Beth looked up from her Potions textbook, a bit alarmed, to see Sirius scowling intently at the quill clutched in his right hand. From the expression on his face, she might have thought he was looking at a Slytherin, although she roughly shoved this thought away. She set the book down warily on the table.
“Feeling all right, Sirius?” she asked in a voice of deliberate sarcastic concern, and his eyes briefly darted up to meet hers before looking back down at the quill and giving it a frustrated little shake.
“It blotted ink onto my paper. That is the fifth time today,” he said, and, leaning over slightly, Beth could see that there was indeed a large and rather luminous splotch of black ink covering a marvelously large area on the surface of his parchment.
“I don’t think that was the quill. I think that was you,” Peter piped up from across the table, a splotch of ink of his own speckling the tip of his nose. Sirius opened his mouth to issue an unthinkingly biting retort, but Beth stepped hard on his foot lest he say something he’d regret five minutes from now.
They were all in relatively low spirits lately, despite the rapid approaching of the Christmas season. Winter exams were inevitable, tied firmly to the break that followed after, and Sirius had slacked off just enough all semester that he felt suitably panicked now. While he might not have overtly cared about school, he preferred not to be expelled or held back for his horrible marks.
“I swear, holiday break cannot come fast enough,” he said, flopping back in his chair with a restless sigh, tossing the offending quill onto the parchment and blotting the paper still further. “I cannot concentrate on a single bloody thing anymore. Every time I so much as look as a textbook, I get a headache.”
“If you had spent more time with them earlier, you might be friends now,” James quipped in a failed attempt at cheering his best friend up, but if anything, it made the expression on Sirius’s face that much surlier. Beth leaned over and pointed her wand at the blots on the page, muttering, “Tergeo.” The ink appeared to be sucked into the wand’s tip, leaving the page blemish-free. However, he did not appear as though he were about to thank her for this particular random act of kindness.
“Let’s do something,” he said, sitting up straight in his seat and bouncing slightly, gaze alternating restlessly between his friends and the scenery outside. James glanced up sharply, eyes glinting behind his glasses.
“No pranks,” he said firmly.
“I didn’t say pranks,” Sirius retorted, although his face fell a slight degree; Beth almost felt sorry for him, until remembering how horrendously his last prank had gone. “I said let’s do something. Anything. Come on, we’ve been studying enough,” he added, reaching over and snatching Beth’s book from underneath her nose. She let out a little exclamation of dismay.
“What do you want to do?” Remus asked in a voice that was not quite monotonous, but very close to it; he had not lifted his head from the sentence he was painstakingly writing on his own homework. Sirius cast his eyes around the common room for inspiration, finally coming to rest on a very old and faded map of the world tacked haphazardly onto one of the walls of the common room.
“Let’s make a map,” he said suddenly, and his eyes suddenly lit up with a boyish sort of intensity. Beth paused in the motion of dipping her quill into her inkwell and raised her eyebrows high onto her forehead.
“A map,” she stated plaintively, wanting to be absolutely sure that she had heard him correctly; it didn’t seem like the sort of thing he might normally have found fun. “What, like one of the astronomy star charts?”
Sirius waved this idea away impatiently, already seeming to get more and more engrossed in whatever scheme his brain had newly concocted. “No, like a map,” he emphasized, rummaging around in his bag now and emerging with a large, fresh sheet of parchment. Beth admired this about Sirius perhaps more than anything else, the fact that his brain could latch on to one idea, seemingly from nowhere, and take it to the absolute ends of the earth if necessary.
“A map of what, though?” said James, who nevertheless looked intrigued by whatever thoughts were flitting around Sirius’s head.
“The castle,” Sirius said slowly, looking up and glancing around; it appeared as though he all thought them a trifle slow. “C’mon,” he added, “who knows the castle better than we do? We know all the secret passages, all the corridors.” He was getting more excited by the minute, and Beth felt as though it was infectious, despite the fact that she wasn’t one hundred percent sure what he had in mind still.
Looks of growing enthusiasm had begun blooming on James and Peter’s faces now. “What we need to do, if we can find a way to do it,” Peter said – he had begun to bounce a little in his seat – “is to make it so that we’re the only ones who can read it. Especially if we’re putting secret passages and stuff on there.”
