Over the skies of the dark and silent castle, wispy clouds clung to the surface of the moon, suffocating out the silver shine so that the world, bereft of any stars, held little to no light. The woods beneath the sky seemed even more eerie than was common for the Forbidden Forest. It stood still, a line of black with the occasional silhouette of a trunk or a ripple of a fluttering leaf. The lake was frozen, reflecting the dark of the sky, without so much as a single quiver of water to break its deathlike calm. There was a hoot of an owl as it flew quickly back to the owlery as though to hide from some unseen pursuer. The castle was utterly overcast in shadows, not a single window lit in a rectangle of yellow. There was not a single particle of light unless it was the swinging lantern of the stalking caretaker as he shuffled, wheezing through the halls on a search with menacing eyes for any mischief-maker. On the whole it seemed that the magical world of Hogwarts was holding its breath in anticipation on the bewitched night of Friday, the Thirteenth.
But others were less mindful of today’s date, caring not for superstition no matter if certain ones had merit. Some boys dared to defy the rules, to creep out of their dorms in the sole search for trouble. Some boys felt nothing for consequences or haunted days or even the stalking of a caretaker. Some boys were so gumptious--or stupid, I’ll let you be the judge---to wander out into the corridors of Hogwarts, a place of strange and, sometimes, dangerous magic, on a night as haunted as this. Boys, as you would learn if you listened carefully to their whispered conversation, who were named Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs.
A single moonbeam wormed its way from between the fold in a cloud and shone through a window, splashing momentarily on the face of the one referred to as Moony. The silver light illuminated his features as they once again contorted into displeasure. “I don’t suppose telling you this is completely stupid would do any good?”
The one called Prongs, who headed the group as they walked through the halls with his lit wand held high to brighten their path, locked his jaw in annoyance. It was not the first time that Moony had tried to persuade them to turn back. But they were all men on a mission and they would not fail.
“Not likely,” Prongs said dryly, not halting or hesitating for a single moment.
Moony, as a rule, was the most strict and upright or, perhaps, just rational of the group and his reluctance and distaste for anything that might lead to trouble was a thing that easily irritated the other boys. However, eventually Moony always gave in and went along willingly and his bellyaching, despite how frustrating it was, had kept them out of detention on more than one occasion.
Prongs continued, his words giving the conclusion that he was either trying to persuade Moony into his actions or trying to justify himself. Likely the earlier, by the easy, nonchalant tone to his voice. That and it was rare for Prongs to have an attack of conscience. “Besides, we all know that git had it coming.” If one could peer into his mind at that moment, they would see a flashed image of a pale-blonde boy with cold, gray eyes, his pointed nose wrinkling in conceited disgust. It was only a flashed memory, for who would want the sour face of Lucius Malfoy stuck in their head.
But Moony didn’t seem to be in agreement to something in Prongs’ statement, for he folded his arms over his chest, his face reading like the page of a book exactly what he wanted to say. They all most certainly did not know that Malfoy had had it coming. But Moony chose his words more carefully than that. He did not want to be among the people being jinxed this night.
“As I recall,” Moony spoke slowly, choosing his words with care so that perhaps they might penetrate his friends’ steel resolve. “You were the one who challenged him.”
Prongs balked only for a second, before brushing the words away. “A small matter.”
Moony suddenly got a confused look on his face and he rubbed a hand over his scraggly hair as though trying to recall something of grand importance. As much as he tried, he kept hitting a blank wall of forgetfulness and at last he conceded to incomprehension and dropped his hand back to his side. “What were you two arguing about anyways?”
Prongs frowned at that for a moment, for his mind bounded into the same black depths as Moony. But after only a moment, his frown disappeared and his easy, adventuresome expression was back on his face, along with too much confidence for what his next words implied. “I’m not sure either.”
Moony scowled. In his opinion, the situation was getting all more insane by the second. “Did you two even fight at all? Or was just looking at each other enough?”
