Had any of the students of Hogwarts looked out from their dormitory windows that night, they would most likely have seen nothing but the shadows of an ordinary, cloudy night. Granted, Loki thought as a segment of shadow detached itself from the trees in the Forbidden Forest and became a cloak for him, there were some few who might sense something. The headmaster was no fool, and Loki thought Dumbledore must know a good deal more than he said. Holding one’s tongue in the right company was the best part of wisdom, and Loki could respect that. Still, more often than once as he had glided down the darkened corridors and had come upon Dumbledore unexpectedly, he had been nearly certain his eyes had fixed on the empty air, and perhaps there had even been the slightest incline of the head, so subtle that it could have been only imagination; however, he had kept silent.
But tonight, there was no one in the castle wandering the corridors, not even the ghosts or his own pet, Peeves. He’d rather hoped to have a word with the odd little poltergeist. Peeves was chaotic and full of tricks, a regular devotee of Loki’s favorite pastimes, and whenever he was in need of a respite from the incessant pageantry of Asgard, the second prince could depend on a hearty laugh by looking in at Peeves’s latest jokes.
This happened to be one of those times. In fact, Loki’s mood was quite low. Thor had conquered yet again in battle, complete with the usual parade of accolades and that look in their father’s eyes that said without the need of words that he was proud of his son. Jealousy bit into Loki’s heart like a viper, and he had simply vanished from the feast, unnoticed and probably unmissed… though perhaps not. He could have been mistaken, but as the world turned to the blur of melting realities, he thought he had seen the Lady Sif frown at where he had been seated. Still, it was probably only fancy.
He had fancies enough about her.
An owl hooted softly from its roost in a rafter of the Great Hall, and Loki paused, wondering if perhaps he should simply let Peeves go and instead pay a visit to the Slytherin common room. He wondered if anyone living remembered exactly why the house’s colors of green and silver and its mascot of the serpent had been chosen. He doubted Salazar had admitted to that bargain, but he admitted a slight fondness for what he always thought of as his house, filled with the ambitious, the wily, and the twisted of tongue. He had just decided to slip into the dungeons when he heard a commotion on the grand staircase.
“Students out of bed!” shrieked an old man’s voice.
Loki’s interest was aroused, so he silently took up a post at the banister. He was greeted almost immediately by the image of Filch hauling two students, twin boys with hair like flames, down the staircase with a firm pinch on an ear each. Loki raised an eyebrow. They were as identical as two grains of rice, but as they complained loudly over the caretaker’s punishment, that was not what fascinated him.
He could actually smell the chaos on them, and the doubling of it was utterly delightful. A smile split his face as he followed three steps behind them, and while the pair might seem perfect twins, he noted with ever-increasing interest that one of them seemed almost to twist towards him as though he sensed another presence. What a perfectly fascinating evening this was beginning to become.
“I’ve had it with the lot of yeh!” Filch continued. “Between Dungbombs in the Potions master’s tea and that centaur you tied up in the Prefects’ bathroom, I’d have thought yeh’d be chucked out months ago. And that load of Pepper Imps you let loose in the laundry!”
Loki laughed. He hadn’t been so amused in a long time, but again the twin to the right seemed to cock his ear as if he’d heard something far off. These two were perfect gems. As he noted their Gryffindor colors, he wondered with sudden annoyance why they hadn’t been put in his house.
Filch had managed to pull them both to his office, and after fumbling open the door with his knee to be sure he didn’t lose his grip on either boy’s ear, he unceremonious threw them inside and into a pair of beaten up chairs. Filch pulled out a very, very thick file labeled “Fred and George Weasley: CAUTION! HIGHLY DANGEROUS PAIR OF DELINQUENTS!” and began rifling through it. Loki leaned over his shoulder and noted such interesting entries as “Itching powder on the toothbrushes,” “Exploding Mimbulus mimbletonias in the staff room,” “Egging Miss Myrtle into flooding third floor,” “Getting the pumpkins to spit their innards on the Minister of Magic’s shoes during Halloween visit,” “Setting Professor Trelawney’s sherry bottles talking,” and “Hexing the Ravenclaw keeper’s right hand to make rude gestures in attempt to have him thrown from game.”