“Brilliant, Wormy!” Sirius crowed happily, his tongue protruding between his teeth as he concentrated on drawing a straight line with the tip of his quill, which he seemed to have forgiven for its previous blotting. Remus looked over skeptically, and finally sighed, twitching the parchment away from his friend.
“You’re never going to get it done at that rate,” Remus said with an enigmatic little smile. “Hang on, let me grab something from the dormitory –“ And before Sirius could protest further, Remus was off his chair and heading up the stairs to the dormitory, taking the parchment with him. Beth decided that no more homework was getting done for at least the next hour or so, and closed her Potions book with only small regrets.
A few silence-filled minutes later, Remus was back, and a thick tome was now tucked securely under his left elbow. “Got it,” he said, panting slightly. “Was at the bottom of my trunk, of course –“ He let it fall with a thump onto the table the five occupied, causing it to shake a little. He immediately began to rifle through it.
“Would you mind telling me why you stole my brilliant idea and ran amok with it?” Sirius said sarcastically, trying to take back the parchment with its single ink line, but Remus swatted his hand away impatiently. Beth tilted her head sideways, attempting to read the cover of whatever book he had fetched from his trunk.
“Basic Architectural Magic: A Guide for Beginners,” she read aloud, and laughed. “That sounds dead boring, Remus. Why on earth would you buy that in the first place, let alone bring it to school?” Remus shot her a glare and didn’t respond, continuing to flip pages and muttering unintelligible words to himself. His finger was zooming along the small lines of print as fast as his eyes were.
“Here it is!” he said in a whispered voice of extreme triumph, bending his head a bit closer to the book; the other four unconsciously did the same. From her upside-down vantage point, Beth could see a small, moving illustration of a man casting a spell on what looked like a blank stretch of wall. Something like the ghost of that wall shimmered by his wand’s tip for a moment before it floated down and sort of morphed with a book at the illustrated man’s feet. The drawing picked up its book and showed it to the reader, so a pen-and-ink copy of the wall he’d just charmed showed up on the pages.
“Basically, it’s like lifting a copy of the castle away from itself, and putting it on paper,” Remus explained, seeing as both Sirius and Peter only looked confused as they tried to take in what the little illustrated man was now repeating to perform. “Saves you a lot of drawing, and a lot of inaccuracies. It’s what they do in the Ministry’s Construction Department when they’re just starting out, to learn from already-constructed buildings.”
The lines of confusion cleared from Sirius’s brow and he looked, if possible, even more excited than he had before. “I might kiss you,” he said in a matter-of-fact tone, ignoring the way Remus’s nose wrinkled up as he yanked the book to his chest for closer inspection. “So, you can do this?” he asked, looking up at his friend.
“I… think so,” Remus said; Beth and James caught the brief pause between the first two words and darted quick, smirking expressions at each other. It was obvious that Remus had never tried the charm before, but he wasn’t about to turn down the opportunity to flex his magic skills.
“Try it,” Peter said excitedly, now snatching the parchment away from Sirius and thrusting it eagerly at Remus, still standing up over the book. Remus took the parchment gingerly, as though it might bite him, and glanced down at the book for the proper incantation.
“It looks difficult,” he said doubtfully.
“Well, you brought it up, you’ve dug your own grave,” said James cheerfully, leaning forward on his folded arms and grinning excitedly. “Come on, the worst that could happen is, what – setting the castle on fire? We’ve had enough close calls to make that prospect a fairly boring one, I’d say. Try it, mate!”
Beth leaned forward in anticipation, mirroring James, as Remus pushed Sirius’s map slightly to the side to make room to see in the incantation. He lifted his wand, cleared his throat, and suddenly looked up across the table at Sirius. “Give me more parchment,” he said tersely. “This isn’t going to fit on this one sheet.”
In one fluid movement, each of the four swooped down into their bags and withdrew copious amounts of blank parchment, veritably throwing them at Remus so that he briefly disappeared beneath an onslaught of yellowish sheets. He made vain grabs for them and eventually had laid enough out so it looked like a sort of misshapen yellow paper blanket was covering the table.
Grandly, and perhaps a bit nervously, Remus checked the book’s incantation once more before swiveling to face the tapestry-covered wall of the common room. James, Beth, Peter, and Sirius waited with bated breath as, for a moment, he hovered between breathing and speech.