Prongs gave an uncaring shrug, not even faltering this time. “But what does it matter? We met and a duel came out of it.”
Moony’s disapproving gaze deepened and he opened his mouth as though to point out exactly how ridiculous it was to have a wizard’s duel over absolutely nothing, but Padfoot, the dark-haired, handsome boy who strode beside Prongs, stopped him before her could.
“Give it a rest, Moony.” Padfoot turned around and walked backwards so he could focus on Moony’s face. The next statement he said with the typical tone in which boys taunted their friend; half unintentionally and ignorantly cruel, but mainly unmeant and just-for-fun. “It’s not like it’s the full moon or anything.”
Moony pursed his lips, not with anger or agony, but rather with apathy. The careless words of his friends were simply that; careless. And Moony was far too accustomed to his friends’ unobservant remarks to have any form of misgiving. However, the words did set with him a grim resolution to say no more. He gave into the groups’ activities, just as he always did. After all, it is always said that if you cannot beat them; join them.
Moony now slipped back to walk beside the fourth and final member of their dynamic quartet. Wormtail was the one who never seemed to quite fit into the masterful puzzle of the group. He was awkward in confidence, round in appearance, and as fidgety as his nickname would suggest. He was the first to go along, ever eager for a good show, but the first to run when trouble arrived. For a Gryffindor, he was hardly brave. Even now his hand that held a piece of parchment jerked in apprehension whenever a drawn figure stretched even a smidge closer to the other four moving figures.
Moony leaned closer, viewing the parchment with a critical, yet interested eye. In miniscule writing was a mark beside the pacing figure; the name of Argus Filch.
Ah, the Marauder’s Map. It was the one thing which had combined Prongs’ adventurousness, Padfoot’s mischievousness, Moony’s intelligence, and Wormtail’s…well, let’s leave Wormtail out of the equation. It was a wondrous creation, a fantastic and remarkably useful thing. The most detailed map of Hogwarts that gave proof that the Marauders knew the place nearly as well as the founders.
The responsibility for caring for the precious map, making sure to keep it hidden from unwanted eyes who might steal their secrets and keeping an eye on it in case Filch or any wandering professor neared, fell to Womtail. It was a thankless job, one that an absentminded monkey could have pulled off, but it was the price Wormtail paid to call himself a Marauder; his share of the duty if he wanted to be a part of the fun.
As they moved toward the room designated for Lucius’ and Prongs’ meeting, Wormtail gave the map a tap and whispered “Mischief managed.” With those words, the map wrote itself blank, turning into nothing more than a spare bit of parchment. He pocketed the map, pushing it deep into the pockets of his robes beside a crumpled piece of yesterday’s uncompleted homework and several half-melted and filthy Bertie Bott’s All-Flavored Beans.
They entered the room cautiously, Prongs peeking his head through the door and holding his wand at ready as though he believed Lucius would be hiding behind the door with a jinx prepared. However, Lucius lingered by the far wall of the room, his stature high and rigid; Lucius in his normal amount of arrogance. Seeing no reason for fear, Prongs breezed confidently into the room, striding like one going to an enjoyable party and not to a battle that could only end in tears. The rest of the Marauders were easing in after him, Padfoot with an identical carelessness in his step.
“Surprised you showed up, Malfoy,” Prongs mocked as he paused fifty paces from Lucius, crossing his arms over his chest. “Thought you would run like a cowa---” His words faltered and his tongue tripped as, for the first time, he noticed that Lucius was not alone. A dark, familiar figure stood menacingly at Lucius’ side.
“What are you doing here, Snivellus?” said Prongs, as he tried not to choke on his own disgust.
Even in the dark, the boy’s sneer could be made out, his lips curling in equal enmity. It was the only reply the nemesis was willing to give.
However, Lucius did the answering. “He’s my second.”
