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Harry Potter: Private Eye

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Harry Potter: Private Eye

Chapter 1

It was an uncomfortable dream. Mad Eye Moody was back again, friendly but challenging. “Going to take up my life boy, you need to keep a sharp EYE out for the shape shifters, cloaking spells, and traps you can’t see.” As ghost Moody emphasized the word “eye,’ his own magic eye floated out toward Harry, like a bloodshot moon floating in the night.

Moody’s Eye, now large and baleful, stared at him reproachfully from the darkness. The Eye asked Harry why he wouldn’t use its powers against the grey specters Harry could just make out in the distant beyond - now headed his way.  Harry brushed the Eye aside and it vanished. I can handle them myself, he thought, but as fast as his wand lit up one ghost, another appeared…faster and faster…until at last he could see that they weren’t dissipating at all…merely reforming at the edges of the brightest wand light, while shards grew into new shadows. At last the Eye floated back in front of him, still enormous, and let him see the one demonic wizard forming the shadows into monster after monster to throw at him. Harry struck out once more at the source, and the battle was over. The remaining shadows screamed and vanished…the sound lingering into the whistle of his Hogwarts Express alarm clock.

Harry stared at the comforting wide beams above him, soothed by their solidity, and the creamy expanses between them. He was HOME…no dementors...no boggarts would strike him in his well-charmed home. But did this dream mean something or was it just another holdover from too many childhood adventures? Many of those dreams still featured Voldemort or the Durselys, though by now these were easing.  He had taken Lupin’s training into his dream world and mastered the nighttime boggarts with his own imaginative Riddikulus twists…Voldemort stuck on Dudley’s stomach just as Duddleykins threw up from overeating. Petunia spanking Tom Riddle with a frying pan, shrieking about Voldemort having burnt her eggs… It didn’t seem like that sort of dream. Honestly, the sheer intensity of this vision bothered him. It seemed as though Mad Eye Moody had returned to warn him. Was it anything to do with his upcoming case?

Ginny stirred beside him, growling softly at the unwelcome interruption to her rest, before sleepily turning her head toward the train clock and noting the excited gnome now jumping up and down, waving his flag in frustration at Harry’s lack of movement. She came fully awake with a sharp intake of breath, and poked her husband. “Harry! You know Dad wanted you at the Ministry by 9 o’clock. What possessed you to sleep so late? You’ll have to hurry..”

Reluctantly, Harry put his ponderings aside, smiled at Ginny, and swung his legs heavily over the side of the bed. “That’s the trouble with friendly ghosts,” he thought to himself, “they keep you up all night telling what they want you to do in the morning.” Harry found his fresh suit of clothes and office robe ready for him on the chair and slid into them as rapidly as his stumbling feet would allow, as he headed for the door he heard Ginny dash for her dresser drawer, and smiled, as moments later, his collar and tie neatened themselves. “You going to brush for me too?” he teased, and dodged a barrage of flying pillows on the way to the bathroom.

Married life was proving healing to Harry. He still awoke each day in wonder at the dream come true that was his adult life. He had good friends he could see quite often, honor among his fellows, and a fascinating job. There were some who were disappointed he hadn’t taken the Dark Arts job at Hogwarts himself, given all his experience, and maybe he would later, but right now life was just too exciting. He could apparate to look for stolen dragon’s gold in Romania in the morning, be in St Petersburg checking hexed wands at teatime, and be back home for an early supper with Ginny every night. He was finally going everywhere, just as he’d hoped, seeing all the places he and Sirius had talked about, and, not incidentally, building his powers back after losing Voldemort’s horcrux, and with it Voldemort’s unwitting gifts.

Harry could still create an enormous Patronus shield, and was a dangerous wizard to face in a duel, but he had not entirely regained Parseltongue. He was getting a little better. He’d heard a large garter snake crossly muttering at Ginny’s owl the other morning, instead of just hearing it hiss. He just hadn‘t been able to make out the words. “Probably just as well,” he thought, blushing a little. “I know what I’d be tempted to say if she had just snatched my dinner up from in front of my nose.”

