were out – or he was doing something he didn't want the others to know about," she added as an afterthought.

Severus snorted. "Not likely. Which brings us to the most fascinating rumour going about the school that Potter and Black have managed to get themselves stuck to the ceiling somewhere. You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you?"

"Me?" Lily opened her green eyes wide and innocent. "Whatever makes you think I would know something?"

"Because you always do," he replied sourly. "What'd they promise you this time?"

Lily flushed and looked away. "To leave me alone, actually. Potter promised he'd stop asking me out for the rest of the year if I didn't tell any teachers. Or Prichard. But I told them if they weren't back by curfew, I was going to McGonagall."

Snape's face became even darker and he stood up abruptly. He took several steps but then turned back and held out a hand to the girl. Surprised, Lily gratefully accepted the hand up from her sometime-friend.

"Sev?" she asked hesitantly as they made their way down the stairs from the tower. "What are you going to do?"

"What am I going to do about what?"

"The lacewings. Are you going to give some to Harper to give to Smyth to give to Davil to give to Jenny to give to Lisa to give to Peter?"

He paused. "As much as I loathe helping Black and Potter, however indirectly, I believe the entertainment value of this chain of events outweighs that consideration. You do realize, though, that this whole thing could have been avoided had any one of them realized that they simply could do what I will be doing, and retrieve a vial of lacewings from the student stores in the classroom?"

For the second time that day, Lily's laughter rang off the walls of the castle.


A week later, Lily discovered a small package on her bed. Ignoring the puzzle of how it got there, she carefully cast several detection spells over it. Finding nothing amiss (six years in a house with the Marauders had taught her that one could never be too careful), she carefully unwrapped it.

Inside, she found a framed picture of Black and Potter, stuck to the wall in all their winged glory. There was also a note.

Dear Lily,
We'll be putting up a big version of this in the common room tonight, but we thought you might like a copy of your own.

Giggling, she placed the picture in a place of honour on her dresser. She would have to show it to Lisa later.

And Sev. She'd definitely have to show it to him when they got home.

Lily Evans smiled and headed down to the common room. Perhaps Remus and Peter would need some help. . .


Author's End Notes:
Honesty, and a deep respect for his writing, compels me to admit that I got the idea for Potter and Black's wings from the Mood Wings that appear in Jeconais's marvelous story, This Means War. Go read! It's wonderful!

The saying referred to in the title goes thus:
For want of a nail a horse shoe was lost.
For want of a horse shoe a horse was lost.
For want of a horse a message was lost.
For want of a message a battle was lost.
For want of a battle a war was lost.
For want of a war a kingdom was lost.
All for the want of a nail.


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