“Really?” There was no surprise in Prongs’ voice, but rather deep amusement. After all, it was not every day that a prejudice Gryffindor got the chance to duel not one, but two Slytherins. Especially if one of them was the ‘odious’ Severus Snape. It was too good of an opportunity and Prongs couldn’t help but say, tauntingly, to Severus, “Bet you jumped at the chance to duel me.”
Severus once again said nothing, his expression unreadable, but if one could peer into his mind, they would find him musing over the irony of Prongs’ statement, for he had not jumped; he’d been jumped. I do believe Lucius exact words were ‘be my second against Potter or I’ll jinx you’.
“What about them?” Padfoot demanded, his own displeasure in his voice as he gestured toward the far wall.
Three feminine figures sat elegantly on a bench along the wall, but even if they were hardly a bit more than silhouettes, Padfoot could recognize them. It took the other Marauders a bit longer to figure out the identity. But as soon as the first voice half-conceited, half sing-song voice broke forth, they comprehended perfectly.
“What’s the matter, cousin?” Bellatrix Black made sure to emphasize the word cousin, knowing all too well how much Padfoot hated to be reminded of his relation to any Slytherin. The glare that Padfoot sent her was so priceless that Bellatrix’s pretty lips curled up into a satisfied smile.
“Not happy to see us?” Narcissa finished for her sister, flinging her hair over her shoulder. A ray of light from a wand reflected off her fine, vivid hair as it flipped through the air, making it gleam like sparkling gold.
The third girl, however, remained silent, looking at her nails as though contemplating if her fingernails were perfectly even was the most fascinating thing in the room. In truth, Andromeda had never cared for the way Bellatrix and Narcissa tormented their cousin. But what could she do? They were her sisters, after all.
Lucius looked over his shoulder at the three girls and his face contorted into evidence that Padfoot and Lucius did have something in common. They both were immensely furious that the girls had shown up here.
“They followed,” was the only explanation he offered, though he didn’t waste time glaring at the Narcissa and Bellatrix so it was made perfectly clear that he was not happy with them.
Narcissa gave him an innocent bat of the eyelashes, that was not so much flirtatious as it was mocking. “We just thought it would be interesting to see Potter murdered.”
“Or you,” Bellatrix added, her smug smile turning devilish. “Either way works for us.”
There was not a boy in earshot distance who didn’t feel anger at the statement, unless it was Moony who pretended he hadn’t heard, Peter who chose that moment to look at a crack in the floor and begin to silently plead that the boys did not add the murder of the Black sisters to the list of possible things they could get into trouble for, or Severus for who was unmoved by the girls’ poor attempt at insults. The others sent hot glares at the girls, clutching wands and contemplating revenge.
In return, Narcissa and Bellatrix gave them bored looks, not believing for a moment that they would do anymore than scowl. It was the beauty about being a girl; the chances of being jinxed were considerably less. After all, no boy thought twice about hexing other males.
Padfoot, Prongs, and Lucius eventually wrestled down their urges and decided mutually to do the one thing that had any chance of irking the girls; they concluded to ignore them. Besides, Prongs was positively fed-up with distractions. They’d come there to duel and that was precisely what he wanted to do.
“Let’s get on with it,” Prongs pressed impatiently, drawing the last of Lucius attention away from Narcissa and back to the purpose of their meeting. Upon being reminded of their approaching duel, glee temporarily broke through Lucius’s perfectly collected features, twisting his lips into a smirk of anticipation before he quickly gathered his poise and gave a princely sniff as though he was dealing with an unfavorable peasant. “Alright.”
Lucius reached into his pocket to draw his wand, just as Prongs whispered the correct word to end the Lumos charm. His wand was now dormant, waiting to be awakened with a well-chosen spell. The others quickly shuffled out of the way and the Slytherin girls moved to the right of the room, so they were not in danger of a wayward spell. Moony and Wormtail sat on a bench towards the left, a safe distance away but still in close enough range to have a good view of the surroundings.