As Harry journeyed toward his office, navigating the Ministry’s labyrinthine system, he thought about Ron & Hermione’s latest letter. Hermione seemed convinced by her studies that Harry could fully regain Parseltongue, and his most powerful attack spells due to ‘magical memory.’ Basically, he’d done it once, more than once, and somewhere within him the pathway to these powers remained. The problem, in her opinion, was that in having to repulsing Voldemort’s efforts to take him over, Harry had come to believe that some of his powers were Voldemort, and accessing them put his soul at risk. His conscious mind knew the difference, of course. Voldemort was gone - forever this time. Harry just wasn’t sure he still had those gifts afterward. It wouldn’t surprise Harry if he truly had lost raw power in losing his connection to the Dark Lord (Surely two wizards were more powerful than one?) so how much confidence could he have?

Harry initially was quite relieved to be so obviously free of Voldemort after the final battle, even if it made him feel much less of a wizard. The Weasleys had made Harry’s life much easier by parlaying the new Ministry’s gratitude into an Apprentice Auror position under Kingsley Shacklebolt. His new job focused on determining the nature of reported wizarding incidents.

Specifically, it was his job to determine if a serious crime had been committed that required an Auror’s services. It sounded impressive but was primarily investigative, using more mental power than wizarding skill. It turned out Harry was a natural detective, which had helped Harry keep his impressive reputation without great effort. At first, it was a part-time position until he finished his NEWTS, which he had completed through special correspondence studies and exams at Hogwarts. He was now a full wizard, gainfully employed, happily married.

He had been surprised how peaceful his home life had become. No threats came to his home. No one wanted to challenge an Officer of the Ministry to a wizard’s duel, not even Malfoy, and being part of a team meant Harry never had to fight the lawless alone. In fact, when he and Ron went looking for renegade dark wizards they always had full backing of the Ministry’s Auror department.

But as time went on, the urge to prove himself as a wizard had reasserted itself. Harry now wanted to know what he could do, how much power his parents had passed on to him, and what his real limits were. He just wasn’t sure how to go about finding out.

    A chance trip to Ollivander’s (Ron broke his wand again) had opened his mind to reconsidering Hermione’s theory. Ollivander soon found a replacement for Ron, and this time required that Ron purchase the small booklet ‘Wands: Proper Care and Maintenance.’  Ron was a bit perturbed to see the block lettering, and large wood-cut illustrations which interactively required “the young witch or wizard to master care of the main tool of your craft.” Ron insisted there was already a copy at his parents’ house. “But did you read it?!” growled Ollivander. Ron subsided.

Then Ollivander turned to Harry, who was hiding a grin, and asked how Harry was coming along with his studies, Harry had gently dodged the question by saying his Hogwarts days were past, but thinking, with regret, that it was unlikely he would impress the elderly sage now as he had done when he was eleven.

Ollivander gave him a piercing gaze and said only, “Wait here.”  Ron and Harry stared after him, as the elderly merchant made his way slowly into the dusty recesses of his shop, wondering what Ollivander had in mind.

Ollivander eventually re-emerged with a dusty box under his arm. In shape it was much like all the others scattered about, but was obviously rather older. For one thing, the box was made of solid, dark wood, with brass fittings. For another, there was a tiny, shiny lion prowling along a brass band that ran along middle of it, threatening even Ollivander’s quavering fingers if they came too close to the worn crest that seemed to have once been painted on its front face.

