Filch took the pair to McGonagall's classroom where they saw Malfoy and Neville. Malfoy Peter had expected but what had Neville been doing out of bed? Did he forget the password again? No McGonagall knows how forgetful he is, she would have just told him.
Professor McGonnagall looked as though she could explode. "I can't believe this. Never had I thought I'd see four students out of bed." She peered at the troublemaking students.
"What in blazes did you think you're doing!?" She asked glaring daggers into Peter and Harry specifically.
"Would you believe… sleepwalking?" Peter quipped, a bad move considering the look McGonagall just gave him.
He really couldn't help it. This situation was tense, scary, and painfully awkward. Making a bad joke, even in times like this was a force of habit. "Do you think this is funny Parker?" Their head of house asked folding her arms.
"No ma'am, sorry ma'am." Peter said, biting his tongue, as not to let another joke slip out.
"Never in my life have I been so ashamed of Gryffindor students." She said with flared nostrils.
"I suppose you think it's funny? Feeding some dragon nonsense to Malfoy to get him in trouble. Funnier still it must be that Longbottom heard and believed such a story." She spat.
Peter's eyes widened. That's why Neville was here! He has somehow caught wind of what was going on. He was trying to warn them about Malfoy's plot.
Harry shook his head in Neville's direction. Neville looked hurt beyond words. Peter said nothing. He found himself stuck between a rock and a hard place. Telling the truth was off the table because not only would it be a one way ticket back home it would also cause trouble for Hagrid. But not saying anything in their own defense meant facing some other possibly worse punishment.
"Professor-" Peter began but she cut him off.
"I don't want to hear anything from you Mr. Parker. Spider or not the rules apply to you as much as anyone else."
Peter looked down.
"All four of you will receive detention and 50 points will be taken from Gryffindor." She said.
"50?" Harry gasped.
"50 points each." McGonagall told them.
"But-" Peter began.
"Do NOT argue Parker, anyone else in their right mind would be sending you home never to return."
"Now go to bed. All of you." She ordered the four first years out and to go back to their common rooms.
As they walked out of the classroom Peter was stopped. "Mr. Parker."
Peter turned his head glancing back at McGonagall. He could have sworn that her expression has softened so very slightly for a half a second.
"You have great potential Parker. Potential that was almost permanently wasted. Do not do this again." She said.
Peter nodded. "Yes ma'am…" He walked off to the common room with the others.
Peter didn't feel like sleeping now matter how tired he was. He could hear Neville's stifled sobs. Harry was silent but likely thinking the same thing as Peter. They had lost their house 150 points. There would be hell to pay tomorrow.
The next morning was worse than Peter could have imagined. His fellow house members came down for breakfast that day and could have sworn there was some mistake. How had Gryffondor suddenly gone from first place in the race for the house cup to dead last. It didn't take long for the story of what happened to spread. Harry, Neville, and Peter faced constant dirty looks, and rude comments. Only Ron and Hermione really knew what was going on. Even Gwen ended up confronting Peter about the events of that night.
Peter sat in the common room working on his Potions homework. He stretched out trying not to think about the many looks he was getting. He didn't have to see to know. He could hear the whispers. He could almost sense the anger in the room. He sighed and closed his book. He'd work on this more elsewhere. Maybe in the rafters at the Great Hall.
He stood up and turned around coming face to face with Gwen Stacy.
"Peter… a word? In private." She said rather forcefully.
Peter knew this moment would come but dreaded it all the same. He followed her out of the Common Room and into the corridor.
"What happened Peter? You were caught out of bed. Why?" She asked.
Peter gazed slightly downward at her knees unable to look her in the eyes. "Can't say." He said rubbing his left arm nervously.
"What were you doing up in the first place?" She asked.
"Can't say that either." He said, dropping his gaze to her feet.
"Peter I want to be on your side. I want to understand. I want to give you the benefit of the doubt." She told him almost pleading.
Peter's head hung lower as he closed his eyes tightly. He tried to think of something else, anything else. He had to keep quiet for Hargid's sake, but keeping this from Gwen despite how hard she tried to figure it out? The very act of not telling her every little detail shook him to his core. Made him feel guilty. He wanted to tell her. Specifically her, he wanted to tell her so much. Instead he kept his silence.
Gwen looked at him, tears might have welled up in her eyes but she wasn't a cryer. None fell. "Fine if you won't talk I will. What you did was reckless, idiotic, and irresponsible, you're one of the best in a year. Almost everyone liked you. You messed up Peter, how are you going to fix it?" She walked off leaving him with that question.