“Iterum Aedificus,” he half-whispered, as though potentially afraid of what the spell might do, and he even visibly winced. Beth thought with a slight bit of amusement that it was entirely possible he was afraid he might blow the castle up, although she had more faith in him than that.
What happened was both very interesting, and extremely weird. It was as though the castle lifted away from itself, or perhaps more literally, a transparent shadow of the castle; it spread over the literal stone and wood where the five were sitting, and then condensed automatically. Remus, who seemed to be holding his breath, moved his wand over to the sheets of parchment, the shadowlike thing moving with it. It adhered to the paper at once, as though knowing what to do – which, as it was a spell, Beth rationed it probably did.
They all crowded around as Remus, looking a bit more confident now, pointed his wand once more at the paper. This time no spell was needed, it seemed, for the castle shadows that had briefly hovered on the paper were now being inked over by an unseen hand, right before their eyes. Another wave of the wand, another wordless spell, and the loose edges of the parchment sealed themselves together, as though they had never been separated at all. Beth’s mouth dropped open, and similar reactions occurred on the faces of the other three boys.
“I think we need to build you a statue,” James said solemnly, and reached forward, hesitating a bit before his hands grasped the newly-made map eagerly. “This is without a doubt the best thing I have ever seen in my entire life. And I was the one who got to witness Mulciber fall into the lake last year in the dead of winter.”
“Yeah, I don’t think the giant squid was very happy about that,” Peter said, snorting with laughter, but the rest of them shushed him anxiously, their eyes still greedily poring over the map that Remus had made.
“The rooms are even labeled correctly,” Beth said in a sort of reverent voice, pointing to the nearest square through James’s extended arms; it was in the exact shape of the Transfiguration classroom, and was labeled exactly that. It was certainly one of the more impressive pieces of magic she’d ever seen, and she’d seen James and Remus conjure their corporeal Patronuses before. “This is great, Remus!”
“Look at what else it did!” Sirius burst in, his hand knocking Beth’s aside as he jabbed with an excited finger at the map. He was indicating what looked like one of his earlier ink blots, but suddenly Beth saw that there were tiny words lettered in white on the dot – and it was moving.
“Oh, I didn’t know it did that!” Remus exclaimed, his nose, like Sirius’s, mere inches from the map as he ogled this newfound discovery. “I guess that sort of just goes with the rest of the blueprint. A map of living people.”
“This is wicked,” Sirius cackled gleefully, snatching the map from James’s hands and turning it this way and that, his eyes gleaming excitedly. “We still need a protection sort of thing, though. Like Peter said.” He nodded his head in his friend’s direction.
“What about –“ Remus began, but Sirius was already drawing his wand out from his pocket, brows suddenly furrowed in something like concentration. He tapped it a few times pensively against his chin – Beth noticed he’d forgotten to shave again – while the rest just watched him a bit warily. Finally, a look of comprehension cleared his brow, and he cleared his throat authoritatively.
“Claustrum Contego,” he said with a bit of a flourish, waving his wand in an attempt at the correct motion. Beth had never heard of this particular spell before – it was probably one of those joke ones only boys like Sirius would know, anyway – but before she could open her mouth to tell him so, a brilliantly large spray of dark black ink squirted up from the parchment, completely coating his face.
There was a moment of sustained silence, and then James and Beth began roaring with laughter as Sirius continued to sit there with a blank and slightly stupid look on his face. Remus wordlessly passed a handkerchief over to him, fighting laughter himself.
“What exactly were you trying to do?” he asked once Sirius had cleaned off most of the ink, and could now see a bit of the humor in the situation.
“A… an ink alarm,” he said a bit ruefully, now crossing to the window and attempting to see his reflection in it to evaluate how much ink he’d managed to remove. “So if anyone picked it up we didn’t want seeing it…” He trailed off, shrugging his shoulders in an attempt at nonchalance. “It was a good idea,” he said defensively, seeing that Beth and James were dangerously on the point of hysterics now. “Shut up, you two.”
“Complicated, though,” Remus said, frowning and tapping his own wand against the table thoughtfully. “Something subtler, I think –“
As though Remus’s words had triggered a reaction, James suddenly let loose a sound that sounded like a cross between a snicker and a snort, his eyes scrunched up in mirth. Sirius looked at him strangely. “I’ve got it, I’ve got it,” James said, tears sprouting in his eyes as he stood up. “Back in a flash.” And, like his friend before him, he began a brisk trot up towards the boys’ dormitory.