After demonstrating a few more times than the lion would not allow Ollivander to touch him or the crest (“except for cleanings,” he explained, “he hates to get tarnished“), Garrick Ollivander gestured toward Harry to open it. Harry reached toward the lion steadily, and looked into its beady, golden cat eyes. The lion seemed to consider for a minute, then rewarded Harry’s courage by sitting on its haunches and purring loudly for him. Harry gingerly petted its head and the lion spread out contentedly - apparently morphing into a wide, brass decorative lock plate. A thin line appeared, showing the brass band to be the edges of the top lid and box bottom. Then the Griffendor crest appeared at center, the lion reappearing bright and shiny within it, where he had become the metal button-latch of the box. Harry opened the box and found a gnarled, oaken wand on a bed of green velvet. Ollivander suddenly breathed in deeply, making Harry suddenly aware the elderly wizard had been holding it in. “Pick it up,” the old man urged. Harry gently raised the elderly wand and was rewarded with a warm glow that seemed to seep like honey from worn branch into him, to his very toes. Again Ollivander’s shop lit up with magic fire, but this time the event was like the return of summer to a forgotten grove. It was gentle, warm, insistent, powerful.

Harry reverently returned the venerable antique to its case, and the lion took up his watch again.  “Only a Gryffindor wizard of great courage, power, and honor may wield that wand, Harry. It accepts YOU holding it. Remember this.” Harry wondered what Ollivander was thinking. In a way, it did not surprise him that Gryffindor’s wand would accept him touching it. After all, Gryffindor’s sword had appeared within the Sorting Hat, when needed, for both Harry and Neville when defending Hogwarts. If faithfulness to the Gryffindor creed was what impressed the lion, then probably Neville could use the wand too. So did this mean Harry had the potential of a Dumbledore or Gryffindor, or just that any true Gryffindor could find acceptance with the relic. Ron edged his fingers towards the small casket and was rewarded with a tiny nip. “Ouch!” Okay, so not every true Gryffindor could touch it.

Ollivander was old, few knew how old, and knew things about magic wands no one else did. Harry appreciated the implicit encouragement. He just wasn’t sure it meant what Ollivander obviously hoped.

Harry got to his office just before the hall clock would have told on him, but not before it started tsk-ing over the delay. He found his father-in-law already waiting. “Harry! There you are.” The older man smiled and shook his hand. “How is Ginny today?”

“Fine, Sir. When I left she was in fine feather.” Harry grinned.

“Good. Good.” Arthur Weasley obviously thought his answer mildly odd, but was more concerned about how to proceed so he let it go. “Harry. I know you are anxious to get cracking on the suspected Rodanthuse kidnapping, but this old wizard has a history you should know…”

“Yes, Sir?”

“He has been in trouble for felony theft, magical assault, and even manslaughter in the past. We’re getting the records for you…I saw some of them for the first time yesterday. Not entirely my department, you understand, and the first incidents were before my time. Only part of what he was doing involved misused magical artifacts…and they thought they‘d fixed him at St Mungo’s so the files were deep in the archives”

Harry listened as patiently as he could for the obvious incoming bombshell.

“I wanted you to come in on your day off so I could brief you on what I’ve discovered and to give you time to read through the records we have before the team expects you out in the field. You know, get a head start.”

Harry nodded, still mentally bracing.

“Well…nothing much more to say about that. It may take you some time. Mad Eye Moody wasn’t always the most organized of men.”

Arthur Weasley picked up a huge box overflowing with papers and desk detritus and plunked it on Harry’s desk, as Harry absorbed the import of Arthur’s words.

“Mad Eye Moody…you mean this was a full Auror case? Rodanthuse was a dark wizard?”

Arthur looked uncomfortable. “Possibly…or just plain mad, which is what some of the doctors thought at the time. Thing is - he’d been first rate using Disillusionment Charms, and was an absolute master of the Bedazzling Hex. You know - he made griffins look like horses, house elves look like dwarves so they could go shopping with their masters, brooms look like hang gliders, made residences unnoticeable…even did some of the charm replenishment for the Ministry decades ago, so Muggles couldn’t see the old Ministry annex above ground…Actually, they say that didn’t work out so well. He made it look like a broken police box. A local constabulary unit kept trying to drag it away until we fixed it up as a regular phone box…

“So he did work like the spell on the Leaky Cauldron? The way the Muggles can’t see that?”

“Not his work, but yes - that sort of thing. Thing is - these charms were supposed to be for wizard protection.  There are very strict rules against using magic against fellow wizards & witches, especially to defraud, steal, or cause harm.”