Peter stood there processing. One of those words had cut deeper than any punishment he had or would be receiving in the future. Idotic? Sure. Reckless? Absolutely. But irresponsible. Peter at the very least thought he had been doing the responsible thing that night. Keeping a friend out of trouble. That was the responsible thing. Or was it?
This brought forth a burning question in Peter's head. One that had haunted him since Uncle Ben's death a year prior. One that he was afraid to answer. Did he really know what responsibility meant? Or was he just a kid sticking his nose in places it didn't go?
The day of their detention drew closer and Peter decided the best way to make up for what had happened was to work towards regaining the lost points. He went above and beyond in classes pulling ahead even in History of Magic. The only class where he consistently could not gain points was potions, Snape took every opportunity he could to penalize Peter. Every time Snape took away points felt like a stab in the gut to Peter. Ron assured Peter that this had nothing to do with Peter specifically but he didn't care.
At breakfast Peter sat with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Once or twice he offered Gwen a spot to sit with them. She always refused. Peter wouldn't tell her what had happened. She seemed to be taking it personally. Peter ate his breakfast while conversing with his friends. Mostly talking about homework and study times. There was nothing else to really talk about. As they talked Hedwig and Mary both came flying into the great hall. Both of them carried letters. Mary landed and outstretched her leg to Peter who took the letter from her and rewarded her with what remained of his bacon. He opened the letter. It was from McGonagall.
Report to Filch at the Hogwarts Grounds at Eight PM.
He will escort you to your detention
Peter sighed and took out his wand. He tapped it against the paper muttering a spell. The paper folded into an origami man who spun and danced on the table. Peter watched absent minded until the bell rang for the start of class. Later that night Peter and Harry bid Hermione and Ron goodbye and met up with Neville. The three of them began a very long and painfully awkward Journey to the grounds. Malfoy was already there with Filch not looking to be in any better spirits than them. The fact that Malfoy was also in trouble was, at least, one part of this Peter could take pleasure in. Though that would be short lived as Filch ordered everyone to start walking again.
Peter wondered what their punishment would be, surely nothing too dangerous they were a bunch of first years after all. FIlch led them to Hagrid's hut explaining that they would serve their detention helping him. Peter and Harry momentarily relaxed. If this involved Hagrid it couldn't have been that bad. Filch must have caught them starting to relax because he smiled wickedly.
"Don't think that this is going to be easy, or fun. You're headed to The Forbidden Forest." He told them.
Neville and Malfoy froze. "Th-The Forbidden Forest? B-but… we can't g-go in there… students aren't allowed." Neville said.
Harry went very pale and Peter gulped feeling nervous now. He was a powerhouse in his own right but he had no idea what to expect in a place like the forest. "Oh goody… I thought we were doing something dangerous… like degnoming the grounds." He told the joke instinctively.
"Is this funny?" Filch asked.
"Oh it's real funny, Almost as funny as that time someone slipped Mrs. Norris catnip." Peter said, regaining some of his bravado thanks to the jokes. It even helped serve to cheer up his present company a bit. Even malfoy unfortunately… oh well.
Filch spun on him. "Watch it you little pile of dung." He hissed.
"What're ya gonna do? Put me in detention?" Peter quipped with a cheeky grin. Harry and Neville smiled a bit more.
They stopped at Hagrid's hut and stood only a few feet from the forest. The color drained from everyone and Peter was silenced. The trees directly in front of them were intimidating enough. But they were just the outskirts of something much more menacing. Hagrid came out with a crossbow strapped to his back.
Peter looked over at him. "A crossbow? Guess we really aren't degnoming the grounds huh?" He quipped.
Hagrid smiled at his joke. "Keeping yer spirits high? Good." He said.
"This is an outrage." Malfoy exclaimed. "When my father hears about this-"
"He'll tell yeh that this is how things work around here." Hagrid interrupted. "Yeh break the rules, yeh get punished."
"But that's not fair, we can't go in there. It's dangerous. There are werewolves and things." Malfoy went on and on.
"Good grief, I thought I was supposed to be the talkative one. Snow-White we're all going in whether we like it or not," Peter cut into Malfoy's rant. He looked at Hagrid, seeing and knowing that the giant was going to be with them did wonders for nervousness.
"Alright Big Man." Peter said, sounding a lot braver than before. "Let's get this show on the road."
Filch left them in Hagrid's care. He made sure that they had the tips of their wants illuminated then led them into the dark forest. Peter didn't feel much like talking here. They followed Hagrid in total silence. Peter focused on his Spider-Sense. If something was wrong or went wrong, he'd know.
