"Ow! That hurt, you plonker!" George rubbed his arm where Fred had just hit it in that spot, just between the muscle and bone. Tears stung behind his eyes for a brief second before he struck back from sensory memory, bringing his own fist down to a similar spot on Fred's leg.
"Stupid git!" Fred howled, but there was a smile in his eyes, and George knew he didn't mean it. Not really.
They had been organising detention files in Filch's office for three hours, and there was no sign that they were going to be released back to Gryffindor Tower any time soon. He rubbed absently at his arm again and groaned, turning back to the file of "Parsons, G."
"Oi! Check this one out," he said, beckoning to his brother. Fred eagerly left his post in the H files to come over and look. He read over the file briefly and turned bright red before sniggering behind his hand.
"Can you imagine, Gorgy? How'd you like for Snape to catch you with your knickers round your knees in the Astronomy Tower, eh?"
George looked pensive for a moment before saying, "Well, I don't know if Snape would even know what he was seeing. Don't reckon he's ever even kissed a girl. Who'd want to kiss that? And, his nose would get in the way, besides."
"Ha! Or, she'd slide right off his face for the grease!"
"Yeah, if she'd ever be able to reach the target. Stupid great nose."
George shuddered at the thought of Snape in any scenario that didn't involve cabbage-smelling potions.
With a dusty sigh, he forced himself back to work. He did actually want to get out of there tonight. So, he replaced the file and moved on to the next. And the next. And the next. He was unmoved by the sheer idiocy of "Peters, L.," "Plankson, J.," and "Plasfer, M."
Everyone knows that there are better ways to cheat on an exam than passing notes under a desk, and there are more fun ways of hexing a Slytherin than tripping them in the middle of Arithmancy class, and there are certainly more interesting ways of annoying Snape than by not doing homework. Amateurs, all of them. If one really wanted to cause mischief, one would have to be much more clever than "Pocks, B."
Honestly, George thought, if McGonagall wanted to keep them out of trouble, she wouldn't have set their detention up in a place where they could get such brilliant pointers on the whole operation. One might actually think that she was enabling them.
As George replaced the Pocks file, he reached for the next without really looking, as he had done hundreds of times tonight already. He felt his fingernails scrape through a thick stack of papers, and his hands left the filing cabinet empty, save for a couple new paper cuts.
George couldn't keep the awe out of his voice as he called breathlessly, "Oh, bloody hell! Freds, just have a look at this one!"
He heaved a file thicker than his Transfigurations text out of the drawer. The crease in the bottom of the file gave an unfriendly groan, papers inside shifitng menacingly before George quickly fit his other hand round the bottom for support.
The old file landed with a dull thud on Filch's desk, dust rising in the gloomy air.
"Wow!" Fred breathed, studying the entry eagerly.
George read, turning the page. "Flying a broom into breakfast! Naked!"
"The Your-Face-Will-Stick-That-Way hex. Now, that's a hard one to perfect," Fred said frankly, impressed.
"Wha-- Every toilet," George uttered breathlessly, "Every toilet!" He just kept saying it, trying to wrap his brain around such an amazing accomplishment. His face got even closer to the parchment he was reading.
Page after page, one ingenious scheme after another, Fred and George read, enraptured by the brilliance of "Potter, J." The file of "Black, S." was cross-referenced for almost every detention. "Pettigrew, P." and "Lupin, R." appeared with less frequency. They had pulled every file from its spot, matching up pages and detentions, piecing together stories so inspired they began to handle the pages as though made of finely spun glass.
The last crinkled piece of parchment in Potter's file was blank, save for the detention date and the letters. C. A. H. D. That detention lasted three weeks.
"Well," said Fred, "What do you suppose that's supposed to mean?"
George looked up at the clock on the wall. An hour and a half had passed since they'd found Potter's file, and Filch would be coming soon. They quickly and carefully replaced the papers and the files, and just when the last sheet of the "Lupin, R." file was in place, the door to the office opened with a rattle. Filch dismissed them with a growl, and the Weasley twins tried not to smile or make eye-contact until they were well on their way up the stairs to Gryffindor Tower.
"You know what we need to do, George," Fred said thickly through a mouth of sausages at breakfast the next morning.
"What's that, Freds?"
"We've got to get back to Filch's office." He punctuated his thought with the pointed corner of his toast. A small blop of marmalade hit the table. "I think I have a plan."