“I didn’t think many wizards could be fooled. There are so many countercharms and revealing spells…”

“Yes, many wizards & witches have a sort of instinct about that sort of thing, and there are relics that help too, but not everyone thinks of using them. Those charms we’ve mentioned deliberately do not try to hide from wizards, do they?  I think much of the population has forgotten that just being a wizard or witch doesn’t guarantee Second Sight.” Arthur Weasley sighed. “The truth is very few wizards have the capabilities of Dumbledore or Mad Eye to see through ALL illusions…and Rodanthuse was very, VERY good at what he did. Every few years he would craft a new illusion spell to transfigure himself to look like someone else a bit younger. Imagine that.”

Harry knew from experience how hard it was to maintain transformational spells on any living creature, and was suitably impressed.

Arthur looked serious. “Harry.” Arthur paused and his voice took on a gentler tone. “Harry, if Rodanthuse has gone completely mad again he may be very dangerous indeed. Toward the last he took to transfiguring Muggles into little dolls. Not all of them were transfigured back in time.”

Harry nodded, comprehending all but one thing. “Why wasn’t he sent to Azkaban?”

Arthur sighed, “Rodanthuse seemed to think all his dolls were still alive. He kept calling for the Doctor to fix them. The tribunal ruled he be bound over for evaluation at St Mungo’s Hospital. There he stayed until they became convinced that Rodanthuse had become confused by his own skills, as he claimed knew nothing of the last transformations, and his excessive fondness for Muggle entertainments surely didn’t help. They didn’t believe Rodanthuse understood what he was doing. They say he spouted the most outlandish rubbish.

As I said, he was released after a few years, with orders to report to his doctor regularly and had seemed to live an exemplary life since then.”

Harry added “until now”

Arthur sighed again, “Yes, until now. I suppose we should be glad he didn’t take a turn to join You-Know-Who. Maybe he did but just wasn’t the type to take orders.”

Arthur looked Harry squarely. “I know you are a brave lad and a smart one. Everyone out there would say you would be the only choice to go after a wizard like this, which is why I suspect they shoe-horned it onto your desk. Harry - with a witch missing, its already an Auror’s case in my book.  I want to make sure you are as well prepared as possible going into this case, and aware of the potentials. By all accounts, Rodanthuse, isn’t as powerful as a Grindelwald or well, you know, but it would be dangerous to underestimate him. If, at any time, you feel this case should go to the senior Aurors, you have only to say the word. I will back your decision. And, of course, if you or Ron would like me to assist - well, I am sure the ministry knows that Rodanthuse loved to make naughty Muggle toys.”

Harry knew Arthur was really asking him…are you up to this yet? Harry had deliberately delayed seeking a full Auror’s position until he was fully recovered. Arthur Weasley knew pretty much everything that had happened in Harry‘s life since the big battle. Harry knew Arthur’s concern was reasonable, and certainly a veteran of the old Order of the Phoenix could be of great help, yet it rankled a little bit to think he couldn’t handle a simple investigation. Harry answered diplomatically, “Thank you, Sir. I appreciate all the help you are giving me already and I will be sure to let you know the moment we need…”

Mr. Weasley seemed a little disappointed, “Yes, well…read up. There may be a few of Moody’s toys in there as well. The powers that be thought you might want to make use of them.”

As Mr. Weasley left, Harry sat down and started rummaging through the box. There were 3 cracked Sneakoscopes, a small clouded-over Foe Glass (almost certainly hexed beyond use), a pack of Secrecy Sensors in various states of disrepair, several food wrappers, and strips for a missing poison detection kit. Not too far down Harry found coded memos that he realized were related to Moody’s last assignments, and wondered if any mentioned him. It was impossible to tell for sure, but “H.P. found - tell S. bird plan D” seemed suggestive…but then Harry thought better of it. Moody had been retired by then, hadn’t he?