Hagrid stopped at a forking path. Between the paths was a pool of silver-blue liquid. Hagrid bent down and dipped his fingers in showing it to them. He turned around. "You see that?" He asked.
"That is Unicorn blood. The poor beast must be injured, our job is to find and see if we can help it. Or, if necessary, put the beast out of its misery." He explained to them.
Peter stared at the blood. "Who could have done that? Who would have done that?" He asked.
"Werewolf?" Harry suggested. It seemed Hagrid was about to respond but Peter beat him to the punch.
"Not likely, Unicorns are fast, not even a werewolf can keep up. That's why I said 'Who' and not 'What', only a person could be physically capable of this but… who would attack a Unicorn?" He asked again.
Hagrid looked at him. "Yeh seem to know a lot Peter." He observed.
"I like books." Peter replied dismissively. The only kind of person who could do that is a person on their last legs. Attacking a Unicorn for whatever reason was always a desperate act. A last resort. Just the idea made Peter shiver.
"Right. Now the path splits in two so we'll do so as well. Peter and Harry with me. Neville and Malfoy with Fang-"
"Uh… that's not a great plan, big guy. Malfoy will just use it as an opportunity to scare the pants off of Nev." Peter commented.
Hagrid nodded, acknowledging Peter's claim. "Right. Neville you come with Peter and me. Harry, you go with Malfoy." Hagrid split them up.
"Now then. If we find the Unicorn, we send up green sparks. If we run into trouble we send up red sparks. Get yer wands out. Practice it now." He told them.
Peter took out his Cypress wand and waved it around. First he made green sparks appear. Then he made red sparks appear. And, for the fun of it he also shot out a few rainbow sparks that shot out in all colors.
He placed his wand back in a tightened loop on his jeans. The handle got caught as it slid down making his want hang there like a sheathed sword. "Alrighty I'm ready."
It took about six minutes for Neville to be able to cast the spells reliably. Peter and Neville followed Hagrid. Harry, Malfoy, and Fang went the other direction. Peter waved to Harry. "Stay safe. And if you see any man eating monsters, just remember that you only have to run faster than Snow-White." He quipped.
Malfoy opened his mouth to respond before realizing that was exactly what Peter was looking for. They went out of view and Peter focused on Hagrid's back. Neville was shivering and holding back tears. He didn't want to be here.
To be honest Peter didn't mind as much as he thought he would. It was dark and strangely quiet but he didn't mind it. He figured it might be because of his spider instincts. He was a predator not prey. He felt no reason to be nervous now that he was actually here.
He put a hand on Neville's shoulder. "Don't worry Neville. There's an eight foot tall wall between us and anything that might attack us." He assured Neville.
Neville nodded. Peter's words seemed to make him feel a little better for a moment. Until they heard a loud howling noise. Neville jumped and what little color had been restored immediately drained from his face.
"Hagrid what if we find the thing that attacked the Unicorn?" He asked, "Then yeh get behind me and stay there till I say." He said.
At that moment they all heard a shuffling noise. Doing as he was told Neville got behind Hagrid. Peter however felt far braver and got an alert stance. Hagrid raised his crossbow. Something seemed to slither across the dead trees.
"I was right." Hagrid said. "There's something here that shouldn't be."
"Definitely doesn't sound like a werewolf."Peter said looking around.
"Peter get behind me." Hagrid snapped.
"What? I can take care of myself big man." Peter shot back.
Hagrid seemed as though he was going to respond but they both stopped when they heard the clopping of hooves.
Peter backed off and let Hagrid talk to them. They both went on about Mars being especially bright tonight. Peter looked up in the sky. It wasn't that unusually bright in his opinion. Hagrid came back shaking his head.
"Never try to get a straight answer out of a centaur. They've no interest in anything closer than the moon." Hagrid said grumpily. "Didn't learn anything from them."
"Sure we did." Peter said brightly, "We learned that mars is bright tonight." He quipped.
Hagrid rolled his eyes, "Can always count on you to keep things light can't I?" He asked.''
"I see an opportunity to make a joke, I take it." Peter shrugged.
"S-so w-was it not the centaurs we heard earlier?" Neville asked.
"Unfortunately not Nev." Peter said. "If it were it would have had hooves it certainly didn't sound like a equine beast to me." He said.
They kept looking for a while longer until Hagrid decided that it was too late to keep searching. As they started backtracking a few miles away they saw red sparks shoot into the air.