"Oh, really?" asked George, fiery eyebrows arching high on his freckled forehead.
"Yes. And it's brilliant, thank you very much."
"You have marmalade on your chin."
The left side of Fred's mouth upturned in the slyest of smirks. "Just trust me, my dear brother. Just trust me."
The corridor outside Charms was so thick with students bustling through on their way to lunch, George struggled to spot Fred's identical bright red head of hair as he was edged out of the slow moving crowd. At long last, the crowd began to thin ever so slightly, and he made his way over to where Fred was rummaging through his bag, eyebrows knitted together in concentration.
George felt his stomach grumble. "What are you doing? I'm hungry. Let's go to lunch before Lee eats all the chicken, and we're stuck with liver."
"Patience, my dear George. Patience." Fred obviously just then found whatever it was he had been looking for, because a smile so bright, so malicious it bordered on evil, broke clear across his face. "Found it!" And from the depths of his bag, he had pulled out the largest Dungbomb they owned, the last in their exhausted supply.
"Fred! That's our last one. We can't get any more until Christmas holiday. I thought we were going to save it."
"And what better time than this, Gorgy?" he asked. "Now. Where's that bloody cat?" He then began muttering madly to himself, pacing quickly up and down the short length of corridor. Then, he stopped muttering, flashing a smile this time that was most definitely evil, no bordering on about it.
George didn't quite know what to expect and found that he was growing rather impatient. Fred simply looked at him and cocked his head quickly to one side. He seemed to have come to some sort of silent agreement with himself and got very straight. Then, aiming his wand quickly, he shouted, "Rictusempra!" The hex hit George right in the stomach, and he instantly fell to the ground, scarcely able to breath for laughing.
"Fred!" he managed through a violent guffaw, "What. . . in. . . Merlin's name . . .was. . . .that . . ." George heard the soft mew from somewhere off to his right. Fred ended the spell as unexpectedly as he'd cast it, and George sat up, rubbing his ribs and swiping at the tears under his eyes. "For?" he finished solemnly.
But, before Fred could answer, Argus Filch, wheezing heavily from his hasty trip to catch students in the act of breakng his rules, rounded the corner.
"Ha!" he shouted. "No magic in the corridors! You two will be in detention again! Oh, yes." He was rubbing his hands together, the faintest trace of a smile twistng into his crinkled face. "Just got my thumb-screws out of storage, I did. McGonagall will be hearing about this. Oh, yes."
George got shakily to his feet. Fred could be so stupid sometimes. What good was that? They'd just been assigned to Filch's office, so they wouldn't have detention there again so soon. They'd probably get to spend the better part of a Sunday afternoon spreading Dragon Dung over the beds in Greenhouse Five. He scowled and rubbed at his aching ribs again.
But, just as Filch turned to leave, Fred held the Dungbomb high above his head and barked, "Filch!" before touching the bomb with the end of his wand. The entire corridor was gloriously filled with heavy brown smoke and the smell of a fantastically poorly maintained public toilet.
Fred just stood there, grinning like an idiot, and before George could high tail it off to the Great Hall, Filch had his ear in a twisting grip that painfully rivaled his Mum's. Fred turned his head, practically offering up his own ear, and then they were led down the corridor to Filch's office at once.
"Right," Fred said, clapping his hands together the moment Filch left to go fetch Professor McGonagall. George sneered at him as his stomach gave another hungry rumble. Fred was looking at everything in the office, muttering "C. A. H. D. C. A. H. D. " over and over again as he crouched low, and scuttled along the floor, looking. George instantly knew what he was after, and he forgot all about his growling stomach as he helped his brother with the search.
His heart was beating very fast. They didn't have much time, and McGonagall would not be happy for being taken away from lunch to discipline them--again.
Then--he saw it. There, in the corner of the room, there was a file cabinet, and unlike the other drawers that had letter labels like, "A-Am," this one had, in very small lettering, the words, "Confiscated and Highly Dangerous."
"Freds! Fred, come here! I've found it!"
"What do you reckon's in it?" George said, voice barely louder than a whisper.
"Only one way to find out," Fred said, and he pulled hard on the cool steel handle. The drawer was locked in place, offering them only a loud metallic clunk of protest.
"Damn! Locked," George huffed, shoving his hands into his hair out of frustration.
"Here, let me," said Fred, aiming his wand. "Alohomora!"
"Like that's gonna work, Fred. It says Highly Dangerous. Like they wouldn''t have more advanced lo--"
The drawer opened of its on volition, sliding toward them, inviting them to have a good long look.