Wormtail, remembering his job as watchman, even with such exciting activities going about, fished the Marauder’s Map out of his pocket. He flicked a All-Flavored Bean off of the map, breathing a sigh of relief when there was no smudge at where it had stuck, and then pulled the Map close to a fold in his robes so it was invisible to all eyes but his own. He glanced absently at Filch’s position, before looking quickly back to the scene, wide eyes hungrily taking in every detail.
Both fighter’s were ready for war. Lucius and Prongs took a warrior’s stance and raised their wands.
“Sirius,” Prongs addressed Padfoot, who stood nearest the opponents, prepared to fulfill his part as Prongs’ second if the time came. “Give us a count.”
The crackling excitement in the room must have been contagious, because a wild grin was on Padfoot’s face as he began the countdown; three seconds until the explosion.
Prongs shifted in eagerness, blissful adrenaline bursting through his veins.
That wicked grin was back on Lucius’s face, twisting his lips deviously.
But the noise came not from the sound of blasting jinxes for not a single flash of magic was seen. The room froze as the door slammed open with such force that it collided into the wall before ricocheting back into place, with only a long enough space between for three figures to come into the room; one hesitant, and another pair boldly charging in. Stunned, the group could only stare as the girls slid to a stop twenty paces from Lucius and Prongs, holding their wands up high, and cried, “Expelliarmus!”
The wands were jerked from the battler’s hands and flew to the girls’ feet. For a moment, no one did anything, but finally, as he recognized the girls, Prongs reached a hand upward to mess up his hair and plastered a charming smile onto his face.
“All right, Evans?” His voice was all too pleasant and mature for one whose fun had just been unceremoniously wrecked by the lovely, fire-haired teen and her hot-tempered friend. But that was hardly any surprise to any one in the room.
Anyone who knew anything about the happenings at Hogwarts school knew that Prongs fancied Evans. With showing off and the constant mussing of hair in her presence, he didn’t exactly try to disguise it. And anyone who knew anything, knew Evans didn’t return Prongs’ affection. It was no secret, that Evans didn’t just dislike Prongs; she loathed him.
“Don’t you ’all right’ me, Potter,” Evans snapped in return, stooping to pick up Prongs’ wand from the ground. As she straightened, her eyes were visible despite the wild lock that fell between them. The startling green gaze was filled with a fire and spirit that they all knew could be backed up with the brilliant witch’s wand. Lily Evans was not a girl to trifle with. “Do you have any idea how many school rules you’re breaking?”
The momentarily flash of confusion across Prongs’ face showed that he indeed did not. He’d never calculated, because truthfully, he didn’t care. But after a heartbeat, he shrugged off the question without another thought, his smile returning to its fullest. “Come one, Evans. Lighten up. It’s just a bit of fun.”
“Fun?” Evans spat in disgust. “Breaking curfew. Dueling. The---”
Bellatrix cut in, folding her arms delicately over her chest, ever the picture of icy grace. “I wasn’t aware that you had been made prefects.”
For the first time the second girl spoke, ever as defiantly and fierily as Evans. “This is a new kind of stupid.” With an ornery smirk, the girl jolted her chin into the air. “Even for you, Bella.”
Bellatrix’s eyes flashed dangerously, her dark gaze filling with rage. She slipped a hand into her pocket, her fist clasping around some sort of object. Everyone knew what she was after and those who still possessed the wand, gripped theirs tighter. Vengeance would only make this situation worse.
Seeing that, Narcissa came to her sister’s side. Grasping her elbow, she whispered something into Bellatrix’s ear. Whatever Narcissa knew to cool down the steams of Bellatrix, it worked, for after one last glare at the Gryffindor girls, Bellatrix begrudgingly tugged her hand out of her pocket. The room let out a breath they didn’t realized they had been holding.
Clearly Lily’s friend didn’t seem to comprehend that she had nearly been hexed or it hadn‘t been the first time she‘d been threatened, for she continued unabated. “You all need to return to your dorms.”
There was scuffs throughout the entire room, but it was Padfoot who stepped forward, his eyes challengingly. “Or what, Night?”