Harry began making a stack of the case folders on the guest chair, leaving the other oddments in the box. None of the case folders were very large, largely due to Mad Eye’s cryptic shorthand. Only the initial assignments and end reports were completely legible. While these would make fascinating reading, Harry stayed on task, hoping he could finish his preparations early enough to spend some time buying presents for Ginny. Christmas was coming up soon, with Twelth Night not long after.

Rodanthuse’s previous antics had been decades before, in the prime of Moody‘s career. Rodanthuse had been initially employed as a master illusionist for the Ministry of Magic, but after some years there was a sealed internal incident, and he had been dismissed. There were rumors that Rodanthuse had gone into Muggle employment as an actor. The Ministry wasn’t happy with his new line of work, but he seemed to be living within the rules, so they left him alone.

Then came the reports from Diagon Alley merchants of counterfeit ‘sickles’ and transformed ‘galleons’ that the Gringotts’ goblins insisted were useless Muggle coins, later identified as shillings, pounds, sovereigns, Loonies, and American half-dollars.

It took time, and several clever spell systems before the authorities established that all the different persons of interest were, in point of fact, one person. At this point Rodanthuse slid into the mass of Muggles as a stage magician, carefully avoiding any large spells in his acts. Rodanthuse had already bought a large number of pre-charmed items to make his acts impressive.

Rodanthuse would keep a low profile until his next foray into Wizard shops, after which he took considerable pleasure in adding real Zonko products to  inexpensive Muggle pretend ‘magic kits’ in area shops and then reselling them for huge profits, often with hilarious results for the Muggles concerned. Thanks to Arthur Weasley’s thoughtfulness, Harry had a complete list of these. Ghostlike rabbits had jumped out of tall, silk hats, lapel flowers squirted a temporary engorgement charm, teacups nipped noses, and boxes truly vanished people into the Floo network- or turned them purple... Rodanthuse made sure he got away with the money before his kits were activated. In fact, by then Rodanthuse was many miles away, pretending to be a different fake magician in another Muggle town…or, more occasionally, an alien bent on world domination.

Rodanthuse might have gotten away indefinitely had not his vanity compelled him to retain a series of handsome ‘facelifts’ - using a transformation spell of considerable power. The maintenance alone left a magical trail that Sniffers found easy to follow to his general vicinity. It evidently did not occur to him that after so many disguises hardly anyone would have recognized him anyway.

Despite Rodanthuse’s comical career, he had proved difficult to corner. Mad Eye Moody alone had been able to see through the illusory fires, sidestep jelly brain hexes, avoid depantsing bombs, foot tanglers, and hidden trap doors over sewer lines. Moody nabbed the culprit still wearing his invisibility cloak. Several other investigators had been injured in embarrassing ways before Moody got the case.

Toward the end, Rodanthuse’s jokes had apparently taken a more serious turn as well. A voodoo skit had turned participating audience members into little dolls a day later, joke candies had made several Muggles dangerously ill for weeks, and the chains of silk handkerchiefs in his last magic kits appeared from the sleeves of the practitioners and dragged the magically inept for miles down country roads. No one would admit to making such objects, so it had to be presumed that Rodanthuse had invented these himself.

So that was that then. The case was just as Arthur Weasley had told him. Rodanthuse gave up a perfectly good career as a respected wizard to embark on a poorly hidden life of crime. When brought to court he arrogantly insisted that the defrauded merchants had indeed been paid and the magic kits had given Muggles what they wanted, but when presented with the little dolls, Rodanthuse broke down shrieking about ‘getting the doctor’ to save them. He was promptly sent to St. Mungo’s.

Harry flopped the file on his desk, and looked up just in time to see his lifelong friend and now brother-in-law Ron Weasley sauntering in. “So, Harry, caught any ga-ga old geezers lately?”

In spite of himself, Harry chuckled. “Well your Dad thinks he’s dangerous. How are you today, Ron?”

“I think he’s mental. Just get a bead on him and call St. Mungo’s again.”