"Merlin!" George breathed, and instantly, his hands found their way into the drawer, touching some of the most wicked stuff he'd ever seen. This stuff could be very useful, indeed.
"No, George," ordered Fred. "We have to find out what Potter had. What was it?" His face was more serious than it ever was when working on lessons, and George grudgingly put down the box of Singing Explosives.
"Here!" There was a bright red file labeled with a date that both boys instantly recognized as the day preceding the detentions in Potter's file, and with awesome reverence, he lifted the folder from its spot.
George felt Fred's elbow dig sharply in his side.
Professor McGonagall stood framed in the doorway looking like an eagle ready to strike. George quickly shoved the folder down the front of his robes. Gulping, he turned around, careful to shut the drawer as quietly as he could with his knee as he did.
"Would you two care to explain yourselves?" McGonagall said sternly, but Fred and George had to concentrate very hard on looking remorseful. They had got it--whatever it was.
Getting through the rest of the day was awful. First, there was the endless time spent in double Potions and History of Magic. Then, there was dinner, where both Fred and George ate like they hadn't seen food in a hundred years, even though they'd only skipped one lunch. The common room was full of chattering people, and Lee wouldn't let them go up to the room, insisting on yet another game of Exploding Snap, as he always did when he was putting off an essay.
"Well, George," Fred said loudly, clapping both his brother and Lee Jordan on the back and stretching theatrically. "I'm turning in. Big day tomorrow, you know."
"What? What's happening tomorrow?" Lee asked, shaking his dread locks out of his eyes.
"Wouldn't you like to know, Jordan." And with that, he meaningfully caught George's eye before swiftly climbing the stairs to the first year boy's dormitory.
Lee looked confused, but he shrugged his shoulders and resigned himself to his academic fate. "Well," he said. "I suppose I should get started on Snape's essay." He crossed the room to his school bag and pulled out his text and parchment, placing his quill between his teeth and turned to his work.
George took that moment to escape. He climbed the stairs in twos and walked into his dormitory.
"Took you long enough! Do you still have it?" Fred said instantly.
"Yeah," George replied, already digging under his mattress. The very tip of his tongue stuck out the corner of his mouth as his hand searched for its quarry. A moment later, George pulled out the file with a triumphant sigh. He climbed onto Fred's bed and drew the heavy curtains tightly shut before mirroring his brother's cross-legged position.
The file sat between them for several minutes as they both gazed upon it, the utmost expression of wonderment and excitement on both of their faces.
"Well, don't we want to see what's inside?" George said, reaching for the corner of the folder.
Both boys took large breaths that they held in the very bottom part of their lungs as George opened it up.
And together they said, "It's a blank sheet of parchment."
The old yellowed parchment had been carefully folded, the creased edges fuzzy with wear.
Fred could no longer stand it. "All that planning! All that detention. All for... for... THAT? Bollocks! Potter, bloody, J! Couldn't he have done better than a stupid blank bit of parchment?"
But George was thinking quickly. No--it didn't add up. J. Potter, the J. Potter of the detention file thicker than most of his textbooks would not have landed himself and his friends in detention for three weeks for a mere blank bit of parchment. No. There had to be more. He kept folding and unfolding the paper, looking carefully at each side, scrutinizing it from every angle. Nothing.
"There has to be more. There just has to be," he kept saying, ignoring his brother entirely, as Fred was long lost in a tirade that made very little sense, as his entire vocabulary had reduced to the repitition of foul four-lettered verbs in varied congegations.
"Wait," George said finally, as Fred had grabbed the parchment and held it up high, seconds from tearing it into a thousand little bits. He placed his hand firmly on top of Fred's. "Just wait a minute. Maybe it's enchanted."
Fred lowered the parchment slowly and placed it back in its spot between them on the bed. George drew his wand. He touched the tip to the paper and said a spell he'd seen Angelina use on her diary whenever he walked up behind her in the common room.
The paper didn't change.
He said the encantation again, louder.
Fred had drawn his wand as well, and with a look of severest disappointment on his face, he slammed the tip of his wand so hard on the paper that it almost ripped right through the center. He practically growled at the map, "You bloody stupid great piece of-- What makes you So. Damn. Special?" jabbing it fiercely with each of his last words.
And then, all of a sudden, something happened.