Florence Night scowled at Padfoot, the hate for the mischievous rogue clear in her eyes. No one in the room quite understood why Padfoot and Florence hated one another, though all who called themselves friends to either of them was well aware of their mutual loathing. It was obvious in the way they locked eyes with each other; their eyes narrowed as though ready to kill.
It was Lily who answered Padfoot’s question, her voice authoritative and seriously meant. “I’ll wake up McGonagall.”
Both Lily and Florence now pressed their palms onto their hips, their determined features leaving no doubt that they would indeed report them all to their professor. It was the one threat that would cause the Marauders to exchange uneasy gazes. Detention was certainly nothing knew to them, but Lucius Malfoy was not worth scrubbing the Great Hall floor on their hands and knees. However, Severus Snape was unmoved and immensely skeptical of their warning, for he saw the snag that the courageous Gryffindor girls had not foreseen.
His voice calculative and cool, Severus spoke for the first time since the disaster began. “And how, I wonder, will you explain to McGonagall why you broke curfew?”
Lily and Florence faltered and the color of red brushed across their cheeks. They were suddenly thankful for the darkness, because it disguised the crimson shame perfectly. The blackness, however, did not extinguish the sound of their timid friend’s squeak, trembling in fear at the very idea of trouble. It was apparent that the Gryffindors had been so caught up with the idea of catching Potter in one of his idiotic stunts, that they had temporarily forgotten something they were usual gifted it: commonsense. As respectable and doubtlessly noble as their intentions were, they too had broken school rules. None of them could believe they’d been outthought by the perceptive Slytherin.
But the girls were determined as well. They’d come this far and there was absolutely no sense in turning back. Trouble or not, they were going to take Potter down a few notches. Her face regaining its perseverant expression, Lily shook off the third girl who was now yanking insistently on her sleeve, mumbling something about going back to the dorm. Both Lily and Florence were regretting bringing her along, but Evelyn had wanted to be a part of the action.
“It doesn’t matter,” Lily retorted stubbornly. “Detention would be worth it to teach all of you a lesson.”
The reaction to this was mixed. Severus still looked cynical, but Peter’s bottom lip was beginning to quiver, looking as though he might start pleading for mercy or simply flee. Lucius and the other Slytherins were in a mixture of doubt and apathy; detention was nothing new to them either, though Andromeda wanted to avoid it if at all possible. Padfoot, however, didn’t believe they had exhausted all options and that they might still be able to worm their way out of this.
They’d tried to outthink the girls, but feminine tenacity had proved stronger than brains. However, there was always that subtle art of flattery, one that, in Padfoot’s experience, had never failed to work on a lady. Then again, Padfoot didn’t consider Night much of a lady. But it was worth a try. Besides, if that failed, he and the others could always jinx them, something harmless and light that would keep them still until the Marauders could get them back into their common room and fix them with a soothing Memory charm.
Placing his wand back into his pocket so he would look as friendly and harmless as possible, Padfoot approached carefully, placing a boyish smile on his face and holding his hands up in mock surrender. “Alright. You caught us. You win.” Despite his lady-killer grin, there was a patronizing tone to his voice that no one, let alone the girls he was addressing, failed to notice. “Now let’s try and settle this rationally, shall we?”
“Rationally?” Florence repeated with an incredulous scuff, her resolve not the least bit tarnished by Padfoot’s performance. If anything it was set even firmer. “Since when have you known about rationality?”
Padfoot’s confidence died without so much as a flickering spark, murdered by Florence cold response and perhaps unfair response. It was replaced by anger that danced into his eyes, making him look momentarily dangerous.
Narcissa and Bellatrix threw back their heads and laughed shrilly with no sign of real joy, for those who delighted in the torment of others knew nothing of genuine, innocent happiness. But even the kinder Andromeda chuckled a bit, covering her mouth with her fingers delicately. Lucius smirked cruelly with half amused, half satisfaction.