“I don’t think your Dad would appreciate that, Ron”

“Why? OH! - you! “ Ron levitated a wad of paper toward Harry’s nose. Harry batted it back with a floating pen. The game ended only when a poorly returned bunt bopped the protesting portrait of an middle aged civil servant to the right of the door.

Both said “Sorry” to the aggravated Mr. Buckle and affected to ignore his continued gripes. “What’s in this then?” asked Ron pawing through the box.

“Some of Moody’s old junk, evidently,” answered Harry. “They said I could have his stuff.”

“Ha! Figures they’d keep the good stuff and give you the broken bits. Wonder who got his trunk?”

“I dunno. Did he have any heirs?”

“Not that I ever heard of. Used to think Voldemort’s henchmen got it when they raided Sirius place, but none of the good stuff turned up. Hey, maybe it’s still at his house! You want to go look?”

“Uummm…maybe later. Christmas is coming and I haven’t gotten anything decent for Ginny. Hey, Ron - you know what she likes…”

“I should hope you do too after being married a bit”

“And I suppose you know exactly what to get for Hermione?”

Ron looked startled. “I have some ideas. It’s not Twelfth Night yet… but you could be right about it being a good day to go shopping together. May as well get it over with.”

“That’s the holiday spirit, Ron. I knew you had it in you.”

Chapter Text

Ron & Harry sauntered peaceably down Diagon alley, their general fame and ministry office robes drawing respectful nods from all but the most cantankerous of the Slytherin wizards.  They inspected ‘mood’ necklaces that changed their precious stones to match the emotions of the lady wizard wearing them, jewelry boxes with animated guardians of various kinds (none as impressive as Gryffindor’s lion), dress robes embroidered with paisleys and shimmering rainbows (they both went in for one of these for Ron’s Mum - the older Mrs. Weasley) and boxes of assorted chocolates “guaranteed to be your lady witch’s favorite flavors or your sickles back.”

Harry was most amused at the new inventions that he was well aware mimicked Muggle technology. The biggest seller of the season was a book that recorded the most famous witch & wizard concerts on every page. Although he wished he could have gotten Ginny an MP3 player, he settled for one of these. Popular music stations wouldn’t be carrying this book’s hits any time soon. When a chance breeze flipped open the pages to Berlinda Cautwaller’s infamous voice -jinxed rendition of “Hogwarts, I Yet Dream of Thee,” he thought that was perhaps a good thing.

In general, it was a far more pleasant expedition than most had been in their childhood. Ron could now afford most of what the shops offered and Harry could buy without choosing between feeling guilty at being so much better off financially and not having his best friend along.

Ron & Harry finished a pint at the Leaky Cauldron and regarded their purchases with satisfaction. “What do you think, Harry. Have we found enough stuff?”

Harry thought for a moment, ticking off their mutual relations and the loot he’d acquired for them. Mr. Weasley would have the newest Comet broom wrapped beside them, - let’s see, of Ron’s brothers -  Charlie, the dragon wrangler, would receive pairs of incombustible gloves, Bill the banker & Percy the bureaucrat would each receive a PGA -Personal Gnomic Assistant**  - “What about George?”

“What about George? Why don’t we go see him and ask?”

“Don’t be mental. We can’t ask him what he wants for Christmas.”

“We can look around and ask what he’s up to. Maybe get some ideas.”

“Well, at least we know what he doesn’t want.” Harry grinned at Ron … and they nearly said it together

“A sweater”

“Right. Good timing, Ron”

“Thank you.”

The joke shop sign still said Fred & George Weasley, proprietors, which made them both wince. Harry wondered for a second why George hadn’t taken his dead twin’s name off the sign, then realized that even considering the idea made his stomach tie up in a knot. If it was this hard for him, how hard must it be for George, one half of the inseparable pair?

They entered the door in a distinctly subdued frame of mind, but George was in good spirits and happy to see them. The shop was clearly still doing well. George had hired two young assistants, who he now directed to take over operations while he came to visit with them.

“Ron! Harry! Just in time to try out our new home security kit!”

Ron shot Harry an alarmed look. Had the loss gotten to George already? “Our…kit?”