"Harry and Draco." Peter said looking at Hagrid with concern.
"Stay here!" Hagrid said. "Right and let whatever might be out here eat us?" Harry asked.
Neville shuddered at the thought. Hagrid didn't have time to come up with an argument. "Oh alright come on. But keep yer heads down." He said running.
He zoomed alongside him. "HARRY! HAGRID!" Neville shrieked, unable to keep up with the two.
Peter hadn't thought of that. It was easy to forget that he was easily faster than pretty much everyone in the room at any given time. He picked up Neville bridal style. "This is awkward." He said striding alongside Hagrid.
They met Malfoy half way to the source of the sparks. He was sputtering and gasping. "M-m-monster!" He yelled.
"Where's Harry? Yeh left Harry behind?" Hagrid asked.
Draco didn't respond. He just kept gasping for air wide eyed.
"Heads up big man." Peter said pointing. "Looks one of the centaurs does care about more than the stars."
A centaur approached them with Harry riding on his back. "Hagrid, it is good to see you tonight." He said. "Frienze." Hagrid nodded.
Harry slipped off of Firenze's back and joined his fellow Gryffindors. "What happened?" Peter asked.
"Later." Harry said. "When we get back to the common room. The Unicorn is dead Hagrid; it's in that clearing back there." Hagrid went to the clearing to check.
Firenze looked at The Boy Who Lived. "Good luck. Harry Potter. The planets have been read wrongly before. I hope this is one of those times." He galloped off.
Back at the common room Hermione and Ron were waiting for them. Neville went straight to bed ready to sleep and forget that this night had ever happened. Harry sat down with the others and told them what had happened. "So you're saying that the guy killing the Unicorns is Voldemort?" Peter asked. "And that he's what, convinced Snape to steal it for him?"
Ron flinched at the mention of Voldemort's name. Peter rolled his eyes. "We've had it wrong." Harry said. "Snape doesn't want the stone for himself. He wants the stone for Voldemort. With it he could come back."
"Okay." Peter said. "Well… if all of this is true we just… have to have faith in all our other teachers' protection. Even if he is after the stone they can't all be conspiring to bring one of the most evil wizards of all time back to life."
"The centaurs think otherwise. They were furious that Firenze saved my life." Harry said. "I guess me dying this year was supposed to be written in the stars. Thought he should let Voldemort finish me off." He said.
"Will you stop saying that name?" Ron hissed.
Peter rolled his eyes. "Yeah okay granted the centaurs are very good at constellations and fortune telling but come on, just because they say it will happen doesn't mean its set in stone." Peter explained. He knew a little bit about centaurs, not as much as he'd like but they didn't make a habit of hanging around people. Quite the opposite in fact most of them wanted people to just leave them alone.
"Besides," Hermione began adding onto Peter's argument, "They say that Dumbledore is the only wizard that You-Know-Who ever feared. As long as he's around you'll be fine."
Harry nodded numbly. Peter could tell that nothing they said was going to make him feel better. At least not now. Peter didn't blame him. He had just been attacked by one of the most evil wizards to live, or at least exist. Peter thought "live" was strong word seeing as Voldemort had been found drinking Unicorn blood.
They all decided that was enough talking and went to go to bed. As they walked up the stairs Hermione bid them goodnight and went to the girls dorm. As Peter went to walk into his dorm, a hand grabbed his shoulder. He looked back and saw Gwen.
"Can we speak?" She asked.
Peter looked at Harry and Ron. "You two go in. I'll be there in a minute." He said.
He stood out there with Gwen who looked uneasy. "I'm sorry Peter." She said.
"What for? Setting me straight?" He asked. "It's fine. You actually gave me a lot to think about."
"I did?" She asked looking up at him.
"Sure, you made me reevaluate what responsibility means to me." He said. "About where to draw the line. Of course people may not like my conclusion."
"Which is what?" Gwen asked, looking curious.
"Exactly where it always was. I got in trouble, I got Gryffindor in trouble but in the end I still think that what I did was right." Peter answered firmly.
Gwen smiled slightly and shook her head. "You're going to get into real trouble someday." She chuckled.
"I did get into real trouble, But I still say I came out on top." Peter laughed. "But, apology accepted."
The two of them smiled at each other fondly before turning into their rooms as well. Peter looked to the side and saw Harry holding his Cloak of Invisibility. "Guess whoever gave that to you for Christmas REALLY wants you to have it." He said.
He went to his own bed. Hermione was right. So long as Dumbledore was around Voldemort, scary as he was, wouldn't try anything. He drifted off to sleep.