It took rather a lot to impress Loki, but right now he was seriously considering adopting these two. He smiled at the pair fondly.
“I am going to have yeh ejected from the premises if it’s the last thing I do!” Filch yelled, his face turning blotchy red.
“It well might be,” Loki said with a frown as he considered whether or not summoning an ice giant would be worth the trouble if it managed to rid him of the man. Eventually he decided against it. He doubted the headmaster’s benign acceptance of his presence might stop if there were any fatalities even indirectly related to him. Instead, he settled for a very minor bit of subterfuge. He simply created the illusion that entire second floor corridor was on fire, and in a nonce a fleet of sensors were shrieking in unison at the horrible calamity.
“Don’t you dare move,” Filch said dangerously as he raced out the door, swearing vehemently about the stupidity of students and their infernal wanderings after curfew.
“I told you he was going to be lurking about tonight,” said the left twin. “Two straight months of planning that booby trap to make the whole Slytherin table turn into pigs during breakfast, and it’s all for nothing.”
So they had stumbled upon Circe’s spellbook, Loki thought. Yes, that had been one of his childhood favorites. It was good to see the classics were still alive and well.
“Not for nothing, Georgie,” the right twin said. “It’s just delayed a mite is all.”
“A mite!” George, apparently, said. “Fred, if we don’t get booted for being out after hours again— for the ninth time in two weeks, mind you— it’ll be a miracle!”
“Nah, he’s all talk,” Fred replied casually. “It’s Dumbledore who’d have to punt us, and I don’t see him tossing us in the lake anytime soon. Mum would kill him.”
“Fair point,” George said, thinking. “We still could do with a way of telling when that old git and his cat are about, though.”
It was then that Loki remembered them: the four lovely boys who had been so thoroughly energetic about causing complete mayhem that they’d managed to capture a very potent, almost unheard of spell and lock it into paper. He doubted they had any idea just what sort of bargains they’d made in those enchantments, but he was fairly sure none of them would live to see fifty. Still, that map had to be around here somewhere; he could feel it.
Carefully, as the twins continued to discuss earnestly the best way of tracing Filch, Loki softly shuffled the papers in the still-open file cabinet. Yes, there, he could feel the pull of it. He quickly cast a minor enchantment that made the boys look into the hallway, thinking they had heard something, and drew it quickly out of the cabinet and onto the desk. It lay there, looking like any other innocent parchment.
“You hear that?” George asked, glancing at Fred.
“Sounded a bit like Mum,” he said, turning rather pale.
George crept carefully out of his chair and glanced up and down the hallway.
“No one in sight,” he said in relief, but Fred had noticed the parchment on the desk in his absence and was turning it over.
“What do you reckon this is?” he asked.
George looked at his twin and shook his head.
“Paper, innit?” he said.
“No, it’s… there’s something weird about it,” Fred said, opening it carefully and laying it on the desk. “It’s almost like…”
Oh, he could practically give this one some of Idunn’s apple and make him his playfellow. He was so close. Loki’s face was nearly touching his cheek as he stared transfixed at the parchment, and then he whispered gently in his ear. Immediately the boy’s head jerked, and he blinked.
“You all right, Freddie?” George asked, looking a little alarmed.
“Not sure,” he said as he pulled out his wand. With a gentle tap on the paper, he quietly muttered, “I solemnly swear I am up to no good.”
Immediately lines blossomed across the map as the enchantment woke to life, and each student, teacher, animal, all of them was labeled and marked in their passage about the castle.
“Too cool,” George breathed as they both stared in wonder at the perfect companion to their pranks and tricks. “How’d you know how to do it, though?”
“I don’t know,” Fred said. “I just sort of…”
He stopped short as they both noticed their own figures on the map, sitting in Filch’s office… and another name beneath another figure that was invisible to their eyes.
“Mischief managed!” Loki cackled as he swept back into the space between worlds, leaving the twins with matching looks of shock.