George gave one of his more impish grins, “Well, not YOURS obviously. Don’t tell me you’ve gone senile already. Fred’s and mine of course. Come take a look.” George swept back the curtain over the door marked “private - professional jokesters only” and headed into the back room, with a somewhat anxious Ron and Harry in his wake.

A remarkable lab filled with mundane and insane objects cluttered the sideboards and cupboards. Harry thought he could see an amazingly neat, well-organized stockroom beyond it. George followed his gaze, “Oh yes. Percy insisted on ‘checking up on me’ earlier this week. So I put him to work.” Ron sniggered for a second, then choked, realizing he was doing the same. George just grinned at him and gestured toward the table.

“Your turn, my hearty relations. We need beta testers!” Harry blinked at the Muggle phrase but dutifully turned his attention to the boxes containing parchments, inks & quills on the central worktable. Harry walked over and picked up the nearest large parchment, which proved to be blank.

“What’s this, George? Writing kits…”

“Oh much more than that...” George’s voice seem to float from behind another curtained alcove to his right. “Show him brother.”

Ron had been about to take a seat but found a toad already sitting there contentedly chewing bubblegum. He froze, and looked at George. “Are you throwing your voice again? Honestly, George, that isn’t funny.”

George’s eyes twinkled. “Of course it is - or it would be, but that’s not my voice.” George swept back the curtain and revealed a full length, extra wide mirror, or so it seemed to be, until George turned back to face them while Fred continued to look out at them and laugh, and then Ron knew.

“Its his portrait! George, when did Fred have time to get that done?”

George smiled. “We didn’t finish in time, exactly. The shop was doing great, what with all that Ministry business and all - so Fred and I had started to have one done of the two of us as a present for Mum, show her how her ne’er-do-wells had made it and all that, but it wasn’t done yet on the fateful day. Still, Fred had gone to the sitters first.”

“You’re the one who needs a sitter,” teased Fred.

George continued, “I had the wizard artists finish using me as the model but didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up when Fred didn’t talk right away.”
He paused and gestured,  “Sleepyhead there only woke up recently.”  

“That’s because you finally said something interesting.”

Harry’s relief was obvious, “and what was that?”

“Why, we’ve rediscovered the Marauder’s map spell, of course!”

George turned to Harry, “You didn’t think we’d waste all our time hanging around that dusty old house, did you? Sirius was bored anyway, so we put him to work remembering what he could about it. We convinced him how useful it could be in the upcoming fight.”

Fred chimed in, “Seems your Dad was a bit of an evil genius, Harry. A lot of what made it work for Hogwarts was his doing, well - with a lot of research  from Sirius & a few tweaks by Lupin. Seems it started when Sirius had found an old dungeon master’s spell some evil ancestor had dreamed up for keeping an eye on his prisoners. He thought he’d adapt it for the upstairs rooms so he could see when that rotten old house elf Kreacher was sneaking up on him. It worked well enough but Kreacher’s apparition abilities made it just about useless at home. Sirius told his friends at Hogwarts about it and James immediately saw the possibilities. James realized that since no one could use that sort of transportation magic at Hogwarts you could get quite a bit of warning….(Harry nodded)..and since it wasn’t actually hostile magic, it might be allowed…”

George cut in, “Yeah, the Map doesn’t do anything to anybody or to Hogwarts itself.”  Ron nodded, now taking in why it didn’t set off Hogwarts’ inbuilt defenses. He’d never thought about it before.

Fred continued, “Just the same it took them awhile to get it right with all of the hidden rooms, changing staircases and the like. Hogwarts’ sheer size meant the spell had to be very strong, Harry. Sirius and Lupin thought it was more than they could have ever managed, but James did it, and even included the grounds, though even after all their talking about it his friends weren’t quite sure how.  Pettigrew didn’t do anything much.”

George agreed “Yeah, Pettigrew didn’t do anything. I don’t think he even understood it. But that was just as well - considering.”