“Does anyone else have a slight feeling that we don’t know what we’ve gotten ourselves into?” said Beth cheerfully, after a moment of silence. Peter snickered and raised his hand.
James came hurtling back down the stairwell so fast that he careened right into the wall, his shoulder slamming hard against the curved stone, but he didn’t let it faze him; he charged straight for the table and slammed a book down so hard that one of his quills rolled off the table and clattered onto the floor, where it lay forgotten for the time being.
Sirius snatched it up as though it were something much more valuable. “This… is that prank book I gave you last Christmas,” he said. “As a joke.”
“Thanks for that, by the way, and I bought you that new bottle of ink and everything,” James grinned ruefully. “But no – there’s a spell in there, hang on –“ And he yanked it back, rifling through its pages with such eagerness Beth was afraid he might rip one in the process. “Here it is!” he crowed after a minute of terse silence. His head shot up so fast that his neck popped distinctly. “You can embed spells into magical objects, right?” he directed at Remus.
“I – I think so,” he answered, though for the second time that evening he didn’t look at all sure. James shoved the book toward him and Remus read aloud. “The Critic’s Curse – insult your enemies, mess with your mates, and enjoy a string of over two thousand nasty insults.” He quirked an eyebrow and looked from James to Sirius, who were both laughing in obvious pleasure at this sort of idea.
“You write your name down on paper, see,” James said, gesturing to the map for emphasis, “and then you do this spell, see, and it gives you all sorts of wicked insults – I tried it out, it called me a foggy-eyed troll –“
Sirius was now laughing so hard he had to pause and wipe tears from his eyes. “Let’s do it,” he grinned, “everyone – write your names down – no, no, your nicknames, that’s better –“ Talking so fast his words were barely intelligible, he seized the map, which was already looking thoroughly battered, and grabbed the offending quill, scribbling down his name hastily and shoving it toward Beth. She took the quill and wrote ‘Talons’ in slow, careful letters, still a bit unsure of what exactly she was doing but feeling a bubbling of excitement nonetheless.
The map made its rounds, and then Sirius snatched it back to add a final touch. Underneath their list of names – the order now reading Moony, Wormtail, Talons, Padfoot, and Prongs, as Sirius had typically not started at the top of the parchment – he wrote “Proudly present the Marauder’s Map” in large script underneath. Everyone made exclamatory noises of approval at this.
It was wordlessly decided that Remus, the best at spells, should be the one to attempt the prank – and he studied the book intently before clearing his throat for a second time, pointing his wand again at the paper.
“Wait!” He was cut off right before speaking by Peter, who looked a bit anxious. “How are we supposed to get it? Unless we just want a piece of paper that hurls insults at everybody?”
“Oh. Good point.” Sirius paused, leaning his chin pensively in his hand. “Um. Well, what about like, a password?”
“What about the portraits?” Beth cut in quickly, the excitement simmering in her insides rising just a notch higher. “They have passwords, don’t they? Some of them, the Fat Lady –“
“The Fat Lady is not going to just give up whatever magic is behind her passwords,” said James a bit glumly, mirroring Sirius and dropping his head onto the palm of his hand. There was a brief moment of silence, and then Beth tried again.
“What about Sir Cadogan?” The rather boisterous old knight, who was supposed to live in a painting near the Divination tower but really roamed where he pleased, sometimes stood in as a substitute for password-protected paintings. “I’ll bet you anything he could tell us.”
This idea seemed to be new to the others present; dawning looks of realization appeared on each face in turn. “What are we waiting for, then?” Sirius cried at last, jumping up from his chair so fast it skidded a few feet behind him before toppling over outright. “Let’s go!”
Nobody needed telling twice. Remus snatched the map up in the tumult, and almost as one solid entity they fled the common room, ignoring a rather irate Fat Lady shouting at their retreating backs, and dashed toward the Divination tower, Beth hoping that this would be one of the days they would see the knight as they went.
To her immense relief, a suit of armor that more than likely housed the oil-painted man could be seen lounging by his rather fat pony, snoring softly. They slammed into a halt in front of his ornate frame, and Sirius jabbed a rather rude finger into his canvas middle.