Fred and George watched carefully as words began to appear on the parchment as though an invisible someone were standing right next to them, writing. It even had that glossy, wet shine of fresh ink.
Mr. Prongs wants to know who you're calling stupid, you daft Slytherin gitface?
Fred sputtered for a moment, still red and agitated from yelling at the paper. Staring down at the shiny words he said, "I do not have a gitface! It's a very nice face, thank you very much, and I am certainly not a Slytherin."
Mr. Padfoot would like to know with whom he is speaking.
George shook his head and muttered, "Er, Fred and George Weasley of Gryffindor House. And who the bloody hell are you?"
Mr. Prongs feels the need to add that it is unimportant who we are, but rather what we can do for you. How did you happen upon our little secret parchment?
Fred replied instantly, the angry wrinkles in his forehead melting as his grin took over. "Nicked it from Filch's office during detention."
Then, elegent script in different style wrote it's way onto the parchment. Mr. Padfoot is impressed and would like to congratulate Fred and George Weasley on their noble efforts. It would be such a pitty for a Squib to retain possession of a magical artifact of this caliber. He adds that Mr. Moony needs to quit being such a party poop and stop being so damn quiet.
And, in an entirely new sort of writing, Mr. Moony comments that Mr. Wormtail has been just as silent as I. One might suspect that one Mr. Padfoot is unhealthily preoccupied with the actions of one Mr. Moony. Even though Mr. Moony does have to admit he is rather a dashing sort of fellow, full of wonderful pearls of wisdom to impart on our new Mischief Makers (if he doesn't say so himself).
Mr. Padfoot's handwriting appeared again. Hm. Quite. Do just eat your chocolate like a good little Mr. Moony. No need to strain yourself trying to be witty and clever. You might pull a muscle or something.
A good-natured series of smiley faces and crude cartoons followed Mr. Padfoot and Mr. Moony's exchange.
Fred and George watched back and forth, barely daring to glance up and look at each other as they watched more words materialize across the parchment.
Mr. Prongs wonders if our young Weasleys know a certain Mr. James Potter.
George answered the map this time. "Er, no. But, we found this because of Potter's detention file. Why?"
Mr. Prongs' handwriting appeared yet again. He was the last person to come across our map. My fellows and I supposed he might have mentioned it.
Fred snatched at the paper, saying, "Wait. So this is. . .a map, er, Mr. Prongs?"
Mr. Wormtail would like to caution Mr. Prongs against imparting this knowledge on unfamiliar sources.
Your concern is appreciated, Mr. Wormtail, but Mr. Prongs feels that the Weasleys might just be exactly who needs our map.
George asked, "A map of what, exactly?"
Mr. Padfoot wonders, wouldn't you like to know?
Mr. Moony suggests the new Mischief Makers must prove themselves worthy of our little map.
Mr. Padfoot agrees with Mr. Moony.
Just then they heard the dormitory door open, and a bedraggled looking Lee Jordan stuck his head through the bed curtains just as George had the forethought to shove the map under Fred's pillow.
"Thought you were going to bed?" He asked, looking curious. Fred and George exchanged quick a look that said quite plainly that as much as they loved including Lee, this--this map--would have to be their secret.
"Yeah," George said through a genuine yawn. How long had they been talking to the map anyway? "I'm knackered. Night!"
Every night for two weeks, Fred and George struggled to find time with the map. Much to their chagrin, they hadn't learnt all that much. It seems that Messrs. Prongs, Padfoot, Wormtail, and Moony did not let go of their secrets very willingly.
Fred was frustrated; Mr. Padfoot had just called him an "insufferably nosey pillock who couldn't be arsed to find the information he obviously needed." So naturally, he began cursing at the Messrs., demanding they reveal the sodding map already. Two weeks was stretching his patience to the point of snapping. He slammed the map down saying, "I swear, if you don't--"
But his threat vanished in mid air as Fred and George saw the map do something it had never done before. There was a flash in the top right corner. Spidery lines fanned outward from a central blob and congealed to form what was unmistakably a mapped out portion of the exact spot in Gryffindor Tower where they were sitting.
Next second it had gone, just as swiftly as it had appeared in the first place. The yellowed parchment was just as old and useless looking as it had been the night they found it.
"What? What just happened?" George said, just as much to Fred as he did to the map itself, eyes narrowing in scrutiny.
Mr. Wormtail's handwriting appeared. You swear you'll do what exactly?
"What's he playing at, George?" Fred asked.