They didn’t have to elaborate, Harry was already mentally shuddering at what several of their missions might have been like if Voldemort and the Ministry under Voldemort’s control had owned the Marauder’s Map Spell.

“Anyway, the old dungeon spell was still floating about Sirius’ house ~ literally sometimes, thanks to Kreacher. Sirius gave us a copy. And, now, with the good guys back in control again, it’s worth looking into, wouldn’t you say? At least give you a head’s up on when the boss is coming your way, eh?”

Harry spluttered, “You’ve made a Marauder’s Map of the Ministry complex?!”

“No. No. Not Yet. Nothing that large.” the twins said together.

“And that’s where YOU come in, Harry. Well, both of you, really,” announced George triumphantly. He presented the rest of the box to Harry with a flourish. “Introducing our home security map kit. Just follow the instructions and make an existing map of your home and grounds. You’ll need never wonder who is on your doorstop…”

“or in your chimney,” interrupted Fred

“or on your rooftop, ever again.” finished George.

“Perfect for the holidays.” they managed in unison.

Harry was still taking in what they said about his father when George, impatient with Harry’s lack of motion, handed him the small box. Ron accepted his with some skepticism. “How do you know you’ve got it working?”

“Aaha…the model of faith, our little brother,” retorted Fred.

“Honestly, Ron,” added George, How do you think?”  Before Ron could answer, “with my head, of course,” George walked over to a large plain poster board on the wall, tapped it with his wand and said those familiar words. “I honestly swear I am up to no good.”

The layout of the shop, front and back, appeared in brown ink…little footprints and names of the customers and employees out front wiggled around the front. George, Ron, and Harry’s names appeared solidly in back. Harry took the opportunity to establish that the gum-chewing toad was indeed a toad, and that Fred did not appear on the map. George seemed to read his mind. “No, this spell specifically exempts ghosts and living portraits, Harry. Just as well in Hogwarts or the whole parchment would have been permanently covered over, especially in the great hall.” Harry nodded, recalling the huge expanse of the great hall, several floors high,  nearly every inch not used for doors or windows were covered in extremely active paintings.

 

Harry held the box up a little. “Well, thank you, George.”

“Oh don’t thank me yet. Thank me when it allows you to avoid Dudley on your doorstep…” replied George.  “Besides, it’s a great present, right?”

“and a cheap one!” chortled Fred.

Ron made a face, but thanked the twins warmly enough for his box. George couldn’t be persuaded to name anything he might like for the holidays, with  Zonko’s shop still out of business. Fred teased that they could ‘mail’ his goodies to him.

Mentioning Zonko reminded Harry of the Rodanthuse case, and he asked George about those last, most dangerous objects on the Misuse of Magical Artifacts list.

“No, Harry. Items like that would be dangerous even for magical folk. Zonko never sold anything like that. The cursed dolls have a dark wizard’s touch, though you could probably make the handkerchief trap with several simple charms - a multiplier, entanglement, and movement spell together would do the trick. I can run a few tests and get back to you.”

George was still making notes as Harry and Ron made their way back out in the cheerful chaos of the main store.

Before leaving, Harry bought an assortment of Fred & George’s best sellers, including canary creams, wildfire whizbangs, a daydream cap, a trick wand and even a few puking pastilles, for old times’ sake, promising Ron not to put any in his stocking. “You’d better not, mate,” came the stony reply.

Ron had promised to meet Hermione for an early supper with her parents, so after arranging safe transport for their purchases thus far, the friends shook hands and Harry wandered on off on his own for a bit. Harry’s mind was now back on the case. Before going home, he took a bit more time looking up various shops that had been ripped off by Rodanthuse so long ago. Most of the storekeepers (and their assistants) had changed since then, but the few who remained added little to the case as he’d heard it. Most expressed surprise at the crimes that marked the end of Rodanthuse’s career, remarking that, whatever he looked like, the old wizard had seemed a puckish, gentle soul. “Wouldn’t transfigure a fly,” one said.
                                               
**with apologies & all acknowledgement to the inventive mind of Terry Pratchett