“What ho, heave to, and hold the fire!” Sir Cadogan cried, starting awake so suddenly that the visor of his helmet swung shut to block his vision with a bang. He gave a sort of trumpety snort and glared up at them. “What do you mean by it, scallywags? Startling a good sir out of –“
“Long story,” James interrupted hastily, leaning forward so that his nose almost touched the painting. “Look, could you tell us what sort of spell Dumbledore puts on paintings to allow them to have passwords?”
Sir Cadogan emitted a series of annoying clanks as he struggled to his feet, using the unhappy-looking horse to regain his balance. He drew himself to his full height and said in a rather unmistakably haughty voice, “I do not see as to how it is any concern of five young hooligans –“
But his sentence was cut off further as Sirius poked him again.
“What, what, what, what!” Sir Cadogan blustered, not seeming to know exactly what he was saying, as his visor had fallen again. He pushed it back and shook his fist at Sirius. “I’ll have you know that that is a move not permitted in the grand, noble tradition of the duel –“
“Hey, there’s an idea! Duel him for it!” Remus said, poking Sirius in the shoulder. Sirius’s eyes lit up, and he began scrambling in his pockets for his wand.
“Winner gets the password,” Beth said eagerly, prepared to referee as Sir Cadogan tried his hardest to get a word in edgewise. “Ready – set –“
“Now hold on one moment!” the knight roared, but Sirius pointed his wand at the frame, and a minor explosion ricocheted through the tight corridor. He dove behind the pony – a fruitless attempt, it was to be discovered once the smoke had cleared, for it had spooked and run into a painting several yards down.
“All right, all right, you blistering coward!” Sir Cadogan shouted, arms having flown up to cover his head. “Portus Passum, but for Merlin’s sake stop making things bloody explode!”
“Excellent, much obliged,” Sirius said eagerly, once more pocketing the wand and turning to Remus. He had already performed the spell – rather quick of him, Beth thought – but nothing appeared to happen.
“You’ve got to say the password aloud,” Sir Cadogan muttered spitefully from behind them.
At the same moment, James and Sirius spoke –
“I solemnly swear I am up to no good.”
The map in Remus’s outstretched hands glowed a faint sort of orange color before returning to its normal state. James and Sirius looked at each other, neither really knowing what to say. “Which one is it?” Peter asked at last, in sort of an awed whisper.
Beth leaned over, feeling a bit silly, and put her mouth close to the folded parchment, the ink still showing through as clearly as ever. “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”
The ink didn’t fade in the slightest. Biting her lip, Beth tried again. “Mischief managed.”
At first, nothing – but then, slowly, the lines of the rooms and the tiny, moving dots that were people seeped back into the parchment, as though being sucked through by something invisible. Remus gave a little yelp, a huge smile splitting his face.
“It worked! It worked!” they all cried in turn, Sirius looping arms with Beth and Peter and doing a sort of jig right there on the faded green carpet runner.
“The spell, Moony, the insults spell!” he cried suddenly, nearly losing his head completely and tossing his hands about in excitement. Remus, who appeared to have forgotten, quickly withdrew his wand and leaned over to speak to the map again.
“I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.” Beth felt another thrill shoot up her spine as the ink seeped through – “Moony, Wormtail, Talons, Padfoot, and Prongs proudly present the Marauder’s Map” – and as the tiny, moving black dots came into focus, he tapped them with his wand tip.
A sickly sort of green light seemed to snake around the map before it, too, sunk into the paper. “That should be all right,” Remus said, still grinning as his eyes roved over the map, taking in each detail greedily.
“I don’t know how Christmas is going to top this,” Sirius said happily, slinging an arm around James’s shoulder, and Beth felt rather inclined to agree.
A/N: I wasn't looking forward to writing this chapter intially, but the more I worked on it, the more fun I had creating my own version of things. J.K. Rowling never told us expressly how the map was created, so it was a bit of a puzzle, trying to figure out how four seventeen-year-old boys (and, in our case, one seventeen-year-old girl) could work such a tricky piece of magic. I hope it worked for you!
Please, don't forget to leave a review -- a line or two always makes my day, and the poor review box is crying for nourishment. Would you disappoint such a handsome fellow? I rather think not. Much obliged!