"Maybe we need to offer it something?" George mused.
"Well, we've tried that, haven't we? We've followed every one of their ridiculous tests." Fred scowled as he rubbed the spot on his hair that was still rather a dark shade of green, and George wiped a quite larger-than-natural first two fingers at his bleary eyes.
Fred turned his attention back to the map. "I'll... I'll... give you whatever you want."
George grabbed it back from him. "I swear I'll serenade Marcus Flint outside the Slytherin locker rooms after Quidditch practice on Thursday."
Just as the network of lines re-formed the map of their corner of the common room, Mr. Padfoot's handwriting made it's way just underneath.
Don't waste your breath. Snively Slytherins are not worthy of Gryffindor song. To what else can you sincerely swear? It would not do you any good to keep our map for all eternity without the faintest idea how to work it.
Mr. Moony wonders if two weeks hasn't been more than enough time to manage it all.
Mr. Prongs wonders if mischief is wasted on the wrong sorts these days?
George had an idea. "I swear I won't--"
This time the map spread out again, but it kept going, now stretching all the way to the portrait of the Fat Lady.
Fred gasped. "What did you just do?"
George frowned at the map. "They obviously need us to say something. It works when we swear. What did you add?"
Fred thought for a moment. "I said 'I won't,' and then the map cut me off."
George pointed to Padfoot's words. "It would not do you any good," he repeated. "I swear. . . Not. Good. Not. Good. Not. . ."
With a sharp intake of breath, Fred smiled at the map and said, "I swear I'm not good!" Then he frowned, saying, "Wait. What?" as the meaning of what he just said hit him.
The map, however, must have heard something it liked, as it spread up further--toward the dormitories without fading. It was larger now, but still only filled a very small portion of the parchment.
Mr. Padfoot solemnly appreciates the Weasleys for putting up with our character testing.
Mr. Prongs fears there is no hope of the new Mischief Makers ever discovering our password.
Wormtail's handwriting appeared underneath Prongs'. They do appear to be a bit dim.
Now Moony's script was fluttering across the side of the parchment. No, Wormtail. With a little cleverness, they might just be up to the challenge at hand.
George bit his lower lip in concentration. He read over the Messrs.' words very carefully before trying again. He took a deep breath and with a great amount of hesitation, slowly said, "I swear I'm up to no good."
The entire parchment filled with lines, scattering outward, revealing every corner of Hogwarts castle. Fred and George watched it unfurl with their mouths hanging open. But just as the smiles had settled on their faces, the lines began retreating back toward Gryffindor Tower.
"Well," said Fred. "Looks like we're getting close. What are we missing? Can't be much." He addressed the map. "What's missing? C'mon we're almost there."
Mr. Prongs needs to know how sincerely you do swear to use our map.
George looked over all of the words again, and he could almost feel the information click into place within his brain. His grin was wide as he said, "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good!"
Instantly, across the top of the parchment, George and Fred watched the elegant script fill the empty space.
Messrs. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs
Purveyors of Aids to Magical Mischief-Makers
are proud to present
THE MARAUDER'S MAP
The map exploded with lines, and once more the entirety of the castle was mapped out before them, but unlike every other glimpse they'd gotten, they could now see moving, name-labeled dots.
Fred pointed, saying, "Look! Here we are! Freorge Weasley! We're sitting too close for our names to be separate."
George said, "Wonder if Dumbledore's on here." He scanned the parchment and found the dot labeled "Albus Dumbledore" moving slowly up and down the length of his own office. There was a dot for every student, every professor. Even Mrs. Norris showed up on the third floor. They found the dots of Nearly Headless Nick, Peeves, and Professor McGonagall very close together in the corridor outside of the Great Hall.
"Is this really everyone? That's bloody brilliant!"
They both started laughing outright. Two weeks of oddly colored hair, overlarge appendages, squeaky voices, and sneaking about the castle avoiding Filch and Peeves. Two weeks, and now they had finally got it!
Unfortunately, they also had got the attention of Lee, who began to make his way over to Fred and George's table.
"Freds!" George hissed, "How do we get it to go back? How do we get it to be blank again?"
Fred merely pointed at the map, where the scrawling lines of the Marauders faded down to all but two words. George smiled, quickly muttering, "Mischief managed."
The map went blank.
"Oi! Whatcha got there, boys? Lee said, pulling up a chair to their table.
"Oh, nothing," said Fred. "You know, just a spare bit of parchment."