“Girl’s got you pegged, Black.”
Padfoot jaw tightened at the words, his anger thickening. Despite the general consensus to stay lucid, his fist was lurching into his pocket after his wand. He grasped for self-control, but the idea of blasting the smug look off of Malfoy’s face was far too enticing. Instead, he only asked, “Where’d you get that theory, Malfoy?”
Lucius expression never for one moment lost it’s self-assurance. “Simply that because you believed that the hopeless Potter ever had any chance of defeating me.”
Ah, yes, Lucius was masterful, because he had succeeded in not just insulting one person, but two in one spontaneous sentence. Both Padfoot’s and Prongs’ faces were contorting in rage and, before he could think about what it might led to, Prongs’ stalked closer to Lucius, ready to fight in a very Muggle way if it came down to it.
“I had every chance of defeating you, Lucius! If I had my wand, I’d prove it to you right now!”
“But we don’t have our wands.” Lucius stated the obvious with a dignified sniff. “Your Mudblood girlfriend saw to that.”
“Don’t call her a Mudblood!” Prongs hollered back, red-face and inches away from losing the rest of his fragile sanity.
“You don’t have to defend me,” Lily argued, outraged by another reminder that Prongs liked her and was trying to impress her when all she wanted was for the useless toerag to leave her well enough alone. Which led her to snap at Lucius for encouraging him. “And I’m not his girlfriend.”
In less than a second, Prongs was able to turn from a fighter to a lover. “Don't say that, Evans.” He twisted his head to blink at her, coming up with a flirtatious smile and switching to a sugary voice in a matter of moments. “You'll hurt my feelings.”
But Prongs never heard Lily’s reply. Seeing Prongs’ distraction, Lucius had used it to his advantage. With a well-aimed swing, Lucius fist pummeled into Prongs’ jaw, hard enough to cause his legs to buckle. Prongs hit the floor with a painful ‘oof’. And just like that, World War III erupted.
Padfoot was quick to come to his friends aid and he drew his wand. With a bark of a word and a flash of white light, Lucius was sent flying across the room until he slammed into the wall. The wind left Lucius and he slipped down onto his knees, gasping and panting and wishing to heavens for a wand. All the Slytherins drew their wands, but didn’t bring them into action, only holding them ready in case a spell was aimed in their direction. Moony leapt to his feet and ran to intervene, before Sirius could injure the unarmed Lucius anymore. It was quite a task and a wrestling match ensued, Moony trying to grasp the wand from the grip of his much stronger friend. Prongs was back on his feet, but before he could charge at Lucius, Lily and Florence hurried into his path, restraining him as best they could. Evelyn was debating racing quickly back to the dorms and Severus's eyes were flickering from person-to-person, carefully figuring out if the mayhem would last long enough for him to escape. He’d had enough of all this accursed nonsense.
Wormtail had ignored this, for upon the start of the chaos he had glanced down at the Marauder’s Map. With a yelp, he was on his feet and shuffling quickly up behind Prongs, pulling on his sleeve.
Prongs shoved him away. “Not now, Peter.”
He pushed at Evans, who grunted but didn’t release his arm. Florence was doing her best to aid Lily, but her mind was so befuddled that all she could do was fumble with the wands, incapable of deciding which one to use. It didn’t stop her from giving an empty threat. “Settle down, Potter. Or I’ll Stupefy you.”
Wormtail was fidgeting even worse than ever, glancing apprehensively over his shoulder at the closed door. “But…but, James…”
“Shut up, Wormtail!”
Poor Evelyn was beside herself, burying her face in her hands and wondering over and over, How did I get myself into this? And Severus, knowing this was not his battle, was edging toward the door. Almost there. Almost free.
“James!” By now, Wormtail was so panicked that his voice had become piercing.
Now annoyed beyond reason, Prongs forgot completely about the futile attempt at wrestling with the girls and whirled to face his friends, his eyes crackling fiercely. “WHAT?!”
“Filch is coming.”
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